Breaking Rules in Cappadocia

Amber with a local farmer in Turkey.

Written by  April 21, 2013

Amber experiences the kindness of strangers in her host country.

Working overseas through an AIESEC internship gives a person a very different travel experience compared to vacationing, business trips or the famous backpacking trip. Being on an internship allows you to live in the regular life of that country. You get the tourist feel of seeing the sights and being new to an environment but you also get the everyday mechanics of a city such as grocery shopping, finding local shops to enjoy and being able to easily meet different people either locals or other travellers. Living in an unknown city allows you to enjoy and dislike all the quirks of a city and an amazing feeling is taking a mini vacation from your new city.

I am from a small city compared to Istanbul. It is about eight times the population of Vancouver so it is an adjustment to deal with crowds, long line-ups and, of course, traffic. The traffic in Istanbul is like an adventure all in itself because it can come on any day and at any time because there are millions of people moving through the city. There are more people walking through Taksim in a day in Istanbul than there is in all of Vancouver year round. This is a huge change of pace for me, it’s exciting but also tiring as being a Canadian used to quiet times of the day to enjoy. That’s why when my host family asked me if I would like to see Cappadocia in Central Anatolia in Turkey, I jumped on this opportunity.

Cappadocia is really a special place and I would recommend anyone to put it on their to-do list in life. It is an area that is made of eroded tuff from an extinct volcano that erupted over this area about 30 million years ago. The area is now covered with vineyards, farms and of course the famous underground cities. It was amazing to walk through these ancient cities, churches and eroded land to learn about the rich history that Turkey has to offer. (I have never taken much interest in history and knew little about Turkey’s history before arriving—but learning it here has been beyond amazing.) The beauty of Cappadocia cannot be really explained but it was amazing to be away from the lights and noise of Istanbul to be surrounded by the quiet of nature again.

The most exciting part of my trip was being able to see a real camel. (As a Canadian, I’m used to seeing bears, deer, otters and even the occasional moose—but camels are something I’ve never seen in my life.) During the trip, I was even more excited to learn I could ride one for 10 Turkish liras (about $6.00 CDN). How could I say no to a deal like that?! I learned that riding a camel is much harder and scarier than imagined. They are a huge animal and when they move, you feel every movement on the very hard back hump but it is still something I would say yes to in a second any day.

The most memorable part of my trip was being able to see and meet the people of Central Anatolia. There is a huge difference between the people in Istanbul and the people in other areas of Turkey. When anyone sees you are foreign, they just see the profit they can make from your business. I notice the high prices that tourists have to pay for many items, but in Cappadocia not only were the prices lower but the people were more open.

While driving to go a museum, we passed a sheep farm and I asked my host mom if we could stop to take pictures. My host mom told me that I would be welcome to go onto the farm and take pictures closer to the sheep. Rules of private property are quite strict back home, so I was shocked to hear this, but decided to try it out.

Upon entering the farm, I felt out of place, like breaking the rules was the worst thing I could do. (I realize that’s a huge difference between the culture here and back home, Canadians are quite sticklers for rules.) As I was taking pictures, a woman appeared. As I nervously pointed to my camera and to her sheep, she disappeared back into the barn. I thought I was in trouble for trespassing, until she returned with a tiny baby lamb that wasn’t even old enough to walk straight.

It was such a precious moment to see this tiny adorable sheep—but also have a stranger be so kind to a person that doesn’t understand their language or customs and is also trespassing on their property. This is where I have learned to the extent of Turkish hospitality from my wonderful host family, my AIESEC family here and from the kindness of strangers always willing to open their homes to others.

At the end of this trip where, I had an odd feeling. I was homesick for Istanbul and excited to get back to my AIESEC family and back to my internship work. I realize even with all the quirks that a large city has, I have fallen in love with living in Istanbul.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Amber Birch

Amber is a fourth-year marketing student from Vancouver, Canada. Amber is currently living abroad for her second internship with AIESEC in Krakow, Poland after finishing her first match with AIESEC Istanbul.

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