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DIARY OF TWO SPANISH GIRLS

WHO ARE WE?

Helen

Elena Recio, Volunteer from Spain

Elena Recio (the writer of this diary) is a Spanish journalist always open to discover a new topic to discuss, to think about. She doesn´t like thoughtlessness, injustices, and she fights everyday looking for equality. That is why she wants to know every detail, every mind. If she can change anything, she will try it.

 

 Limón

Elena Limón, volunteer from Spain

 

Elena Limón is a beautiful, clever, Spanish girl who decided to come to Erzurum five days before taking the plane. She loves learning languages and she is really good at it. She is extremely extrovert and she has no problem with talking to everyone, to ask anything to anyone. She is also very good at teaching, because she is happy when she spreads her knowledge. She enjoys every minute of her life.

 

BEFORE THE DECISION

LOST

I found myself in that moment when you finish university and you are lost, when you don´t know if you have to look for a job where you are going to be paid 300€, to begin a master for which you have to pay 3000€ or to lay in bed for hours until a brilliant idea comes out.

This was my mood when I heard about EVS (European Voluntary Service). A French friend talked to me about it and she thought it would be a great objective to follow up in my situation. I had to choose an international project in the EVS website, I would have to pass some Skype interviews and I would be travelling to a European country, all expenses paid. So, I started with my research.

My first options were France, Ireland or maybe England. I wanted to improve my French or my English and It was quite easy to tell my parents that I was going to travel to those countries. But after a few interviews not passed, another friend of mine working for EVS came across two international projects that everyone was refusing. Why? They were in Romania and in Turkey. Of course they were being refused, I thought. Nowadays, who is going to travel to these countries? But then, I said to myself, why not? What do I really know about them? What do they know about their culture, about their language, about their food, about their people? Nothing. I know nothing, as Jon Snow does.

So, I read about them and I really liked both projects. The difference was that the Romanian EVS was a long-term volunteering and the Turkish project was a short-time one (two-months). I didn´t know if I was ready for being more than 6 months alone in an unknown country where I don´t know the language. That is why I made my mind and chose the Turkish EVS.

 

FULL OF PREJUDICES.

It was 20th of September when I first talked with Kadir, the EVS coordinator, and it was the 2th of October when I was supposed to start. He told me that I could choose a person to come along because the volunteer who was supposed to come with me finally refused the project. “Oh, sh*t, who will want to come with me? Who is that crazy to say yes to a project one week before leaving?”. I put an add on my Facebook wall and three friends of mine talked to me. But two of them were boys, and the residence where I was going to sleep was only for girls, so I started talking with Elena Limón.

While she was clearing her mind, I also needed my time because I was not pretty sure about my decision and had many questions to make.

“Is it a safe place?” I asked. “I feel quite safe in here” Kadir answered.

What was that supposed to mean? I thought. Every day, every hour, DAESH problem is brought up in Spanish news programmes. Turkey is a Muslim country, and Erzurum (the city where I am going to live for two months) is the city with most Muslim concentration in Europe: 95% of the people in there are Muslim.

My mind was full of prejudices: “we are going a place next to Siria, therefore we are going to be in danger. We are going to see a terrorist attack for sure. We will have to wear the Muslim Scarf. Every girl will wear it. We are going to be very different. They only have kebabs…”.

As I was feeling stupid thinking like that and knowing nothing, I decided to learn about Turkish culture. Then Elena, my Facebook friend, gave her YES to me, and we started getting ready.

“Is it cold there?” I asked too to Kadir. “Yes, bring your heaviest clothes” he said.  And this is how Elenas’ adventure started.

 

TRIP TO TURKEY

WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR LUGGAGE TO ERZURUM?

If you are going to Istanbul, or maybe to Ankara or to the South of Turkey, don´t worry. The weather works like if you were in Spain: hot in Summer, spring time in Spring, autumn time in Autumn, and cold in Winter. However, Erzurum is not like that.

Erzurum only has two seasons: Spanish Spring and Finland Winter. If you are coming in Summer, you are going to find yourself between 20-30 degrees. But if you come after that, in October is already cold.

Kadir let us know and we made our luggage as if we were to live two months in a snowed mountain: the biggest coat, the biggest jumpers, good and warm socks, and mufflers. Nevertheless, we were not hopeless and each of us brought a pretty skirt and a dress. We are still asking why.

