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Şirince, Turkey – A class of Nesin Mathematics Village during a screening of Hollywood classic movie “12 Angry Men” (1957). The movie is used to teach logic get students thinking about how they strategically think of mathematical problems. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Two tired students sleep on their desks during a class in the library hall of Nesin Mathematics Village.The rhythms are very intense in the Village and students seldom indulge in night life out of the Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Eda, a 22 year old student from Kocaeli University in Izmit, gets ready for a class in the library hall of Nesin Mathematics Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Basque volunteers Miren (Left) and Alex (Right) prepare a “Tortilla Vasca”, a “Basque omelette” in the kitchen of Nesin Mathematics Village. Miren and Alex, along with two other friends, are staying at Nesin for two weeks as part of a working holiday. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Two students of Nesin Mathematics Village review problems during a break from the classes. One of the primary goals of the Village’s founders is to create a tranquil environment that is different from the hustle and bustle of traditional universities. A peaceful environment, surrounded by nature and free of the noise of city life is believed to optimize ones ability to study mathematics. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – “We play chess during breaks because we can have fun without switching off our Mathematical reasoning”, explains a student as he chooses his next chess move. Every facet of life at Nesin is designed to nurture the brain in a way that will further one's ability to be an effective mathematician. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – A young student of Nesin Mathematics Village rests by an inscription listing all sponsors and donors who helped funding the Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – A student of the Nesin Mathematics Village reads Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic "The Little Prince", while resting on a hammock outside her dorm. “I’ve read it already, but re-reading ‘The Little Prince’ in this atmosphere makes it feel more meaningful”, explains this student. Most students at Nesin take enthusiastically to the idea that maximizing one's ability to study math involves gearing one's entire lifestyle to create a state of mind conducive to mathematics. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Housekeeping time at Nesin Mathematics Village: every group of students is guided by their older “leader” and they form cleaning teams for different areas of the Village. For cultural reasons, many Turkish students are not used to house and yard work and many of them get their first experience with these tasks at Nesin. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Eda (2nd from right), a 22 year old Mathematics student from Kocaeli University in Izmit, cleans beans for the kitchen with her group of junior students of Nesin Mathematics Village. For many Turkish students who are used to traditional home lives, Nesin is also their first exposure to cooking and food preparation. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Sibel (Left), a 16 year old high school student from Kocaeli, cuts onions for the kitchen with another student of Nesin Mathematics Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Housekeeping time at Nesin Mathematics Village: a group of students is handed soaps and sponges by their older “leader” after the briefing. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Gökçe (Left) and Cihan (Right), a student couple from Ankara, get ready after a nap in their tent at Nesin Mathematics Village. In spite of angry rhetoric from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against mixed dorms, including accusations that they are the cradle of “terrorism and prostitution”, couples in the village can live together, as long as they are over 18 and in private accommodations like tents. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – “I love being here and living by myself. However, the boys are giving their clothes to us, asking us to iron them. They make me feel like a housewife, asking me [to do] everything, except taking care of children. But there are no children [here], except them. The boys are still so... not mature!” exclaims Sibel, a frustrated 16 year old high school student from Kocaeli. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – “I live in a dormitory in Atatürk Lisesi in Gölcuk, and I am used to doing these things, [like] making my laundry, ironing my clothes, myself. But boys have a woman washing their clothes for them,” explains 16 year old Sibel. Sibel plans to study Neurology at Hacettepe University to become a brain surgeon. She attends Nesin Mathematics Village so she can improve her Mathematics skills. She found friends abroad and learned her perfect English video chatting with them . (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Cihan, Gökçe, Çemil and other students of Nesin Mathematics Village during their lunch. Even during the meals, the mindset is focusing on Mathematics, with jokes and puns hard to understand for laymen. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – A teacher’s son serves himself at the buffet of the cafeteria of Nesin Mathematics Village at lunch time. Students can eat where they like, but they are encouraged to stay in groups during the meals, which are prepared by a professional staff aided by volunteers. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Eda (2nd from left), a 22 years old Mathematics student of Kocaeli University from Istanbul, eats her lunch with her group of junior students of Nesin Mathematics Village. Every group of students is lead by an older one, usually someone who has already spent sessions at the Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – The sign on the road to Nesin Mathematics Village. The location is intentionally isolated and most of the students do not even go to the beach on their day off. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – A class in the Nesin amphitheater dedicated to Aziz Nesin, a Turkish writer and humorist who left all of his copyright income to a foundation to educate poor children. The Nesin Foundation manages the Village, founded by Aziz Nesin’s son, Ali. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Muhammet, left, the Village's gardener, plays ping pong with Sercan, the van driver from Antakya. Thanks to a common friend the two applied for a summer job, getting an experience in the more progressive western part of Turkey. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Gökçe (Left) and Cihan (Right), a couple of Middle East Technical University and Bilkent University students from Ankara, studying in Nesin Mathematics Village to improve their Mathematics skills. Unlike Gökçe, who studied in Italy as an Erasmus student, Cihan had problems with Math before starting to come to the Village. He claims that the different method changed his attitude towards Mathematics. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Sercan (left), with Muhammet (right) and Şirin (2nd from right), all volunteer workers in Nesin Mathematics Village, listen to a staff worker briefing them. Thanks to a common friend, Emrah, a student from Adiyaman preparing his Phd thesis in the Village, they applied for a summer job in the village, getting an experience in the more open minded western part of Turkey. They all claim to understand Mathematics better now, even In spite of themselves. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Çemil, one of the more gifted students at Nesin Mathematics Village according to his teachers, wears a soccer Jersey with the number 'pi' on it. At Nesin there are no sports teams, as mathematics assumes the role in the institution.
