Rumen in Turkey

Rumen is a volunteer with the Turkish project Youth Caravan. Here is his first article about his Turkish adventure:

Why I cry, when Turkey smiles at me

It was early in the morning, when we packed our things, and on the youth bus, we prepare to leave for Istanbul.

I was sitting next to a Turkish volunteer girl, Selin. Because it was very early in the morning, around 4-5 A.M. all of us, were tired and wanted to sleep.

After some attempts to move into the right direction to sleep, she offered her help, to make it more comfortable for both of us, to put my head on her shoulder, so I can sleep better. Then I looked at her, and gritted my teeth, because I was starting to feel how the tears are coming to my eyes.

This girl, whom I have known for not a long time, made everything for me, during the trip, to make sure, I sleep comfortably and every time I wake up, she ask me-“Do you feel comfortable, is that ok”

I had a difficult time to answer her, because I was going to burst out in tears, and say a big “Yes!”

Why is my reaction so? What is the big deal, of a polite girl, to show some manners and to make sure, I am comfortable.

It has to do, with the fact, that I am from Bulgaria and she is from Turkey.

Some of you, will say, “So what?” “Big deal”

But go to some of the Bulgarians blogs, especially when elections are coming, and read some of the posts there.

You’ll read about the fears of people, that the Turkish party, will take control, that Turkish people are taking over Bulgaria. New organization have been established, like Attack, that promote “ clean” Bulgaria and that the Bulgarian society has to kick out all Turkish influence from Parliament.

With this mindset, of those people, who will see me, as a person, speaking with the enemy, how can I explain to the Turkish Volunteer Selin, that I should not like her, because in my country, they will see her as an enemy. How can I explain this to my dear coordinator, who is taking such good care of me that I can’t accept his help, because of the wrong mind set of my country.

How can I open my heart for Turkish friendship when in my country some people will call me a traitor. How I will explain to them, that when I return to my country, I want to tell everyone about Turkish hospitality, how good they have treated me, to tell about different Turkish volunteers, to remember their names, their friends’ names. How can I explain all this, without some people looking at me in a strange way and asking me “So, are you going to vote for DPS (the Turkish party in Bulgaria) then”

I was thinking of these things when I was going to sleep, shoulder to shoulder, head to head, with Selin. And that made me sad, really sad. Her hospitality and kindness, was too much to expect from somebody. She broke my expectation, of a friend, of somebody who can take care. Who am I to her? Just a volunteer from Bulgaria, or a dear friend?

My eyes were wet, and I tried to stay quiet in the bus, but my heart was screaming with confusion and anger, and all these stereotypes that don’t let people fully relax and embrace the diversity and other cultures. Because of the past, because of the present, between Bulgaria and Turkey.

When I went to a baklava shop, and started looking at the sweets they have, a man came with some samples and lemonade and offered me some, without asking whether I was going to buy something or not. I took some baklava and drank lemonade, looking confused, where is the catch. There is always a catch. It can’t be for free. There must be something I have to pay. I am not used to free things.
The man was speaking little English, so he asked me where I came from, and what I was doing in Turkey. All the time he was very polite and smiled.

How can I explain to him, that I can’t take his hospitality? That because of our nationality he has to stay away from me, as some people will say to me.

I was overcome by warm emotions, of this hospitality. But it was too much to take. I have never been so spoiled by attention and affection, by people who have known me for 2 or 3 minutes and they already wants to be my friends.

I want to say big thanks to Selin, my coordinator Gurkan and many, many other volunteers and people I met, that they support me and give there friendship and make me cry, every time they smile.

Now you know, why I cry, when Turks smile at me.

Hope that the tears will go away and I can give them, as much as possible, of my friendship, because they disserve it.

The trip to Istanbul was wonderful, thanks to the ultimate help of Selin, and my eyes in the end were so red, but hopefully nobody noticed. A big thank you…THANK YOU!!!

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by vekster on May 29, 2009 at 12:28 am

    One of my best friends at Roosevelt Academy are Turkish, and I had similar fillings, too. I have to say that each of us (Bulgarians and Turks) had prejudice, but we overcame them and made good friendship. Therefore, I think when people are not lead by prejudice and stereotypes, only then can they discover it is possible to enjoy with friends from different ethnicity. Societies sometimes create wrong and ridiculous image of people from different culture due to reasoning based on stereotypes, prejudice or misinterpretation of history. We should accept everyone as “naturally good creature” just like humanistic psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers perceived all human beings. Thus, everyone will have equal chances to be evaluated by his/ her personal qualities and deeds. Consequently, there will not be any tears, when somebody smiles.


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