Wednesday, October 31, 2012

National Geographic - You Disappoint Me!

I have been raised with an appreciation for National Geographic.  From the days when I was big enough to hold a book or magazine in my own two hands, I was flipping through the pages of National Geo.  My dad has had a subscription since the late 70's - it was something, in fact, that he prided himself on.  My family moved several times and each time I was witness to the discussion of "what to do with all those magazines".  My mom thought we should get rid of them, my dad wanted to keep them - after all he had them building up for 20+ years, in those days.   (Let's just say I'm pretty sure my parents still have boxes of them in the basement.) 
Yep, piles of National Geo look something like this.  (Image from

With this background in mind, when my Turkish fiancé bought a subscription of National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler (unprovoked from me or my dad - mind you) - I was ecstatic!  I began reading the Traveler when it came each month and savoring the travel details and the bite-size articles.
This month's Traveler

This month in the November issue there was an article about Istanbul, Turkey.  I was thrilled!  I read it, I frowned, I put it down, I passed it to my fiancé, he read it, then he was the first to speak. 

"This is horrible!"  He exclaimed.

"I know!"  I shouted.  We immediately started discussing the ridiculousness of this article and how disappointed we both were in National Geo.

Boyd Matson wrote an article titled "When 'No' Means Go".  Now, just the title itself gives a big hint that this man must be stubborn. 

For those who don't have access to Traveler, I'll give you a brief summary - Matson travels to Istanbul quite a bit, but for some reason he is on a tour visiting all the same sights he has already seen several times - and he is soooo bored.  So instead of finding more "off the beaten track" places to visit and write about, or "gasp" getting out of Istanbul to see a different part of Turkey, Matson squirms his way around the typical tourist sights trying to get a pass to go places he's not allowed to go. 

He admits that for him "No is like a four letter word" and when he hears it, it makes him "determined to keep pushing, maneuvering, and negotiating until I get 'Yes'". 

Ahh - nothing like a brutish, egotistical, stubborn American to make a good impression around the world. 

He endures hours of rejection until he finds the muezzin, or "the guy", as Matson writes, to let him go up to the minaret in the Blue Mosque.  Then he begs women to pretend to be his wife so he can go to a couples only hamam that he was already rejected from since he wasn't part of a proper couple.

If I had a chance to speak to Boyd Matson, I'd ask him - "Was it worth it?  Did you get what you were after?"  He wrote his article, it was published - thus bringing down National Geo from the pedestal where I had held it since my childhood days.  What did he really accomplish with this article?  Perhaps he convinced other Americans that it's okay to act like a self-serving, ignorant jerk when abroad - can't get what you want - just be more pushy!

 It's disappointing to see Americans act with ignorance when abroad, such as the way Matson describes himself  - I've seen people with these attitudes all over the world - but it's even more disheartening to see a world renowned publisher like National Geo promote this type of attitude.

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