Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Turkey Now

A few decades ago, the Foreign Ministry of Japan conducted national exams for university students completing their junior year and aspiring to pursue a career in foreign diplomatic services. Four of my classmates passed the exams and bid us farewell as we applauded them with our admiration and envy. About the time we graduated, we learned two were sent to the middle-east, one to Brazil, one to the U.S. Soon news came that Mr. K was killed in an automobile accident in Turkey. Legend has it, the Turkish hit song “Usuku dara” sung by Eri Chiemi in Japanese was translated by K. RIP, K!

The world today keeps a vigilant watch on Syrian truce plans left unresolved. I am glad to see that the agreement reached this week by the U.S. and Russia may put an end to the many years of bloodshed and violence inside Syria.

Turkey, the crossroads since well before the ancient Crusaders between Europe and Asia, has seen quite the flow of history. The latest number of Syrian refugees going to neighboring Turkey since 2011 has surpassed 2 million. Majority of them moved on to EU, either via land or by sea, but Turkey accepted quite a few with its “Misafire” (literally meaning guest) hospitable policy, putting up shelter camps along the Syrian border. The so-called Turkish AFAD (the Disaster & Emergency Management Authority) Cards entitle refugee children with free health care and education. I was very impressed as I read UNHCR’s humanitarian reports.

I received a surprise 2016 New Years greetings from my Taiwanese friend who is an avid photographer. She wrote that she just returned from Turkey after a two week stay, where it was pretty cold, but luckily she saw little rain during the normally wet December. Isn’t Turkey a hot spot at the moment? I asked her if she had faced any signs of danger. She answered ‘No,’ but shortly after she returned, a suicide bomber attack killed 13 at Istanbul’s Sultan Ahmet Square near the Blue Mosque on January 12, 2016.

As usual, she sent me a well-sorted photo album (totaling almost 1000 photos). The cities in her itinerary and visiting order were as follows:

Well-preserved Ottoman city, Black Sea region, UNESCO Wold Heritage sites

Capital with 5 Million population, Anitkabir or Ataturk’s Mausoleum

Historical region in central Anatolia, Fairly Chimney Rocks

Capital of Seljuk Empire, Whirling Dervishes (Mevlevi)

Turkish Riviera city facing the Mediterranean with population one million. Antalya Museum for a notable archaeology collection.

Inner Aegean region, hot springs, travertine terrace formations

Known as Constantinople and Byzantium before and largest European city with 15 million population. Turkey’s economic, cultural and historic center, straddling the Bosphorus Strait. Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya, Suley Maniye Mosque.

With her permission, I am happy to give you access to her two albums.

2015 Turkey Impression 1

2015 Turkey Impression 2

Her name is 李繼瑛 (I call her Virginia) who lives in Taipei. She has quite a photo collection of Taiwan’s natural beauty as she traveled around the entire country. My favorite is her Yangmingshan National Park's album. I know she also traveled to mainland China, sometimes far out to Gansu and Xinjiang, Tarim and Junggar Basins bordering Kazakhstan and Kirgiztan.

She writes: "I love to see the world by traveling and capturing sights through my lenses. Being there, seeing with my own eyes, smelling the fragrance, and hearing the sound is the driving force that keeps me moving forward. I am passionate about foreign languages and cultures, for they not only widen my horizons but also keep me humble and calm.”

When she is not traveling, she says she is a music teacher for parent-baby (toddler) classes with 16 years of experience. Remarkable! I learned much from her travels. Enjoy!

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