Intercultural Exchange Trip to Turkey with ME State Senators and Representatives
Turkish Cultural Center Maine (TCCM) and Council of Turkic American Association (CTAA) organized a trip to Turkey for State Senator, Representatives and their spouses from Maine during June 22nd to 30th. The purpose of this trip is to better understand US-Turkish relationship, to see the developing economy, education and culture in Turkey and also to get a sense of the people and culture. Thus, itinerary of this trip was to visit Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Konya. Obviously, each province had different significance in terms of its own historical, cultural, educational and economical aspects.
Our journey began in Istanbul. As being the largest city in Turkey, Istanbul is the main city to witness Turkey’s economical situation, historical facts and Turkish culture within 13.5 million people living only in Istanbul. Boat tour in Istanbul was great to see all historical structures and landscapes of Istanbul. In order to understand and compare Turkey’s education system with other nations, especially with the United States, we visited Fetih College. Delegations learned about how Turkey’s education system keeps improving, the number of students attending universities every year, and how students can be accepted into university that they want by taking the exam. Since Istanbul is an historical city, we visited lots of museums such as; Kariye museum, Topkapi palace, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Underground cistern to understand Istanbul’s historical significance.
Second city was Izmir, which is the third populous city in Turkey and have a determinant importance for the Turkey’s economy within its imports and exports. We went to Ephesus in Izmir, which was an ancient Greek city within 250,000 people living during 1st Century BC. Around 550 BC, Izmir was famed for the Temple of Artemis that was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In addition, it was great to learn that in the Book of Revelation, Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia. We also visited the House of the Virgin Marry and learned about how she moved to Anatolia and stayed in Izmir many years ago. We saw that lots of Tourists come to the House of Virgin Marry to pray and if they have any desire that they want it to make it happen, they write and hang their wishes on the wall of whishes while they leave.
Next station was the capital of Turkey, Ankara. The purpose of our visit in Ankara was to meet with Members of the Grand National Assembly, Hon. Ahmet Oksuzkaya and Hon. Ismail Tamer to be well informed about Turkey’s current system such as; education, health and economic systems, as well as its foreign relations. For instance, we discussed Turkey’s efforts for Syrian people. Furthermore, we expressed our purpose of this trip to Members and our new project, which is to build a strong relations between the United States and Turkey by making the state of Maine and the city of Istanbul a sister city. Lastly, we had a long discussion about Turkey’s international relations and foreign policy with the director of foreign ministry of Turkey in international relations department.
The last city was Konya, which is in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. Konya also has very significant historical aspects since Seljuk era. Throughout our trip in Konya, we visited Mevlana museum because as being an Anatolian philosopher, Mevlana is a very important figure in terms of culture and religion.
Furthermore, when we went back to Istanbul, we had a very important meeting with the deputy mayor of Uskudar to enhance and persist the relationship between the United States and Turkey, especially to build a sister city among the state of Maine/Portland and the city of Istanbul, Uskudar. After the meeting, we visited the Maiden Tower which is the symbol of Uskudar and it has a great view of Istanbul. Lastly, Istanbul Productivity Businessmen Association (IVIAD) hosted a special dinner for us where we all had a long conversation about Turkey’s economy and how to improve the business relations between Maine/Portland and Istanbul. Throughout this trip, delegations admitted that dinners with families were very remarkable in terms of expressing Turkish Culture.