It’s mid-day and over 40 degrees. Physically exhausted from the heat, I’d do anything to feel the cold and indulge in English food, but food is something I’ve avoided talking about because today is the first day of Ramadan. For the next 30 days, my host family (and pretty much everyone else, seeing as Turkey is a 98% Muslim country) will be fasting, not letting a morsel of food or drop of water pass their lips whilst the Sun is out.
Last night, we went to a relatives’ house for the final evening meal before the fasting that was to commence the next day. Yet again I was without my phrase book, so ate my food in silence, enjoying the sound of the lucid meal time conversation but gripped with my usual frustration at not being able to understand anything beyond basic phrases.
The next day was a challenge: an empty kind of day filled only with looking on in concern at my host family’s growing hunger and thirst in the stifling summer heat. As soon as it had reached sun-set, the subdued atmosphere instantly livened up; never had I seen such enthusiastic appreciation for my student-style dish of pasta and salad! As we cleared the table, I was reminded of how this was my last full day in Adana, the city in which I had completed my month-long internship and lived with my host family of two sisters. With my last two days to be spent in Mersin, a nearby seaside town, everything seemed to be drawing to a close. The strange feeling I’d been feeling for the past few days sank in once more: as much as I longed to be back in the UK with my family and friends, I would miss my Turkish home dearly.
Although when thinking back on the exchange experience with fellow interns it’s easy to cast our minds back to nights of Latino or that pre-drinking session at the AIESEC office, I think some of the most unique memories are related to being immersed into another culture. Stepping into the Central Park’s Mosque, the largest in Middle Asia, I was over-whelmed, gazing up at the beauty of the building’s decorations and feeling so small. The vast size of the main section felt like enough alone to impress anyone, but the sheer intricacy of the decoration reduced me to being capable of little more than standing and staring. I am reminded of this feeling at regular intervals throughout the day, as the sound inviting people to pray flows from the smaller nearby mosque, which I once saw glowing green at night like a fairy-tale castle, into my room.