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I want to welcome everybody here for our

final historiography uh uh


uh of the year.

Um I'm very very pleased to have Murat

Yıldız who's one of our own

um who

will be, he's currently at Skidmore

College. He's going to be presenting on

sports culture

that was there in the late Ottoman empire

among Jews and Christians and Muslims.


he's going to be looking at Istanbul in


Um the title of his talk is Gender

Communal Boundaries, and Leisure

Activities: A New Approach?

And um I really want to welcome him back

to UCLA.

Thanks so much Jim.

Alright, um before I begin I want to

thank um

Jim Galvin um and Ali Bedhad for inviting me um

to uh here today to participate. Um it's

really it's really a great privilege um

to participate in the historiography of

the Middle East lecture series. Um

as Jim mentioned, um

I'm a product of of the UCLA history

department and so I can candidly say that

I benefited tremendously both from the

lectures um and the conversations uh

with the scholars that often took place

after as a graduate student. Um and it's

one of the I mean I've talked about this

with with with friends who have

graduated from different institutions

both public and private and I um I

really think it's one of the things that

makes UCLA uh history department really


So my talk today um is entitled Gender

Communal Boundaries and Leisure

Activities: A New Approach?

In June 1908

a group of men gathered to

gathered together to pose for the camera

in Istanbul.

The photograph reveals the accoutrements

of an expanding middle class


shared among Istanbulites of the period.

Blazers, starch white shirts, ties,

mustaches and neatly combed hair.

The photograph also captured a less

conspicuous object which arguably

played the most important role in

connecting the men, a balance beam.

The six Jewish men were leading members

of the Jewish gymnastics club of

Constantinople, or Israelitische Turnverein Konstantinopel

a gymnastics association

created by and for Jews living in

Istanbul which later adopted the name

the Maccabi Jewish Gymnastics Society.

Société Juive de Gymnastique Maccabi.

Five years later,

also in June,

another group of men turned to the

camera as a means to record their bonds,

their friendship,

and their connections. Their photograph

was part of a series of images that the

group had taken of themselves that


as they traversed the city

on a ferry and made their way

to a friend's

garden in the bucolic neighborhood of

Paşabahçe in Beykoz.

Most immediately, the group was united by

an interest in escaping

Istanbul's summer heat by spending the

afternoon relaxing, conversing, and

enjoying enjoying food and drink. What

also brought them together

was their membership in one of

Istanbul's most prominent sports clubs.

The Galatasaray physical training club

or galatasaray Terbiye-i Bedeniye Kulübü.

Now together, the images

both reveal and play a constitutive role

in the formation of what I call imperial

physical culture,

a gendered civic project that promoted

gymnastics, athletics, and team sports

namely football or soccer um as

educational, moral,

and leisure activities in Istanbul

during the late 19th and early

late 19th century until world war one.

This is the the cut up of my talk uh today.

Um and so what I'm going to be doing is

I'm going to be concentrating on how

imperial physical culture offers a

unique vantage point from which

I can contribute to the study of

masculinity more specifically and gender

more broadly.

Now over the past decade, anthropologists

and historians

have produced the rich body of

literature that explores the practices,

concepts, and representations

of of masculinity. Now

what I'm going to be


or at least referencing um in this

opening part is actually the the the

historian's work.

Now, notable

contributions to this literature coming

from historians focus on the formation

of a self-consciously modern masculine

subject in interwar Egypt and Iran.

This work um

has enriched the the

the study of

of of Middle East studies more broadly

and more specifically uh gender.

Um now what I'm going to do is

what I'm going to be doing is actually

talking about how

the the project in my talk differs from

this this work. So the talk

does not use physical culture merely as

a vantage point from which it examines


Other studies do this.

Um rather it will focus on late Ottoman

Istanbul's modern sports culture and its

constitutive threads which include

gender but also the body, class, leisure

as well as ethno-religious and

linguistic bonds.

So interweaving an analysis of these

various threads,

the talk in the broader book project

examines how the construction and

practices of middle class

masculinity were embedded in the

institutions, discourses, and practices of

sports as well as how they intersected

with other social variables. In other

words, the talk is premised on a

methodological question about what are

the implications of building a narrative

around physical culture

and not masculinity in the modern Middle


So the spread growing popularity and

institutionalization of modern sports in

Istanbul during the period were not

unique to the Ottoman Empire.

