Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Memories that Last a Lifetime

Since I last wrote you I have done many things: I have been through many countries around Europe, logging more time on public transportation then any person should have to endure; met amazing people I now call friends from even more countries; seen some amazing sites I never thought I would see; and experienced things I couldn't have imagined.

Now, my last night in Europe, I am left to think about all of these things before my early morning flight to the USA. Pictures from all my destinations remind me of the simple things I've come to miss from everywhere I've been. Things that now fill my head with pleasant memories like: talks by the seaside with friends in Turkey; seeing amazing scenery from many bus/train seats around Europe; playing Frisbee with friends in Poland; laying on a beach enjoying cold beers with friends in the Netherlands; or simply getting to spend quality time with family in Germany. All these things and many more put a smile on my face as happy stories come out of my mouth constantly about the great people and things I've seen for the last three months. Being in Turkey, a country very different from the United States, and getting unforgettable work and life experiences has been an amazing opportunity for me to grow.

I have so much gratitude for AIESEC to have had an opportunity like this in my life, much like study abroad provides you. Even though I will tell thousands of stories from the last three months, no one will fully understand the things I've experienced.
At 21 years of age, I've got friends around the world to talk to and visit. I won't be able to explain most things to you; but I can say that for someone who feels so young my eyes and head feel so old with the things I've seen and learned. It feels like yesterday when I was scared entering a country with no friends and not knowing any of the language. Now, I'm left with pictures to laugh at and long distance phone bills to pay as I hang on to memories and friends I've made over the summer.

These memories were worth every minute of planning, worrying, uncertainty, or other feelings that have come along. The trip was also worth every cent I have saved and spent. I strongly encourage other people to consider an opportunity like this and I'm happy to answer any questions people may have (kolkinks@uwec.edu).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Last Days in Turkey

This is my last week of work in Izmir, but somehow it seems like I still just got here. I have finished everything they asked of me at work, so this week I will just be doing some editing of their English tourist advertisements. They are currently putting together a new marketing plan to bring more tourism to Izmir.

I am the next person to leave, but I am going to stay four days longer than I originally planned so I can spend more time with Omar in Istanbul (I lived with him here my first two weeks). Then I will be going to Poland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and Germany before heading back to the United States in time for school.

In every city I go, I will be meeting friends I've met along the way or friends of friends. Without the internship opportunity through AIESEC I would not be traveling in Europe, and I definitely wouldn't have connections around Europe during my travels. So I am real happy with the opportunities AIESEC has presented me on this internship.

As for the past few days in Izmir, there hasn’t been a lot new. It’s turned into more of a countdown to my last day of work than a countdown until my travels around Europe begin in about 10 days. This weekend there is a very big trip with an estimated 100 people from around the world attending, again all AIESEC members. I will be able to tell more about that in my next post after the trip.

The biggest thing I’ve learned this week was from a 60 year old man at the outdoor exercise playground I go to. He actually welcomed me to the playground and told me "very good/impressive" after doing a few exercises. Even though it was the smallest of gestures, I learned that little things can make or break a person’s day (especially a foreigner) and everyone has the ability to make or ruin someone's day. This held true when a man charged me double for a boat trip claiming my student card was no good there and I had to pay full price. Even though it was a small fee, it was the gesture that made me very angry. A lesson was learned both ways.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A series of interesting events

This week has been a real interesting one. It started by having to say goodbye to my Chinese roommate whom I came real close with and went to work with every day as her office was a couple buildings away from mine.

During the week I also had the experience of getting a haircut, which was much more difficult then ever before. After finally finding a barbershop, I had to figure out how to explain what I wanted to a guy that knew no English and in a place where no one knew English. I ended up giving him pictures of my Driver's License, UWEC Blugold and International Student Card and he cut my hair by looking at those pictures. It surprisingly came out very well too, but it was something that seems so simple that turned into quite an interesting experience.

This weekend was among the best since I've been here. It included playing in an intense soccer match with Turkish friends and my roommates.....overall 7 different nationalities playing in one game of soccer. I also learned how to windsurf at a place called Ala├žati, known as "Windsurfers Paradise." It is one of the best places to windsurf in the world and there are major world-wide tournaments held every year. It is a sport that is much more difficult then I imagined, but well worth the pain in the legs the next day.

This weekend I also watched a ceremony held in a friend’s neighborhood that signified a boy becoming a man in the Muslim faith. I watched it from a friend’s apartment on the fourth floor and it was quite a scene with dancers, drummers, and instruments I have never seen before.

Sunday, the Turkish elections were held. A tense atmosphere was in the air the days leading up to the elections. They are among the biggest elections Turkey has ever had and the turnout was over 80% as Turkey tries to decide what role religion will have in government, as well as what to do with terrorist in neighboring Iraq. It was an election so big that it was on the cover of 'Time' Magazine and many other publications around the world. Beaches were empty for the first time since I’ve been here as Turks used this day to stay with families and watch election results (this worked out for me and some friends going windsurfing though).

Overall, last week was very eventful and the coming weeks will be just as eventful as my time in Izmir begins to come to an end.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Coming together with the cultures of the world, all right here in Turkey

July 16, 2007:

With only 3 weeks of working left and just short of 4 weeks left in Izmir, I'm beginning to realize the time in Turkey is beginning to come to an end. Where I used to think a lot about missing people at home and UWEC, I spend more time these days thinking about how I'm going to miss my friend here.

