Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Tips for future EVS volunteers


My EVS experience in Izmir is almost ending so this time I decided to write some tips that could be useful for next EVS volunteers.

-choose carefully your project, spend time in reading the topic and try to understand if it fits on you. Do not just think: "It could be cool", You have to be really get involved in the topic and in the aim of it or you could be feel bored or confused. Find infos about the association, write to them, contact with previous volunteers or read their experiences (most of them write a blog).

-Do not  be afraid about language barrier. I speak different languages but I choose Turkey on purpose because I did not know any words of it. I took it like a challenge. I expected that much more people spoke in english in here and I was a little bit scared at first because I thought I could have a lot of problems; then I realized that I am in Turkey, I have to understend them, not the contrary. Your association should provide a language course for you. I did it and I learnt basic words, but I am still trying to learn as much as I can by my own. Learning process is something that is always around you: on the metro, at the coffee, in the bazar ecc... People is much more open to listen to you when they see that you are making an effort in speaking their language. The few words that I know are enough to communicate simple ideas, but it wasn't easy, especially for asking directions. Turkish people are one of the most kind community in the world and if you ask for something, even if they are not sure about it, they will never say to you "I do not know". 
I saw people calling by mobile phone friends, brothers, neighbours just to answer my question: "where do I have to go to...?" I created debates between women living in same building speaking from the balcony just for helping me. My suggestion is trust them but do not understimate the power of googlemap!

-I really recommend to learn numbers as soon as you can or you will always keep with a idiot face when the cashier ask for the bill. Everybody use smarthphone nowdays, there are apps for the conversion of the value, especially for first days. First month I was very happy because everything looked very cheap to me. Now, I think on it three times before spending 10 TLiras in some purchase. Your pocket money is in TLiras and you are in Turkey. It is not an holiday, you are not a tourist, think about it!

-Try to find other EVS like you or Erasmus students. You can find some groups on facebook or meet with them at the on arrival meeting, ask to your organization, they have to help you. It is good for creating friendship and because sometimes you need to share your ideas/problems with somebody who is having the same experience as you.

-Go outside and travel as much as you can. I am not a stay-at-home girl and my flatmate understood it very soon when for the very second day saw me go alone into the city. Start with little places near your house and use maps, go to touristic information. Izmir is well connected by metro and ferries and it is very easy to visit it. If you are too afraid to walk alone or meet with new people do not try this experience. I think there is no sense staying in your room listening to the music or chatting all time with friends of your country if I you are abroad. 

-Be prepared to change. Living abroad will push your limits sometimes, you will understand much more about yourself and your personality, but no panic, this is life, and the good point is that everything is an experience that builts yourself. There will be days that you will miss your family and close friends but there is tecnhology for this (skype) and think that you will see them again, now you are just doing a great experience. (Or maybe this is a very good excuse to not contact with people that you are tired of!)The good of EVS is that you go outside from your comfortzone and see what you can do for yourself. Bring something that make you "feel home" for helping you in the integration and for when you feel so far from the local culture. For example, I brought my moka machine for making italian coffee. :)

 -I suggest to try to find something that remind you your country, for the food especially, but do not have any expectation about it and think that it is quite ridiculous searching for something that you already know when you have the possibilty to discover new things. On facebook there are plenty of groups of foreign people, search for your compatriots when you need to swear in yourmother language with somebody that can understand you but do not spend all the time with them or it would have been useless to leave your country.

-Try to find an opportunity in everything, also in bad exeperiences. This is how I thought when I had this kind of feelings.
If there is something wrong or problems speak immediatly with your association or mentor. Sometimes we believe that we can manage situations by our own but if you do not signal a problem it can happen that from a small thing it becomes bigger, do not forget that you are a foreigner and that sometimes the way you think it can be misunderstood due to difference of culture.

My suggestions are not enough, so I searched online and I found this useful article about other EVS volunteers. Click here to read about their experiences. I also found another one very interesting that talks about some aspects that you could face, let's say the other side of the coin. Click here.

To sum up I would like just say that in anycase it would be a great and amazing experience, that you could face problems but everything is possible to overcome, remember that you are a volunteer not worker, and just do what you love to do. I did so may things I could never expected to do like using couchsurfing or hitchhiking, living ramadan with village women,  or to milk goats!

Remember that this is your own experience and only you have the power to decide for the success of it.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


From June 18 to July 2, I spent two weeks in the ecofarm Agrida. The name comes from AGRI for agriculture and IDA for the mountains around this place. The farm is located in a small village called Cazgirler, next to the bigger town Bayramiç. About 74 people live here, and there are only three children (and they are siblings).

The farm uses the permaculture system, and everything is made to be recycled. From the ashtray to the organic garbage (onionskin, shells of eggs, salads, etc.) that is used to fertilize the soil or feed animals.
They produce no garbage except for plastic.
The farm has a solar panel system that stores energy for 48 hours and the water comes directly from the mountain springs.
The farm were I have been hosted has a front garden with some vegetables. Furthmore, there are 25 ducks, 8 geeses and 20 chickens. This is the perfect farm for people who like eggs!.
The owner of the farm is the kind Bahadir Yasa. He is Turkish but lived more than 30 years in USA as hotel manager. After travelling worldwide, he decided to retire in Turkey.
He said that before living here he did not know anything about permaculture, then he started to study it and created the farm and Agrida association.
He also has many fields in the village where fruit and walnut trees are growing and coal is produced.

