Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM)

Our day on Monday began and ended with the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TBMM). In the morning, we toured the assembly building, saw the parliamentary library, committee meeting rooms, and the vast hall where parliament members meet.

In meeting room at Turkish Grand National Assembly in Ankara

For lunch, we visited a restaurant specializing in Iskender Kebabs: a cholesterol bomb, these include thinly sliced lamb with tomato sauce, served over pita bread and covered in peppers. After serving the food, the wait staff pour butter on the entree. Noyan told me later that most Turks only eat an Iskender kebab twice per year. Unlike an Adana Kebab, the name has nothing to do with geography. Someone named Iskender (Alexander) invented the dish some 150 years ago.

We spent the afternoon in Rotary president Necati Demircan's office sorting out travel and mailing arrangements for our team. Bethany is continuing on to Ismir and the Greek islands over the next few weeks. With a few phone calls to his contacts, Necati helped Bethany solidify her plans.

After picking me up from Necati's office, Noyan and Esma gave me a tour of the "Egitim ve Rehabilitasyon Merkezi" (education and rehabilitation center) they operate, the Ozel Istikon. With its beautiful gardens in front and bright classrooms inside, the children there clearly have a warm environment for learning.

Murat, Esma, and Noyan Bakir in front of the school Esma and Noyan operate

Then, as we hadn't eaten in at least two hours, we broke for dinner. Esma made mercimek corbasi soup (it tasted like lentil soup) and dolmas (grape leaf wraps covered in yogurt) for Noyan, Murat and me. We had kadayif (pistachio pastry roll) for dessert.

Then our hosts (Necati and Pervin Demircan, Noyan and Esma Bakir, and their colleagues) chauffeured Lisa, Bethany, Steve and me across town to the Bilkent University Sports International Center, where we got some much-needed exercise after all the food, to ensure we don't get "sistim" (fat).

Turkish Parliament Member Aziz Yazar of Hatay

After checking into the gym and wandering past the step machines and treadmills, we ran into Aziz Yazar, the white-haired, furrow-browed parliament member from Hatay we met in Iskenderun. He had been a guest of the Yarikkaya Rotary meeting we attended on May 13. He remembered us.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Peace at Home, Peace in the World

Last Thursday, we left Konya for the District 2430 conference in Antalya, a resort city on Turkey's southern coast. While tanning on the Mediterranean beach, sleeping in enormous gazebos overlooking the sea, and dining on fresh salmon, fried bananas and sumptuous strawberries at the Xanadu Hotel, our group reflected a bit on our weeks in Turkey as we prepared a presentation for the conference.

With Bethany and Lisa at Xanadu Hotel

On Friday, at a beach party, we had a chance to visit with some of the Rotarians who have hosted us over the past few weeks. And throughout the weekend, we were able to see our GSE counterparts from Turkey, as three members of the GSE team who had spent April in Denver attended the Antalya conference.

On Saturday, before an audience of almost 700 people at the Gloria Hotel, Jan, Steve, Lisa, Bethany and I summarized our journey, each of us detailing visits to two cities and describing the impact the people in each city's Rotary club has had on us.

Turkey and Colorado GSE teams watch Turkey GSE leader Bulent Tuzun address conference

All along the way, each club's Rotarians have taken time out of their day to show off their cities for us and they've invited us into their homes. They have sat with us on minibuses, chaperoned us through museums, guided us through bazaars, sweated with us in hot steel mills, and drank endless cups of Cay with us in factories and offices.

By staying in homes, living with families, and experiencing Turkish home life for almost a month now, I better appreciate Ataturk's words: "Yurtta Sulh, Cihanda Sulh" (Peace at Home, Peace in the World).

And now we're back in the capital city, Ankara. On Sunday afternoon, we rode a giant Ulusoy bus north from Antalya. I'm staying until Thursday with Noyan Bakir, a dentist, and his wife Esma, a speech therapist. They operate a clinic for kids with problems such as autism. On Monday we are scheduled to visit Parliament, and we may possibly see the US Embassy on Tuesday. If time allows, we might also tour Noyan's clinic tomorrow.