During the late 19th and early 20th

centuries people living in urban centers

around the world from New York to


Calcutta to Shanghai contributed to the

formation of a global physical culture

movement by institutionalizing physical

education, writing gymnastics manuals,

competing in athletic matches, and

playing team sports. Sports enthusiasts living in Istanbul, a

transnational hub and the political

center of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious,

and multi-linguistic polity gain access

to a variety of ideas, objects, practices,

and norms that were connected to this global

physical culture movement which passed

through the capital.

They drew insights both in terms of

content and form from the institutions

and discourses of sports in the United

States and Europe during the period but

they also crafted a vernacular

multilingual vision

of exercise that spoke to the shared and

exclusive bonds undergirding imperial physical

culture in Istanbul.

So what I'm going to be doing is looking at

a couple of different spaces

to think through

the the various different threads that

I've just uh elaborated on

from physical culture. The first are


So in late Ottoman in Istanbul, schools

played an integral role in shaping a

moral and educational vision of physical


The integration of physical exercise

into the curriculum of schools as well

as the extracurricular activities

was brought up was part of a broader

process of educational reform during the

19th century.

Muslim, Christian, and Jewish educators

increasingly accepted the idea that they

needed to reform schools in order to

attract students

and provide them with the tools needed

to flourish in a rapidly changing city,

empire, and world.

Reform was a multi-faceted process that

involved new approaches to space, time,

and content.

Central to the modern school was a new

order in which classes were divided

according to educational years, a

detailed schedule organized daily life,

and students studied new subjects. One of

these subjects was physical exercise.

By the early 20th century, performing

calisthenics in a gymnasium,

competing in athletic events and kicking

a ball around gradually became a regular

part of a young man's experience as a


Not every everyone loved these


but all students during the time period

were familiar with them and for me this

is what's most important.

The incorporation of physical exercise

into modern schools reflected the

centrality of the human body to the

various educational projects that

emerged in late autumn in Istanbul.

Administrators of government, private

non-muslim as well as foreign schools

all believe that young men needed to

exercise on a regular basis.

Breaking a sweat, performing gymnastics,

and playing team sports

it was believed help students cultivate

a healthy strong and moral body

which educators increasingly believed

were important requirements for becoming

an educated young man.

Now, the imperial school or Mekteb-i Sultani

which served as the model state

secondary school

attracting young men living across the

empire made a point of celebrating the

athletic excellence of its students.

Starting in the 1890s, the school started

to award students with the best grades

in gymnastics and award at the school's

annual ceremony.

Students won prizes in Ottoman

literature, Arabic, Persian, Ottoman,

Turkish, handwriting,

religious jurisprudence, literature

history, morality, religious sciences, the

principles of religion,

Quran, as well as gymnastics.

Records of these ceremonies reveal that

Muslim and non-mMslim students not

surprisingly but important

such as hussein, [...], [...]

victor samuel adolf and

joseph received awards for outstanding

performances in the subject.

Mekteb-i Sultani administrators took pride

in both the development of gymnastics on

campus as well as its diverse student


Ottomans of all ethno-religious

backgrounds were becoming


athletic men.

School administrators turned to

photography to display these shared

Ottoman athletic bonds such as this one

of the imperial school of imperial

school students and instructor Ali Faik

surrounded by typical early 20th century

gymnastics equipment.

The names written on the back of the

photograph reveal that the students

wearing the school's athletic attire

which consisted of loose fitting pants

and tight long sleeve shirts with the

star and crescent symbol sewn onto them

were both Muslim and non-Muslim.

And what you can imagine is that the

photograph provided an easy metaphor for

a shared commitment to physical exercise

among all students.

Now Robert College the elite American

college in Istanbul also stressed the

importance of physical exercise in its

educational mission to quote promote a

spirit of harmony between students of

different nationalities.

Early 20th century school reports refer

to gymnastics and team sports

such as baseball, soccer, and basketball

as activities that could alleviate

communal detentions by providing quote a

common meeting ground end quote, for all


it was hoped that robert it was hoped

that Robert College students playing and

exercising together would help them

establish bonds that transcended their

divisions specifically the ethnic

religious ones.

There is there does seem to be

some merit to this vision.

