By Robert Mann
As I expected, our LSU students are charmed by Istanbul. They find the people warm and generous. They love the food. The city fascinates them. And, with the current political unrest, it’s a perfect time for a group of journalism and mass communication students to be here.
Our first full day began with a lecture by journalist Nicole Pope, who was the longtime Istanbul correspondent for the French newspaper LeMonde and the author of a wonderful book on the history of modern Turkey.
Later we visited the headquarters of the Samonyolu television network and discussed its coverage of the Gezi Park/Taksim Square protests. While there, the network carried live a speech by Prime Minister Erdogan from Kayseri. We also visited a political think tank and engaged in a fascinating discussion on women’s rights in Turkey with a sociologist. She begins teaching at a Turkish university in the fall, having recently completed her graduate studies in Arizona.
On Friday night, several families hosted us for a wonderful dinner at a restaurant. The food was outstanding and it never seemed to stop coming. Afterwards, we walked a short distance to their apartments, where we spent a delightful couple of hours talking with them and getting to know their families.
Saturday was a fun day — no class. Mostly just sightseeing and shopping.
We visited the Grand Bazaar and the nearby Spice Bazaar.
Next, back to the Spice Bazaar for some more shopping. On my agenda: Turkish Delight, spices, and my favorite olive oil soap. And then an hour-long detour into a nearby coffee shop to work on my Times-Picayune column for Sunday of next week.
We ended our outing with a wonderful dinner at a fine restaurant. At the end, my favorite Turkish tea.
When we returned to our lodgings tonight, we turned on the television to news of the most recent protests at Taksim Square. As I write, police have converged on the park to disperse the crowd with water cannons. The television network we are watching has featured some live coverage of the protests, but it is also showing other news.
If you’re a concerned reader or a worried parent of one of my students, don’t fret. We are staying about an hour away from Taksim and, by morning, it will likely be back to normal. We won’t be going near that part of the city tomorrow, in any event.
More reports to come.