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Ancient panorama unfolds in tour of Turkey
Washington News Journal, 08.08.2011

Ancient panorama unfolds in tour of Turkey


Haggling in the spice market. Homes built around ruins thousands of years old. Mosques dotting the highway. These are only a few of the things Jennifer Hatfield experienced on her 14-day, 2,000-mile journey through Turkey.

Hatfield is a world history and psychology teacher at Wilmington High School. She is also the adviser for a Junior Council on World Affairs club. According to Hatfield, the purpose of the club is to make people more aware of current events and other cultures.

The Junior Council is a part of the Dayton Council on World Affairs, which, in turn, is part of a national World Affairs Council that has a partnership with the Turkish Cultural Foundation. The Dayton Council received a grant to send three area teachers on a tour of Turkey. Hatfield was one of the three selected to go.

“They wanted teachers who would take the information they learned and use it in their classrooms and share it,” said Hatfield.

She traveled with 29 other educators from across the United States. The group was usually on the tour bus by 7 a.m., often not reaching their hotel until 8 or 9 p.m.

Their tour of Turkey began in Istanbul.

“The spice market in Istanbul was incredible. There was a lot of pure saffron,” Hatfield said. “You really get a feel for the culture when you’re shopping. And you have to get used to haggling. In a lot of open air markets the prices are on the high end but the vendors expect to haggle.”

Another component of Turkish culture is the drinking of tea. According to Hatfield, it is customary to offer tea wherever one may go, be it the market place, a restaurant or a friend’s home.

While in Istanbul, the group visited the Hagia Sophia. Originally a Christian church, built over 1,000 years ago, it became a mosque when the Ottomans took over.

“It was beautiful, very elaborate,” said Hatfield. “The culture in general is very elaborate actually. Everyday things are decorated. For example, on one of our stops, I saw a donkey pulling a wagon, something pretty ordinary on its own, except the donkey was decorated.”

They also visited the beaches of Galipaly, where a World War I battle took place, as well as ancient ruins such as Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Çatalhöyük, which is 9,000 years old.

“Aphrodisias was particularly interesting. This village was built around this archaeological site and you’d see a house with the front porch propped up on a pillar or column from a huge Greek or Roman ruin,” said Hatfield. “The library at Ephesus is from 117 A.D. It’s part of a larger village that looks just like the towns you see in those shows on HBO. There was even an area where the Roman toilets are still intact.”

The teacher described Turkey as both a “contemporary culture and “the cradle of civilization.” This juxtaposition can be seen across the country. Modern technology, like Istanbul’s transit system, runs in the city alongside ancient ruins. The latest styles in fashion can be seen next to the traditional Muslim veils. At highway exits sit a gas station, a mini-mart and a mosque, making it easier and more convenient for travelers to respond to the call to prayers.

Hatfield said the trip was also organized to break stereotypes.

“We visited the Tapkapi Palace and the harem. People have misconceptions about what the harem is. It’s just the living quarters for the ruling family and help,” she said. “There are also misconceptions about concubines. Some of them serve the sultan, but the majority of the concubines work for the sultana, helping with the housework and children.”

The educators visited several Turkish schools. Hatfield said they were very respected and the teachers were happy to share the culture in which they had so much pride. She also said that the tour guide offered lectures about the language and history.

“We learned so much,” she said. “And the teachers I traveled with were such energetic and amazing people. Being around each other helped all of us come up with ideas for the classrooms.”

Hatfield said that the study of other cultures is growing in high school social studies. She believes this trip will give her photographs and credibility to enhance her lectures. She’ll have first-hand experience to help students understand and compare the Turkish culture, as well as insight on the movement of people between Turkey and Greece.

“This was simply an amazing opportunity and an incredible learning experience,” she said.

Hatfield and the other area educators who went to Turkey will be presenting their experience to the public at a special event to be held in Dayton. “Spotlight on Turkey” is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 29, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Speakers who are experts in Turkish history and geography will also be present. Details have not yet been finalized. Those interested in attending should periodically check for updates.

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