Volunteer trick: as I didn´t have enough space in my backpack for boots, I decided to buy them in Erzurum.  They costed 70 TL. That´s 17€. Quite cheaper than if I had bought them in Spain (In 2017, 1€ is 4,1 TL).

 

THE FLIGHTS:

EVS program pays for your tickets to go and come back.  We only had to worry about respecting the hours of check in, and not lost our luggage or ourselves in the airport. The first flight from Madrid to Istanbul was at 14.15, so we went to the airport at 11, we had time enough to do everything and say goodbye to the people we were going to miss.  After that, we took the plane and we sleep the whole flight, 5 long hours.

 

NIGHT IN ISTANBUL:

To go to Erzurum, we had to make a layover in Istanbul, and we had to stay there from 20.00 until 7

Helen in Istanbul

am. Therefore, we decided that the best option we had was to visit this big city we had never met before. Great idea. But, how to get to the city from Sabiha Gokcen Airport?? Good question. “Let´s ask someone in here”. It seemed easy, but it wasn´t. We had a hard time finding someone who spoke English. After five people, we could communicate with Nida, a 28 years old girl who knew English quite good. She helped us to go to Taksim by the HavaBus, Istanbul city centre, and she accepted to have dinner with us in a restaurant, because we were quite lost and we had no idea of what was cheap or what expensive. We did not understand yet how Turkish Lira worked.

Afterward, we tried to visit some places, but everything was closed. So, we just walked around and we had a long conversation for hours and hours, until we got back to the same airport to take our last flight to finally arrive to Erzurum.

Limón and Helen first day at Sitoded Office.

 

WE GOT IT! WE ARRIVED TO ERZURUM!

Kadir (our coordinator) and Burak (our mentor) were waiting for us in the airport and thay got us to our residence.

 

 

 

ALREADY IN ERZURUM

COMMUNICATION IN FOREIGN TONGUE: ENGLISH, SPANISH OR TURKISH

At the beginning, we were shocked because nobody in the residence, where we have been living those months, could speak English. But if they saw the words written they did understand. Afterwards, we asked about this fact, and they told us that it is because of the education system. They only study grammar, but they are not taught in speaking skills. Pretty similar to Spanish education system. Even if they didn´t speak English, they tried hard to communicate with us though.

So, communication in English is quite hard, because only a few people can speak a foreign language. But in SITODED most of the people can communicate themselves in English, so that pretty much saved our lives. SITODED volunteers were always available to us for going to the supermarket, for going eating somewhere, for showing us the city and for being our personal translators, because our Turkish is not enough to have a conversation. But by the end of our EVS experience, we could understand some sentences!! PROUD OF OURSELVES?

 

THE RESIDENCE: TUGRA BAYAN APART.

Tugra Bayan Apart was a Woman residence, like a big flat only for women. It was close to the office where we had to go everyday so it was comfortable in this sense.  Limon and I, we have shared the same room for 2month, therefore we only had one option: becoming best friends! 24 hours with the same person sometimes can be difficult, but we have got over it easily. I am super glad to have another Spanish friend here with me.

Also, we had to follow a time schedule for going out or coming back of the dormitory (from Monday to Friday until 00h30, and Saturday and Sunday until 01h30). So, we had to be very careful with this, because as good Spanish people we are, we are always late.

 

HOW ARE WEEKENDS IN ERZURUM?

                               -Party: Erzurum has no lots of places to go party. There are some of them, but quite different to Spanish places. Even though, we wanted to try it and we had fun there. Alcohol here is expensive. Maybe one beer is 15TL (3.5€, it might seem super cheap, but it is not if you think that you can have lunch here for 10TL), and they are not very into drinking alcohol, because of Islam. Anyway, when we went out we enjoyed a lot.

                               -Travelling: Travelling in Turkey is cheap. You can go and come back from Erzurum to Istanbul for 50€ euros (200TL) by plane, and it is only a two-hours trip. Istanbul is also a cheap city, but it is much bigger and noisier. Therefore, since I prefer small and not very crowded city, I was super happy with my decision of coming to Erzurum.

                               -Relaxing: Erzurum is a good place to relax, there are a lot of tea houses and cafeterias, super cheap and with plenty of options to drink (but not alcoholic drinks!). They love to meet friends and drink çay (tea) for hours and to talk.

Coffee library at Erzurum

 

ACTIVITIES AT SITODED OFFICE: 

Limon and I went here as volunteers, so we had to do some activities for and with SITODED. Before coming to Erzurum, we didn´t know exactly what we should do, but when we arrived they explained it to us.

