Category Archives: Turkey

Priscilla Murray in Turkey

Name: Priscilla Mae Murray
Country of Service: Turkey
Place of Service: Konya (taught at Konya Maarif Koleji)
Dates in Service: 1967-1969
Keywords: Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, Youth

Accession Date: September 9, 2020
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.01 linear feet

Document Types:
• Correspondences
• Photographs

Sending Season’s Greetings: Holiday Cards from Abroad

There’s no place like home for the holidays but for Peace Corps Volunteers, it was difficult to return stateside at any point during their service, much less during any holiday. Peace Corps Volunteers reconnected with family and friends during the holidays through the mail. Holiday cards have been popular all over the world as a holiday tradition and PCVs found unique cards to send during their service abroad.

 

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Winifred Boge served in India from 1965-1967 and sent the card featured above home. While the written message inside sends warm wishes, the images of the card are clearly Indian. In another letter from Boge on December 9th, 1966, Boge writes, “[I] had thought to make ‘Christmas Cards’ but I don’t think I have time to be messing.” Instead, Boge must have sent this card home as substitute.

 

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Ed and Karen DeAntoni served in Turkey from 1964-1966 and sent many holiday cards to the states. One features a winter scene of the Parthenon in Athens with snow adorning its ruins. The other two holiday cards feature woodblock-esque prints with different holiday scenes. Inside as with the example below, there are holiday greetings in both Turkish and English and in some cases handwritten notes.

 

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No matter where they were, PCVs celebrated the holidays when they served abroad. Holiday cards were one way to send well wishes to their friends and family. Many found these cards in their respective locations, but most of these cards had a cultural twist depending on where they originated. Whether it be a different language or a different type of image on the card, many of the holiday cards PCVs sent were unique while still honoring the tradition of sending cards for the holidays.

 

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu.

Interview with Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Karen (Thode) DeAntoni

Last week, the Peace Corps Community Archive featured an interview with Robert Meade, a RPCV who served in Paraguay. This week we asked RPCV Karen (Thode) DeAntoni about her expereinces in Turkey. While serving in Turkey Karen met her future husband, Ed DeAntoni. Last year, we featured a post about their engagement and marriage in Turkey. Both Karen and Ed DeAntoni’s Peace Corps materials are located in the Peace Corps Community Archive.

Karen DeAntoni's Turkey IV biographical sketches booklet photograph. PCCA

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni’s Turkey IV biographical sketches booklet photograph. PCCA.

Q: What inspired you to enter the Peace Corps?

A: I had been considering joining the PC. I was just beginning my third year of teaching 9th grade English and French…and feeling restless. Then President Kennedy was assassinated, and that did it. I was so eager to do something more “worthwhile” than just teaching in a suburban school. I ordered forms immediately and by spring of 1964, I had been accepted. I requested Turkey and got my first choice.

Q: What surprised you most about your first few weeks outside the United States?

A: We had already had a month of training in Putney, VT, with the last 2 months to be in Istanbul. So I had had the culture and language training, pretty much 24/7 and “de-selection” had occurred. I knew what to expect. I think the food was the hardest part in those early weeks. I was shocked to go to breakfast at Robert College and have tea, plain yogurt, black olives, and bread waiting to start the day. I don’t think I had ever eaten lamb or eggplant or a lot of (olive) oil in my food. I had real trouble eating the early meals. (I was born/raised in South Dakota and hadn’t ventured into foreign foods.)

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni and Helen Evans in Istanbul, 1964, PCCA.

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni and Helen Evans in Istanbul, 1964, PCCA.

Q: What projects did you work on during your Peace Corps service and what challenges did you face during their completion?

A: I was assigned to teach English at Middle East Technical University, then an English-language university outside of Ankara. I was initially very disappointed because I had expected a “hardship site.” Because I had taught school before joining the PC, somehow they thought I was better equipped to teach these young (mostly) men than my peers who were fresh out of college. These METU students were not proficient in English. Most of my work was getting their grammar and written essays up to par, so they could perform better in their engineering classes. My students came from all over the Middle East–Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and of course, Turkey.

