Thursday, November 6, 2008

Consulate Election Breakfast

As a Fulbrighter, Candace was invited to a breakfast hosted by the Consulate to celebrate the U.S. presidential elections on Wednesday morning. It was planned for 7 am on November 5th, which was supposed to be around the time that the election results were coming in and the presidential decision finalized. However, as you are all aware, because of the way the numbers came in, the new president was clearly chosen by about 6 am here in Turkey, so the breakfast was less exciting than it might have been, but it was still a good chance to be around other Americans, and to see how the Turkish people and press were responding to the news.

We were also able to arrange to have one of our fellow fellows, Amanda, come with us, which was fun. The night before, we had stayed up quite late and had gone to a meeting of the Democrats Abroad that was being held a few blocks from the Research Center, to watch the results come in. However, by the time 1:30 am rolled around, there were still no numbers to post, so we gave up and went to bed so we could get up at 5:00 and make it to the breakfast. (Note: for those who might be wondering, there are no chapters of Republicans Abroad or Libertarians Abroad in Istanbul).

But sleep-deprived as we were, we did make it to the Consulate shindig the next morning. The spread of food was disappointing (we were hoping for bacon), but it was sponsored by American companies, including McDonalds (who brought egg McMuffins), Starbucks, Dole, and Dunkin Donuts (yay!). Interestingly, the donuts that McDonald's brought were each individually packaged in their own plastic clamshell, which seemed ridiculiously wasteful. We were later told that because of high security, each donut had to be placed on the conveyor belt of a metal detector and passed through, so the individual casing was intended to keep them from getting dirty when they passed under the plastic flaps at the beginning and end of the tunnel! Here's a picture of the Dole booth. Notice the Nemrud Dağ beach!

Proving once again that the world is much smaller than we can possibly imagine, the breakfast was organized by the sister-in-law of one of our friends at the Getty, who works in the same department Peter did. She and her husband (our friend's brother) work for the State Department and were transferred here just a week or so before we moved to Turkey. We met him (Marco) for lunch on Monday, then met her (Karen) at the breakfast. The Fulbright office director, Surreya Bey (Mr. Surreya) brought her over to our table to introduce her to Peter and I as a member of the Consulate staff we might want to know, and was quite surprised when we started talking to each other about other family members we knew, etc.

A Turkish news station interviews Surreya Bey, the Fulbright Director in Istanbul (Right)

The breakfast was interesting, but proved to be more of an opportunity for the Turkish media to have a story about the U.S. election than it was for U.S. citizens to celebrate the election.

Camera Crews at the Breakfast

The Consul General spoke briefly (she's the one at the podium in the picture below), and there was a translator to translate her speech into Turkish line by line, but when it came time for the panel that had been planned to speak about the election and its implications for Turkey, we were surprised to find that they were all Turkish speakers and there was NO translation. So for

half an hour probably 80% of the people in the room sat and patiently listened to the opinions of people that we could not understand at all. Then internet phone calls were made to Turkish citizens in the U.S. and broadcast to the room. The Consul General would ask "What is it like there in Philadelphia?" and the answer would then be in Turkish. So we didn't really learn much about either what was going on in the U.S. or how the Turks felt about the election.

But we did have a good time, and met some interesting people, including a member of the AKP political Party here in Turkey (the pro-Islamist party now in power), who was seated at our table. He told us straight out that he was not interested in being there, and had only come because it was part of his job, but he did tell us at least a few things that the panel speakers were saying. Candace also was got to shake hands with a member of Turkish Parliament, because she happened to be standing close to the person he was coming to talk to.

We also got great "swag bags" with pins, pads of paper, keychains, and mugs that all prove we were at the Turkish Consulate Election Breakfast 2008. Pretty cool.

In other election-related news, Amanda and Candace scoured the streets of our neighborhood today buying as many newpapers as we could as keepsakes of the historic election. Calinda, Candace's older sister, works for the Dallas Morning News, and had mentioned that they had to print extra editions of the paper the day after the election, and suggested that it might be a good idea for everyone to pick one up to keep. Inspired by this, we found several different Turkish-language newspapers both right- and left- leaning (Cumhuriyet ("Republic") and Radikal), as well as papers in English, German, French, and Spanish. Who knows, maybe someday they will be worth something?


Celia said...

Sounds like a great breakfast! Dunkin Donuts -yummmmmm...... Might could have been a little more organized with translators, but perhaps you wouldn't have liked what they had to say..

Celia said...

Why do you have comment moderation on?

SundayST said...

Why were you expecting bacon at a breakfast in an Islamic country? Even if it was for Americans, presumably the staff does not want to touch pork, not to mention the Muslim guests.

Are you even able to get bacon there?

Candace said...

Yes, you can get pork products here in certain places, which is why we thought maybe we would get it at an American event. Peter had a nice club sandwich earlier this week, but that's the first pork we've had since we came here. We could always go to the Italian deli in our neighborhood if we REALLY wanted it!