TCFTurkey15 – Reflecting Upon Our Incredible Study Tour

TCF_Group_Bus The thirty people pictured here spent the last two weeks together traveling through western Turkey. Led by our incredible guide Orhan with assistance from our main bus driver Ísmail and his assistant Ercan, The group includes twenty-four teachers from around the USA (including representation from California, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Washington). We were also joined by a TCF (Turkish Cultural Foundation) staff member and two Turkish Teachers: elementary teacher Esra Ozer and math teacher Yunus Dogan. For two weeks, our senses were bombarded with new stimuli for at least 12 hours a day. At the end of the trip, this question was asked: “Twenty years from now, what memory will come first to mind when recalling your TCF Study Tour in Turkey?”  Below is a compilation of our responses. As you can see, students, even when everyone experiences the same thing, the memories we choose to hold onto can very greatly!


Balloons! Most of the teachers on the tour opted to get up at 4:15 a.m. and go for a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia on the next to last day. Afterward, many wanted to change their favorite moment. Instead, we’ve opted to mention that incredible experience at the start of this final blog entry. A picture of that experience is at the bottom of this posting. In addition to the morning balloon ride, the participants of the 2015 TCF Study Tour suggest the following most memorable moments:

“Walking Stick Wonder” Award Recipient Anita Tucker.

Anita Tucker (California) – Visiting Gallipoli, Anzac Cove, and the Lone Pine Cemetery really took my breath away. It was the 100 year anniversary of the battles and standing on the beaches, in the quiet morning, knowing the tremendous sacrifice of young lives lost on both sides was heartbreaking. I spent a great deal of time looking at the headstones of men like, Frank Hubert Evans, age 20, or Mustafa Oglu Davut, age 25, and saying a prayer for them, thinking about their families, and the devastation of war. The memorial from Mustafa Kemal moved me to tears when he says, “In this country of ours…You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears! Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” – Atatürk, 1934

“Resident Legal Counsel Award” Recipient Cameron Sanchez.

Cameron Sanchez (California) – The interaction with Ezra, Orhan, and Yunus during our breaks. To hear of life in Turkey and share about life in the U.S. – just the everyday interaction over the course of two weeks has been incredible. Further previously I studied Paul in great depth, and to walk through Ephesus where he did was an experience I will never forget. Also at Ephesus came the bee sting, which was quite memorable as well!


“Group Jester Award” Recipient Mike Madruga.

Mike Madruga (California) – My favorite place was the Ataköy school – meeting and interacting with the children. It was an emotional experience for me. It appeared they were all waiting for Santa Clause to arrive. When we got there, you could see the appreciation and excitement in their hearts. We’ve seen some incredible sites, but that moment was incredible – I almost came to tears.

“Back to Life Award” Recipient Sherri Saucedo.

Sherri Saucedo (California) – Walking into the amphitheater at Ephesus, realizing I was standing on the same ground that Paul had stood on to teach and preach about his friend Jesus. And for me, this was a destiny moment as I realized I have been called to do the same!

“Cash Temple & Bazaar Empress Award” Recipient Stacy Maxin.

Stacy Maxin (California) – The Bosphorus boat ride – looking to one shore and then the other, seeing both Asia and Europe… and thinking about the history of migration and trade over this region. Being on the boat, on the water with the comforting breeze, the bridges connecting the two continents, and seeing the city from the water with the refreshing breeze… it was a natural high.

“Van Gogh Award” Recipient Jeanie Palmer.

Jeanie Palmer (Montana) – My whole life as an artist, I have dreamed of being in a foreign land and sketching the people and landscapes I see with no other English speakers around. So, I’ve been able to do that a lot on this trip, but the first time – at the Topkapi Palace in the courtyard – it was perfect. I could have sat there all day long.

“Wanna-Be Photographer Award” Recipients Leslie Rogers (left) and Kelly Elder (right).

Kelly Elder (Montana) – Somehow during the entire two weeks, Aphrodesia really sticks out in my mind. Indeed, when we, the TCF Teachers, found ourselves almost alone on the grounds (minus the workers excavating the central area), it was so much more powerful than the crowds at other sites had been. To lead the group up over the little rise and enter the stadium – and then to imagine the events there thousands of years ago and realize that soil had completely covered the facility and a farmer was actually growing wheat there when he stumbled across some protruding peaks of the structure (at the height of where we stood in the upper row)… this random event led to this entire civilization being discovered!

Leslie Rogers (Ohio) – I’ll never forget when Eric took his own time and volunteered to help me “learn” how to float- under a full moon in the Aegean Sea. It isn’t every day someone goes out of their way to help someone else do something like that. I don’t know, I’ve noticed that happening quite a bit on this trip, actually. Afterward, six of us sat on oversized cushions down on the pier, drinking wine and sharing stories late into the night next to the sea.

“Devout Vegan Award” Recipient Caprice Leidig.

