Turkish delight

     How should I start?

     From the plane, I could see olive trees on a sand of coffee grounds, a water so deep like the glimpses caught in their eyes and a sunset as warm as a Turkish heart!

     When I bought the plane tickets, my mind was full of worries and fears of going to a place with recent terrorist attacks where I could easily get lost, not being able to read even the street signs or the directions for the toilet. A place with a significant different culture than mine. But a part of me deep inside wanted to go, to explore their sounds and colors!

     “Youth unemployment”: this was my first ERASMUS+ project with participants from Romania, Turkey, Poland and Macedonia, a perfect way to get out of my comfort zone. In the end, all my silly worries were washed away and this place made me leave with the wish of coming back!

     It started in a hot November, I left with my cozy jacket on from the Romanian snow with a suitcase full of T-shirts wishing for another chance to experience summer. Little did I know that this week will indeed feel as 3 months so make yourself a Turkish tea and enjoy these moments that made my story!

     There are so many flashbacks that come into my mind, like that day when I did dare to ride a camel or the chat with a Toyota businessman who amazed me with the model of a charming, warm, caring and well prepared leader he successfully embodied. However, I will make a stop at that day in the bazar of Aydin.

     We actually walked almost a day through a place full of smells, noises, people, food and all the things you can imagine, on the floor, on tables or hanged from the ceiling. There was no spared space and you could barely squeeze between other buyers and avoid the traffic, as if the vendors were giving a concert to the customers that were always dancing, covering the whole stage. It was like an attention spam. However, in all this madness, people looked you in the eyes and offered you to taste their food, genuinely proud of how they prepared it and the result of their work. I was so amazed by this labyrinth, how do they spot their place the next day, or how do they come and go with the merchandise they sell? And all this crowded experience ended up with a gondola lift that brought us the best view.

     When the night came, the city changed. Did I forget to tell you we had no internet access? It was horrible… only at first because we had time for late night talks in our hotel. One room with Christians, Catholics, Muslims and Atheists sharing life perspectives in a friendly way. I had a rough time learning how to find a common ground with someone who believed women can’t be leaders, that their place is only in the kitchen, taking care of babies, that a woman will never be able to lead or be successful in a top level business. Anyhow, the late night talks with my Romanian girls made this trip memorable!

     Other nights were full of nargile smoke dancing on live music under palm trees, staying in shape with traditional dances from our countries or late city tours by car. We even had a house party, birthdays and a lot of Baklava and Kadayif.

     I will never forget when we went drinking coffee in a traditional pub and talking more with my friend Hatice about our common passion for reading. And our talks went on throughout the meals we had there.

     She always wore dark colors, mainly black, but in a fancy way because of her hijabs. They were colored and full of life, like her eyes embraced by long lashes. Her smile was compassionate, curious and kind. She was so smart, elegant and softhearted, a friendly face genuinely taking care of us, the guests of her country. Exactly like Orhan, Asla, Meliha, Nilufer, Erol and the others.

     Nevertheless, she really amazed me at the end, when we had our last dinner, she brought me a present. There were oranges and lemons that she harvested from her own garden, for me. I was so touched by this, it was a gesture that made me realize not only us experience something as visitors, but the people we meet also, and we exchange parts of each other that add to the story of our life.

     Just wait to hear about the trips we made! I lost myself in a childish way of discovering the tiny up and down roads of Selcuk, felt the balance and peace of Siringise, probably because of the pomegranate wine which was the best ever! I even got to see a beautiful castle next to the seaside, play Frisbee on the beach and take a coffee break on a terrace beside the water. And the view was accompanied by a talk with our Macedonian friend about love and choices. We realized the paradox that even if we were all so different, not knowing each other, we came here already having something in common: our choice for this experience!

     Most of our time was spent in schools talking about youth unemployment in Europe, but we could also interact with the pupils there. They were warm, open and had common sense, it was in their look and in the way their lips curved in a shy hello.

     The Adnan university was full of students talking about exams, carrying books or reading on the grass. We were the only ones taking a walk…  and it felt relaxing. Not only here, but in general.

     Maybe it’s because of their trees, I remember we also went to visit some ruins surrounded by a huge olive orchard. They are the symbol of peace after all. Or maybe because of the mosque and the way they quietly carry their pray with them in the elegance of their movement. Or their tea…

     As we traveled more, singing Macedonian songs in the bus, going away from the rain and chasing the sun, I knew I was falling in love with this country. And I still haven’t told you about Pamukkale! This is the best! But before this, I have to say something about the songs… they are just a liquid made of honey, bittersweet memories, devotion and wine that lingers on the finger notes that touch your heart. The voice is ripped off by feelings that are too strong and shakes your body until you time travel. I don’t know… these people are intense, you can feel it when you walk on the streets and cross their eyes. At first, I thought it’s because of their black colors, but it’s more than that, it’s a depth that comes from offering their soul with no filter. They allow you to see them and they see you, so some sort of brief connection happens in that second. You have to try it and pay attention, otherwise I will keep going about this and you will think I’m crazy!

     Let’s get back to Pamukkale now! It was the last trip in the last day in Turkey and so far it was awesome, I thought we can’t have better than this. I mean, I saw huge trees, I ate oranges and pomegranates that I harvested with my hands, what could be better? A cotton castle with pools where people have bathed for thousands of years…  travertines, hot springs, the Roman amphitheater of Hierapolis, a mesmerizing place to get lost so you can find yourself. All that white just calms your heart and puts a smile on your soul. It definitely is the best place I’ve seen and now I’m looking for other ones like it! Nature has always connected us to ourselves and brought us together!

     As you go on reading, try to feel the story I lived!

     Imagine a place where people have mandarins, lemons and pomegranates in their backyard and in the forever summer nights the palm trees come to life under exotic lights and narghile smoke. Imagine mountains, sea and streets that smell like coffee, that coffee you take with a good friend who knows your soul. Imagine pubs where they play live music with songs that touch parts of your heart you never knew existed. Imagine a place where people pray at the same time and make you feel welcomed without speaking English.

     Imagine acceptance, respect, serenity and delight! Turkish delight!

     P.S.: For more pictures, follow me on Instagram!

     Big thanks to everybody for the photos, specially to Ioana, Denisa, Adriana, Erol and for the wonderful experience, also to all the organizations that made this ERASMUS+ project possible!



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