Showing posts with label American people. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American people. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

Loving Life in Chicago
Summer of 2014
This summer I spent two-and-a-half months back in America. It was the longest I'd been home since becoming an expat six years earlier. It was fantastic to spend quality time with my family.
We called this
"Take-Your-Mother-to-Work-Day."
Since my youngest daughter had an internship in Chicago for the summer, I decided to make the city of Chicago my base. Chicago is so spectacular, so joyfully sublime, so wonderfully world-class, I was just pinching myself every day there.
My new Brazilian friend,
Isabela, from Sao Paulo,
whom I met in Chicago.
We explored the Magritte show
at the Art Institute together.
I have been to Chicago many times. My daughter had to work most days, so my friend, Isabela, and I bought City Passes (a packet full of coupons to get into all the top museums at a discount - a great value that I highly recommend) and thus I started on a summer of experiencing every single main attraction as it if was new to me.
It was scary to stand
 in these glass boxes.
The attractions were new too! Every main attraction had added something new to bring people back. For example, the Sear's "Willis" Tower, now has those glass boxes where you go out and stand on glass 100 floors up (that's a lot harder to do than it looks without freaking out, especially given that one of them had developed cracks the week before).
Magritte says "this is not a pipe."
It is, after all,
just a picture of a pipe.
The Art Institute had an amazing Magritte show, his first comprehensive retrospective in 65 years. 

I went to the Field Museum to see the show on the World's Fair, but was blown away instead by the exhibit they had created on bio-mechanics, easily the finest science exhibition I have seen in five years.
I literally paused in reverence
in front of this fantastic
American art form,
the root beer float,
created at the Museum of Science and Industry's
old-fashioned ice cream parlor. 
And then I ate it!
video
 At the Shedd Aquarium
(the largest and oldest aquarium
in the Western Hemisphere)
there was an exhibit where you
could touch sting-rays.
How cool is that?!?
 The Adler Planetarium
had state-of-the-art
shows about the cosmos,
but I found myself responding
to the original fixtures,
including these fabulous
art deco iconic representations
original to the building.

I was fascinated by this
old-time, low-cost
mechanical way of teaching people
about the night sky in their own city
at the Planetarium.
A box car of visitors
goes into the sphere
with a guide
who points out the constellations
made by the pinpricks of light
that have been punched into
the sphere.
They show up perfectly in the dark.
This contraption is 100 years old!
It's still going strong.

Look, World!
This is the planet's largest
public library building.
I can't even fit it into one photo.
Who built it?
My people, Midwesterners!
The exquisite Winter Garden
on the top floor of
Chicago Public Library.
Boo-yah!
This is the greatness of my country.
We are a marketplace of ideas
where the people themselves
are entrusted to evaluate them.
I was grateful to see
Senator William Fulbright's
words on the walls
at Chicago Public Library.
I fear his wisdom is being forgotten
Before becoming an expat
I wouldn't have noticed
or understood how wonderful it is
that this spectacular Chicago synagogue
doesn't require 24/7 police protection.
That is not true
everywhere in the world.
May it ever be so in my country.
While in Chicago,
I watched a Palestinian protest
about Gaza
go through the streets
of Chicago.
I was struck by how the police
led and followed the demonstration
protecting the people demonstrating.
After watching Turkey's
best-educated youth
tear gassed all year
for wanting
to protect
Taksim Square's Gezi Park,
I was so grateful watching how this
Chicago protest was handled.
When I stepped up to
the police officer to say thanks,
he said,
"we are all about the first Amendment
and the exercise of free speech in Chicago."
I immediately teared up.
I was so damn grateful
for this attitude.


