By Ali Kaynar
I am from Ankara, Turkey. It’s not too big of a town, not too small, and I’ve lived there my whole life. When I think of my hometown, I think first about how everyone is there is close. For example, when my mom wouldn’t be home, she would call a neighbor, ask them to have me over, and I would stay there for days. My friend’s parents would take care of me, give me food, and my parents would do the same for other people in our community. In Turkey, we all feel so close if you need anything. We share with each other and it feels like home.
When I first came to America, I noticed it was different. People didn’t seem too close, and everyone was doing their own business. I didn’t see people say hi to anyone else, and America seemed a little bit selfish in that way. It felt like people were guarding their time and their energy. It was like they were too cold to each other, and not showing love to each other as much, like people would fall down and not get helped back up. I know not everywhere is like this, and many communities (like Christchurch) are exceptions, but that was still the first thing I felt when I came to the US.
So, when I got to Guatemala, I was reminded of Turkey. I noticed the same kindness, connections, type of energy and love that I feel at home. When we were in Santiago Atitlan, it felt like I was on my old street in Turkey. It was busy – people were rushing – but they were still kind and open to each other. The locals were generous, talking with me, and it felt nice. The same thing happened yesterday, when there was a boat along the shoreline and two fishermen came along and offered to let us use it. In America, they would think “Oh is he going to steal it?” Or “oh, will he bring it back?” but this fisherman just let us use it, and he trusted us, which was pretty cool. And that’s how would be in Turkey, too. When you ask someone nicely to use something, they’ll definitely say yes.
I was surprised at how much being in Guatemala has made me miss Turkey, and how much I have thought here about how America feels cold sometimes. Turkey is warm, Guatemala is warm, and Christchurch is warm too – it is friendly. So, as I finish my time in Central America and prepare to return to the US for the next few years, I want to keep looking for the warm communities – places where everyone respects each other, loves each other, and feels like a big family.