Follow My Journey

Follow My Journey

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Turkey Fellowship

In the summer of 2007, Ms. Avery journeyed to Turkey with 20 educators from around the country as part of a Turkey Fellowship made possible through a grant from the Turkish Foundation in cooperation with The World Affairs Council of Connecticut and Yale PIER Institute. I was selected through a highly competitive process and will be a part of a four member Connecticut delegation of educators participating in this 17 day Fellowship, July 25th through the 10th of August.

Following the study tour I will be leading in workshops open to the public through Yale PIER on Turkey and I will also be sharing all that I learned with my students and fellow teachers. I am so looking forward to it!! So stay tuned because there's more to come!

Monday, March 13, 2017

My Turkey adventure is set to begin soon...Below are some facts about Turkey:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Bosporous Has A Soul

Today is our first full day in Istanbul and we began our very full day with a visit to the Spice Bazaar, where we found all sorts of fresh spices, sacks of henna, many varieties of oils and herbs and of course the world's very best Turkish delight. Afterwards we visited Robert College, a private high school founded by Americans. This prestigious high school is the number one high school in all of Turkey and graduates of this school go on to attend the best Turkish Universities as well as top universities in the US and Europe.

The remainder of the morning we had the ride of a lifetime-an incredible cruise along the Bosporous. The views took my breath away. At that moment I realized that I was in Istanbul, the city that is the crossroads of Europe and Asia. And this great waterway is its heart and its the soul. It breathes today with a life force that has existed for thousands of years, as man, vessels, goods and ideas have passed through this waterway. Along its banks lie opulent palaces, fine mosques, fortresses and traditional wooden Ottoman mansions. Orhan Oamuk, Turkey's most famous poet wrote of the Bosphorus, " To be traveling through the middle of a city as great....and historic as Istanbul, and yet feel the freedom of the open sea-that is the thrill of a trip along the Bosphorus."

In the afternoon, we visited the seaside neighborhood of Kuzguncuk and there we toured three houses of worship, a Sephardic Temple, an Armenian Orthodox Church and a Greek Orthodox Church. These places underscore Istanbul's long history of religious tolerance, where Christians, Jews and Muslims have lived together in peace and mutual respect. Today the Kozguncuk neighborhood is still cultural mosaic of Greek, Armenian, Jewish and Turkish communities.
Greetings from Istanbul!! We've finally arrived after a 9 hour journey. I puddle jump compared to the 15 hour journey to Korea earlier this summer. We're staying in the Arcadia Hotel overlooking the Blue Mosque and the Bosporous Strait. Today, after pick-up at the airport we check in at our hotel we all gathered atop the hotel terrace and had a brief orientation from our tour guide, Serhan. With a bit of time afterwards, Megan, Program Director at the World Affairs of CT and fellow CT teacher Susan and I had a coffee at the store down the street. It was the first taste of Istanbul for us. Then we made our way to the quant sea-side neighborhood of Oratky, to the Cinaralti Restaurant. We had a mese plate of dumas (stuffed grape leaves), humus, and artichoke heart, followed by a lamb shiskabe and a dessert of sweets and fruit. Delicious! My friend Susan and I walked the main square around our hotel after dinner and took photos of the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sophia at night. We just heard the final moon up call to prayer outside our hotel window and now it's off to bed for a full day tomorrow!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Day in "Old Istanbul"

Today we spent the day touring the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul. Sultanahmet is the neighborhood standing right on top of the ancient Byzantium settlement. The area is very easily maneuvered on foot, and having been fortunate enough to stay in the Arcadia Hotel located right in the Sultanahmet district, made for a memorable last day here in Istanbul.

The Hippodrome was the center of Byzantine life for 1000 years and Ottoman life for another 400. It was the center of Byzantium’s political and social life, a place for gathering and discussion and debate for the residents of the city. The Sultan’s ruled from their palaces while the hippodrome was the place that belonged to the people. Political parties were formed here and chariot races were often conducted between teams. Victorius charioteers might even have effects on political policy. Many a Sultan kept a watchful eye over the events in the Hippodrome, discontent was observed here as it could signal the beginnings of riot, demonstrations and revolution. In the northern corner of the Hippodrome is the Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain, presented as a token of friendship from the German keiser to the Turkish Sultan as a token of friendship. In the center of the Hippodrome is the Obelisk of Theodosius. The emperor Theodosius had this Egyptian obelisk brought to Constantinople in AD 390. Next to that is a bronze spiral column that once had three serpent heads atop. It was made by the Greeks from melted Persian war helmets to commemorate the Greek victory over the Persians. It was brought to Constantinople by Constantine in AD 330. Finally on the southern end of the Hippodrome is the Rough-Stone Obelisk that once was covered by bronze plates before removed by the invading Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade.

