Jamie Quarles has spent most of his 25 years in Augusta, so spending a month in Turkey was quite an experience for the Augusta State University assistant basketball coach.
“The experience taught me that we get caught up in our ways of doing things, and we think our way is the best way,” said Quarles, who was part of a group exchange team from Rotary International’s District 6920 to Turkey May 2 through June 1. While the Georgia group visited Turkey, a group of Turkish citizens visited Georgia.
Quarles was the only Augusta representative on the team. The district includes Macon, Savannah and Augusta. Other team members represented those two cities.
Quarles had volunteered at Rotary events and became interested in the organization. He researched it online and learned about the exchange program. He applied and was selected to participate.
He visited several Turkish cities during his monthlong tour. Instead of staying in hotels, participants stayed with host families for most of the trip.
“I went to some places where nobody spoke English,” he said.
Or he stayed in homes where the only English-speaking member of the family was a child who was at school during the day.
He and his Turkish contacts tried to break through the language barrier.
“We used a lot of Google translate,” he said. “We used a lot of hand signals, but there was a lot of 5-year-old conversation.”
Part of his trip included vocational visits, where he had the opportunity to see how his occupation is performed in the host nation. He visited several schools and met a lot of basketball players.
The language gap wasn’t a problem when it came to basketball, he said.
“In my profession, a lot of skills are universal,” he said.
Turkey has a lot of club basketball teams, he said. Children start playing basketball when they are young as part of an after-school activity and remain with these club teams for several years.
Another eye-opening aspect of his trip was the cuisine.
“Here, I never eat eggplant or lamb, and we ate a lot of cheese. It’s a totally different diet,” he said.
Despite the differences, Quarles said he liked the food there.
“I’ve started missing it already” he said.
Quarles said he was glad to have had the opportunity to spend so much time abroad, and he hopes that it’s not the last time he ventures far away from home.
“It gave me a chance to broaden my horizons. It refreshed my attitude. I want to experience more; there’s more to do outside my community,” he said.