The life in the village is very quiet and peaceful. One of our main task was to take care of the animals. We fed them twice per day, collect the eggs, change the water and also cleaned and weeded the garden. When necessary we helped the neighobours in some works. I said we because I met with a lovely American girl called Victoria who was a wwoof volunteer,
 and you can find her experience in this clip:

A very nice family live in the village. Sefer's family and his wife Gulten with their three children: Semet, the older one, 14 years old and twins Sila and Semih, 11 years old. They have goats and cows. We helped Sefer in different works in his farm. For thanking us (me, Victoria and a Belgian couple that stayed few days) Gulten made a delicious lunch. It is very common to help each other like barter.
We had different activities. We also went to fields in which they produce coal and they have planted cherries, beans, tomatoes and peppers. In that place they use the drip irrigation.

Bahadir is doing a great job in this place because he combine the traditional experience with the innovation. Due to him now 14 familes use solar panel, he brought drip irrigation and helped people to understand that is better to use iron gates than wood, because they do not have to create a new one every year. Once a year he has a reunion of the heads of the neighboring village and trains them.
One of the thing that I really liked about this experience is that we experienced Ramadan with the women of the village. It started the day that I arrived and in here women are used to eat all together during this month. The food was delicious (I am in love with bulgur) and in this way I had the chance to see the houses of most of the people of Cazgirler; what strucked me the most was that men and women eat separately and the kindness of this people. I have friends in Italy that never invited me to eat to their own house!!!

Bahadir hosts people from EVS project too as Agrida association is accredited by EU and tourism ministry. His last volunteer was a Portuguese girl that stayed in Cazgirler for one year.

In this vilage there is couple that moved from Istanbul to Cazgirler. Serpil was a teacher, now retired, and Ahmet is a producer from state perfoming arts institute. 

Bu Benim Koyum is the name of their project and you can listen (in Turkish) what his project is about:

Shortly, this is what Ahmet says in the video “The reason why we choose Cazgirler is because the village people are very receptive and there is an association here that is working almost at the same ideology we have  (Agrida, E.d.). Bahadir has already started the evaluation and changing of the village. This make us to make Cazgirler the main station,  and we have a website too where you can see our project:    or  www.bubenimkoyum.
With the their support  we want to make ecological arts, workshops, studies, perfomances etc… There are like 390 villages in Turkey and we have visited 300 of them and Cazgirler is gonna be the home base.  We are going to invite professors, teachers, asking for their help and make not only theatre but also photograpy, painting, or sculpture workshop. The food we will eat with our guests will be provided by our garden in the back of the house. The main issue is ecological art. We are going to do this with people coming outside cities and with the locals; we are trying to integrate them together. We want to combine the traditional knowledge that is not written yet and put in writing with contemporary ecological life. This place seems perfect for us and the area is easy reachable and you can be in big cities in few minutes". 

I truly enjoyed this experience, as Ahmet said, here people are very kind and they like foreigners. I had the possibilty to eat with the women every night because of Ramadan, and I feel very lucky for that. I suggest to you that are reading this post to come and see this place with your own eyes because you will fall in love with the villagers.

I left you with a video that I titled: "the impossible conversation."

In here you can see more pics that I took about Cazgirler people.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

EVS on arrival training!

From 9 to 13 of june I took part to EVS on arrival training in Izmir.
We were 42 volunteers from all Europe, mostly of them are doing or are going to start EVS in Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, Mersin or Gaziantep.
The goal of on arrival training is to provide volunteers with tools and information they might need during the project; it is about to inform  rights and responsabilities and introduce us to the social and culture realities  of the country.
In this five days we had different sessions and we discussed about different topics to make better understand what EVS is.
The four trainers introduced all the EVS aspects  throught non-formal education and we spoke about the role of Hosting organization,  sending organization, coordinating organization and National Agency.

They explained about the financial management of the EVS project, gave infos about the Country (Turkey in this case) and made games for team building  activities  for the group.
They suggested how to behave in case of conflicts or problems  and gave us recommends for reach personal goals and learning plan.
It was interesting to see how some volunteers have differents reactions towards similar situations according to their personaity and cultural background.
 We were mainly learning from each other by sharing our ideas. It was such a nice experience for me because for first time I am here I could  meet with others volunteers like me. I also discovered that there is a french girl doing Evs in Izmir since when I came and a greek boy that is just arrived one week ago. It was very important for me sharing ideas and listen to different opinion because most of all the time I do not have the possibilty to share my feeling with somebody in my same position.
On Thursday, we also had an excurision to Şirince
near Izmir, a village famous for wine production.

As the group was very big sometimes it happend that during conversation not everybody agreed with the same idea and it caused little arguments but the most important is that each one had the possibility to share their own  opinon and personal beliefs.

During sessions we also understood that mostly of the volunteers work with projects related to people. I do not know if because everybody like this subject or because Turkey associations create more projects about it. 
It was impossible to have good feeling with everybody but I am sure that with few of them I created such a nice and true friendship and for sure we will see each other again.
You can contact with us clicking one our facebook group.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

language lessons and museums


Thiw week we focused on English lessons with Aysenur (wednesday and thursday) and Italian lessons with Elif (on Saturday).  (Buse is always busy with exam).

After the lesson Elif and I visited two museums in Bornova:
first one was the nautical museum Arkas Deniz Tarihi Merkezi 

and the second one it was a paper museum Kağıt ve Kitap Sanatları Müzesi.