Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Obama in Turkey

Yesterday we flew home from Turkey via Istanbul. And also yesterday President Obama flew in to Istanbul. His European tour ended with a much anticipated stop in Turkey, his first visit in a Muslim country as President. We were unsure how our overlap at the Istanbul airport would pan out. But everything clicked along - no problem. And to our surprise our flight from Izmir to Istanbul taxied right next to Air Force One!!! Who would ever think we would have to come to Turkey to see the magnificent Boeing 747? It was a thrill to see "United States of America" so bold and beautiful in a place so foreign. I had no idea the Presidential aircraft was so enormous.We were very lucky we completed our Istanbul sightseeing before the First Family arrived. It sounds like all the streets were to be blocked and everything basically shut down for security and Presidential events. What a disaster it would have been if we had booked our trip for only a day or two later! The Turks were pretty pumped about Obama's arrival. The air was energetic and enthusiastic. Our driver joked that he was to be Obama's driver - kidding of course. There was even a baker who made "Baracklava" out of the specialty, baklava.When we went through the Egyptian Spice Market this vendor was capitalizing on the President's upcoming visit!I have tried to read up on the significance of Obama's visit to Turkey. Seemingly a more symbolic trip than anything else given recent strained relations. Turkey is a member of NATO and an ally seeking admission to the EU (doubtful it will happen soon, but they are on the journey). While I know many may have reservations about his visit and implications of connecting more with the world of Islam - I must say that it seems to me diplomacy is the only way we are going to stop dividing lines and creating even more determined enemies. I am curious to see how the critical yet ailing ties between Turkey and the USA mend. Certainly with caution and a guarded approach from both sides. But the Turks are kind and seem to hope for good will. And while we do have very different beliefs, we have much in common in terms of longing for a world of prosperity for future generations.

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