Friday, March 18, 2011

Hannah in Latvia on EVS - 2011

Not so long ago, or so it feels, I was saying goodbye to my family and friends, excited at the prospect of a year in another country, where I knew none of the language and couldn‘t even pronounce the name of the city in which I was to live. Like Alex (who was in Latvia last year and who‘s blog entries can also be read here) the time between hearing about this last minute project, being excepted by my hosting organisation and arriving had been a matter of weeks. However, I had known about EVS and had been looking for a project for almost a year by this point.

I’ve been in Latvia for around five months now. Five months of highs a
nd lows, many firsts and new friends, and, ultimately , new experiences and memories that will last a long time. But there’s still just about seven months to go, in which I hope to see and experience many more new things.

My project is in the Language and Cultural Centre “World at Our Home” in Rēz
ekne, the seventh biggest city in Latvia, not far from the Russian border. Due to this a fair majority of the population are Russian speaking. A language I have only just started to learn. However, in my first four months I had Latvian lessons, and while I’m nowhere near fluent I am able to at least make myself understood mostly and understand others if they speak slowly. Which is a big improvement on when I first arrived not even being able to pronounce the name of the place I was to live in.

“World at Our Home” are involved in organising and participating in sem
inars and youth exchanges in Latvia, other European and neighbouring countries, as well as this they also hold weekly language lessons and act as a sending, coordinating and hosting organisation for EVS volunteers. Mostly the lessons are English, but recently Spanish, German and French started as well, as in early January we were joined by three new volunteers.

In the past few weeks we’ve been busy writing applications for two seminars and a youth exchange
to hopefully be held at the end of this year. As well as this we applied for a cross-border project between Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus with a very confusing application form.

I’m from southern England, where snow isn’t so common and the coldest I remember it being is -10°C so you can imagine my surprise when I heard last winter here was around -30°C and that it’s normal for snow to last from November to March. So far about half of my time in Latvia has been covered in snow; the most I’ve seen that has lasted longer than a week or two. This has some good points, such as being able to go ice skating and a first for me; sledging! In the last few days the snow has begun to melt and it’s already beginning to remind me of Spring. I’ve also heard much about Summer which I’m looking forward to.

Like many things, being away from home can take some getting used to, especially if, like me, you haven’t lived away from home before. After all that, what I basically want to say is I think EVS is an amazing experience. Yes it has it’s up and downs, but so do most things. So if you’re currently searching for a project I wish you luck in finding one soon and if you’re on your project now I hope you enjoy the rest of the time wherever you may be.