Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia: A Photo Story

The Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) in the center of Istanbul has gone through many incarnations. Built as a Christian basilica in 360 A.D. by the ruling Roman Byzantine Emperor it had a wooden roof and was soon burned during a rebellion. Rebuilt in 415 it was burned again in 532. When the Ottoman’s took over the Eastern Roman world in 1299, minarets were added and it became a mosque. In 1934, under secular Turkish President Kemal Ataturk, the mosque was decommissioned as a place of worship and became a museum.

Aside from its size and grandeur, one of the most fascinating aspects of the church are the places where the Muslim plaster has been removed to show the Christian iconography underneath.

The center dome is 55 meters high: to remind man of his smallness before the grandeur of God, according to the Ottoman architect who designed the conversion from a church to a mosque in the 1300s.

In the transition from church to mosque, the only fresco not plastered over is this one of the Virgin Mary, who is revered by Muslims and mentioned a number of times in the Koran. However, a curtain was placed over the figure so as not to give it too much prominence, being mindful the portrayal of human figures in contrary to Islamic belief.

The plaster covering the original church frescoes of Christ, Mary and John the Baptist was removed after the mosque was decommissioned as a place of worship and turned into a museum.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

Istanbul’s Blue Mosque: A Photo Story


Istanbul’s Blue Mosque was built in 1609 during the height of the reign of the Ottoman sultans who ruled Turkey from 1299 to 1923.

Interior of the Blue Mosque, with blue stained glass and blue tiles which can’t be seen in the darkness here. Notice at the rim of the blue circle up the center chain is a three-pronged basket (tough to see, look closely) designed to hold three ostrich eggs which kept spiders from spoiling the frescoes and other decorative motifs. A natural biocide from 800 years ago. We’re told all mosques used this spider-control method before modern pesticides.

Although a functioning mosque, it is crammed with tourists padding around on plush pile carpet. Tourists are padding around in their sock feet, in the case of the gentleman here, Nike socks. Notice the plastic bag everyone entering is given in which to put their shoes. You carry you bagged shoes around with you until you exit the mosque.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

Not Your Average Pottery Barn: A Photo Story


The pottery from Art Ceramics out of Izmir is stunning. You get the full making, glazing, painting and firing demonstration. Then you are shown into the gallery. Some six or so large rooms, it’s nothing like anything I’d ever seen in pottery making, marketing or sales.

As the brochure says: “We shape the clay on our wheels, we fire the ceramics in our kilns, we draw the designs, we paint our pieces.”

I only hope the photographs do the quality of the work and the artistry of the pieces justice.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

The Ottoman Palace: A Photo Story

The Ottoman Palace is near Hatay hard by the Syrian border where we will interview refugees the morning after this hotel stay. It features, on dozens of pillars in the main lobby, all the ruling sultans of the Ottoman empire which ruled in middle east from 1299 to 1923. This is arguably the most significant of nearly 800 years of Ottoman rulers, Suleiman the Magnificent.

This is a brief story about wretched excess in the bosom of monstrous suffering barely 25 miles to the south in Syria.

We were blown away. No idea how we wound up here. Most of our rooms were modest affairs in modest hotels.

We only spent one night; got in after midnight and were gone by 8 a.m. But as my roommate A.J. Sabine, chief videographer, wryly noted, “The irony is that we spent the shortest amount of time in the fanciest place I’ve ever seen.”

Me too! I’ve been in my share of upscale hotels, some of them way upscale, but Ottoman Palace outside Hatay and Antakya (Antioch) takes wretched excess to a whole other level. We left from Ottoman Palace, which bills itself as a hot springs and health spa, for our meeting 30 minutes away with our interpreters and Syrian refugees. There we would conduct interviews with those witnessing and suffering through the horrific rapes, killings and barbarity unleashed by Syrian despot Bashar al Assad’s security forces. (That in much more detail in a future story.)  The contrast between our night time accommodations and man’s inhumanity to man we were to hear about in brutal detail a few short miles away brought me to a slap-you-in-the-face mean spiritedness.

