Student reflections

This portion of the site will feature student reflections and trip updates over the course of our travels.  If you’d like to comment on their thoughts in return, please proceed to the bottom of the page in order to reply.  And now, our students (and a few others):

Aug. 8: Sydney Taylor ’12 (Classical Civ/History Major)

In the few days since I have been home after returning from Turkey, I have had time to reflect on the month our group spent there and the fantastic experiences we had together.  Several factors made this trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience, certainly for me at least.  First, Turkey itself is a wonderful country, with breathtaking scenery as well as a very friendly and hospitable population.  The amazing sites we had the opportunity to see, from the natural beauty of Cappadocia to the human-made beauty of Pergamon or the Hagia Sophia, provided the context in which our group was able to develop and interact, which brings me to the second factor which made this trip as delightful as it was, namely the people.  I have been on other study abroad trips but never before felt the sort of camaraderie which marked our group.  We became more than just a group of students from different backgrounds studying the major empires of the Mediterranean and Turkey under the guidance of four outstanding teachers; we became more like a family, with parent and sibling dynamics yet more importantly the affection and caring that defines familial relationships.  This care and support was due primarily to the personalities of our group members but also, as Aydin pointed out many times, to the Zag spirit we have all become a part of, a spirit which I will miss as I leave GU.

These factors struck me in particular when we returned to Istanbul at the end of our trip.  I think many of us were happy to be back in the city that felt a little like home yet sad that our trip had come to a close and our group, which had become so close knit, was about to separate.  These bittersweet feelings were a testament, I believe, to the country and people of Turkey for making us feel so at home as well to the bonds created within our group which made us part of a family.  I can now laugh when looking back at the frustrating moments in the trip, under the strain of heat, hunger, or shear exhaustion, and yet I am glad that those moments happened because they brought our small community closer together.  The heat and sweat helped to forge lasting bonds and memories that will extend far beyond the confines of Altan’s bus or the borders of Turkey to GU and hopefully beyond.  In looking back, I personally want to thank Aydin for showing us how breathtaking his country is, our professors for putting Turkey in context, and my fellow students for making this last month among the most memorable of my life.

July 25: Rachel Palmer ’14 (Art Major)

#1: So many things have really taken me by surprise on this trip. I was not expecting Turkey to have such a European feel, the vast number and size of the ruins here, to have bread tomatoes and cucumber with every meal, and my most welcomed surprise, the fantastic welcoming and kindness of the people here. Now everywhere you go there are people who are frustrating and I could pass on the waiters yelling “yes please” to entice me to give them business. Aside from that the average everyday Turkish person is so kind. Every place we have gone where someone has spoken English they have been excited to talk with us and share their story. Seçil, a Turkish student who was with us the first few weeks of our trip, was always helping us around while trying tutor us in Turkish. I am sure hearing words mispronounced and constantly being asked to repeat things gets old but she happily wrote us cheat sheets and repeated things as many times as we needed.

At a restaurant in Antalya a waiter there, perhaps the owner, had lived in the States for a time and was so excited to hear where we were from. He told us all about his experience in America and although at times there was a communication barrier, he was so enthusiastic that it ceased to matter what he was saying. Even when there is no spoken communication, the attitude of everyone I have encountered has been so friendly and hospitable. I could go into so many stories of various small acts that I took to heart and all the characters we have met on our trek across Turkey.

Most of all there are the two Turkish people I think everyone on this trip has come to be very fond of: Altan and Aydin. Just constantly putting up with a busload of rowdy (at times) twenty-somethings is a feat. Altan has made more impressive driving maneuvers with this massive bus than I ever will with my little Buick back home. He is always so upbeat and willing to help us out and be a boss in every situation. One day we had a group going out to eat and we ran into him at a restaurant and Atlan ate with us and basically orchestrated our entire ordering and payment process. This is so far above and beyond his job, but he was happy to sit down with us and show us pictures of his family and tell about his life. Truly a wonderful person.

