We just came back from a seminar organized by Euromed with the collaboration of Ankara Fotograf Sanatcilari Dernegi (AFSAD), which was held in Ankara – Turkey between the 14th and the 18th of July. It was a wonderful experience due to a number of reasons. The organization, which made this seminar possible, was great. Ms. Derya Buyuktanier, the person behind all this, is the most fantastic person on Earth. She was always so patient and so available for our various needs.
We arrived for the Seminar 2 days before the initiation of the seminar, since flights from Malta operate only on particular days. It took us more than 12 hours to arrive there because we landed in Istanbul then had to catch a 5 hour train to Ankara. Nuri Sener from the AFSAD was there waiting patiently for us to pick us up at the train station and take us straight to the hotel. After some brilliant maneuvering in a tightly packed car park and crazy sailing through hectic Turkish traffic, not to mention air-conditioning set on a temperature fit for roasting, we arrived at the hotel. At the hotel we soon met by Derya. We also met the first arrivals, George and Giosha who represent Yellow House (Liverpool – England) and also Hakki, one of our trainers. For our first evening in Ankara, Derya invited us for dinner at her parents’ house. By that time the Jordanian people had also arrived so Derya’s mum had to cook for around 15 people! It was a lovely meal composed of a number of Turkish traditional dishes, and the table setting so enchanting no words can give it justice. Later on our hosts and organizers took the whole group for a walk in a beautiful park with some lovely water displays. All in all it was a fantastic evening; a real good welcome to Ankara.
The following day, Tuesday, we hiked around Ankara, trying to discover the city. Seminar participants were dropping into the hotel all day. At the end of the day we were around 35 participants from 11 different countries. There were 3 representatives from Algiers, 4 representatives from Jordan, 3 representatives from Catalonia – Spain, 2 representatives from England, 4 representatives from Israel, 2 representatives then 3 from Palestine, 1 representatives from Lebanon, 2 representatives from Greece, 4 participants from Turkey, 1 from Germany and us 3 from Malta.
The first 2 days of the seminar included a number of games. These games had a dual purpose. First, they enabled all participants to interact with each other and served as very good icebreakers. They also taught us skills useful when dealing with situations of conflict. They included interaction, touching, feelings, identifi cation of communication barriers, building of trust between different people and also how each of the above are infl uence by the different cultures and backgrounds in which we are brought up. Apart from interacting with the other participants certain games were aimed at leaning more about our individual selves, by means of drawing charts and writing down stuff such as our motto, our most important things, our dreams and aims for the future.
At first it was sometimes difficult for us to grasp the names of the participating people especially those coming from East Mediterranean countries cause of the pronunciation. However at the end we managed! During the afternoon of the fi rst day of the seminar we were invited to tour around the city of Anakara and take photos of situations and people which remind us of conflict. Later on in the afternoon when we returned to the hotel, we were asked to browse through newspapers and cut out pictures which remind us about conflict. We were then to attach such pictures onto charts and make a small presentation to the rest of the group. These two exercises wehre to help us identify what the word conflict actually means to us and how it translates into our daily lives.
During our second evening of the seminar we set up an international evening where all participants provided foodstuffs and information on their respective countries and cultures. We also had the opportunity to learn more about the different organizations the participants were representing and also sample some of their food!
On day three we had a mini UN summit. Each participating country had to prepare and present a small report of major conflicts occurring at that moment in time in their country and also what actions were being taken to manage such confl icts. The most heated debate surrounded the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Discussions on this particular issue even extended through lunch breaks; however the amazing thing was that after these discussions were over we would all get out of the conference room and the Israel and Palestinian people would start joking between themselves and sit at the same table for lunch. Considering all problems these people are facing back home, they are very courageous people to put their differences aside and managing their hurt, for the sake of a better future together.
On the fourth day we were divided into groups and asked to identify case studies of conflict and how they were actually being managed. Each group then had to make a presentation on a particular conflict identified, to the rest of the participants, including chart sketches and mini plays. It’s amazing the interaction there was between us.
During the fifth day of the seminar, the organizers presented us with some technical information about conflict management and also brought a spokesperson from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs who gave us a talk on this same subject. That same afternoon we saw the arrival of the 3rd Palestinian person. She had to spend 4 days at the border between Israel and Jordan for beaurocratic reasons where they had to check and recheck her papers and documents. In actual fact she was to be accompanied by another person who was also coming for this seminar, but due to some missing documentation, which had not been issued on time, was not allowed to cross the border and proceed with his journey. That was a very sad situation indeed.
We went out during most evenings with the whole group, and in a way such informal gatherings increased the bond between the participants. We left Ankara to start the journey back home on the 18th of July. When we were leaving the hotel it was very touching because we (the Maltese contingent) were the fi rst participants to leave and all the seminar participants met us in the hotel lobby to say goodbye with some tears and a lot of hugging and kissing.
We as Maltese participants, feel that during this whole experience besides teaching us skills on how to manage conflicts, has helped us increase our knowledge about a plethora of cultures, about different organizations working for a common aim, as well as the various conflicts within each country represented. This seminar has also helped us in formulating better judgments regarding such conflicts, information on which can easily be distorted by the media.
Now that we are all back home, we have created a Yahoo forum to help us keep in touch with each other. We know that most probably we will never meet again as a whole group, however by using such a forum we still can keep in touch with various members of the conference and keep discussions alive.