Student athletes at Robert College who

worked out together in the school's

impressive indoor gymnasium

and were members of the school's

athletic association did come from


ethnic religious backgrounds.

The group was dominated by seven

Ottoman and hellenic Greeks but also

included in Ottoman Armenian as well as

two English citizens.

Robert College's registration records

reveal that the young men also came from

different socio-economic backgrounds,

which isn't surprising

given that

schools attracted an upwardly mobile

group of men. Nonetheless

I want to point this out

in the in the actual uh

association here.

So three fathers were deceased, three

were merchants, one was a laundry man,

one was a an assistant governor, and an

insurance agent. I

can imagine a great

novel um a short story by bringing

together all these different figures but

I digress.

In short the group demonstrates that a

commitment to bodily care and physical

exercise on campus had the potential to

cut across many social variables and

became a defining activity

of a new generation of young men.

Now despite the celebration of physical

exercise and as an important

pillar of modern education

many people also maintain reservations.

Ali Faik, this the imperial schools

long-standing gymnastics instructor and

the first Muslim one had the following

to say people are very suspicious about


They say what will all this skipping and

hanging amount to?

I do not want my son to be a wrestler or

an acrobat. [...] or a [...].

Both the wrestler and the acrobat

conjured up notions of an inferior

social status and values, the former with

traditional notions of masculinity and

strength, and the latter with performance.

Faik went to great lengths to challenge

this perspective by establishing by

establishing that gymnastics was an

integral part

of modern education and that physical

exercise in schools were fundamentally

different than wrestling and acrobatics,

writing quote, gymnastics is neither the

amazing skill that acrobats perform

during their exercises nor is it

concerned with eliciting the amazement

and attention of people end quote.

Now Faik's fears seem to be warranted. [...]

who would go on to become

one of the most well-known

physical culture enthusiasts in the

Ottoman empire

and the real the face of

uh the Ottoman

government's um

physical training and physical education


studied at the imperial school in the

late 19th century and he recounts how

as a student he thrived in gymnastics.


and he won he won awards for his his

athletic skill.

Now [...]'s mother [...]

who was initially overjoyed

when he told her that he won a prize at


became furious after sort of explained

that what the award was for.

He writes, mother I was number one in

gymnastics. You would be amazed to see me

at school. I climbed to the top of the

rod and wrote all in one breath I pull

myself up and down from my knees on the

horizontal ladder. I walk on my hands. You

have no idea what I can do. [...]

needless to say was less impressed. She

had the following to say quote. I sent

you to school in order for you to study

and be a man [...] not to climb up

ropes. Get out of here. Such an award

means nothing to me.

According to [...]'s understanding,

physical exercise and modern education

were fundamentally separate. Gymnastics

was nothing more than a childish

activity whereas modern education was a

means to elevate her son's social status

and to turn him into

a modern civilized man.

Now schools were not the only space in

which young men encountered physical


The major other space was the sports club.

During the late 19th and early 20th

century, sports clubs

mushroomed in different neighborhoods

around the city as spaces where young

men could exercise socialize and hang


The sports club was the sports club was

by no means an isolated phenomenon. It

was part of a broader pro world of of


that emerged in Istanbul as well as

across urban centers of the Ottoman

empire during the late 19th early 20th


When sports clubs started to open their

doors in the imperial capital during the

1890s, they were responding to a

burgeoning interest among the city's

youth in physical exercise and team


There was no consensus on the exact

number of clubs operating at the

outbreak of the first world war. However

what remains clear is their level of


According to an article published in

1912, Istanbul's youth had more than 40

clubs to choose from. These clubs as I

mentioned were not confined to one area

of the city. From [...] to [...]

to [...], these civic organizations

literally popped up everywhere.

And their creation reflects the

development and spread of the idea that

physical exercise was more than subjects

of study in games that students

performed on school campus.

They were activities that Istanbulites,

both Ottoman and non-Ottoman nationals

wanted to busy themselves with during

their leisure times.

Clubs offered young men a space in which

they could exercise

and an organization for which they could


Some clubs were devoted exclusively to

gymnastics or soccer while others

embrace other activities such as hockey,

track and field, swimming, and to a more

limited extent wrestling.

Membership granted young men access to

the various amenities, both sporting and

non-sporting that clubs provided.

