NO New Nuclear Weapons... NO New Nuclear Targets... NO New Pretexts For Nuclear War... NO Nuclear Testing...
NO Star Wars... NO Weapons In Space...
NO All Types Of Weapons, War & War Culture...
We have only one WORLD yet! If we destroy it, where else will we go?
YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
YES Great Dreams For Better Tomorrows, YES Emerging Positive Global Energy, YES National and Global Transparency, and YES Lighting Our Souls & Minds.

Space Camp Turkey

by Binnur KARAEVLI


Space Camp Turkey, established in year 2000, is the world's newest camp licensed by the US Space Camp foundation.  It is located in Izmir, an ancient port city on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Its mission is to excite and engage young people in the fields of science, technology and space exploration. 

Space Camp Turkey was conceived as an integral part of the Aegean Free Zone, the first privately developed free zone and industrial park in Turkey.  The Aegean Free Zone is currently inhabited by 350 international high-tech companies and is home to 10,000 employees.

Global Friendship Through Space Education

Space Camp Turkey is part of a bigger global vision that strives to facilitate international peace and friendship. Established in the year 2002, Global Friendship Through Space Education is a non-profit organization based in California.  It brings together motivated young people from different countries and teaches them to accept their differences and learn to work together. The six-day international summer camp is supervised by English speaking teachers and counselors and focuses on developing leadership skills, teamwork, creativity, and cross-cultural understanding.

Filmmaker's Diary: The Making of the Space Camp Turkey Film

July 11, 2003

I arrived in Izmir to make a short promotional film about Space Camp Turkey.  As I hopped into a cab at the airport, the memories of my childhood visits to this beautiful city came rushing back.  I recalled an enchanting carriage ride alongside the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea and immediately decided to take a quick tour before heading out to the Space Camp.  To my astonishment, the city has completely reinvented itself in the last twenty years.  Gone is the relatively quiet and sleepy town of yesteryear, and in its place is a bustling town filled with energy and all the while radiating a relaxed atmosphere.  Imposing tall buildings adorn this seaside port.  The boardwalk cafes are crowded with young professionals and families enjoying the nice weather.  The entire city seems enticing and charming in a way only a Mediterranean city can be.

As we drove to Gaziemir, the location of Space Camp Turkey, I was impressed by the industrial developments along the highway. Behind the gates of the Aegean Free Zone luscious green trees line the streets where the cluster of modern buildings stretch into the distance.  The Free Zone appears to be an oasis in the midst of a rapidly developing area.  Illuminated by the fading sun, the Space Camp looks inviting as my cab pulls up to its entrance.

Walking through the sparklingly clean corridors, I observed the Astronaut simulators, labs, classrooms, observatory, and colorful dormitories.  The place is bigger than I expected.  And the large labs with noisy simulators will pose a sound challenge for us because of the bad acoustics.  However, I am excited about starting the shoot tomorrow. 

July 12, 2003

Last night I was ushered into a large dormitory with comfortable beds and fell asleep immediately.

This morning when I woke up, I found out that I was sharing the room with other women including two teachers Pam Leestma from California and Neme Alperstein from New York.

I haven't shared a room with teachers since a field trip in high school.  However, Neme and Pam are incredibly friendly and tremendously enthusiastic.  As I dream about my husband's delicious pot of coffee, Pam starts singing.  She is so excited to be in Turkey that she cannot contain herself.  

This project was put together at the last minute and I ended up relying on a crew that I had not worked with before.  I actually enjoy working with new people; it keeps the process of filmmaking exciting.  As I had hoped, Cihan, the cinematographer, and Devrim, the sound operator, are extremely professional, efficient, energetic and enthusiastic.  I am also grateful that the production assistant, Ayshe, a Turkish-American from Los Angeles, is very bright and reliable.  Our intern, Melissa, another Turkish-American is a lovable and mature teenager.  Having worked with all kinds of crews and difficult personalities, I am truly blessed with a wonderful crew. 

We have many challenges facing us, mainly the shortage of time and manpower, the enormous size of the Space camp and the countless activities we have to film with only one camera.  My goal is to capture the essence of the Space Camp and in order to achieve that I have to capture the essence of the student campers.  Easier said than done.

