If you’ve been keeping up with our journey, we spent just over a week in Turkey capturing material for three feature packages. My students and I then continued on to Slovenia where I taught a digital media seminar and they finished their stories. Today, we unveil them…but you won’t be the first to watch. This morning we were honored to have been part of a roundtable discussion about Turkey’s potential inclusion in the European Union. Many Slovenian journalists covered the event, attended by the U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia and representatives from the Turkish Embassy. I was asked to be part of it as well, and began the event by showing the first package you’re about to see: Hannah Bowen’s package on Ephesus. The Turkish representative referred to it several times in his remarks to the crowd. I’m absolutely bursting with pride as I present to you all three finished productions; Hannah’s, Gracie Ditzler’s emotional piece on Gallipoli, and Colin McQuilkin’s examination of the real story of Troy. Thanks so much for coming along with us, and please pass along the link if you think the stories are worth sharing.YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Our last day in Turkey took us to the part of Asia Minor where St. Paul spent the most time. In a country where 99% of the population is Muslim, we found it amzaing how sites sacred to Christianity were revered by people of all faiths. Check out the final VBLOG from Colin McQuilkin and Slovenian student Matteus Kriznik, full of surprises. Remember, these stories were all produced in a day just to let you keep up with our travels. Now, my students are working on their feature packages which we’ll share with you in just a few days.

YouTube Preview Image

Day Two of GUTV in Turkey took us across the Dardanelles from Gallipoli to a city once visited by some people you’ve no doubt heard of…Ulysses, Agamemnon, and Brad Pitt. GU’s Gracie Ditzler teams up with our new friend Peter Korencan from Slovenia for today’s VBLOG.

YouTube Preview Image

Stay tuned for the Feature on Troy by Colin McQuilkin in just a few days!

Merhaba! Hello from Turkey, and welcome to the second year of The Best Homework Assignment EVER. I’m Prof. Dan Garrity, and thanks to some wonderful people who believe in our project, I get to take a group of students across Asia Minor as part of a digital media experiment. Through the generosity of Don Herak, Patrick Olson, and Aydin Aygun from Eon Tours, 3 G.U. Broadcasting majors, along with Fr. Peter Lah, a Slovenian Jesuit, and two of his students, will visit 4 Turkish cities; Gallipoli, Troy, Pergamon and Ephesus. Even though you can’t be here in person, we’ll share what we find inspiring with you through both short form digital narratives and feature stories. The feature stories will be completed when we head to Slovenia. We’ll use the raw material we’ve gathered to teach a digital media seminar to more of Fr. Peter’s students. The short form narratives, or VBLOGS as we call them, are meant to be produced and shared as quickly as possible. As I write, we’ve just finished our visit to Gallipoli. And now, it’s time to let Fr. Peter and Hannah Bowen, a second year broadcasting student, show you some of what we did today. I hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed producing it! YouTube Preview Image By the way, if you’re interested, the posts below this one are from last year’s program.

Finally…after trudging through Europe and Asia since May 15th…my students work is done and ready to share with you. Keep in mind the work you’ll see was done inside a week by intermediate GU students and beginners from Fr. Peter Lah’s courses in Slovenia. The work is all their own. We appreciate any comments, which you can send to profdan@gonzaga.edu. Enjoy!

The first piece is a lesson in haggling from Istanbul’s famous Grand Bazaar.

Take a tour of Islam’s most famous Mosque–the Blue Mosque.

Next, check out the Christian influence in the region with a visit to the Hagia Sofia and church of Chora.

We also visited Yeditipe University on the Asian side of Istanbul for a quick look at their broadcasting program.

And finally, we present our Slovenian students’ first attempt at digital storytelling with a timely examination of Turkey’s pending entry into the European Union.

We survived the Turkish ban on YouTube…here’s the last vblog until you get to see the students’ finished homework assignments.


Hagia Sofia at night

photo by Matevz Cerar

I would never had admitted this while I was attending Brophy College Preparatory (Go Broncos!) as a teenager, but I sure am glad my parents sent me to a Jesuit school. My appreciation of the order has grown the farther away I get from the possibility of J.U.G. If you’ve never heard of J.U.G., ask someone who went to a Jesuit high school, or wait for the book that my brother could write on the subject comes out. I’m remarking on the Men in Black after having my Slovenian Jesuit friend Fr. Peter Lah save the day for our Digital Media Project in Turkey. When our Turkish guide was called away yesterday, Fr. Peter stepped up and did what Jesuits do best–put the world in context for students.

Fr. Peter's mobile classroom

It doesn’t matter that his classroom in this case was a mini van zipping around Istanbul. He was still able to explain the historical power struggle between Rome and Constantinople, the uneasy relationship of Christianity and Islam, and each regime’s attempt at hemispherical dominance.