Wealthier clubs had access to a


which were usually equipped with a

shower, changing room

and gymnastics equipment.

Some clubs um

had uh reading rooms

which included magazines and newspapers.

Both those from the Ottoman empire and

and beyond.


members also gained access to a wide

variety of social functions, dinners and


um as well as conferences

that brought usually members together

an evening.

Now in terms of the the

the the sporting venues so club


offered its members access to a bustling

world of these venues, such as stadiums,

gardens and theaters. One of the most

popular spaces was was union club.

Soccer matches um,

athletic competitions

and gymnastics exhibitions attracted


crowds of spectators,

facilitated both intra and intercommunal


and popularized

sports clubs.

Now many of the athletic events such as

the Armenian

as the Armenian olympics,

uh Maccabi's annual gymnastics

tournament, it's the image of the olympic


um this is of the of the Maccabis uh

the Maccabi club's annual sporting

tournament um as well as various shows

were organized in the same space union

club and actually maintain striking


Now I don't mean to flatten

the differences between Armenian, Jewish

Greek and Muslim bodies performing and

competing in public spaces and if we'd

like we can talk about this in the q a

but what I do want to call attention to

is the fact that all of these different


that are organizing larger


for the city were happening in the

actually the same space.

Now these organizations attracted

upwardly mobile young men who are

interested in exercising and playing

sports. Now

something that I that I want to make a

point of and that is,

I want to think about these

organizations as

attracting young men. In other words

young men of the city were actually

shopping for different clubs because of

their proliferation in the city at the

time. Now the question that I ask myself

is how did actually young men go about

selecting an organization to join.

um one of one of the ways was was by the

activities. As I mentioned, some clubs


an emphasis on soccer others gymnastics

and people gravitated to those different

activities. Um another point to mention

is that people will actually recruited

to join clubs um.

People who who are students in in

secondary schools who are competing for

their their high school teams often

recounted that they were recruited by

local clubs to actually join and and to

play soccer for them.

Um in addition to the activities

geography uh may also have shaped which

club young men joined.

Membership records of some organizations

reveal that a sizable proportion of

their members actually lived in the area

in which the the the

the club was based.

Um and this becomes even more

interesting when we take into

consideration the fact that during the

early 20th century,

Istanbul's youth were increasingly

becoming more mobile–

taking public transportation from one

end of the city to the other. So in some

instances, you can see a student going to

school across town but actually joining

the gymnastics for the sports club in

their local neighborhood.

Now members, clubs were often adverse to

admitting strangers

preferring that new members be connected

to their organization when they register.


I'm going to give you a couple of

examples. So the the Hercules uh

gymnastics association

and the Fenerbahce sports club

required those who wanted to become a

member to actually receive

recommendations from two current

um club members.

And what they're doing is trying to vet

um applicants.

So sports clubs went out of their way to

also establish

that physical exercise and morality were

organically linked. This was part of the

letters that they that they asked club

members to to submit

um and they also made a point of

stressing that members needed to to

abide by the regulations

on these internal regulations that each

that each organization's uh each

organization created.

A person was

expected to embody specific values and

beliefs that these these regulations um

uh spoke to.

So first um a person often needed a

person needed to establish that he was

morally upright.

So clubs had different means of

verifying this

um beyond these these these

recommendations. So for example the Dork

physical uh training club uh excuse me

the Dork physical training union asked

young men to provide a written


um which would then which they would

then accept or deny after examining the

morality of the applicant and other

factors. So what we're seeing is

actually young men shopping for clubs

and clubs actually vetting the


Now clubs also attracted young men from

particular ethno-religious and

linguistic backgrounds.

The spaces in which young men exercised,

hung out, and competed were largely


around ethno linguist ethno-religious

and linguistic differences.

Organizations celebrated these divisions

the main language and symbols used and

the eponyms that organizations adopted

projected a distinct ethno-religious

identity. Some clubs explicitly adopted

religious names while others were named

after a heroic or mythological figure of

the club's respective community.

Maccabi for Jews,

Hercules for Greeks,

um Dork for Armenians– obviously didn't

carry this same meaning in English as it

did didn't does in Armenian.

In doing so uh club founders sought to

construct and raise an awareness of a

deep history in which their communities

celebrated the connection between the

body strength and masculinity.

