First day in Izmir, Turkey.
First day out of Europe.
After crossing the border with some troubles (Turkish guards had somehow decided to bother with papers and administrative stuff) and driving 200 km further south, I arrived yesterday evening in the smoggy city.
The Turkish town has a 3 million people population and it looks somehow bigger than everything I saw till today, as I’ve been mostly experiencing small places, little cities and picturesque village …
So far it sounds completely different.

Sophie, a French expatriate woman welcomed me warmly in her flat, based in one the high districts situated on the hills surrounding the city.
I met Felipe, a Brazilian  web programmer, and Hassan, a young Syrian involved in the help for refugees in the town.

We spent the evening together, planning the actions we’re about to do the day after.
I needed a sleep after Lesvos … I fell asleep as deep as a dead.

The morning was quiet, sunny and somehow revitalising…
Sophie’ flat was the highest of her building and she was enjoying such a panorama of the place.
Coffee, cigarette and French discussions … I wouldn’t know that I would have enjoyed it that much and it made me felt in a much better mood.
Then we went to the city center by walking through the pier of the port … Passing through crowds, through the colourful and noisy Turkish markets, enjoying the smells of the culture, the sounds of the traditions and the music of the life … I felt surprisingly overwhelmed by peace, unconsciously feeling good, feeling displaced but at he same time experiencing joy and happiness … Something that I couldn’t explain quite well.

Then we met Felipe, Hassan and other people at a coffee to start our actions of the day.
So far, we’re going to meet the Syrian refugee families straight at their place as here, the situation was drastically different …
Here, the Syrian families could stay for long time … Somehow, crossing the sea was so expensive that some family were stuck here for years, trying to earn money to pay the smugglers … But earning barely enough to sustain their own family.
And we met families who were living in less the a ruin for years … Having nothing … Helpless, dying as slowly as the devastated building in which they were surviving.

Again, everything was different…
Different from Croatia, from Macedonia, Greece etc … Here we weren’t trying to help thousands of refugees to recover and to pass through one camp to another … We weren’t rescuing them from a terrible journey, wet, exhausted etc … We’re even not able to help that much people as they were scattered all over the place.
Here our tasks were to find a family, to talk with them to know their needs, their plan for the future, to check the place, the hygiene, the children etc … Making a list … Going to a warehouse where few donations were stored, going to buy food at the shops etc …and then coming back to the family to bring them the goods.

It was nothing but a volunteering work as you were somehow helping 3 or 4 families a day … We could barely do more than that and I felt helpless and sad for these people who’re leaving their beloved country and home just to face this situation … Leaving a death in Syria to die slowly in another way in Turkey …
And these homeless families, those poor people had no choice but to work in the streets, to collect an sell trashes, craft boxes … To sell cigarette and everything they could on the markets …

This was barely paying their rent … This was not enough for them to live … Crossing was just an utopia for them.

Being here in Izmir is again different from what I’ve experienced before.
The first thing is that we’re not in Europe anymore … stranger in a foreign country which is still remaining powerful but not part and not belonging to EU laws and rules is somehow  difficult as you both experience the aversion, the mistrust and the capability to the country you’re moving in to put you in troubles.
And Turkey doesn’t seems to give a fuck about the fact that you comes from EU, and I’ve been feeling weak and powerless for the first time since i was in India … you’re passport doesn’t mean nothing anymore … being French doesn’t make any difference in the way you’ll be received or whatever … it’s maybe worse in fact …
It seems like Turkey doesn’t want to have anything to do with Europe so far…

And I saw and tasted the power of its own culture, traditional background and history and yes … Turkey is another world…
The language,the writing, colours, architectures … the first contact with the country is a choc… and then you learn about the story, you learn about the religion, this huge topic in the Turkish daily life, taking place almost in its every aspect … Islam is not only heard five times a day at the priors, when the city start singing and whispering from everywhere, you also see signs of it all over the place, from mosques minarets to the Turkish flag’ white croissant displayed at almost every street windows …
The political maze of the country is also something disturbing and wired … Sophie told me about Erdogan, the AKP, PKK, The Kurdish problem, a civil war splitting the country, its population and its mindset in two parts …
Sophie also told me about the huge and heavy history of the country … from its main figure Ataturk, the one who create and improve the country in all field after the Ottoman empire fall in 20th century, to the great myth, stories and legend that cross the place and the daily life of the population …

And you realise that something different is standing here,facing Europe and our lifestyle somehow … and you start to understand, barely at first … but little by little, it becomes clearer, more precise and distinctive …

