Dangerously Close

Posted by Francisco Patino on August 1, 2015

As a Gringo (of Colombian descent) who was raised in Miami and who has now lived in Cappadocia, Turkey for almost 2 years , I am frequently asked-by potential clients, friends and family-the following question: “Do you feel safe in Turkey ? Aren’t you worried about the danger ?”,

Typically, I pause and semi-smile, my mind trying to reconcile the (typically) sensationalistic media portrayal of the “ongoing situation” in the region with my own ACTUAL experience, hoping to choose the right words to effectively illustrate the gigantic chasm seperating these two realities.

Francisco Patino travel agent

To state it succinctly: I have felt safer in Cappadocia than I EVER felt in Miami or New York or Los Angeles. Granted, I’m glibly comparing here two completely different types of “danger”, but, on the whole, the serenity, peace, and tranquility I have witnessed while living in Turkey exists in sharp contrast to what the media has/had led me to expect.

And this is not just a PERSonal point of view. Invariably, the feedback I have received (and conTINue to receive from the hundreds of travellers with whom I have had the pleasure of interacting) is consistent and homogenous: the warmth and hospitality of the Turkish people, the jaw-dropping beauty of its diverse panoramas, and the palpable antiquity and historical relevance of its many attractions end up being THE most valued and cherished souveneirs they take home, NOT any overriding memory of having felt “at risk” during their adventure.

Sometimes these travellers giddily share with me the fact that they HAD initially come with some trepidation, and that they HAD considered the warnings of friends (“ Really ? You’re going to Turkey ? Haven’t you HEARD ? ”) before ‘braving it’ and setting off anyway. Then, with their first immersion into the bustling density and confounding architecture of Istanbul, or their first wide-eyed pan of the haunting and other-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia, or their first inhale and taste of the Mediterranean Sea-air at Fethiye or Bodrum, their misgivings and apprehension-- they tell me-- seemed to imperceptibly vanish, releasing them into a fulfilling, almost transcendent experience.

Recently a colourful pair of young travelers (she, Cynthia, a nurse from England and he, Sameer, an engineer from Singapore) came through Cappadocia near the mid-point of their Turkish Adventure. They had earlier that day awoken at dawn to levitate delicately over Cappadocia in a hot-air balloon, and later visited beautiful Ilhara Valley. As we sat and chatted in our offices over some late afternoon Chay tea, I asked what had made them choose Turkey as their destination:

“ We decided that we wanted to go someplace mysterious, beautiful and ancient. “, replied Cyndi. Then I asked whether they had had any second thoughts about COMing to Turkey, given the reports of unrest around the Syrian border and the fashion in which the media depicts these events.

“OH PLEASE !!!! C’MON NOW!!!!!!”, Sameer screamed. ”The point of today’s media is to keep us consuming products that we don’t really need, keep us watching shows that prevent us from thinking seriously about stuff that really matters, and to keep us constantly fearful about something !!! Cyndi and I like to make up our OWN minds about the world !!! ”

There was a silence after he spoke, as if we were all thoughtfully considering his bombastic declaration. Small-talk had suddenly metamorphosed into serious conversation.

Cyndi then, silently, pulled from her backpack a small, recently purchased box of Turkish Delight, a soft, chewy turkish candy that comes in small cubes.

Sameer reached over, took a piece from the box, and, as he tossed it in his mouth, added, calmly :

“ For example, I have now OFFICIALLY made up my OWN mind that this is without a doubt the TASTiest candy I have ever chewed .”

Dangerously close to paralyzing laughter we all were at that moment, feeling content and safe, snug in the gently beating heart of Turkey.