Updated: Mar 2
Chapter 2 - By bye bygone be gone gone bug on buggy bug gonna bug.
Despite the lack of pillow, I am able to get a good night's rest. I wake up to a sweet breeze contrasting the warm early morning sun that is beginning to bake the concrete around me. It is bright. This room is bright. Why is it so bright? The walls are white. The shades are white. The floor tiles are white with some reflective materials speckled in for good measure. There are 2 windows. One in the upstairs bedroom and one directly below it, in the bathroom downstairs. My apartment is a loft studio. Poorly designed but seemingly neat and with everything I need save for pots, pans, cutlery, any form of plate or bowl or cup or glass or drinking water. There is however, a gas stove (with an empty gas canister), oven, refrigerator, microwave, kettle, big screen television, and, the most important thing in the whole world, wifi.
The flat is box shaped, squashed between two other flats just like it in a block of 4. Yet, somehow, this one feels more squashed than the others. Almost like they had built the middle flat last, as a kind of afterthought, so they just shaved off some of the measurements and squished it in there. The front door opens to a spacious courtyard with an olympic sized swimming pool in the middle. Perfect for a swim had there been any water in it save for a never-say-die puddle of dirty rain water, collected in the deepest edge of the deep-end, desperately trying to hold onto the remnants of what once was or could have been.
The light-grey bricks of the courtyard catch and reflect the sun so as to amplify the already intense brightness, and glare, and general sense of being baked like a croissant. The rest of the residency is mostly empty from what I can see and I begin to wonder if I am the first student to arrive.
The back door opens directly opposite to the front door creating a wind tunnel through the centre of the flat. The parking area out back maintains some decent shade for the first few hours of daylight until the sun moves overhead and by midday, there is no shade anywhere. I can't decide if I should keep one of the doors open to allow some fresh air into the flat or to keep it closed because as soon as the door opens refracted light engulfs the space and refracts and reflects even more against the shimmering tiles. Accompanying this extra sheen, shine and shimmer worthy of a nail varnish advertisement, is the intense blistering pace and force of the gusts of wind that penetrate the flat and blow in leaves, dust and other debris.
I realise I have been squinting and scrunching my eyes in an attempt to shield them from the excess light.
I manage to get the contact number for a grocery store, as well as a nearby fast food spot, so I can order some food. I make my order using WhatsApp. The whole process is slow and clunky as the person I am communicating with doesn't speak English and I'm not exactly fluent in Turkish.
I do manage to get some groceries. Turkish coffee. A set of 6 Turkish coffee cups complete with saucers (my order was for a single coffee cup). Too many pale coloured zucchinis to count and some soil covered potatoes, drinking water, fruit Juice and frozen chicken. Now all I needed was something the cook with, utensils to eat with as well as something to clean with.
Some time moves by on the first day before I begin to sense signs of other life forms navigating the barren bricks of the residency. First, I meet Bia. She is spritely and spirited with a big smile and a little bit of mischief. She is from Brazil and she helps me out with some utensils, a pot, a bottle to drink from and a contact for drinking water. She ends up helping me acquire quite a few essential items because she is not in quarantine so she can roam freely. As the course of the day passes, I inevitably meet two other students, Anja from Switzerland, the Swiss-German speaking side, and Nour from Switzerland, the French Speaking side. This took a little getting used to especially with the conflicting accents. These three help me get a number for a different grocery delivery guy as well as how to search for other take-away options, a contact for regular drinking water and new gas bottle for the stove. Bia even made a mission to help me acquire a pillow - life saver!
As the evening set in, I managed to eat some food and drink a beer. Oh, did I mention I ordered some beer? I ordered some beer. If you ever get the chance to go to Turkey or Turkish-Cyprus, have an Efes for me.
As I settle in with my beer on this second night, I notice that the mosquitos are relentless little ass holes. They're translucent so you can barely see them and they don't make that incessant high pitched buzz like African mosquitoes do, they're just silent, and invisible, and it actually hurts when they bite, and they seem to be everywhere at once.