Finally, without the patience and knowledge of Aydin this whole venture would be falling apart. I have never met someone who knows so many people around a country and can make any situation work out quite like Aydin. The week my luggage was lost out there in the airport abyss he was so helpful calling and driving me out to the airport to try and track my things down, calling Air France for the millionth time with a sunny attitude while I had finally lost my cool about the situation in the lobby of one of our hotels. He is always looking out for us students and seems to take every opportunity to do something extra that will make this trip better or leave an impression on us students. Plus he championed for an extension on our homework, which I am always appreciative of.  From the very special Turkish Zag to all the people we run across in daily events, I have been often so surprised and elated by the attitudes and kindness of the Turkish people.  It has been so much more welcoming than I had ever anticipated.

#2:  It has been hot, tiring, overwhelming, exciting, educational, and at times even fun the past few weeks. Yesterday we were at the Mosiac Museum in Antakya and I saw some banging mosaics. No lie, I have never seen mosaic work that was so realistic in its composition and so detailed and precise. The fish in the mosaic were so rad I though they would jump out of the painting then flop around on the floor, a sight we experienced on a realistic level in a market in Istanbul.  I mean, if I had a mosaic in my apartment it would be outrageously out of place and also the most fierce.  When asked about said eye-catching mosaic piece littered with box perspective, chevron pattern, and some ivy scroll, I would tell all my excited house guests about my adventure to Turkey; seeing such moving mosaics from the classical period and being so moved that I must install one in my own home. To treasure the memory and also, although I would refrain from telling my guests, to hint to my grand worldly education. Clearly this would lead me to high teas at exclusive clubs and upper crust events across the nation brushing shoulders with people such as the Vanderbilts. The epitome of taste. All because I was taken to this mosaic museum to be inspired by a plethora of the most banging mosaics that have been recovered from Antioch.

July 24: Alanna Redine ’14 (Classical Civ Major)

Turkey is beautiful.

But to say that Turkey is beautiful is not a grand enough word to describe the people and vistas this amazing place has to offer. The vapid American may think of beauty as cosmetic—something that is valued because it is appealing to look at, and will add value to one’s home or life by its possession. This is not the case in Turkey. Turkish beauty is a pervasive, visceral, soul-igniting beauty that is too large to be encapsulated within a nine-letter word.

Turkish people have some of the most beautiful souls that I have ever encountered. They are open, welcoming, inordinately kind, and always patient with those of us who are still struggling with the Turkish language. They will go out of their way to welcome you, to share their stories with you, and to make you feel at home in their country. Americans speak of “southern hospitality” as though it is the epitome of welcome in the United States. But I would argue that those Americans never came to Turkey and had a group of children, ages 4-15, come up to them at dinner merely to practice their English and welcome them to their country; perhaps those Americans never received a free cup of tea from a carpet merchant who valued making new American friends over selling a single carpet.

When driving through the countryside, it is easy to see how the Turkish people became so beautiful: they are a reflection of the world in which they live. Whether passing through a plain filled with glorious sunflowers and golden wheat, or traversing the impenetrable, craggy, imposing mountains, around every bend in the road there is another postcard waiting to be seen. The sunsets turn hot pink, pumpkin orange, and soft purple in front of my eyes. As I stand on ancient sites, I am struck by how lucky I am to see things that have been lost for centuries, millennia. I look around, and understand completely why Sagalassos was settled on top of a mountain—it was built, marble block by marble block, on the very top of the world. At my feet, there extended valleys, green as fresh grass in the spring. These valleys were nestled between steep, slate-gray mountains dozing peacefully in the afternoon sun. I could not help but feel that my soul had come home.

Turkey is beautiful. To assume that it is anything else would be an action of cruelty towards a nation that has done nothing but welcomed my fellow travelers and me. Whatever secrets lie around the next mountain, I know that I will be welcomed with a hearty spirit and breathtaking views.

July 23: Anthony Johnson ’14 (Classical Civilizations Major)

On this academic adventure, my goal is not only to learn about the peoples and empires of ancient and modern Turkey, but to take that knowledge and share it with the world. Today, July 22nd, was a day of self-discovery for me.  While shooting my video project for my Broadcasting course, I discovered that sharing my inspiration for history and religion through multimedia would not only be my goal for this trip, it would be my life’s vocation. Indeed, I am a Classics major. I am constantly thirsting to increase my knowledge about ancient history. Being in Turkey has brought that inspiration to new heights, and when I get inspired, I don’t stop pouring out my inspiration for all to hear. Thus as well as being a student, I am a communicator. Today, my video project is on Antioch (modern day Antakya) and its many-sided identity as a city for both Christians and Muslims, Turks and Arabs. As I was racing around and setting up shots at the sites such as the Titus Tunnel, the Monastery of St. Simon, and the Grotto of St. Peter, I am constantly in a state of thought. I am thinking not only about the narrative of my video, but I am also thinking about you, my friends and family back home. Through this video, I will be able to share my love for Antakya. This is a truly unique city. And I hope after you watch it, you will come to know the true Antakya, its people, its history, and its culture.