Why do the Dervishes whirl to the left?

Last week before leaving Konya, we visited the Mevlana Museum, former monastery of the Whirling Dervishes and Mevlana Jelaladdin Rumi. That night, the president of Konya's Rotary Club, who manages the Konya Hilton, arranged for us to attend a show with the dervishes at his hotel. Just us, the dervishes, and 20 camera-wielding Japanese tourists.

Born in 1207 in what is now Afghanistan, Mevlana eventually settled in Konya. Mevlana's belief system was changed after meeting a mysterious dervish named Shems of Tebriz in 1244. Their meeting is referred to as the 'meeting of two seas' and so began Mevlana's career as a scholar of mysticism. Mevlana's poetic masterpiece, Mesnevi, was written while mourning the 1247 murdr of Shems of Tebriz.

His most famous work includes this passage:

Whoever you may be, come
Even though you may be
An infidel, a pagan, or a fire-worshipper, come
Our brotherhood is not one of despair
Even though you have broken
Your vows of repentance a hundred times, come

After Mevlana's death, Mevlana's son organized his followers into an order called the Mevlevi, or Whirling Dervishes.

The dervishes' black outer garments represent mortals' unknowing of heaven. Their white capes, worn beneath the black, represent connection to God attained only after death. Their woolen hats represent gravestones.

Ataturk outlawed the dervishes in 1925 in an effort to separate church and state, but several orders remain as a religious brotherhood. The biggest is in Konya.

Bethany with new friends outside Mevlana Museum. Women are required to cover their heads in the museum, and these ladies helped Bethany adjust her wrap properly.

Our guide explained that Arabic is read (like Hebrew) from right to left, and this is also why the Dervishes whirl from right to left.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Turkish football, Islam, Journalism, and textiles in Konya

During our first full day in Konya on Sunday, Abdurrahman taught me about the rituals surrounding Turkish football, and he and his wife Hacer taught me about Islam's traditions. I was glad to learn about both.

On Sunday morning, our group and hosts had brunch at the brand-new Birdem restaurant. Then Lisa's hosts (Ayhan Milci and his wife Jasmine) took Steve, Lisa, Bethany and me on a panoramic tour of Konya, including a church dating from the 2nd century A.D., a lake where we skipped rocks, and cay at an old house that featured an "engagement room" for preparation for a wedding.

That evening, I watched the Turkish football championshıp game between Galatarsaray and Fenerbahce with Abdurrahman, Hacer, daughter Ezgi, Abdurrahman's sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Except for the brother-in-law, the whole family supported Galatarsaray. The brother-in-law supported Fenerbahce. Abdurrahman had taught me the cheer: "Galatarsaray, Cim Bom Bom!"

Abdurrahman's family enjoys the football match

The game was scoreless until about the 75th minute, when Fenerbahce scored. Momentum continued to swing against Galatarsaray when one of its players injured a knee late in the game. Fenerbachce went on to win 1-0.

Abdurrahman's sister wore a headscarf, and Abdurrahman described his brother-in-law as a "hard Muslim", and said that he'd made a pilgrimage to Mecca. We bonded through sport fandom, a universal language. Everyone kidded each other about their teams' successes and failures throughout the season. Galatasaray had beaten Fenerbahce during the regular season, but came up short in this contest.

After the football game, Abdurrahman, Hacer and I discussed numerous religious issues, including the marriage of clergy, the Da Vinci Code, the last two popes' stances on Islam, Muslim women's headscarves, other rituals within Islam, and the "tespih" (Muslim prayer beads).

Abdurrahman explained to me what the prayer positions represent: standing represents humanity, bowing represents animals; crouching represents plants; and laying prostrate represents thanking God and exhibiting reverence. Abdurrahman invited me to visit his mosque, and we visited it on Monday morning. He explained to me where the imam and his helpers stand, and where the worhsippers remove their shoes and wash themselves prior to entering the mosque.

