Dispatches from Turkey and Jordan: Studies of this ancient ground

Josh Ambrose
May 21, 2007
picture of man with glasses

Josh Ambrose, a recent Penn State graduate from the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts, writes from the Middle East while exploring soils of ancient and modern civilizations. Ambrose and five classmates will spend four weeks traveling Turkey and Jordan with Kate Butler, senior lecturer in soil science. Stay tuned for dispatches as Ambrose discovers and describes the relationship between soils and society.

Dispatch 1: May 16, 2007

Urgup, Turkey

This morning, a raspy call to prayer sobbed into the night from the nearby spindle of a minaret. I squinted into the pre-dawn darkness of Urgup, Turkey. I listened, still half-asleep. Then, with the filmy hotel curtain blowing in on a curiously still, dry gust of air, I closed my tired eyes again.

I had left my fiancée of two weeks less than twenty-four hours earlier on the 14th and joined my five other classmates at the JFK airport. A graduating senior, this trip to the Middle East will be the last academic experience of my undergraduate career. And what a trip it will be! My classmates and I are part of Soils 497H—a Penn State class that set out to explore the interrelationship between the types of soil that we live on and the different kinds of civilizations that arise and develop on top of them.

ancient town
Julien Apack

The Cappadocia region of Turkey is known for its cave buildings.

As such, our three and a half week trip will spend time on a wide variety of agricultural and historical sites throughout Turkey and Jordan, exploring the questions and answers that we find, both ancient and modern. We are being led by Dr. Kate Butler, senior lecturer in soil science, who taught the first spring semester-long portion of the class. Despite its close link with the soils and agricultural departments, the class is interdisciplinary. (My own major and Schreyer Honors thesis was done through the English department.) Needless to say, my classmates in my literature courses looked at me oddly whenever I mentioned my soils class and trip.

After leaving JFK around 4:30 p.m., I opened up the complimentary newspaper copy the flight attendant gave me. News about Turkey's mass protests over recent elections was a few pages in, accompanied by another story about the Turkish and Jordanian-born conspirators recently arrested for plotting to assault Fort Dix. Seated exactly in the middle of my seven-chair wide row, I knew instantly that this trip had the potential to confront my cultural stereotypes and open my international vision like no other trip I had ever taken.

Halfway through the flight, my good friend Jessica came up to share about the Turkish musician she was sitting beside, several aisles back.

"He's a nudist! And got married in a tree—what a hippie!" she stage-whispered. Yes, stereotypes would be quickly shattered. Jessica returned to her seat and I returned to my book with amusement as we continued our flight of over ten hours and nearly 4,000 miles. The rest of the class was scattered throughout the plane as we flew into a timezone that was literally "tomorrow." My classmates are surprisingly well-traveled. The six of us have collectively traveled to almost thirty countries, from Argentina to Germany, Peru to Syria.

After touching down and taking a quick nap sprawled across sticky airport chairs in Istanbul, Turkey, we boarded a more spacious commuter plane for Kayseri, Turkey. We landed in the smaller city another hour and a half later, our mouths dropping open at the sight of the snow-capped mountain towering above the terracotta-capped buildings of Kayseri. Our first guide, a previous acquaintance of Dr. Butler's, was waiting for us. We immediately boarded a van and drove through fields of young wheat and small grapevines to our hotel in nearby Urgup.

Once we arrived and drank our welcoming cups of Turkish tea and coffee, we wanted to hit the sack—but couldn't do that yet. With a seven hour time difference from America, it was only hours after noon. If we were going to successfully acclimate to the time difference, we had to brace our sleep-deprived bodies for another few hours. To combat our exhaustion, it was decided that we would go on a hike through the nearby Red Valley—the famous Cappidocia region.

Eerily similar to the Badlands of America's midwest, the stone and compacted-dirt piles of the valley were scattered in every direction, as far as the eye could see. Consuming thoughts of sleep quickly left our minds as we pulled out cameras and began our three hour hike. A valley that used to be a lake, the rock piles had been formed from dust and ash from the nearby mountains—once continuously active volcanoes—millions of years ago.

