31 outubro 2018

O testemunho da Monika

You know that feeling when you go to a concert and you feel the bass, this strong physical sensation of sound running through your body? It comes in waves, hits you hard, your heart jumps with the rhythm and you feel the vibrations running through your body, pounding with the loud beats of the music. And then it makes you excited, maybe a little bit confused, but it feels so good. And all you want is to jump and dance and then jump even harder.  And you suddenly find yourself spinning around, feeling almost alone, although you are surrounded with so many people. You feel lost in the moment and you let your body move freely, your thoughts float away, and you feel like the world is yours and you just keep on spinning...

          Well, this is not how I initially felt when I came here. I was excited of course, but for me, it was “just another trip”, one of the many I´ve done in the last few years. Even though I was aware that I am moving to a new place and that I will actually stay and live there, it did not feel any different than a one-week trip. Being alone, in a totally new country was not new to me – I’ve already faced the same when I moved abroad to the USA, back in 2016, and then one more time in 2017. This being said, my journey started as a very ordinary one, but let me reassure you, it did not stay such for long.

          I arrived in Lisbon late in the night on the 3th of July and for the first time, I entered my new home. An old typical building, that is famously known as Casa Anjos among the volunteers, with green azulejos (ceramic tiles) on the outside and a big white heavy front door. The first thing you see when you open the door is a dark hallway with a beautiful high ceiling and a wooden rotating staircase. It takes exactly 40 stairs to climb to get to the 2nd floor, where my apartment is located. Inside, there is a long labyrinth-like corridor with an old smelly carpet, doors covered with paint that is peeling off and walls with posters, stickers and pictures that serve as a reminder that many other young people lived there before me. This flat felt strange at first, but it will later become a place where beautiful moments will happen - shared dinners, long balcony talks, late night gatherings. A place where music will play for hours, where lots of wine bottles will be emptied and where friendships will be born. At that moment, this place was just “my new apartment”, but very soon it became the place that now I call my home.  

And there, for the first time, I met my future flatmates, a group of young people coming from different countries – France, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Hungary and Spain (later we got newcomers from Belgium and Armenia as well). We are nine altogether, and if you think nine people living together is a lot, you are right! Regardless of this fact, miraculously we get along really well. Although it sometimes gets crowded (for example, when there are more than four people cooking dinner at the same time the kitchen becomes a battlefield), being constantly surrounded with people is rewarding – you always have someone to talk to, make plans with, go out, grab a coffee together, cook dinner, ask for help, or advice, or simply have a nice company. And if nine is not enough, there are two more apartments with more volunteers and ex-volunteers, one next door and the other one downstairs – or in other words, you can never get bored if you live in Casa Anjos. Because of all this, I have to say, not the building itself, but the people who live there with me are the ones that make living in Casa Anjos a big part of my EVS journey and make our old building bright and full of spirit.

          Day two, and I am set to start my volunteering job at Spin. It happened that I arrived in the middle of the first “Live it Lisbon” project (there was a second one later in August) and if you are curious, when you mention Live it Lisbon to Spin’s volunteers, they associate it with two things – exhaustion and fun. Now, you probably want to know what we do during this project that makes us feel so exhausted, and the answer is – everything. During 10 days we spend all of our time with the participants – we organize workshops for them, we do community work together, we take them to cultural trips around Lisbon, we cook and clean with them, we take care of the hostel and on top of that we have to do our regular office work (in my case, I work in the European Programs and Mobility Department).

And despite all of this, despite working overtime and working hard, an unusual phenomenon happens – we never leave the office after our shift finishes. Instead, we make the choice of staying longer and we spend our free time with the participants. Sometimes, this goes to that extent, that we even sleep at the office. Usually, it goes like this – let’s say we have a second shift from 3pm until 10pm, then, we decide to stay and hang out with the group – we listen music, play games, share beer or go out in downtown together. Than we check the time and it is already 4am in the morning. We have 4 hours left until our next shift, which starts at 8. We decide that it is better to stay and sleep in the hostel (or in the office) instead of waking up at 6.30am in order to get on time to work (to get from Casa Anjos to Spin it takes around 45 minutes, sometimes even more). Sleep deprived, we continue working the next day, we drink lots of coffee and we manage to make it through the day. Then, our shift finishes, and one more time we face a difficult choice. Torn between having a decent sleep at home or doing the same thing over again, we choose, one more time, to stay.