After this, Abdurrahman and I joined the rest of the group, and we visited
Selcuk University, including the Mass Communications department, where we had a spirited discussion about freedom of speech and censorship in Turkey and in the U.S, as well as about journalistic bias. I felt like I'd been taken back 10 years to my journalism classes at DU. My opinion is the same as it was then. Given one's bias, it's impossible to remain objective in reporting, but it is possible to set those biases aside and strive to be fair.

We also visited the newspaper Yeni Meram (New Meram), where we discussed editorial freedom and where the editor's puppy peed on my hand.

At the Vela Sock Factory, we were each given personalized socks

We also toured the Vela Sock Factory, where we saw a computer program used to design fabric for one of Turkey's leading exporters. The software can control 1248 needles on a massive sewing machine. Following this tour, we discussed China's growing role in the textile industry, and how this has affected Turkey and the U.S.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Onward to Konya after feasting in Mersin

We left Mersin Saturday morning after a heartfelt sendoff Friday evening. Our group attended a party on Friday night that featured all sorts of excellent food, such as borek, a potato bread made with red peppers, black peppers, olive oil, salt, onion, and ground potatoes rolled into a dough. They're Turkey's version of the pierogie. We also had icli kofte (a chicken pierogie), biber salca (bread covered with a peppery spread), and for dessert, profiterol (an eclair-like dessert).

Mersin Rotarians bid us "Gule Gule"

The Mersin rotarians sent us off on Satuday morning, and we journeyed six hours northwest by bus to Konya. Yesterday I heard the analogy that Mersin is like California, and Konya is like Alabama: conservative and religious. Women in headscarves are more common here than elsewhere in Turkey, and Konya is the home of the Mevlani mystic dancers, the Whirling Dervishes.

I will be staying until Thursday morning with Abdurrahman Ozkaynak, his wife Hacer, and their daughter Ezgi. Abdurrahman is a former banking manager who recently started his own wood pellet business. Hacer teaches high school English, and Ezgi (11) attends a private school. After I arrived Saturday afternoon, we had dinner (tavuk and dolmas...chicken and stuffed peppers), and discussed politics, international relations and religion.

Hacer and Abdurrahman Ozkaynak with daughter Ezgi

The Ozkaynaks' feeling on the EU is that it isn't necessary for Turkey to join, but that in its efforts to join the EU, Turkey would make improvements that would benefit its people regardless of whether membership is ultimately achieved.

As Ilhan pointed out to me Saturday morning, some elements of Turkey's infrastructure are sorely outdated. On the way to the bus station, we passed a train station that Ilhan said was built during the 1920s and hasn't been renovated since. Thus, travelers largely rely on bus transportation, much of which is European-owned, rather than on Turkish trains.

Friday, May 20, 2005

A chemical factory with a zoo

Ilhan and Nilufer invited Lisa and her hosts, Tufan and Dilek, over for dinner on Thursday night, along with Tufan and Dilek's daughter Sevin and son Levant. Steve joined us as well. His host was a bachelor for the week, and Dilek and Nilufer wanted to make sure Steve didn't go hungry. Not possible in Turkey!

Sevin, Lisa, and Nilufer take a break from shopping in Mersin

The highlight of the evening included a ravioli-like dish called manti, made by Ilhan's mother. Nilufer says it takes 4 hours to make. Steve and I each had two helpings. It's topped with a yogurt dressing that includes garlic. For dessert we had chocolate cake and Turkish kahve (coffee); Nilufer showed Lisa how to make Turk kahve.

Despite the Turk kahve, I was asleep by the end of the dinner party. It had been a busy day that began with a run on the beach with Lisa, Steve, Nilufer and Dilek. In the morning we saw the ruins of a Roman theater, and in the afternoon the Kizkalesi Rotarians took us to the beach, where we relaxed, had lunch at the Hotel Barbarossa, and swam 500 meters to and from the Maiden Castle ("Kizkalesi" in Turkish), built by the Armenians in the 11th century (as Sarah from Mersin University explained to us).

