Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Besty's EVS journey to Russia

Besty Barkas started her EVS in January in Russia. She is based in Nizhny Novgorod which is 600km East from Moscow and is volunteering with NNVS. Her first blog is about her 'Green' journey to Russia from the UK by train.

My journey from London to Moscow was in three stages, London - Brussels, then Brussels - Cologne, then Cologne to Moscow. It took only an afternoon to get to Cologne by high speed Eurostar and Thalys train and was a very comfortable journey. It is also foreigner-friendly; in the station and on the train to Cologne the announcements were made in four languages. However, as soon as I stepped onto the train in Cologne, I felt as if I were in Russia already: all the passengers and attendants were Russian-speaking and all the signs were in Russian.

I had two nights on this train, and it was a good opportunity to practice my language - the sociable atmosphere on the train means it is easy to make friends. At one point, a few ill-placed comments by one of the attendants provoked the whole carriage into a heated debate on sexual equality - a great insight into social attitudes in Russia!

The time went surprisingly quickly as I had a ! good supply of the essentials - books, magazines and cup a soups. We stopped twice for border checks - glad I got a Belorussian transit visa before I left as I avoided being thrown off the train at the border. I arrived at the impressive Belorusskiy station in the morning, about 40 hours from when I'd set off. I think it's much nicer to arrive in a country at the train station - it always tells you so much more about the place, than airports, which are all the same.

From Moscow I got another train to Nizhny Novgorod, where I was met at the station, finally relieved of my heavy suitcase and taken to my new flat. I'm living with two other EVS volunteers - I think EVS volunteers are generally a pretty interesting group of people, most have probably done some voluntary work, abroad or in their own countries and so they have interesting experiences and perspectives to share.

I'm looking forward to my on-arrival training which starts tomorrow, which we new volunteers will do together.


2nd update - What volunteering Besty has been doing?

It seems like only yesterday I arrived here - the time has flown by! It's been alright, not too cold, although there is loooads of snow - I had to literally tunnel out of the flat this morning. In answer to the question everyone's been asking, I've not been drinking too much vodka actually - no-one here seems to have a taste for it - not like the hardened British student drinkers in Moscow!

After our on-arrival training I felt a bit lost and confused about what I was doing - as did the other volunteers. I've found it really useful to be living with other international volunteers to share experiences and support one another. Now, after a month I feel we're finally getting started with the projects, but I've realised how much time can go by before you can get stuck in - there are lots of people you need to meet and become acquainted with, and your course of language lessons to sort out, before you can work out a proper timetable.

I'm co-coordinating (!) a big event which happens every April. It's called the Little Prince and it lasts 2 weeks. It's an event for the children in the orphanages in the Nizhny Novgorod region (about 50 orphanages but probably they won't all take part).

Other than generally helping to coordinate our Russian volunteers and promoting the event in schools and orphanages, I myself, along with other international volunteers, am organising an international day within the two weeks with games, food and activities from other countries. This will be on the 1st of April. I

'm also organising English classes for some orphans and for my colleagues in the office. And having Russian lessons myself. But I've still found time to explore the town a little bit and get acquainted with some of the local bars and their devotees!

Click here for pictures of projects in Russia

Click here for a country profile of Russia

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