It is just over a month now since I started what I have dubbed my “Ankara Adventure”. Plenty of people have said it before and there will be many more who will continue to say it after me, but its true that EVS is a fantastic opportunity to get out there and not only help where you can, but also to experience some truly incredible things. I highly recommend it to anyone that has even a slight inkling to participate in something like this.
Turkey is a completely different world to that of the UK, the culture, the religion, the language and food; nothing is the same. For the first month the weather has been really good but I am told that will change in the coming weeks. My project here is with a youth centre in Ankara called Guckobir, there I am volunteering and participating in activities with under privileged children. The project coordinator over here is a man named Murat and even though we have troubles communicating because of the language barrier his passion for his job and his desire to help these kids transcends this barrier. You truly get inspired, and even though working with kids isn’t something I particularly wanted to do I am now committed to doing all I can for both the kids at the centre and for Murat. I am deeply thankful and indebted to Murat for allowing me to come over here.
There are many things I want to talk to him about, to discuss, to hear his opinions on but as I mentioned earlier the language barrier is an issue. I feel like Kevin Costner in the film Dances With Wolves where he has just met the Native Americans and wants to talk with them but cannot yet communicate. It is rather frustrating.
Due to this communication issue the volunteers here are enrolled onto a Turkish Language course. We have lessons three times a week, four hours a day and are expected to do our own work at home and practice as often as possible. Murat believes that by the end of the second month of the language course we should have a decent grasp of the language and will be able to participate in activities at the youth centre more often. I have a great desire to be at that level of understanding as soon as possible.
As a month has passed I am already a sixth of the way through my placement and the enjoyment I am getting from it really is making the time fly. My residence permit is being sorted in the next few days, Turkish lessons are now at the end of their 2nd week, I go to Istanbul for 4 days on Monday and more volunteers are expected to arrive in early October.
Already I have met some fabulous people, and not to be cliché but everyone has been extremely helpful and hospitable. I feel I have been incredibly lucky with the group of people I have become friends with, outside of the volunteers and the Turkish lessons are some locals who I know I will remain friends with for years to come. Some fantastic experiences have been had already and I know the future will hold even more.
Wherever you are in the world you have to make the most of the opportunities and I truly intend to get everything I can out of these 6 months, well 5 months now. The time is going to pass too fast and I know as much as I miss my friends at home and as often as I think about being back there with them, when the time comes, I will not want to leave Turkey. If you take up an EVS project I can almost guarantee you will feel the same.
Thanks to EVS, Concordia, Guckobir and everyone else involved I am living in Turkey for 6 months having to pay very little to be able to do this. Thanks to EVS et al I am able to make a difference to some of the under privileged kids in Ankara. I am able to discuss the current conflicts in the Middle East with people who have come from there, with people who still have family there, Afghans and Syrians. I am able to witness the celebrations of a country that fought for its independence less than 100 years ago. I am able to learn a new language, to meet new people, to gain new experiences and to grow as a person.
A Swiss woman spoke to me on the bus today; she has been living in Turkey for 25 years. She said that I need to find myself a Turkish girl, as Turkish girls are some of the most beautiful, and get her to teach me how to speak the language. I guess we would fall in love, I would stay here, and it would be a happily ever after story.
I will keep you posted…