Traveling in Turkey is something very special. Not only do we pass through this magnificent country’s breathtaking scenery which is a true delight; fellow travelers do actually talk whilst being on a coach, train or plane, yes they do. And they would chat with you and me, too! What is almost perceived as a crime in other countries – journalistic exaggeration factored in – or is at least seen as totally politically incorrect over here is standard fare so to speak, pun intended.
And so it happened again last week: on one of my most recent trips passing through one of Istanbul’s international airports in the middle of February 2019 I had had the absolute pleasure to being seated next to a young professional. Granted, initially your friendly columnist was let us say it diplomatically, one per cent dissatisfied as for one reason or the other check-in staff had confused emergency exit seat numbers E with F; as a matter of fact he had mixed up the entire emergency exit row number with the one behind.
Sandwiched in, instead of stretching out there was no alternative than to accept my frequent fliers fate and as if by an act of defiance I unfolded a broadsheet newspaper which in any case, or shall we rather say in any class, is something of a delicate balancing act without annoying your fellow passengers. Yet soon things brightened up and not only on the horizon.
Enter a young lady who at once put a stylish notebook in front of her, flight mode supposedly duly enabled. Yet before she even started to use her keyboard she very kindly inquired about my English language Turkish newspaper (see my comment about trying to unfolding such a thing whilst involuntarily sitting in the middle seat) and we started chatting. Always honest about my Turkish language skills she soon found out that a non-native speaker would accompany her on this short flight and so we swapped between Turkish, English and German. Hence my first observation: Turkey’s younger generation is extremely language aware, and adapt.
The moment she realized that her notebook battery had run flat we both laughed and did not stop talking with each other for the entire duration of the journey. Stories about which university we had attended and what we do for a living topped the agenda. My neighbor spoke about her postgraduate diploma she was about to pass in the field of medicine the next day ready to become a doctor, what a wonderful vocation.
It would be unfair to mirror the complete conversation because Turkish citizens, as well as those who love Turkey but are of foreign origin, shortly after introductions cover almost every possible field of subjects including giving away rather private perspectives. Birth town, family members, city where you live, plans for the upcoming years… and it would thus be unfair to copy our exchange of views in a public space like our newspaper.
But as her privacy Chatham House – diplomacy style is assured mentioning the fact that we met is no harassment, at least not here in Turkey. We actually agreed to consider writing an article for this or that publication, so she might go public one day about that very shared journey too. From my sealed lips however – no more.
Yet there is a lot more about what can be read between the lines of our conversation without giving away names.
Hence my second observation: Turkey’s younger generation aspires, inspires. It is very well educated and ready to take on the world. This young generation is as proud about being Turkish as they are proud of connecting to and with the wider world. They are charming, witty yet respectful, too. They speak languages, many as it is. Perhaps even more than most of my fellow countrymen would! Besides, they are strong characters, possess willpower; they would not take ‘No’ for an answer in a positive sense. They are diplomatic but would not shy away from clearly stating their equally clear opinion either.
So my third and final observation is as follows: how come that far too many commentators in Europe consider Turkey as a kind of nation which needs to be lectured 24/7? Why can we not take it at face value and talk eye to eye? My modest evaluation is that many members of my very own profession – the media – portray this fantastic country in a wrong light. And I am not even mentioning some anti-everything members of the political arena, too.
Turkey is a modern democracy. And above all else, her younger generation is ready to carry it even further to advance its achievements ever more. If one ever needed any reconfirmation about the path Turkey has embarked on and that it is the one its population endorses it was this fine early morning plane ride.
Flying with a young doctor who soon might work in one of Turkey’s state-of-the-art hospitals no matter whether state or private, or would support a non-governmental association abroad in its fight against ill health on behalf of the Turkish Red Cross, or perhaps sets up her very own private walk-in clinic – what a pleasure indeed! And rest assured here in Kusadasi we have exactly that same young generation waiting in the aisles of success, career, influence, and pro-actively shaping their fine nation. This flight as short as it was turned out to be another eye opener – blessed to be part of our shared social fabric in what is probably the most welcoming nation on earth regardless of being high up above the clouds or safely back on solid ground.