We were there barely eight hours, most of it asleep, so the photos are by no means a comprehensive look, but take what’s here, let your mind run free into whatever totally over-the-top, conspicuous consumption, you care to envision.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

More Turkey Trip Photos

Larry at EphesusNeil at Dunya RadyoTWILA Team at EphesusEmpress JulieJulie Makes PotteryInterviewing a Syrian Refugee
Dogan Translates for Julie at Syrian BorderRichard Talks to TranslatorAJ Directs Julie at Syrian BorderAJ Shoots at Red CrescentTWILA Team on BusJim at Ephesus Again
Mike at EphesusAJ at EphesusJulie at EphesusLarry and Mike at EphesusJim at EphesusLarry Neil Avery Julie Mike
AJ Dick Tevfik Airport JimIstanbul from Air JimWater PainterNeil and JulieAvery Host Mustafa FatmaNigde Mosque 2
Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 12, 2011

Does No One Care?

(Because of the nature of this story and the ethnic makeup of the individuals involved, two interpreters were used.  One spoke Arabic and Turkish, the other spoke Turkish and English. When “This Week In Louisiana Agriculture” (TWILA) reporter Julie Baxter asked a question it was addressed to Dogan Koc, our PhD English and Turkish interpreter who lives in Houston and was with us the entire trip as guide and interpreter.  The question went from Koc to the Turkish – Arabic interpreter, who wanted neither his name used nor his picture taken.  He then addressed Baxter’s question to the Arab refugee. The answer came back in the reverse sequence where it was recorded.  Of the two refugees interviewed, the “very important” refugee wanted neither his name used nor his picture taken.  The second refugee, a teacher and father of four, allowed his name, photograph and a full recounting of his circumstances used. Unless massive changes occur in Syria, where retribution is not an issue, he never plans to return.

Given the layers and circumstances involved, we believe this to be as faithful and true a rendering of the answers to the questions as possible.)

While the world dithers, Syrian civilians are trapped like animals in a cage in their own country.

The Syrians can see across the arid and rolling mountainous countryside into neighboring Turkey where their friends and relatives escaped in the early days of the purge, but they can no longer get there. And they wonder why no one from the outside world cares.

The border has been locked down tight, part of the Syrian government’s six-month, reign-of-terror strategy to break the people’s will to resist.

Syrian despot Bashar al Assad uses his security forces to hunt down whole villages. Rapes, killings and worse are the order of the day, according to interviews with two refugees and an interpreter who escaped with their families in the early days of the Arab Spring. Although separated by the border, information is still getting through.

To eliminate perceived threats from his own people, Bashar al Assad came by his penchant for using unbridled barbarity honestly, the unnamed, “very important,” refugee said with emphasis. He noted that Bashar’s father, Hafez al Assad, killed 40,000 Syrians in 1982. Nothing was ever done to hold the father accountable.

The interviews conducted by members of the Louisiana Farm Bureau’s media team sketch only the surface outlines of desperate families on the run in their own country. The families who dared speak out are being flushed out of their homes in hamlets and villages all across northern Syria by snipers and gunship helicopters. They have fled into the mountains or sought shelter with others in towns and villages elsewhere, often far from their ancestral homes.

Infighting has broken out among some members of Army units sent in to control the civilians, forcing Assad to send his security forces into the region.

Security forces are the hired guns of a despot. Neither army nor police, they are on the personal payroll of the tyrant-in-chief. They don’t wear uniforms; usually serve as his personal bodyguard and do his bidding, regardless. Hussein in Iraq, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya and in the not too distant past, Milosevic in Serbia; they all had them. The common denominator, once and if the tyrant falls, when the case for genocide makes it to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, is that “security forces” turn out to be nothing more than hired thugs and killers.

Empty your prisons of its worst sociopaths and you’ve got the basic building blocks for a security force.

The Farm Bureau group spent the night before the interviews in the Ottoman Palace, one of the most opulent hotels on the planet, a stone’s throw from Syria. This generated a contrast in place and circumstance it was hard to escape after the events about to unfold on that day. The morning was a beautiful day in Hatay, Turkey, the main city on a peninsula of land, some 30 miles wide, jutting like a thumb straight south, bordered by Syria on the east and the Aegean Sea on the west. It was a full-sun day on a dusty, breezy but cool side street in Hatay.

The anticipation was electric among the 11 of us jammed with luggage into the 13-passenger van. Equipment had been readied, checked and rechecked a half-dozen times. The Arabic-Turkish interpreter and the “very important” refugee approached down the sidewalk past the ubiquitous string of small shops and got into the van. There are now 13 of us packed in like sardines in a can. The interior lights are turned on. The curtains are drawn shut.

Exactly how this interview was going to be recorded was never clearly defined. It strictly hinged on what the interviewee would allow.

