05 September 2019
Category : Interview
FIIAPP Expatriates: Araceli Vázquez
"The Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so.""The Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so."
Araceli Vázquez, Twinning project coordinator ‘on advanced methods in forensic laboratories‘ in Turkey, tells us what her adaptation to this country has been like and what she makes of her personal and professional experiences there.
How long have you been in Turkey? How have you adapted to this country?
I’ve been here for 3 months, I joined right at the beginning of Easter, since, being a Muslim country, for them it was not a holiday. My adaptation to the country has been very good, although the initial stage is always “cumbersome” because we have to deal with a lot of red tape and Turkey has a complex bureaucratic system.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The first month and a half of being without my children, who we waited for to finish the school year in Spain before joining me on this adventure, was hard The little one is 2 and a half years old and the truth is that it was hard for me to be away from him. Now that we are all here, we’ve passed the test! Likewise, it is not easy to adapt to living with a language barrier, not many people speak English and sometimes it is difficult to make yourself understood, but where there’s a will, and the desire, there’s a way forward.
On the other hand, it has not been difficult getting to grips with the country, the Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so. They love football and they know our teams better than me. Also, the group of Spaniards here, the embassy staff and other RTAs make us feel at home right from the start. Turkish food is excellent, which is a bit of a warning for me because on the previous Twinning project the RTA returned to their country 12 kilos the heavier.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is this one proving to be very different to your previous missions?
A few years ago, I spent two years living in Los Angeles, as a post-doctoral student at UCLA. It was a wonderful time and for this reason I wanted to return to the life of an expat. They are different experiences because they also represent two very different stages in life. In the United States I was living as a student, however, I now have much more responsibility at work and also two children, which means that I cannot drop my guard at any time.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
In Spain, I work as a physician at the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences. My job is to study the samples collected by forensic doctors and police in the laboratory and prepare an expert report with the result. Here, however, above all I have to manage the project, negotiate the curriculum, contact the experts and provide support in the training sessions that are carried out with relocated experts. It is a completely different but equally interesting and enriching routine.
As in all jobs, some days are better than others and sometimes you have to deal with the frustration that things don’t go as you’d like, but this in turn creates new challenges and also makes it motivating.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Turkey?
The FIIAPP team in Madrid is my lifesaver. Having no previous experience in this type of projects, it is essential to have the support of people who have a good knowledge of how the different administrations involved work. I have a pretty much daily relationship with the FIIAPP project technician, we are continually sending each other emails, papers and we talk on the phone. It is teamwork, even from far away.
In Turkey, I have two partners who help me with translations and management. In addition, the RTA counterpart and Project Leader are military officials of the Turkish administration and it is a real pleasure to work with them. They are very disciplined and work hard and want to make the project a success.
How would you assess your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate?
It is a great opportunity being able to participate in this project. Both professionally and personally, I am finding it very beneficial. Forensic laboratories have many different branches and the project covers many other fields that complement each other, which makes it very interesting because experts join us from all specialities. From a personal point of view, it is a very enriching experience as a woman who is, in civil and cultural terms, Christian. It was quite a challenge coming to work at a Turkish military base. However, I can only be grateful for this opportunity which is turning out to be very positive.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Very soon after I arrived in Turkey, Ramadan began. In the middle of the night I was woken up by someone who was making an outrageous noise drumming along the street with the obvious intention of waking up the whole neighbourhood. The following night again there was that racket in the middle of the night and I thought about calling the police. In the morning, I mentioned it at work and they explained that it is a tradition typical of Ramadan. A person walks around with a drum, waking up people to warn them to eat and drink before the sun rises, when fasting begins again. Lucky I didn’t call the police and asked beforehand.
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