I have three distinct measurements for countries and regions that I visit.
They are: the Naked Sculpture measurement, the Public Affection measurement, and the Restrooms measurement.
The Naked Sculpture measurement involves the presence of naked sculptures of women and men without countries or people having a fit about it. After all, sculptures are stone, not flesh. They are art. On my measurement scale, countries are downgraded if they have “bees in their bonnets” concerning art and literature.
For the Public Affection measurement, the conditions are that couples have to be free to show tasteful public affection without the culture going ballistic. Usually that could mean hand-holding or simple, sweet pecks of kisses. If the culture frowns on it, the country gets a downgrade from me.
And the Restrooms measurement is just about the convenience and availability of good restrooms. Unisex restrooms, like the one I inadvertently used in the Paris, France, airport, are a bit beyond my comfort zone, as I stood at a urinal and glanced back to note that women and daughters were also there, scurrying to the toilets. But they are still better than an empty room with just a hole in the floor, as I encountered in Egypt.
Well, I can safely say that Turkey passed all three of my measurement tests.
In Turkey, there was a naked woman sculpture near a swimming pool and a naked man sculpture in the form of an Olympian runner at a museum, both in Culture Park in Izmir. (Olympic athletes competed in their sports in the nude in the early days of Greece.)
In Turkey, I saw couples holding hands and I also saw, on the train or in the park, couples smooching. No problem, and the world doesn’t come to an end.
Also, Turkey’s restrooms were good and available, with no surprises.
In Turkey, I knew I was in a modern country. The score was high for that. Modernity is a sign of progress.
In still considering myself to be a journalist, I pay a lot of attention to media within a country. Are the media forms free? Are media sources available to the masses? What is the quality of the media? Those are the questions that I consider.
I found Turkey to have a good selection of newspapers—some in Turkish, some in English. The same for magazines and books. I also found a good selection of TV channels. My biggest surprise in the media area was how much I enjoyed the news coverage by al-Jazeera English TV network. I watched the al-Jazeera English TV News Hour regularly and the show “The Stream” which followed. I was impressed with the quality of the news coverage. Segments actually covered world news, without the typical U.S. national TV aspects of conjecture and combative talking heads. One segment was about the U.S. drought, with the al-Jazeera English reporter talking to an American farmer in Ringling, Oklahoma. Then there were other interesting stories from around the world that were either newsworthy or subject matter that I was seeing for the first time. “The Stream” show involved a news host sitting at a laptop computer and talking with a guest in-depth about subjects ranging from the importance of photographs to social networks to the costs of war. If I could get al-Jazeera English TV on my cable system, I would be watching it here.
The people were nice and friendly. The places and the features of Turkey were interesting. The food was delicious and was healthy with fruits and vegetables. Fast food chain stores were few. I enjoyed the visit to Turkey and would love to return, which is probably the best measure of the impression of a country.
I will end my blog with the trip to Turkey, but add that I also did enjoy my visit to Seattle and to Vancouver, Canada.
Both cities, Seattle and Vancouver, were too traffic-congested, but that’s what tends to happen for cities attracting millions of residents. They need more public transportation.
It was my first venture into Canada. It didn’t seem all that different from America, except for the maple-leaf flags. Canada, as a progressive democracy as well, has lots going for it. With a fairly good economy and an excellent health care system, Canada is moving forward. The biggest surprise to me there was that the Canadian dollar had higher value than the American dollar. I can remember when I was a kid that sometimes I would get one of those Canadian nickels with the beaver images on one side and some stores here wouldn’t accept them because they weren’t valued as much. Well, now the Canadian money earns higher value, so times do change, and countries and societies keep up, fall behind, or step ahead.
Travel is an amazing way to learn about the world as you also enjoy the journey. It is truly a great education.