Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The video is part of an exhibition in Iceland about volunteering.
Monday, December 19, 2011
"I'm sharing a room with a German, Spanish
and a Romanian girl. It's like gaining three sisters over night!!"
I'm settling into EVS life quickly :-) So much has happened since I left England on Thursday!!
I'm living with 8 other people in a small flat in the City Centre. The flat is in a small square near to the train and bus station. We are lucky because our room has a balconary that overlooks the square.
I'm sharing a room with a German, Spanish and a Romanian girl. It's like gaining three sisters over night!! It's ok at the moment, but I never seen to get a minute to myself. The other girls are really nice and helpful. We also share the flat with a French guy and four guys from Turkey (they keep themselves to themselves).
On Friday I spend the day unpacking and having a look around the City. It is very pretty. I can't take photos because my camera broke the night before I left :-( In the evening, all of the EVS volunteers were invited to a language student's home for dinner. The food was really good. We had a dish made with pork, egg, potatoes and spices, a mixed salad with Greek dressing and another dish made with Turkey, potatoes and lots of spices. For pudding, we had pancakes and a strange dish made of cookies, sour cream, sugar and jelly.
On my birthday, the girls made me breakfast in bed which was so sweet :-) Later, we went to a football match with some of the boys from the other flat (they have been in Hungary for eight months). It was so cold that my bones were frozen! In the evening we went to a local bar. There is no real night life in the City. There are three or four bars and one small nightclub. Anyway, two random guys gave us a massive cream and chocolate cake!! It was amazing!!
Today was my first day working at the office. It was manic because the organisation has just moved from an office across the road. Today was the opening ceremony. I also went to my first two England lessons. It was really relaxed and informal. The English teacher chooses a topic and we talk to the students about it. So today we talked about the different rules and customs in each of our home countries (England, Italy, Spain and Romanian). The students were really shy and didn't want to talk very much.
Everybody I have met so far in Hungary has been very friendly and helpful. The hardest thing to cope with at the moment is communication. A lot of the others can speak English. However, they find it hard to understand my accent. I didn't realise that I speak so fast when I’m at home!! Robbie seems to understand me the best. He is from Romanian and speaks five languages fluently!! I think that my English will get worse this year!! It's strange to listen to so many lanuages at the same time!
Monday, December 12, 2011
with a few words and a lot of hand gestures."
EVS involved a lot of firsts for me; it was the first time I had travelled outside the UK alone, the first time I took a night train, the first time I had lived in another country, the first time I had seen mountains. One of the greatest parts of my EVS experience was that these first time experiences did not end when I arrived at the project but they continued up until the very end. I feel every part of me was touched and changed somehow by my time as a volunteer; from allowing me to become more conscious of the resources we can take for granted in British society today to bringing bigger concepts further to my attention such as the role of consumerism and the problem of climate change.
I volunteered for 9 months in France at a centre accueil called Vaunières, meaning Black Valley, which is hidden away at 2,500 meters altitude in the French Alps. The village hosts a variety of people including groups of school children, teenagers with social problems, international workcamps and passing mountain hikers. During the summer months there was often large numbers of visitors, sometimes reaching around the one hundred mark.It is a tiny village that dates back to the twelfth century and it is isolated in a way that is quite hard to comprehend in today's world of modern connections. It took me a while to adjust to this solitude but now I am incredibly grateful that I was able to experience such a different way of life during my EVS.My daily life as a volunteer changed and evolved during my time at Vaunieres with relation to what groups were visiting.
During the quiet months of spring we were often just the 6 volunteers and so our time was occupied with workshops to develop Vaunieres; plastering the new library space, working on the garden, painting and decorating. As the warmer weather brought more visitors my role became more of a host - welcoming, cooking and cleaning but there was also time to participate in the collective workshops. This provided a beautiful opportunity to share with all the different people staying in the project and helped to breakdown some of the boundaries created by the language barrier. I will never forget trying to teach three teenagers how to sew with a few words and a lot of hand gestures.
A special part of Vaunieres is the artistic and alternative people it seems to attract and a huge part of my EVS experience was the volunteers and the people I shared my time with. I met many inspiring people that I hope to keep contact with forever. When the summer arrived so did the first international workcamps and festivals. There were movie nights, pizza nights, party nights, games nights, international meals, nights sleeping under stars and weekends away. The autumn brought a new, colourful, beauty and a new calm in terms of numbers. But as other long-term volunteers left and the new group arrived I found myself with a lot more responsibilities. I helped to welcome the new volunteers into their new roles and helped organise the final international workcamp of the year. It was perhaps the most challenging part of my whole time as a volunteer in terms of work-load and in many ways a very good way to finish. I am able to now say with confidence, I can speak French, I can drive on the right-side of the road, I can be a leader and I can say no when it gets too much. Of course there were times when things felt too difficult and times when I just wanted to come home and have a hug from my Mum. Sometimes the language barrier felt very isolating and I became quite homesick. But I wouldn’t change a thing. The hard times are an important part of the experience and really enable you to become aware of your own limits and strengths.
If you are reading this because you are contemplating becoming an EVS volunteer then I hope my story gives you the reassurance you are searching for. It is such an amazing opportunity and a real privilege to be able to live in another country and immerse yourself in another culture. It gives you time both to discover yourself and, in my experience at least, provides an opportunity to find many new possibilities for the future and a chance to meet many wonderful people. Also, there is always that guiding hand of Concordia behind you if you run into any problems.
If you are reading this because you are contemplating volunteering at Vaunières, I would whole heartedly encourage you too. There are not many places where you can feel so disconnected from the pressures of modern consumerism yet still be immersed in all the beauty of human potential. It is a magic place. Just remember to bring a good book and maybe some knitting to help pass those cold winter nights….