Suzi and I are running a workshop in a Hilton Hotel in Istanbul. We’re working with Syrian broadcasters. We could be in any Hilton Hotel in the world. This one is far from the interesting parts of the city, surrounded by new high rises and vacant lots that will soon hold new high rises. One intriguing pair of towers is named “Ant Hill.” No kidding. Would you want to live there?
For the first three days of our work we were in a hotel. The only way we can tell we are in Turkey is we can see more than a few mosques outside our window, although the most prominent tower named “Trump.” It flashes his name in our window reminding us of the glories of Capitalism and the Republican Party. Our window also gets glorious sunrises which, with jet lag, we are awake to enjoy. We also get good views of thunder storms rolling in. Other reminders that we are in Istanbul are the faint calls to prayer that sometimes penetrate our plate glass windows and Turkish coffee for breakfast. There is the Baklava ice cream on the menu, but we haven’t tried it when we can get the real thing.
Istanbul is putting on the World Human Rights Conference this week (yes people here get the irony) and lots of world leaders are here. Since this is the site of one of the world’s current refugee crises it makes sense. The hotel lobby and cafes are filled with a Nigerian delegation in colorful robes and hats. Our floor has some particularly important person, I think the Fiji Prime Minister, in the suite at the end of the hall by our room. A large bald man with drooping moustaches, an earpiece with a springy wire leading into his suit coat and a strange bulge under his jacket sometimes sits in a chair outside the door and sometimes patrols in front of the elevators. Two other thinner men sit in chairs blocking the stairwell exit. They are Turkish police. They make a habit of standing when we enter the hallway. One decided to try his English on us. They have devices that go beep and bling in the night. And sometimes it sounds like snoring outside my door.
I was working with Radio Watan. It is located in a warren of streets behind a theme park. To get there involves using the park as a reference for the cabbie. On the second day our driver got lost (Huqqa Cab with the logo of a hubble-bubble water pipe. My friend Auriella suggests it was so named because it was taking us to “Wonderland.”) Fortunately a mosaic on the building across the street from the station (which is in an unmarked building for obvious security reasons) caught my camera’s sys. I pulled out my camera and showed the driver the picture. We drove around until we found that mosaic. We watched the news go live, read by a man in a black T shirt with a “Peace” symbol on it. The manager told me I could post it on line. So I am doing that.
No one can explain to me why there is a big statue of a corn cob in the middle of an Istanbul traffic circle. My friend Auriella says it is because corn goes well with Turkey.
There are a few other things that seem odd. Like a Fiat with a Cadillac emblem. A Police Car that seems right sized for Sitka, more like a hopped up golf cart. Then there was a little boy’s costume which Suzi thought would look cute on Liam, our Grandson, until Andrea told us it was a circumcision ceremonial costume. Who would name a boat Moby Dick? Someone in Istanbul. And what, exactly is the Queen advertising? All questions from Istanbul.