Ode To A Peacock
“So how did you two meet?”
We usually catch each other’s eye and giggle. Natalie, grinning, looks at the person asking.
“Katie likes to tell this story.”
And so I do. November 2014, I was in the middle of what would be a life-changing autumn. I’d spent two months in the U.S. and returned to Turkey unemployed and with plans to attend TBEX in Athens and, after much back-and-forth, World Travel Market in London. I’d agonized about going to WTM, unsure if the expense of going to London would be worth the reward. I decided to go for it when I found a cheap flight with a layover; when my mother found out my layover was in Kiev, she freaked out. (This was just months after the Malaysian Air flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine.)
So I returned to Istanbul and soon after jetted to Athens, where I met the company that would, a few months later, hire me. I spent a week and a half networking and partying and traveling hard; I returned to Istanbul for a few days and then was immediately off to the UK, where I broke my computer and drank a lot (beer at the Belgium stand! Pisco at the Peru stand! Wine at a Canada event, why not!) and also got the chance to go to TBC Asia in Sri Lanka with one week’s notice. Suddenly, London wasn’t the end of a busy few weeks of networking; it was the middle. Suddenly, I had to get a visa and pack summer clothes and prepare myself to spend two weeks in Sri Lanka, a country I knew little about and had less time to research. I tried to lay off the free wine.
My flight out of Gatwick was delayed. I hoped we wouldn’t miss the connecting flight– I had maybe three days in Istanbul before I left for Sri Lanka and every hour counted– and yet we did. In Kiev I dashed to the ticket change desk, with visions of sleeping in the airport running through my head.
Next to me was a British redhead with funky earrings and an equally panicked look on her face. Listening in, it became obvious that she was also trying to rebook a ticket to Istanbul.
Natalie thinks she spoke to me first; I always thought it was the other way around, but it doesn’t much matter. We were rebooked on the same Turkish Airlines flight and spent the next few hours in the airport together, deliriously chit-chatting, establishing that we lived in the same Istanbul neighborhood, just generally killing time. We weren’t seated next to each other on the new flight but toasted our glasses of (free) wine from across the aisles; we took the long Metrobus ride back to Kadikoy together.
And thus, a beautiful friendship was born.
In the beginning, Natalie was working evenings and I worked from home, so we spent afternoons exploring the many third-wave coffee shops in Kadikoy. When her schedule shifted to day work, we drank beer at pubs that had Guinness or free popcorn and went out for breakfast on weekends. We took intensive Turkish classes together, told each other secrets, met each other’s friends. She took me along to her capoeira class. I stayed in her apartment to watch her cat for a week; if I ever become a crazy cat lady, Natalie is 100% to blame.
It’s hard to know at what point a friendship becomes so special when it’s built up slowly on the regular stuff of life. I don’t know when it tilted from coffee dates to spilling souls. And it doesn’t really matter. Natalie has been an incredibly important part of my life here since that fortuitous meeting in the Kiev airport. She’s been a neighbor, a support, and adventure buddy, a friend.
Natalie is leaving Istanbul now, as many have before and many will after. (It’s one of the consistent things about life here; people always leave.) I’ve been in denial about it for months, and now that it’s happening, it doesn’t feel real.
But here’s the beautiful thing about this particular friendship– I am losing a neighbor, but I’m not losing a friend. As hard as it is for me that my favorite redhead is leaving, she’s not leaving my life. We’ve both known for a while that this is a friendship that extends beyond our Istanbul lives; it’s not a matter of if we’ll see each other again, only when.
So thank you, Ms. Peacock, for too many memories to list, for too much wine to remember, for more advice and support and love than I can ever repay. Here’s to your new adventure. I adore you.