Lessons Learned

Band-aids; here is something I should have added to my luggage: small yet functional. Although I got some comfortable shoes, I came to the conclusion that blisters are just inevitable – and band-aids the only relief. Obviously, I have not done many physical activities for the past four weeks; yet, walking compensates for such deficiency. On average, I cover a distance of 4 to 5 miles on a daily basis (always carrying some sort of bag).

The daily commute for the past week has also been somewhat hectic. The trajectory from my cousin’s house to the Association headquarters involves a one-hour and thirty minute commute. It starts with a 10 minute walk to the train station and a 15 minute train ride, followed by another 50 minute tram ride and yet another 10 minute tram ride, only then to walk another 15 minutes to arrive at the final destination. Quite complex! Every now and then, I luck out and get a ride with my cousin (or just simply take a cab); yet, public transportation usually offers a great understanding of the locals’ routine. Furthermore, traffic in Istanbul is just chaotic; thus, from my perspective, public transportation is rather efficient.

And even though Istanbul is an immense city (the population nears 15 million people), it still remains quite safe. Indeed, just about three days ago, I aced the perfect safety test. During my commute back from filming at “Faith Society Center,” I completely fell asleep inside the tram (during rush hour) with all my film equipment resting on my lap. Thirty minutes later, a sympathetic lady awakened me, informing we had arrived at the final stop. Try that in another major city, and you would probably awake in your underwear.

Today’s commute, however, actually involved an aircraft. It is 7:30AM and I have just arrived in Ankara – a one-hour flight from Istanbul. I am here to document the work of the local branch of the “Association for the Support of Contemporary Living.” Indeed, I have been filming for the past six days in Istanbul and the support from the members of the Association has been tremendous. Definitely another reason (amidst countless others) to be grateful for the opportunity.

And despite the recent busy schedule, one of the greatest challenges thus far has actually been the communication process. Turkish is a unique language; hence, any knowledge of Romantic or Germanic languages doesn’t really facilitate such procedure. In the process of interviewing people, there is often a necessity to create a connection with the individual in order to obtain a truthful testimonial. However, because of language misunderstandings this connection is empowered to the translator. Unfortunately, during the process of question – translation – answer – translation some information is obviously lost.

There are already over 130 minutes of footage; and yet, I cannot start editing without translation. Once again, I must rely on someone else to translate the interviews. Obviously, in this line of work there is always an exchange of favors. Indeed, this is the very basic idea of non-profit work: personal reward over monetary gratification, further creating a chain of interactive assistance.

I am not a professional filmmaker; at least, not for the time being. Yet, this journey has been a tremendous learning process. The project itself offers professional growth, as well as personal development. Just the notion of being in a different environment, meeting incredible people day after day is enough motivation to keep moving forward. And amidst these positive conditions, challenges are no longer obstacles; they are already life lessons.

P.S.: I added a few extra photos on the photo section from my recent visit to Topkapi Palace and Galata Tower.