July 23: Geoff Melder ’13 (Music Education Major)

As we begin the final stage of our journey here in Turkey, I‘ve truly begun to reflect on all of my adventures over the past month.  As Rachel Palmer might put it, “It’s been somethin’ fierce.”  From giant temple to eternal flame, I have come to rely on a few things.  The first is that no matter where we go, I can count on Andrew Gorini to be brooding somewhere up a mountainside, and the second is that Colin Johnson will take his camera for a swim in the Mediterranean.  While traversing the mountainous terrain, Charlie Nichols takes every chance he can to bring Man-tana to the innocent people of Turkey with talk of fishing trips and pipes, and we are all subtly reminded about how much Victoria Fallgren despises Greek.  Meanwhile, most of these moments are being captured by my first ever life coach client, Dan Garrity.  Even though a lot of these scenes don’t make it into the Turkish Zag Travel Show, believe that they are all taking place on a rather frequent basis.

From all of these wonderful moments, I have learned a number of life lessons.  The first is that I should never (EVER!) refer to the goddess Cybele as “My goddess.”  What this will get you is a twisted ankle and an almost forgotten passport, as well as a lovely fall up the stairs.  I can thank Taylor Anne Sims for that lesson.  The second lesson I have learned is that if you are truly obsessed with anything, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to it as “my baby,” even if it is Alanna Redine’s giant stone aqueduct or a series of tiles arranged in a beautiful mosaic.  Third, if I ever have any sort of question about anything at all, Sydney Taylor will probably have the answer.  Fourth, brain soup does taste like chicken (unless Chastonie Chipman is lying to me).  But the most important lesson, though, is that if I ever return to Turkey, all of their movies in theaters are in English with Turkish subtitles.

For real, though, this adventure has been a truly amazing experience.  I recall quite vividly an interesting, yet rather funny incident involving a melon with Victoria Fallgren and Brian Joyce, the invention by Anthony Johnson of bus bowling (which we have not yet attempted), “Sorry for Party watching” with Hanna Hanks, and a few close calls with my roommate, who has a certain knack for losing things of which I won’t mention (*cough cough* Colin).  On top of all this, if I don’t have enough pictures by the end of this trip, I could probably get a handful of the several thousands that Adrew Opila and Duey Williams have taken in the last two days.

When I left for Istanbul 20 days ago, I knew only a few people adventuring with me.  Now, with 10 days left, I’ve developed friendships old and new with some people I never thought I would cross paths with, including an EMT named Brian Foster-Dow, a Zambian adventurer called Lauren Kuhn, and an Asian returning to her “homeland” with a pillow pet named Bucephalus.  All of these people, as my bus buddy Rachel might say, “are hella bangin’.”

I’ve loved ever location we’ve stopped and explored, but I must admit, with all of these people above – in addition to the skillful abilities of Dr. Goldman, Fr. Kuder, and Aydin to breathe life into these ruins – most of our stops would have seemed like decorative piles of rocks.  Never before have I seen a group of this size mesh so completely with each other.  Without the bad puns and complaints about the heat, I don’t think I truly would have enjoyed this trip as much as I have.  As I continue to travel, the more I realize that it is not about where I go or what I see, it is about whom I get to share these amazing experiences with.  I know that when fall rolls around, I will miss seeing these amazing individuals during every waking moment.  Yet, I will have enjoyed the journey because of the company I have shared and the laughs we have all had together.

July 22: Lauren Kuhn ’13 (Biology Major)


Anatolia, a rich place of life and love, open my heart and share memories of—
Of learning, of joy and of tears; all your experiences remembered
through the years.
In your hills, I find beauty; in your history, wisdom; with an open
heart, I’ve taken you into my bosom.
Am I wandering through you Anatolia?  Am I lost in your presence?  My
search is for transparency which is found in your residence.
A life without boundaries you lead; your heart and history on display
to all people indeed.
With eyes open I view you, with tears flowing I’ll leave—however far
away you are, within me you’ll always live.