Wind and water erosion had since left the rock piles we now saw in every direction. They were first inhabitated some four thousand years ago by the ancient Hittites, who began carving caves into their wide pillars for storage and habitation. According to our guide, it was after the Romans and during the Byzantium period that the area reached its peak habitation, with persecuted Christians seeking refuge from neighboring, hostile Arab tribes around the second century CE. Some of their hollowed-out dwellings reached depths of seven stories in depth. We are scheduled to take a closer look at the most impressive of these cave dwellings later in the week.

old room in rock
Richard Beck

Churches carved into the rock draw tourists to the towns of Goreme and Urdup.

On our hike, we rushed from outcropping to outcropping on the valley rim before walking down into the actual trough below. The red earth, we were told, was from iron sedimentation, yellow soil from sulphurous sedimentation, the white and tan ground bleached of all mineral depositation. In more recent times, the area was home to some of the most fertile vineyards and fields of this area of Turkey. Locals kept enormous flocks of pigeons in the caves and gathered their guano to fertilize the soil. Combined with carefully managed irrigation, this led to a continuous, assured harvest. Yet, within the last generation, this time-honored practice has taken a fatal hit, due to the increased availability of commercial fertilizers and migration to the cities. Although farmers once achieved a higher quality yield from the guano, the guaranteed quantity of fertilizer-supplemented potatoes has won out. Similar to the farming situation in many parts of rural India, this has now led to a troubling cycle of deep debt to government subsidies and a decline in single family agrarian holdings in the area.

Yet, in the last generation, this time-honored practice has taken a significant hit, due to the increased availability of commercial fertilizers and migration to the cities.

Thankfully, due in no small part to a rise in tourism and a near-disastrous overdose of fertilization, the old ways are being explored and cultivated once again. The landscape that we now explored as the sun fell was largely empty of current habitation. To many of us, it was nothing like anything we had ever seen or heard of before, a completely novel experience. We returned to our hotel that night quiet and awed. Already, the long, cramped plane ride had been worth it. We turned in to bed as the first nighttime call to prayer rang out throughout the neighborhood and a Turkish-overdubbed "Shrek" played on TV.

I am writing this now from a small cafe in Urgup after a full fourteen hours of sleep. We have most of the day off to get fully used to the time difference and the bright, piercing heat. Overhead, fans are swiftly turning and a mix of Eastern and Western pop tunes are playing in an amusing juxtaposition of styles. It's always amusing to hear "My Humps" followed by a sitar melody! My time is up now, but I hope to have more updates and pictures coming soon...

Dispatch 2: May 22, 2007

Gaziantep, Turkey

As the lights dimmed again, anticipatory applause came up from Turkish townspeople around us. We were being regaled with a litany of traditional farm dances at a fairly upscale restaurant at the end of our stay in Urgup. The musicians in a nearby corner rested their instruments as a sultry beat came on over the speakers. Within moments, a bellydancer glided out on stage. Not entirely comfortable with this cultural practice, I decided to focus my camera on capturing the varied responses from the other members of the audience across the room. Then, disaster struck. After the applause faded after her first act, the house lights came on. The dancer started coming to the edge of the raised platform in the middle of the room...toward me. She held out her hand imperiously. Me? I laughed and tried to politely back out, tactfully communicate without a common language. She grabbed my hand. There was no getting around it. I clambered up on the platform as she continued to cycle round the room and select a number of other "volunteers" to shimmy their stuff with her. I waited my turn with a mix of cheerful dread and complete, fascinated amusement.

building with silver dome
Josh Ambrose

The Isa Bey mosque in Selcuk, Turkey.

The intersection of cultures continues to be a major theme of our trip. Everywhere we travel, we both observe and experience the old meeting the new, the east meeting the west. Our dancing hasn't been contained to restaurants, either. On May 20th, our first day in the eastern university town of Gaziantep, we joined in a student festival late at night. There, we were soon pulled into a whirling circle of students dressed in primarily western garb to celebrate Ataturk Day, commemorating Kemal Ataturk, credited with initiating the Turkish national liberation movement in 1919 and solidifying the country's status as a liberal democracy. While the students of the University were quick to affirm their affinity for the visiting westerners, some of the security guards were less hospitable later during a miscommunication over room issues, reprimanding us in stern Turkish for our perceived moral failings.