In the end, it was a great assignment. I loved teaching those kids and working with fellow Turkish teachers (all women) who were fluent in English, had spent time in the US or Britain, and accepted me as one of them. They also admired me because I lived “on the economy” and countered the “ugly American” stereotype. My roommate had a similar assignment at a medical school. Our apartment became a haven for volunteers in the field who needed some time in a city, an American toilet, a real shower, and some home-cooked food (Helen and I had mastered the market/shopping/ cooking routine by then). This was a good news/bad news experience. Turkish culture at that time believed if a single man and woman were in an apartment without a chaperone, they must be romantically involved. Helen and I promised our landlord that nothing of the sort ever went on (it didn’t), but I’m not sure he believed us. Our neighbors for sure did not.

There were two major challenges at work: First, the anti-American mood hit Turkey in the summer of 1965. I was traveling in Greece with friends (including my Volunteer husband-to-be) and helping with another PC training program in Istanbul during the 3 months. When I returned to METU, I was shocked at the militancy of my former students. The main issue was, of course, Vietnam, and I had really no explanation for why the US continued its deep involvement. It was not easy to defend. When back in the States, I would become heavily involved in the anti-war movement. It was easy to see the worldwide effect of U.S. foreign policy.

Secondly, the Turkish head of the English Dept. at METU was an extremely difficult man. He had been educated at Oxford and had an annoying air of arrogance about him. He was all about meetings where he pretended to listen to input from the teachers (both PCV’s and Turks), but then did things his own way. I don’t believe he had ever taught in a classroom and was completely ignorant of what planning went on, what needed changing, what we needed from the budget, etc. He was dismissive of Peace Corps teachers. It was even more distressful because the Turkish natives in the Dept. completely agreed with us. They were embarrassed at how we were treated, but could do nothing about it because their jobs were in jeopardy.  I became engaged to my current PC husband and we were married in January, 1966. My Turkish friends helped arrange our wedding (in the Italian Embassy chapel) and hosted our reception at a local “tennis club.” They were wonderful, and we remained friends via letters for several years!

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni, June 1965, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. PCCA.

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni, June 1965, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. PCCA.

Q: How has your Peace Corps service influenced you in your post-Peace Corps work?

A: I went on to continue teaching English for a total of 34 years.  My experiences in Turkey were never far from my duty at hand. I learned how to TEACH writing (something no college prepares prospective teachers how to do). I also learned how to run a department, how to listen, how to guide, and how to help my colleagues and interns evaluate and construct curriculum. I also coached a girls’ dance line, girls’ tennis, and cross country. Clearly, teaching–in the broadest sense of the word–was in my blood. I loved it.

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni with freinds' children, Turkey, Christmas 1964, PCCA.

Karen (Thode) DeAntoni with friends’ children, Turkey, Christmas 1964, PCCA.

Q: What advice would you give current and future Peace Corps volunteers?

A: Absorb all you can from your host country! Be patient. Laugh a lot. Try not to let negative experiences color your total experience. Master the language, if you can. If you can’t, do your best to become a part of your country and its inhabitants. If you don’t “love” them, let them love you. Don’t let your American ways be the only ways to do things. Defend what you believe about America. Don’t be afraid to agree with SOME criticisms of American foreign policy, including the military and its presence, if there is one. Stay “grounded”; make close friends with other PCV’s, for support, but don’t behave foolishly. It could come back to haunt you. And remember: this could be the most significant experience of your life!

That’s about it. I want to say that Ed and I still have a deep love for Turkey. We have been back twice, once to take our son and his wife so they could see why we loved it. We continue to cook Turkish food, use Turkish expressions in our daily conversations, and read anything we can about what is going on there. Our being wedded there and sharing the experience have been a great boon to our marriage (Note: we are coming up on our 50th wedding anniversary! We would love to celebrate it there, but January weather and expenses will keep us here with our sons, their wives, and grandchildren.)

And finally…the mailman just delivered a letter from a former student from 25 years ago who wants to reconnect. (Of course, I will!) And thanks me for being such “a wonderful teacher of life and literature.”

You can’t beat that for continual rewards…

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Finds in the PCCA

The Peace Corps Community Archive is more than old documents and  photos.  In fact, the collection contains a few unexpected items.

Travel Brochures

Travel guides and brochures found in Steven Bossi’s collection.

Steve Bossi’s collection includes vibrant travel brochures, guidebooks, and maps of India in the 1960s.  Guidebooks from Delhi and Agra include images and maps depicting the cities’ beautiful architecture and historic and religious sites.  Each guidebook provides an historic overview of the city and its tourist attractions.  The colorful maps reveal popular sites and accommodations, as well as industries, agriculture, infrastructure projects, and “handicrafts emporiums” found throughout the region.