July 22: Brian Joyce ’13 (Classical Civ Major, or so he promises!)

The Search for the Wine Dark Sea

Blind Homer, I now know your Wine Dark Sea.
So often I’ve pondered your words.
So often I thought I might have seen.
So many times I’ve been wrong.
You see, I was looking with my eyes
for a blind man’s poiema.
But today I found it.
I only had to come,
To walk the shore of Ilium.
Poseidon called. It was bloody hot out.
I answered him and jumped right in.
He commanded that I swim.
I obeyed, and surrendered myself to the current.
A floating suppliant, begging for relief from Apollo’s beating stare.
Then Blind Homer, darkness came, and like you, I could not see,
I felt the waves grow taller, yet they were quiet.
Up and down I rocked,
Up and down, at their mercy, I floated
as the water’s surface would rise and then bow
rise and bow in Poseidon’s praise.
And here in the dark, I saw it as only a blind man must:
Barely glinting light –from the gods know where–
bounced off the water’s rhythm,
Brief moments of maybe a form or an image of my locality.
The water, which I felt, smooth and dark
Untainted, no crashing barely showed itself.
And I knew that I must stop looking for your Sea,
For it had found me.
It was a constant prayer to Poseidon.
The waves disposed to a god
As I was disposed to the waves.
And here in my mortal disposition,
With my freshly darkened eyes,
I could not see where the water ended
and sky began.
And in the dark, my locality became an infinity:
Above and below
All around.
I floated in the liminality between
East and West
North, South
Up and Down
Endless dark wine.
Endless infinity
I floated as helplessly as I needed to be
in the water warmed by African heat.
And here a burble of poetry came out.
And here, Blind Homer, here I knew your Wine Dark Sea.
Silky and warm, it touched my skin.
The salt liquid filled my mouth.
Poseidon’s tears stung my eyes in the only sense that they could give,
for I was struck as blind as Paul
in that dark place.
And its eternity touched the rest of me.
And so here, Blind Homer,
I was given your old blind eyes
from the moment I jumped in.
I jumped into this act of perfect commitment
into this perfect surrender
into this perfect prayer
into the incalculable infinity
into that ancient mystery.
Yes, Blind Homer,
I swam with you
Into Poseidon’s Wine Dark Sea.


July 21: Taylor Ann Sims ’14 (International Studies/Classical Civ Major)

A thick crust of City covers the Tarsus St. Paul knew, the way a thick coat of sunscreen seems to have built up on us in the course of our trip. I can really relate to the modern city: like sunscreen, protection is progress; progress can be pretty dang comfortable.

In a couple places, someone seems to have absentmindedly rubbed a smidge of city away, leaving a bit of Classical Tarsus exposed to the sun. The city peels away from these exposed sites in the form of metal fences, like so much dead skin pulled back from raw, sun-burnt shoulders. It’s exciting though. It’s the sign, like any sun-kissed skin, of time passing and of great journeys.

You see so much knowledge basking in the light of day now, promising the windings of more streets with more buildings just screaming to be known, crying with the weight of the modern. How was this place structured? Are its piercings more marble or travertine? What graffiti tattooed its early skin? We can’t even see through the sunscreen now, let alone the natural layers of new skin. There’s a mad internal push to scratch the surface, to see, to know.

But for now I reach into my pack to make sure my own bottle of sun-screen is still half-full. I’ve spent some time building up this skin; I don’t know how high the cost to see beneath the sun-block.

July 21: Hanna Hanks ’14 (Biology/Classical Civ Major)

Nothing worth having comes easily. Over the course of our trip I have been constantly reminded of this fact, from the WWI memorial at Gallipoli to the mountaintop acropolis of Pergamum, but the point was driven home today when we traced the steps of the Sufi mystic Rumi through the halls of the Dervish school at Konya. It was at that moment, while walking through the mosque and standing before the tomb of the famous theologian, that I realized and could finally articulate the emotions I have experienced thus far.

