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McKeesport Area teachers visit Turkey
TribLive, 29.09.2010

Two history teachers at McKeesport Area High School will be able to talk Turkey with their students.

That's the nation of Turkey, where Tim Kunes and Robin Tyke were part of a July study tour.

"They send us to Turkey and we hopefully will come back and teach Turkey more accurately," Kunes said Tuesday.

"They" were the tour sponsors, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and Turkish Cultural Foundation.

"Robin and I have been involved with the World Affairs Council for many years," said Kunes, of North Versailles Township.

"For 12-15 years to be sure," added Tyke, a White Oak native living in Export.

The tour went to such historic landmarks as Izmir, called Smyrna in antiquity, and Kusadasi, on the site of ancient Ephesus, but also gave participants a modern look at Turkey.

"It is one of the few secular countries that are inhabited by Muslims," Kunes said.

That viewpoint disabused Tyke of much of what she thought she knew.

"We lump Turkey into the Middle East," Tyke said. "All I learned as a kid was about the Crusades."

For their tour guides, history included the impact of Christianity and pre-Christian peoples as well as of Islam on Turkey.

Kunes said the teachers visited a temple at Ephesus where the goddess Diana was worshipped.

"(The guides) tied in the whole framework," Tyke said. "They weren't trying to indoctrinate us."

In the wake of the medieval Crusades an Ottoman Empire would reach to the ancient Byzantine capital of Constantinople, a city straddling Europe and Asia that now is known as Istanbul.

That empire crumbled after World War I and in 1923 Mustafa Kemal established the secular republic of Turkey.

Kemal later took the surname Ataturk.

"He had everyone take a surname where no one had a last name," Kunes said.

"He is so revered over there," Tyke said.

Turkey looks both east and west.

"Turkey has to have two different faces at this point," Kunes said.

It is a member of the NATO and seeks to join the European Union.

"They're trying to be the nice next-door neighbor to Europe," Tyke said.

Turkey also made the news because a flotilla sailing under a Turkish flag had a confrontation with Israeli forces seeking to enforce a blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Still, Kunes said, the military remained pro-Israel, even with a government led by a Muslim religious party.

"Even though they don't like (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan) for his religious stance, (the people) like him because the economy is booming right now," Kunes said.

The military remains a force feared by civilians.

"There have been four military coups since the formation of the republic," Kunes said.

In February some 40 people, including top military figures, were arrested over an alleged coup plot dating back to 2003.

"The government arrested a lot of high-ranking military officials and academics, thinking they were planning to overthrow the government," Tyke said.

Despite all the problems, the teachers said everything seemed laid back in Turkey.

Given recent economic problems in EU nations such as neighboring Greece, Kunes speculated that Turkey almost may be "better off on a holding pattern."

It was a study tour but it also had its lighter moments.

"I have more pictures of food than I do of us," Tyke said.

"I'm Turkish by consumption," Kunes said, recalling the feta cheese and olives he ate, not to mention such items as gyros and baklava many in the West consider Greek but the Turks claim they invented.

Source : TribLive