Caprice Leidig (Nevada) – Travelling on the Bosphorus on the open deck of a boat was a spectacular moment for me as a geography teacher. I watched in awe as the sweeping landscape of Ístanbul passed by and I was able to observe Ottoman palaces, mosques and mansions along the way. On one side of the Bosphorus is Asia. On the other Asia. What an amazing experience!

“Chip Connoisseur Award” Recipient.

“Chip Connoisseur Award” Recipient Carol McGrew. Photo by Julie Wakefield.

Carol McGrew (Nevada) – I teach WWI in both US History and World Geography, so the Gallipoli sites showed me WWI through a different lens. I also learned more about Atatürk as a military leader.  

“Don't Worry, Be Happy Award” Recipient Chantay Jensen.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy Award” Recipient Chantay Jensen.

Chantay Jensen (Nevada) – I would like to choose everything but given that is unlikely there are a few moments that took my breath away… Walking into the mosque of Suleiman was one of those such moments.  I have seen images of this mosque in my history books and watched documentaries that show the images but nothing compares to walking into the space, closing my eyes, and imagining what it must have been like centuries ago to have seen the ‘magnificent’ leader and his wife meandering around the grounds. This moment will hopefully stay on my mind forever. In addition to the historical moments that solidified my complete joy in the study of this region I will always cherish my newfound Turkish identity. As it turns out, I am basically Turkish and never knew. My life is forever changed for the better.  

“Man of the Sea Award” Recipient Ed Bischopink.

Ed Bischopink (Nevada) – To stand in the ancient city of Troy and learn about the facts of the civilizations that were once there in addition to the legends that we all teach. That was such a special moment. Troy is such a legend, but to be standing there listening to local expert Professor Mustafa Askin – he told us about the facts of what is known about the numerous civilizations there over the eras. It was amazing.

“Detail Queen Award” Recipient Julie Wakefield.

Julie Wakefield (Nevada) – There have been so many amazing moments and even more amazing memories. I think there are three moments I will remember forever: the amphitheater at Aphrodisias, and the vista of Nevsehir (Cappadocia). These sites are amazing in so many ways – breathtaking, overwhelming, and memorable.

Lynn Thomas (Nevada) – The ancient sites of Turkey are phenomenal and beyond description, my affinity for history has only grown. However, I must say that what I will cherish the most is the connection to our Turkish friends. Evenings eating, talking and laughing together. An impromptu water polo game in the pool is one of the best evenings. Ïsmael stealing the ball to make a point and then taking his goal and running away with it made everyone laugh. Not to be outdone, Dana then trying to avoid Ïsmael gaining the upper hand by swimming away with his team’s goal. Turkey has many irreplaceable sites, but it’s greatest resource is its people.

“Co-Conductor Award” Recipient Pamela Miller.

Pamela Miller (Nevada) – My take-away was that I will always remember Orhan – he is personable, has an extraordinary command of the English language, a sharp sense of humor, and impressive breadth of knowledge. He is the Ultimate Renaissance Man!

“Turkish Bath Screamer Award” Recipient Chris Cox.

“Turkish Bath Screamer Award” Recipient Chris Cox.

Chris Cox (Ohio) – Driving up the mountain to the Acropolis. Going up the mountain in the taksi, exploring the city. It was the first ancient city I’d ever been in and I was inspired by it.

“Turkish Impersonator Award” Recipient John Davis.

“Turkish Impersonator Award” Recipient John Davis.

John Davis (Ohio) – Visiting the mosques. I have not had many opportunities to visit holy buildings of faiths other than my own. Watching people worship, hearing the call to prayer, and experiencing the reverence that is expected in the mosques will definitely be memorable in 25 years.  

“Trusted Helper Award” Recipient Cheryl Healy.

“Trusted Helper Award”
Recipient Cheryl Healy.

Cheryl Healy (Washington) – Watching the skyline of Ístanbul and listening to the call to prayer while cruising on the Bosphorus. The lunch right after that, as we sat on the water and ate our multi-course meal. Oh, and (yes, I get two because I’m succinct) then I loved our visit to the marbling artist’s home. His wife told me the history of their home; a historic military building constructed for one of twelve generals in the 1800s. It took them a decade to restore their home. They both have such warm, gentle, and hospitable spirits.

“International Friendship Through Music Award” Recipient Dana Radcliffe.

Dana Radcliffe (Washington) – There are so many wonderful moments to reflect upon, but my thoughts now lean towards the ruins of Çatalhöyük. The open plains and rolling hills of Anatolia took my breath away. A feeling of space and a dusty breeze revealed to us a different side of this rich country. I was captured by the ruins of these prehistoric sites with dwellings built side by side, sharing walls, keeping there cooking corners, sleeping corners, and burials all under one roof, now deep in the earth, showing the lives of these early urban dwellers dating back to over 8000 years ago. I tried to envision what life was like for these early peoples and it brought a deeper understanding to the depth and breadth of the history here, tying together layer after layer of history until we reach the bottom – the very birth of civilization. The first rain fell during our time and I felt a sense of peace and calm in my new knowledge.