A couple of the children immediately grab my attention.  One of them is Isilay Davaz, a Turkish-American girl from the DC area.  She is about eight years old, with a beautiful round face, intelligent brown eyes and a mature demeanor that hides her shyness.  Isilay is already an accomplished pilot and much publicized flying mascot in Turkey and the US.  Since infancy she has been raised to become a pilot, thus her biggest goal is to become an astronaut and fly with the American and Turkish flags.  She talks like an adult and says things like, "flying is in my blood" with disconcerting earnestness.  Driven, obedient and almost too mature for her age, Isilay reminds me of myself as a young girl.  Her innocence and seriousness intrigue me.  Will she let her hair down a bit and become a child again during the week?   

July 13, 2003

The fun atmosphere is contagious.  As I prepare to film the children, I can't help but try out some of the space simulators and get in touch with my own inner child. 

During filming, I interview the international teachers who have accompanied their teams.  Beth Athanassiadis is with one of the Greek teams.  I take an immediate liking to her.  She is a gentle and beautiful woman with radiant eyes. We talk about Greece, Turkey, and women's rights and of course, the common bond that ties us all together, the movies. 

After a long day of filming, at night we join the other adults in the garden.  On this moonlit night, sitting under an ancient fig tree, we share stories about our lives.  The group is made up of Americans, Turks, Greeks, Israelis, Cypriots and Azeris.  Sipping Turkish tea, we chat about politics, art and movies.  For a moment my goal-oriented life in Los Angeles fades away.  The gentle breeze of this Mediterranean night reminds me of the real reason why I decided to become a film and theatre director.  

When I was a teenager growing up in Istanbul, I used to love reading Anton Chekhov.  Even though his plays took place in 19th century Russia, I could relate to the hopes, dreams, triumphs and disappointments of his characters.  From an early age, I found out that art, music, literature and movies transcended time and geography. 

As we, a diverse group of educators, scientists, parents, filmmakers, sit together on this balmy night in Izmir, we all realize that we actually have much more in common than we ever imagined. 

July 14, 2003

While conducting an interview, it dawns on me that there are many similarities between the Space Camp film and the East/West documentary I am working on as a sequel to my award-winning film, Searching for Paradise.

In its essence, the Space Camp experience is all about broadening the horizons of young people, offering them a chance to strengthen their identities and giving them tools to expand their minds and hearts.  I have always been very interested in the themes of personal growth and expansion.  Searching for Paradise, was a lyrical documentary about my own cultural identity and personal growth told in the context of East/West cultural reconciliation.  My new film, Where East Meets West is about the compelling lives of women who juggle Eastern and Western cultures and forge their own unique identities despite societal restrictions.

Already thinking about my next project, I end up meeting a compelling person, Professor Nur Mardin.  She is visiting the Camp with a woman's organization (WINPEACE).  The Camp is truly a vibrant place with many interesting people coming and going.

At this very moment, I feel glad that I am in Izmir making a film about Space Camp Turkey.  Dead tired, I fall asleep, looking forward to being woken up in the morning by Pam's singing.   

July 15, 2003

We rush from one event to another in a mad dash to film everything we can.  We have finished most of our interviews with the teachers and counselors but we still have to do more interviews with children, which is hard work.  In my experience, children require honest and genuine direction so that they can trust the director and be themselves in front of the camera.

There is an older group consisting of Greek and Turkish teenagers, which is a part of Women's Peace Initiative Now. Their workshop is not the norm at Space Camp, however, this particular week, Space Camp happens to host their conflict resolution workshop. For hundreds of years, Greeks and Turks have had a precarious relationship at best; therefore, the group's mission is highly important.  To my surprise, the Turkish high school involved in this event happens to be my alma mater, Robert College.  I end up spending some time with them and filming their conflict resolution sessions. Both Greek and Turkish teenagers are perceptive, open and honest.  They work on interesting concepts such as "how the Turks view themselves and how the Turks think the Greeks view them".  Each group does a basic presentation on this issue.  The Turkish teenagers say that Turks view themselves as patriotic, friendly, hospitable and hotheaded.  They feel that Greeks view Turks as barbarians, angry, and uncivilized.  Both sides express their views with complete honesty. 