Being an expat makes
my gratitude
for America's
accomplishments even greater.
Rotary International started in Chicago.
I've been in four different Rotary Clubs
across America.
If you're a Rotarian,
I'd just like to say "thank you,"
for all that
you've done to help end polio.
If you're not familiar with Rotary,
let me tell you.
Each Rotarian, around the world,
doing their small part,
has collaborated to eliminate polio worldwide.
Rotarians are almost done,
 since there
are usually less than
5,000 cases a year globally.
Know a Rotarian? Thank them.
Don't know what polio is?
Thank them again!
This is Jenn and Alex,
my very first AirBnB hosts.
Jenn and Alex
were fantastic to stay with
while I was in Chicago.
This is the typical Chicago beach
two blocks from their house.
They taught me about Uber too
while I was there.
Plotting my explorations of Chicago
in Grant Park.

I'll share my very favorite thing
I was able to experience in Chicago
for the first time.

First and last photos
courtesy of Chicago photographer
Peter Yankala

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back in print from 100 years ago - Turkish and American women reflecting on their cross-cultural experience


I came across this marvelous book series "Cultures in Dialogue" the other day, and wished I could park myself down immediately to see what had changed for American female expats living and writing in Turkey 100 years ago, and what was the same.

Here's how the series publishers describe it:
Cultures in Dialogue returns to print sources by women writers from the East and West. Series One considers the exchanges between Ottoman, British, and American women from the 1880s to the 1940s. Their varied responses to dilemmas such as nationalism, female emancipation, race relations and modernization in the context of the stereotypes characteristic of Western harem literature reframe the historical tensions between Eastern and Western cultures, offering a nuanced understanding of their current manifestations.
Obviously, the Ottoman Empire is no more, so it would be impossible to see the Sultan at Yıldız Palace as Anna Bowman Dodd did.

Anna Bowman Dodd, the author pictured above, traveled throughout Istanbul and shared her impressions of household management, education, slavery, marriage, women's rights from a female travel writer's point-of-view.

The eternal conversation on cross-cultural female emancipation will still be occurring in some form 100 years from now. How interesting it would be to see the progress from 100 years back.

Even today, only 12% of Turkish women have been out of their country. How fun it would be to read Zeyneb Hanoum's impressions of Europe as she visited it at the turn of the last century or to read the memoirs of the famous feminist from the early Turkish Republic, Halide Edib.

So many books, so little time! Kudos to the publishers for bringing these historical voices back to the conversation.



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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Meeting Chuck Hunter, a visit to the home of the U.S. Consul General in Istanbul

Consul General
Charles (Chuck) F. Hunter and me.
Note the spectacular suzani
in the background.
This year, we have a new Consul General in Istanbul, as Consul General Scott Kilner has retired from the foreign service and his three-year mission to Istanbul was finished.

Our new Consul General is named Chuck Hunter. He was born in Wisconsin, and attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, like his father and grandfather. Raised in California, he attended Stanford University for his M.A. and PhD. He speaks French, Arabic, and Turkish in addition to English. 

Chuck is an openly gay foreign service officer. This *is* history. After all, it was just a few years ago, that the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was ended in the American military. That policy required gay people to be inauthentic if they wanted to serve their country. Those days are over.

My country is actively expanding the spectrum of Americans who represent it, and I find that to be fantastic. The American economic dream may be in trouble for the lower and middle classes, but gosh darn it, our democracy is becoming more diversified. Indeed, I read just the other day that a Native American woman, a member of the Hopi Tribe, was appointed to be a federal judge. If that isn't exciting, I don't know what is.
I love being represented
by a State Department diplomat
who is a young mother
of a 15-month-old child.
Go America Go!
Pictured above, me with
Deputy Principal Officer
Deborah R. Munnuti
Me and Zlatana Jovanovic-Dicker from Kosovo.
Zlatana is an architect and
married to American
Craig Dicker,
General Public Affairs Officer
of the American mission.
and me giggling at the fun
of being two Americans enjoying
exotic Turkish divans
and Middle Eastern tables
inlaid with mother-of-pearl
at the Consul General's home.
A pinch me, "We're living in Istanbul!" moment.
Celebrating a shared moment together
as Americans in Istanbul:
and our Consul General Chuck Hunter.
A wonderfully uplifting morning!

