Thursday, May 25, 2006


Expat Harem's US Tour Finale!

The day started off with publicity; GalleyCat, MediaBistro’s publishing world blog, posted its writeup of our North American tour.

With time short and many people to see, we split up for lunch. Anastasia headed uptown for a delicious vegetarian meal at Candle on East 79th Street with TV producer and author Lisa Lemole Oz, Anastasia’s college friend who is also married to a Turk – the cardiovascular surgeon Mehmet Oz. Jennifer met to brainstorm with Ozgun Tasdemir, a New York tour operator interested in creating a series of Expat Harem-branded tours to Turkey. Ozgun also interviewed Jennifer for the e-zine of Light Millennium, an organization serving as a multifacted portal for global creativity.

Finally, our tour finale – an appearance at MayFest, the annual Turkish arts and culture festival presented by the Moon & Stars Project. Our evening was co-presented by the Middle East and Middle Eastern American Center (MEMEAC) at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Formerly housing the grand B. Altman department store at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the CUNY Graduate Center sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building.

Before the event we were interviewed for radio and print by Elif Ozmenek, the North American director for Turkey's national daily newspaper Referans Gazetesi.

In front of an audience of 65, we were pleased to be joined by EH contributor Sally “From the Hip” Green, who was in town with her husband Varol and two children, on their way to Turkey for the first time in nine years! Sally also wrote another essay for our Turkish editions, entitled “Change of Continent, Change of Heart”, in which Sally’s teenage experience with a secular Turkish family convinced her to leave a fundamentalist Christian sect with which she had become involved. Sally will join us next month in Istanbul at an international conference for scholars of Anatolia’s mother goddess tradition: The Goddess Conversations.

The evening quickly became interactive as we fielded questions about Turkish politics, art, society and Mediterranean history – and other members of the audience pitched in with their own replies and opinions. There were still hands in the air and hot topics on the table when the moderator asked us to wrap up the discussion at the one hour mark. Downstairs food and books awaited!

During a reception catered by Volkan of Turkish Kitchen, we signed books and talked to the crowd. (Volkan forgot to invite his American wife Catherine, but bought her a book to make it up!) Among those we met were Moroccan-Turk Sabah Knani who just quit her job at United Nations to open a Turkish hamam in Paris, Hale Berk, Nancy Black, Brook Hobson (a writer who traveled to the event from Sarasota Springs in upstate New York), Rita Orkin-Akdeniz (a New Yorker married to a Turk who lives part of the year in Kusadasi), Filiz Bikmen (member of Turks Like Us, a social group for American-raised or -educated Turks who return to Turkey and find that their outlooks differ from those of their countrymen), our friend Cemil Ozyurt from Turk of America magazine, Dr. Nurper Ulkuer (a program officer at UNICEF), NYU graduate student in English Kristin Dickinson, art historian Annastacia Wollmering, Ezabel Razy, Nicole Goksel, Carly Hare (a 2007 Fellow in The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society's Emerging Leaders International Fellows Program at CUNY), Vanessa Larson (a former intern at Istanbul's U.S. consulate who is now writing a book about her time in the city), Hollis Wagenstein, Fatih Vursavas (an official at the United Nations’ department of Safety and Security who hails from Bostanci in Istanbul), Joyce Katherine Jones, Gulce Agirkaya and Gulcin Bal, Cheryl (a Briton who met her Turkish boyfriend in Arabic language classes), Duygu Onat (an immunologist at Ohio State University), and filmmaker Isil Bagdadi, president of distribution at Cavu Pictures in Manhattan. Tagi Sagafi-nejad, a professor of international business at Texas A&M International University (that’s in Laredo, Texas!) came up to tell us how eloquent and accurate he thought we were. When Jennifer told him that she knew him from somewhere, he quipped that he's a dead ringer for Dustin Hoffman... and Jennifer had to admit it was true!

Also present were Anastasia’s friends Japanese translator Senri Yusa, Clio-winning advertising copywriter Robin Pollak Reiser, Dow Jones business writer Aparna Mukherjee (BMC alum #41) and her husband Will Swarts IV, architectural designer Jack Baum of Tree House Designs, and Tom Vasatka who Anastasia hadn’t seen in almost 20 years! Also attending were Suzanne and David Manning. Suzanne had been a teacher at the theatre conservatory at Anadolu University in Eskisehir in 1992-1994, while her husband is director of media relations at CUNY’s Graduate Center as well as Anastasia’s fellow alumnus of writing coach Victoria Rowan’s professional workshops.

Thanks to Moon & Stars organizers Binnaz Saktanber and Kaan Nazli, and Mehmet, photographer and technician Cansu, and ushers Ayca and Zeynep Memecan (the author of Zeynep Amerika'yı Anlatıyor, a book that explains America to newly arrived Turks).

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