          But working at Spin is not only Live it Lisbon. When we don’t host a project and when we don’t have a hostel full of participants, things are taking a completely different turn. During our “normal office days” as we call them, we like to do our job in an easy-going manner. The first thing we do in the morning is, of course, coffee. This is a ritual that has to be strictly respected - otherwise, there is a huge risk that we are not going to be focused enough to do our jobs properly. As soon as we have our daily caffeine fix, we are ready to start. We all have our own areas of work and different tasks are assigned to us, so work is mostly individual. Sometimes, we team up and do things together. However, what connects us all are two things – the office space and the lunch breaks.

          Spin has the best office ever – this is because it is a huge place and it gives us enough personal space, but on the other hand, since we are all in the same room, we are communicating all the time, we joke around, help each other, we listen to music together and the list goes on and on. Another cool thing about Spin’s working space is that we have our hostel right next doors and this means we have a huge kitchen where we can prepare our lunches, of course, if we are not too lazy to do it. Every now and then, you can see us turning into master chefs showing off our cooking skills, which comes as a very handy skill during international Thursdays – a long-lasting tradition in Spin where one volunteer prepares a traditional lunch from their own country for everyone at work.

          Another thing about Spin’s lunch breaks is that they have a special place in every volunteer’s heart. This is because, during this hour, we get to spend time together, we talk about everyone and everything, we challenge each other with annoying mind games and we discuss serious topics such as zodiac signs and numerology. We usually take our puffs and align them in the front yard and then we eat, talk and chill, while catching some sunshine at the same time. Other times, we take out a table and some chairs, and we have a more properly looking lunch. When it is cold, we eat inside. Lunch break is also the time for free styling. For example, once, the fact that we have showers in the hostel inspired me to use my lunch breaks for exercising – stretching, short sprints, push-ups, crunches, squats, etc. The enthusiasm lasted for about a week, but I am mentioning it because it helps me give you a picture of all the things one can possibly do at Spin.

          Now, I think I will cut short my story and write the last paragraph of this testimony. I already wrote too much, and believe me, I can write a whole book about my EVS and everything that I experienced in the last four months. I would write more about what living in Lisbon means, about the spirit of this city, the culture, all the good places you can visit, all the things you can do, all the events, exhibitions, concerts you can go to. I would write about Portugal, about the amazing places I’ve visited and the adventures I had, the people I’ve met and shared beautiful moments with. I would write about the small villages of Alentejo, the beautiful beaches of Algarve, the volcanic lagoons of the Azores, the mountains and the forests of Geres, the palaces of Sintra, the streets of Cascais. I would write about the ocean, and the waves, about surfing, about the sun. I would write about how much I love the Portuguese language and I would even try to write all this in Portuguese instead of English. I would write about how this EVS gave me the chance to find more about myself and taught me how to take it easy and enjoy the moment. I would write about trying new things, taking risks, making choices. I would write about the moments that made me feel like jumping and spinning around, that made me feel truly happy.

Maybe in my next testimony, I will write it all.

Until next time,


O testemunho da Elise

After 5 months in Lisbon, I can say that I’m a real portuguese girl. No I’m joking, I ate a lot of pastel de nata but I’m not yet portuguese even if I fell in love for this country, maybe quite little in size but really deep in term of culture and history. I remember in my first testimony, I joked saying that my main goal would be to try every speciality. It’s an objective still in progress, there is more than one hundred ways to cook the “bacalhau” so it will take me time.
These last 5 months were really intense, I travelled a lot in all the country. The Portugal is very different from the North to the South, about the portuguese language but also the mentalities and the landscapes. I keep a particular memory of Alentejo and Algarve. I had also the chance to travel to the islands of Açores, such an adventure! The EVS leaves you the opportunity to travel in so beautiful places. Travelling is a way to discover yourself, to evolve, to share particular and unexpected moments with friends or even strangers. 

I discovered also deeply the city of Lisbon, by day and by night. Lisbon is very rich culturally with a lot of museums, expositions, concerts, but also with an intense nightlife. I still keep some struggle with the portuguese language. The pronunciation is quite difficult to understand for the French girl I am. But with time, the “shhhh” that I only was able to understand, begin to seem like real sentences. To have local friends helped me a lot to improve and understand better this totally new language, which I discover, can be finally very musical and deep in meaning.
I’m feel like at home here because my roommates are my friends and our house, “Casa Anjos” as we could traduce “Angel’s house”, is full of energy, love and happiness. We are used to meet in the kitchen and discuss about our life, our dreams, our goals, our expectations. It’s all about sharing real moment with people as open minded than you but from so different countries and cultures (8 exactly). The EVS community is kind of a family and she is very active. We do a lot of things all together like the Clube de Literatura, the Portuguese classes, the International dinners... Plus, with the people who are part of my project, we must create an exposition about the Human Rights. It’s the occasion to work more together, putting all our ideas in order to create something interesting about this subject.

