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George Park


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Travel Addict and International Development Specialist

Hard to believe, but it’s about 57 years since my first trip outside the United States and the beginning of what turned out to be a lifelong pursuit of international travel for work, study and pleasure.   There have been many highlights and turning points along the way:  teaching English or trying to teach English in Kütahya and Ayvalik as a Peace Corps volunteer; marriage to Meredith from Adelaide, Australia; twenty-five years at the World Bank implementing development projects and designing country development strategies in different regions of the world--especially in the Middle East (including Turkey), Central America, South Asia, and Eastern Europe; and a rewarding four year assignment for the Bank in Warsaw, Poland at the end of my Bank career.  I decided to retire three years early and left the Bank at the end of October 1999.  

Other highlights include: two years of university study in Munich, Germany and two more in Missoula, Montana before joining the Peace Corps; MA (1966) and PhD (1975) degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in international and middle eastern studies; dissertation research in Turkey studying the life and writings of Mehmet Fuad Köprülü in newspapers and journals from 1909 to 1950; program officer with the Ford Foundation in Ankara (1967-69); teaching English to the Saudi army in Jeddah (1966-67); and believe it or not high school graduation in Tripoli, Libya (Wheelus Airbase Dependent’s High School).   This international journey started at Idlewild Airport, New York, when a TWA super constellation lifted off the runway headed for London.   On board was a family of four on the first leg of their trip to Amman, Jordan, which was to be home for two years. The date: December 8, 1953.   My twin sister and I were 13 years old.  

And the journey continues.  After retirement, Meredith and I opted to live in Australia and so the whole family—including our daughter Susanna and son Andrew—moved to Sydney.   Susanna (better Text Box: known as Zanna) obtained her BS degree in psychology and neuroscience at the Australian National University and recently completed her PhD in neurology at the University of New South Wales. Andrew received his BA degree in history from the University of Melbourne and a two year Masters Degree in international relations from the London School of Economics, including one year at Peking University in Beijing and one year in London.         

Meredith and I love living in Sydney, but having lived in or worked in so many different countries, we also missed the expatriate life style.  With that in mind, and since we have good Austrian friends, we decided to establish a second residence in Vienna, Austria.   We will ultimately return to Australia full time, but as long as can we intend to divide our time between Sydney and Vienna, thus continuing to enjoy Vienna with all its music and other cultural activities, as well as using Vienna as a base for traveling to other places in Europe and the Middle East. 

My two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer started a lifelong love affair with Turkey and my knowledge of Turkey and Turkish clearly played a prominent role in shaping my life. The Turkish/Peace Corps connection helped me get into graduate school, my knowledge of Turkish got me a permanent job in the World Bank and I met Meredith when both of us were working in the World Bank division managing the Turkey program. Without my year in Kütahya, I would never have gotten my picture on a ceramic plate--thanks to my Orta Üç class.  Neither would I have learned the saz or joined a Turkish music group which played Turkish folk music in and around the Washington DC area for several years.  The Turkey connection continues in Vienna which has a significant Turkish speaking population with many Turkish owned shops where one can order in Turkish or German or a mixture of the two.   

 PDF version of this bio

George's Memories of Turkey (PDF)

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