It didn’t look good at the start. No pictures, no video, not even a back of the head shot while Julie Baxter asked the questions. (Baxter is a Baton Rouge attorney and former TV anchor/reporter for 10 years for CBS’s Channel 9 in Baton Rouge. Good reporter; knows her business.)

A collective, if silent, gut-tightening sweeps through the van. This is TV. With no photos, no video – you’ve got no story. Although I’m sitting within a foot at the side of the to-remain-unnamed refugee taking notes for the written story, note taking is not the issue and is never mentioned. For the refugee this is about photos identifying him. For the TV folks this is about visuals for their package of stories of an historic happening. The negotiations start.

“This Week in Louisiana Agriculture’s” TV producer, Avery Davidson, launches into an explanation of framing the shot through the dual-interpreter system. It’ll be framed just down the side of the back of the refugee’s head with Baxter’s face filling up most of the frame, Davidson says. You can’t tell anything about who is who with that type of shot, he adds.

And we’ll have a backup camera running, too.

Absolutely not on both counts: the refugee was holding firm; no video of any sort. The negotiations, polite but concerned in the beginning, now become a little more intense. I have no idea what was said in the ensuing minutes. It wasn’t loud but it was firm. After the back and forth, the bottom line was: one video camera framed entirely on Baxter’s face from the back of the “very important” refugee, but nothing showing any part of his body. And no backup camera. This was going to be a one-shot deal: get it with one camera, one take, or regret it the rest of you professional career. Davidson was ready.

The interview began. It covered the outside world, the U.N., other countries aiding and abetting
Assad, Assad’s claim that the protesters are “terrorists,”  conditions in the camp, Assad’s scorched earth policy and the killings.

The “very important” refugee is not telling what is really going on in terms of the torture. We don’t know 10 percent of what’s going on, he says several times. It’s unclear if he’s talking about knowledge as portrayed in the popular media or our personal knowledge. You couldn’t handle it, he says. “It’s inhumane and you wouldn’t want to listen to it.”

(The “very important” moniker is attached to our unnamed refugee by our “fixer,” another individual who has to remain unidentified. The fixer is Turkish. He is the individual who has the local clout, did all the leg work, made all the phone calls, and put all the pieces in place to make these interviews happen.)

The unnamed Arab to Turkish interpreter says the reason the refugee is refusing to tell us about precise incidents is because it’s a cultural thing. They don’t want to be seen as weak or begging, he says.

We protest, again through the two-interpreter system; we tell him we can handle it. We push back. Tell us some examples. After some minutes in this vein, he tells several stories.

This is the worst of the worst in my mind:  During one of the early protests in the town square of Ahmed, two protesting men were captured by Assad’s men, tied to the rear of two separate cars and drug through the streets of the town and back to the protest area. The skin had been stripped from their backs and backsides. You could see the bones in their backs sticking out, but they were alive. Assad’s men found the families of the two men and made them “urinate” on their “sons or brothers.” Then the security forces killed them all.

He also adds that they are “raping our women, they are killing our children, they are insulting our elders.” Again, to be clear about this, that’s what came out through the interpreters.

The second interview, with two cameras full face, no restrictions, was with  Ebul Luey, a teacher, 45, four children, ages 2, 5, 12, and 14.

He and his family are living in one of four refugee camps set up by the Turkish government. There are 1200 people in 260 tents in his camp. The Turkish Red Crescent (Red Cross) is cooking 1700 meals twice a day at one of the government assistance kitchens the TWILA group visited. There are other kitchens furnishing food as well.

“When they came in June with 7000 soldiers and 300 tanks, I heard the border to Turkey was open, so I fled with my family,” Luey said. They also laid waste to anything the people needed to subsist. They killed all the livestock and burned or otherwise destroyed the crops.

Luey’s torture stories: (1) A well-known teacher in his town was flayed (skinned) alive. (2) A boy of 13 who was engaged in a protest was caught. Assad’s forces cut off his penis and partially skinned him. He lived for 27 days before he died.

Our unnamed Arab to Turkish interpreter tells the story of a young couple who had fled to Turkey, chose to return and crossed back over. Assad’s security forces drove up in two cars and shot them both dead. The woman was pregnant.

Although if may be antithetical to their culture to beg, they both wonder why “no one in the outside world cares.” Others are “not conscious,” they are “not interested. We are just ordinary people. If no one will help us, what can we do,” the first refugee said in several different ways. “They are killing 50, 60,100 of our people every day.”