“Logistics Chief Award” Recipient David Blacketer.

“Logistics Chief Award”
Recipient David Blacketer.

David Blacketer (Washington) – The city of Aphrodite – the history still there that is yet to be excavated. I’ve seen museums before, but to see the original artifacts… a Roman God’s face still in the ground and I’m walking on him. Things started earlier, but it culminated… my mind was blown. Just how much is concentrated in one place and to walk on it – I felt it.

“Aquarius Award” Recipient Eric Ayrault.

Eric Ayrault (Washington) – The Microphone Hours are unforgettable. Specifically, Orhan’s love of history and especially music, whether it be Jazz, traditional, or even the hard rock as we drove through the formations in Cappadocia – and Yunus rapping– these times made the trip.

“Budding Turkish Linguist Award” Recipient Josh Parker.

“Budding Turkish Linguist Award” Recipient Josh Parker.

Josh Parker (Washington) – We arrived in the Ulucami Mosque in Bursa in the same way we had the others; carefully removing our shoes, covering our legs, and stepping into a cavernous space full of light. We were given some free reign inside the mosque, a bit of time to explore. On the tour up to this point, I’d busied most waking moments in delightful conversation with the dynamic individuals here alongside rapid-fire photo-taking, trying simply to soak it all in. Instead of jumping right into a chat or even finding a buddy to walk around with, I silently wandered, walking quite slowly, around the mosque until I came to an open space along a great marble column where other, local, men were sitting quietly, each in his own world. I sat and let my eyes wander, across sweeping calligraphy and kneeling worshippers, and my mind found some rest, some peace. Across religion and history and belief, I sat in that mosque experiencing what my brothers and sisters were – a pause from the pace of life, a pause to reflect and maybe even appreciate. In those short ten minutes of sitting I was as refreshed as after a good night’s sleep, glad at having shared in the common human experience of pause, silence, and reverence for something bigger than ourselves.

“Glamorous & Astute Listener Award” Recipient Tara Graves.

“Glamorous & Astute Listener Award” Recipient
Tara Graves.

Tara Graves (Washington) – My father told me an interesting quote when I was growing up – “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – learn to understand the importance of listening.” And so my favorite part of Turkey would be the sounds- the call to prayer heard from our boat on the sun-glistened Bosphorus; our lunch çura serenade, complete with a chirping parrot; the imagined roars within amphitheaters/coliseums; Orhan’s musical gallery within the tour bus; laughing and drinking on a pier in the Aegean; a dervish singing singularly in an ancient caravanserai.

“Sugar & Spice Award” Recipient Tracy Green.

“Sugar & Spice Award”
Recipient Tracy Green.

Tracy Green (Washington) – The Bizimev Hanimeli Restaurant (the “home cooking” smorgasbord). Kate, recipient of the “Documentarian and Nightlife Consultant Award” (No image, Washington DC) – At the Süleymaniye Mosque, near the tombs of Süleyman and Hurrem, there was a balcony with a really nice view of Istanbul. It was cool to see the city from this point, since it was like I was seeing it for the first time again. There are always new things to discover in Ístanbul and I was really happy to be in that place with our group.

“Young Turkish Secret S****** Award” Recipient Esra Özer (we can’t say the full name of the award, or it wouldn’t be a secret)!

Esra Özer (Famiy from Izmir; now in Ístanbul) – In Çanakkale, we went to the beach after dinner and had a bonfire. We talked and sang Turkish songs with Orhan, Yunus, and Ísmail. At the end of the night, we were intoxicated and had a hard time finding our rooms. From that experience, we are better friends.

“Translator-of-the-Year & Native Expert Award” Recipient Yunus Dogan.

“Translator-of-the-Year & Native Expert Award” Recipient Yunus Dogan (right).

Yunus Doğan (Family from Afyon; now in Ístanbul) – At the Iskender Kebab restaurant for lunch (where everyone got to try a Döner Kebab). The Chef, who has worked in this place for seventy years, was named, Dede Usta. Mr. Usta was very excited about his restaurant, his food, the famous people who had been to visit – Presidents, Kings, and the like – he was excited about everything. Like a machine gun, he enthusiastically rattled off story after story without pausing at all for me to translate to the group. I felt very good by doing this and trying my best to share with everyone his words.

“Orhan the Magnificent” Sezener. Teacher of the Year (drawing by Jeanie Palmer)!

“Orhan the Magnificent” Sezener – the Master TCF Tour Guide/Teacher! (Ístanbul) – what did he decide? Stay tuned!

The inspiring morning many of the teachers spent on a hot air balloon ride over the unique landscape of Cappadocia.

The inspiring morning many of the teachers spent on a hot air balloon ride over the unique landscape of Cappadocia.