16 October 2010


i'm not much of a dessert kinda gal. i don't even want cake on my birthday (though i'll never push away a fat slice of pumpkin cheesecake), any of the sweets strewn about the tables at christmas parties, or peeps at easter time. and until two weeks ago, baklava was just another "eh" in the dessert world.

but in turkey, something changed. something major. baklava happened. the kind that's dipped in pistachio crumbs. omg! and it can't just be pistachios. after considering all options, i can only conclude that the turks make their baklava with crack, as i'm pretty sure the withdrawals i'm now going through are physical as much as mental...


15 October 2010

turkish hospitality

i've been stateside long enough to start to feel human again (still can't believe how hard it's been to recover from the jetlag), reflect all things turkey, and of all the things that stand out in my mind about that wonderful center of the world, it's the genuine hospitable nature of its people.

thanks to the truman national security project and the rumi forum, i was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit real turkey (and unreal turkey). my small group of fellow truman fellows and i met with farmers and mayors, business leaders and parliamentary members, women leaders, think tankers, educators, journalists, and folks who run NGOs. we visited not just istanbul and ankara, but corners of turkey reaching as far as syria's border. we saw turkey from the inside out and the outside in. we talked about turkish culture, politics, national security, economics, EU membership, the kurds, the armenian problem, israel and iran, and the challenges it faces re: all of the above. and we did most of it whilst chowing down on turkish food, the deliciousness of which defies words.

to the turks, they are turks. turkey isn't in europe, it's not asia, it's not the middle east, but the bridge between all. and the turks we met, the ones from all walks of life, had one striking thing in common: a sincere desire to bring peace to its region and a legitimate belief that it is their responsiblity to do so. and in furtherance of their goal (see foreign minister ahmet davutoglu's "zero-problems" policy on international relations), they are building bridges.

if you listen to the american media, the story is 'turkey's newfound confidence,' 'turkey turning islamist east,' 'turkey and american relations strained as it votes no on u.n. sanctions against iran'.

but the real story is turkey as the bridge. the turks have as its immediate neighbors iran, iraq, syria, greece. instability in those countries impacts turkey's security, its economy, and its prosperity (its bustling economy expanded by more than 10% in the second quarter of this year, and has generally found itself exempted from the doldrums of the global recession). turkey has a rational self-interest in talking to iran - in extending a hand to iran ahmedinejad would be a fool to slap away, because sanctions over iran's nuclear program (a nuclear program no country fears more than turkey) spill over turkey's borders in the form of hungry refugees, crime, and greater regional instability.

turkey greatly values its relationship with america and wants to nurture its strong ties to the west (fighting for membership to the european union), but it also wants to do its part to stimulate greater stability in the middle east, to bridge religious and cultural divides, to increase tourism, and to be friends with all its neighbors.

with its infectious idealism, it's sincere hope for a peaceful future for the region and the world, its dedication to making that happen, not to mention its delectable food, wonderful people, and incredible history, turkey is a place for all the world's eyes to turn. because for anyone watching and listening, turkey is building bridges that can and should lead to greater dialogue, better foreign policy interaction, and ultimately a more peaceful, stable world.


10 October 2010

from paris

there is so much to say about turkey: politics, people, culture, hosptiality, that i got to scratch my first item from my bucket list. but i am in paris right now, blogging from an internet cafe on a french keyboard (whoa, hard!), and have more pressing things on my mind.

fer starters, why is the "a" key on the top line, where is the question mark, and why do i have to hit the shift key for the numbers? (found the question mark). the period, btw, also requires the shift key. this is hard.

i made it into paris this morning on an early flight from istanbul, spent an hour working my way through CDG, as france is on a high terror alert and i got stopped by the french army in two places (me and everyone else at the airport) so they could investigate suspicious packages, and then the RER train from the airport is under construction so i had to take a bus to the first working stop. long story short, it took two hours to get from my plane to my hotel, when it shoulda taken an hour max...

the good news is that i still love paris, and today was the most gorgeous day i have ever had in paris: warm, sunny, and as beautiful as any day could ever be, and that it is 10.10.10 is just neato. i've also had an easy time occupying my turkishly racing mind by trying to answer a question posed to me by mon amor. he asked me why i think paris is so romantic. so i spent the day observing my way to an answer, and came to this:

paris is a city where anything goes. in addition to being charming, old, beautiful, easy to get around, and full of history and light (at day and night), paris is a place where lovers just are. everywhere i look, people are holding hands, kissing, embracing for extended periods, and looking at each other with passion and affection. the energy those lovers put out into this wonderful city is both alluring and infectious. it makes me so happy i could cry, even when i am alone.

crazy thing is that i've never been anything but alone in paris. i have never been here with someone i love, and whilst there's always been a part of me that's regretted that, i am grateful today. because today i articulated for myself and my lover why it is that paris is so romantic, and how lucky for me that my first time in paris with someone i love will be with him. whenever that may be...

back to america tomorrow, where i will set out to capture all that was utterly fascinating about turkey...

for now, bon soir!