Erik Weingardt

Erik WeingardtI was invited to attend a wonderful opportunity from the Rumi Forum. I was part of a small group of US ambassadors and communicators that were traveling together to experience Turkey unlike most people are able to experience from just visiting on their own.

Before actually agreeing to go, I was a little hesitant because I really didn’t know what the purpose of going was. Did they need me to give a briefing? Did they want me to speak regarding my experiences? What exactly was the agenda? I wasn’t turned off at all at the prospect, but I was curious to know why the Rumi Forum and a group of wonderful Turkish businessmen would fund and organize such a great experience like I am about to describe.

I am a professional. I have many experiences behind me and continue to seek more knowledge and spread positive vibrations to my friends and peers. I have experience as a U.S. Naval officer, I was a drummer in a band, I have been an computer engineer, I am a manager within the Department of Homeland Security, and I am also an actor on the side. I pride myself to learn everything I can on various subjects, but also focus on areas that provide positive, fruitful, and wonderful experiences for all involved. I do not like conflict, I do not enjoy hearing people be rude or condescending, and I try to improve all humanity however I can, whatever the faith, whatever the race. I enjoy making people happy, laugh, and feel love.

Ok, so, how did I hear about this venture? My girlfriend, Jennifer Deitz, an up and coming novelist and travel writer, among other things was offered to be one of these American ambassadors to Turkey. She has ties to the world of writing and has many contacts to spread knowledge throughout the community with her speaking, networking, and writing. She thought that my personality and abilities would compliment this proposed agenda and asked if I could be part of the team. I was accepted with open arms from the Rumi Forum. I was very happy to hear this and started to get excited to find out what this was all about.

Honestly, before going to the Rumi Forum’s website and asking questions, I wasn’t planning on visiting Turkey or had not planned on it in the near future. It wasn’t because of any specific thing. Turkey just didn’t seem like a place that I thought I would visit. Being partially from the entertainment industry, my thoughts were a little skewed in regards to the safety of Turkey. All I had on my mind was ‘The Turkish Jails!’, “Don’t do anything wrong because the Turkish jails are terrible and you will never get out.” That being said (or displayed on a movie in the past) gave me a little scare and did not allow me to see the error in my ways. I still am not sure about the Turkish jails, but I am an honest and law abiding individual and don’t plan to find out. In any case, I was thrilled to go to Turkey, met a couple other people in the airports on the way and soon I was stepping foot on Turkish soil. I was amazed at the amount of development and architectural designs throughout Turkey, especially Istanbul. After attending many of the school, so called “Gulen Schools“, newspaper, and local gatherings, I now know that Turkey is a wonderful place to visit. It has state of the art medical and educational values and information to share. They are a very loving and caring people and given the amount of Mosques in the Istanbul area alone, a very religious community. I have nothing against any religion or denomination and think it’s wonderful that so many people are devoted and focused like they are. I would have to get used to the wake up calls at night (laugh), or maybe I would go ahead and get up with everyone else and pray! The Mosques were amazing and I wish we had more of this type of focus here in the U.S.

There were many exiting parts of the trip that I liked, so it will be difficult to narrow it down to only one. Of course, everyone enjoyed the food, tea, and desserts. It was a little hard for me to drink the salty yogurt drink since I have a big sweet tooth, but I still tried it. I can’t even describe the amazing things we ate. I loved it all! In regards to locations, I thoroughly enjoyed all the Mosques but also enjoyed visiting Ephesus. It was an amazing area to see and learn more about. However, I think my number one part of the trip was visiting the two or three family’s, talking with them, enjoying food and drink together, and discussing various aspects of Turkey and American culture. I am a very social person and love interacting with people instead of just listening all the time. I like to hear first hand about a person, their life, and what they do and visa-versa. Of course, eating desserts whole and dancing with some of the family members in front of everyone will always be a highlight of mine! Thank you very much for that wonderful experience!

The trip as a whole seemed to be a big success. Yes, people will always say there wasn’t enough down time, which I agree, because if we had a little more time to rest between events, we would have been more open and cheery. I hope we didn’t seem too tired. However, we could catch up on sleep between locations!

After the trip ended, I know I was definitely more knowledgeable regarding Turkey and its state of affairs, education etc than before I came. I am almost embarrassed at my lack of knowledge prior to the trip.

Overall, I think the Turkish culture and Turkish people are one of the nicest, friendly, and religious people I have ever met. I have traveled to many countries, most in Asia, and have seen many different cultures. I thoroughly enjoyed Turkey and the people were all very willing to help whenever possible. Among the people I met, they were all extremely giving and caring people. They wouldn’t even hesitate to give someone something if the knew you liked it a lot. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Although I have been traveling a lot with my work and not available to get together with the group I traveled with as much as I would like, I loved talking with everyone on in the group, both American and Turkish.

Overall, I know the experience for both countries was a success. I wish I knew the best way to spread the word to more people about Turkey and where they are today with technology, education and medicine. Most people in the U.S. probably have no idea, but I think they would be interested if they had the opportunity to learn. I think some of the businesses in the U.S. would definitely be interested in sharing, but that would be an avenue I am not associated with. I recommend more trips, allow writers to write and spread the word as best they can, provide pamphlets and information CD’s to people, and of course your website is essential to information sharing.

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