Since the dawn of the pandemic, I have dodged getting COVID-19 many times. That could not be the case anymore. I get sick just less than a week after I arrive back in Istanbul. Having a positive test grounds me in home isolation. It is not ominous confinement but a physical and mental break from this travel scheme.
Right now, it is about managing the symptoms and avoiding spreading the bug I have. It seems unnecessary to track down how I get infected. But I can’t help tracing back at it. I’ve been documenting this journey all along anyway.
Wearing a mask doesn’t seem enforced on the flight from Barcelona to Istanbul on Friday. The cab driver and I don’t wear one on the way from SAW airport to Kadıköy. On Saturday, I notice a loss of appetite and feel shitty all day. That could be from the city transition, THC withdrawal, the frustration of sluggish Internet connection, and/or some kind of virus.
My stomach is still crunching on Sunday but I feel better. So, I get a new Turkey SIM card and some pampering: a haircut and a Turkish bath. But after insomnia and a long unprecedented walk in the summer heat on Monday, fever starts to creep in. Regardless, I visit a local gym to check if they have a one-month membership option. Feeling crap, I take it easy on Tuesday but get a nose ring from a piercing/tattoo studio and some kitchen utensils for making AVB butter—a by-product of vaping in Barcelona. The fever worsens in the evening.
Then, the unease peaks on Wednesday morning: a sore throat, fever, sneezing (not really coughing), and, of course, the loss of appetite. What I can take is a bowl of chicken soup and an egg for brunch. I get some groceries from a local supermarket.
Then, I take a COVID-19 test. I brought two rapid antigen test kits (ATK) from Thailand, just in case. And I’m glad I did that since I can’t see any available in Istanbul. I am certainly anxious about what-if scenarios.
Ta-da! Voila! A two-stripe result! Bugger!
The Home Isolation
If it was in a familiar country: Thailand, the US, or Australia, I would confirm it with a PCR test and handle it with a support circle. The insurance sends me a list of healthcare networks. But I don’t have the energy to deal with an unaccustomed healthcare system in Turkey. And with my untrained medical self-assessment, if the coronavirus was confirmed, it’d be a mild one. So, I go straight to home isolation, starting Thursday.
Food shopping is done and AVB butter is made on Wednesday. When the food supply runs low, I get to explore and order online groceries. The gig economy is here for you, everywhere. I also brought from Thailand a pack of fah talai jone (green chiretta-Andrographis paniculata), an Asian herb that helps reduce cold symptoms. Even though there’s a bottle of Irish whiskey from a duty-free, no alcohol during the iso.
I couldn’t find reliable info on how long home isolation in Turkey is. 5-7 days is the number I can come up and go for. Fortunately, I got the entire place, making the retreat easier. The apartment itself is spacious enough for yoga. Although it’s in the basement, soft natural light shines through the windows, not dragging down the mood.
However, the place isn’t in the range of daily prayers from a mosque. (Religious prayers, regardless of the faith, are soothing for me.) And I miss Eid al-Adha (Kurban Bayramı), one of the two main Islamic celebrations, that I’d like to see. The quacking of gulls is the main street soundscape heard from the basement. Humans are surprisingly not too loud even though it is not too far from Istanbul’s nightlife epicentre on the Asian side.
It isn’t actually stale in there: series on streamings to catch up and binge on, working a blog post, yoga, and FFS a rest. And I am stoned all the way through, anyway.
It gets better day by day. I feel the stomach flushes the disease to the toilet—detoxication—and dead skin is piling up—regeneration. To me, they are signs of healing. A week later, it is time to use up the last ATK. Again, I’m anxious.
Ta-da! Voila! A one-stripe result! Phew!
Frankly, this home isolation is easier than the two-week quarantine at the start of 2021 or even the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. It shows how far we have come in managing the syndrome. There’s an unhelpful thought about the people I contacted before the iso. I hope they don’t get sick. If they do, I hope they manage to get through it.
Since I don’t get a PCR test to confirm it’s COVID-19, there’s a chance of error. But the symptoms are undeniably close. My alternative treatments and the isolation are as much as I can do under the circumstance.
It is a relief that I am out and about in the city again but with a pace now. Getting sick while travelling in a foreign city teaches me something—slow down!
Apart from a physical hiatus, it is a mental reflection and introspection of the past travelling four months. It has been a journey from Bangkok to Istanbul to Barcelona and back to Istanbul. This restriction holds me down. So, I’m laying back for the rest of the time here before going on to the next destination.
Ironically, from the day I arrive in the city to the kickoff of the iso, I found only one discarded mask PPE on the street. I thought we could be on the way out of the pandemic. But with this first-hand experience, it is not over yet. Those measures to prevent diseases are still pragmatic.