When I first arrived in Bitola, I was afraid because I didn’t know anything about the town. Soon after, I met with the representatives of the SFERA organization who introduced me to my project and upcoming activities that I was supposed to do. The activities I did during my two months in Bitola were both fun and beneficial not only to the local community, but to me, too.
The first task I was given was to research similarities between the cultures of Turkey, my homeland, and Macedonia.
First of all, I visited the Old Bazaar located in the city of Bitola. I noticed the similarities between the two countries in the old buildings that are protected just as in Turkey. People in both countries attach a lot of importance to this. History is protected in many places because we care about our past. As far as I know, the Ottoman Empire had already been present in Macedonia before the First World War, thus increased the similarities between the countries.
Many works were made here by the Turks hundreds of years ago, and we have seen most of the architectural works and artifacts still preserved such as the mosques and the clock tower. Bitola still cherishes the importance of architecture.
There are many similar buildings in Turkey, as well. In my opinion, the resemblance is due to the occupation.
I came here knowing that I would not have any trouble adapting to the culture, tradition and environment due to the two nations sharing a similar culture. So far, I have not encountered any problems.
I talked to a lot of people and asked them about their opinions on Turkey; all had positive attitudes and showed kindness and tolerance as those in Turkey, which I was happy to learn.
I also contributed to the organization of the Turkish day in Bar Carsija (Бар Чаршија) along with my fellow volunteer Emrah. This was my opportunity to represent and show our culture in Bitola. We bought and served traditional food and drinks for Turkish day, such as Turkish delights, Turkish coffee, lemonade, and baklava.
Of course, there is no proper Turkish atmosphere without Turkish music, so I arranged traditional music for the event. I prepared invitation cards and I distributed them to the locals at Shirok Sokak (Широк сокак), the main street. Additionally, I prepared the small notes for the tables of the invitees which contained everyday words and expression in Turkish to familiarize the locals with the Turkish language.
On the day of the event, we went to Bar Carsija and we made all the preparations for the activity. I put up our star-studded flag that symbolizes the Turkish nation. When the guests came to the bar, we played the traditional Turkish game, tavla, and we chatted with them. Each guest was served the Turkish food and drinks. I was proud to the results of my organization – the guests having fun and enjoying the Turkish atmosphere
Apart from exploring and promoting culture, I was also involved in improving the local community. That is why I organized a cleaning action at the Bitola City Park one morning. This little activity made me more aware of the beauty of nature and the lack of appreciation of it. I think people should maintain the park and clean it regularly. Not only is it useful, it is also a fun activity where people can talk, get some exercise and spend some time outdoors. As a result of this cleaning action, people looked glad and maybe this inspired them to be more ecologically aware in the future.
My last activities in Bitola were also related to culture. I made a brochure about Turkey which I handed out at Shirok Sokak. The brochure contained some basic and useful information about my country and its tradition. It is an interesting way for the people in Bitola to learn something more about Turkey.
SFERA celebrated its 10-year anniversary in August, and a public celebration for the locals was held in the city park. This was the perfect occasion for me to introduce henna to Macedonians. Henna is a type of drawing traditionally made on the palms of soldiers, circumcised boys or brides-to-be. During the celebration, I was drawing it for everyone to show them the beauty of the art of henna. I bought henna paint in Bitola’s Old Bazaar and I prepared everything on a table, where people could later come if they were interested. I was happy to see that people were very fascinated and enjoyed the drawings.
I am proud of my activities during my stay in Bitola because I taught people a lot about Turkey, Turkish culture, and tradition. I also learned some Macedonian and gained valuable new experiences. I strongly recommend anyone to apply for an EVS project, because I will always happily remember my own.