And we’ve been working hard, all together in the city.
All was different from the works in the camp :
First, our group wasn’t registered as an NGO and most of us had their own life, jobs etc … during the week.
So excepted Hassan, Felipe, Sophie and myself, the members of the group had to work from monday to friday and couldn’t really go on the field everyday on a 12 hours shift like in the camps …
Then, to be efficient, we needed to have some weekly planning that we’re scheduling during our tuesday meetings :
On the wednesday, we would spend the day going to meet new families in the Basmane district and the other Syrian area of the town ; that was something new … as you was not expecting refugees to come to you … you had to find them.
Once you was reaching one family, the second step was to get to know them, to learn about their story, to know how much were they, what was their profession back in Syria, when did they arrived in Turkey and if they wanted to stay here or to leave and if so with which money etc …. taking their phone number, their names, their ages, needs and whishes …. The whole process was taking time but was somehow crucial for us to know specifically in which way we could help them.
And you wouldn’t be able to focus on more than 6 families a day … and at the end of the afternoon, our three different groups used to collect information about 10 to 15 families not more … which was, honestly, already a fuck lot of work ahead ….
The second step was to collect during the thursday and friday, he specific needs we were about to bring to these families.
The listing of their needs and the sheets we filled the day before were by this time crucial, and that was enabling us to be precise and more efficient in the donations and goods we were bringing them.
One given family would have need clothes and not much food while another would asked for coal and medicines … every situation were different and we were going back and forth to the so-called “warehouse” to collect and sort clothes in bags, driving to the raw seller to get the precise number of food bags regarding the number of families we were giving this week, etc …
But we were also focused on their more precise needs like, repairing furniture, dealing with the educational problem for children, trying to set up school lessons, figuring out the best way for them to get official paper and to get a job or at least a money income …
Then the work as volunteer was becoming more and more social focused as we were setting up some workshop to teach them how to sew, getting them involved in teaching Arabic for kids, asking for syrian construction workers to help rebuilt disaffected house for other families, organising social dinner in refugees houses etc …
These activities were taking place all along the week, not only he saturday when wee were distributing the goods to the families, not only the sunday when we had dinner with them in their house … this follow up was based on  a day to day routine and was somehow becoming part of our life.
Little by little, we were creating a network through the chaotic situation …
All along the week we were going back to the families to follow up their improvement in what they were doing … and they became friends you could joke with … wave on the streets if you saw them … call to ask info etc …
something was emerging from the area, from our struggles to help, from their willing t carry on and not to give up … Here, in one of the most unwelcoming situation I,ve been experiencing, something was born and was about to grow … Humanity.

It sounds naive to call it that way but I can’t find another name to describe the atmosphere we were working in.
More than the tiredness, more than the cold, the pain, the weakness and sad melancholy we were passing through every day, we were, I truly believe, creating a warm bubble on which all of this desolation and helplessness was  becoming something good, something pushing everyone ahead.
Well, when things can’t be worse … it can only goes better …

And I whish this could last forever, I whish this could improve step by step, day after day till the end of the war, till the end of the crisis and the return to a normal descent life …

I haven’t been writing for a long time.

It sounds like I’ve been too busy and the last days in Izmir has been somehow tiring and exhausting.

We have been working with Hassan and Yshegul as we founded together a family in a so bad condition that we couldn’t help but to go straight to the hospital.

The daughter of the family was 9 months pregnant and couldn’t access to the hospital as she didn’t understood a word of Turkish or English.

Then, even if the hospital was supposed to take care about “emergency case”, they somehow didn’t considered that a 22 years old girl with a mature pregnancy and some needs for surgery to give birth wasn’t an “emergency”.

The hospital didn’t seems to considered as well that Halil the grand brother who has his two legs in a horrible situation and clearly needed a huge and specific operation as an emergency case either …

It’s funny that it’s always when you expected things to be quiet and easy that everything is green crazy and mad …

I expected to spend my last day planning the way to Gaziantep and to quietely pack everything before leaving … again that tells a lot about the uncertainty of the whole situation … The last day in Izmir was the paroxysm of the busyness as we’ve been dealing with the hospital crew to force them to receive the familly and to proceed to the caesarian that the girl needed to finally give birth to the little Bilal …we’vebeen running from family to family from neighbourhood to neighbourhood all over the city all day long, filling up taxi with entire families to rush to different places etc ….

At the end, I’m quite happy that we did that with Hassan and Yshegul and I’ll not forget what we’ve been through together … I’m proud to call them my friends like all the helpful and good people of the city ; Felipe, Yunus, The Hassan’ brother and sisters, Sophie, Angelique who’s been amazing host, Bara, Yasin, Ersin, Merve, Can, Chris and all the other that I’m forgetting for sure …

Then I left for Gaziantep, for the 20 hours drive ahead …

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s