Our Birth Story

THE FOUNDATION STORY OF BODRUM HERODOTUS ACADEMY OF THE THIRD AGE

“CAMILLE’S KITCHEN”

Camille knew her husband so well that she never thought her husband would spend his retirement extending his feet and reading newspapers and books. However, she did not expect him to get bored so quickly with the calm small village where they had decided to settle . Selçuk’s decision was final. They were going to live in a more dynamic geography.

The synchronized perfectionism of a long marriage came into play, and he hardly realized when they moved from one Aegean seashore town to another, Bodrum.

* * *

Selçuk Şahin is the eldest of four brothers and with his expression “the one who listens to reason.” 

“Literature does not earn you any money,” said his father, and he became an engineer, continued his education with government scholarship in England, and towards the end of his studies he met his wife Camille. Contrary to his brothers, one of whom became a famous theatre actor and the other a well-known journalist, he followed the plans his father had made for him and became a successful business person.

He was mostly interested in books, literature, every aspect of art and bridge. In the first years of 2000, he retired from his own business. After a short time, he realized that adaptation to retirement would be more difficult than he expected. Reading more books, taking care of his garden, going swimming, writing, visitors, and bridge was not enough ! 

In 2001, a while after having moved to Bodrum, he established the Troya Publishing House which published more than twenty books in two years. However, small places had big problems. He had to take a break because of logistic and bureaucratic difficulties. He became the president of the Bodrum Bridge Club for more than five years. He wrote articles for local newspapers and magazines and he had a boat. … Something, something very important was always missing !

“How did other countries approach retirement, what kind of a solution had they found to encourage people to contribute to life and to continue to produce which we did not have?” he thought and started searching the thing that would fill the hole in his life. This continued until he discovered “the Third Age University” movement. What remained to be done was to carry this movement to Turkey.

* * *

In 2005 he wrote an article on this subject for the first time in Turkey in the Bodrum Observer Newspaper which was published in English. His article was about “Third Age (Generation) Universities”. This project originating from France, was very popular, especially in England.

This movement which took shape in the inquisitive brain of Selçuk Şahin drew the interest of people after his article in the Bodrum Observer, but somehow it could not be executed. However, the people who had held the Bodrum Habitat Conference in 1996 were still living here. There was a cocoon in Bodrum, but people could not get their ideas together and could not move forward with the first step. Five years passed. 

Selçuk Şahin had met Semih Adıyaman through Annette, a German interpreter and a foreign resident of Bodrum. Semih Adıyaman was a doyen tourist guide, a business person, and an engineer like himself. Selçuk Şahin informed Semih Adıyaman about this exciting project. Semih Adıyaman had a wide circle of friends and contacts thanks to his presidency at Bodrum TÜRSAB and his work with non-governmental organizations.

Meanwhile, Camille Şahin’s friends, some of whom were foreigners living in Bodrum, started to support the project. Day by day they were getting nearer to the establishment stage. During a meeting held at the workshop of Nebahat Timur Tokgöz, an artist with whom Camille was working on painting, Selçuk Şahin remarked that he would not continue to wait, consult people, or ask for their opinion any longer for the realization of the Third Age University of which he was the master mind. The project was ready to be realized.

* * *

In February 2009 a decision was taken in accordance with local laws to establish the Bodrum “Herodotus” Third Age Academy as an association, and in March 2010 it became an official association. Selçuk Şahin became the founder president of Bodrum Herodotus Academy of the Third Age which was named by Semih Adıyaman.

The nine founding members met frequently discussing the calendar of events and what they could do to increase the number of members. As a venue for their meetings, they were using the workshop of Nebahat Timur Tokgöz, the room of Bodrum Marine Chamber of Commerce, frequently the bookstore owned by Fatih Bozoğlu, one of the rooms assigned by Mazhar Vardar, the manager of Oasis, for the association, or “Camille’s Kitchen”.

The most fruitful meetings were held at the big kitchen of Camille and Selçuk Şahin, opening to the garden at their house in central Bodrum, eating the snacks, cakes and boreks made by Camille. 

These first days have a very special place in the memories of Ludmila Denisenko and Gülnar Önay who were founding members. Writer and translator Ludmila Denisenko says that when she went to the house of her old friends, Camille and Selçuk, for the first meeting, she remembers (as if it were happening today) wearing a white stylish dress with a turtle neck. She also remembers Selçuk Şahin’s magnificent library on the second floor and long meetings that were held on the ground floor in the kitchen. She emphasizes that although the participants of the meeting brought along some food, Camille always had delicious pastry, cakes and snacks ready. 

Gülnar Önay, who has written eight books about Gardening and Turkey’s flora, says that when the single big table in the kitchen was not enough, they carried the other tables and chairs to the kitchen to continue with their meeting and that Camille’s kitchen was getting smaller for the visitors, the number of which were increasing. 