Turkey is a stunningly beautiful country, but not in the way that some people expect. Some foreigners romanticize the country and thus imagine a place filled with perfectly preserved ancient temples, a tropical climate, and an exotic population. But when they first confront a Turkish toilet (a hole in the ground that may or may not be provided with toilet paper) or the relentlessly humid heat, they may be quickly disappointed. But it is through these striking differences from our native country that we can learn most about a new land, and more importantly about ourselves. In order to become a Dervish, one would first have to undergo 1001 days of suffering. Even if one was from a rich family, he would have to sit on a street corner and beg for money during this period, but through this act he would come to understand the life and trials of the poor. Similarly, we spend long days tramping through the dust and heat to better understand the origins and lifestyle of Turkish peoples. This experience might be lost on those for whom a room above 70 degrees Fahrenheit is uncomfortable or who can’t stand eating any food more interesting than broiled chicken.  But for those open to a true adventure, complete with the unexpected trials and tribulations inherent in such a life-changing journey, the pearl within the proverbial oyster awaits.

In the traditional Dervish dance, participants raise one hand up toward the sky while the other is turned downward. This gesture is a metaphor not only for the Sufi theology, that believers receive inspiration from God with the open hand and then give to others in turn with the other hand, but also for the way we should experience other cultures: by absorbing all that we can with an open mind and passing on all that we have learned to those who cannot experience it for themselves. To grow as people, we must momentarily abandon our preconceptions and plunge into the unknown with eyes and heart wide open. It is no coincidence that our 4-year education at Gonzaga adds up to approximately 1000 days; like Rumi and the Dervish, this is our time to get outside of ourselves, which is often an uncomfortable and trying period in our lives. As St. Ignatius urged Xavier, and as St. Paul did in his missionary journey, we should “go and set the world on fire” so that our passion enlightens both ourselves, from the inside out, and the various peoples we meet along the way.

July 21: Victoria Fallgren ’13 (Classical Civilizations Major)

  1. As Aydan wraps up his talk on Islam and we listen to Father Kuder read Rumi to us, it makes me think of the bonds of love we as a group have formed over these past few weeks.  We have adopted one another and accepted each other into this dysfunctional nomadic family.  Everyone brings different traits to the table, and together we are weaving the tapestry that will become each of our memories of this trip together.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I know mine will be colorful, bold, and wistfully nostalgic.  Growing up in a small family as an only child, this is one of the first experiences of my life that I’ve felt like I’ve had brothers and sisters.   Although admittedly, most families don’t contain seventeen children led by an archeologist, a tour-guide, and a priest.  Sounds a bit like the makings of a bad joke.  It’s rather strange to think about the transformation our friendships have undergone since we began our program meetings in January.  We were all friendly, and I think we all knew we would be having a great time together, but it was still markedly quiet.  When we got to Istanbul people seemed to getting more social, realizing we would be spending the next month together.  A little over the halfway mark, we have been completely immersed in each other’s friendships.  We know each other’s quirks, know when to leave someone alone when they need quiet time to brood, and look out for one another when we get sick.  When Father Kuder held mass at the house of Mother Mary last week, he touched on how we each are a blessing to each other.  I think that simple statement is something that gets forgotten easily in this ‘me’-world.  Every person here is a blessing to one another, not just a prop in our own specific story, and we should value each other, letting one another know they are appreciated.  There will be no going back to this loudly air-conditioned, insular world of our bus once we leave Istanbul in a couple of weeks, but I hope my classmates know just how much their friendship and companionship has meant to me during these weeks and that I will treasure these memories always.
  2. Throughout this trip, we have all bonded over myriad things.  Whether it is commiserating over the oppressive heat, or attempting to make heads or tales of our Pauline textbook, each experience we’ve had together has brought us closer together.  One of the most common motifs of bonding that I have seen throughout this trip, however, is water, or perhaps just liquid in general.  On the hot days when we are spending long hours on sites, the only thing we can think of is getting back to our air-conditioned bus and raiding the cooler for some cold water.  When we visited Hierapolis last week, I know I had been feeling drained and slightly overwhelmed by the enormity and thoroughness of our schedule.  But the moment my feet slid into the cool waters of the terraces of Pummakkale, every negative thought slid away and I was refreshed.  How many moans of satisfaction have we all heard from each other as we dive into the pool or wade into the ocean after a long day?  I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “bir bira!” calling for a beer, or how many toasts have been called, echoing our lessons from Father Kuder about the significance of early Christians breaking bread and taking wine together.  We’ve even suffered together with heat exhaustion or dehydration, trying to fend it off with, of course, more water.  Dr. Goldman has said it again and again, but we really can’t stress enough the significance of water to us during this month.  It has sustained us physically, by hydrating us; mentally, by allowing us to decompress,  and it has brought us closer together as a group.