Luey added 300 died in a population of 80 million in Egypt during the spring’s uprising there. Three thousand Syrians have died in six months and 20,000 injured so far in a country of 23 million. Why are no Arab countries coming to help us, he asked?

The Turkish people have been terrific, he said. The food is good and the Turkish Red Crescent keeps all the families together in the tent cities. Fifty percent of the residents of Hatay, a city of 200,000, where the tent cities are located, made some kind of contribution to the relief effort, a Red Crescent official said.

The first refugee noted that Assad may have been forced to drop his reliance on his Army and send in his security forces. During the initial fighting, the police and much of the Army were from many of the towns and villages under assault. In fighting broke out between those with local ties and the outsiders.

Both said that Assad’s forces were using snipers on the ground and helicopters from the air to kill civilians. During the first protest at the post office in his hometown in June, snipers opened up, killing scores of people, the first refugee said.

In biting, bitter sarcasm, according to the interpreter, he said, “I want to thank the Syrian government for killing our people. And I want to thank Russia for selling Syria the guns to kill our people.”

Both had harsh words for, in addition to Russia, the governments of Brazil, South Africa, China and India which they said were also furnishing weapons and other aid to the Syrian government.

Notably, neither man ever uttered a word about the U.S.’s involvement or lack of involvement in the Syrian uprising.

The snipers, he said, are not from Syria, rather they are from Iran. Or the snipers are members of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group supported by Syria, with the aid and encouragement of Iran.

They also both made the point that Assad portrays the protesters as terrorists. Not true, they say. They contend they are simple villagers in the main, looking to break the despotic grip of a tyrant.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 11, 2011

Artemis: Just borrowing it for a while

Even for the harden history buff and travel junkie who’s seen much of what remains of western history up close, Ephesus will put you on overload.

Ephesus is a place where, during the course of 1500 years, from about 1,000 B.C. to 500 A.D., every ruling potentate worth the name, anyone trying to put down a marker to ensure his historical legacy, came, saw, and/or conquered in and around Ephesus.  He, and in one notable case, she, left behind a tomb, wall, bath, arch, bust, stadium, theater, gymnasium, statue, fountain, church or library.

Most notable among the numerous Christian sites is the last home of the Virgin Mary near Ephesus. There is a small stone church standing at the site today. St. John, who is known to have lived in Ephesus until his death, reportedly brought Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Ephesus, where “she ascended into heaven.“

Among the notable pagan antiquities is the Temple of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt and the chase, built in the late 300s B.C. near Ephesus. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Artemis was reputedly a temple of unparalleled magnificence.  Today, however, all you get to see is a ditch running about 200 yards along the side of the road leading up to the agora (market place). The agora at Ephesus is your introduction to one of the greatest assemblages of monumental stone structures in existence anywhere from the ancient world.

Our guide, no doubt reflecting generations of attitudes among the locals, is none too happy about that ditch. “The British built railroad tracks from the harbor (at Izmir, about three miles away) up to here and took the temple stones down to the harbor. They brought in nine ships, loaded them up and hauled it all off. That was in 1860. They said they were just going to borrow it for a while.”

The remnants of the temple stand in the British Museum to this day.

The history of Ephesus began in the 1100s B.C. when the Ionian Greeks conquered the region. The Greek Androcolus in the 500s B.C. built temples and amphitheaters and is known as the father of Ephesus. Heraclitus, one of the most notable philosophers of the ancient world, lived in Ephesus for 60 years until 480 B.C.

Alexander the Great, on his way to conquering all the known world at the time, came through in the 330s B.C. and remarked on its beauty. St. Paul spent six years proclaiming the new religion, Christianity, to all who would hear him (as in St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians); St. John wrote part of the New Testament, spent the last years of his century-long life and died at Ephesus; the emperors Hadrian and Domitian have temples; the Emperor Trajan has a fountain here and the Emperor Justinian built a basilica over the tomb of St. John in the 600s A.D.

And, finally, Cleopatra’s sister is buried along the main promenade at Ephesus. You want history? Ephesus is one of those places in Turkey that give the country a legitimate claim to the moniker cross-roads of the western world.  And sadly, it’s a place almost no one in the U.S. has ever heard of unless they connect their New Testament teachings to this beautiful mountainside setting by the Aegean Sea in southwestern Turkey.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 11, 2011

The Atlas Foundation

Our host for the Turkey excursion is The Atlas Foundation of Baton Rouge, a member of the Fethullah Gulen movement. The foundation has hosted similar trips for Baton Rouge religious and academic groups as part of their cultural exchange mission to bring disparate cultures together.