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Friday, May 23, 2014

A Fete for Fulbrights and Friends


 My Turkish Breakfast
If someone were to ask me what I did this last weekend, I could only reply "have breakfast." Besides the uplifting breakfast I had at Olga's on Sunday, I also held a small 'Fete for Fulbright Scholars and Friends' on Saturday.
Three incredibly dynamic young women
who inspire me:
Dr. Öykü Üluçay (she is Turkish),
Caitlin Nettleson, an American
about to finish her Fulbright year,
and Cassandra Puhls,
a Fulbrighter interested in
international education policy.
When I was young, it was always older people who inspired me. Lately, I've been finding it's the twenty-somethings (including my own children) who are touching my heart and filling me with hope for the future.

In Istanbul, I realized I knew several young Fulbright Scholars. I wanted to celebrate their excellence and give them an opportunity to meet or see those who are from a different year than theirs, plus introduce them to a few other dynamic young people who also inspire me. Not all of them could come. For example, one of them was getting married that day. 
"The Fulbright Program, including the Fulbright-Hays Program, is a program of highly competitive, merit-based grants for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists, founded by United States Senator J. William Fulbright in 1946. Under the Fulbright program, competitively selected U.S. citizens may become eligible for scholarships to study, conduct research, or exercise their talents abroad; and citizens of other countries may qualify to do the same in the United States. 
The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs worldwide, operating in over 155 countries. Fifty-three Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes; seventy-eight have won Pulitzer Prizes. More Nobel laureates are former Fulbright recipients than any other award program. 
The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills." ~ from Wikipedia, May 21, 2014 
I was grateful for a spectacular Spring Day
so we could enjoy the garden.
American Fulbrighter
Abigail Bowman,
and her Turkish friend
Mert Tuncer.
Fellow Iowan Abigail Bowman graduates this June with her M.A. in Ottoman History from Sabancı University here in Istanbul.

When Abby was in 7th grade, she had to write a paper on a revolutionary or a reformer. Her uncle suggested the founder of the Turkish Republic, Atatürk.

Abby's paper and presentation made it all the way to 8th place nationally in America's National History Day competition. The Atatürk Society of America was so thrilled that this young student honored their leader, they sent her to Turkey to experience the country when she was a 9th grader. A lifelong interest in Turkey began to grow.

Anybody who knows Turkey can imagine how Turkish people respond to Abby when she says she wrote a paper on Atatürk in 7th grade.
I was so happy Fulbrighter
Elizabeth Rocas could come.
She brought her visiting American
friend from the States, Jacqueline.
Fulbrighter Niko Dimitrioğlu
 and Elizabeth Rocas
discovering they both speak Greek.
What else does Niko speak?
English, French, Uyghur,
Afghan Persian (Dari),
and Manderin Chinese.
Visiting Texan Shane Largo
represented another
inspiring young American
living here in Istanbul
but unable to make it to breakfast:
her daughter
Katy Herrera.


These young Fulbrighters who are sent out into the world to contribute to, explore, research and develop expertise in different countries are such a wonderful investment in America's future. Frankly, it is such a strategic investment. What could save America more money on wrong moves internationally than subject experts who can advise policy makers on given countries and cultures?

You'd think that would be an easy sell in Washington D.C. You'd be wrong. America simply does not invest as much as other countries in its international experts, even much smaller countries like Russia! For example, the Russians have over 16 ambassadors with more than five years of experience, the Americans have none! (Political scientist Ian Bremmer, Twitter, May 2014).

Salon puts current funding for the Fulbright program at around $234.5 million a year. Next year, a $30 million cut is proposed.

There is no constituency to argue for increasing the funding, save the alumni. The Fulbright Program doesn't create any jobs at home. It doesn't result in hefty contracts for American corporations. 

So this blog post is a message in a bottle to my fellow Americans. When I read about how the Fulbright program funding is in trouble, and I know the quality of the people who go through the program, I want to share with my fellow Americans a wish to keep this program not just alive, but growing.

It seems like common sense to invest in folks who understand other countries and cultures deeply via a non-militarized way. Intercultural exchange is a way to promote a more peaceful and prosperous world. I ask Americans to support continued, and even increasing, funding of the Fulbright program from now until the future.