Islam and Christianity are both celebrated inside Hagia Sofia

I’ve heard this lecture before (a long time ago) and so have my students–but it never had quite this impact. Fr. Peter, where were you when I needed you in 1978? In the late afternoon, we were treated to a cruise up one of the most famous waterways in the world; the Bosphorus Strait. The Bosphorus not only links the Black Sea eventually with the Mediterranean, it also separates Europe from Asia.

Ana and Matevz prep for standup

A perfect setting, we decided, to launch my Slovenian students’ first attempt at a digital media package. Matevz and Ana, with guidance from Fr. Peter, decided to examine the topic of whether Turkey ought to join the European Union. Back in the States, this is a one paragraph story. Here, and throughout Europe, it’s on everyone’s mind. I’m very proud that the students chose such a challenge for their package, and I’m really looking forward to helping them have their voice heard on the topic as we begin editing back in Slovenia. We’re done shooting now. In an hour, we’ll hop on a plane and head back to Ljubljana to begin the editing process. Next update, I’ll fill you in on exactly what you can expect for our finished projects and when you can expect to see them.

Viewer comments today begin sadly. We were honored with a live phone interview with KREM TV back in Spokane the other day. KREM posted our story on their website and invited their own viewers to comment on their website. There were just three; and each echoed the following:

I ‘spose we’ll read about them being arrested for being spies or held hostage by some muslum bunch of dirtbags or some such. I guess people haven’t yet figured out that that whole area is a very good place to stay away from these days

As I replied, it’s sad but not surprising to hear such sentiments. If you’re honest with yourself, maybe you even shared part of that opinion at some time in your life. When I first read it, I was pretty deflated. After a bit of reflection though, it convinced me of the importance of our little experiment even more. If our goal is truly to help people with myopic views of the world understand our connectedness, Istanbul is a very good place to visit these days.

That’s right…for the first time in history, we award 2 GUTV Lanyards of the Day in the same day. Forget that the history of the award goes back only 5 days. It’s a big deal to us. We began by splitting our crew up into two teams. The first assignment went to Levi, Matvez, and Feryade. Their homework: provide a digital media tour of Istanbul’s Blue Mosque.

photo by: Matevz Cerar

For two hours, they combed the inside and outside of this beautiful structure built by Sultan Ahmet 400 years ago. But even today it stands as one of the most iconic buildings of a city filled with icons. Impressive from the outside, and even more striking from within. Visitors–Muslim and non-Muslims are welcomed inside. Most stay in the rear, since the front is reserved for those who have come to pray.

A Muslim at prayer inside the Blue Mosque

Anyone can pray in front if they choose, so I did. It just so happens that my dear friend Phil Taylor is battling cancer back in Spokane, and battling well, I might add. His doctor is from Turkey. It just made sense to check in at the mosque and ask a special blessing for them both. It may have been a different venue for me, but I’m pretty sure I was talking to the same God.

Next up: a visit to the Grand Bazaar. Matt, Ana and Meral will take you on a tour of a shopping center still hopping after 600 years. Picture the most crowded mall you’ve ever been to. Now add about 300 thousand customers a day. I’m not kidding. If crowds bother you, stay in your hotel room. This place is packed. And this is where our students decided to practice a time-honored bazaar tradition: haggling.

Ana practices haggling in the Bazaar

Ana learned when the opening price for a decorative bowl is 40 lira, a 2 lira counter offer gets not much more than a laugh and a smile.  Meral, our new friend from Istanbul’s Yeditepe University, put her native skills to use

Meral, a 10 lira shirt, and a beaten vendor

and got one of our trivia winner’s a great deal on a shirt. Pretty soon, AnnaMaria DiPietro will be sporting this number all over Gonzaga…at a tremendous bargain to GUTV thanks to Meral.

GUTV Lanyard of the Day #1

Lanyard winner #1

Our first GUTV lanyard of the day was awarded to a helpful carpet salesman…a part-time salesman at that. We met Mert in front of his father’s shop where 4 generations of his family have operated in the same location. Mert is a Mechanical Engineering major at Istanbul Technical University and helps his dad in the Bazaar on weekends.

What earned him the lanyard honor? According to Ana, it was his cute eyes.

Lanyard #2 went to Aydin Aygun, a dear friend I met in Spokane while he was getting his Master’s in Religious Studies at Gonzaga. Aydin owns Eon Tours, the company that’s footing the bill for us while we’re in Istanbul.

Matevz gives Aydin lanyard #2

Despite an incredibly busy schedule, Aydin took us all to dinner, then sat down for an interview until almost midnight. In the morning, he was off on a 7am flight to show off his country to another tour group.

