My Turn: Actually, Turkey is a lovely place for Americans to visit
Drawn in by the headline “From high school in Turkey to the coast of Maine,” I was interested to read the essay by Candice Dale in the Your Life section of the Aug. 11 Sunday Monitor. I very much enjoyed reading Dale’s recollections of coming of age in Turkey, her descriptions of Turkish foods and culture, and places they visited, and the enduring friendships that were formed.
As a former military brat who also came of age abroad, I could identify with how incredibly deep and special teenage friendships are when forged in a foreign land. My friends from high school abroad remain to this day, my very closest friends. In addition, having traveled to Turkey, I enjoyed reading Dale’s recollections of Turkish food and culture – such as buying simit “off trays that were carefully balanced on the heads of Turkish street vendors.”
I was surprised and disappointed, however, when Dale suggested that Turkey was no longer a safe place to visit. Nothing could be further from the truth. I assume Dale’s assumption arises out of coverage of recent demonstrations in Istanbul (and across Turkey) that were initiated in Taskim Square. Her assessment is unfortunate on many levels.
First, these demonstrations have nothing in common with the type or severity of the civil, and often violent, unrest that’s been occurring in other parts of the Middle East and northern Africa. Second, her comments serve to perpetuate a general lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of Americans about Turkey, its people and its relationship to the United States.
Turkey is one of America’s oldest and strongest allies, and the Turkish people are quite fond of Americans. The U.S. air base in Incirlik is the one of the largest in the world. More important, Turkey is probably the absolute safest place for Americans to travel in the Middle East. Ask any Americans who have actually been to Turkey and they will tell you that not only is Turkey safe for Americans, the Turkish people are among the most friendly and gracious people in the world.
As Dale expressed rather eloquently, military brats have a very special bond as a result of their experiences abroad. In a few weeks, my husband and I will be traveling to Turkey. While there, we’ll be visiting a former classmate of mine, who is Turkish. He and I met while standing outside the teen club on a military base in Belgium when we were 13 years old. That was more than 40 years ago.
I strongly encourage Dale and her friends to consider making Izmir the location of choice for their next reunion. I’m confident they’ll find the Turkish people, food and culture remain as lovely, exciting and familiar as when they were teens, and the ancient ruins of Ephesus equally unchanged.
(Joan Schwartz lives in Bow.)