Tuesday, May 13, 2008

EVS in Romania

Linden Farrer is in Romania on an EVS project. He is going to be there for 12 months. This is his first account of life as an EVS volunteer in Romania:

I've been in Romania now for just over a month – and I can't believe how much I have done already. It's May the 1st – a national holiday here – and I now have some time to write something.

The project I am volunteering for is based in the city of Oradea. It's a city on the border of Hungary, a couple of hours drive from Transyvania plus the cities of Sibiu, and Cluj Napoca. Although it's about the same size as Brighton, it has a completely different feel – far less nightlife, but a really good public transport system, lots of parks, and quite a relaxed and laid-back feel to it. I already feel I know my way confidently around the city, and am looking forward to discovering some of the more hidden away places that I have heard about, and see some local bands.

I am working with a team of volunteers from quite a range of countries: Georgia, Albania, Portugal, Austria and Denmark. Because I am staying for a year, I am involved in more than one project, but the main one that I am working with the others on is quite enough as it is. In just less than a week about 18 other volunteers arrive from all over Europe to begin archaeological digging at the local 'citadel' (fortress) for a month; they will be followed by three other groups of the same size, with the last digging volunteers going home at the end of August. Our longer-term team has to coordinate activities for them, and make sure that they have everything they need to survive for their month's stay.

In between planning sessions, and securing accommodation, we have been organising visas, debates in schools about the citadel, a sports day, and a whole range of other activities that are supposed to attract the attention of a total of 20,000 people. It seems ambitious at the moment, but at least we are busy. On top of this we have Romanian language lessons out of work time plus the homework. Although most of us like the challenge of learning a new language – and Romanians are really understanding of mistakes – it would be nicer to be able to get by on a survival basis from the start because it is harder to meet people when you cannot speak a word. Nevertheless, it's a personal challenge to see how far I can go (from zero knowledge) in one year!

In addition to settling into life here, our team visited the region of Maramure┼č which borders the Ukraine in the north of the country. Here we got the chance to see some spectacular scenery, stay at a local guesthouse and eat a farmers breakfast and dinner (accompanied, as all meals are there, with the locally distilled palinka), and visit monasteries and the harrowing prison at Sighet where opponents of the communist regime were kept out of public sight. I've also had the opportunity to travel to Craiova in the south of the country to visit some people I met last year while on holiday, and as a group we plan more visits to other nearby cities in the next couple of months.

With our main project hitting the ground (running or not) in less than a week I think the next month will bring lots more experiences and be lots more fun. I'll try and write more then.

Click here for a country profile of Romania

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