Duke: Captivating Cappadocia
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Turkey, etc.
My name is Duke Dillard, and I have lived in Turkey since July 2007. I have been married since 1995 and have 7 children so far. I was born in Munich, Germany and was adopted by an American couple serving in the US military. We moved back to America before I was two. I had a pretty good childhood growing up in Chattanooga, TN. At age 9 I had a significant encounter with Jesus Christ, giving him my life (as much as a 9 year old is able to understand that kind of thing). It was genuine and has affected every area of my life. I went to Washington & Lee University, a small liberal arts university in Virginia, and studied Economics and German and played soccer for the varsity team. Upon graduation I moved to Los Angeles as part of Teach for America. I spent three and a half years teaching in the “hood” before getting married. At that point I started working for Crystal Cruises in their LA offices. It was a good 2 years and we got an amazing Alaska cruise out of it! We had our first child and moved to Kazakhstan to work with an NGO teaching English and doing community development. After 3 years of that we returned to the states for 2 years. Then we moved to Uzbekistan to do similar work. After 3 more years we returned to the states for a year and then moved to Turkey. In Turkey I spent the first 2.5 years getting my MBA at Bilkent University in Ankara. Then we moved to Cappadocia and among other things I am writing for the CaptivatingCappadocia.com blog.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I informally studied blogging for over a year before starting the blog. I decided that it would be a good way to meet people and experience life in Cappadocia. As I looked at the landscape I realized that nobody was writing about Cappadocia in a consistent manner and thought it could be a good opportunity. I love writing and thought this would be a good way to meet that need.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Writers know that your writings are like your babies so I like most everything I write, however, I do think the series on how to spend different numbers of days in Cappadocia is helpful. Also, I tried something a bit different in my writing on my balloon flight weaving my experience in with the history of hot-air ballooning. Here all my posts on ballooning. I have a long way to go to improve my writing but the only way I know to get there is to keep writing and learning.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Turkey differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Turkey is interesting in that on the surface it is very similar to America with malls and traffic and pollution and parks and so forth. But dig a little and you find a world of differences. We did experience culture shock and still do experience a bit of it at times when we enter new circumstances. Since this was our third country to live in, we did not have so much trouble but that does not mean it was easy. Even moving within America can be difficult needing to find new doctors, a new bank, a new church, new friends and on and on. But we have met so many nice people in Turkey who have been so good to us that it has made the adjustment easier, especially in Cappadocia.
Regarding differences, we did not live in a village in America so we see many differences here from everyone owning farmland to a horse and cart going by our house every day to sheep and goats living next door. And of course, none of our neighbors speak English, but we are learning Turkish. Overall, we love it. It is a paradise for our children.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Turkey? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think we were generally prepared. If anything we were not ready financially. We came from Uzbekistan where we bought a big house with a yard and garage for $10,000 and a kilogram of tomatoes cost $0.10. Our whole family could live comfortably on a few hundred dollars per month. Turkey was a big jump for sure, but we have adjusted.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I cannot think of a personal one off the top of my head, but I will share one from my wife when we lived in Kazakhstan. We had a friend staying with us named Brad. One day the Kazak lady who cleaned our house was talking to Laurie right after Laurie had made homemade bread. Laurie said she loved the smell of bread, but our friend could not distinguish the difference between Brad and bread and thought Laurie said Brad. Her eyes got really big. Fortunately, Laurie realized what had happened and explained the difference.
Here is another one from a friend in Turkey who was just beginning to learn Turkish. She was on the bus and wanted to tell the driver that they were at her stop. She said the words indicating that she needed to exit the bus. Everyone just looked at her funny. It turns out the words for get off the bus (inecek) and cow (inek) are very close. She was actually saying, “I have a cow”.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Turkey?
- Plan to learn Turkish. It is the key to a full life here.
- Recognize that Turks are not monochromatic; you cannot put them all into one category. All Turks are not hospitable although many are. All Turks are not rude although some are. Let each person be who he or she is, good and bad, without needing to categorize him or her.
- Know that certain topics are on the “don’t talk about” list. These include Ataturk (only positive words), the Kurds, Armenians, and Cyprus. I would encourage you to become well acquainted with Turkish culture and Turkish history and make good friends before broaching these subjects. I personally learned this the hard way. Read good books about Turkey. Ataturk is one of the most amazing leaders of the 20th century but is little known in the West. Read Kinross’ or Mango’s biography and you will be much better prepared for Turkey.
How is the expat community in Turkey? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Going to Bilkent University and the International Protestant Church of Ankara made it easy to meet people and make friends. I highly recommend finding a group that meets around a subject/activity you enjoy and participate in it. Outside of the big cities this may be more difficult but even in Cappadocia groups exist.
How would you summarize your expat life in Turkey in a single, catchy sentence?
Glad to be here doing what I love with the people I love.