I don’t think I’m alone in not enjoying discomfort. Awkwardness. Tension. I don’t seek it out, nor do I welcome it when it inevitably arrives. But in leaving the comforts of home for five weeks to travel to a country where I don’t speak the language has introduced all of those feelings in a series of unceasing waves. And yet it’s been one of the best experiences of my life.
By the time this is published, I’ll be on week four of a five-week trip to Turkey (with a short vacation in Switzerland) with my wife and daughter. My wife’s family is strewn all over the country, and we’re trying to visit as many of them as possible, baby and overstuffed luggage in tow. I’m also working while we’re doing all this, which has meant attempting to balance the mundanity of a typical workday with the constant barrage of new stimuli. It’s probably not too far off from what my young daughter must feel, though I’m privileged enough to be able to express it a bit more coherently — and to write down my thoughts thereof.
One of the many beautiful stray cats found in Istanbul. Captured on Huawei P30 Pro.
Working remotely has its downsides, but for the most part, it’s a tremendous privilege, especially working at one as flexible and supportive as Mobile Nations. (Hey, we’re hiring!) One of those perks is being able to do a trip exactly like this, knowing that my job isn’t in jeopardy and that actually, if I’m doing it right, my team doesn’t even have to know anything’s different (except for the fact that I’m seven hours ahead).
I’m going to have a more full-featured roundup of all the gear that’s powered my work-abroad adventure, but what I’m still hung up on is the ubiquity of fast LTE everywhere I’ve been — even in the remotest areas of Turkey. This is a mobile-first country, one full of young people whose primary computers are phones. And those phones are, by a large margin, Android phones. Huawei is the brand of choice here, ironically, but I see a ton of Samsung products, too. Oppo’s also a growing brand here, reflected by the numerous bus-shelter ads and televisions commercials I saw for the Reno 10X Zoom.
Service is fast — I bought a local Turkcell SIM card that advertises “4.5G”, but at speeds consistently near 100Mbps down it lived up to the name. You do pay a bit more for that privilege, but its competitor, Vodafone, offered me 14GB of LTE data for the equivalent of $5 USD. It’s a completely different level of competition over here.
A beautifully-presented Turkish coffee. I’ve had quite a few of these.
I don’t speak more than a few words of conversational Turkish — though I’ve mastered how to order coffee, for obvious reasons — and that’s posed, I think, the biggest challenge to living a “normal” life here. I’m a tourist, yes, but my daily routine consists of finding places to work and then doing the thing. I hole up in cafes, indoor and out (it’s very hot here right now, so out, in the breeze, as often as possible) and because I look like I’m just minding my own business, and I’m not in areas overrun with tourists, people assume I speak the language.
For a few days, I tried to cut through the awkwardness with Google Translate’s ‘Conversations’ feature, which attempts to parse two different languages at once and facilitate an actual conversation. But it’s slow, and often inaccurate (at least the Turkish translations are), and more than a bit frustrating. When you’re trying to have a real-time conversation, the one-steamboat, two-steamboat wait for an answer is interminable. It’s not worth it, even when the results are accurate. I’m lucky my wife speaks both languages and acts as interpreter, but when she’s not with me, I find myself having to make do with abrupt responses, hand gestures, and an embarrassed smile. People are always kind and patient, which I appreciate so much, but as someone who likes to be good at everything he does, being this far out of my element has been bracing, and humbling.
One of my many remote work setups on this trip.
Thankfully, I’m still able to do my job because the past few weeks have been pretty damn active for the “slow” season. You should probably listen to this week’s #ACPodcast as Andrew and I discuss the two major news stories of the week: Google’s recapturing — or its attempt to, at least — of RCS from the zealous grips of the carriers; and its abandonment of building tablet hardware in favor of a safer, and potentially more profitable, form factor.
And if you’re in to mobile gaming, you probably haven’t been able to miss Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, the latest insane-is-putting-it-mildly obsession from Niantic. We’re covering all the launch issues here and our friends at iMore are giving you all the gameplay tips, tricks and tweaks you could ever want, so head over there.
So that’s it for me. I’m recounting my trip on Instagram and Twitter if you want to follow the remaining week or so, and if you’re in the following mood, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel where we’re posting more and better videos than ever.
Oh, and GO RAPTORS!
Have a great Sunday — I’ve seen the future, and it’s good.