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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

When the Olympics Come to Your Country, What Will the Athletes Wear?

The German Olympic Team exhibiting pride

The Olympics this year are in Russia, a country still trying to catch up from a disastrous century. Because of this legacy, Russia culture is not exactly leading the world in thought leadership. They are still catching up. For example, Russia is not so safe for a black or gay person to visit. Russians are famously bigoted.

The world wants to let Russia know they disapprove, and they have generally done so in a firm, obvious, yet loving way.

It made me wonder, what message will the world send to the next country that gets the Olympics? Is this the start of a new political tradition, where Olympic committees and corporate sponsors combine to poke fun at old ways of thinking? What will the athletes need to wear to send your people a message when they come to your country? What will Google and other corporations need to incorporate into their messaging? 

The Google Doodle exhibits Rainbow Pride

There are so many messages the world could send my country, America, they might have a hard time sticking to one! 

Would the athletes all dress up as dollar bills and ask America to stop endlessly adding to its debt since this is hurting emerging economies, not to mention, our own? 

Would the athletes all dress up like Lily Tomlin at the phone company to demand America stop spying on the world? After all, there's a STASI museum in Berlin decrying surveillance behaviors as evil. America once engaged in a Cold War against these behaviors; now the President of the United States defends them. Has America's NSA become just as ridiculous as Lily Tomlin's phone company operator? It kind of makes you wonder who actually *did* win the Cold War. Maybe the Russians are thought leaders, after all?

What if the world decided to poke fun at us for being so selfish that we as a nation are currently okay with 50 million people living without health insurance? That's the equivalent of five Czech Republics worth of people! Or ten Denmarks! Maybe it would take being teased by the world for America to finally step up and enact the public option so that all people have equal access to health care?

Or what if all the countries we keep invading organized the world into asking America to stop the imperialism? I don't know how that would translate into Olympic fashion. I'm sure some creative mind could make it happen. 

It seems to me, the list of what the world could 'poke fun' at America for is long. The question is, which issue would they pick?

The Olympics may turn into a tradition of sport supplemented with a world contest of public comedy on the side. It will be interesting to watch this develop. What would the athletes and corporations tease your country about? 

You may be interested in these other Olympic-related posts: 

Bravo David Černý! You Have Europe Giggling Again. This time with your Red London Double Decker Bus doing pushups!



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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Afternoon tea and pastry with Guest Chef Yann Duytsche in the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

When Istanbullis want a sweet treat, they frequently head to the Gazebo Lounge at the Cırağan Palace Kempinski. The lounge has that see-and-be-seen stir of elegant people discussing engaging things while enjoying exceptional edibles. Were the food not so outstanding, it would be easy to take one's eyes off the edibles to appreciate all of the assembled aficionados of delectable desserts.

But it is actually impossible to stop looking at the food. The Gazebo Lounge features the pastry of Master Chocolatier and Philadelphian, Executive Pastry Chef William McCarrick, who was recognized by the entire Kempinski hotel chain when his dessert was selected 2013 Dessert of the Year in a blind taste test.  His creation is a sweet called the Bosphorale, combining bergamot-scented Earl Grey tea from the Black Sea region, and Turkish apricots from Kayseri with the finest Swiss Valrhona chocolate under a shiny glaze.

Talent greets talent:
Chef William McCarrick on the right
host to Chef Yann Duytsche, on the left
This year the Gazebo Lounge is celebrating its dessert destination status by inviting three world-class guest chefs to share their creativity with the Istanbul food-obsessed community. Pastry Chef William McCarrick suggested Frenchman Yann Duytsche as the very first guest chef for the Gazebo Lounge at Cırağan Palace Kempinski. Yann Duytsche is from northern France in Lille but finds himself drawn to the food cultures of the Mediterranean. He owns his own pastry shop in Barcelona, Spain named 'dolç par yann duytsche.'
 
Chef Yann suggests anyone visitng his shop in Barcelona try his signature breakfast sweet, the Karre Mango Croissant, and then take home his bestselling dark chocolate and passion fruit cake plus two or three kinds of cookies.
 