Another factor that made this association multinational was the addition, in time, of other foreign residents in Bodrum, many of whom were in the circle of friends and contacts of Christine Davies, one of the first H3A members. In addition, with the devoted work of Christine Davies, Linda Bennett, and later Vivian and Jak Kohen, interest groups were formed, the budget was managed, and the web site was established.  

* * *

The numbers of both interest groups in H3A and members were increasing. It was time to say goodbye to “Camille’s Kitchen” and five o’clock teas. Meeting in diverse addresses was not very fruitful but where were they going to go? 

During those early days they had come to know Dursun Yiğit and Recep Cingöz from Gürece. Recep Cingöz and Dursun Yiğit made a very kind gesture and offered the stone house Dursun Yiğit owned in Gürece for the use of Bodrum H3A Association.

Although they were not founding members, Martha and Robert Patrick, members No.93 and 94, were actively involved in the group with their work and new ideas. They remember those days as follows: 

“The building was neglected and almost left unattended. With small contributions and with the articles we brought from our houses, we settled and decorated it. We organized the garden. We worked as amateurs and with sacrifice. Interest groups had not been exactly formed yet. When we had our association building, they progressed. We became volunteer moderators of the interest groups. We continued to grow with the spirit of sharing and enlightening each other with different ideas. Being multinational taught us to balance our differences. We believe that H3A is an important factor for us and many other foreigners like us in deciding to live in Bodrum.”

* * *

After six years of Selçuk Şahin’s chairmanship, Camille Şahin was chosen as the chairman of the board of directors for the next two years. The present chairman of the board, Samer Atasi reports that he was first approached by Robert Patrick in 2016 with the chance to join the H3A Board of Directors. At first, he kept himself at a distance, but in time, he was convinced that he had to take part in this association. In 2018 founding president Selçuk Şahin and the next president Camille Şahin proposed that he become a candidate for the board chairman.

 

Samer Atasi thinks that the interest groups the number of which now exceeds twenty-five, the special presentations held by some well-known members, and the cultural trips have been effective in the incremental increase of the number of active members. It should be emphasized that all these have been realized with a very low yearly contribution.

The number of members has rapidly increased in the last three years and this makes it necessary to use internet tools efficiently for the members to access up to date data quickly. Some of the goals that have been reached are the restructuring of the available website and the development of social media sharing, in addition to the group mail system, which is being used for announcements. 

Other additions that come to mind are a diversity of the reading/writing groups interested in literature, a diversity of the conversation groups in Turkish and other languages, as well as ping pong, cinema, botanic, and Rock&Roll groups. Also the Turkish writing group and “Herodotus Travellers” are among the new interest groups. 

Being a welcoming association, working on volunteer basis, smooth sharing of knowledge, and transparent management are the mottoes of the Association. New interest groups and activities are being formed in accordance with the wishes and suggestions of the members as a result of the survey carried out last year. 

Efforts are being made to find a new venue where H3A members can meet and their activities are supported. 

* * *

With all respects to Selçuk Şahin who says “…Let us not allow our story to be forgotten… I want it to be included in Bodrum’s history” and to those pioneers who supported him.

WRITER’S NOTE

When Samer Atasi, the current board chair of Bodrum’s Herodotus Academy of The Third Age, asked me to write an article about Selçuk Şahin for the celebration of H3A’s 10th anniversary. Without hesitation I said “Of course, with pleasure” . As most of my days pass with reading and writing, this was going to be enjoyable work.

My first meeting was with the founding chairman, Selçuk Şahin, and it was not an ordinary meeting, like having a morning coffee together. 

“I am very happy to meet you, Selçuk Bey” I said. “Also, being a member with the privileges of this group, I think that this formation of which you are the founding chairman, should not be limited only to Bodrum.”

He said, “I don’t want our story to be lost but to be heard. Many people showed a lot of effort. I want it to be included in Bodrum’s history and to be remembered.”

While speaking, he was using the first person plural form for the association of which he was the founding chairman and mastermind. His modesty and commitment reflected in his language drew my attention.

He later introduced me to the lady who was there. “I benefited from Sönmez Taner and her ideas. She is a doyenne librarian, writer and translator. She was one of the names who held the Habitat Conference in Bodrum in the past. Please also interview Semih Adıyaman. He is also one of our founders and has contributed a lot with his efforts,” he said.

In the following days I interviewed Semih Adıyaman, Ludmila Denisenko and Gülnar Önay who were some of the first members; Camille Şahin who was the second chairman of the board; Bob and Martha Patrick who were mentioned for their efforts although they were not founders; and lastly, Samer Atasi who is now the board chair. I took pages of notes containing very enjoyable memories, some of which were off the record.

Although it is not possible to share all the data I have in the following four-five pages long memoir/story, I am sure that in the near future the story of how Selçuk Şahin made his dreams of this exemplary Association come true will be published in a book. 

The formation stages of this extraordinary volunteer group, its success until today, and the story of its leaders are too valuable to fit into a few pages. 

Sincerely,

Ş. Didem Keremoğlu

November – Decemebr 2019

Bodrum