Maps

Maps and travel guide from Steven Bossi’s collection.

Located amid the DeAntoni’s correspondence are Turkish greeting cards.  Karen DeAntoni sent the cards to family members in the United States in 1965.  The cards include embossed images and prints of engravings depicting Turkey’s culture and history.

Embossed Cards

Turkish embossed cards sent by Karen DeAntoni.

Engraved Cards

Top: An engraving of the rock relief at Yazilikaya–the Hitite King Tudhaliya IV. Engraving created by Charles Texier in the 1830s. Bottom: Ankara in 1701. From an engraving by Pitton de Tournefort.

Not only are these visually interesting, but they provide a new perspective of the places Peace Corps volunteers called home.

 

 

 

Love and Marriage in the Peace Corps

Not only did the Peace Corps experience provide opportunities to travel and develop skills, but also led to the development of romantic relationships between volunteers.  Norm Heise noted the Peace Corps’ reputation for “being the best ‘unofficial matrimonial agency’ going at the time.”  The PCCA collection includes several stories of volunteers’ dating escapades, but there are also two instances where volunteers married during their service.

August 18, 1963, St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University

Norm and Janet served as teachers at Toro Teaching Training College, in Northern Nigeria, from 1963-1965.  After meeting in training at Columbia University, Norm Heise proposed to Janet Driggs.  The two had known each other for less than a week.  The couple married in August before departing in September for their assignments in Nigeria.  As a result of their marriage, Peace Corps altered their placements to ensure the couple traveled, lived, and shared the experience together.  Their collection includes photos and stories of their work in Nigeria.

Norm and Janet Heise in Toro, Nigeria, 1963

The DeAntoni’s story is a bit different.  Both members of Turkey IV, Ed and Karen met during training and maintained contact while working in separate towns.  The two friends began a romantic relationship, in the midst of their service, after connecting at a party.  Karen wrote her parents on August 12, 1965, “I’m afraid this will come as an awful surprise, but then it’s more fun that way—last night I got engaged!”  Because of the distance and the realization her parents did not know Ed, Karen anxiously awaited their response.  Ed informed his parents by writing, “Before you start reading this, sit down, get composed, light a cigarette…In a word, it’s too good to be true.  Karen and I became engaged last night, and I’m so happy I could cry.”  Their collection of letters uniquely presents their same experiences from different points of view.

Karen’s letter to her parents announcing her engagement to Ed DeAntoni, August 12, 1965

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Karen’s letter (pg. 2), August 12, 1965

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Karen’s letter (pg. 3), August 12, 1965

Although Ed and Karen initially planned to return to the US to marry, they quickly decided to hold a wedding in Ankara, Turkey.  Their desire to travel together, avoid inconveniencing roommates, and being in love seemed sufficient enough.  The approaching marriage influenced many of the couple’s letters home—especially Karen’s—discuss wedding plans, financial needs, and concerns about family planning.

The DeAntoni’s wedding invitation, 1966

It is not surprising that living closely with other volunteers and sharing life-changing experiences established lasting bonds—both friendly and romantic.  In a letter to his parents, Ed explained, “This common experience has given us a tremendous basis for learning about each other, a common feeling for so many things, and the ground for our love to grow and flourish.”  For many volunteers, this experience of surviving a new place, establishing relationships, and sharing similar goals fostered the development of many romantic relationships.

Ed and Karen DeAntoni in Turkey

Ed and Karen Thode DeAntoni

Country of Service: Turkey IV
Place of Service: Unye and Ankara
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1964-1966
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: March 6, 2014; May 15, 2014
Access: Authors must be credited in subsequent uses
Collection Size: 1.75 linear feet

Document Types

  • Correspondence
  • Biographical sketches of Turkey 4-A
  • Peace Corps training materials including Turkish language manuals and notes
  • Peace Corps publications relating to serving and living overseas
  • Turkish Tourism Materials
  • Training materials of Turkey 12, Summer 1966 at Occidental College, CA
  • Map of Ed and Karen Thode DeAntoni’s travels in Turkey, 1965-1966, for slide presentations at Occidental
  • CD of photographs from training at the School for International Living in Putney, VT