Pre-election and wrapping up Istanbul

Turkey's Parliamentary elections are tomorrow (Sunday). For today's assignment, I put on our Calendar that students should spend the day "getting the 'pulse' before elections." I had no precise idea what I meant when I wrote that, but I knew today would be important somehow. And sure enough, many of us did exactly that - we saw marches, parades; heard (but didn't understand) loudspeakers blaring out messages of who to vote for tomorrow; and some students talked to the "average Mustafa" on the street to ask who they would vote for.

Also, I wanted to repeat our fun walk of last week - to Ortakoy - and invited anyone/everyone to join me. Once again, we had 5 students (3 of whom went with me last week) plus "one bearded guy" (last week it was Rob; today it was Jon) and me. Once again, we stopped in at Four Seasons for some fresh juice (and a "pit stop"). And once again, we ended at the art district of Ortakoy. The picture above of the CHP banners was our "pulse-feeling" - we had a parade march right through our otherwise quiet little spot on the Bosporus, with politicians, political activists, and an "oompa band"!

This afternoon, Carlene organized a "tea" for all of us - it was "in my honor", as she said, to thank me for the work I've done to organize all of this exploration and study of Jordan and Turkey. We missed our 6 photo students, who are out with Rob until tonight. But everyone else was there - Carlene, Rob, Lila, and Cal; the "J-13" and the "A-13"; plus Jon Andrew and me. We met in this very cool, fun, laid-back open-air restaurant/tea house, just down the street from the hotel. We were scattered between three or four tables, so when I got there Carlene said, "Just pretend you're at a wedding, and go around to each table." So that's what I did. It was great fun sitting with the different "clusters" of students; great to hear their appreciation of our efforts in organizing this program, especially at the last minute (to a person, this is a very appreciative group, and a great group of students/people in all respects); and great for me to share my own appreciation of them and for them. I was very happy that we had this time together, as tomorrow is our final day, and I'm leaving for Cairo while everyone else is heading back to New York and then Boston (a couple are jumping off elsewhere). So, it's our last full day together.

This may be my last post for the "formerly Egypt Dialogue/Jordan & Turkey 2011 Dialogue." I will blog again from Cairo as well as blog again as I move to leading the Balkans Dialogue. (yes, I'm a glutton for 'punishment', if by punishment I mean leading students on the experiences of their young lives!)

I do want to thank Carlene for being a most wonderful co-leader. Simply put, this could not have been done with such success without her (and her supportive husband, Geoff).

And thanks to Rob also for teaching our "P-6" (photo 6) and for forcing me to do my own explorations of Istanbul - he got me out of my comfort zone on occasion, and I'm grateful for his enthusiasm on the Dialogue.


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