At the U.S. embassy and downtown Ankara

The residence of the U.S. ambassador to Turkey sits atop a large hill, a short walk from one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Ankara. It is a beautiful building and tastefully decorated, featuring several pieces of art by Margaret Ross Tolbert of Gainesville, Florida, whose work is favored by the current occupants of the home, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., and his wife Marie.

The house serves as a reminder that the U.S. and Turkey have been allies for a long time. It sits on land owned by the United States government since the 1950s. It is a symbol that democracy works and provides the best path to success.

Ricciardone was appointed by President Obama in January, just in time to witness the so-called Arab Spring and the ascension of Turkey as the role model for the democratization of the region. He hosted our group and sponsored much of the exchange program.

A group of us walked down the long hill into downtown after the reception. There, we walked and talked, stopping to eat and have a beverage. I ate something that I was told was better if I did not know the exact ingredients. I tried to drink a yogurt-based, salty drink, but ended up with a Coke and French fries.

Later, a private club for academics and other members of the Ankara intelligentsia that stayed opened as a service to their foreign guests, I had a beer.

It was only our third full day in Turkey and we were all exhausted. We walked some more to get a bus to take us back to the Middle East Technical University, which Americans helped found in the late 1950s, and our guest homes.

There would be time for deeper reflection later. My brain had been running on overtime and it was time to sleep. I’ve been thinking in my dreams here, thoughts of censorship and politics and journalists being jailed for thinking and writing.

Next on the agenda is a visit to one of Turkey’s leading daily newspapers. Stay tuned.

Bob GABORDI – Tallahassee Democrat, the US

Ambassador Ricciardone (right) and Mehmet Fatih Öztarsu, the only Turk journalist reporting from Armenia, discuss the Turkish-Armenian dispute at the reception. Oztarsu spent three weeks working at the Tallahassee Democrat as part of the ICFJ exchange.

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