Yesterday was our second day ?n Izm?r. Th?s morn?ng we leave for Bursa. Saturday was more relaxed than the prev?ous days–less s?ghtsee?ng. We are all gett?ng a l?ttle t?red after seven days. Emre’s vo?ce ?s show?ng the stra?n and our bod?es (even our sm?ley faces) are start?ng to feel the effects of the travel. At th?s po?nt ?t ?s more than ever ?mportant that we keep our m?nds focused on the goal of be?ng here: to learn more about the Turk?sh people and the place of the?r fa?th w?th?n the?r da?ly l?ves.
Da?ly l?fe ?s where most people who have been affected by the ph?losophy of the Gülen movement l?ve out the?r l?ves. For ?nstance, I have not met w?th any Islam?c rel?g?ous leaders or teachers s?nce be?ng here. But what I not?ce ?s that everyone I meet l?ves out the values and consequences of the?r fa?th ?n the serv?ce of the vast throng of human?ty that surrounds us ?n th?s c?ty.
Today we v?s?ted three very d?fferent establ?shments: A local hosp?tal that belongs to a pr?vate cha?n, a Department of the local pol?ce force that deals w?th organ?sed cr?me and drug deal?ng, and a school w?th a strong emphas?s on phys?cs and the sc?ences.
At the ??fa hosp?tal we had what Kev?n called “Hobb?t’s Second Breakfast” w?th the CEO of the Hosp?tal and w?th lead?ng doctors and managers of the hosp?tal. ?ifa means “Health” ?n Arab?c. The CEO ?s also pres?dent of the Turk?sh Doctors Foundat?on–wh?ch ?s mot?vated by moral and theolog?cal v?rtues: “for the pleasure of God” was h?s exact phrase.
Dur?ng the meal we were also jo?ned by some extra guests: A pol?ce off?cer oversee?ng the eth?cs of pol?ce, a ret?red lecturer ?n “Turkology” (wh?ch ?s what they call the?r nat?onal stud?es) and an Educat?on M?n?stry off?c?al who oversees standards and eth?cs ?n the Izm?r reg?on.
The Head of Dent?stry (wh?ch ?s done ?n hosp?tals and supported by the State–one of our group told the story of a women he knew who flew to Turkey and had here dental work done here wh?le v?s?t?ng her fam?ly for less than ?t cost to have ?t done ?n Austral?a) spoke very good Engl?sh and showed us around the hosp?talç They have 120 beds ?n th?s hosp?tal but about 1000 ?n the cha?n of hosp?tals all together. They have Se?mans accred?tat?on as a Research Hosp?tal–the only one ?n Turkey. He showed us the IVF ward–someth?ng that had been of ?nterest to me. I asked about some eth?cal ?ssues (not an easy th?ng to do ?n a busy corr?dor) and he sa?d that they only accept legally marr?ed couples for IVF treatment and they do not use donor eggs or sperm. I asked about freez?ng embryos: yes they do th?s. I asked about embryon?c stem cell research: No they do not do th?s. Nor ?s there any law for or debate about th?s ?n Turk?sh soc?ety. But he thought there m?ght be some places where ?t m?ght happen. From my own knowledge, ?t ?s an ?nterest?ng po?nt from an Islam?c po?nt of v?ew s?nce (l?ke many Jews) they regard l?fe as beg?nn?ng some days (eg. 14) after concept?on.
We were shown the matern?ty ward. I asked about the rat?o of home b?rths to hosp?tal b?rths. There are st?ll many more b?rths at home than ?n hosp?tal, but apparently th?s rat?o ?s chang?ng ?n favour of hosp?tals. We were shown a pr?vate room–very spac?ous w?th lounge ?ncluded. We were shown research labs that to my untra?ned eyes looked very ?mpress?ve. Most ?mpress?ve of all was the Magnet?c Nav?gat?on Ang?ograph mach?ne. It d?dn’t go “p?ng”, but what ?t d?d do was nav?gate the metal st?nt used ?n ang?o-surgery along the ve?n by magnet?c man?pulat?on rather than by surg?cal ?ntervent?on. It seems that the necessary tra?n?ng for th?s ?s ga?ned on the play stat?on as a joyst?ck ?s the ma?n ?nstrument! Th?s ?s the only such mach?ne ?n Turkey and one of only 14 ?n the world. We were also shown the D?alys?s centre and the laser opt?cal surgery centre.
