It is Toni, your volunteer in Izmir, again and at this point exactly four months of my voluntary service in Turkey have passed. Every new day here is different, and the experiences are countless. That’s why the time seems to fly by.
But there is one thing that accompanied me all these months and basically every day as well. Moving to another country, living in another city with new people, new languages all around you means a lot of change for you. It means letting go of almost every habit you have created for yourself and your every-day life in the past years.Furthermore, that results in letting go of the comfortable space you had built. Getting out of this comfortable and safe space lets you take on a lot of new challenges. But these challenges helped me to get to know myself better and grow as a person. Because, when everything changes around you, the only thing you have left is yourself. So, you must hold on to yourself and find comfort and stability in yourself.
In the beginning, every place you visit, every person you meet and every activity you do is new. That is in fact very exciting, although it can get exhausting with time. The reason is all the new impressions take their energy to process. But the good sides of these, the adventure, the thrill, prevails. Also, two or three months later you can still discover new things at every corner, especially if you stay curious and take a closer look around. Izmir is so lively and huge, that there is always something unknown to see and experience. Even on the way back home, which I walked at least hundred times now, from time to time some details catch my eye and I recognize then, that I have never noticed that little something before. Of course, with the time passing, I created a lot of new habits around here, as well. With fixed working hours and a schedule, which we created, a routine and a rhythm for the week is set beforehand. So, I built my habits around that, mostly including my roommates as well. Another large change was breaking more solid traditions like how you celebrate Christmas. At the same time this was harder and easier to do than letting go of old habits and creating new ones. It was easier, because I did not have any choice about it and so much was happening every day around me, that there was no time to think about how to continue the traditions. As everything came together, I spent this Christmas for the first time in my life in another country without my family. Moreover, me and my roommates went on vacation to Bursa, another city, for the holidays, so there was barely any place to call home for that celebration. Of course, it was not possible to prepare and eat some traditional meal. That’s way, we ate rather typical, home-made Turkish food. However, the most important part of Christmas stayed the same. I got to spend some time with the people the closest to me, my loved ones from Turkey.
Furthermore, the most similar I got to Christmas as I knew it before was not the holiday itself. Two days before that, we had a little Christmas celebration in the association with the office members and mentors. At this event, everybody, who I have grown fond of in the past months was gathered, ate self-made cookies and potato salad, and had fun together. My roommate, co-volunteer and good friend Chris held a little speech about being thankful for something of this year. At this moment, I realized, that the association became a big and colourful family to me. Meeting these people in the association itself or due to it, is one of the things I am most grateful for this year. Thank you!