From the 15th to the 19th of August the volunteers of System and Generation had an amazing GREEN Week in Beypazari. Monday was the arrival day; the volunteers had a stay in dormitories and had a chance to socialize with one another once again and get acquainted with the local area in the first place before starting other activities.

On Tuesday, the 16th of August, the sequel of the first activities started. Visiting the local tourism office was the first activity, to begin with. The representatives from the office expressed Turkish hospitality and as always were offered some delicious snacks. One of the most fun activities was cleaning Ada’s Garden – The volunteers took care of the plants, watered them, and also kicked off some fun stuff to cheer each other up and playfully splash water at each other – it is always a part of being in a group even while working and volunteering.

The next plan was to visit the city center. The volunteers had a chance to explore local Pazar and taste traditional Turkish treats and dishes such as Sarma, Baklava, Lukum – We know what Beypazari is famous for, especially the ‘Teyze’s there prepare scrumptious food.

The volunteers also learned about Ebru - the traditional art of creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments on a pan of oily water and then transforming this pattern to a special paper. Observing a local artist performing Ebru was an interesting way to gain knowledge about Turkish art since its roots go back to medieval times.

Another interesting part was visiting different local museums with traditional housing styles and to learn a little bit more about the historical aspects of the country as the dolls in the houses were characterised in a traditional/historical style.

In the evening the volunteers shared the meals with the coordinators and socialized, as always since it is one of the best ways to learn more about one another as well as spend some time together a volunteering ‘team’.

On Wednesday, the 17th of August the day was very active. The bus took volunteers from the dormitory to the ‘Halk egitimi merkezi’ where they had an opportunity to explore the traditional way of making carpets by hand. The volunteers also tried it by themselves – it is always the fun part to get to learn something different and try to gain new skills. After visiting Halk egitimi merkezi, the Butterfly Valley cleaning activity was introduced. The volunteers were given a ride to the cleaning area in several groups. In the beginning, they could enjoy the stunning view from the cliffs as part of exploring the nature around Beypazari. As soon as all of them gathered, the volunteers started cleaning the area with the coordinator. Taking care of our environment is essential since this is the place around us that provides us with everything to live.

In the evening, there was a sports activity planned with a representative from the Tourism office. The volunteers played Tennis together in pairs as well as part of freshening up the daily routine, spending time with the locals and once again – team building as part of volunteering ‘team’.

On Thursday, the 18th of August the day started differently. The volunteers went to a local school to get to know the kids. It is always interesting to see how children from different cultural backgrounds react seeing people from different countries – sometimes they are shy to speak up, and introduce themselves but one of the most important jobs as a volunteer is to make sure the kids will be able to open up in front of ‘strangers’. Listening to the little children expressing themselves to the volunteers from different countries is an amazing feeling you can get while seeing their happy faces full of enthusiasm and curiosity at the same time. After meeting with the kids, there was an English conversation club with older students in the conference room. The fascinating part about the conversation club was that everyone got to share their feelings, aspirations, and interests along with their field of studies. However, the most appealing part of the meeting was that the conversation club turned into an ’intercultural event’ where volunteers presented their national dances along with the music. It can be considered as the most inclusive part of the cultural exchange since the dance activities are always open to everyone even if you are not professional you are always welcome to participate and feel yourself included. Starting from the Turkish music and dance and ending with the Azerbaijani and Georgian, the event was really cheerful and full of positive vibes. The really interesting thing was that the atmosphere was so open that from the Turkish perspective it looked like people cheering and celebrating or gathering just like during Turkish weddings. As mentioned before, cultural interchange can be expressed in different ways. Sharing traditional music and dances is always a fun part of learning about each other’s culture as well as integrating with different people.

After the conversation club and the dance activity, the volunteers gathered for lunch. One of the most exciting parts was helping local shoppiers and learning more about Turkish cuisine. Volunteers learned how to make Gozleme – each of them had an opportunity to try and roll the dough in a specific way that is supposed to be done so that there will be a crispy outer crust and any kind of filling with cheese or potatoes. A really beneficial part of making a different style of food rather than one from our own country is always exciting and gives you a chance to explore new things while learning that you could also be the one who can make a really good Gozleme with different techniques to roll the dough. Furthermore, the male volunteers were given aprons to serve Turkish Cay to the ‘customers’. Being exposed to a new culture in a local and traditional area like Beypazari is a great way to be integrated into Turkish way of life as well as spend the time to explore as much as possible.

After the cooking project, the volunteers visited the Beypazar Municipality where they met the mayor to discuss the ESC project and its goals, the project in Ankara, the activities that volunteers are doing and the events they were involved in.

Once the meeting in Municipality was done, there was another sports activity organized for the volunteers – playing volleyball with the locals was really fun. These kinds of sports activities always involve people talking to each other and socialising which is really important so that different cultures will be brought together.

The green week in Beypazar was a really important activity that once again brought the volunteers together, and immersed them into the Turkish culture while Beypazar seemed a perfect place for that. Exploring the Turkish cuisine and helping the locals was a really good opportunity to experience the local traditions and feel a little bit different atmosphere from Ankara. It could also be taken as a cultural week, where teambuilding activities were presented as well as environmental and sports events were integrated to have an impact not only on the societies or on the personal level but contribute to the nature around us, as well. Therefore, it can be inferred that the visit to Beypazar could be one of the highlights of the ongoing volunteering project – always offering something different and every time full of excitement.