Later, during a firmly hospitable meeting with Erhan Ekinci, the President of Gaziantep University, he referenced his experience as a military doctor of over fifteen years as he explained the continuing role of Turkey's large standing army in intervening to preserve a democratic regime. It was written into the constitution, he explained, that whenever the government was deemed to be in danger of falling to conservative control, the army was required to step in and maintain a short period of oversight until a new democratic government could be elected. The University President referenced the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan as he spoke of the necessity of this policy and explained the perceived threat of a liberal, democratic country to more conservative Islamic political systems. The President asked about our viewpoint towards America's foreign policy with a sharp eye, his pro-intervention stance soon becoming clearly, yet politely, apparent. Our class listened, fascinated by his perspective. In a small example of the tension over these issues in Turkey, we also learned that while it was forbidden to wear head coverings on campus, many young women were being given financial support by new conservative programs of the current administration to wear them—a move deemed political, rather than religious, by our hosts.

While based in Gaziantep, we took time to visit several agriculture sites in the region, including a 2,500 hectare plantation not far from the Syrian border. Occupying space that used to be a wide lakebed, we took numerous pH and soil moisture readings from the soil. The ground was surprisingly moist in contrast to the hot, arid day. The reason, of course, was the high levels of irrigation farmers in the valley had been maintaining for years. Talking to the wealthy owner of the land, we soon found that this practice has not been without significant cost. Thirty years ago, farmers could reach the water table with a three-meter deep well. Today, they have to go down at least one hundred and fifty meters to reach the dropping water table. In some areas of the valley, farmers go down more than three hundred meters. While the land is still fertile and moist, the future environmental cost of their liberal flooding of their fields has the potential to be quite significant. In addition, while the prosperous land-owner we talked to had little financial difficulty with the energy demands of such practices, the increasing dependence of farmers on electricity-dependent technologies, fertilizers, and the like has driven many small-scale farmers into deep debt to both government subsidization and private loans.

soft rock in cave
Josh Ambrose

Many caves were carved into the soft volcanic rock of the region.

As in America, this has led to a parallel increase in the rise of large corporate agricultural establishments. This was certainly the case with a large potato storage facility we visited in a mountain several hours away from the Cappadocia region. With vast chambers carved into the cool, temperature-static rock of the mountainside, their clients were increasingly conglomerates such as Frito-Lay and Kraft, who paid the potato-storage facility to lease land from the farmers and store up hundreds of thousands of tons of potatoes for future use.

We are now stationed in Selcuk, near the ancient city of Ephesus. Land management and soil practices here, both historic and present, are completely fascinating. I'll be talking about them in my next dispatch, along with our observations of the excavations at Troy and the other cities coming up in our itinerary. I hope to have the next update posted before we're in Istanbul and flying out to Jordan, but I am, as always, dependent on finding Internet access...stay tuned!

Dispatch 3: May 24, 2007

Ephesus and Troy, Turkey

One of the main premises of the Soils 497H course that sponsored this trip is that soil affects civilizations and civilizations, in turn, affect the environment around them. Yesterday, we saw a perfect example of this premise in the dramatic ruins of Ephesus. Wandering around the classical ruins of the bygone city, once over two hundred and fifty thousand strong, the barrenness of what was once a thriving harbor-side metropolis was hard to ignore, even amongst throngs of photo-snapping tourists. What had happened?

ruined building with marble columns
Kim Perry

Library of Celsus at Ephesus

Settled centuries before Christ, the city's deep harbor and strategic location on the Aegean Sea helped bring it to prominence as a powerful city-state from the time of the early Hittites up through the impressive reign of the Roman Empire. It was at Ephesus that the Christian apostle Paul provoked a riot in defense of the cult of Artemis. And it was at Ephesus that the disciple John was rumored to have retired with Mary, the mother of Christ, during what would have been the most prosperous and populous period of the city's history. With an extensive sewer system, meandering piping bringing central heating to the wealthy, and a library, amphitheatre, and arena to rival any in Italy, the Romans took advantage of the harbor and the fertile valleys around Ephesus to build up a truly extensive city-state. As we walked over the ancient quarried stones and joined with the wide-eyed tourists from around the globe, it was impossible not to be impressed by the testament of tall marble columns and the mystery of half-eroded statues of gods and generals.

