For one whose formal education was not in anthropology, theology or history, this trip to Turkey was a high-impact, factually overwhelming, and perspective-changing experience. It provided a study of peoples of different religions and philosophies, ancient and modern, side by side.
My overall impression is that Turkey is a country that does not get the respect it deserves. The landscape is incredibly varied and picturesque, with snow-topped mountains, beautiful beaches and everything in between. The Turkish people offered us the warmest, most generous hospitality and the most healthy, tasty dishes I’ve ever enjoyed, meal after meal, day after day.
The determination and sacrifice of many Turks to transform their society into the cleanest, most orderly, value oriented, progressive society is to be respected. Our visits to schools, so called “Gulen Schools“, brought us into contact with teachers and administrators who have been exceptionally successful in bringing out the best in their next generation. By providing models of well-educated, caring, principled, dynamic adults, their students came across as loved and cared for; they were happy, insatiable for knowledge and gregarious individuals.
The Turks we met impressed me as people who have integrated the best of Islamic values without ostentatious practice or declaration.
Traveling with fellow Americans of different faiths provided depth, joy and significance to the overall experience through shared insights at individual sites and all along the way. Each character in our entourage had their own ways of processing the details of this journey: photos, discussions, jokes, songs, running commentaries, new friends and prayers. Many of those moments are permanently imprinted in my mind and heart.