space

Book Reviews

Through Paphlagonia with a donkey
By David Beasley

 

David Beasley is a young Canadian, educated at British-style universities, who likes solitude, and who made a trip through Paphlagonia (not to be confused with Patagonia) in western Turkey, along the Mediterranean coast, on a donkey. On the way he had an opportunity both to enjoy a seldom visited and relatively tourist-free region, and obtain solitude for contemplating English literature, and to meet the local people (Turks) with very little of the modern world intruding on him. He describes the various phases of the journey, including the negotiations for the purchase of the donkey, as well as the people he met and spent time with, meanwhile learning and improving his Turkish. A charmingly written book, describing a trip that most of us are unlikely to make through a region that most of us are unlikely to visit but may have wondered about.

Serge A. Korf, Ph.D., Med 1938 - The Explorers Journal


This volume grows out of a journal the author kept on his travels by donkey in the summer of l958 through the wild and remote Isfendyar mountain region of northern Turkey, on the southern shores of the Black Sea. The book is reminiscent of Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey and John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley. The author, now possessing a doctorate and working as a research librarian in New York City, undertook his journey out of curiosity about other people and about himself. Repelled by the type of traveler "who... is blind to the customs of others'' (p. x), the author feels that one must "enter into the spirit" (p. x) of the ways of others. Further, he seeks "not to escape self but to find self" (p. 34). The author develops a close bond with his donkey. Adjusting to the ways and needs of his "companion,'' he "sees'' things he otherwise might have missed. The book concludes with a brief epilogue sweeping over the years from 1958 to the present. Widely read, the author gives occasional backdrops of history to better explain what he observes. He brings no pre-developed purpose other than to observe objectively and empathically. While obviously rooted in a specific place and time, the book provides numerous helpful insights for the student of cross-cultural communication which can be applied to other places and other times. The author notes the characteristics of the people and their ways which have indirect relevance to the study of cross cultural communication. He finds the people, especially those inland, very suspicious of strangers; once suspicion is reduced, however, they become increasingly friendly, warm, open, and hospitable, less shy, reserved, and hesitant. They exhibit a strong nationalism, strong pride in their homeland, an admiration for Germans, a dislike for the English, a hatred for the Russians, and a resentment of their own bureaucratic officials. In the male dominant society, the men tend to sit around while women do much of the work: an educated male would have difficulty finding a suitable wife, and an educated woman would have even more difficulty finding a compatible husband. In this Muslim oriented society, there is, in addition to the male domination, a strong sense of brotherhood, a sense of fatalism, of acceptance of things as they are, an absence of beggars (too proud to beg), and a treatment of dogs as dirty animals not to be kept as pets.

Various strong dialect differences and local attachments separate people from each other. At times the book cites specific verbal and nonverbal factors which relate directly to cross cultural communication, and with which the readers of this review would be familiar. For instance, the author notes that the people have a leisurely attitude toward time, and that they prefer a period of socializing before talking business. They have a habit of not speaking to a stranger until the latter speaks first. Nodding of the head means "no." They have little eye contact with people, especially with strangers, and it would be considered sexually suggestive for a woman to look a man in the eye. Communication between the sexes is hesitant. In terms of proxemics, men and women would not sit next to each other on buses, unless they are husband and wife. It is common for men to walk hand in hand, and for them to display affection openly. This insightful volume is a good example of a genre of primary material which scholars of cross cultural communication should search out and use more diligently, that is, the journal writings of perceptive wanderers into hinterland areas of a land foreign to the observer. In fact, one might become the wanderer. Maybe the book is even a suggestion that graduate students, in addition to taking foreign languages, statistics, or other "methods" courses, might train themselves in the tending of, and contending with donkeys!

J. Vernon Jenson, University of Minnesota.
Review for International Journal of Intercultural Relations

 
   
   

© 2010 Davus Publishing - All Rights Reserved - Terms & Conditions