From Skaneateles to Istanbul

Forty-nine years ago, it's possible no one involved in this story thought a relationship spanning the Atlantic would still be thriving.

But friendship can span time and, as is this case, continents.

The year was 1959, and Ann German Higbee was an American Field Service student from Skaneateles living with the Turkoglu family in Istanbul, Turkey. She spent the summer living with the family -- a mother, father, older brother and sister, Selma.

"While I didn't choose (to go to Turkey), I was thrilled to be in the first group of AFSer's to Turkey, truly a little known country in 1959, a country that literally joins Asia and Europe," Higbee said. "(It was) a place totally foreign to almost anything I knew (or) had heard of at that point in my life."

Little would foreshadow the story that unfolded after her time in Istanbul.

In 1962, Selma Turkoglu Ertuna was awarded a Rotary Club international scholarship to come to the United States as an exchange student to Keuka College. Selma said while she was a student here, she would spend weekends and vacations with Higbee and her family.

There was love in the air when Selma was on her way back to college, though, and she met a man by the name Ozer Ertuna.

"I met Ozer on the boat on my way to Keuka College," she said. "In 1964 we got married. I joined him in Ithaca when he was working for his PhD degree in Cornell University."

Now, 49 years later, Ozer and Selma have returned to the U.S. to rekindle long-time friendships and to visit with their exchange relatives. Over the years, the families have been able to visit each other's homes.

Like Higbee and Selman, Ozer, too, was an AFS exchange student. He had come to the states 51 years ago as a student in Wells, Minn., for a year-long trip.

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