July 20: Andrew “Duey” Williams ’13 (Political Science Major)

A Midsummer Night’s Realization

Perched on a rock overlooking the eternal flames of Chimera and the valley below, I watch our dear friend Aydin tell a joke. I have Indiana Jones running through my veins, the Mediterranean on my lips, and a thick layer of sweat covering my skin. I painstakingly attempt to absorb our past month’s journeys. We have struggled with heat and hunger, but have done so with a fierce resolve. My mind tries to fathom the elaborate connections from one archeological site to next. In the sands of Myra rest American republicanism. At Miletus I see the apostle Paul give his farewell address. There is just too much in the deserted cities and epic poems all the while posing for a goofy picture. I have to stop thinking just to remember I’m in frickin’ Turkey and enjoy the picturesque view and that gentle breeze cooling my skin. So I will summarize this feeling and trip in three words: life is good. In these three words rests so much more, though. There are mysteries, adventures, and beauty everywhere, from the jungles of Olympos to a bus drive through the Turkish countryside. I have come to many conclusions perched on my rock. We are as happy as we let ourselves to be. We can choose to truly live, or to sit idly by ourselves. Despite any of the misfortunes on this trip, though they have been few, or in life in general, we always have the ability to choose our attitude. I will stop my tirade and leave one lasting thought that captures our experience while in this country. We can only form the word “mu”, an expression which means awe, wonder, and speechlessness. Mu.

My Most Humble Regards, Andrew

July 20: Colin Johnson ’13 (Chemistry Major)

Today we went hiking in the ancient and virtually untouched ruins of the city of Termessos. I was most wowed by the incredible views of the surrounding mountains. After breaking into groups it was our task to determine what the different ancient structures were used for. I love the Classics majors but can’t say I share the same passion for some of the things we’ve seen as they do. This ancient site, however, really captured my interest and I was sad to leave. The theater was especially neat because it was positioned in a manner that took advantage of the view of the beautiful mountains that soared up around it. The ruins of the bath-gymnasium complex fascinated me because I did my research paper on the Roman baths. After climbing around, over, and through the remains of the baths, I was disappointed I couldn’t identify remains of the hypocaust heating system it would have employed.  Despite this, our visit to Termessos was something not to be forgotten.

July 17: Fr. Steve Kuder (Faculty, Religious Studies)

On our first day in Istanbul two weeks ago, several of us are walking down the broad street from Taksim Square to the Golden Horn.  Eyes right and there in a window, flashing red: Revolution Revelation.  Since I’ll be teaching a course on St. Paul and the First Urban Christians, I think, “Wow!  That sums up Paul’s conversion.”  It turns out to be a store-front art gallery with two banners in the window.  One proclaims:  “If we don’t break their rules, there will be tomorrow!”  And that’s Paul all over as we’re seeing letter by letter and Roman city by Roman city. And the other: “Provoke your own illumination: set yourself on fire.”  And that’s St. Ignatius of Loyola reminding us what Jesuit education is all about as it returns to Turkey after all these years.

July 14: Andrew Gorini ’13 (Classical Civilizations Major)

As I stood beneath an emaciated looking olive tree, and despite its patchwork shade, I silently praised God for every leaf that showered me with glorious protection. Walking around archaeological sites like Aphrodisias, my attention span fights a constant battle between indulging my academic lust by trying to translate every word of inscribed Greek I can find, and being magnetically drawn to any and every form of shade that exists. I often find myself standing beneath a diminished column, leaning up against the ruins of an ancient bath house, which we longingly wish still bubbled with fresh water, or even crouching in a primordial stance under the man-made shade of a fellow Zag, just to avoid the glare of the Turkish sun. Although health is always a priority and no one wants heat stroke, it is hard to think of taking it easy when there is so much civilization to experience and archaeology to explore. It would be much more comfortable to lay on a patch of green grass where the sprinklers make pretend of the desert and the heat; however, green grass can grow everywhere and I can’t find Greek temples in America. The heat is a part of our experience just as it is a part of Turkish culture, and that of ancient Anatolians. Given a culture that developed in such a dangerously arid environment, it is no wonder that hospitality was one of their hallmarks; it is hard to be civil when your throat is drier than the ground on which you walk and sweating feels like you’re being robbed of precious commodities.