Mersin Rotarians with Kizkalesi Castle in background

This morning we visited the Soda Sanayii plant (http://www.sodakrom.com), the sole producer of soda ash and chromium chemicals in Turkey. As a souvenir, their director gave us each a packet of baking soda. It will be interesting explaining that to the customs officials at JFK!

The Soda Sanayii plant is very environmentally friendly, and they even have a small zoo outside with ostriches, goats, and pelicans.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

You learn something new everyday

My host Ilhan has been reading my journal and pointed out that readers in the US might not have their web browsers enabled to read the Turkish characters. These include a C with a tail (pronounced "ch"), S with a tail ("sh"), U with two dots above, O with two dots above, lowercase i without a dot, and uppercase I with a dot (as in Istanbul, Iskenderun, and Ilhan).

So while Ilhan watched the Turkish version of "The Apprentice", he kindly let me use his computer to correct my characters. Tesekkur ederim, Ilhan.

Today was another eventful day. We saw the old Roman road in Tarsus, as well as St. Paul's Well, St. Paul's Church, an American high school in Tarsus, and a glass bottling plant, the only one of its kind in Turkey. We had lunch next to a tranquil and colorful waterfall.

Soda Sanayi bottling plant. Here they're making ketchup bottles.

This evening we had dinner at a Mersin tennis club with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce.

Food continues to be a popular topic. Last night, Lisa's host Tufan had us over for dinner, and his wife baked a delicious chocolate cake whose secret, she said, was to soak it in cold milk. She gave Lisa the recipe, measured in increments of Turkish cay glasses. At the end of the recipe, she wrote "then give to Victor to taste".

The attendees at Tufan's house on Tuesday night also teased me for skinning a fried with with my silverware. They joked that "he must be high society, not like us who live downtown". I tried to reply in Turkish, "hayir" (no) ... which sounds like "higher"! Higher society!

On Wednesday afternoon (after the glass factory) we visited Tufan's father's farm outside Mersin. He has dogs named Hammer and Cafe who monitor the farm. Tufan's father didn't catch my name at first, but once someone introduced me as "Victor Hugo" he got it and proceeded to put Lisa and me to work picking "yeni dunya" ("new word"), a Maltese plum.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Kaanbey ve Onurbey (Mr Kaan and Mr Onur)

My host family in Mersin are the first with young children: Kaan (11) and Onur (7), whose names mean "emperor" and "honor". They're Nilufer and İlhan's children. The children are very westernized - Kaan was sporting a Larry Bird #33 Celtics jersey - and both children know English but are too shy to speak much of it.

Ilhan, Nilufer, Kaan and Onur Karaselcuk

Nilufer showed me Onur's English homework, where he had drawn a family tree, and his English skills are very solid. They giggled at my attempts to speak Turkish, and this seemed to bring them out of their shell a bit in speaking English.

During Monday night's Rotary meeting, Jan, Bethany, Lisa, Steve and I were presented with Muslim prayer beads, which come in sets of 99 or 33. As a guide explained to us on Sunday in Antakya, when we visited a mosque, these bead sets are sort of the Muslim version of a rosary. The worshipper would either complete one round of the 99 beads, or three rounds of the 33 beads. It is a bit of culture I knew nothing about.

On Monday night after Kaan and Onur went to bed, Nilufer, Ilhan and I sat in the condominium chatting about history, politics, information technology, dental offices and numerous other issues as traffic sped by below on Ismet Inonu Bulvari, Mersin's main boulevard. Mersin seems to be the Miami of Turkey, while Iskenderun might be the country's version of Pittsburgh, the heart of industry, though with palm trees and a beach. Cappadocia is quite a lot like the southwestern U.S., with beautiful land formations and dry deserts. Ankara is very reminiscent of Colorado, with a high elevation, dry climate and mountains.

