Turkish Delight

My muse is Turkish nights

Disoriented, yet awake

Closed lids, but too afraid

Of missed opportunities to sleep.

“This city is a historical gem, and for someone who loves history as much as I do, visiting it is a dream come true. I plan to make the most of my time here.” So wrote La Sierra University Honors student Carlos Casiano during his first week in Istanbul. Carlos, along with 12 fellow Honors students and faculty members Suzanne and Paul Mallery and Ken and Rebecca Crane, were spending four weeks in the ancient city where Europe and Asia literally connect, a place where both Christianity and Islam have coexisted for centuries.

International travel has been a vital part of the Honors curriculum since 2003, says Dr. Douglas Clark, program director. By design, the program aims to help students understand a variety of world views and more fully develop their own.

Dr. Suzanne Mallery teaches the class, called “Global Cultures in Context,” and chose Turkey as the focus because of its history, culture, and its geopolitically strategic location. Her ability to speak the Turkish language, acquired through coursework during her college years, helps facilitate the class experience. Her goal for the students is person-to-person contact. She wants them to see beyond the tourist façade and into the heart of a country and its predominant religion that is little known to the students but important to understand in today’s world.

The group arrived in Turkey on August 16 and settled into apartments in the heart of the old city, near the famed Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque. Each student, along with Dr. Mallery, posted blog entries as part of their classwork, documenting their experience and personal journey. The following are some of their perspectives.

Settling In 

August 16 – The students are doing great. They are excited and engaged and taking every opportunity they can find to get to know Turks and Kurds and others here, try every food, and learn as much as they can—and nap in between.

I think Matt has been having an interesting time because people are delighted when they find out his mom is Turkish. Matt has also been surprised as he has been hearing and learning Turkish words to realize that some of the family words he thought were just nicknames were actually Turkish names for things.

Posted by Suzanne Mallery

Breakfast in Istanbul!

August 17 – Our first assignment was to find stores and buy ingredients for breakfast. Carlos and I were assigned to buy eggs. Another group bought bread and jam. Others bought yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Next morning everyone came into our room and took whatever they wanted.

Posted by Xander Knecht

Same or Different?

August 21 – Friday, in the early afternoon, I sent the students out to observe people. They were to choose two groups that differed on one demographic variable, such as women with and without covered heads. They were to observe them and learn as much as possible about the differences and similarities in their behavior.

I have been very pleased by how quickly they have found ways to connect with people here and have meaningful conversations. Several of the students have learned a fair amount of Turkish and are able to engage in rudimentary conversations using “survival Turkish.”

Posted by Suzanne Mallery

No, I Will Not Marry You!

August 23 – Although it has officially been one week since our arrival in Istanbul, it seems as if it has already been a month. In no time at all, we have learned to buy groceries, haggle for prices, ride the public transportation, and politely decline marriage proposals from Turkish men.

Posted by Paula Hernandez

Food for Thought

August 24 – This trip so far has definitely given me lots to think about. Learning new things about Islam has led me to a greater understanding and respect for the religion. The fact that the people here are friendly doesn’t hurt, either. There have been many personal ups and downs during “Going Global 2011,” but man, I am having way too much fun to complain about anything right now.

Posted by Justin Tuot

Understanding Through Travel

August 25 – Nothing can dispel cultural ignorance better than direct experience. Tonight we went to a Sufi Dervish ceremony and witnessed firsthand the depth of their belief system. After tonight’s experience, I feel much more informed as to their perception of God and worship. Taking the opportunity to travel and understand a foreign culture is truly a growing experience.

Posted by Chelsey Salvador

Memories of China

August 28 – Today we crossed the threshold and entered one of the places that instinct has pleaded for us to avoid at all costs—a Turkish carpet shop. I reached out my hand to run my fingers across one rug that looked particularly beautiful. The sensation that slid up my fingertips immediately triggered a memory from years ago when my grandmother had taken me to a silk farm in China and I had run my fingers through strands of pure, unwoven silk.

