Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Designing Women: EH Editors Speak at Dutch Ambassador’s Residence

The capital city of Ankara provided a metaphoric backdrop to Monday’s presentation at the residence of the Ambassador of the Royal Netherlands, at the gracious invitation of Betsy Udink, journalist, author, and spouse of Ambassador Marcel Kurpershoek.

Ankara’s contrasts of new architecture with old seemed to mirror the nation’s paradoxes, a topic which courses through Expat Harem and our presentations...We stepped off the plane at Esenboğa airport into its recently opened terminals-- graceful sweeps of glass, metal, and granite; then on the ride downtown we passed under ultramodern asymmetric suspension bridges for pedestrians. Soon came Ulus, the historic section of the city, where century-old Ottoman bank buildings boasted flat eaves and pointed-arch windows, while on the highest hill beyond that, the ancient castle of Ankara with its Roman-era walls stood watch over the city of 5 million.

In the heart of the city, the Ambassadorial residence was an adroit marriage of modern and Ottoman. Designed in the 1980s by Uğur Eken, the home synthesizes Selcuk-influenced black and white geometrics with stylized lines of contemporary Dutch design, and its central atrium, where we made our presentation, mimicked the floor plan of an Ottoman house.

The invitation to speak was an honor made even more special by our hostess’ credentials as a journalist and author of Allah & Eva (2006). She has spent more than 30 years living in Islamic countries. Betsy said she “enjoyed tremendously” the anthology and asked us to elaborate on the editing process. She also confided that when she was first posted to Ankara she received numerous gifts of Expat Harem copies and has been happily regifting them!!

The crowd of 25 were drawn from members of the Dutch-speaking community like Danielle Cath and Alette Akgün, as well as staff of several foreign missions like Irit Roman, from the Embassy of Israel and Müjde Erkenez, who works at the Belgian Embassy. The Turkish media joined as well, represented by producer İrade hanım from the national television station TRT, and her announcer Elizabeth Ayten Berent, a native Texan who has lived in Turkey for 41 years. It was good to see again Arzu Özyol, the president of the Business and Professional Women Club of Ankara, who hosted Jennifer at the club’s opening last winter, and to meet Wendy Serter, a Dutch woman who heads an informal club of foreign wives in Ankara. We were also thrilled to connect with Füsun Ağusman, a teacher at the U.S. Department of Defense School who lived in Holland for 17 years and whose daughter Lale in the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amsterdam is coordinating the TURKEY NOW international relations program scheduled for December.

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