The next day the fun will really start. You’ll get up early and take a cab to the correct police station and the cab driver won’t even have to ask anyone on the street directions, so that’s a good sign, right?
You will sit for several hours, because you will be there on the wrong day and therefore will be seen last. Good time to plow through another quarter of that book. The folks will finally take your papers and start a mysterious half-hour process in which nothing much seems to happen except the papers get stapled together. They will gesture you over and have you sign something, and then cheerfully explain something to you at length. In Turkish. Which you will not understand. And there will be no one nearby to translate. They will shove a piece of paper with an address in your hand, and your packet of stapled papers, and shoo you away from the desk.
Just go to the security guard at the front and show him the piece of paper and ask in a quavering voice, “nerede?” He will look at the paper and scratch his head like he’s never seen this address before. He will ask his superior, who will shrug. He will disappear back into the building and ask someone at the counter, and then come back and gesture to you to follow him outside. He will bundle you into a cab and give the driver directions and off you will go. I will not blame you at this point if you think some huge mistake has been made. It will seem to you that you should be in an upstairs office of the police station, paying a series of expensive taxes, but instead you’re hurtling god knows where.
The cab will pull over on a busy street in the shopping district in Kadiköy. The driver will explain in broken English that,
“Traffic, bad- go that way. Is on right.” He will look at you compassionately and you’ll be able to tell that he wants so badly to explain to you why you’re here and what, exactly, is over there and on the right, and what you should do when you get there, but you can’t understand each other. And you are in Kadiköy, looking at the display in the window of a linen shop, and you will have no idea why.
If you panic, at this point, I won’t judge. If you start crying from confusion and frustration as you count out the lira for the cab, you won’t be the first.
But then it’ll be time to wipe your eyes and bravely walk from the cab in the direction he told you, with the piece of paper clenched in your determined little hand. You will stop people on the street and show them the paper, and they will gesture you further down the street, until you get to a point where they will gesture you back the way you came. In this way you will find, sandwiched in between an L.C. Waikiki clothing store and a Star Bufe, a tiny government building. It will be 12:35. The sign on the door will announce that they are closed for lunch from 12:30 to 1.
Go to the Simit Saraya next door and choke a börek past the lump in your throat.
At one get in line. Don’t let the headscarf lady behind you muscle her way in front of you. You will get to the counter eventually, and you will hand the man your packet of now stapled papers and he will look at them with a look of total bafflement on his face and say,
“Um, residence permit?” you will say. He will not understand you. He will show the papers to his supervisor who will be just as baffled and will look up at you accusingly and say,
“What do you want?”
The girl behind you in line will speak English. You will explain that you were sent here from the Kadiköy police station. They will talk back and forth for a few minutes and then she will turn to you and say,
“You need to go to the other building. Leave here and turn right.”
You will leave and turn right and sure enough on the other side of the Bufe will be another government building. You will enter and stand in the vestibule and people will swarm around you. You will have four floors of offices to choose from, and because you don’t know what you’re doing there, you won’t know where to go. It will be tempting to cry, but don’t just yet. Just wander onto the second floor, approach a random counter, and give the nice man your papers. He will look at them and nod and you will feel encouraged. He will smile at you and gesture you behind the counter and take you over to a desk and show your papers and your passport to another man who will look up at you and say,
“Why are you here?”
Just calmly explain that you don’t know why you’re here. They sent you from the Kadiköy police station. Maybe you have to pay a fee here?
He will shrug and say,
“But what do you want us to do?”
This might be a good time to start crying again. You probably won’t be able to help it. Tears will just start rolling down your face and you lip will quiver and you’ll barely manage to whisper,
“I don’t know!”
The nice man will take charge then and say,
“Don’t worry! Don’t worry!” and bustle you out of that office, and into a series of other people’s offices, showing one official and then another your documents until finally you will be dragged in his wake up to the third floor, where he will calmly march past a line of waiting people and deposit you at the proper desk, where a nice woman will take your papers, look through them without interest, and ask you for money. A moment later you will have a receipt and will be shooed away from the desk again without further instruction.
Just go back to the Kadiköy police station (another cab ride) and give them your papers and your receipt. They will take them cheerfully and give you an appointment to come back for your completed permit.
See? Bureaucracy isn’t scary. It’s not a big deal to go get your license renewed.
Which is a good thing, because if you are like me you will spend the dolmuş ride back puzzling over the amount you paid. It wasn’t nearly enough. And then you will realize with mounting horror that instead of renewing your permit for a year, you managed to renew it for one month. Which means that in three or four weeks you get to do it all over again.