We began to stroll leisurely down the street discussing amongst ourselves about when we all finally achieve our goals of becoming physicians, lawyers, and world-renowned mathematicians, perhaps we will one day return and be able to buy for ourselves one of the silk masterpieces that had awed us with its craftsmanship and beauty.

Posted by Kelli Kam

Top Ramen in Turkey!

August 31 – Today was a very relaxing day. I started the day off eating Top Ramen at midnight with Chelsey and Ashlee. This was the first time I had Asian food in two weeks so it was delightful! It would’ve been better if I had access to my chopsticks, but we can’t win them all I guess.

Posted by Peter Fukuda

Cappadocian Playground!

September 4 – After spending a full day in the Cappadocian region, I’ve come to the conclusion that it brings out the kid in everyone. It’s full of underground cities with a seemingly endless amount of tunnels and crevices to hide in, oddly-shaped sandcastle-like structures, and even camels! It’s almost as if Cappadocia came straight out of someone’s imagination for people of all ages to run around in, explore, and release their inner child.

Posted by Ashlee Sumilat

Beyond the Tourist Zone

September 8 – It is easy to get lost in the historical and “touristic” aspects of Turkey and forget that it is a country undergoing significant changes and causing some degree of tension in the geopolitical region. There appears to be a great deal of concern within the Turkish population about the future of the nation. As Turkey expands its influence and develops its position on the world stage, it must come to terms with its true identity. Changes are occurring rapidly. I do not know what the future of Turkey will be, but it will be interesting to follow.

Posted by Carlos Casiano

Turkish Values

September 9 – I’m certainly going to miss this wonderful country. The friends I’ve made have given me emotional ties to this country. The routes I’ve memorized of the city will always be a part of me. This whole experience has permanently altered who I am. I hope to carry things I’ve learned and to portray these Turkish values of friendship and hospitality to my fellow Americans for the foreseeable future. I’m glad to go home. I’m just sad that I’m leaving another behind.

Posted by Justin Tuot

Finding Community

September 10 – The Turkish people are some of the nicest people I’ve met. From taxi drivers to store owners like the guitarist we met today, I feel like the Turkish people are genuinely interested in other people’s interests. On the streets, you’ll see strangers help direct cars in and out of tight parking spaces. Turkey as a whole has taught me so much about true community.

Posted by Justin Tuot

Open Hearts

September 11 – When we go home we realize that in some way we have incorporated a little bit of the values and lifestyle of our Turkish friends into who we are, and in that we can never be monocultural again. We can’t shed Turkey like a coat we’ve tried on for size. We’ve allowed our hearts to be touched by people here, and our hearts won’t ever be entirely the same again.

When I was perusing Facebook the other day, I noticed that a number of the students have changed their home cities to read “Istanbul, Turkey.” They really are starting to feel that they have a home here.

Posted by Suzanne Mallery

Safely Home!

September 17 – We arrived home safely late on Thursday night. I am tremendously thankful to all of those who supported us financially, through prayers and moral support, and by entrusting your family members to us. I was quite impressed with the students who traveled with us. I think they are a credit to their school and to the families they came from.

The Turks we worked with also recognized their uniqueness and noted that this group was different from many they have worked with in the past. They appreciated the students for their genuine interest in Turkey and Turkish culture and noted how impressed they were with the high standards the students hold. That was quite noteworthy to our Muslim friends, who also try to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

Posted by Suzanne Mallery

Long after the students’ return home, the impact of what they experienced will remain.

For senior pre-med student Carlos Casiano, he will remember getting to know a Turkish family and “standing on the terrace of the house, the sea in front of me and the ancient city behind me, discussing the past, present, and future of the city in English and Spanish.”

And he, like his classmates, will remember the unspoken but life-changing moments when they walked the streets of a city that measures its history in millennia. It was there he made “eye contact with someone for a fleeting moment, just long enough to detect a shared curiosity and understanding that hints at perspectives so vastly different, yet similar in so many ways.”

Going global. Mission accomplished.

To read more about the Honors experience in Turkey, scan this QR code or visit: http://lsugoingglobal2011.blogspot.com/

Author: La Sierra

La Sierra University, an institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime.

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