YOU and I! – Volunteering experience in GEGED
YOU AND I
Volunteering experience at GEGED
by Sara Porta
Travel is not always pretty. It is not always comfortable.
Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that is okay.
The journey changes you – it should change you.
It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body.
You take something with you and, hopefully, you leave something good behind.
At Geged, there are a lot of colorful, gorgeous and fragrant roses. Some of them are still shy and do not show their amazing bright petals, while others are proudly blossomed. However, if you try to get closer, you will discover that they hide part of their beauty and charm behind many spiked branches. Once you get to know Turkish people deeply, you will discover that they are the most colored, breathtaking, stunning and reserved roses you could ever see in your life.
On one hand, Turkish women will show you that it does not matter how many obstacles, losts or social injustices you will face in your life, because with sacrifice, respect, strenght, hardwork and love you will be able to become a honest and strong woman. Underneath layers of clothes, with their hair covered by a colorful hijab and with their catching dark big eyes, they will share with you the most important secret: “Do not complain and work incessantly. If you do so, at the end of the day, even if you will be tired, you will be happy”.
Habibe, Sultan, Zekiye will become your Turkish mothers; Derya will give you her own clothes for a wedding and three Haribo candies everytime she will arrive at Geged; Cansu and Nazmiye will fill the air with their bright and positive souls; Nesli will show you her sweet smile in the early morning and Seçil will let you feel important and loved with her weekly gifts.
On the other hand, Turkish men will prove you that, besides the superficial European stereotypes about them, they will care and love you as no other person will do in your life. Ali will share with you a homemade simit in a plastic bag full of sesame seeds; Mehmet will teach you how to play dama, chess and tavla; Abdullah will give you his precious tesbij; Sercan will make you laugh and smile all day long; Orsan will call you Amisi; Hamza will eat with you a delicious çorba; Ayhan will prepare for you mouth- watering meals accompanied by a cup of his favorite coffee; Alper will save your life during a delicious dinner; Ufuk will create malamente for you a bracelet with beer caps; Amir will greet you shaking your hand and touching your head with his head as you were his closest friend; Burak will sing and play for you melancholyc Turkish songs with his beautiful saz; Kaan will be the most loyal little brother you could ever had; Eren will take care of you as you were the most fragile and delicate precious stone; Şevket will be your querido half Turkish and Spanish tío; Resul will help you preparing popcorns while dancing and calling you Somalia and Pala, the art teacher, will draw an art collection using your face in every painting. These amazing people will inspire you daily and will become your second family, even if your real home is thousands of kilometres away from Gaziantep.
Turks will let you sit at their same table and will show you the importance of food in their culture. Having breakfast with fresh sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, scrambled eggs with chili pepper, homemade bread, Turkish or Ottoman coffee, yogurt with the tasteful pezmek, creamy cheeses, Lokman chocolate, spicy black olives and loads of green leaves of parsley and mint will teach you that you can demostrate love and caring also through the way you prepare the table for your beloved ones. At the same time, having lunch or an iftar with homemade dolma and sarma, lahmacun, doğrama or ali nazik with salça, a delicious yellow lentil soup, a pot with yuvarlama with fresh mint, a huge bowl full of bulgur with meat and vegetables, tones of mouth-watering çiǧ köfte, a hot cup of coffee made with pistachio paste will teach you that food is not only what you have in a plate, but it is also synonym of kindness, hospitability, generosity and, most importantly, of being a family.
Sometimes, it does not matter if you will feel overwhelmed surrounded by tones of dry fruits, fabrics and spices in the crowded and noisy pazar or in the desolated and sandy streets of the Syrian district, because, wherever you are, you will always find peace in the loud laughs and big eyes of the gorgeous Turkish people.
On your way home, a lot of children will play on the streets or dance barefoot under the balconies in a rainy day; the woman who prepares the amazing gözleme will not care if you will arrive when she is going to close her shop, since she will cook it for you anyway; the owner of the baklava shop will smile at you and say a warm “Merhaba!” from behind the counter; the Syrian man will be glad to sell you his luscious humus and falafels; the tall and young guy of the juice shop will remember your favorite smoothie and will prepare it without you asking for one; the bakers will greet you with their hands full of flour and yeast; the pastry chefs will not let you pay their dolama and özel bohça at Ayintap; the man in the parking lot will smile shyly from his wood chair and when, finally, you will arrive at Geged, your friends will be waiting for you with cheap snacks, Syrian cookies filled with hurma, exotic raisins, suculant cherries and with liters of hot çay. In fact, “Çay ister misin?” is not only about offering you this hot amber tea, but it is the easiest way Turks have to let you know that you are part of their family, that they are glad you are there with them. It is not important if you prefer it with tones of small lumps of sugar or in its natural bitter version, because what really matters is that you are surrounded by your chaotic, messy, complicated and crazy local people.
At the beginning, Turkey will welcome you with lack of water, electricity, shots in the night, strong stomachhaches, burnt hands, unplanned weddings and also with linguistic and cultural barriers, but do not worry.
At the end, you will have learnt that even if you are dirty and with wet and crazy curly hair, your Turkish families will love you anyway. You will have learnt that Gaziantep reflects your feelings, so the chaos outside your windows was the chaos you had inside. You will have learnt that when you have to cut a lot of chili peppers, it is better to do it with gloves. You will have learnt that salça is heaven for your mouth, but hell for your belly. You will have learnt that local traditions such as the henna night and the crazy folk dances will let you feel more Turkish than ever. But, most importantly, you will have learnt that exists a non-verbal language made of loud laughs, shining smiles, deep looks, intense hugs and sweet meaningless words that is more powerful than any other thing in life.
I once read from a book that travelling gives you the opportunity to live a parallel life: you are born again, you grow, you fall in love, you change, you lose important people, you create a family, you experience happiness, you reach (im)perfection and, finally, you die.
In Gaziantep, you will start this intense new journey with fear and uncertainty, but, at the end of your Turkish adventure, you will be glad and grateful to have met people who loved you without boundaries. Your friends will hug you in their strong arms, your mothers will wipe the tears in your cheeks with their callous fingers, your Syrian children will jump around you with their contagious positive energy, your Turkish fathers will scream your name from the canteen door and you will leave with this rare feeling of heartbreaking happiness.
However, after your last goodbye, you will discover proudly that now, surrounded by the vibrant colored Turkish roses, there is a stunning new-blossomed flower at Geged. It's you. The real you.
There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don't feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home
And I built a home
Out in the garden where we planted the seeds
There is a tree that's old as me
Branches were sewn by the color of green
Ground had arose and passed it's knees
By the cracks of the skin I climbed to the top
I climbed the tree to see the world
When the gusts came around to blow me down
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
I held on as tightly as you held onto me
And I built a home
Until it disappeared
And now, it's time to leave and turn to dust
To built a home - The Cinematic Orchestra
From view of SARA!