Now Muslims tended to it not to adopt

similar titles nevertheless uh club

still projected a distinct identity

through a variety of of means one of

them being through actually language.

Now club did not shy away from

projecting these these different

commitments ,on the contrary they

celebrated them. Biewing an


ethnic religious and linguistic identity

is one of the ways in which they could

compete against others and attract young


For example when, [...] wanted

to join a fraternity of athletes he made

sure to stipulate that he visited

uh Armenian athletic clubs [...].

So there's this point in which he's he's

not just saying he's visiting athletic

clubs and seeing which ones he wants to

join but saying he's actually visiting

Armenian ones.

Now another space that shaped

actually let me make this point. So

what's going on here is

these civic and ethno-religious


were a defining feature of these



And as a result the centrality of clubs

to imperial physical culture made its


that civic and ethno-religious bonds

overlapped they were mutually




the foundation of imperial physical


Now the another space that that that shaped

the distinct vision of this of this

civic uh and ethnic religious culture

was the press.

Now Istanbul's growing sports press

which initially

consisted of irregular articles on

exercise in late night in the late 19th

century and turned into regular columns

and newspapers and magazines

dedicated exclusively to physical

culture ensured that a wide variety,

excuse me a wide array of the empire's

denizens, not just members of athletic

associations were visually and textually

exposed to the view that young men

should regularly exercise.

In other words,

the press

is exposing

Istanbulites, a greater number of



the idea that exercise

physical education and team sports are

imperative for young men.

Now these experimental

publications constituted

a a public forum

that provided

the growing greeting public with

articles focused on on particular

sports, scouting, and other sport related

leisure activities but also on wider

issues of health, hygiene, and lifestyle.

These discussions offered an aspiring

middle class with instructions on how to

become modern young men by playing

sports, having fun,

exercising and training their bodies.

Written by educators, leading members, and

administrators of sports clubs doctors

and government officials

these publications insisted on the idea

that young men needed to regularly


Young men according to these

publications should cultivate a

well-defined body

by regularly performing physical

exercise in schools in the gymnasium at

the sports club but also staying at home.

So making this point of of highlighting

these spaces that i just talked about

but stressing

that that that that

that a growing reading public could

exercise wherever they are.

Um now Armenian and Ottoman Turkish

magazine stressed the importance of of

of sports clubs.

Um publications provided a space for

administrators and clubs club members to

provide a distinct historical narrative

of these organizations.

In the book project what I actually try

to do is is treat these spaces the space

of the of of of the press as it actually

as it's as it's as it's as an own

as a known archive it's its own archive

um and to not

uh integrate actually the press uh

analysis with the with the actual clubs

but to argue that that the press

facilitates a distinct narrativization

of of

of sports clubs.

So what you have are articles

creating a compelling narrative arc for

different different organizations.


here's an image of of of of of

of the Fenerbahce sports club on the

cover of Idman,

another Turkish publication.

And so what you get are this idea of

young men facing government opposition

during the Hamidian era and enduring

trials and tribulations on the pitch

these men persisting and succeeding in

creating a competitive club

um that provided a variety of

different activities.

And what you have again is is this this


to a broader reading public about these


Now publications also ran photographs of


um encouraging readers to join them and so

what you're getting

is this idea that

they're different in different

publications. So you'll see in

uh on the right side of the screen this

is a an article

from Idman in which it's calling

attention to the to the [...]

right um specifically the the foot or

the soccer team um

on the left which you have is is is the


the Dork uh Armenian uh uh club. And so

what you have are these these these

different journals directing readers to

the different clubs that belong to their

own ethnic religious community of the

city and encouraging them to join them


Um uh now not every ethno-religious and

linguistic community actually had a a

sports journal, so what you saw are

especially for um

with regard to to Jewish and and and

Greek Istanbulites, them turning to the

to newspapers uh to narrate these spaces.

Um so for example

um a a a French newspaper in Istanbul um

that was uh connected to the Jewish

community and was highly supportive of

the Maccabi club made a point of

encouraging Jewish parents to have their

children join Maccabi

an organization that quote solemnly

proclaims proclaims the Jewish name that

is proud to belong to the Jewish people

and to continue its history. So what you

have are this idea of of exercise

communal development well-being

and prosperity being

dispersively connected.


newspapers and magazines

not only narrated

these these clubs, what they they also

did was they shaped the defining

contours of a shared concept in an

aspirational figure that emerges on the


of these uh of these publications

and that is the sportsman.


so what you have is


in Armenian, in Turkish, in Ottoman

Turkish and French and in English all


different terms sometimes just embracing

the the English term sports man

but using the

different languages um as well as

english to refer to a new aspirational



that shared a number of characteristics.