-About languages:

                  Turkish classes: SITODED offered a Turkish course, so we definitely accepted it and Turkish girl (Fadime) started to be our teacher, twice per week, two hours per lessons. Therefore, thanks to it we could understand and speak a little of Turkish when we were out.

With Fadime, our Turkish teacher.

                Spanish classes: They asked Limon and me what we could do, so we offer our Spanish knowledge to teach to other people. We organised a Spanish course for people from 18 years old on, and I was Spanish teacher for two months. It was a super nourishing activity.

-About children:

                Children House: Twice per week (Monday and Friday) we did activities in a Children House (a house that the Government pays for kids that has no families or for kids that has their family in other cities or countries). We played some games for them to learn English and Spanish. We also played basketball and Volleyball, and we did some manual arts such as doing bracelets or Origami.

                Children School: Moreover, we went to a Public School with Fadime (our Turkish teacher), since she is also English teacher. We wanted to help her and to see how schools works in Turkey. The school was really original, every class was painted differently. And, a thing that attracted my attention was how polite were all the children. They were super interested in everything we told them and they were super cute and sweet with us.

ACTIVITIES AT THE OFFICE: (translation web and some emails from English to Spanish, Children House, Spanish Classes, Turkish Classes, Salsa Classes). Limon and I went here as volunteers, so we had to do some activities for and with SITODED. Before coming to Erzurum, we didn´t know exactly what we should do, but when we arrived they explained it to us. -About languages: Turkish classes: SITODED offered a Turkish course, so we definitely accepted it and Turkish girl (Fadime) started to be our teacher, twice per week, two hours per lessons. Therefore, thanks to it we could understand and speak a little of Turkish when we were out. Spanish classes: They asked Limon and me what we could do, so we offer our Spanish knowledge to teach to other people. We organised a Spanish course for people from 18 years old on, and I was Spanish teacher for two months. It was a super nourishing activity. -About children: Children House: Twice per week (Monday and Friday) we did activities in a Children House (a house that the Government pays for kids that has no families or for kids that has their family in other cities or countries). We played some games for them to learn English and Spanish. We also played basketball and Volleyball, and we did some manual arts such as doing bracelets or Origami. Children School: Moreover, we went to a Public School with Fadime (our Turkish teacher), since she is also English teacher. We wanted to help her and to see how schools works in Turkey. The school was really original, every class was painted differently. And, a thing that attracted my attention was how polite were all the children. They were super interested in everything we told them and they were super cute and sweet with us. -Other office job: our job here consisted of translating to Spanish Sitoded Web page, getting ready activities for children, working on our personal project, helping our coordinators with everything that they need. Also, we had plenty of time to study Turkish and to have fun. FOOD IN ERZURUM: How is food in Erzurum? Two words: cheap and delicious. Turkey is known because of the Kebab and Durum, and Erzurum is known especially for Cag Kebab, a piece of meat that tastes like heaven. Also in Erzurum, there are have lots of soups, because of the cold weather, and different kinds of cooking chicken. That is why there are not lot of vegetarian or vegan people here. Understandable. HOW MUCH MONEY WE DID SPEND: Living in Turkey is cheaper than living in any of the UE countries. They don´t have Euros (€) but Turkish Liras (TL), and when we were here 1€ was between 4,1 and 4,5TL. EVS programme pays for everything: food, accommodation, Internet, transportation, flight tickets… and the amount of money that volunteers receive depends on the country where you go. For instance, for going to Turkey we were paid (for food, transportation and pocket money) 230€ per month (around 980/1000TL), and with that money you can live here perfectly, since the room was paid for European Commission. WEATHER: Çok mutluyum!! Im very happy!! I am very happy because I saw snowing for almost one week before coming back to Spain. Everywhere was snowed and white; and in Spain I never saw snowing. Our first month -October- was as a winter in South Spain, between 5-17 degrees. However, when November came, the maximum temperature reached was 10 and the minimum -15. And it was getting colder. In December and January, temperatures will drop until -30. TURKISH LANGUAGE: If you are a Spanish Speaker, Turkish is tough to learn. Sounds and grammar are completely different. (For example, the verb is always put at the end of the sentence). But if you make an effort, as we did, in some months you can start speaking and understanding some things. In their language, you can notice that it is a culture (like other Asian languages) that like to show respect to older people or people how are supposed to be in a higher position friends (like “older sister -abla-, older brother -abi). Also, they have lots of sweet words to call their friends. It is a very tender language. Here I put some web pages and Youtube channel that are very useful to learn Turkish faster: - http://turkishbasics.com/ (in English) - https://turco.wordpress.com/ (in Spanish) - http://cursodeturco.blogspot.com.tr/ (in Spanish) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AllxgMnB6k8 (in English and with Spanish subtitles)

Limon and Alperen at Salsa classes

-Other office job: our job here consisted of translating to Spanish Sitoded Web page, getting ready activities for children, working on our personal project, helping our coordinators with everything that they need. Also, we had plenty of time to study Turkish and to have fun.

