07 novembro 2018

O testemunho da Romane

“Why the hell am I doing this, again?” I asked myself few days before taking the plane to Lisbon while trying to pack a year of stuff in a 20kg suitcase. It was still a bit sunny there in Bretagne, my cat looked at me moving all over the house without understanding what the hell was happening and my mother kept remembering me to print that damn boarding pass. It feels ages ago but it just has been two months that I left France from Lisbon, ready – as much as I could – to start my EVS. 
There are a lot of answers to this initial question. Maybe it’s because I’ve always dreamt to carry catfood in a cup for a whole day by 30°C (true story). Maybe it’s because I wish to expand my resistance to the sun. Maybe it’s because Lisbon is a cheap way to get strong legs – damn, those dear stairs! Maybe I wish to start a Youtube channel on how to survive winter without central heat. Who knows. The answers are quite infinite. But the real question was: “What do you want to do?”

I was there, I, Romane, 24 years old, on my working desk in Paris, struggling to know which EVS project I would choose. Right now, the sky could be rainy, the streets would be flat and there would be no red bridge on the horizon. Dublin or Lisbon. Bright accent or scary new language. Well-known Celtic country or brand new sunny land. I had very few time to decide, barely a day to choose which path I’d give to my life. And then, a friend asked me: “What do you want to do?” And this is what led me there. Because it wasn’t about the language, the culture, neither about that guilty feeling I’d have withdrawing my acceptation for the first offer. It was about communication or culture. And here I was. For once in my life, I took back my words, I declined the first offer even though I already accepted it and this was the first step of that life-changing experience I quite expect EVS to be. Few days after, I got a Portuguese language manual for my birthday. Because this is what I want to do: to get more involved in the cultural field and discover, learn, explore it, as much as I can.

Those past months in Lisbon have been… Incredibly fast. First there was fear. Will I get along with the other people? Will they think I am too shy? Will I be good enough, will they regret to have selected me? Thousands of new questions dancing around my head while I was just moving in my new accommodation. Until the beginning. The real beginning, this first time I met the other volunteers on the metro station at Anjos on the way to the welcome lunch. Slowly, the questions faded away. It was still there but it wasn’t my principal thought. One day you’re alone in a new country and the day after, you suddenly know around ten people. I started to feel better and the amazingness of all these new people, places, activities, overcame the fear very quickly. I started to feel at home in my new flat, I get used to switch between languages and not end up with a headache, I memorized the way to go home, I helped a Portuguese people to take the right metro and the three floors I have to walk up to my flat are almost easy now. I started bounding with people and making friends, enjoyed sharing time with all of the volunteers, got to know the dysfunctions of my home and enjoyed more and more being the night talks in the kitchen with my roommates. I had a good time at some of the last Outjazz festival in Lisbon and happily met my mentor, cursed about the hotness for the Bretonne I am, loved the atmosphere of Lisbon. I went to Cascais to enjoy a bit of the last summer time at beach, I saw Belém again, I located Bairro Alto and Baixa-Chiado, I ended up in Almendre and wondered if I really left Bretagne or if the menhirs just followed me, I got almost lost in Sintra with friends trying to not get killed by some ghosts or creatures or whatever is in those woods, I met people from countries I’d never thought I’d meet and I felt at home in another country while being in Seixal. And, most of all, I discovered Boutique da Cultura, the cultural association of Carnide I am going to work with for 12 months.

From the moment I arrived in Boutique da Cultura and met my tutor, all the people working or volunteering here, I really felt soothed. I might have not met all the Portuguese people and, of course, generalization is never an everlasting truth, but it is a fact that all the people I met through Spin or Boutique da Cultura have a kindness and a warm welcome that I hardly found elsewhere. So, even though you are miles away from your home, you are still a bit lost and keep feeling a bit lonely, you can count on the generosity of Portuguese people to relieve your anxiety. Thanks to the incredible welcome I received here, I was able to feel ready to start the EVS adventure. 
And there was no time to loose! The Feira da Luz of Carnide was about to begin for Boutique da Cultura and with very few knowledge of Portuguese, I was already on the stand of the Incubadora da Artes, trying to memorize which word was used for “magnet” and what is a “cadeira” again and where is the “lixo”? It has been a very interesting month and it is probably the best way to get to know the environment I was working in. It helped me a lot to feel comfortable and be more peaceful about my stay here. I met all the people involved in Boutique da Cultura, I could name things in Portuguese and make a full sentence – especially the very useful “I don’t speak very well Portuguese, wait a second I am going to call someone” – and, most of all, I enjoyed my time at Feira da Luz. 

