In short, H3A, the acronyms for the Bodrum Herodot Third Age Academy, is a wonderfully welcoming and inspiring cooperative for shared learning, activities and travel determined according to members' interests. Geared toward an older crowd but open to everyone, Bodrum Herodot Üçüncü Akademisi, as it is known in Turkish, has enhanced the lives of many Bodrum residents and expats alike.
The association's members come from all over the world, all walks of life, professions and interests. H3A has a number of activity groups that meet regularly, while also hosts multiple seminars each month that are led by volunteers, of which close to half are expats who want to share their particular knowledge, skills, experience or interest with others. Members get to join a Google group in which every month a calendar of prescheduled events are listed, while other events of interest or spontaneous get-togethers added by members are also posted there. H3A also has a website aptly named http://www.hero3a.com/ where visitors can check out what activities are being offered.
The regular activity groups include art and drawing, language conversation in English, Turkish and French, photography, writing and reading groups and even a singalong group. Weekly walks, breakfast outings, boat trips and travel excursions are also scheduled regularly with many accompanied by historical talks. My first encounter with Hero3a was on a walk back in the spring of 2010 when the association was first forming. An eclectic and impressive group of people, we walked the hills of Pedasa as a historian tracked down and explained the ancient sites visited along the way. I made many friends that first day and can thus truly attest that as they say, "Taking part is a great way to broaden your horizons and to establish a circle of friends of diverse nationalities and backgrounds."
Speaking with Herodotus Third Age Academy President Samer Atasi and his wife Aslı Sander, they said: "Our community has been successful in bringing together many valuable individuals who have retired in Bodrum. There are so many specialists in their area of expertise, whether it be history or archaeology, writing or medicine. It would be impossible to meet all of these types of people in any other way." The whole purpose of its very founding is to help people from different backgrounds and cultures connect, they tell me.
The languages spoken at events and in all correspondence is Turkish and English, however they also hold language conversation meet-ups that also include French. Nearly 100 members of the association's 500 members are expats who contribute significantly to the administration and operation of the various activities. Members of the expat community lead the writing groups, photography workshops, walking groups and reading groups, of which there are multiple kinds, broken down into fiction and non-fiction and English and Turkish language books.
Speaking with Annie Onursan, the author of the captivating blog "Back to Bodrum," who also happens to lead one of the reading groups, said: "I joined H3A when I moved back to Bodrum from the U.K. I was worried that my mental capacity might stagnate when I gave up full-time work, but I now take part in more intellectual activities in Bodrum than I ever did in the U.K.," she shared, adding: "I personally take part in the reading, writing and art groups, language practice sessions, and I attend the frequent archaeological, historical and cultural lectures. Others prefer the social breakfasts, boat trips and organized tours. Either way, it is a great-opportunity to meet like-minded people."
The Herodotus of the Third Age Academy runs parallel to the international "University of the Third Age" movement, which aims to provide education and stimulation geared towards retired members of the community. For many in their third "age" of life, being involved in this organization gives them a new lease on life. My beloved widowed aunt found her partner when one day she gained the courage to join a similar event group in England. "While this isn't exactly our mission, our activities do offer the opportunity for singles to meet and may be start a partnership, and this is wonderful," said Samer.
This month, H3A will resume their full schedule of activities in Bodrum, including hikes, reading and writing groups and photography workshops. There are also a number of talks lined up, including one by well-known cooking blogger and author Özlem Warren on Oct. 25. The larger presentations are held in an auditorium in the Oasis Shopping Center, while the groups meet up in a center kindly donated by the Gürece Muhtarlık. Run by volunteers as a cooperative for sharing skills and interests and strengthening social and cultural ties, participants can become members for an annual fee of TL 50 ($8.50), which makes the organization of such events possible, allows for greater access to information on event listings and permits the group to organize events on its own.