Today our group visited Mersin University, a state of the art institution which opened in 1992. There I met with staff from the computer science and mass communication departments. These departments have "smart classrooms". Our group also met with members of the Maritime Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce. Tomorrow we will visit Tarsus, hometown of St. Paul. It also boasts a waterfall, the Cleopatra Gate (where according to legend, she met Antony) and an old Roman road.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tennis with a Turkish urologist in Antakya

I'm writing from Mersin, in southern Turkey along the Mediterranean coast, from the office of Ilhan Karaselcuk, owner of his own computer retail business for 13 years. Ilhan's wife Nilufer is a dentist. Ilhan also built his Rotary club's website (http://www.kizkalesi.org) and will be its president in 2007.

Our group rode in a minibus for 3 hours this morning from Antakya to here. We'd spent just over two days in Antakya, where 2000 years ago, St. Paul had established the first church. My hosts in Antakya were Dr. Firuz Harbiyeli, his wife Duthan, and their dog Finest. Firuz, a urologist whose white mane was reminiscent of Mark Twain, speaks a little English but Duthan (and Finest) do not. However, we were still able to make ourselves understood and have a great time. Firuz and I played tennis on Saturday afternoon after we had lunch with Duthan. He was able to improve my racket handling skills using phrases like "Victor! Racket! Parallel to leg!" During lunch, Firuz and Duthan were referring to their phrasebook and I was using mine. At one point Duthan and Firuz exchanged high fives after a successful bit of dialogue.

Duthan and Firuz Harbiyeli

By the end of the weekend, I'd become close with these hosts as I have with all the others so far on the trip. It was my first experience with a real language barrier, as my previous hosts Bahadir, Taylan and Meryem were all English speakers. However, despite the linguistic obstacle, the weekend was "cok iyi" (very good)!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Turkish industry and hospitality

It's been another busy day so far. After our group was introduced to the mayor of Iskenderun this morning, we toured a steel pipe manufacturer http://www.noksel.com.tr/ and a steel mill http://www.ekinciler.com/. The steel maker, Ekinciler, sells to 60 countries, including the United States. Visiting these two companies, as well as the ANT Group in Adapazari, made me realize how Westernized Turkey's businesses and industries are. Economically, the country seems ready to join the EU.

Turks who I've spoken with have differing opinions on whether Turkey should join. Bahadir felt the priority should be eastern-facing, looking toward resolving issues with the Kurds and other ethnic groups within Turkey. Meryem felt that Turkey should join, citing the potential benefit to the economy.

The industry here seems as solid as the hospitality. I'm writing this journal entry in the office of an accountant from our host Rotary club, who gave Lisa, Bethany, Steve and me the computer usage priority over his own employees - and then had those employees bring us soft drinks and ice cream!

At every stop - from people's homes to governors' offices - we've been offered glasses of cay ("chai", tea). The whole country uses the same standard, tulip-shaped glass for serving Çay. It is a bit funny to be in a solemn setting like a mayor's office, with Ataturk glaring down from a portrait at us, and to hear no sound but the "ding-ding" of spoons stirring glasses.

Oil filters and tobacco filters in Iskenderun

Yesterday we toured and had lunch at ASAS, an oil filter factory in Iskenderun. After the tour, the owner asked us each what kind of car we drove, so he could give us each a new oil filter.

After this, we toured a new hospital, which opened in İskenderun in the past few months. We sat in the office of the hospital administrator, who is a member of our host Rotary club, and I was struck by seeing a Marlboro ashtray on his desk. It actually served as the paperweight for a Rotary banner as photos were taken. To the Turks, seeing an ashtray in a hospital director's office might be perfectly normal. Being an American, and especially being from health-conscious Colorado, it seemed odd at first.

Later last night we gave our presentation to the Iskenderun Rotary club, then attended a post-meeting cay party. After this I went home with my host, Meryem and her husband, where we listened to Bob Marley and talked politics.

Meryem Ciftci with her sister-in-law, friend, and cat

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Belly dancing, departure to Iskenderun

We left Nevsehır late Wednesday nıght, after takıng incredıble photos of the sunset over the chimney rock formatıons and spendıng the day visıting an underground city and several cave churches from the early centuries B.C.

