Social distancing may take an especially hard toll on expats who already live in different time zones and thousands of kilometers away from their families. Don’t be distressed if you are self-isolating alone, however, as the expat community in Istanbul has a number of online events going on this month to raise your spirits through mingling in the virtual world.
Keeping it real and online
Luckily for expats in Istanbul, there is Yabangee, a volunteer-driven website and community that informs of happenings in the city, in addition to hosting a number of their own events. Taking the lockdown in stride, they have quickly adapted and are now accommodating a number of weekly activities online to help while away the time.
The newest addition to Yabangee’s roster of online events is a Q&A Group Support Session that is held on Mondays and takes place in English. It is led by clinical psychologist Julia Özdemir, who regularly splits her time between her private practice in Istanbul’s beautiful boat-haven neighborhood of Kalamış and supervising clinical psychology graduate students at Ibn Haldun University. With a career spanning a quarter of a century, Özdemir is well equipped to assist those feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed by the recent global developments and to discuss strategies to overcome these universal issues. Taking place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays and over Zoom, participants can also pose questions or topics prior to the event they may want to tackle.
Yabangee’s new “Social Distancing Movie Nights” event series resumes this month on Wednesday evenings from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. as participants pick a film, watch it simultaneously and comment in a live chat group. Films viewed thus far include "7.Koğuştaki Mucize," "Hababam Sınıfı," "Life in a Day," "The Kid," "Beauty in the Broken" and "Kelebeğin Rüyası".
On Friday, May 15, Yabangee will be celebrating the month of Ramadan with a special “Social Distancing Iftar/ Dinner Gathering,” in which participants will prepare a spread and share it virtually over Zoom. Then on Thursday, May 28, Yabangee will resume its popular “Trivia Night” event series by holding its 34th edition of “A Quiz for Everyone” over Zoom starting at 7 p.m., with questions being read in English and Turkish starting at 8 p.m.
Yabangee has also continued to hold its innovative monthly “Expat Spotlight” talk series, which covered the topic of well-being last month. Held in conjunction with the coworking space and innovation platform Atöyle, which is located in Şişli’s Bomontiada where the event usually takes place, this month’s version will be held online so keep your eyes on Yabangee’s social media accounts for updates on this month’s focus and schedule.
Switch to virtual networking
While the world’s largest professional expat networking platform InterNations, which has active communities in Istanbul, Ankara and Bodrum, has canceled all conventional social events, members have created a number of new and entertaining ways to mingle and be entertained during the global crisis. For example, on Friday, May 1, there will be an online real-life storytelling event called “Virtual Love Stories from all over the World,” in which members will share their funny, touching and heartbreaking tales over Zoom. This will be the event’s third edition and topics include “Love at first sight, how you met your loved one, funny first dates and heartbreaks.” This online event will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and has dozens of expats from all over the world signed up to attend.
Not to be outdone in the fun will be Saturday evening's “Speed Socializing Party” in which participants will be part of a group introduction, after which they will be able to take part in “break-out rooms” of five to six members where they can hold more in-depth 10-minute conversations.
Try out virtual education
The global youth empowerment organization Istanbul&I, which is devoted to volunteering to assist disadvantaged communities, continues to hold their speaking, book and poetry clubs online. Every week, there are English, Turkish and French speaking clubs, as well as TOEFL and GRE practice sessions and book and poetry clubs that anyone can take part in.
Based in Kadıköy’s colorful Yeldeğirmeni neighborhood, Nadas is an environmentally minded creative house that serves as a space for a variety of workshops and events that was spearheaded by a group of talented ladies, including expats who lead many of the classes that are now being offered online.
Last month, Nadas took part in Slow Art Day by launching the "Yüz Yüze | Face to Face" exhibition of community portraits with the aim of keeping people creative and connected during these trying times. In order to further its concept, Nadas continues to host biweekly portrait drawing sessions, and the resulting works will be available for viewing on Skype. So, if you want to keep your sense of creativity and community flowing, the next portrait drawing event will take place this Sunday, May 3, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
If you don’t feel ready for portrait painting just yet, then don’t fret as this week Nadas is also kicking off a brand new “Home Studio for Beginners” series, which will be led by Gabrielle Reeves in both English and in Turkish on Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Held via Zoom, participants of any level will be introduced to a variety of home studio practices, including setting up a comfortable working environment and developing a series of artworks. Each session will begin with an introduction from a Nadas resident or guest artist who will share their own home studio practices, after which Reeves will then work one-on-one with participants to develop techniques specific to their projects.
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