International Volunteer Program

Field Notes

Volunteer in Turkey ...continued

The students were very appreciative and friendly. As much as I tried I could not buy tea for myself, let alone anyone else at the breaks. Everyone was extremely generous and kind to me. There was a lot of mutual warmth between us. It was really quite remarkable. They also really wanted to learn English. Some had children who were living in the US and others wanted it for their work, or because it is the “international language” which they would need for any tourism outside of Turkey or to read novels in the original language. One guy was a policeman and he wanted to be more helpful to foreigners who ask him for help. Many wanted to come to America for study or tourism.

Some of the students did quite well, and others were really struggling. English pronunciation and language usage was generally pretty poor. Few of the teachers have learned English from native English speakers. The teacher I worked with says they can learn grammar, but have little exposure to good speaking. In the movies and on Television any English is too fast to really absorb. I had a lot of empathy for them as I was also trying to learn Turkish. Once the class is over, they go back to speaking what everyone around them speaks: Turkish.

Often I would create scenarios that would be useful both to practice speaking but exchange information about our cultures. The one that was the most fun was “The Turkish Cooking Show.” This involved a bit of dramatics on my part as I took on the role of the cooking show host and had an individual or pairs of students come to the front and explain how to prepare the things they like to eat and which Americans might like to eat. So, I have recipes for soup, baklava, stuffed grape leaves, manti, Turkish coffee, menemen and others. Because Thanksgiving was coming and I like that holiday, I explained to them how I cook a turkey as well as what the holiday meant to me. I told them that this year one thing I will be very thankful for was meeting them and the experiences we shared together at the Kadikoy Cultural Center."

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More about volunteering in Mexico

Work is not exactly the right word because kids are very kind, intelligent and they want to help all new people in town. I taught English and French. I gave swimming classes, organized soccer and volleyball games, something that was very, very funny!

Along with my friends Clare and Chris (two volunteers from Ireland) we built a swing and a goal in the garden of the library. We also organized night reading session to enjoy terror stories and bonfires in the garden of the library. I spent a lot of time with the kids in the beach and in the lagoon playing with the waves, catching “chiciliques” (small animals), swimming or eating chocolates in one of the “enramadas” (palm huts by the beach). LIFE IN MEXICO IS NOT BORING!!!

I loved the landscape in Mexico. I have never seen so different landscapes in the same country before! You can see high and dry mountains and all of a sudden you are surrounded of the sea and thick green vegetation.

And truly, I had never had so tasty food before! Fish, shrimps, lobster, octopus (at the beginning a little bit strange!), fruit, everything is so fresh! Food is part of Mexican life!

To be a volunteer in Mexico is perfect for anybody who wants to become part of another culture, that are open to embrace unknown experiences. I was very happy with my work as volunteer, with my host family, with the kids and life in general in “my pueblo”, in Barra de Potosi. Viva Mexico!!!

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