Youth exchange in Tokat, Turkey 21-29 March 2019
The project took place in Tokat, Turkey and its theme was the silent violence of marginalization. Now if you look on the map, Tokat is located deep in Turkish territory and to add to that comes the fact that it’s not some big city, where you can find people with more western ideologies, it’s a city of a mere 200.000 citizens. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, there were some friends of ours from Turkey who told us to be wary of what we do in Tokat. To make a long story short, we heed our warnings and decided to see things for ourselves.
The point behind youth exchanges is to get to know different cultures and people, and that’s why Tokat is ideal. A small and remote city means that most likely the people there represent the way most Turkish people live their lives. You will not find traces of other cultures in Tokat, you will only learn about the Turkish culture, and there is a lot to learn. We started our immersion to their culture via the traditional Turkish baths which we had in the hotel. Next is of course their food which is pretty different than western food but tasty nonetheless. And of course what is a culture without its traditional dances? The Turkish team did a great job showing us their traditional dances, which if I may, are very close to our own Greek dances. I guess we have more in common than we thought. One thing that you absolutely cannot miss when you are in Turkey is how close they are to their religion and how much they respect everything that has to do with it. Going into a mosque you can’t help but feel awe. The inside is absolutely quiet and simple, everything is made of marble and wood, there is a carpet and people praying on it, that’s it, no fancy paintings, no chairs, no candles, its simplicity commands respect, respect that is shown everyday by the thousands of Muslims that pray in it.
Enough about the culture though, as mentioned above, the second purpose of a youth exchange is to get to know different people.
In this project we had five people from seven countries, Turkey, Croatia, Romania, Portugal, Italy, North Macedonia, Greece for a total of 35 participants. By spending time with all these people that come from different cultures you become more open to new ideas, you come across different ways of living, you learn new things, all in all you broaden your horizons, you change even if just a little bit. When you know that the time you will spend with people is limited in a mere seven days, you open up to them much faster and you also try to make them open up to you so that you can take what they have to give you. And yes, everyone has something to give you. Not to mention that now all of us feel connected. Imagine having so many friends from different countries. Imagine going on a trip abroad to meet some cherished friends. So the question isn’t whether you should go in a youth exchange or not but where to go next.