The woman there made a call to the Izmir branch and that person simply repeated what the foreigner's office had said. I had broken the law. Later, I asked the consul that what on earth were job duties if it wasn't to help Americans in a time like this?
What did she say?
She said they were only there to renew passports and transport the bodies of Americans back home when necessary. I told her that she seemed more useful to dead Americans than living ones. Those people are absolutely clueless.
What about the lawyer?
He 'd demanded money upfront. So he was like the invisible man. He was unavailable, in other words.
So you had to stay in the jail overnight?
Correct. But I had to give credit to the police there. I think they felt some sympathy for me. Of course, that didn't make any difference. They were all following orders and they didn't want to make any enemies by asking any questions. . They tried to be as hospitable as they could. They allowed me to stay in a private area so I wouldn't be in any danger.
Isn't that called solitary confinement?
No. Well, they let me out of the holding area and I was able to watch TV. Then when it was time to go to bed, they put me in a separate area alone. I didn't sleep much, of course. The irony of it was all the other refugees were desperately trying to escape Turkey and go to Europe. Here I was desperate to stay in Turkey but being kicked into Europe. It is still kind of funny when I think about it. It wasn't funny at the time, of course.
Then the following day, my friend had managed to collect some money and some clothes in a bag. The police tried to get me to sign something before I left. I learned that it was a confession that I had agreed to my “crime” and I would agree not to return to Turkey for 60 months. Five years.
Did you sign THAT?
No. I refused to sign it. Later they said, it had been a mistake. I would be able to come back in a year. So the next day, I was escorted to Cesme and put on a boat to Greece.
I can't imagine what you must have been feeling.
I was in shock, I guess. They had treated me like a criminal when I had tried to follow the laws. I had tried to get legal advice from so called experts and nobody knew what the law was. There is a reason for this. There is no law in Turkey. It changes from person to person and from day to day.
You sound bitter.
It is hard not to be. I mean, I was not caught stealing cars. Or dealing drugs or murdering anybody. And I had been in Turkey for a long time without any problem. I felt really broken hearted I guess.
So you were now heading to Greece. How far away was that?
Oh it was close. Chios is real close. In fact, you can see the lights of Turkey from the island. That made it worse. I was like some kind of exile. I found a place to stay that night and tried to pull myself together. In the end, I stayed there most of the summer. It wasn't a holiday. It should have been. But I waited and waited for the judge's ruling in my case. I waited three months. The courts shut down during the summer. Can you believe that? Everybody goes on vacation in summer. The judge decided against my case later learned. I wonder if he had even looked at my file.
After three months, I went to renew my tourist visa for Greece and they tell me that it was impossible. They were part of something called Schengen.
What's that exactly? Many of the European countries are in a union and it is like the United States of Europe. If you enter one, you have enter them all. According to what the Greek police told me, as an American, you can only stay in any Schengen country for three months. Then you have to leave and you cannot return for another six months. So, you can not leave for a day and come back and have a new three month tourist visa. You have to leave after three months and not come back for another three months. It's crazy.
Is that possible? So an American cannot stay in Europe for more than three months? That's what they said. So I decided I had had enough of it. I decided to go back to the states for awhile. Take a break from traveling and recuperate a little.
You went to New York I think. I have one question. You came back to Turkey. Why? I mean, after all that terrible treatment. The corrupt business partner, the crooked lawyers, the officials and the police. Why on earth would you come back?
Turkey is my home. I wasn't born there but I think of it as my home. Turkish people are the best. I mean, you can make a list of all the people here that screw up my life but then on the other hand, there were a lot of people, close friends, that worried about me and broke their backs trying to get me back here. You can't just throw away ten years of your life when a crisis happens. Maybe I am an idiot, I don't know. But I really don't want to give up on Turkey. Not just yet anyway.
The complete interview can be found in Nomadic View Magazine No. 1 and No.2. Click on the thumbnail icons on the side bar to view.