Other than the Turkish bath, one of the highlights of our stay in Nevsehir was the Cappadocia Rotary meeting on Tuesday. After the meeting, the stage was moved aside and club president Ercan Turhan invited everyone to participate in belly dancing. Lisa, Bethany and Jan all got their groove on to the Turkish music, and the Cappadocians and I eventually joined in, turning the event into something resembling a conga line.

After boarding the bus from Nevsehir at midnight on Thursday morning, we journeyed eastward to Iskenderun for seven hours, arriving early this morning...about 12 kilometers past our stop. The host families came to pick us up, and brought us back westward a bit to Iskenderun. I will be staying for the next three days at the home of Meryem Ciftci and her husband. Meryem is a former English teacher who now works in her father's coal exportıng company. She had participated ın a GSE trip to Australia in 2003.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cappadocia's landscape and handicrafts

Yesterday we had a guided tour of Cappadocia, includıng the rock formations, underground city, churches carved into rock, as well as tours of a pottery maker and a carpet weaver.

At the pottery maker, http://www.gurayseramik.com.tr, we were shown how the pottery is made, then each person was given the opportunity to try a hand at making pottery. Afterward we were told what each piece represents.

At the carpet weaver, we were given a behind-the-scenes-tour of the looms, explained the difference among silk, wool, and wool-on-cotton carpets, and shown examples of carpets from each region of Turkey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Turkish Bath

If you have two hours and 40 lira, it is well worth indulging ın a Turkısh bath. Our hotel, the Nevsehir Dedeman, has a spa that includes this great amenity.

The bath began with me layıng on a stone slab (the "waiting slab"), letting the steam soak into my pores. Then I moved to the main slab, where Turkish and Azerbaijani women poured hot water on me, scrubbed me head to toe wıth a luffah sponge (exfoliatıng, they saıd) and gave me a deep massage.

Then they sat me up, poured more hot water on me to rinse me, then I dried off and continued to a separate room for a "dry" massage, whıch lasted another 20 minutes.

Followed by a glass of raki, thıs was an enjoyable and relaxing experience!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Farewell to Adapazari; Hello to Nevsehir

We had a wonderful weekend ın Adapazari, capped off wıth lunch on Sunday at the Black Sea, where the Sakarya Rıver empties into it. Thıs was a weekend that wıll be hard to beat. From our arrıval on Frıday night, to the visıts at the University and wıth the city and province leaders, to Saturday's road trip to Istanbul, we had a great tıme with our hosts.

Durıng our tour of Istanbul, we had lunch at the Grand Bazaar and mıne was eskendar, a meat dısh wıth fries and yogurt. After lunch we toured Dolmabace Palace and cruised down the Bosphorus, and then our group feasted on a popular baked potato snack. Mıne was fılled wıth beef sausage, cheese, onıons, spıces, and ketchup. My instestines protested vehemently, but my new Turkish frıends helped me realıze that Turkish coffee is just as good as Pepto Bismol at releıvıng "ishal".

After the dınner, Bethany and I each got stuck ın the long line for the paıd restrooms. A search party was sent for us; the Adapazarı Rotary presıdent gave me grief for the rest of the weekend, at every turn kiddingly askıng me, "Where Vıctor"?

Late on Sunday nıght, after givıng our presentation about Colorado to the Adapazarı Rotary club, we boarded a bus for the 8 hour rıde to Nevsehir and arrived this morning. We are staying for the next three nıghts at the Dedeman Hotel, whose general manager is a Rotarıan in the Nevsehir club.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Governor of Sakarya, visit to Istanbul

Durıng a barbecue on Frıday night at the Onucak residence overlooking Lake Sapanca we found out that we were expected at the governor's mansıon. So we all piled into cars and drove across Adapazari to meet wıth the governor of Sakarya. I gave hım a John Fielder Colorado photography screensaver and he gave each of us a book about Sarakya and some Turkish food.

