Quarantined in Montenegro’s Mountains isn’t That Bad After All
I don't remember the exact details of my 40-hour trip from Phoenix to Vucje. It got all mixed up in half-dreaming on airport benches, heavy breathing into surgical masks and listening to podcasts about the decline of the Roman Empire. What I remember vividly are Koreans at JFK airport, dressed in hazmat suits like they'd just finished inspecting the Fukishima reactor, the strong smell of medical alcohol that people were spraying themselves with every 10 minutes, and, of course, the New York-Istanbul flight.
Transcontinental flights are usually tedious, awful and exhausting, but in the time of a pandemic, that is an understatement.
Two hundred people crammed into a space specifically designed to allow that maximum of passengers was an almost ironic interpretation of social distancing rules. I could see raw fear in people's eyes every time someone sneezed, coughed, or quickly removed the mask to eat. After more than ten hours, I couldn't wait to exit that flying dungeon.
Istanbul Airport, this enormous symbol of Turkey's economic rise, was a ghost town. Still, due to my incredible negligence, I somehow managed to miss the boarding call.
While I was begging the airport officer to let me on, in my mind I was replaying scenes from Terminal, seeking myself as Tom Hanks, stuck forever at the airport, with no way out. That went well, and after an hour's flight to Tirana, we were in the bus sent for us by the government. We were ordered into two weeks of quarantine, after which we would need to self-isolate for an additional two weeks. They'd decided to play it safe.
A few passengers wearing face masks walk at the Departure Hall of Istanbul International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU