04 outubro 2022

O testemunho final da Afrodite (SPEA)

Hello everyone 

And so here it goes I am already at the end. The ESC program is over and this shall be my last testimonial. It is today, 16th of September 2022, my esc ended on August 31st and started on November the 1st 2021. I am now writing this while sitting on a stone bench in the middle of Gulbenkian gardens surrounded by dense vegetation and listening to the water streams running through the bamboo sticks. One of the most beautiful gardens of Lisbon I believe. Lisbon gardens are also a reason why I love this city so much. Well now a loud plane just passed and disturbed my line of thought. 

What has happened in those 9 months? What have I experienced? What have I learned? How did I feel? In what ways have I changed? 
What I see in myself different as of right now, is a person that is relaxed, chill and calm, which comes in contrast with how much stress and frustration this esc program started with and continued for the biggest part. I see a person that now lets things go easier, and is more comfortable with uncertainty and unpredictability and perhaps what I am truly more comfortable with is actually myself. 

Being this very chaotic person that constantly gets myself into trouble and accidents I now feel so fine even though I have 4 finger joint capsules broken, a broken tailbone, a metal leg bone and a slightly out of place neck. It’s all good. I am so calm about it all. 

Here is the time to reassure any possible reader that the esc program had nothing to do with all these, or maybe it does partially as I just had a flashback of how I rolled down a cliff in Berlengas islands with a 10 kg massive telescope while trying to count the eggs of a not visible cliff nest of a very discreet cliff bird called in Latin “Aristotelis'' and I believe in English it shall be Black cormorant and or in Portuguese “Corvo Marinho das Berlengas”. Yeap, that’s right, I was working with birds. My esc was all about birds. Birds birds everywhere birds. At some point all I could see or care about in this period was birds, hence that cliff wouldn’t stand a chance to be seen as I was only seeing the bird! 

And right now a “Melro preto” just landed on a branch opposite me, watching me and I am watching him. It is a “him”, he is completely black with a very bright yellow beak, which is different to a female one being more fading brown and with a much more discreet beak. One of the things I take with me from this program is a vast collection of knowledge and facts about birdies.

I must say I love them even more now than I did at the beginning of this program. Or perhaps this program awakened in me that passion I had about these feathered creatures ever since I was a kid. Then the years passed by and I got myself more and more distant from appreciating these creatures and the natural world, Ι guess I became a boring adult that does not notice or gets excited about things like that. And then I remembered I never wanted to grow up and to become boring and not able to see a bird and get super happy about it! And I feel that now I am much closer to appreciating natural wonders just like kids do. So I am very happy for this little change, for this program revealing a side of myself that I had forgotten existed. 

A proud “common mallard” or in simple words a duck, walks down the grassy downhill, towards the bushes in front of me. I can see him walking vigorously with his famous duck walk. He is in a hurry. Duck walk has been one of my suggested training exercises during my warmups that I give for my sports “frisbee” team of Lisbon. When I say “duck walk” everybody starts crying almost, because apparently it is a very challenging type of walk to do. Have you ever tried walking like a duck? Not easy. Hence it works greatly for warmups and strengthening. See, my frisbee local Lisbon team was one the reasons I wanted to do my ESC in Lisbon, I met this team in 2018, became obsessed with the sport and wanted to come back ever since. However, the hilly obstacles I had to climb in those 4 years to be here and train, have made those years the most difficult ones for as long as I lived. The mental strength I had to find to continue after a devastating accident until I am able to run again was beyond any strength I ever thought I would find. This ESC program had offered me some time to try and make it for the last time. And I did. God knows how.

The activities and the content of my work through this program acted as a distraction, as a reminder that there are still so many things to appreciate and allow to take place within my life. The occupation with the natural world through these esc projects helped me find some peace and let my mind forget for a bit and let things go. Watching how resilient natural creatures can be, made me feel ashamed of how painful I make my inabilities be for my mind. When a bird gets injured, it will almost not notice it, it will keep doing everything it does everyday. When a tree loses a branch, it will keep growing, it will not stop and cry for its loss. As if they don’t have the time to stop, to think, to hurt, to get depressed. And if I think about time, do I have the time for it? I learned these 9 months that perhaps I don’t. 

I get the feeling that life might be over tomorrow and I won’t even realize it. I do not know how much time I have. It might be years, it might be months, days or seconds. And all I can do and all I owe to myself is to spend every single minute doing things that I love, enjoy, and care about. All these years I have been blaming myself that I am undisciplined and that I never get to do a normal job and get a normal salary because I don’t like to do anything that I don’t like. And today I say to myself that I was right. I don’t want a life where I do what I have to do. I want a life where I do what I want to do, and I will keep doing programs and finding short term opportunities even if that means I will always be broke and without luxuries. 

So what I see is different in me, is more faith to myself, to my instincts, to who I am, to what I am made of, to my heart, my being, my existence. Self respect is the skill I have learned to cherish and use more with the end of those 9 months. I am grateful for it. I am grateful for having the opportunity to be selected for this program and I am grateful for all the personal skills and more that I have equipped myself with in these months. I am grateful for being a European citizen, and for having all these European project opportunities for young people.

I am proud for being part of a continent that really cares to offer alternative education opportunities to youth and I wish for more people to get to know about these programs and to learn as much as I did. Dear reader, if you're still reading this testimonial, thank you for doing so, and I hope that by reading it I have added some value to your day.


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