by Diana Saverin
As a group of twenty-two, our dinner tables are long. I sat on one end the other night, enjoying a “mountain salad” and working through the latest breadbasket, when conversation about South America flickered a memory from the morning, drowned by the many glasses of afternoon çay. I jumped up without explanation and ran to the opposite end of the table. I called out for Diego, who looked at me bewildered. That morning, I had met a former president of his country, Chile. In shock, he squinted his eyes. “What?”
Earlier in the day, I had meandered from carpet shop to carpet shop, letting stories of village women and natural dyes mix like the sugar in my tea. One rug seller, Hassan, told me that over the course of 32 years in his shop in the Grand Bazaar, he had seen the world. “The world comes through here,” he told me. I saw pictures tacked on his wall of various customers, but did not look closely. After asking him questions about the industry, a group of customers came in, and I wandered away to enjoy my tea and admire his collection as he closed a sale.
A few minutes later, he called me back over, flapping his hand frantically. Confused, I walked back towards him, and he introduced me to a woman whose name I couldn’t hear through the melody of thick accents. The woman told me she had been in the area for the UN conference held in Istanbul a few days before. She worked with UN Women, the new streamlined UN body. I had written a Globalist article about the making of such a body, and attended a conference about women’s rights at the UN headquarters in New York. We were talking about the conference and the progress of the new body when the person next to me told me she was the Executive Director of the program, as well as the first Under-Secretary-General at the UN. The rug seller nodded emphatically, and I knew I looked bewildered. Then, another woman whispered, “She’s Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile.” I nodded and smiled, saying something about what an honor it was to meet her before she filed out with her team, a carpet rolled up under one man’s arm.
“See!” Hassan said, “I see the world!” Then he pointed to the pictures, where he stood posing awkwardly with Kofi Annan, among others. I laughed and sipped my tea uncomfortably, still mortified I hadn’t recognized her. My embarrassment wore off, though, especially when met by Diego’s seething jealousy.