The work of these teenagers encourages me since my new film East/West, a meditation on identity, perception and women's journey of growth in an East/West society, delves into similar themes.  I end up striking a conversation with three of the Turkish students, Aysu, Melike and Orcun and decide to interview them in Istanbul. 

One of the Greek WIN-PEACE students, Steven, impresses me tremendously.  He is articulate, charming, thoughtful and funny.  He gives me a great interview for the Space Camp film. I just know that in the editing room, I will use this kid's interview.  He tells me that this experience has inspired him to become a politician so he can end the political animosity between Greece and Turkey.  His younger brother Bill, who is quieter, is also at the international camp.  Bill is a young scientist in the making.  He is excited to have made Turkish friends who share his interests in science. 

Having become the "friendly film lady", I realize how much I enjoy working with young people.

While interviewing Isilay again, I see that in the last couple of days she has changed and blossomed into a happy child.  She is less serious now and much more engaged with the other kids.  As we finish the interview, she runs off to play a game with her newfound friends.

After working long days, we finally get a chance to go to Izmir for dinner.  Strolling along the cafes and shops, my film crew and I feel very happy with our work of the last days.  We end up picking a nice kebab restaurant by the sidewalk and sit at a table outside.  I hang my bag on the back of my chair.  As we order our food, I see a small shadow lurk behind me and all of a sudden my bag is gone.  I yell out, "thief!!!!" and Cihan sprints after the shadow with Devrim and me running after them.  The little thief ends up walking into an alleyway and finally throws my bag on the street.  I immediately grab and search through it.  Everything is fine; nothing is missing from my bag.  By this time Cihan and Devrim had caught the thief.  She is a young Gypsy girl, probably 12 or 13 years old.  She immediately starts screaming bloody murder.  We let her go and I am even tempted to give her some money.  Suddenly all the neighbors alarmed by the girl's screams, pour out of their houses.  They tell us that we have to call the police to deter this girl and all the other young pickpockets in the city.  We want to go back to our kebab dinner.  I feel like we cannot solve this problem by going to the police. But at that moment a large convoy of policemen and women appear on their motorcycles.  So we all end up going to the police station.  It turns out that this was the fifth such incident for this particular girl.  Since she is a minor, they can't do anything about her crimes so they let her go.  However, if she gets charged for a crime after age 18, all these other charges will also be added onto her sentence.

By the time we go back to the restaurant, two hours have passed and we lost our appetites.  Izmir is a very safe city, not even once, I felt uneasy, however, pickpockets are just a reality of life. 

When I go back to my room at the Camp, I think about the Gypsy girl.  How can she be saved from the life she was born into?  This girl needs to be given a good education, she needs to be at a place like Space Camp.  There are many children here on scholarships.  Maybe next summer she could be here too.  I really hope that the short film I am making for the camp will help raise awareness and funds so they can offer more scholarships to needy children.              

July 16, 2003

During our filming, I personally witness the transformation that takes place amongst the children, some of whom had never set foot outside of their own countries.  Steven from Greece sums up most of the feelings at the end of the six-day camp, "We are so similar, Greeks and Turks, so why fight? We should all be friends."

One of the teams which consisted of Turkish and Israeli students have composed their own rap song and take great delight in singing it at every opportunity.  By the end of the camp, all the children have become friends through shared songs, interests, and dreams.  I have produced and directed many film projects in the past; however, I am truly touched by what I have experienced at Space Camp Turkey.

As I board my plane back to Istanbul, I think about the effortless interaction of children from different countries. Space Camp Turkey gives me hope for the future of humanity and our planet. I am extremely gratified that I took part in this tremendous endeavor by making a film about the true miracles of Global Friendship Through Space Education.  And one more thing, when I have a child, I am sending him/her off to Space Camp Turkey.

-- Kaya TUNCER Receives 2004 Ellis Island Medal

Web site for:
Global Friendship Through Space Education

-- Searching for Paradise
An Interview with Binnur Karaevli

E-mail to
Binnur Karaevli: binnur@earthlink.net

This issue is dedicated to: CHILDREN OF THE WORLD & WHEN PEACE COMES
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THE BRIGHTEST AND HAPPINESS YEAR OF MY LIFE IN ALL MEANINGS... Everything has been emerging since the beginning of this year... B.Ü. June 26, 2004