Local boys attend Space Camp... in Izmir, Turkey
Locals teach Southern Ute round dance to international students
The view from space shows an expanded horizon. So does the view from Space Camp in the Middle Eastern nation of Turkey.
Longtime Ignacio science teacher and Space Camp sponsor Danny Jaques took four local boys to Space Camp Turkey in June. They were Issac Suina of Ignacio and Sloan Mazur from Bayfield, who have attended previous Space Camps in Huntsville, Ala., and brothers Liam, also a previous Space Camper, and Nathan Foster from Durango.
They left here on June 20 and returned late on June 30.
"The trip was magical," Jaques said. "That's the best word I can use."
He's been taking kids to the Huntsville Space Camp for years. He met a woman who is marketing director for Space Camp Turkey at a Space Camp Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Huntsville. He learned Space Camp Turkey had been founded back around 2002 by a Turkish millionaire who wanted kids from various countries to learn about space and about each other and their cultures.
Last year on Facebook, Jaques asked the marketing woman how far Space Camp Turkey was from the Syrian border. Huge numbers of refugees have come into Turkey to flee violence in Syria.
Space Camp is 800 miles away on the far side of Turkey at Izmir. The city has around 3 million people and is very Westernized, Jaques said. It's on the coast of the Aegean Sea.
"I felt very safe there," he said, but with the qualification, "I've never experienced drivers like that. If it's a three-lane highway, cars will be four wide. The horn is essential equipment."
Jaques said he initially thought to go by himself, but the marketing woman wanted him to bring kids. She made up to 12 scholarships available, so the main cost to participants was the airplane tickets.
Space Camp Turkey has many aspects similar to Huntsville, but it also features presentations from each group of kids on their local culture. The La Plata County presentation included a Southern Ute Tribal round dance.
Out of around 180 kids, they were the only participants from the U.S. Other groups were from Israel, Palestine, Georgia, Bulgaria, France, Greece, and Kazakhstan.
"Most kids had English as a second language," Jaques said. "Presentations were about two-thirds in English, one-third in Turkish. I taught all the kids how to make paper airplanes and make them do loops."
He continued, "Kids are kids no matter where they are. When I asked our four boys what was the best part, they all said the same thing - getting to work with kids from around the world. ... I wish every American student would travel abroad and see how the people live. ... All these kids have dreams and aspirations. The kids were delightful."
It gets kids to work together, be kids together, and come away with a new world view, he said. He called the trip "a chance of a lifetime."
They also went to a bazaar in Izmir. The food was a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, also cheeses, with little meat. Jaques said their peaches were pretty good, but not as good as Palisade peaches.
Sloan Mazur, 15, said he wanted to go to Space Camp Turkey instead of in Huntsville, "because I've never left the country before. It was a really cool experience. I got to see the difference between Americans and other countries. The architecture is different. The way people behave is different all together. They are a lot more physical, more contact. There's a lot of hugging."
At Space Camp, he said, "I got to meet kids from all over the world, not just Turkey. France, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, (Palestinians from) Israel. The kids from Israel were kind of rowdy, the super noisy ones who never slept and didn't follow the rules." They spoke mainly in Arabic, he said.
They had one day of tourist activities, he said - an "elevator" attached to a cliff that took them up to where they could see a big part of the city and the sea; to a big bazaar where "there was a lot of haggling, a lot of people, and everybody seemed happy." They also got to see a fort known as Alexander's (as in Alexander the Great) castle on top of a hill that overlooked the entire city, and another castle that was mainly ruins.
The La Plata County group left for Turkey on June 20. They flew from Durango to Denver to Newark N.J., then to Stuttgart, Germany, and finally to Izmir. The return trip went to Munich, Germany, where they spent the night and the boys ate sausage, curry, and French fries and watched World Cup soccer on TV. The next day they flew to Houston, then Denver, and back to Durango.
"I definitely want to go again," Jaques said.
Mazur concluded, "It was a really good experience. I want to travel more because of it." A chaperone for the French group invited them to a science and arts convention in France next year, and he'd like to go to that.