|By Fuat Kircaali||
|January 3, 2010 12:00 AM EST||
I left Chicago late the night of December 30, via Turkish Airlines to spend the New Year with my mom in Turkey.
Our plane arrived in Istanbul the next evening.
There were five hours left until the New Year and the traffic from the airport to the hotel was bumper-to-bumper.
I saw this on a CNN International program. I don't think there is another country on earth that loves their Papa Noel (Santa Claus), Christmas trees and Christmas music more than Turkey. And I am not sure if there is another Muslim country out there that is in love with Christmas like the Turks, I doubt it.
I woke up early in my hotel room, picked up my morning paper, went downstairs for breakfast before heading out to the Haydarpaşa train station.
The paper said starting that morning, January 1, 2010, Enis Berberoğlu would be serving as the new editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet newspaper. Hürriyet is the largest paper in the country with a daily circulation of around 600,000 (vs. New York Times 1 million).
This story took me back to the 1980s. I graduated from Boğaziçi University in 1982 with Enis and a number of other classmates, who later became key figures in the economy, business, media, and politics of the country.
During my college years, between 1979-82, I worked at Hürriyet as an editorial cartoonist reporting to Doğan Hızlan. I also published my political cartoons in Cumhuriyet and Gırgır. My first cartoon appeared in Oğuz Aral's Girgir in 1974, when I was 14, which also jump-started my long career in journalism. I would like to write about those very interesting years in a separate blog entry entitled Bizim Yokuş.
Enis was one of the student union leaders elected as a candidate of CHP. We worked actively on CHP's Boğaziçi University campus presence. The main function of CHP on the campus was to keep both the communists and the fascists out of the school during the period of anarchy, terror, and civil war, and we were very successful at that.
A cartoon by Fuat Kircaali that appeared in the Sunday Magazine section of Hürriyet in 1979.
Twenty-eight years after leaving Turkey, whenever I visit Istanbul, I see that my BU classmates from 30 years ago are running the country, both in government and the private sector. One classmate Murat Ülker (who is listed on Forbes' "The World's Billionaires 2009"), bought Godiva from Campbell Soup for close to $1 billion.
Another classmate Ahmet Davutoğlu is a successful secretary of state / foreign minister in today's Turkish cabinet.
Most of us were born in 1959 and we met in Istanbul last November to celebrate our 50th birthday, where more than 140 classmates showed up. Even more impressive, most of us have stayed in touch on a daily basis for more than 10 years with our online group.
In 2001, another classmate whom I've known for 43 years, Murat Mercan, called me from JFK Airport during one of his visits to the United States. I told him I would come and pick him up in about 30 minutes. We hadn't seen each other since we graduated from BU, and I told him he should stay at my house. Murat said he was in town with a small group of friends including Tayyip Bey and Abdullah Bey. I insisted that I would pick them up and that I would prepare a bed on the floor in the living room for Tayyip Bey and Abdullah Bey could sleep in the guest room. Murat thanked me and said they were in town for meetings at the United Nations so they would be busy; we would see each other during another visit. He also mentioned that he had entered politics. He had joined a group of friends and they just launched a new political party three months before the upcoming general elections.
For more than 20 years I did not have time to follow Turkish politics. Later I learned that same year that Murat's party won the general elections and today his friend Tayyip Bey (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) is the prime minister of the country and Abdullah Bey (Abdullah Gül) is the president of Turkey.
I ran into Murat on Saturday, January 2, 2010, at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul Hotel as he walked out of an elevator. He was rushing to a meeting, but I stopped him and we sat down and had a quick breakfast and exchanged our contact info. He said he hopes to visit me in Cat Cay in the near future.
I spent two wonderful days with mom and left Istanbul wishing her a happy and healthy New Year.
A Quick Message to THY CEO Temel Kotil: I meant to mention this for the past five years, but never got a chance. I don't believe there is another airline in the world that makes you turn off your cell phones as you walk in the plane. On JetBlue flights you can use your mobile devices until the airplane doors are closed and you can turn them on again immediately after touch down. The pilot makes an announcement before the final approach to the airport, reminding passengers to keep their cell phones handy so they can use them as soon as they land. Many airlines today are offering in-flight wireless service. During one of my recent THY flights, I applied the JetBlue rule and turned on my BlackBerry after touch down, only to be yelled at by the cabin crew who said I was seriously risking the plane's brake system on the ground by checking my email. Other passengers almost wanted to kill me for risking their lives. As the CEO of the airline you are doing a terrific job, congratulations on the star alliance membership, the meals are delicious and very impressive for the first -time THY passengers, even in the economy class. But you need to catch up in some other areas like cell phone policy.
|The Santa Claus 01/07/10 12:38:00 PM EST|
Since you referred to me by name, I thought I'd comment.
My legal name is Santa Claus, and I'm a Christian Monk, as St. Nicholas was many centuries ago. I'm also a full-time volunteer advocate for millions of vulnerable children in dire straits.
The Santa Claus Peace Council in Antalya, Turkey, awarded me its 2009 international Peace Prize for my work with children. If you'd like to learn more, please visit The Santa Claus Foundation. org.
Blessings to all, Santa Claus
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