Matt and Prof Dan interview Aydin

As one guide left, we found another right within our own group. Fr. Peter, our Jesuit friend from Slovenia, amazed us with his historical lessons on the area. Next blog: Fr. Peter helps us explore the Christian influence of Istanbul.

Group shot at Yeditepe University

And now we are 8. Yesterday Matt, Levi, Ana, Matevz and Fr. Peter met the Turkish students who will help us tell our digital media stories in Istanbul.

The new additions are Meral Guler and Feryade Tokan. Meral is an undergrad at Yeditepe University in Istanbul. Feryade is a PhD candidate. Both study Journalism, and both complete our group nicely. Their professor, Dr. Izzet Bozkurt, is just to the left of me.

Yeditepe University, Istanbul

They were wonderful hosts yesterday as we got to learn all about the Turkish college system. Yeditepe has around 17,000 students; 400 in the Journalism program. Not surprisingly, we were most interested in their Radio/TV department.

Matt Wintheiser is working on that story but we won’t be able to post his video for about a week. Why? We’ve been using YouTube to let you see our work, but YouTube is banned in Turkey. Congratulations to AnnaMaria Di Pietro (one of my favorite Gonzaga student names to say) for getting that answer correct. AnnaMaria, since you already have an Ask Professor Dan shirt, I’ll bring you a shirt from Turkey. Here’s a link to a Radio Free Europe story about the reason for the YouTube ban.


No YouTube/no worries, though. We’ll return to Slovenia in 4 days where we’ll begin editing our stories. We hope to have them up by the end of May.

You can expect to see stories of the beautiful Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and whatever else strikes us about this incredible city.

An old friend of mine will join us tonight; Aydin Aygun, the owner of Eon Tours, our host in Turkey. This is a picture of Aydin and me when I was working on a shoot here two years ago.

Aydin is my tripod

I always tell my students ‘The world is your tripod’. Apparently, so is Aydin. He really is a great friend; without his support and the support of Don Herak, this trip simply would not have been possible. He truly believes this kind of exchange between our countries can be the basis for creating a more peaceful world tomorrow. I’m crazy enough to agree. Aydin is taking our group to dinner tonight at an Istanbul hotspot…I can’t wait to show you pictures of that.

Our GUTV Lanyard of the Day went to Prof. Bozkurt. He’s the chair of the Journalism Department and studied at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Levi presents Dr. Bozkurt with the GUTV Lanyard of the Day

His background is in marketing, and interestingly enough he’s applying his expertise to marketing his own country. As he told me: “If you don’t define yourself, someone else will…and you might not agree with the definition.” He’s working on sharing his definition of Turkey with the rest of the world.

Dr. Izzet Bozkurt

Special thanks to KREM 2 News in Spokane for taking interest in our project. We did a live phone interview with them yesterday morning. Well, morning for them, afternoon for us. As Sten and Laura were beginning their day, we were ending ours.

On to viewer comments. The first comes from a GUTV alumna now working professionally at a TV station in Colorado.

I read your blog with excitement and a bit of jealousy. If only Dan had come up with this brilliant idea when I was a student. In our increasingly global workplace, I think it paramount for visual storytellers to appreciate the connectedness of our world. While this project seems like a blast, the value of learning firsthand about the similarities in our cultures cannot be quantified. Not only are you sharing a valuable skill, but you are acting as ambassadors from the US and from Gonzaga. I’m sure the impression you are leaving is a great one.As a visual storyteller myself, I can attest to the importance of knowing and feeling comfortable using a wide range of mediums. Facebook, twitter, blogging, and traditional news websites are just a few of the mediums that I work on in addition to creating videos for daily newscasts. This project is giving students experience with the same tools they will be expected to master at any news organization throughout the country. Props to Gonzaga, Professor Dan, and the students who have taken the time to make this homework assignment a reality. I look forward to future installments


Another comment comes from another TV professional and adjunct professor at GU, Mike Lavelle.

Very nice looking stories gang! I can’t believe the quality of the Kodak cams. The “Cribs” story was well edited with nice audio. It would be interesting for viewers to see the process of putting a story together, converting it and posting it on the web. Any special challenges because of the location or is the Internet truely borderless? I also enjoyed the first story with the people walking thru the shot! Very fun! Keep up the good work and lets see as much of the beauty of the countries as possible.

It’s not completely borderless Mike, but communication has a way of adapting despite governmental controls. Prof. Bozkurt told us that most young Turks use proxy servers to circumvent the ban. Nothing, it seems, can get in the way of someone who really wants to see ‘Charlie bit me’ if they really put their mind to it. Search for that one on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.

Thanks so much for taking the time to check out our work, and I’ll try to keep you updated about when the final projects are done. Now it’s off to the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar…I have a shirt to buy!

