Hi Gang !
It's great to be back in the ol' USA ! There's nothing like being at home in the comfort of your own bed. Our whirlwind Turkey trip was successful and fun. Basically all we did was follow a bunch of extremely hard-working, brilliant, dedicated doctors, filming and observing. They feverishly worked every waking hour between 8 am and 10 pm. Lunch was usually at hospitals (ya, hospital food) and meetings continued while they ate. At this point, you'll have a tough time convincing me that doctors don't work hard...they do ! I felt kinda like a puppy-dog (they'd pat me on the head from time-to-time and let me out to walk and do my business) and Heather said she sometimes felt like Cinderella (with her step-sisters)...I'll let you reflect on that one. The doctors were very nice to us and we really appreciate them letting us tag along. Spending time in hospitals, clinics and government offices gave Heather and I a totally different perspective on life in Turkey and interacting with the local people in the small villages was really special.
The cancer story was all too real. Visiting the three villages where the erionite has been causing many deaths and seeing the abandoned houses where many of the people had died, combined with meeting survivors of families was extremely hard to take. Maybe being a cancer survivor myself made it more real. In one of the villages I was filming some kids playing in a school playground and one of the boys noticed me. He was around eleven years old, neatly dressed and obviously curious. You could tell by the way he carried himself and his expressions that he was a bright kid, and he knew a lot more English than I knew Turkish. Thanks to him, we were able to somewhat converse. It really pained me to see this nice young kid, with the promise of his entire life ahead of him, growing up in a village where over half of it's people are dying of cancer...a cancer very likely caused by the mineral (erionite) in the native stone in the area. This sweet kid will have a 50% chance of dying, due to where he lives. This is the story that Heather wants to tell. This is the reason that the doctors are working so hard.
Surprisingly were able to squeeze-in some touristy stuff. Before the meetings the first night, we spent most of the day walking around Ankara, the capital of Turkey with 7 million nice, friendly, helpful people. We just wandered the streets with the locals while sightseeing and looking for the Old Anatolian Civilization Museum...a really cool museum ! The highlight of our trip for me was to get to see Cappadocia...with it's surreal landscape. We got up early the last morning there and did some filming before leaving at 8 am to go back to Ankara. On the way back to Hawaii, we had a few hours in Istanbul, which was a far cry from the Istanbul I remembered in the movie "The Midnight Express". We were able to see and film some of an outdoor concert celebrating the 556 year anniversary of the Conquest, complete with fireworks at the end. As it turned out, this primary business/a lil' pleasure format turned out to be the best way to experience the people in a foreign land, with walking the cities being a big plus. The people of Turkey are warm, friendly and smart. In my opinion, Turkey is an up-and-coming country. We were impressed.
I hope all of you are doing well and enjoying every day to the fullest. Aloha ! Don