Interview with Don Dungan

American Donald Dungan is one of the founding members of PACTS and he has been a teacher at IUE for a very long time. We were curious about him and his background and would like to thank him for accepting our interview request.

I read that you studied Computer Science at three different universities. Do you know code?
Yes. I did it in the early 80’s. There was COBOL, Fortran. There was no C++ and when I first started, we had key cards that we needed to get on a machine. So that was my introduction to computers.

You had 23 years in the military. What did you do there?
Yes. I spent 23 years in the US Air Force. I worked with the security police and the office of special investigation. I worked almost 12 years in Italy and in Turkey (Izmir) with NATO and then I retired.

Then you decided to be a teacher? Was it hard to decide to be a teacher?
Oh. When I first came to Turkey, I thought I was going to get a job with the military because there were like 300 civilian positions here. But when I got here, the military got a lot smaller and there were like 3 positions. So I couldn’t find work and didn’t know what else to do. In the beginning, it was very hard, I wasn’t a good teacher. I had to learn so much; I had to learn patience, I had to learn the timing of teaching.

When did you move to Turkey?
I came to Turkey in October 2001. I have been here almost 15 years.

You joined the IEU in 2004, right?
Actually, I started to teach parttime here in 2003 and then I started fulltime in 2004.

What was the weirdest or funniest thing that has happened to you here?
The funniest thing really was one of my first students, his name is Efe. This was in my first class. He was young and every 10 minutes he wanted to do something else. No matter what we were doing. for 10 minutes he would be good and after that he would just drive me crazy. I got so angry with him one Friday. Then he came to school on Monday and he was like “Hi teacher, how was your weekeend?” and he wasn’t angry wth me at all. He even bought me an angel clock because my daughter’s name is Melek. I still see him. He came here just a few months ago.

Do you have any hobbies?
Yes, I have an interesting hobby. I collect money from different countries. I have money from almost every country. I have over 3,500 pieces of paper money and I have over 2,000 different coins. I started this in 1988 while I was still in the army.

Which one is the most beautiful piece?
Some of the money from Spain. In 1928, Spain put out some beautiful money. I mean, the size is bigger than normal money and the colours are beautiful.

What do you think about Turkey? What was the strangest thing that happened to you when you first came here?
I think people in Turkey have a really special relationship. When you see a young guy, you call him “oğlum (my son)” and little kids call you “abi (brother)” because you are older and when you get a bit older, they call you “amca (uncle)”. But you are not related which is the funniest thing. I think that brings you closer. You don’t want to see people hurt because you have this automatic relationship. I think this helps Turkish society because you look out for each other more. Abi, abla, dede, teyze, these words give you a family relationship and it makes you part of a bigger family.

How did you meet with your wife? Is she Turkish?
Yes, her name is Nilgün and she is a teacher in this university, in the Translation and Interpretation Department. How did I meet her? I was the director of the conversation club at the Turkish-American Association and I was going home by bus one night. A girl in front of me was speaking English and I said “you speak pretty good English” and she said “I should. I’m an English teacher”. Now we have three daughters. My oldest daugher is 24. She used to teach at IUE, but now she is at another university in Istanbul. My middle daughter Melissa, she is 19 and studies Fashion Design at this university. The youngest one is 17 and she is still in high school.

Do you ever think about going back to America?
My parents want us to because they are getting older now, but I really don’t want to go back. I love it here. I like the people, the weather. I’m used to Izmir. I’m used to Turkey. I like the people I know and I like the life style I have here.