Though he describes himself as an introvert who enjoys fixing things father of seven Duke Dillard cycled across America from Seattle to Boston with two friends in 1992. He also loves sport and played soccer for his university.
A happy family man for the past 17 years, he had a normal white, middle class childhood in suburban America and at age nine had a significant encounter with Jesus Christ that still impacts his life today. Though he and his family have already spent many years living in Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and Ankara, they are fairly new residents of Cappadocia. Duke tells us more about living there.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
This is not an easy question to answer. I was born in Germany (my parents were serving in the US military), but we moved back to Chattanooga, TN, USA before my second birthday. After graduating from university I moved to Los Angeles. Now when we return to America we spend time in Chattanooga, Dallas (my wife’s hometown), and Los Angeles.
And what did you do there, then?
I taught in an inner city school in Los Angeles for three years as part of Teach for America. After that I worked for Crystal Cruises and then we moved to Kazakstan and Uzbekistan where I worked for different Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
How did you end up in Cappadocia?
We were in Ankara for 3+ years, and I got an MBA at Bilkent University. After graduating we travelled around Turkey to see where we wanted to live. Friends in Cappadocia encouraged us to check it out. We prayed about it (appropriate for a place with such significant Christian history) and decided Cappadocia was the best place for us to accomplish the goals we have for our life and family. Among other things I am loving writing for CaptivatingCappadocia.com
Have you lived abroad before?
From 1997 to 2001 we lived in Kazakhstan and from 2003 to 2006 we lived in Uzbekistan. We loved living in both places and still have dear friends from there.
So what’s so good about Cappadocia?
Where to start? Cappadocia is one of the most amazing places on earth. Underground cities first inhabited by the Hittites and expanded by the Byzantines; one thousand year old cave churches and monasteries; rock castles that tower above the valleys, freaky fairy chimneys that bring to mind elf villages of Middle Earth; hot-air ballooning, wineries, pottery, and amazing people who make great neighbors. I could go on and on. This is truly a unique place.
And what don’t you like?
The roads. They need new roads desperately- potholes everywhere.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
We have only been here for 8 months so we are definitely still outsiders. In some ways I expect we will never fully become insiders, but we hope to grow more so over time. A few examples come to mind to illustrate. Our neighbor’s son is getting married, and they invited us to attend, which is a good sign. But last week a man in the village died and nobody told us about the funeral. When it is expected for us to attend normal village events, we will have moved a long way down the road to becoming insiders.
How do you support yourself?
We built up some savings and have received some help from family while we get established. We have a couple of years to see if we can make it work here with the website and some other business ideas we are trying to get started. I am eager to put into practice what I learned in my MBA program.
Any advice for wannabe Cappadocians?
Be prepared to drink a lot of tea and enjoy yourself.
Is the move permanent?
I do not think so, but we are not sure yet. We may be here for 3 years or 20 years, only God knows at this point, and He has not told us yet.
Finally, tell us about something typically Cappadocia
Guests just show up at your door. Neighbors will regularly drop by for a visit. They rarely call to tell us. At first we were not prepared, but now we have grown accustomed to it. It was hard on our kids, especially if it interrupted plans we had. We told our kids that every five times that somebody drops in unexpectedly, we will go out to eat at the mall. Now, they hope people come by more often.
Duke’s blog, CaptivatingCappadocia.com, aims to introduce visitors to Cappadocians and learn more about their lives. On the blog you will find stories of daily life, advice about the best restaurants, and hotels, and how to make the most of your time. He can also be found on Facebook and other social media including Twitter @captcappadocia.