Yet their grandeur was not realized without significant cost to the beautiful environment around the sprawling city. As Ephesus continued to expand and grow upwards, the mountainsides and riverbanks increasingly eroded by deforestation and over-zealous development. As the once-fertile soil around the city slipped into the sea, the harbor steadily filled in, despite persistent dredging efforts of its governors and, eventually, the oversight of the Byzantium Empire. As Arab militants repeatedly assaulted the city in the eighth century AD, its dwindling population finally gave up the fight and moved out. By that time, the once close Aegean Sea was separated from the paved roads and extensive shop systems by several kilometers of firm earth. When we looked in the direction of the sea, orchards and farm roads met our gaze. While the land was ultimately able to bounce back from its one-time abuse, the costly lesson was still clear as we looked out from the crumbling ruins of a civilization at the sparsely-populated, eye-catching, countryside around us.

goats graze on a hill
Ken Dennis

Goats grazing

The day before our trip to Troy, we had taken an afternoon off from study and rented cheap motorbikes. Braving a chill rain, we rode throughout our nearby hamlet of Selchuk, noting the farmers' tractors parked outside the low-lying roofs of their white-washed homes. As twilight fell, we drove up a mountainside, where women in scarves filled plastic bottles from a high road-side spring that used to feed far-off Ephesus' aqueduct. The sun set—amazing purple and yellow light over the orchards below us—and in the idyllic scene, horses crunched on grass in a nearby pasture. We drank in the uncluttered scene. That the land today was green and the people content seemed to be a fair assessment. Yet I couldn't help to compare it to the farms we had visited earlier in the week, increasingly threatened by large-scale land-holdings and dangerously affected resources. What would be the fate here as it is so many other places in our world, if the local population exploded once more? Back home in United States, our own country's small-scale farmers are increasingly facing similar challenges as we increasingly import our groceries and buy our food from large corporations. From what history has told us, proper management and respect for the land and resources we all utilize is absolutely essential.

Today we observed soil in an entirely different manner as we explored the ruins of what is popularly believed to Troy. An ancient grassy mound or "tell," early excavations began in the mid-nineteenth century. While little remains were found to definitively pinpoint its authenticity as the city that Homer wrote about in the Illiad, the differing layers of soil were found to show nine distinctive time periods in the city's development. Layer six or seven is now believed to be the one that hosted the famous battles over treacherous love, marked by heroic feats and military cunning. Today, all that remains of former ambition are some salvaged bricks and metal artifacts, wild wheat now growing in and around the ruins. As elsewhere in our travels, clusters of grape vines and groupings of olive trees dot the landscape below the ruins. The beauty and promise of Turkey's resources continues to impress us at every step. It is our hope that her farmers—and the powers of society the world over—continue to grow in their appreciation for the wealth beneath their feet.

giant Trojan Horse

A Trojan Horse was given as a gift to Turkey.

As we head to Istanbul tomorrow morning, we are excited to see the Haggia Sophia, Blue Mosque, and a few other notable sites of one of the east's most historic and revered cities. Then, in less than forty-eight hours, it's off to Jordan. As we go along, we continue to look forward to encountering cultural situations far outside of our normal realm of experience and worldview. Additionally, we look forward to observing the arid soil and climate of Jordan, where we will see first-hand the numerous creative ways that both farmers and citizens alike value and utilize one of their most valuable resources—water, the most necessary of all resources for all forms of life.

Dispatch 4: May 30, 2007

Jawa and Azraq, Jordan

Would we ever find our way back to the highway and out of the desert? A plume of reddish dust rose from the barely discernible outlines of a road as we began to travel south through Jordan, within sight of the Syrian border, on our way to a remote archaeological site named Jawa. Our SUVs were doing something you don't normally see them do in America—being put to good use. The "road" we were on wound through the sand and rocks, marked only by small piles of stone. The landscape was absolutely barren in every direction, bringing a new appreciation to the term "wandering in the desert."

Yet, once we eventually arrived at our destination, the environmental resourcefulness of those that used to live in the tumbled piles of stone that now topped the desert hill was striking. Cisterns and water channels ensured that every possible drop of water could be caught and utilized. It was an ingenuity that was mirrored in several other Nabataean sites we saw on our three day trek through the most arid regions of Jordan, part of an extensive trading kingdom based out of Petra that flourished around the time of Christ.

man standing in wheat field

Most of Jordan's land is not arable, but wheat and barley grow in the rain-fed uplands.