Um so magazines envisioned the sports

man as a young man in his teens and

early twenties

and they used photographs to illustrate

this. But they also made a point of is

actually stressing that youth was was

also a state of mind that could actually

transcend age.

Uh note the image on the on the right

side of the uh the powerpoint right uh,

an old but um but young uh sportsman.


they ran images of important um

athletes of Istanbul.

Right here's an image from

from [...] of Vahram Pazian of the Artavazt Club

right who's framed as Istanbul's fastest


You have in the in the Greek press um

the Alibrantis brothers, Nicolas and Yorgos

Alibrantis of the Hercules gymnastics


Now in addition to these


these athletes who performed great

sporting and athletic feats,

the publication also made a point of

running images

of less committed

athletes so more everyday people who

started to read their publication,

started to develop a a workout routine

and started to reform their bodies, right.

And so what you have is this idea that

in Istanbul you have both

sportsmen who are thriving on the pitch,

thriving in competitions,

as well as people who have their

day-to-day jobs

and are working out in their extra

during their leisure time.

Right now

these publications also exposed

Istanbul's readers

to a broader world of athletes and these

differed based on the publications. So [...]


its readers to Armenian sportsmen not

just in Istanbul but actually across the

empire and so here you have

a figure from the Syrian Protestant

Vollege of

of Syrian Protestant College in Beirut um

as well as uh on on the right side

and a figure from the uh the Cairo

Armenian sports club on the left. Right

this notion that

that Armenians

were were working out

in Istanbul but also other parts of the

empire so in other words, they belong to

a an imperial-wide Armenian

sports culture.

Publications also made a point of

stressing that they were part of a

global community

and so what they do is they run images

of of leading sportsmen and athletes

right like um Eugene Sandow the the

the bodybuilder extraordinaire or Sam

Langford the world um a champion of

boxing in their respective publications

and what

what they're doing is exposing readers

to a pantheon of international athletes

and saying that you're actually part of

that international movement.

Now, by exposing them to these different

communities, right the international, the

imperial, and the and the local

and the not just doing this in in

print uh

textually, but actually doing it visually,

they also made a point of stressing

that any reader could potentially become

a sports man.

And what they did was they offered them

guides on how to do so

and one of the things that stands out is

the stress on

the importance of abiding by and


international rules that govern these

various different activities. So you have

um you know the laws uh governing soccer,

um the laws governing



different methods on how to uh to

perform gymnastics.

And so what these publications are doing

is is drawing from this

this this

this these these internationally


uh rules and regulations to stress


the uh the connections between these the

the these activities uh and their uh and

the readers

and to legitimize them by by pointing

and nodding to these international


Now um to conclude

what I want to do is I want to return to

the two photos with which I opened the

presentation and I

and I choose these I chose these these

these images for a reason. Um in order to

highlight how

the the world of imperial physical


took place both on the pitch and off

both in the sports club and outside

wearing athletic attire

as well as blazers right.


together when we read these images

together, they reveal a sports network

that members and administrators of a

club participated in



and what becomes clear when we when we

read them together

is that

that sports enthusiasts largely moved

in ethnically and religiously

homogeneous spaces. So they were they

were not worlds apart,

nonetheless they were largely separate.

But while they worked while they moved

in these largely separate spaces, what

they did was they they created a

set of goals belief and assumptions that

were mutually recognizable. They created

a multilingual vocabulary and grammar of

the body, gender, and self that was that

was recognizable to a generation

uh of of of Istanbulites.

And you know as a point of uh to discuss

maybe in the q and a, something that I've

that I've that I've it's a term that

I've used that is Istanbulite

um but not something that i've I've

spent a lot of time theorizing but i'm

doing this quite intentionally to really

to to stress

the ways in which

Istanbul's residents

created the shared imperial culture in a

very local level. Thank you very much.

Okay I want to thank you for coming and

giving us your research


I for one found it very enlightening

and hope to see you soon.

Thanks so much for having me.