A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hitchhiking, Examples of Peace, and Thanks

The Camaraderie of Hitchhiking

In Konya, home of Mawlana Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes, it is getting too late in the day to think about hitchhiking back to Ankara. It is also unlikely that four of us will get a ride, but we climb with our Konya host, Huseyin, over a few small hills to take a shortcut to the highway. I'm not at all worried though, because I am happy to be travelling with three friends, regardless of the outcome.
The day before I had hitchhiked with my second Ankara host, Selda, to Konya. The plan had been that I would go on towards Iskenderun from there while Selda caught a bus in time to go back to her job as a teacher the next day. Selda had felt that I would discover something important in Konya, and she wanted to be there with me when it happened. But Konya had been a bit of a disappointment; just another city full of featureless apartment blocks and shopping centers one might find in Cleveland. The central feature of Konya, Rumi's tomb, had been swarming with tourists, and while there was no apparent sign of Sufism but for the Sufi or Rumi themed tourist traps, a hard fundamentalist streak does run through the city. What did become important for me in Konya, however, was the cameraderie I found in the hitchhiking trip itself.
Instead of remaining in Konya, then, I had decided to hitchhike back to Ankara with Selda. Huseyin, who is a student of Sufism, then decided to join us as we ate at a small diner before setting off. Shu, a guest of Huseyin who is on a journey from Paris to Shanghai to sample and collect local pastry recipes, also decided to join us at the last minute. The idea of four of us on the road with such reckless spontaneity had me giggling over my food.
So the four of us are standing on the highway surrounded by the bleak landscape of central Turkey with our thumbs out, and the sun is getting low. But before long we catch the first of three rides that will take us all to Ankara. Our last ride, which we catch in the dark, has us all crammed into the driver's cab of a lorry. At a weigh station the driver tells us we all have to get out to walk the 100 meters to get to the other side of the weigh station as he is at his maximum legal weight. It is all great fun.
He then takes us to Ankara where Huseyin goes his own way and Selda, Shu and I catch a minibus to her flat. Two days later Shu and I hitchhike back to Konya again to pick up his bags, which he left at Huseyin's. Once again we have started late in the day, and just as it is getting dark, a coach stops on the highway for us. Selda, who is seeing us off (and helping us to catch a ride) tells the driver we haven't got the bus fare, but Shu and I are invited to ride the bus to Konya at no charge. We say our goodbyes to Selda and ride in comfort to Konya, with complimentary crackers and coffee served along the way.
I can't imagine any coach in the US or Europe stopping on the highway to pick up hitchhikers. Turkey is truly a hospitable country.

My Hosts in Ankara; Two Different Examples to Follow

While in Ankara I stayed with two hosts, Serdar and his family, and my now very close friend Selda.
Serdar is a Blackhawk pilot in the Turkish army, and one of the gentlest and kindest men I've ever met. While he is prepared to fly in possible combat situations, what he enjoys the most as a Blackhawk pilot is flying rescue missions. I asked him what he thought about the possibility of military action in southeastern Turkey against Kurds or Syria, and he replied he wouldn't volunteer to fly such missions, but he would do what was expected of him. Nevertheless, he agreed with me that war was never a good solution, and he listened carefully to my argument that many non-combatants suffer from any military action. I argued that if I were an Iraqi father who had hated the regime of Sadam Hussein, but whose family had been killed as a result of 'collateral damage'  by those who would rescue me from that regime, I might just decide to take up arms against my rescuers. Serdar is married and has an 8 month old son, and he could only nod in agreement. He and Bu─ču, his wife, were more than happy to sign the petitions I am carrying. Ultimately, I see Serdar as a man of peace, especially because of his gentle nature. We may both have difficult jobs, but I have learned from Serdar that a hard job in no way requires a hard exterior.
Selda is a 25 year old teacher, and the most selfless and peace oriented person I know. She is a vegan for ethical reasons, and in everything that she does, she considers the possible negative effects of her actions. As we rode to Konya the first time with a truck driver, she pulled out all of the food she had packed for the trip to share with him along the way. Then she pulled out her Turkish copy of 'The Little Prince' as a gift for his daughter. The truck driver, in turn, gave me his prayer beads, and I frantically searched for a gift to give him; I finally decided to give him the big coat that had been given to me by a host in Italy. This coat had gotten me through Bulgaria, but I no longer had any use for it. Selda lives according to the philosophy of a gift economy, and her actions motivate others to follow suit. When we parted, she loaded me up with gifts and food, and I now share all of what she gave me with hosts and drivers who give Shu and I a ride. How can I do otherwise with Selda's example? Since I left Ankara, Selda has arranged for me to work with volunteers helping Syrian refugees in Hatay. After several months of self-doubt, she has re-motivated me to do what I  set out to do 16 months ago. Selda is the perfect example of what a peacemaker should be, and I'm eager to follow her example.

Thanks Again

Just one more thing: once again, many thanks to all of you who have encouraged me and helped me through your generosity, hospitality, and financial support, especially when you have been aware of the self-doubt that I have gone through recently. I am again committed to peacemaking.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your writing Ken. When you write about people you bring them into our lives in ways that they never would if you hadn't gone on this adventure. Everyone you've written about here has touched my life from thousands of miles away.