July 13: Geoff Melder ’14 (Classical Civilizations Major)

Today offered an incredible experience for all of us as we continue to traverse across Anatolia.  Our major stop of the day was at the Temple of Apollo in Didyma.  This building is one of the largest temples in the ancient world, after the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Temple of Hera at Samos.  And believe me, this building was huge!  You can see it in photos or videos, but until you have a chance to view it in person, one has trouble realizing just how truly gigantic this monument is.

This has been my favorite stop on our adventures up to now.  One reason is probably my love for temples dedicated to ancient Greek deities.  But the main reason is due to a fabulous reenactment of the Oracle in which I was fortunate enough to participate (or star in, some might say).  We had the chance to ham it up for the cameras, as none of us are theater majors, and to just have some fun.  However, I do feel that this was a classroom session that I will not forget soon.  I find learning about history fascinating, but it’s something else to actually learn at the site itself.  Even better, I felt that we were truly participating in history with the reenactment.  By physically experiencing the activities at the oracle, learning about the site became that much more real.  I have had a fantastic experience so far, and I can’t wait for what’s coming around the corner.  Until next time!

July 11: Taylor Ann Sims ’14 (Classical Civilizations Major)

As one who has been running around Turkey and sighing over Greek inscriptions for about a week now, I could appreciate the insights of Dr. Nick Cahill, director of excavation at Sardis, as we wandered through that site.  Even with the other students who study Greek on the trip, it’s a struggle to translate anything quickly enough while moving through a site, especially when the inscriptions are damaged. However, people intimately associated with a site can supply the general translation and discuss ambiguities in the text with you, such as Dr. Cahill.

One inscription circling a column in the Temple of Artemis fades into near nothingness at one of the more significant points.  Prof. Cahill gave a translation which indicated that the column itself was “speaking” and describing its unique position as being “the first put into place”.  It’s a fun bit of carving.  One gets a sense of the joy of building, the personalities of the people who chose to carve such words. Even more telling was a rougher, sillier carving nearby. It’s almost out of place in the great, well-carved precinct of the temple. It reads “Shade me.” Struggling after days of intense heat, the class could appreciate the comedy of it, the dry humor of it.  In both these inscriptions, one feels the attachment to the place, the culture, something both light and noble.

July 8: Brian Foster-Dow ’14 (Classical Civilizations Major)

Every day since Day 1 of our study abroad program has been packed full of great experiences, and July 8th was no exception.  We started the morning with lectures from Father Kuder and Dr. Goldman.  After the lecture we had all of 15 minutes to gather our things and board the bus for our 30- to 40-minute journey to the site of the legendary city of Troy, which turns out was not a legend at all.

En route Brian J. and Victoria gave an impromptu review of the Iliad to get everyone in the right frame of mind for the experience.  Upon our arrival at the site, it felt as if it were in the 90s, with a pleasant 80% humidity, and a nice breeze.  As a group we toured the site with Dr. Goldman as our able guide, who gave us the background not only to the history of Troy as found in the archaeological record, but also  rich tapestry of stories from that extend from before the Bronze Age to the discovery and to the current state of excavations.

Because I was assisting with the camera team in documenting the record of our trip –okay,  I was carrying bags for the guys doing the shooting — I didn’t bring my own camera, so after the tour we had 20 minutes to tour the site on our own.  Relieved of my duties, I raced back to the bus and grabbed my camera and proceed to run around the site, stopping to take photos, and then racing on to the next photo op.  About halfway around I realized that like Hector, I was running around the walls of Troy.  But luckily since I was not being pursued by Achilles bent on doing me permanent harm, I merely made one lap around the city.

After Troy we returned to Canakkale for lunch.  A little advice: the next time you are in Turkey and you seen something on the table that looks like pickled green beans, resist the urge to eat one. Turns out they are pickled peppers which I believe they use to strip the paint off cars. On the positive side I gave the gentlemen working at the restaurant a good chuckle.