But the amazing thing with Boutique da Cultura is there is always way more to discover! I spent few time in the Livraria Solidária where secondhand books are sold at a very affordable price and my booklover heart couldn’t be more delighted. Couldn’t be, really? Actually I was wrong. I still hadn’t met the whole potential of Bento Martins. This is where Boutique da Cultura gives theatrical representation and this is where I went from being all cheered up to get really, really excited. Going back to theatre is all I dream for years and it is highly part of why this EVS project kept my attention, beside the Livraria. So when I had to help for the first time to set up the lights for a future theatre play, I was sure that I did the right choice. Books, I know. Theatre too. But not in this way. And this is the kind of things I want to go in deeper, this is why I applied for EVS. The best part was when our tutor asked us, I and my Italian EVS colleague Simone, to be part of the Christmas play. I mean, I can learn about setting up theatre play AND enjoying to be back on stage too? Of course I sign in for it! Even though the scary side note is “you will have to perform in Portuguese and, hey, French girl, you have a lot to learn”, I was highly elated. And I am still am. Being part of this theatre play is one of the best opportunity to, not only fulfill my will to reconnect with theatre, but it is also a great way to learn Portuguese, to get to know better how Boutique da Cultura works, to meet the people involved in the structure… And to feel well, simply. Actually, I was still joyfully shouting to my friends in France “I’m going to be part of a theatre play! I’m gonna do theatre again!” when another great news completed to make me sure I was at the right place. I still remember being at the Livraria Solidária with fresh bookmarks done when being asked if I was able to work on the publishing of a book. Sure, I am. This is exactly what I studied for some years and this is what I quite gave up on starting an EVS project. Guess what? I don’t have to give up on this. I am working on the publishing of a book. A whole book, made by myself – even the cover! This I could never imagine. I expected the library, I expected the technical theatre part (good things I know what I am applying for, eh), but publishing was a tiny little thing I thought I would have to let down for some time. But Boutique da Cultura gives me the opportunity to work on every single field I am interested in. And there are still so many other things that I have done being here I am not writing down! The vivid and swirling life of this place is awesome and I am sure I will keep being amazed during the months to come.

I can barely imagine that some month ago, I was having the worst experience of my life and living one of the most struggling moments I had. Working under time pressure, hierarchical, social and personal pressure, in a place where the excellence was the only thing accepted and time the most treasured thing. I remember when I was writing over and over motivation letters to EVS projects, looking almost every day at the database, following the new posts on an EVS Facebook group, waiting for answers, preparing for Skype interviews, this feeling of hope and excitement when you are selected, the disappointment when the European Commission does not accept the project, the tiredness of doing it all over again, and then once more the joy, the excitement… 

And the final happiness when you are told that yes, it is sure, you are selected and you will go. Here I am. Among all the projects I have applied for, among all the paths I could have chosen, among all the possibilities who could have occurred, I truly think that right now, right here, is the best EVS project I could have done. I find here everything I want to do, I am surrounded by lovely people, I am extremely lucky to be in such a great city, I am in the best professional environment I have ever been to and I am not scared anymore. Or maybe a little. But I mostly know that I can try. I can talk and being listened. All I have to do is making efforts on my own. And this is up to me. EVS won’t change my life if I am not working on it too. But, look: I already had small victories. I declined an offer to be here. I go make tea on my own without any anxiety on the work space – and believe me, the girl I was three years ago could never have done that. I try to push myself to go towards people. I might still don’t know if I’m good enough. But I know I feel good here, with all these people. And there is so much more to come!

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