Hey! It’s me again, Mattes the German volunteer working for PIYA. Two months have passed, and I have the chance to reflect on my experiences again. I decided to give you an insight about my observations about Izmir and its people. I do not claim the integrity about the things I write, and I am aware of me having just a very limited insight. But I thought it might be fun to read what a foreigner might consider a ‘’Turkish thing’’.
Growing up I thought I live in a big city. Hamburg counts 1.8 million inhabitants and is Germanys second biggest city. So, I when I started my volunteering service, I believed I was prepared. But I proved to be horribly wrong. Living in the nice and quiet neighbourhood Bergedorf is nothing compared to the loud, fast moving and sometimes overwhelming Izmir. Its urban area has a population of round about three million. And you feel that. When three million people get on the streets to find their way to work in the morning and return in the evening hours the bazar-street in Karsiyaka turns into a sea of moving heads. On every balcony facing the street you can find a colourful, blinking poster desperately trying to get your attention. It can get exhausting at times. Especially because you can’t find a place of complete silence. A place to retreat and to take a break. The few parks are crowded with fellow silence-seekers, and it takes a lot of time to get out of the city to see real nature. But you get used to it over time.
And/Furthermore/Nevertheless you learn to appreciate all the beautiful things that show themselves if you withstand the first shock. One of the first things that really stuck with me, is with which passion people will welcome you to their lives. Helping you whenever they can, no matter their own cost. Giving your best for others seems to be a matter of course. Chris my flatmate, colleague and friend wrote his whole blog about this phenomenon.
Another thing I noticed is that there is no rain-proof clothing. When it rains, which it does a lot in the winter, people get out their umbrellas. When you forget your umbrella at home, you’re just getting soaking wet in your normal clothes. Furthermore, people have a special relationship with the traffic. Everybody’s afraid of reckless car drivers. But in the next second, they walk on the street, expecting the cars to slow down as if traffic lights don’t even exist. I noticed that I am starting to adopt that behaviour as well. As did I with the love for Kolonya. It is everywhere. Everyone’s got it either in their own pocket or it is offered by basically every place you go. And it’s great. I leave out no opportunity to get some Kolonya on my hands.
Regularly I get carried away by the passion for good food. I get asked at least once a day if I tried this or that food. And I answer no, but I would love to one day. Which is true. I can’t stay say I speak a lot of Turkish. But what I can do in my sleep, is the protocol of getting food: ”Merhaba…Hoş bulduk…Bir tane alabilir miyim?…Lütfen…Teşekkürler…Sağ ol…Evet…En güzel dürüm…Hesabı alabilir miyim…Evet, Almanya’dan…Kolay gelsin…İyi akşamlar”.
Last but not least, I wanted to share a story with you. Something that really left an impression with me. I was coming back from grocery shopping and sat down in a little park to rest and to be alone with me and my thoughts for a bit. And a man, not a lot older than me, was walking past me. He looked at me, put his hand on his heart and said ”Selamün Aleyküm”. ‘’Peace be with you’’. And I felt that he meant it. We’ll probably never meet again but, in this moment, he cared enough to tell me that everything’s going to be all right. And that really touched me.