When Chef Yann asked where I was from, I shared that I was American. He said "America has delicious dessert creations - maybe not so sophisticated -but we all make them: cheesecake, cookies, brownies, and carrot cake."

 The chocolate club sandwich features
a crisp caramelized puff pastry. 
Chef Yann begins to assemble his
chocolate club sandwich
with help from Zeynep.
 
Notice the luscious green pesto
made of roka (arugula) and pine nuts.
It's a trend new to me to feature vegetables
in pastry.
 
A smudge of pesto
and a splash of carrots & apricot
nest a sandwich of thin luxe dark chocolate
with lighter chocolate inside.
"I like to play with a dessert that
one almost wants to pick up with one's hands."
The Chocolate Club Sandwich 
Having a guest chef come to Istanbul for a weekend is very much like having a top musician come in and give a master class, only in this case, it is a master class in pastry. "Yann is one of the top pastry chefs in the world," said Chef William. "I worked with him in 1989 in France for a week. We have kept in touch since then. Yann and I have had conversations through the months before he came about what he would make when he was here. His style has a sense of humor - you can see it in what he calls his chocolate club sandwich."
Cırağan chefs come out of the kitchen
to commemorate the moment
The energy in the Gazebo Lounge was sky-high as Yann and Zeynep, who was assisting him, began to assemble desserts for tasting. "The entire team is really excited to have him here," said Chef William. "I told my team to rest up on their day off and don't go shopping or be on their feet. The would need all of their energy for this moment."  I realized what sound advice this was later when Chef William showed me an app on his phone that showed he had walked 17 kilometers the day before just in the course of his work at the hotel.
The Valrhona chocolate ingots
created an inspiring foundation
for creation.
These desserts
have achieved global appreciation
and not just because of the gold leaf
on top.
 
Chef Duytsche led a team of Spanish
pastry chefs to first place
 at the Club de la Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie
(World Pastry Cup Club) in Lyon, France,
the premier world event for the pastry-making elite.

Chef Yann's creations will be featured at three afternoon teas from 3-5 p.m. Friday (yesterday), Saturday and Sunday. His creations will also be the showpiece of the Sunday brunch.

"Chef Yann is interested in the newest trends. The creative brief I gave him was to push the boundaries even farther." When Chef William McCarrick explained some of what the two of them had planned for Sunday brunch it sounded delicious, and frankly, gravity-defying. Also, on Sunday they will feature a festive cake at brunch enjoyed by Lionel Massi, a sportsman well known to Europeans.
 Another pairing well-matched for Istanbul:
a crunchy chocolate base supporting eggplant.
It was delicious.
 
Surely, the addition of vegetables
means all of this pastry is good for us.
 
Chef Yann has created desserts with
asparagus, tarragon, even potatoes.
He said it is easy to bring sweet vegetables
to pastry, and each element has sense in context.
And what is Chef Yann most excited to learn during his stay in Istanbul? "He's most interested to learn about baklava, because the hotel has our very own baklava chef. We made him a savory mushroom baklava to sample," said Chef William.

Chef Yann also added that "he enjoyed eating at Tuğra, the Ottoman-inspired restaurant in the Cırağan Palace Kempinski that overlooks the Bosphorus. I want to see the markets too, to see how Oriental meets Occidental."

What he most enjoyed sharing with the staff in the Gazebo Lounge is his combinations of ingredients, the sophistication of presentation, and his specific aesthetic. "It's like creating a garden. Pastry doesn't need decoration. The decoration comes by how it is all arranged."
Many of the city's writing foodies
enthusiastically watched the preparations.
Large newspapers and
food website representatives
 were present
plus solo bloggers like me.
A Japanese inspired dessert:
Doraiaki
My selection of treats
served alongside a very elegant
presentation of
Earl Gray English tea.
One of the most fun parts about participating in this
was meeting other writers,
especially Turkish ones.
Two young culinary students
who write for http://iyiyemek.com/:
Burak Özbay on the left and Gizem Dinçbaş on the right.
Burak said this about his studies,
"You don't pick gastronomy to study.
Gastronomy picks you."
Chef McCarrick and his mentee, Ayşe
Chef McCarrick wanted to make sure I met one of his team members, Ayşe. Having cooked all over the world in Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Malasia, Bali in Indonesia, Dubai, London, and Istanbul he felt particularly strong that his legacy at Cırağan Palace Kempinski must be more than "putting cakes on the counter."

