ON WEDNESDAY, I finally made the trip to DC to apply for my education visa. For special visas, the applicant must actually travel to the Turkish Embassy and apply in-person. While I was not looking forward to this experience, the day turned out to be quite fascinating.
I had to leave early, because the embassy only conducts consular business between 10 and 1, and I live about three hours from DC. So I left at six AM, drove to a friend’s house in Gaithersburg, MD, got a ride to the Shady Grove Metro Station, took the metro to Dupont Circle, and then walked about seven blocks up Massachusetts Avenue to the Turkish Embassy. Here is a picture of the embassy:
I must admit, never having been to an embassy before, and seeing the large, official gates surrounding the architecture, I was mildly intimidated by the aura of bureaucratic seriousness which exists all along Embassy Row. But my experience was pleasant; after getting buzzed through the gate, I walked straight into the building, at which point I had to go through a standard metal detector and bag x-ray. I was then instructed to go downstairs, where I found maybe ten other people waiting in line to speak to a consulate worker (from what I could tell, these people included a young Turkish-American couple, an elderly scholar, and an older Turkish man). Upon entering the room, this older Turkish man smiled widely and greeted me with a friendly Merhaba! (hello).
This was fascinating, because just about everyone around me was speaking Turkish, and all the signs around the building were in Turkish. It was as if, for just a few moments, I had stepped onto Turkish soil. When I spoke to the consulate worker, she was very pleasant and assured me that my visa would go through, relieving all of my previous concerns (and paranoia) about bureaucratic red tape.
It may seem odd to document such a simple, perfunctory part of travel preparation, but I exited the embassy even more excited for my journey east. Of course, in purely simple terms, the experience was almost trivial: it was a mere collection of strangers conducting business, each person with a different background, a different aim, a different story. But in a more abstract sense, it was a quick dive into Turkish culture, a microcosm of the more intense cultural immersion which is on the horizon.