Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tarsus - Second Visit

This weekend our little church branch had a couple of distinguished visitors. The president of the Bulgaria, Sofia Mission President Wilstead and his wife came to visit our Adana Branch.  For my non-Latter Day Saint (Mormon) friends, all those young men and young women with the white shirts and ties and name tags are organized into geographical units called missions. A married couple is called to serve as the president and matron of a mission for a time period of three years. The size of a mission can vary greatly from several in one state or small country to a big one encompassing two relatively large countries. In this case, all of Bulgaria and all of Turkey are in the same mission.

At present, LDS missionaries are allowed in Turkey for three months at a time, on tourist visas. They are not allowed to actively proselyte but they can serve others and the can answer questions and teach people who seek them out and want to know about our doctrine. President Wilstead is hopeful that soon the Turkish government will allow missionaries to stay in country for longer periods and to teach more actively.

But there are two branches in Turkey, one here and one in Istanbul, and a number of other smaller groups and these fall under his leadership. Hence the visit.  As when the Bowers visited, different families volunteered to provide various meals and facilitate other parts of the visit.  We signed up for leading an excursion to Tarsus on Saturday morning.

We ran into a slight problem when the base was closed due to a planned anti-American protest in Adana but Colonel Bowen and his wife were planning on coming with us and Colonel Bowen was able to get permission for us to drive through Adana and on to Tarsus.

We stopped at Cleopatra's gate (see my previous Tarsus post for details about the gate.)
Left to right, some Turkish guy photo-bombing, Col. Mark Bowen, Me, Geoff, President and Sister Wilstead
Then we went to St. Paul's well. They were both brave enough to drink the water. Which really does taste pretty good and although I can't vouch for any healing properties, I can say that I did not get sick from the metal cup used by thousands of tourists. Maybe that is proof enough.

Then we tried to find a site that even the Bowens hadn't seen on their many trips to Tarsus - the mosque where the prophet Daniel is supposed to be buried.  There is another site in Iran that is also supposed to be the tomb of Daniel so who knows, but we wanted to try and find it.  What we found was an old looking mosque completely under construction and inaccessible. By looking through a chain link fence we could see between two ground level arches into a lower room. Perhaps this is where the tomb is located?
We're not entirely sure although we were told by a passerby that we had found the right place. Nearby we saw the old Turkish bath houses whose white dome rooms I didn't take a picture of, and another mosque. This mosque, called the Ulu Cami or Great Mosque was built in 1579. Since we had scarves for the ladies with us, we decided to go in and look around. There were only a few men inside. They were welcoming and friendly.  We saw the Imam sit at a pulpit  and begin to read from the Koran. The inside was a large long rectangle with the women's partition way down at one end. After a few minutes, we were told that a service would be starting soon and we could stay but we would need to go behind the partition.  As we had other things to see we opted to leave then so as not to disturb the service.

President and Sister Wilstead in front of the Mosque.

Just outside the mosque was a small covered bazaar. Of course we had to stop and shop a bit. I found a melted glass evil eye pendant, two great tie-dyed scarves and two woven table toppers. Sister Wilstead bought several small pouch purses for all the sister missionaries to carry their phones in.
Our last stop was the waterfall - the right one. It was great to see it in day-light and with all the rain we've had recently it was lovely.

Did you know that after conquering the known world Alexander the Great took a bath here, caught pneumonia and then died a week later in Syria? Now you do.

We had planned to eat lunch at the waterfall restaurant but the Bowens told us that the service was way to slow for our time frame. So we drove the hour + back to the base and stopped at the Turkish restaurant just inside the gate. But as luck would have it a huge group of Turkish soldiers had just ordered and we didn't have enough time to wait. So we ended up at the BX food court eating Taco Bell.  It was a bit embarrassing as we had hoped to treat them to some great Turkish food. But then again its not like they can get Taco Bell everyday there in Bulgaria! And they were very gracious about it.

Geoffrey and I were able to hear President and his wife speak at some afternoon adult training meetings and then again in Sunday Sacrament Services. In addition, they did a youth evening meeting which all of my teenagers attended. They were wonderful teachers and speakers and really brought the Spirit to our meetings. And there were a lot of fun to go sight-seeing with! I hope they are able to visit again while we are stationed here.

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