He said, "Ayşe is like a flower that just needs to be watered. She has tremendous potential as a chef. I want to help women succeed in this role because she will need thick skin to rise in this industry. Turkey doesn't have a tradition of women moving past helpers or assistants. When I was just starting out as a chef in Delaware, a chef helped me move to Switzerland to learn from another great chef. Part of bringing a guest chef to Istanbul, is to make opportunities happen for up-and-coming chefs to learn all around the world. When someone has personally met you it makes it easier for them to take a risk on you being on their staff for a few months." As I watched Ayşe's face beam under Chef McCarrick's words, I had to turn away less the catch in my throat and the tears in my eyes peaked out.
Thank you, gentlemen,
for an exquisite afternoon tea
and an inspiring day
watching your excellence in action.
I could see why the Gazebo Lounge is the "heaven of desserts" where people in Istanbul go when they feel like having a sweet. It is an avenue to all of the sweet things in life.

 
 
 
Part Two of My First Istanbul Hammam Adventure at Çirağan Palace Kempinski Hotel

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An afternoon of nargile at Cırağan Palace Kempinski

 My friend Barb and I had planned to meet a bunch of friends in Istanbul's Yıldız Park for a fitness challenge this weekend. Unfortunately, none of them showed up! We lost our motivation to explore the park. "Let's go across the street to the fumoir in the Cırağan Palace and I'll teach you to smoke nargile," I said. So we did.
First, we wanted to explore the palace.
A view of the Palm Court
from the Grand Staircase.
Imaginative use of glass
creates an aesthetically-pleasing
 foyer within the grand stairwell.
The glass chandelier was unlit
but we could imagine its warm glow.
Cırağan Palace Kempinski artwork
of ladies like us
enjoying the Bosphorus
back in the day.
A view of the Bosphorus
from the Sultan's balcony.
The hospitable and lovely Barçak
at the Hendrick's gin cart
Nargile pipes at rest
The eye-catching array of nargile water pipes
and the pots of fruit flavors
waiting for us to choose.
I suggested apple flavoring
because it is most popular.
Our drinks arrived
and rested on cloth coasters.
They were served alongside Mediterranean treats
of olives, hazelnuts, and cashews.
An Istanbul still life!
The drinks were so quenching!
A refreshing slice of cucumber
set off a glittering gin and tonic.
The drink on the right was gin
infused with rose flavoring.
It was called the Sebestian Vettel
(named for a famous Formula 1 driver).
We selected it from the part of the beverage menu
that showcased drinks
celebrities chose when they stayed there.
Barb said Hendrick's gin was especially known for the
herbaceousness of its flavor.
Naruttin primed the coals
and showed us where the flavoring
went in the pipe.
I'm always struck how by deeply
nargile staff breathe in the smoke.
They prime the pump
by getting the coals burning.
Barb about to try her first puff.
Each smoker uses a disposable tip
that they remove every time they pass the pipe.
It is the yellow part at the top of the pipe.
Barb's first puff of nargile.

Not a bad spot for a relaxing
afternoon conversation.
The expat life!
With typical American attitudes about smoking (we're both against it and find it unattractive), neither of us thought we'd ever try nargile. Yet living in Istanbul makes one appreciate the joy of slowing down, breathing deep, and engaging in conversation with a fellow human being in an unhurried, almost meditative manner.
 
I like this tradition better than the American tradition of staring at a screen in a sports bar and not talking to each other much. Sharing nargile seems very intimate and close. Besides, it was fun to watch the staff set up for a wedding happening later that night under the palms.
 
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