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Crossing Borders: Language, Culture, and Volunteering in La Guardia

A small town, a big world and everything new: La Guardia. It is a four-season town and border town in the autonomous region of Galicia, located in the southwestern region of Spain. You can easily get to Portugal with a 15-minute car ride. Remember in passing that Portuguese is a new language and “Obrigado” instead of “Gracias” is the Portuguese way of saying thank you. Sometimes you want to understand the limits of the language and find the most used expressions in your native language in a new language. You are learning new forms of expression. I have something that I noticed throughout my time volunteering and still continue to notice. Everything is new… That’s why I ask the people I meet, what is your favorite word in this language? I chose my own, even though it has more than one word, “Vamos Viendo” is both a fun and relaxing form of expression for me. In a sense, it taught me to go with the flow. Along with the language, you begin to be involved in the dynamics of culture. “Esto es la leche” is a normal “This is a milk.” In addition to being a sentence, this is an everyday expression of surprise. It’s like «Oha» in my native language. This is a different experience, an intercultural transfer, because it is like learning a new language and culture. As you try to explain your own dynamics, you discover many things again. Like “Oha” You can be surprised, happy and sad by using these three letters with many different intonations.

I traveled to Malaga, the south of Spain, for Middle-Term Training. The best parts of this trip were witnessing the different cultures in Spain and meeting people from many different countries. People will be kind and happy that you want to explore their world. If you are going to a small place, the other thing people will wonder is why you chose that place. At first my answer was usually: I was applying for European volunteering projects and I met a good team. They accepted me for their project. Now, along with this answer, I discovered a new answer. During my university years, when I first discovered the Santiago de Compostela road, I knew that one day I would come to Galicia to walk this road. I would meet people and chat with them along the way. What you manifest appears before you with a different story of life. I currently live in the town of La Guardia, which is on one of the roads of Santiago de Compostela, and every day I meet and even chat with hikers passing this way. Volunteering projects are a new experience in many ways. The motivation you get from the people you work with, the desire to explore, take a break from life and gain a different experience. If you decide to walk this route, I definitely recommend checking the weather forecast for Galicia. Have a nice walk.

After a certain period of time, you start to get into the rhythm of life where you live. The rhythm that A Guarda brings to me is having afternoon coffee at Art Cafe, walking on the coastal path by A Guarda’s ocean and enjoying the beautiful weather. Taking part in the work of the Foco team, in which I volunteer, and of course the creative and entertaining short theater plays they produce in the micro-theatre genre. Volunteer projects create a good environment to discover your talents and develop what you have discovered. This is where I realized that after the short-term photography training I received at university, I had never picked up a camera again for years. During my university years, I would go out to the streets to improve myself in photography and wander around almost all day to capture a few good photographs. My Nikon semi-professional camera was always in my backpack and we wandered around together for a long time. We worked together to capture a good photo. After many years, I realize that I miss this feeling while taking photos and videos of the plays and workshops produced by Foco.

So be in a place where you allow a new team, volunteer projects, a new person, A Guarda or wherever you are to awaken this feeling in you. Maybe I will recapture the feeling I had while walking the Lycian Way in Turkey and decide to walk a part of the Santiago de Compostela path, and I will leave this path that I lived during my volunteering time as a walker and having accumulated beautiful memories and beautiful people. Projects host very different processes for people, I left the team and Spain for a few days in May and went to Sweden to participate in Eurovision. As you know, Türkiye has chosen not to participate in Eurovision since 2012 due to some reasons. But one of the best memories of this year for me is hidden here. The singer, who participated from Turkey in 2002, was invited to Eurovision again this year and sang her song. I had the opportunity to watch this performance again when I was 9 years old. It was a glorious moment.

My volunteer project will be ending soon so I think you will definitely miss some things here. Maybe, as I said, when I pass this road to walk the Camino de Santiago path, I will look at this house where I used to live, say yes, I lived here, and continue on my way after drinking my coffee at the art cafe. I will take more photos. I will tell the stories I have collected. I will leave with the good memories of living in a multicultural environment and volunteering. I will continue my journey with the new features these have brought to my life and life skills. I think the invisible side of volunteering projects is that you act to adapt to a life you do not know. For me, this was leaving Istanbul, which has the largest population in Turkey, which has been my home for years, connecting the Asian and European continents, and settling in A Guarda. I found great things in this small town where you can walk everywhere. I met young people dealing with art. I volunteered in a good team. I met local people, ate the delicious food of Galicia, walked in its green nature, attended various concert events in Fuscalho, and waited for the rain to end and the sunny weather to come, just like the people living here.