Goodbye Slovenia, hello International Mystery City #3: Istanbul Turkey. And congratulations to Hiro Schneider for guessing our location correctly. The photo you saw last entry was my wife and I at the Bosphorus Strait, the only access from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. That geographical fact has kept Istanbul as one of the most significant cities in the world. Throughout history, any person, any product, any idea that wanted to make its way from East to West had to pass through Istanbul. Many still do, and we’ve come to experience it all. Our team of two Gonzaga students and two Slovenian students arrived at noon today (that’s 10pm yesterday Gonzaga Standard Time). After a quick nap, we met for dinner at Restaurant Saraj, right across the narrow street from our hotel.

Our waiter, Hamdin, third from the left, was nice enough to give us a language lesson after we ate. Tomorrow, I’ll test the students on the basic Turkish they need to know: ‘hello’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’. Any cultural exchange ought to include a bit of the host country’s native tongue. Hamdin was such a character we decided to present him with a special award: the GUTV Lanyard of the Day. We just might give one to the most interesting person we meet here each day of our stay. Tomorrow, that person might just live in Asia.

Matt Wintheiser awards GUTV's 'Lanyard of the Day'

Istanbul sits on two continents. We’re staying on the European side. Tomorrow, we’re headed across the Bosphorus to visit the University of Istanbul and meet the Turkish students who will help us out for the next few days. They’ll serve as our guides and interpreters, but I’m really hoping they become our friends as well.

On to viewer comments and our trivia contest winner:

Hiro Schneider got the Mystery City right and a prize. Below is a pic of the shirt he wins. We’ll give another to the first person who can explain why we can’t upload video to YouTube here. Send your answer to profdan@gonzaga.edu and I promise your shirt will be cleaner than Hiro’s.

Limited edition 'Ask Prof Dan' shirt-priceless in any country

Patrick writes: “Congratulations on this timely experience. i continue to hope and pray such exchanges amongst fresh minds will lead to a more critial view of how we treat all of our brothers and sisters on this ever shrinking planet.” Thanks Patrick! Patrick is one of our sponsors. He runs the American branch of Eon Tours which is hosting us in Turkey (that means we don’t have to pay for a thing!)

Steven writes: “I love the blog! What a fantastic idea and a great way of showcasing to the world the importance and power of visual storytelling! That’s the great thing about utilizing the internet (or interwebs, which is a series ot tubes) the way that you guys are. Simply by posting a video, the world isn’t so big and scary, and we can connect with people halfway across the globe and hear their unique stories just by the click of a button. Your project can show viewers firsthand what it is like to interact with an entirely different culture.” Steven is a GUTV alum and one of our best!

Claire writes: “What’s up with the mustache Prof Dan? You look like Jafar from Aladdin.” That’s hurtful, yet accurate Claire. I was going for Kurt Russell in Tombstone and I get Disney?

Blue Mosque-a lasting testament of the Ottoman Empire's influence in Istanbul

I wanted to leave you with a reflection from my GU Broadcasting student Matt Wintheiser. This is his first trip abroad, and as we talked earlier this evening I was struck at how early and clearly his transformation is taking place. I asked him to write about his impressions.

“Its 10:00 p.m. here in Istanbul and the call to worship has just flooded the city again.  Although it is in a language I can’t understand, the call and response has hit me in a way that I am still trying to understand.Earlier this evening the Slovenian students, Fr. Peter, and I decided to explore the Blue Mosque literally a few blocks from our hotel.  As I stood in the center of the courtyard, an overwhelming sense of the world on my shoulders.  I felt like I was literally at the center.  Thinking about it, I am sitting where Europe ends, and Asia begins. One country over, my native country, the United States, is fighting one of the most controversial wars in history.  The most volatile part of the world is located a few countries over from that.  I am, essentially, at the gateway to one of the most unstable regions of the world. Yet, the Muslim people of Istanbul still gathered together at the Blue Mosque to pray together and worship their God, together. The dedication to prayer and the spirituality of this culture is overwhelming.  Despite the violence, poverty, and injustice that exist next door to Turkey, these people went about their day in worship and praise to their God.  It was incredible to see the woman stop whatever she was doing to pray in the courtyard.  I caught a glimpse into the sanctuary to see people bowing, kneeling, and reflecting in prayer.  Seeing the deep sense of faith in their religion was and is inspiring; it’s almost indescribable.   I’m literally at a place where religion, culture, and history comes clashing together.  Yet these people can still unite over one thing…their faith.  Being at the mosque reminded me to continue to work at my faith, because it can serve as a powerful relationship not only with what I believe in, but with thousands of other people as well.”

Time for us to hit the sack. We leave for Asia in 8 hours. If you’re in Spokane, and you’re up early enough, check out the KREM 2 morning show. We’re going to try to do a live phone interview with them around 6am Pacific Time. If you’re not in Spokane, you have my permission to sleep in. Goodnight!

« Older entries