Several days later, we were back in the relatively wet area of Jordan, in the occasionally rain-fed mountains surrounding the Jordan River Valley. While riding between archaeological sites, we stopped at several interesting agricultural fields we spied along the roadside. Almost all had a sizable olive grove—one of the main cash crops of Jordan and uniquely suited for its arid climate. According to our guide, olive trees are normally cut from shoots that develop around the base of the trees. These trees take ten to twenty years to come to fruition, but can have a lifespan of hundreds of years. Recently, new cultivation strategies have developed a process where shoots are cut from the top of the tree and then immersed in plant growth hormone treatment. This leads to the new trees coming to fruition in only a year or two. The trade off, however, is that the trees only last for a maximum of ten years or so before they cease to bear fruit.

Our soil sampling at these sites often indicated ground with an unusually high pH. Our guide told us that they plow three times per year, on such a regular basis that people refer to first, second, or third plowing as a seasonal marker. We fingered the pebble-filled soil and looked around. Nearby wheat fields waved in the breeze, causing more than a few in our group to reference the movie Gladiator.

The difference in the complexity of dwellings and cities according to the type of soils available is readily apparent, even within the relatively small geographic confines of Jordan. Out in the desert, small, typically nomadic Bedouin communities have been the norm for thousands of years, while areas with richer soils have led to the growth of cities that today number in the tens of thousands. Still, even the more agriculturally gifted areas of Jordan are increasingly feeling the strain of her expanding population. Thanks to its strategic geographic and political location, Jordan has an extremely high level of immigrants settling in her borders—including over an estimated million refugees from Iraq. Long pressed for good water sources, this has contributed to an ever growing water need in Jordan that runs a constant risk of hitting crisis levels.

This was eloquently spelled out in the oasis of the Azraq wetlands preserve we visited. Home to thousands of birds and a staggering array of biodiversity, the Azraq wetlands have been an oasis in the desert for hundreds of years. However, within the last generation, that oasis has almost completely dried up due to extensive pumping—one in four glasses of water drunk in the capital city of Amman comes from Azraq. Today, the only reason the diverse oasis continues to exist is thanks to reclaimed wastewater being pumped back into the wetlands reed-filled banks.

wetlands with wooden walkway

The Azraq Wetland Reserve in Jordan

The conservation of the wetlands is spearheaded by Jordan's parallel to America's National Park Service—the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). A non-governmental organization, the RSCN has nonetheless been given the responsibility of protecting and managing Jordan's natural resources. Early on in our trip, we met with the director of the RSCN, Mr. Chris Jordan, during a meeting at their headquarters in Amman. The building we met in was designed with the utmost of environmental considerations, recycling a wide variety of used consumer goods and building materials. With a motto of "Helping Nature, Helping People," Mr. Thompson eloquently described the organization's challenge of finding ways to make environmentally-friendly practices reap a greater profit for the burgeoning, resource-challenged population of Jordan.

Increasingly, eco-tourism is being seen as a way to augment the already thriving historical tourism business of Jordan that provides an income for so many of her people. Additionally, the RSCN is striving to find ways to disseminate information on protecting the country's natural resources. For example, in addition to pumping the wetlands for drinking water, the RSCN is helping to raise awareness of the value of wetlands as a living filter for water tainted by various contaminants.

Jordanians are well aware of the value of water, so such arguments carry great weight and have seen increasing success with the public. Resourcefulness is a trademark of a country that has repeatedly been listed among the ten water-poorest countries of the world. None of the places we have stayed at are linked to city pipes—all water comes from rooftop containers and are refilled by a steadily circulating fleet of water trucks. Jordan's water ingenuity can perhaps best be epitomized by the water channels of Petra, where we're headed next—the towering Nabataen city carved into a remote rock canyon and featured in the movie Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.

Stay tuned for the fifth and last update and a plethora of pictures from our journeys!

Dispatch 5: June 7, 2007

Wadi Rum, Petra, and the Jordan Valley

three people riding on camels

Ride like the wind.

