Studying Abroad: Istanbul, Turkey
It was a wonderful adventure taking conflict resolution students to Turkey, and teaching the Duncum Center’s first study abroad course “Gender Conflict Issues in the Middle East” with Dr. Cindy Roper. ACU’s graduate programs in conflict resolution have grown tremendously since 2007, and we were so pleased to offer the first international opportunity like this to our students. Below is a photo album and daily log of our trip.
We took nine graduate students to the Mediators Beyond Borders Congress meeting, toured several Revelation cities, heard from experts in the Conflict Resolution field, and observed gender relations in the traditional landscape of Western Turkey. Look for upcoming posts from students on how the trip impacted them.
Monday, 9/23 – Met in Houston, Texas for a 12-hour direct flight to Istanbul, Turkey.
Tuesday, 9/24 – We landed in Istanbul, collected bags, and found ground transportation to the hotel. In the evening, we gathered to go eat together. It was a great fellowship time with students. We were excited to be together and explore a part of the world that was mostly unfamiliar to us. We navigated menus successfully and ate well.
Wednesday, 9/25 – The next morning, we all sampled typical Turkish breakfast fare and then gathered as a class to talk about the course and begin our gender conflict discussion. At 1:00 p.m. students went out to observe local gender behavior and see the European side of Istanbul. I met with Ken Cloke and Joan Goldsmith about joining the class the following day.
At 5:00 p.m. the class gathered in the lobby ready for an adventure to the Asia side of Istanbul. We got to experience an Istanbul traffic jam and then witness some presentations about peace works from Rotary International. We capped off the evening with a delightful meal by the Rotary Club.
Thursday, 9/26 – Ken Cloke, director of the Center for Dispute Resolution in Santa Monica, past president and founder of Mediators Beyond Borders, and his wife Joan Goldsmith joined us for class. They led us through conversation about gender conflict, providing mediation services internationally, and gave advice on being heartfelt peacemakers. Again, students were sent out at 1:00 p.m. to explore and observe gender differences.
At 5:00 p.m., students gathered at the hotel to meet MBB members. Students met mediators from all over the world including Iraq, Libya, Syria, Israel, and Palestine – countries with deep hostilities.
Ken Cloke welcomed 200 MBB members, addressed international conflict issues, and explained how MBB can get involved. Excitement grew as students learned about specific opportunities to get involved in conflict resolution around the world. That night we went to the Fish Restaurant area for dinner. The students negotiated with the restaurant owners for the price of their meals – a custom in the Fish Restaurant area.
Friday, 9/27 –We attended presentations from the 6th Congress of MBB. Students learned about current MBB efforts and upcoming opportunities around the world! We heard from great and passionate speakers like Najat Dau from Libya who explained why women cover with the hijab.
On Saturday, 9/28 – We attended MBB Congress presentations throughout the day. It was exciting to have people from so many countries around the world attend my presentation on Culture Different Peacemaking: Variables of Cultural Adaptability and Gender Difference. We met many students from the University of Copenhagen and had attendees from South Africa, Australia, Canada, USA, several Middle Eastern countries and more. For our final evening in Istanbul we enjoyed wonderful local cuisine and waiters who were quite entertaining. It was interesting to us that all of the staff waiting tables were men.
Sunday, 9/29 – The next morning we began Part 2 of our adventure. At 12:30 p.m. we landed at Izmir Airport and met Professor Tuba Inal. Dr. Inal is a professor of International Relations at Izmir University.
We went to the hotel in Izmir then prepared for an interview with Dr. Inal. She gave many great insights into Turkish law, to the consequences of law changes for gender issues, to important historical events related to rape and pillage during war times. We recognized that Izmir is the ancient city Smyrna. Before turning in for the evening, we read the biblical passage about Smyrna in Revelation 2: 8-11 and prayed over the city.
Monday, 9/30 – At 9 am we met Mithet, our tour guide for the day. We went north from Izmir to Bergama. We stopped along the way to enjoy some Turkish coffee and cappuccino and then found our next hotel, the Berksoy.
After lunch we made our way to the ancient site of Pergamum. We got to see temples, a very steep theater, and a marketplace. Before leaving, we read the Revelation 2: 12-17 letter to the Church in Pergamum. We toured an ancient site of healing where there was a hospital area, a sacred fountain, and a theater—not typical components of a healthcare organization today.
Our tour guide, Mithet, said goodbye to the group and went home. Meanwhile, the group rested for a while and then met to talk about Gender Conflict issues as students presented points from articles they read. Our new Tour Guide, Rabia, joined us to go to dinner and update the group about plans.
Tuesday, 10/1 – We left at 9:00 a.m. to go to the ancient site of Ephesus. We went south past Izmir and on to Selcuk (Sell-chook), which is just a few minutes drive to the Ephesus site.
We could hear the thunder and see the rain clouds coming our way but we were witnessing some beautiful excavated history of temples, Roman baths, homes, the great Ephesus library, and the big theater. Just as the rain started, our guide, Rabia, led us into a section that was covered where many homes were. The homes were large enough that one was even transformed into a church. There is some beautifully preserved history in Ephesus!
After the rain cleared and we finished touring Ephesus, we went to lunch. Rabia took us to a buffet style lunch not far away with some great selections of authentic Turkish food. After lunch we went to see the Church of St. John where John, the disciple Jesus loved, was buried. John was moved many years ago but historians are convinced that John was buried there. From the site of the church, we could look down to see where the temple of Artemis was located. Only a single pillar still stands but it was interesting to see the temple location that gave the apostle Paul such a hard time.
While at the Church of St. John, Rabia told us an interesting love story: It is believed that John honored the request Jesus made on the cross for John to take care of His mother, Mary. The legend is that John traveled with Mary to Ephesus. And for her protection, she had a home built high on the mountaintop within sight of St. John’s church. Now, there is a church on that location dedicated to Mary.
Wednesday, 10/2 – We traveled 3 hours east of Ephesus to Pamukkale. It was a long drive but we had interesting conversations with Rabia and we continued our conversations about gender conflict.
Pamukkale is the ancient site of Hieropolis. Visitors to Pamukkale can enjoy the white colored hillside from the calcium rich hot springs. The area nearby is Laodicea and we remembered the Revelation passage to the church in Laodicea. We actually got to go into the lukewarm pools of water and wondered if it had something to do with the meaning of the Revelation passage.
The site of Hieropolis had a wonderfully preserved theater and an interesting pool named the Cleopatra Pool for a famous visitor. There was a museum with artifacts from the theater and other places around the area. There were statues of Lions labeled Aslan, the Turkish word for Lions. It made us think of C.S. Lewis for some reason!
Thursday, 10/3 – We had a free day for students to explore on their own, rest, and prepare for the long trek back to the United States. We gathered at a restaurant for our final official class meeting. We were all overwhelmed by the rich history of Turkey and the gender conflict that exists in the Middle East. We discussed the importance of standing up for women who cannot stand for themselves.
The most rewarding part of the trip was seeing the bonds created among students. Many of them spent their free day together shopping at the bazaar for friends and family back home.
Friday, 10/4 – By 4:30 we were loaded into the bus and on our way to the Izmir airport. After making it through security, we had time to explore the Istanbul airport and more shopping took place. As we prepared to board the airplane to Houston, the students gathered around, prayed, and presented the Duncum Center with a beautiful ceramic dove of peace as a symbol to remember the first conflict resolution study abroad trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of students for this wonderful adventure.