About my main work with kids, I could say it’s always in evolution. I was supposed to work only in one children’s center but finally I go in two different centers, Vicentix and Fradix. It’s the occasion for me to work in two different social environments, with two different teams, two different tutors. I had a certain time of adaptation, it wasn’t easy every day but now I found my marks and I have really great time in these places.

It’s strange to think that I already did more than the half of my EVS. I’m not the new one anymore. The EVS experience is completely up to you. I choose to discover deeply the portuguese life and now, I’m feel like at home so far from my own country. For the last months I have, I hope to share more moments with my EVS family, with my portuguese friends, experiment more and more things in Lisbon which is still full of secrets. Because at the end of my project, I want to have a lot of good memories maybe to understand better what is to have “saudade”, the portuguese word which has any translation in other languages.

30 outubro 2018

O testemunho da Elena

Quando estava escrevendo o primeiro blog,com as primeiras impressoes  gerais nunca tinha imaginado que estes 12 meses iam correr tao rapidos.Aqui è sempre a Elena que fala,mas esta vez com um ar mais melancolico porque o EVS acabou e tenho que voltar na minha cidade:Milao alias Gotham City.
Foram meses  incriveis: eu foi muito sortuda porque conheci pessoas fantasticas na minha casa e tambem no Caf onde trabalhava,sem esquecer a cidade de Lisboa,agora entendo porque nosso escritor Antonio Tabucchi nunca mais quis voltar na Italia depois ter vivido na cidade da Luz.

Cheguei no CAF na ponta dos pes(humildemente),com a sensacao de estar no projeto certo,com o passar do tempo os colegas tornaram-se amigos,as atividades desportivas praticadas no Caf correram sempre bem,treinei os miudos do grupo “Estrelinhas do Mar”(adorei trabalhar com este grupo,foi um desafio para mim tambem,porque nunca tinha treinado jovens NEE,sempre agradacerei o Josè e a Milena para  esta oportunidade),minha ajuda nos TDC era uma grande ocasiao para melhorar meu portugues e conhecer mais os miudos do 5° e 6°ciclo,consegui nestas missoes e estou muito feliz para ter alcancado meus objetivos iniciais.Gostei muito conhecer as realidades do APCL e do Centro Comunitario de Telheiras,adorei ver como os miudos se tornavam cuidadosos, os idosos se riam quando chegavamos,porque sabiam que ia ser uma tarde de alegria dos pequenos misturada a sabedoria e simpatia deles,juntos conseguiram fazer candeeiros com plastico reciclado e desenhos de animais usando so tampas, o resultado foi fenomenal e foi exibido no Festival de Telheiras.

Os miudos ficaram muitos contentes e criativos quando fomos na Assosiacao Spin,gracas ao Michael,voluntario da Republica Checa,que precisou da nossa ajuda para crear a floresta do seu Castelo de Alienos,projeto feito utilizando so material reciclado,o resultado foi incrivel e o Castelo ainda està na escola Sao Vicente.

Vivi o 25 de Abril,dia da Revolucao,com meu cravo na mao como se estivesse em Milao no dia da Resistencia,achei interessante que as duas datas corrispondiam na Italia como no Portugal,senti-me em casa pela primeira vez.
Nos dias seguintes  tive a ideia de explicar e contextualizar historicamente aos miudos do 5° e 6° ciclo e as “Estrelinhas do Mar”  nossa musica da resistencia: “Bella Ciao”,eles ficaram muitos curiosos sobre o assunto e tambem quiseram saber o significado das palavras,com a ajuda tecnica da monitora Geny ensinamos tambem a musica,eles gostaram muito e no ensaio do fim de ano eles cantaram a musica ,foi emocionante.
Depois comecaram as aventuras do Verao no Caf,fomos em todos os cantos possiveis e imaginaveis da cidade(desde o Museo Nacional do Teatro atè ao Museo Bordalo Pinheiro,desde  o Castelo de Sao Jorge atè ao projeto MARE,desde o Oceanario atè as costas Caparica(visitando varias praias)desde os estudos da RTP,atè ao centro APEDV,desde o Parque Monteiro atè o Monsanto e mais...)sem esquecer as atividades no Caf. Cada dia para mim era uma descuberta fiquei muito entusiasta das saidas e das aventuras que viviamos. 

