PORTSMOUTH — This week, two Portsmouth High School teachers will show the community the "Turkish Nights and Turkish Delights" they experienced over two weeks spent — and 1,700 miles traveled — in Turkey over the summer.
"It was quite a trip and the most amazing experience," said Fay Montelione, a PHS geography teacher who, with fellow teacher Shannon Fernald, traveled to Turkey from July 16 to 24 through the Turkish Cultural Foundation and the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire.
"In exchange, they want us to promote the Turkish culture, and we came up with this idea," Montelione said.
From 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, at Portsmouth High, Fernald and Montelione will host Turkish Nights, Turkish Delights. The event will include a slideshow of the teachers' experience, Turkish cuisine made by the PHS Culinary Arts Program, a Turkish bazaar filled with items from local artisans, and an indoor yard sale. The event and culinary offerings are free, but donations will be accepted to benefit a school in a Turkish village.
To hold the event, the teachers have partnered with programs in the high school, including culinary arts and Web design. Teacher Terra Merry held a competition among students to create a flier to promote the evening, and sophomore Lily McClure's design is now on display throughout the school.
While in Turkey, Montelione and Fernald visited 12 cities — including Istanbul, Iznik, Aphrodisias, Konya and Cappadocia — and visited landmarks such as the Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.
The two traveled with a group of 25 teachers from across the Eastern seaboard. The Portsmouth teachers were selected after attending a workshop and submitting letters of intent and recommendations. Both said they had dreamed of a trip to Turkey for years and "this was the golden opportunity that fell into our laps," Montelione said.
In her course focusing on the modern Middle East, Fernald said the class talks of Turkey as a "bridge" to that region.
"But it's so much more than that. It's a beautiful culture, amazing history," Montelione said, adding that Turkey has become a larger part of her and Fernald's classes. "The history was probably a shock for us. It's hard as a social studies teacher to focus on one place, but there is so much to do. We've been bitten by it and it's hard not to tell the students how vital this place is."
Films like "Midnight Express" have fostered a negative impression of Turkey, and when the teachers told friends and family about their trip, they received a variety of reactions. But the two said they never felt unsafe or unwelcome in the country; in fact, they felt quite the opposite.
"They're a loyal friend to the U.S. in a region we often don't know who our friends and enemies are," Montelione said