The main thing I love about traveling is getting a different view of my life.
This week we’re traveling in Turkey. What an amazing country, in so many ways! Full of beauty, natural resources, a long and glorious history, great food, warm and welcoming people, clean and modern, English-speaking and a secular, democratic Muslim country, we’re having a great time. (Another Groupon deal!)
I can’t help reflecting on the contrasts between the US and our wonderful host country. Did you know that Turkey is about the size of Texas, sits on both Europe and Asia (and is actually THE Western Asia country – I could never figure out what constitutes Western Asia), and is bordered by Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece, and Bulgaria? So like the US with it’s emphasis on modernity, education and a strong economy, but such fundamental differences.
First, the secular Muslim part. We are a secular Christian country, but the cultures are simultaneously so alike (modern with traditional values) but different (nuances between Muslim and Christian cultures). Interestingly, the pull between conservatives and progressives is as prevalent here as at home, and the issues again are strikingly similar. In the end however, everyone just wants to go to work and take care of their families in their own way.
Second, the tiny country with so many neighbors, some of whom are, or have been, in war. Given our beautiful country with two fairly stable neighbors, we must have a sense of security that’s unimaginable here. I know I take it for granted. Though we have had many immigrants from Mexico, we do not have thousands of refugees pouring across our borders looking for safety and humanitarian aid. Nor do we have spats with our neighbors that span the millenia.
Third, the history of Turkey stretches back thousands of years, and is evident in the ruins that still reach to the sky. As during the Egypt trip last year, I was inspired by the perseverance, tenacity, the ingenuity, of the ancient people. The ancients here had running water, flushing toilets, central heat, attention to hygiene, libraries and brothels, large amphitheaters, and wide boulevards. The city at Ephasus was estimated at 300-500,000 at its peak. I can’t help but feel great pride for the human spirit for both creating such wonders but also that the architectural monuments have persevered across the millennia.
But I have also been struck simultaneously by how little progress we’ve made. Our current houses will not stand in 200 years, much less 2500 years, and we’re still warring with each other and looking for peace and enlightenment as we were back then.
All in all, what I’ve concluded is that we’re all still essentially the same, regardless of the continent, prevailing religion or millennium. Somehow I also can’t help feeling that our failure to really find peace and enlightenment is our own doing. The human race has the capacity to realize it, yet we still are grappling with the same old problems of fear, greed, and power. The ancient ruins and engraved messages from the past assure me – we will figure it out.