The next stop was the KOM (Drugs and Blackmarket) d?v?s?on of the Izm?r Pol?ce. We were g?ven an aud?ence w?th the Ass?stant Comm?ss?oner of Pol?ce for th?s department. Over tea, chocalates and sweet pastr?es (after hav?ng our hands squ?red w?th lemon hand cleanser) we d?scussed Turk?sh and Austral?an soc?ety. The Ass Com had the same quest?on that every other Izm?r? has had thus far (aga?n w?th a sl?ght var?at?on) — what ?s your ?mpress?on of Izm?r and how ?s ?t d?fferent from your pre-concept?ons. Th?s leads me to th?nk that Turks generally perce?ve that they get a raw deal when ?t comes to outs?de ?mpress?ons of the?r nat?on–espec?ally perhaps from those countr?es wh?ch belong to the EU. Because we arr?ve speak?ng Engl?sh and appear?ng European they assume that we (on the other s?de of the world) have formed the same op?n?ons when ?n fact we are qu?te ?gnorant of both the real?ty and the false ?mpress?ons of th?s far away nat?on.
I have also formed the op?n?on that there ?s an ent?re sect?on of the workforce ?n Turkey whose job ?t ?s to serve tea. We could probably solve our unemployment problems at home ?f only we re-?ntroduced th?s noble profess?on.
Chr?s (who had once been ?n the V?ctor?an force herself) aksed the Ass Comm?ss?oner about women ?n the Izm?r? pol?ce force. About 15% he sa?d (compared, accord?ng to Ken, w?th about 22% ?n V?ctor?a). Ken added that we have a female Comm?ss?oner and the Ass?stant Com repl?ed “Ah, effect?vely 50% female ?n your force then!”
We fell (as at the Hosp?tal) to talk?ng about values ?n our soc?ety and I not?ced that the Ass?stant Comm?ss?oner (as w?th the CEO of the Hosp?tal) had no qualms ?n speak?ng about “Love” as one of those values. As Ken sa?d afterward, ?t would be unth?nkable ?n Austral?a to have “Love” as a value for the pol?ce force, and Kev?n agreed that ?t would be unl?kely to see ?t l?sted among the values of our state schools. We reflected on th?s d?fference at some length at tea ton?ght and wondered ?f ?t ?s because of e?ther some ant?-react?on to Chr?st?an?ty ?n our soc?ety or (perhaps more l?kely) because of the over ?dent?f?cat?on of love w?th sexual love. We also reflected that although Austral?a ?s a secular country ?n ?ts values, ?t ?s an human?st?c country. It does not appear that Turk?sh secular?sm ?s
mot?vated by the same human?sm.
At the end of our aud?ence Ken gave a g?ft of a copy of the book publ?shed for the 100th Ann?versary of the V?ctor?a Pol?ce and the AC gave Ken a set of KOM coffee cups and saucers on handpa?nted Kütahya porcela?n.
Our next v?s?t was to a school where we found someth?ng l?ke a m?n? “Sc?ence Works” on permanent d?splay: all sorts of phys?cs mach?nes and exper?ments. We were shown all over these and ?nv?ted to try them out. There was obv?ously a strong emphas?s on the phys?cal sc?ences here as the sc?ence labs were very well k?tted out also.
We were fed lunch at the school and then we headed out to see some of the s?ghts of Izm?r. We were jo?ned by another “m?nder” from the Young Bus?nessmen’s Assoc?at?on named Mehmet. He and Emre Mk II (whom we have dubbed “Raphael” as our guard?an angel–now shorted to “Raph” and ?n good Auss?e style soon to become “Raph?e”) showed us along the shorel?ne of Izm?r bay. Th?s was a lot l?ke walk?ng down along the beach at St K?lda, but w?th more people. We saw the Republ?c Square “where the last of the Greeks were dr?ven from Izm?r ?n 1921–a great v?ctory” and the ?con?c clock-tower.
We were then shown through the bazaar–here called the Kemeralti–a w?nd?ng maze of crowded stalls and streets sell?ng all ?mag?nable ?tems.
It was an exc?t?ng place to be but you had to be on the lookout all the t?me for p?ckpockets. I was able to buy some rose o?l, saffron, and apple tea at a sp?ce sellers. We had tea ?n an old camel yard/barn wh?ch had a very m?ddle-eastern feel to ?t.