A scholar, preacher, author, opinion leader and peace activist, Fethullah Gulen now lives in the U.S.  His teachings espouse human rights, democracy, interfaith and intercultural dialogue. One of his chief points of protest is against turning religion into a political ideology. Gulen has met with Pope John Paul II, Israel’s Chief Sephardic rabbi, the head of Turkey’s Jewish community and numerous other world dignitaries in his work to encourage a dialogue of peace among historical adversaries. He has founded numerous schools throughout Turkey and around the world in order to spread his message.

Making the trip with us was Tevfik Akbulut, a graduate student in political science at Southern University. Tevfik is an ethnic Kurd from the city of Mardin in southeastern Turkey. He is a director of Baton Rouge’s Atlas Foundation. He’s been in the U.S. since 2008, leaned his English through the Texas Intensive Language Program in Austin and plans to pursue a PhD from LSU upon completion of his master’s work.

On our trip we have met numerous followers of Gulen like Tevfik, unfailingly hospitable, always with a gracious interest in us and anxious to respond to questions we have about the cultural and religious affairs of Turkey.

As well as an interest in our culture, they also are interested in our nutritional needs. Twice a day in whatever town we happen to be, a group of local members of the Gulen movement join us for a meal. The Turks take great and justifiable pride in the diversity of the Turkish cuisine.

(For those wondering, we paid for the flight to Turkey and flights within Turkey (at a discounted rate I’m certain, having some feel for the cost of air travel).  The Atlas Foundation paid for ground transportation, all hotels and meals, guides, interpreters, as well as admission to historic sites and other fees.)

The most elaborate and enjoyable of these excursions was in the town of Nidge, in the south central part of the country. “The countryside looks a lot like Arizona” several on our team note.  Arid but not barren,  the passing countryside sprouts modest mountain ranges with vistas that give meaning to the expression,  “It’s out there where you can see forever.”

Our host families at Nidge surpassed anything that had gone before in both food and entertainment. We spent the night in their homes, but before that they had a mini-extravaganza laid on. The food is sumptuous. But the entertainment is the night’s real treat. It first features a children’s tableau of dances. There is also a demonstration of a traditional painting technique, Ebru art, based on the principal that oil and water don’t mix. The paints are floated on a watery liquid substance. Figures, primarily flowers, are drawn with a stylus which is stroked through the oily mix, a piece of canvas is floated on top of the surface of the mix, removed, dried, and voila a beautiful, in my case, orchid. We were all given framed copies of the work.

That was followed by a traditional reenactment of the marriage ritual of a young couple, the binding together with a scarf, and included the traditional after wedding dance where we joined in as part of the faux-marriage festivities.

Later we would spend the night in the homes of parents of the children of the school. Much additional chatting continued well into the night. In the case of the host family for me, Avery Davidson and Neil Melancon, it became a cultural exchange of an unusual sort.

Ihsan, the son of our hosts, Dr. Mustafa and Fatima Sahin, found a kindred spirit in the executive TV producer of the TWILA team, Avery Davidson. Davidson, a musician of note in his off hours, has a particular affinity for heavy metal music. So, it turned out, does Ihsan, particularly the group Iron Maiden. I can’t attest to this personally, because I had long since gone to bed, but I’m told they talked of all things heavy metal long into the night. Davidson bequeathed his Iron Maiden T-shirt from last summer’s Final Frontier tour in Houston to Ihsan.

You often find cultural exchange in the strangest forms; the unexpected coming together of like interests from opposite sides of the planet.  Which, of course, makes the case for this outreach effort by Turkish natives now living in the U.S.

The patron for the night’s affair, Celal Avsar, has repeatedly met with Gulen and is a three-decades-long acolyte.  When asked what he derived from the Gulen message he said, “I adopted his philosophy of life. Happiness comes from giving back, sharing.”

Avsar’s story is the classic of the self-made man.  Now in his mid-70s, Avsar completed the 5th grade in Nidge.  His parents moved from Nidge to Ankara where his schooling stopped. He began selling parsley in the local market in Ankara. You get the impression from speaking to him in his seventh decade that he was a real hustler in his youth. His business soon grew from just parsley to chestnuts, to apples, then his own fruit and vegetable shop. He soon increased his scope and became a produce wholesaler. In 1970 he went into the furniture business in Istanbul. He eventually built the Wal-Mart of big-box, retail furniture in Turkey. His children now run the business.

