“Christian” – “Hristiyan?” – “Hayir! Christian… C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N”
I already had this conversation multiple times in Turkey. Even though my name is a very common name in Germany it seems to be unpopular here in Turkey – at least in the way how it is written. Usually, I tell people to just call me “Chris”.
“Senin adin ne?” “…” “Memnun oldum!”
Following this conversation, I often tell people who I am and what I do in Turkey:
“I am 19 years old, and I am doing a year of volunteering in Izmir at the Pi Youth Association.”
“Ahh! One year? Nereden geliyorsun?”
“Almanya’dan geliyorum.” That’s how far I come with my Turkish. “I am from a town called ‘Braunschweig’ close to ‘Hannover’.”
‘Braunschweig’ is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany in my opinion. I grew up in that city and even though I love to travel my heart will always belong to ‘Braunschweig’. But from time to time I really feel the need to travel somewhere new and that’s how ended up in Izmir. In Highschool I knew that I would want to go abroad, and a mix of wanderlust and coincidence brought me to Turkey – And I love it! I graduated from Highschool in the spring of ’21 and I used the summer to travel with my friends. I then came to the project in September. I chose this project because it seemed very promising for meeting a lot of new people and interact with them, while also getting to know their culture. In Izmir we are in a very busy and cultural place that offers many opportunities for foreigners.
Next to my love for travel, I also have a huge passion for music and sport. In generally I am very interested in all kinds of string Instruments and play some of them myself. I like to stay active and besides doing fitness, I also love to go hiking and to swim and sail. I am very happy that I can pursue almost all of my hobbies and passions in Izmir as well!
Touchdown. The Plane lands on Izmir Airport. The small Boeing 737 only took around 3 hours to bring us from Hamburg, Germany to Izmir, Turkey. The other volunteer and I are stepping out of the airplane into a wall of hot air. Outside of the smothery small staircase is a breeze blowing over the landing-stripe. A small shuttlebus is stopping in front of us, picking up all the passengers. At the luggage-claim it takes us a long time till Mattes – The other Volunteer – can get his bag, so we are killing the time by counting how often the striped Suitcase is making its round on the roundabout. When he finally finds his bag, we are heading out towards the exit. We are expecting a guy called “Mert” to hold the “Pi Youth”-sign to pick us up. Surprised that Mert was replaced by two young students we begin to think that we got any information wrong. Eda and Cigdem are greeting us and are officially our first contacts in Turkey. We are heading to a place called “Karşıyaka” with the “Izban”. The second we stepped out of the station a flood of impressions is shattering over us. Cars, horns, oriental music, lights, heat… We meet other members of the association like Demirkan, Seda and the real Mert. For a person like me, who never left continental Europe before is this a whole new experience. Hi, I’m Christian!
This was more than a month ago and I remember how Mattes and I looked at each other and we both realized that we done it – we are abroad. From the day we applied for a year abroad and the moment we stood in the crowded streets of “Karşıyaka” so much stuff happened – but now we are here!
When I think back to that moment, I realize how fast one and a half months go by. By today so much stuff already happened, that I need my camera roll to remember all the stuff that happened. Izmir has so much to offer. The stuff that I remember best from the first months Izmir are our trip to Ephesus, Tire and the troubles with the bureaucracy.
On a rather hot October day we took the Izban and the bus to the ancient city of Ephesus. A city built as a trans-shipment centre of ancient Greece, which is still in a very good condition due to repairs and preservation. Ephesus offers a lot of different and interesting sights, such as the library or the theatre. It is amazing when you think about it: someone built this theatre thousands of years ago and today it is still usable, standing in the same place for such a long time. The history this region experienced is unbelievable! The west coast of Turkey has so much to offer in terms of historic and archaeological sites.
We were so exited after Ephesus, that we were kind of “bummed out” when we saw the remains of the “great temple of Artemis”. Which in reality is only on pillar of left-over stones. The Temple is considered as one of the “seven world-wonders of the ancient times”, but it is sad that it was destroyed a long time ago. The site has no real preservation right now, it is just a random parking lot next to the grounds of the old temple…
But not only the surroundings of Izmir are historically relevant. We were also interested to go to “Kemeraltı”, one of the oldest and most traditional bazars in Turkey. This market is its own environment, you think your figured out the layout of the place and then five new streets open up and you realize how big this centre of trading really is.
A personal highlight of mine is probably the time I met the mayor of Izmir Mr. Tunç Soyer. Toni, Mattes, and I were invited by our organisation “Pi Youth” and the municipality of Izmir to join a special event on republic day in a village close to Tire. On the 29th of October, a new Atatürk statue was revealed in that village and the mayor came to take a look at various organisations. We met other Turkish volunteers and prepared various activities for the Children of the village. We painted, played, and danced together on the day of the republic and later we also went to a very nice historical place to look at the holy well of Tire.
Reflecting this time, I am happy to be here, and I look forward to the next months. In November we will also start our work at the Izmir-Municipality, for which I am excited about. I am thrilled to experience Izmir in “winter” and to see more of this lovely country!