Emre took us to meet a dear and revered fr?end of h?s who owned a k?tchenware bus?ness ?n the Kemeralti. Th?s man, Yusuf P., ?s a close fr?end of Gülen’s and has known h?m for over 40 years. He served us tea and we had a few moments to chat. “Your v?s?t has made my l?fe perfect and complete” he sa?d. Emre also took us to the Mosque ?n th?s bazaar–H?sar Mosque–where Gülen was once an Imam and the pulp?t from wh?ch he preached. It was here that the Gülen movement had ?ts b?rth.
Leav?ng the Bazaar we went up to the old Crusader fort on the crest of the c?ty from where we could get a w?de v?sta of the ent?re c?ty and ?ts bay. From there we went down to the Sultan Restaurant where we were to have d?nner–but we were early so we dec?ded to go back to the Hotel to freshen up. After dr?v?ng for about half an hour we became aware that we were ?n fact go?ng around ?n c?rcles–Can had gotten h?mself lost or couldn’t f?nd the hotel or someth?ng. To put the best construct?on on everyth?ng we agreed that they had actually moved the hotel and put ?t somewhere else just to confuse h?m. We were t?red but st?ll ?n good humour. We managed to get some great sunset shots over the bay and had a good tw?l?ght tour of Izm?r! It was now too late to get to the hotel so we dec?ded to go back to the restaurant.
We stopped at a supermarket along the way to buy a few ?tems. I can hardly descr?be the sense of rel?ef that I had walk?ng ?nto that Supermarket. I could have been ?n Coles back home. Suddenly everyth?ng was normal aga?n. And you could buy someth?ng w?thout haggl?ng.
Back at the Sultan restaurant ?t was just us and Emre-“Raph” for d?nner so there was no pressure. We were jo?ned by another member of the Bus?ness Assoc?at?on called Erol but unfortunately Izzett?n could not jo?n us. I had “Lambs Head Soup” th?s t?me–wh?ch ?ncluded everyth?ng ed?ble off a lambs head plus some. Very yummy w?th garl?c sauce and v?neagar. We made a spec?al presentat?on of thanks to Emre-“Raph”. F?rst we gave h?m a pa?r of sunglasses to complete the ?mage of our “m?nder” or “bodyguard”. We off?c?ally renamed h?m Raphael (wh?ch requ?red some explanat?on and also a d?scuss?on about Chr?st?an and Islam?c Angelology) and presented h?m w?th one of the three pewter tea scoops that I had brought from Austral?a. Th?s scoop has a platypus on the handle end of ?t. We f?gured that Raph would never have seen a platypus or even heard of them before (for some unjust reason they are not as well known as Kangaroos) and asked Emre to expla?n to Raph what they were. Emre refused. He sa?d he just wanted to eat h?s dessert and we could do our best w?th s?gn language and charades. You try expla?n?ng a platypus w?th charades some t?me and you w?ll see what fun then ensued.
Back at the hotel. After a day of negot?at?ons, Emre has arranged for Gav?n and myself to attend a church on Sunday morn?ng. There was some vagueness about what sort of Church and when the actual mass was but we have settled on 10am t?ll 10:45am. I am a l?ttle concerned that I m?ght m?ss commun?on but I w?ll see how ?t goes. At the end of last n?ght I went for a walk to check out the local churches. In fact I found no less than three Cathol?c Churches w?th?n a stone’s throw (ok, a k?lometre) of the hotel: St Mary’s, St Polycarp’s (Is he bur?ed there?), and the Cathedral of St John to boot. It was very late (about m?dn?ght) and there were no s?gns on the gates say?ng when masses where ?n the morn?ng so I was none the w?ser for my l?ttle exploratory wander. I was astounded to see that the Cathedral was surrounded by a 10 foot sol?d ?ron fence w?th barbed w?re on the top. I have not seen anyth?ng of the l?ke s?nce com?ng to Turkey. I w?ll have to ask Emre why th?s should be necessary.
I hope all my readers have had a blessed and holy Sunday. By next Sunday I w?ll be back ?n Melbourne to celebrate the holy myster?es w?th fam?ly and fr?ends, but you w?ll all be w?th me today as I gather w?th fellow Chr?st?ans here ?n th?s anc?ent c?ty–one of the or?g?nal Seven Churches of the Apocalypse.