Şirince, Turkey – Şirin, the clerk of Nesin Mathematics Village’s store, takes a break reading a Mathematics magazine available for free in the Village. Şirin comes from Kahta, in central Anatolia and is studying to become a teacher. Thanks to her cousin Emrah, a PhD student in the Village, she applied for the summer job to get the chance to spend the season in western Turkey. Being “watched” by her male cousin, her reputation will not be damaged in her conservative hometown. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Pieter Kowalski, a volunteer professor from Wroclaw, Poland, teaches in Nesin Mathematics Village. Pieter heard of the Village for the first time at a Mathematicians convention in Istanbul, where he met his wife Pinar, also a Mathematic professor from Bilgi University teaching in the Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Eda Yigit, a 22 years old Mathematics student of Kocaeli University from Istanbul, gets ready for a lesson in Nesin Mathematics Village after a break on a couch. Eda is a returning student, in charge of a small group of junior ones. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince (pr. Shee-rin-jay) is a picturesque village on a hill only a few kilometers from the ancient Turkish town of Ephesus. Here, far away from the tourist crowds, a group of eccentric intellectuals have fulfilled a utopian dream: a village completely devoted to the study of mathematics.
Volunteer teachers, including some foreigners, give classes following strict schedules and programs. The pupils range from high school students to PhD level university scholars. They all seek the quiet and comfort of the village to help further their craft.
Some students live in tents, others in double rooms or small dorms in stone houses. It is mandatory to help to wash dishes, cook, do laundry and clean. Turkish families are very protective of their kids and most of the younger guests, especially boys, have to learn here how to live on their own in the village.
A small staff helps with the management of the Village. Some receive accommodation and a small salary, and others are volunteers. Miri, a blonde 32 year old interior architect from Antalya, comes every summer to work at the village. “I have a job but to come here is better than vacation. I help to build something different to improve the world” she says. A spirit of mission is pervading the place: Miri’s task is to help with further planning and construction of the expanding village.
However, politics are now threatening the future of the village. Private schools are widespread in Turkey as public schools are not good enough to equip students for university. However, the ruling AKP has been clamping down on private schools in a push that some say is designed to increase government control of education. Nesin is now facing pressure from the authorities.
Sivan Nişanyan, the architect of Armenian descent who planned most of the village, was recently sentenced to 2 years in jail for building an 'illegal' house next to the village. However, many claim the sentence was only an excuse to punish the controversial entrepreneur, who managed to upset both local Kemalist elites criticizing Atatürk, and the ruling AKP by insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Illegal building is indeed an incredibly widespread offense in Turkey and it is rarely prosecuted. The village was built in absence of urban regulation and has now been deemed illegal and could be destroyed.
Ali Nesin doesn’t seem shaken by the prospective. “If we are not protected by the Law, we will be protected by our popularity. We are a non-profit organization, the Village activity is funded by sponsor and donations and we ended with a loss every summer. We are looking for support from TUBITAK [Turkey’s scientific research agency] and even UNESCO. Bureaucracy makes hard to ask funds from European agencies.”
The names of the sponsors are inscribed on a wall in one of the “squares” of the Village. The funds are collected through the Nesin Foundation, a charity organization founded by Mr. Nesin’s father, the famous writer and humorist Aziz Nesin, to provide education for poor children. The land where the Village has been built was donated to the foundation by Mr. Nişanyan. Although a fee is required to enlist into the Village’s summer school, Mr. Nesin claims proudly that “nobody has ever been rejected for economic reasons,” following the foundation’s spirit.
“We are receiving too many applications, so we are demanding a motivation letter to make sure that highly motivated students will have priority. Even so, we don’t have enough room to accept all applicants. Some students are coming from abroad, but we have far too many requests from Turkey to really open the Village to International students as we would like. And the success of the Mathematics Village has encouraged us to start a new project, the Philosophers Village, on the nearby hill.” Ali explains as he interrupts briefly to scold a group of students chatting too loudly. “We need to keep this place like a sanctuary.”
Şirince, Turkey – The library building in Nesin Mathematics Village, with the monument to the abacus. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – A residence for guest teachers in Nesin Mathematics Village. The sculpture in the foreground, along with many others decorating the “main streets” of the Village were donated by artists who held a workshop in the Village. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Ali Nesin, a Mathematics professor and the founder and “Mayor” of Nesin Mathematics Village. Mr. Nesin's father was the late celebrated writer and humorist Aziz Nesin. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – Ali Nesin, the Mathematics professor founder and “Mayor” of Nesin Mathematics Village. The Village is named after the foundation that owns and managed it, founded by Mr. Ali Nesin’s father, the late celebrated writer and humorist Aziz Nesin. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – The library of Nesin Mathematics Village. It is also used as a classroom and as a city hall during assemblies and events.. (Photo by Piero Castellano)
Şirince, Turkey – The library of Nesin Mathematics Village. It’s also used as a classroom and as a city hall, during assemblies and events.. (Photo by Piero Castellano)