-Salsa classes: for a month, Limon was a salsa teacher and she showed us the basic steps.

FOOD IN ERZURUM:

How is food in Erzurum? Two words: cheap and delicious. You can find lots of places to eat for around 10TL (2€).  That is why people don´t cook too much at their houses. Even though, if you are invited to a lunch someone´s house…ACCEPT! They do know how to prepare a home-cooked-meal!

Being guests in Fadime´s home

Being guests in Fadime´s home

Turkey is known because of the Kebab and Durum, and Erzurum is known especially for Cag Kebab, a piece of meat that tastes like heaven. Also in Erzurum, there are have lots of soups, because of the cold weather, and different kinds of cooking chicken.  That is why there are not lot of vegetarian or vegan people here. Understandable.

HOW MUCH MONEY WE DID SPEND:

Living in Turkey is cheaper than living in any of the UE countries. They don´t have Euros (€) but Turkish Liras (TL), and when we were here 1€ was between 4,1 and 4,5TL.

EVS programme pays for everything: food, accommodation, Internet, transportation, flight tickets… and the amount of money that volunteers receive depends on the country where you go.

HOW IS THE WEATHER IN ERZURUM?

Çok mutluyum!! Im very happy!!

I am very happy because I saw snowing for almost one week before coming back to Spain. Everywhere was snowed and white; and in Spain I never saw snowing.

Our first month -October- was as a winter in South Spain, between 5-17 degrees. However, when November came, the maximum temperature reached was 10 and the minimum -15. And it was getting colder. In December and January, temperatures will drop until -30.

 

TURKISH LANGUAGE:

If you are a Spanish Speaker, Turkish is tough to learn. Sounds and grammar are completely different. (For example, the verb is always put at the end of the sentence). But if you make an effort, as we did, in some months you can start speaking and understanding some things.

In their language, you can notice that it is a culture (like other Asian languages) that like to show respect to older people or people how are supposed to be in a higher position friends (like “older sister –abla-, older brother –abi). Also, they have lots of sweet words to call their friends. It is a very tender language.

 

AFTER ERZURUM

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN US

When I first arrived at Erzurum, the cultural shock was big. The weather, the food, the religion…everything is different. It doesn´t mean worst or better: just different. And my first mistake was not to accept it in the beginning. This is the worst part of a short-time EVS. When you are started to feel adapted, comfortable and in home, you have to go!

But what do we share with Turkish people?

As Spanish people, they have lot of sense of humour. Even if you are in a serious conversation with them, they would make jokes to you. This is also because they see life with a positive perspective.

Our love to food. Our food is different, but they love eating as much as we do. For them, eating is also a social activity, a moment in the day to relax, socialize, and meeting friends.

And if we have a coffee time break, they have their moments for tea. So, if you come to Turkey, better you like tea, because they can drink at least 4-5 in a day. Of course, they also have coffee, Turkish coffee and Nescafe, but if you are a coffee lover (as I am), it is quite possible that you find it weird and you prefer tea!

Ömer, Elena, Limon and Alperen

Ömer, Elena, Limon and Alperen

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE CULTURES

Living in here is quite different. Their traditions are different than ours. In Erzurum 95% of population is Muslim. And we are not. We are not even Christians. So, we have noticed this. Even if I don´t share some of the thoughts that Muslim people have, I really love the culture and I enjoyed a lot this experience though.

Turkish people they love being together, have breakfast, have lunch, drink a lot of tea, do some activities, and then leaving home. To sum up, maybe Spanish culture is more a night culture and Turkish one it´s perhaps a day one. Mentalities are different. I guess they see us different too and they don´t get to understand why we think as we do. And I also guess that if I don´t want to change my perspective, they don´t want neither.

However, we can share our knowledges, our visions of life, and at the end, we can laugh together.