After lunch we had an unfortunately short time in the Canakkale Museum, where Rachel gave an excellent presentation on a sarcophagus that is housed in the museum.  On return to the hotel we were fortunate to have Fr. Kuder say Mass for us, and then got to spend a good hour or more at the pool, or swimming in the Dardanelles before dinner.

Well, that’s all for today.  Check in tomorrow where we will discuss our experiences at the sites of Assos and Alexander Troas.


July 8: Andrew Gorini ’13 (Classical Civilizations Major)

Standing, Were Dying

The afternoon sun that so well I knew,
The low-cut grass that to my feet did yield
The sweetness of shade that, like midday dew,
No longer my soul could it gently shield.
There lives a sad story in this here ground,
‘Tween the cliffs and the waves and the brush,
Where the seeds of youth were turned upside down,
And though noise surrounds, comes only a hush.
A hundred years past and something still stings,
Like muzzle to nape, like the fire of steel,
Men become corpses while death lowly signs,
With ages like mine, it seems all too real.
A death for a cause much greater than one,
But chosen by men whose homes hold their sons.
My mind goes numb when I dream of such life.
What human endeavor’s worth this much strife?


July 7: Charlie Nichols ’13 (History Major)

Merhaba everyone!

Today’s schedule included leaving the Maslak campus in Istanbul, driving to Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish), walking around some battlefield sites from World War I, and then taking a ferry to our hotel in Canakkale.  While this already may seem like a full day, this brief overview barely scratches the surface of what we experienced today.

The battlefield sites at Gallipoli were amazing and kind of overwhelming.  Nearly 200,000 British, Turkish, Australians, Indians, and New Zealanders died during nine months of battle and trench warfare.  While at the time the U.K. and Ottoman forces were enemies, years later the nationalities which divided these soldiers was forgotten in a statement from the war-hero-turned-nation-leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  He said, in 1934, “Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives. . . You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side-by-side here in this country. . . .”  Brian Foster-Dow played the bagpipe at the Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) cemetery and added to the indescribable feeling of the place, that sort of “MUH” feeling that Fr. Kuder taught us as indescribable.

We then moved on to the Turkish cemetery of the site, which commemorates their 57th Regiment whom Ataturk had to send to die for the war effort.  He literally said, “I am not sending you to fight, I am sending you to die.” Because they accepted and fulfilled their task the 57th Regiment has forever been retired in the Turkish military.  Once again, this was a very somber place, especially when looking back in history to all the other times blood has been shed on the Gallipoli peninsula, with the Peloponnesian wars and Persian invasions.

After this we left for Canakkale and our hotel.  We crossed the Dardanelles on a ferry and once again Brian played his bagpipe, this time for everyone on the ferry.  People were taking videos and pictures of him the whole time, so be on the look out for the new internet sensation, the Dardanelles Bagpiper!  Just a few hours ago we got into our hotel which is right on the Aegean — just a walk downstairs and we’re on the beach.  Most of the group has already gone swimming, the water is great, and tomorrow it will probably get a lot more use after we get back from Troy.

Thanks for checking in and look soon for the next post!    Charlie

July 6: Lauren Kuhn ’13 (Biology Major)


Istanbul is truly amazing.  Today Father Kuder lectured about the
concept of “mu,” which is a speechless feeling.  For example, when you
land your dream job and you can’t formulate a sentence, you’re
experiencing mu.  When you lose your purse or you get your car stolen,
you may experience mu.  Today, I don’t know how to explain Istanbul
because I too am in a state of mu.  If you imagine a history textbook
and the pictures within it, you’re not even getting close to what
we’re seeing here.  The combination of religions, the history of past
rulers and the beauty of the city have exceeded my expectations.

Today and yesterday we visited many sights, including traveling to the
Asian side of Istanbul.  One of the sights we saw (on the European
side) was the hippodrome, a former arena for chariot races.  The
length of the hippodrome is 440+ meters and three of its original
antiquities remain.  Chariot racing and the hippodrome of
Constantinople was my presentation and research topic.  I was the
first presenter of the 17 students and was thrilled to share my views
about the subject and stand in the hippodrome.  Right near the sight
are the city walls, Hagia Sophia and the Great Palace.  Of course,
these places also have lovely views of the sea.

From New Rome and the City of Constantine,  Lauren


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