As a result of his association with Gulen, Avsar’s wealth became a means to a philanthropic end. In the early 1980s he began a small private school in Nidge, incorporating the philosophy of Gulen into the curricula. The school began with 13 students. Today the school is educating 700 students, grades K-12.  An architecturally beautiful school, the night’s events honoring us were held in its dining hall.

In the closing years of a long and very successful life, Avsar has only one school diploma hanging on his wall. In the mid-1990s, he received an honorary high school diploma from a high school in Sacramento, California. The two schools are paired as sister schools and share numerous exchange programs.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 10, 2011

Cameras rule

Another on-the-road travel note:  Cameras rule for this magnificent seven: There are four video cameras, 15 or so digital still cameras (everything from top end $2000 camera rigs, to point and shoot, to cell phones), and three tripods, two in containers big enough to hold a bazooka. Add to that menagerie a small mountain of assorted batteries and backup batteries for each camera, battery chargers, memory sticks, SD cards, 220 to 110 converter and adapter units and all the wires needed to hook it together.

This has to be hauled through two, sometimes three customs check points for every plane trip, loaded and unloaded from vans, hotel carts, at restaurants, bureaucrat’s offices; anywhere a TV shoot is done, which is everywhere.  We’ve taken seven plane trips in five days, so far. In one day we flew from Kayseri to Izmir to Ankara to Hatay (Google it if you are interested in that flight path.) After that day we went to bed at two in the morning and were up at 6 a.m. for more.

Jim Monroe is assistant to the president of the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation. He is also communication’s chief MikeDanna’s“favorite” photographer, Mike will tell you.  Although it’s not his day job, Jim’s something of a natural behind a camera with a good eye and a knack for recognizing a significant or memorable shot and composing it for maximum effectiveness. He is also constantly clicking away. At Ephesus he took some 500 shots in an hour and a half.  (More on Ephesus in a future blog, one of the preeminent historical tourist destinations in the western world.)

But accidents do happen in the mad scurrying from bus to plane to visit site to restaurant to hotel and back again. Jim’s camera fell off a chair and hit on the lens. The drop to the hard surface bent the bezel which seals the lens to the body of the camera.  The collision between lens and tile floor caused all sorts of malfunctions.  A replacement Nikon lens was needed for the trip’s primary photographer. One was found in Ankara’s Media Markt.  Our interpreter, Dogan Koc, (more on him later):  “There are two things that are going to be real expensive in Turkey: electronics including cameras and shoes.”

The price was $1400. Mike winced, said he could get same lens for $800 online. But no time for that. The decision was made to drop back to an after-market lens, $400. Not quite the quality of grinding and optics in the glass, but good enough for what we were about on this trip.

It took 20 minutes to jump through all the hoops to buy the lens.

It’s a nice story, but that’s not the fun part. There was $40 worth of taxes on the lens which are eligible for a refund for the tourist. It’s a standard marketing practice in virtually all tourist-heavy countries to return the VAT, valued added tax. Turkey gets some 40 million tourists a year coming through its borders. (Not many Americans, however, which was commented on and lamented by several of our guides.)

Jim takes off for the tax-back desk. For an item it took 20 minutes to purchase, it took an hour to get the tax-back papers: eight carbon copies. Jim is instructed to present two of the carbon copies to the tax-refund desk at the Istanbul airport on his departure for home. If he fails to do so, the $40 deducted from his credit card will be added back.

The great government paperwork shuffle is alive and thriving everywhere in the world.

Posted by: Larry Michaud | September 9, 2011

Turkey Trip Photos

Larry Neil Avery Julie MikeAJ Dick Tevfik Airport JimIstanbul from Air JimWater PainterNeil and JulieAvery Host Mustafa Fatma
Nigde Mosque 2Nigde Mosque SunsetJim and Mat FamilyMike and Mat FamilyAJ and Sponge Bob NapkinRug Presentation
Thread SpinnerJulie Looks at SpoolsJulie and the DyesPointed Mosque NigdeNigde CityTWILA Crew at Salt Lake
Jim Julie Tevfik Mike Salt LakeMike Shoots Julie Salt LakeJulie's Feet at Salt LakeJulie at the Great Salt LakeTuz Golu Salt Lake SignNeil and Terminator

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