Hagia Sofia (The Church of Great Wisdom) is surely Istanbul’s most famous monument. First built as a church by Emperor Justinian in 527-65 as part of his efforts to restore the greatness of the Roman Empire. Mehmet the Conqueror, the Ottoman Sultan who conquered Constantinople in 1453, converted the church into a mosque. In 1935, Attaturk, the founder of the Turkish republic turned Aya Sofya into a museum. Entering into this museum is awe-inspiring. The Emperor Justinian was said to have declared, upon entering the church for the first time following its completion that he was honored to have built such a glorious house of worship and he is said to have uttered aloud,“ I have outdone Solomon himself.” Entering this site and immediately understand why. The enormous dome is the largest in all the world and truly one of the great wonders of ancient Byzantium. One is certainly overwhelmed by the height and breadth of Hagia Sofia. There is a mix of Byzantine and Islamic art throughout the site.

Sultanahmet Mosque. The Ottoman Sultan Ahmet I (1603-17) set out to build a monument that would rival the nearby Hagia Sofia in grandeur and beauty. Today it’s more widely known as the Blue Mosque due to the stained-glass windows and Iznik tiles lining the walls of the mosque. The mosque has six minarets and the courtyard is the biggest of all the Ottoman mosques.
The mosque is an absolutely stunning achievement of architecture. Both beautiful inside and out, it is truly a wonder of the Ottoman Age. From our hotel terrace at night we could see the Blue Mosque along the Bosphorus with its unique six minarets. With the moon shinning from above on this lovely summer evening and the call to prayer being heard through loudspeakers, one is easily mesmerized by the beauty and mystery of this ancient city.
Today was the second full day in the amazing city that is Istanbul. We spent the morning walking the grounds of Tokopai Palace, the lavish home to the Ottoman Sultans. Mehmet the Conqueror started work on this palace shortly after the Muslim Conquest in 1453 and it remained the home of the Sultans until the mid-19th century when the Sultan and his family moved into European style palaces that they built along the Bosporous.

We started our visit with a walk through the first and second courtyards of the palace into the labyrinth of rooms that comprised the Sultan’s harem, the imperial family quarters. Next, we entered the third court that contained the treasury of the Sultan’s. We marveled (along with hundreds of others) at all the opulent jewels and gold and diamonds that the Sultan’s and their court acquired. The highlight for me was the golden throne of Ahmet I and the Spoonmaker’s Diamond, an 86-carat rock surrounded by several dozen smaller stones worn by Mehmet IV at this accession to the throne.
After a lovely morning at Topkapi, our group crossed the Bosphorus Bridge and drove to Uskudar. There we watched one of Turkey’s leading Ebru artists, Mr. Hikmet Barutcugil demonstrate this ancient art of Turkey.
We then visited the Istanbul Modern Museum of Art and toured the exhibit of Turkish modern artists. Afterwards we stepped out on the balcony and once again took in the amazing view of the Bosphorous and the Sultenhamet District.
This very busy day last day in ended with a lovely dinner in a restored Ottoman mansion. We enjoyed good conversation, wonderful food and fasul, which is traditional Turkish classical music.

This morning we said goodbye to Istanbul and headed on our bus journey to Bursa. On our way we we visited the Enka School in Adapazari. This region suffered a terrible earthquake in 1999 and 20,000 people died as a result. Enka School was set up in aftermath of that earthquake to help the children of the victims. Most of the students who attend this school are orphans. Here are some facts on the visit:

  • Supported by multinational corporation, their purpose is to serve children who lost their homes and families

  • Private, but free to students (uniform, meals, transport, board)

  • Budget is $3.5 million annually

  • Began building 40 days after earthquake by searching out needy children and teachers

  • Now 560 students, K-12 (ration 8:1)

  • Entrance is difficult and according to need (85% poor, disadvantaged)

  • Projects displayed in hallways, activity encouraged

  • Not interested in aesthetics of building itself (focus on kids)

  • Curriculum is student-centered

  • Separate elementary and high school

  • Covered gym

  • IB programs

  • Mentoring

  • After school activities

  • Technology (4,000hrs of instruction)

  • Dance, art, music
We were very much moved by the service learning essential of the school. The seniors have to do community service before graduation and the teachers proudly shared one of their projects on helping a poor nearby village improve their school and community center.

We proceeded next to Iznik, Turkey. In ancient times this city was called Nicea, located on the shore of a peaceful lake. The city first flourished under greek rule in the 4th century BCE. It was here in the 4th century that the First Ecumenical Council was held and formulated the Nicene Creed-a statement on the basic beliefs of Christianity (I Believe in God....")
While there we visited the Isnik Foundation, an organization dedicated to reviving the tradition of Turkish tile-making (http://www.iznikvakfi,org/). It was fascinating to watch the women move through the age-old process.
Our tour’s final destination for the day was Bursa. Bursa has a special place in the hearts of Turks for it was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. Bursa has many ancient mosques , medresses, (seminaries) and hamams (bathhouses). It is also was the center of the Silk trade and home to the famous “Turkish Towel.” Our hotel was the Karavanaray Thermal Hotel. This hotel was once offered rest, food and relaxation to tired sojourners and their animals along the Silk Road and is connected to an ancient spring. Before dinner, I enjoyed a luxurious Turkish Bath experience at the Hotel. It was one of the most memorable and most relaxing and pampering experiences on my trip so far. A must do for any traveler through Turkey.
In the evening we attended a Hacivat and Karagoz traditional Turkish shadow puppet show at the Karagoz House in Bursa. Please see my link on traditional Turkish shadow theatre for more information.