Concordia's ex EVS volunteer
Joe who went to Austria
tells all about last weekend's
EVS Final Evaluation Seminar in Bradford
“Workcamps” with international volunteers around the different parts of Iceland, learning to drive a tractor, discovering the magic of Icelandic turf houses and turf as a building material, sleeping outside in the summer night sun (no darkness!), staying inside in the winter darkness (too much darkness!), planting trees, herding hundreds of sheep, learning how to milk a cow, seeing the northern lights, eating cured shark, cleaning the coast and building furniture from the driftwood, discovering the Icelandic Sagas and beliefs in hidden people and elves, building a children’s playground, organising and leading a bicycle camp around the south of the country, making a vegetable patch and greenhouse, frosty mornings, sitting in “hot pots” and hot rivers (a favourite Icelandic past time), often seeing more animals than people on a daily basis, alien landscapes and lava fields, huge open horizons, fishing, never having the same day repeated, painting, learning how to build a shelter with just wood and rope (no nails!), glaciers, volcanoes, sleeping in bunk beds, hiking, always cooking in huge quantities, strange dentist visit (they have TVs on the ceiling!), new people, new ideas, new recipes, lots of energy, tiredness, silent landscapes, noisy houses, and the strongest WIND.
My hosting organisation’s website proudly bears the moto ‘Everybody is other in another way’. I like this sentiment, a lot, it summarises perfectly how it feels to be here. The language barrier, interacting with the disabled residents, how everything is different yet oddly fits together to make somewhere I feel I can call home. My first two months have gone so fast it feels like I finished hanging my photos on the wall of my room only yesterday, yet when I think of the things I’ve done and the progress we have made it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. The first few weeks were all about guided tours around our new lives and the paperwork to suit, but as the days marched on we soon found ourselves making friends and finding novel ways of communicating with the world around us.
For those who don’t know, Hungarian is an isolated language which contains many unnecessarily long words and bears no real resemblance to any western European language. This coupled with the fact English is not often phonetic makes remembering how to pronounce things almost impossible and as such I am sceptical that I will ever become proficient but I will endeavour to continue trying. Another hindrance is the pesky English accent I own as, when we go round the room practising pronunciation, the Germans get a big thumbs up, the Dutch make a reasonable attempt and I get a 'well at least you tried' kind of look.
The work we have been given here, at times, has not seemed like a lot. We have been sharing it together between the 5 of us. However, I think as we start to find our feet’s better, the work load will start increasing.
The tasks I have done so far include:-
I soon expect that my level of German will increase rapidly. I am taking a course that runs two times a week, when my German language level increases I will find it much easier to work and live in this society.
I have been very happy with the level of support and hospitality that I have received from my host organization to help me branch out and find new activities and people. I was especially impressed when all the staff sung me happy birthday which was co-ordinated in a choir by a music teacher during a staff meeting!