The rumors were true. My nose curled as I bounced up and down from my perch high above the sand. There was no way around it. Camels smelled! It was June fourth and we were on our way back from camping in Wadi Rum, the largest desert preserve in Jordan and home to the natural rock formations described by Lawrence of Arabia as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Ahead of Jess and me, Amy and Sandy followed along behind our tour guide, Ra'ed, trying to meet the pace set by Adam and the limber mount he had already named "Speedy." Behind, Zach was a little less thrilled with his camel as the two exchanged baleful stares over a slow plod of a pace. I squinted against the desert sun reflecting off the different hues of sand. The night before, the stars had been the clearest I had ever seen them, without any light pollution clouding our nighttime vision. Awe filled our entire group as we lay on the ground once trod by Moses and the other ancients and now traversed by nomadic Bedouin tribes, and looked up at the stars.

Two days previously, we had explored one of the most anticipated spots on our tour—Petra. Hidden in rocky desert canyons a good one hundred and twenty kilometers from Wadi Rum, the city has long taken on near-mythic status, thanks in no small part to its prominent spotlight in the media. Lost from the public eye for centuries, the ancient Nabatean city carved into sandstone was "rediscovered" by western explorers in 1812 and has been Jordan's biggest tourist attraction ever since. Petra, along with the rest of the Nabatean trade-driven kingdom, enjoyed its highest level of prosperity during the time of Christ. It was around this same era that the majority of its grandiose rock-carved edifices were hollowed out of the canyon rock. Like the ruins of Egypt, it is hypothesized, most of these structures were religious and funerary in nature and were erected and maintained by a symbiotic relationship between the royalty and their priesthood.

sandstone columns and ceiling

The sandstone walls of Petra's treasury

Prudent and innovative water management was absolutely essential to the growth of the desert enclave of Petra. As we walked down the narrow canyon road to the main city, I noted with interest the waist-high water channels carved into both rock walls. Throughout the tombs and in the inner city, cisterns were carved into the walls as well, with long winding passages connecting them to catch basins for rain located at seemingly random locations on the top of the red-toned cliffs. Ultimately, however, no amount of ingenuity was enough to foster the sustainability of long-term population growth. After losing its independence to the extensive reach of the Roman Empire around 100 AD, the city and the Nabatean trade network that fueled it gradually declined over the next two centuries until Petra was eventually abandoned in favor of land with more fertile soil and more abundant water resources.

Another significant stop during our last few days in Jordan was for a meeting with a key member of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Nimer K. Hadadan. In charge of his department's public relations, Dr. Hadadan was the epitome of hospitality and an exemplary source of information. Taking us to the several land holdings of his extended family, he walked us through fields and orchards on a gentle mountain overlooking the Jordan Valley. In the distance, we could see the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, where the day before we had floated on its briny, mineral-rich water.

mean in red hat and woman having a conversation
Josh Ambrose

Professor Butler talking to Dr. Hadadan, PR minister at the Jordanian Department of Agriculture

Descendants of a land-rich sheik of several generations prior, the cousins of the Hadadan family now own about forty acres each. In animated conversation with our group, Dr. Hadadan and his cousins noted that one of the unexpected blessings to the rancor of the Six Day War was a new gleaning of agricultural knowledge from their Israeli neighbors. This helped to solidify practices such as drip irrigation and other very prudent water conservation strategies that simultaneously allowed for innovation in fertilizer use. The fields we visited also displayed a number of other resourceful strategies, such as double—and in some cases, even triple—crop-planting. With pride, one of Dr. Hadadan's cousins told us of a new grafting technique he helped to perfect, using an electric drill to form a perfectly shaped host hole for the new branch to be grafted onto the tree. He gave us chickpeas to munch on as we walked over the dirt he had analyzed himself for pH and other nutritive properties before deciding what to plant and how much of the local sheep manure to use as fertilizer.

By the time we were back on our plane and heading out of Jordan and back to Turkey on the sixth of June, our bodies were quite tired and our minds full from all that we had seen. Dirty cities and green olive groves, sputtering motorcycles and slowly plodding draft horses, throngs of tourists and farmers with quiet eyes and worn hands—a multitude of sights. At each stop, there was a new, intriguing development. Ruins of ancient civilizations gave us a tantalizing glimpse into the history lesson of past land practices and environmental resources. Current farming techniques had given us both cause for concern and pause for deep appreciation. Throughout it all, a continual exposure to all sorts of cultural traditions different from our own had expanded our own worldview and given us much to consider. In addition, we had come as classmates and were now leaving as friends. It had been a good twenty-four days.

Thanks for reading! Don't forget to check out the slideshows..

Last Updated January 10, 2014