Izmir. At one point it was just another city. A city which I would probably never visit. Never learn what it could offer to me and what it would maybe hide. A city like all the others I never imagined seeing or living (or even heard of). But despite this Izmir now started to become feeling like a second home to me.
As you maybe now (if you also moved before) it can take quite a while to arrive and feel comfortable in a city or a new place where you know you will now spend a (not too short) period of your life. And I think for me the moment came in the last weeks and months that Izmir changed first from an exciting project in my life, which it still is (first time away from my parents (yay) to become a new home to me. I think first there was the excitement of something new. I didn’t know too much about Turkish tradition back then (and don’t even start with the language). So first it felt a little bit like being thrown into the cold water. But it became also very clear that despite the cultural differences there is so much that Izmir and Berlin (my hometown) have in common. Izmir felt to me like an open city. I met here so many new people. Of course, most of them are Turkish. There are of course our Office members who always try to help me (and the others) to make us feel comfortable. And the mentors are nice and kind people who support us with everything they can. And then there are the participants of our workshops who are so open and friendly people. Who we enjoy spending time with (and preparing our workshops for). But also, the (common) Turkish people who are so kind to us, are what made Izmir feel like a second home to me. There is for example the staff from Bizim Café who we always greet in the morning or the bakery on our way to the office where we buy our breakfast if we got up to late and didn’t eat at home. And there is our fruit and vegetables Abi who is so warmhearted and kind and makes us the best prices for our karpuzlar (and we don’t eat too few of them). But also, the other volunteers Gautier (whose project was already finished), Toni, Chris, Mattes, and Victoryia (who came shortly after me) made me feel welcomed in Izmir, and shortly after I arrived, I felt comfortable spending my time with them in Izmir. And of course, also outside one-day trips or on our vacations.
Another point for me to feel settled in Izmir is learning Turkish. I took an A1 Turkish course together with Victoryia and some Erasmus students, who also were cool (but after some lessons only one of them still came), and tried to learn Turkish. So, I now have an official certification that I passed the A1 Turkish course (which of course doesn’t mean that I understand anything a Turkish person is saying to me anywhere). So, I am always trying to understand one or two words of what they’re saying and to get the whole meaning out of it (which you can think works sometimes good more often Naah (Google translate it is)).
And something which I know will be stuck with me for a long time is of course the Turkish cuisine. From the Turkish breakfast with Menemen to ev yemeği, Lahmacun or Pide which we eat in our lunch breaks, Döner and Kebap for dinner and of course Baklava or Bomba for some time in between. There is so much different and very delicious food that you can’t call out all of them (maybe also because I always forget the names).
So, after some time now I can say that I feel comfortable and settled for the time in Izmir now. The persons I am staying with and all the others I am meeting every day or not so often. The language I learn (but understand?). The places I visited in Izmir (or Türkiye in general) and the food (of which I eat too much). I really enjoy my time here in Izmir and don’t regret at all that I decided to come here and spent my gap year abroad there were so many people, places, and adventures already waiting for me, and are hopefully still waiting to be met, seen, and discovered.