That night, I am woken from my sleep by the feeling of biting and crawling on my skin. I feel my skin burning a little because I have been scratching ferociously. I take a cold shower to soothe my skin and I go back to sleep. The next morning, I wake to the same bright light and glare but I feel dazed and groggy. I slept very poorly. I am quite confident that I have bed bugs or dust mites in the apartment. I am confident in this feeling because I have allergic reactions to bites from fleas and mites and the burning and scratching felt eerily similar to past experiences. I reach out to one of the student coordinators and express my concern about a potential dust mite issue. She is quick to shut me down and insists that the mosquitos are really terrible. I just need a good repellant.
Night 3 is much of the same. By the early hours of the morning, I am awake and scratching like crazy, my skin is burning, I'm sweating, I can feel crawling everywhere. It in my hair, my beard, on my legs, hands, feet, everywhere. I take another cold shower to soothe and go back for another night of broken sleep. I am now starting to break out in little sores and blisters not dissimilar to an allergic reaction.
The days go on as I try every mosquito repellent I can get my hands on, the student coordinators still stand firm in their conviction and belief that it is the mosquitos and not dust mites. I manage to get my new found delivery guy / personal shopper, to buy me a fan so I can sleep with the fan on me in an attempt to blow the mosquitoes away. The fan dries out my eyes but does nothing to help me sleep because I am growing ever more confident that I have dust mites and it doesn't matter how hard I blast the fan on my body, they're not going to blow away like a mosquito would.
More scratching. More itching. More burning. Sores and blisters are starting to form in more places. I haven't had a full night sleep since arriving. I am going delirious from the baking sun, the white glare and the burning skin, not to mention I can't so much as walk more than ten metres from my door before receiving a notification on my phone telling me to keep my ass in my designated quarantine location.
Days and nights are starting to blur into each other, now. I am meeting more students and learning more things about my environment by watching documentaries and YouTube videos. I am doing my best to keep training and stay physical so I don't lose my fitness while cooped up in my isolation chamber but the sleepless nights are catching up with me and I am going through tubes of antihistamine cream and only looking worse by the day. The blisters and sores have spread everywhere and I look like I have measles. Upon my next enquiry with another student coordinator where I mention that it looks like I have measles, I am met with a line of questioning that suggest maybe it is measles because "it definitely isn't dust mites."
Over a week goes by, I am now sleeping wrapped in compression wear, long socks and anything else I can find to keep the "mosquitos" away. The fan is on full blast and I am covered head-to-toe in insect repellant and I have a wall plug-in mosquito repellant burning next to my bed.
Things start to get a little muddled and blurry here. I become ever more delirious and confused as the days tick on. I am meeting students intermittently and they all seem quite friendly and the ones that stay in the residency are accommodating of my isolation and frequently come to hang out on the steps outside my apartment. This is small reprieve from the itchiness and burning I am dealing with and the sheer frustration at not being able to move freely.
By the time my quarantine period is over, I am covered head to toe in sores and blisters. It is a Sunday afternoon and school is due to begin the following day.
Usually when a quarantine period is complete, the person who was in quarantine will need to go to a nearby cellphone supplier called TurkCell where they will have the bracelet removed. It should be noted here that when you receive the bracelet that you pay a "refundable" deposit. This deposit is not refundable. The responsibility and duty gets shifted from one person to another until it becomes futile to continue pursuing it. I digress. So, it's Sunday, there are no TurkCell stores open, but honesty, I can't care, I walk to the nearest beach and I go for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea. My first time being able to do this since arriving. It's magical and refreshing and freeing... My sense of freedom is short lived as I realise that I have not contacted the call centre to get them to officially deactivate my bracelet. I manage to get this done but they insist they will send someone to my location to collect the bracelet within the next hour. Fear and panic grip me and fill my body as I start to imagine facing criminal charges for not being in my designated location. I immediately slip my shoes on and run from the beach back to my apartment. No one ever arrives to collect the bracelet.
To be continued...