Ata, Nermin and Taylan Onucak

On Saturday we journeyed to Istanbul where we toured the Dolmabahce Palace. This morning I got to sleep in and had brunch wıth Ata and his famıly. Taylan presented me wıth a pen keychain and letter opener bearıng the ANT group logo. I also tried showıng them the web cam for the kennel where Jesse is stayıng (so their terrier Gizmo could see) but being 2:30 am ın Denver, it was shut down.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Univ of Sakarya, Mayors of Adapazari

Today I bade farewell to Bahadir and his mom Mekeddes, and our group was driven west from Ankara to Adapazari, where we were handed off along the side of the road to our new host families. For the next few days I will be staying with Taylan Onucak and his family. Taylan is the manager of the Ant Group (http://www.antgroup.com.tr/). Our host families and other local Adapazari Rotarians gave us a tour of the University of Sakarya, including the computer science, music, and theater departments.
After that we visited the mayor of the city of Adapazari, then the mayor of the province of Adapazari. It was an opportunity for the local Rotarians to voice opinions on their various issues and for the mayors, it was another photo op.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Great food and friendly people

After two days in Ankara, I've finally found five minutes to use the Internet. Tuesday's journey was definitely an eventful one. My checked suitcase was delayed in making the final leg of the trip from Istanbul to Ankara, so I sat with my host, Bahadir, drinking coffee while waiting for my suitcase to arrive. After retrieving the bag, settling in at Bahadir's house and resting for an hour, our team turned around, had dinner with the Ankara-Emek Rotary Club, and gave our presentation.

Bahadir Tanriluku and his mom, Mukaddes

The next day, Wednesday, I participated in a vocational program, visiting Likom (
http://www.likom.com.tr/), which makes ERP software for manufacturing companies. Like CQG, they've been around for two decades, perform automated testing and use C#, ASP.NET, and SQL Server. With the laid-back attitude and casual dress code, Likom is just like any IT company in the US, except for the omnipresent cigarettes and ashtrays.

Everyone here smokes. Even at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (founder of the modern Turkish republic), which we visited today, there hangs a portrait of Ataturk, leading his troops, cigarette dangling from his mouth.

The Turks are very friendly and hospitable. On Wednesday night, after an afternoon at the Anatolian Civilization Museum and a walk through a bazaar, we were treated to a four-hour feast at a seafood restaurant. At every occasion, from a chat at someone's home to a meeting with a software company, guests are offered tea, coffee, and pastries. The Turks have told us that if we don't return to the US heavier than when we arrived, they will have failed in their mission.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Less than thirty hours left!

My last Saturday in Denver was spent at a book club meeting with the "Y So Early" swimmers at Mike and Kellun's house. I didn't actually read the book, The Man Who Walked Through Time, by Colin Fletcher. It's relegated to the "after Turkey" pile along with The Basque History of the World, borrowed from Andres, and Arkadiy Averchenko, borrowed from Noskov. I'm glad to have finished Crescent and Star before leaving.

The Man Who Walked Through Time definitely sounds like a good read. It's a first-person story by a hiker who walked through the Grand Canyon in 1963, and how that experience changed him.

Kellun is a English teacher to immigrants, and two of her students, Behan and Mehmet, are Turks from Bandirma, across the Sea of Marmara from Istanbul.

This morning I had the chance to spend more time with the Turks visiting Denver for the month of April. They addressed the Rotary District Conference in Colorado Springs, which my teammates Steve, Lisa and I attended. Our Turkish counterparts are adamant that we spend as much time as possible in Istanbul. Sinan Atmaca of the imbound Turkey team said, "My life will be shortened by 2 years if you do not visit Istanbul!" Sinan is a doctor, so he must know what he's talking about with that lifespan estimate. We'd better visit Istanbul!

The Turks' impression of Colorado's weather is hilarious. Bekir Turgut, a geologist who is part of the visiting team, said, "Your weather is like the woman. It cannot make up her mind. One day it is snowing, the next it is hot and sunny."