Sai do Caf,com uma consciencia maior sobre minhas competencias na area da educacao nao formal,aprendi muitas coisas neste ano a traves dos meus colegas do Caf,voluntarios e workshops.
Um obrigado especial a Casa Anjos, pessoal foi um ano incrivel!
Serei sempre grata a Associacao Spin para esta grande oportunidade: “O Voluntariado è uma forma de melhor entederes o mundo e apreciares ainda mais a tua vida!”

Viva o CAF Vicentix(so para aventureiros) e Viva Lisboa!
Atè logo

29 outubro 2018

O testemunho da Alicia

I find myself in the middle of my Erasmus stay, it seems that I started this experience only one month ago and, almost without realizing, it has been 6 months since I got to Lisboa. Well, the summer have been astonishing, I have visited several beaches around Lisbon and many cities, I have enjoyed the best rooftop bars of the city and I have tasted food that you cannot imagine what delicious it was, and, the best of all, I dared to try the “Pastel de Belém”; although I am living near Belém, I was afraid to become addicted to them, and actually I am now, but, at least, it is a sweet addiction, and that is always good. There has been also an unpleasant part in this period of my EVS, I have said goodbye to many friends because their time in Lisbon was over, that is the worst part of Erasmus experience from my point of view.  

Related to my job, what can I say...finally I found the reason why I studied environmental sciences, to dedicate a part of my life to develop a job which I enjoy day by day, I am surrounded by excellent professional and technicians who also share the same passion...birds and nature, so, every day I learn something new, and, at the same time, they also ask me for sharing my knowledge as if I was part of this professional team, so that make me feel really good because they let me contribute my own ideas to the projects.     

Coming to the end with my second testimony, I hope that the rest of the time that remaining for me, was even much better than so far or at least just as good, and I hope to know more things about Portugal, in general, and Lisbon, in particular. Next month, Açores is waiting for me, so in my following testimony I will tell about this trip and show some of my pictures. 

11 outubro 2018

Youth Exchange "Thinking outside the box"

The Youth Exchange "Thinking Outside the Box" took place from 17 to 24th of September in Bánk, Hungary. The project aimed to bring 40 young people together in an intercultural environment where they developed their basic skills on tolerance, acceptance of diversity and learned how to fight against stereotypes and prejudices.

You can read more about the experience that Spin's team had in the following testimony, written by one of the Portuguese participants, Sara:

"Between 17-24.09.2018 a group of 5 Portuguese people got together to participate in the youth exchange 'Thinking outside the box' in Bánk, Hungary. The program also involved Greek, Italian, Portuguese, French, Romanian and Hungarian young people who were together responsible for the implementation of some very creative activities on the topic of stereotypes, prejudices, acceptance, values etc.

Most of the activities were organized by the national teams and were consisting of many break-the-ice games, teambuilding games, workshops, DIY presentations, performances, etc.

We got to know each other, present the best of our culture and share it with the others, be together as one family and share personal and touching experiences, get a lot of fun around the places and in the local community, enjoy the sun near the lake, create a musical moment near the fireplace at night, that was magical and unforgettable.

At the end of the program, we also had the opportunity to prepare a flash-mob that was shown in Budapest city center and we had a blast! It was a huge success!"

04 outubro 2018

O testemunho da Natalia

I still remember the 1st day of my EVS and I cannot believe that it is over. First weeks in Bola p’ra frente were not easy since kids were testing  me and my patience almost every day. None of them knew where is Poland and they didn’t understand the reasons we don’t speak the same language. 

In my last day I knew that things went well, I have received so many hugs and all smiles meant more than a thousand words.  I was lucky since I spend the year in the organization with people full of passion not only to street football but to all activities they do in their daily work schedule.

During one year many people have asked me: Why did you decide to do it? The main idea was to help others. I wanted to do dedicate my time to the organization that is focused on helping young people without equal opportunities.
I did it also for myself… this year gave me the opportunity to break new ground in my life. It was a huge lesson of patience, humility, flexibility and non-formal education. Not always easy, not always calm but always challenging and who does not like challenges? 

This year gave me the chance to take part in amazing projects, initiatives and social activities which are necessary to introduce in every community. I have learned a lot about minorities and the challenges they need to face in daily life.

It was a year full of positive vibes, trips to many amazing places in Portugal and new challenges. Moreover it was great opportunity to meet people from all over the world and I know that some friendships will last for many years.

Even though everyday it is possible to discover something new while walking every day in Lisbon I don’t feel anymore as a tourist, I feel like at home.

Is there something I regret? Yes, I regret I couldn’t stay longer in Bola p’ra frente. 

Without any doubt I can recommend EVS experience to everybody regardless the age (if you are before 30 ;p) and life experience. Don’t be afraid, you never know when and where you will find new passion, love or the idea for life.