We spent another great weekend together and I also met a couple new interns from Kazahkstan that just arrived. I went bowling with a couple Chinese people, a man from Congo, a Finnish, a French priest, and a couple of Turkish. Just sitting at a dinner table and taking a moment to take-in what I was doing made me feel like I am in the middle of doing something few people in the world have had the opportunity or taken the time to do. At that dinner alone there were four different languages being spoken around me (Turkish, French, English, and Chinese) and I feel like I'm learning more about the world then ever before.

At work I'm keeping busy, but beginning to get more free time as my report should be finished in a couple days. At around 14 pages, it will be used to help convince American companies to invest in Turkish companies.

Although I miss some luxuries from time-to-time that I have in the U.S. and not in my house here (examples: washer/dryer, microwave, oven, television, and other small things), I'm finding it surprisingly easy to live without these things. I've adapted without too many problems and its not weird to do laundry by hand, or take a bus for 40 minutes one-way to use machines.

I'm still spending a lot of time outside as the weather is always sunny here this time of year; this includes a daily lunch outside with co-workers. I'm still having a great time and feel like I'm learning more then ever before through living in a place so different then what I'm used to, and living with so many different people from different cultures around the world.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Almost like the Fourth of July

This past week I missed 4th of July, which was a pretty sad feeling all day but got much better at night. When I got home from work my roommates had found the closest thing to hamburgers and made those for me. My Mexican roommate also bought me a present and she did all the cooking with my Chinese roommate. Although I didn't have any fireworks, BBQ, American friends/family, flags, or anything else I know 4th of July to be; it was a really good holiday. The hamburger-shaped meat on a bun, the singing of some patriotic songs requested by my roommates and the telling of stories about the 4th of July during dinner made it a great holiday. It was the "thought that counts " and I couldn't have been happier being in Turkey on this holiday.

Today is officially the half-way point of my internship, as well as about the half-way point of my overall time in Turkey and the rest of Europe. In that time I've made some great friends from around the world, but also from Turkey. I went bowling with a couple Turkish people I work with and I also play regular games of Tavla (Backgammon) with other co-workers during lunch time. Another co-worker has also invited me and my roommates to her family's vacation home on the beach about an hour and a half away from Izmir, which we will hopefully be going to in the next week or two.

I've gotten to know the city pretty well; I can get around with the language I have learned; I'm in the process of purchasing tickets for my travels around Europe after my internship finishes up in August, which is very exciting. Overall I'm real happy with the experiences I've had and where I am right now.

The next month will be quite busy before my internship ends as I have a report to finish about Turkish-U.S. Trade Relations. I also have pretty large activities planned for the next 3 or 4 weekends that I will be here (most around the beach or seeing ancient ruins that are near the city; also seeing the house Virgin Mary lived in just before she died). It's still a very exciting time, just as it was when I first arrived. I can't wait to see what else is to come in future adventures.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Good Bye and Hello

July 2, 2007
The days since my last blog post have been real big ones for me, both inside and outside of work. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson came to my office to give a big speech in a sea of reporters and businessmen. I was lucky enough to be in attendance as I did some work organizing the event and was happy to very briefly meet him and see the event go well.

Outside of work, I had to say goodbye to my first roommate who was also interning. Omar, from Morocco, and I became real good friends in the three weeks we knew each other. I actually found myself pretty sad the night he left. Fortunately, I'll be staying with him in Istanbul for a couple nights when I leave Turkey to travel Europe in August. He said I was the only American he'd ever met and it made me realize what an amazing opportunity I am in the middle of right now. To most everyone I meet here and especially those I live with, I'm the only (or one of the few) Americans they will ever know. Same goes for all my roommates who have never known an American, nor have I known someone from their countries. This is real influential because they are all from different countries and different areas around the world.

Recognizing this made me realize that I am in one of the rare moments in my life where I feel like I am doing something great that few people have or will ever be able to accomplish. Even though I'll show tons of pictures and tell tons of stories, no one I know at home will ever be able to truly understand the amazing things I'm experiencing and learning without doing it for themselves. Everyday when I go home from work I cook/eat dinner with someone from Asia, Africa, South America, North America, Europe, and the Middle East...when's the last time you've heard someone say they do that every single day, or ever in their life at all?

Despite all of this excitement, I finally missed home for the first time today when looking at 4th of July stuff online. Although my roommates are going to try and throw something for me in Izmir, I know it won’t quite be the same. Especially because the 4th of July is among my favorite holidays back home, but I cant complain when experiencing so many amazing things that I am here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Getting More Turkish-minded

This week has mainly been about getting used to the Turkish culture.
I'm starting to become more and more Turkish-minded as I am finding things they do becoming more a part of my daily life. These things include: having tea after every meal, learning the language, and trying new foods. Recently I tried a meal that when translated is ''sheep intestines'' after my co-workers said I had to join them for a meal to eat that. Although I did not like it at all, it was still a good time to bond with co-workers outside of work and be able to laugh at what I was doing as they were laughing at my reaction to one of their popular Turkish dishes.

The short jump on the boat
The temperature has been reached record highs as it has not been below 95 degrees for at least a week. It even reached 105-110 today and work was cancelled for pregnant women and those with a reason as to why the heat might negatively affect their health.

Because of this heat the beaches have been crowded with many people and their pets, but they have been especially fun. The roommates and I went on a boat tour last weekend that stopped at 3 islands for swimming and jumping from the third level of the boat. This boat brought us real near the Greek Islands (about 1 mile), but we did not quite go to Greece this time. Overall; the weather is hot and sunny, work is good, and I'm beginning to learn the language. I'm having a great time so far.