MONMOUTH — A former Monmouth Academy teacher and former Maine state legislator who taught in Pakistan and Turkey said recently the instability in the region is a stark contrast to her experience teaching there in the mid-2000s.

“It saddens me that there has been an increase in terrorism and the violence has spilled over into Turkey,” said Bonnie Green, who spent six years teaching high school English in the two countries. “The fight between the Kurds and the Turkish government has been going on for a long time. The people I knew were not terrorists at all. I was never concerned for my safety in Turkey nor was there any reason to be. People went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.”

A failed military coup two months ago led to a crackdown by the government on anyone suspected of being involved with the attempted overthrow, according to the New York Times. Teachers, military officers, judges and others have been arrested or fired on suspicion that they were connected to the coup.

Green, who taught in Pakistan from 2006 to 2008 and in Turkey from 2008 to 2012, said she always felt safe during her two years at the Karachi (Pakistan) American School, which despite its name had no American students after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. She and the other teachers were constantly under the protection of bodyguards and were restricted on where they could go and how they should dress when they left the school compound.

Tarsus American College in Turkey, which had been set up by Protestant missionaries in the 1800s, had grades 9-12 and there also were no American students. The students were mostly Turkish who spoke fluent English. Green spent four years at this school, and she said the country’s pro-Western culture at that time made it feel freer than Pakistan. She was the English department chairwoman at the Tarsus School with both Turkish and North American teachers.

“We had a rule that only English was spoken in our classrooms,” she said.

In Pakistan, guards protected Americans and others against “anybody who wanted to get to foreigners,” Green said. School housing was inside a walled and gated compound.

“It was deemed not very sensible for foreign people to be without protection,” she said. “Even some Pakistanis had guards. Nothing happened during the two years I was there, nothing at all.”

Two former Monmouth teachers, Toby Youngs and his wife, Ellen, were already teaching in Pakistan before Green got there and they got her interested in traveling there.

Since returning to her home in Monmouth, Green has been teaching basic English courses at Central Maine Community College in Auburn.

A former four-term Democratic legislator, Green remains active in Democratic Party politics.

Before going to the Middle East, Green taught 25 years, from 1981 to 2006, at Monmouth Academy.

The Karachi American School in Pakistan had been attached to a very large American Consulate, but after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. the consular staff was greatly reduced. American families no longer staffed the consulate. Staff consisted of single adults on one-year assignments.

The school remained to teach the children of wealthy Pakistani families in first through 12th grade. Its curriculum was modeled after an American curriculum because Pakistani parents wanted their children to be able to go to college in the U.S. or in England after they graduated.

“I considered myself safe within a very restricted range of movement,” Green said. “We didn’t feel nervous … I consider myself lucky to have been able to experience a place so very different from the inside out. I met some wonderful people.”

Despite her limited range of movement in Pakistan, Green got to use the country as a springboard for some exotic travel to other places. While she was based in Pakistan, she went to India twice; Kathmandu, Nepal; Thailand and New Zealand.

“I was invited to chaperone the senior prom,” she said. “It was held at one of the students’ homes that was so large, they drained the swimming pool to create the dance floor. Several of the girls had gone to Paris for their dresses.”

Green and other members of the faculty got to travel to a giant sea turtle nesting area on the Arabian Sea. They also went to the ancient pottery-making village of Halla which looked much as it did 500 years ago.

When her two-year contract was up in 2008, Green decided she did not want to return to Pakistan for another school year. So she went to a school hiring fair in Bangkok, Thailand, and landed her next job in Tarsus, Turkey.

Tarsus, south of Istanbul on the Mediterranean Sea, is an ancient city where Cleopatra and Marc Antony were said to have met for a tryst.

“It was a great life. I loved it,” Green said of her time in Turkey.

She swam in the Mediterranean and traveled to Cappadocia, an “amazing place” full of interesting rock formations, and to Ephesus, considered the best preserved Roman city in the world.

“You stand there and you almost believe you’re in an ancient Roman city that’s 2,000 years old. There it is,” she said. “There’s the road that Caesar walked on.”

Green said she thoroughly enjoyed socializing with the Turkish people. One of Green’s Turkish students was an outstanding boy from Eastern Turkey. She encouraged him to apply for acceptance at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown responded by giving him a full scholarship. The young man graduated last May with a degree in physics.

“Unfortunately, I can’t see that he’s going to return to Turkey in the near future,” she said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.