25 março 2019

O testimunho da Alicia

Here I find myself writing my last testimony, I cannot believe that my year as a European volunteer
has happened so fast. I decided to come to Lisbon because I was in a moment of my live that I used to feel pretty stuck so I looked for a change in my life, and definitely I found it!!

I have discovered an amazing country, Portugal…full of kind people, interesting cities, delicious food, picturesque landscapes, etc., but the place that really took my heart was Lisbon. At first, my vision about Lisbon was pretty different from how it is now, I just used to see noisy streets and decadent buildings, people in a hurry all the time, poverty, etc. Nowadays, my perception is different, where I used to see decadence now I see beauty and originality.

In the last months I have been very busy, after the celebration of the Festival of Nature in Sagres, quickly, SPEA (the NGO I am involved) started to work on the Ornithology Congress,
celebrated during the first weekend in March, I took part in the Organising Committee that was awesome because I had the opportunity of participating in the meetings and I gave the logistics support as well.

Despite the work, I also had time to enjoy and travel, finally I visited São Miguel Island in Azores, I got impressive with the way people live, the volcanic landscape, it is kind of mix between Ireland and Hawaii. Without a doubt, the best sunset I have ever seen was in Monteiro’s beach, the colours of the sky seemed out of this world.

To finish, I want to thank all the people who make Erasmus world possible, being European volunteer is a good way to discover new things about yourself and also to grow as a professional in your field. Although my time as a volunteer is getting over, I feel my time in Lisbon must go on and I am going to stay for some more time… I still have outstanding issues :)

22 março 2019

O testimunho da Irene

Yes, in a matter of few days my life changed suddenly. I never thought I’d miss my family, my nephew and my friends (also the Italian food!) so much. But I’m here now and I absolutely want to enjoy the experience and every single moment.

 When I received the confirmation e-mail from Inês I asked to myself if I was really ready to start a new life and to leave my “boring” life in Italy. And my answer was “don’t think too much, it’s your time. Goooooo!”. The first person I met upon my arrival was Monika, a Macedonian girl, thanks to whom I arrived safely at Spin’s hostel. There was another volunteer who had arrived before me. As he sat behind the window he seemed very tired but at the same time eager to get to know the rest of the group. He quickly introduced himself as Miguel and we bonded through speaking in Italian and Spanish respectively. No long after coming back from “Continente” we bumped into Kasia and Mathieu, another two new volunteers on the bus, without realising they would be also part of the group. Soon after Agnes arrived and so we were 5!

As we started getting to know each other, Kasia introduced us to“PIGWOWKA”, which sounds like a BIG VODKA and tasted pretty much like it. Who had thought these 4 guys would be my new flatemates?!

Setting the more social aspect of ESC apart,I was looking forward to starting at Associação Salvador, an association that deals with people with disabilities. The first sensation I felt when I arrived at the organisation was that of a mixture of fear and enthusiasm. But my coworkers, make me so comfortable. That’s why I’m sure it will be an amazing experience. For the moment, I’m carrying out interviews to a group of disabled people within Salvador called “Emaixadores”. They represent the association and talk about their story. It is so stimulating for me not only because I love deepening my knowledge on the topic and posing questions  because it is also all in Portuguese.

I don’t know what the future will bring, mas a coisa que quero fazer agora è:

21 março 2019

O testimunho final da Monika

This time I will not write a lot, because I understood that the more I want to say, the fewer words I find to do so. 

I came to Portugal by chance, I was not planning it nor I was trying to find a project or an opportunity that would bring me here. I want to think that “this opportunity found me”. I came here without any expectations, without a lot of preparation, without any special feeling or exaggerated excitement. And just like that, I ended up in an exceptionally beautiful country and I found my new home in Lisbon. 

To describe what living in Portugal means, I have to write a whole book – but if I have to put it in one word, this word would be colorful. Colorful in every sense of the word – places, buildings, azulejos, streets, music, food, nature, people, vibes. Everything here is filled with so many lively colors. At first, they only surround you, but then they enter inside your body and mind, and you become a colorful person, just like everything around you. This realization, that the place where you live has the power to change you in a good way, is one of the reasons why this was such a beautiful journey. A journey of discovering new places, but at the same time a journey of discovering your own self. A journey of opening up to the world, but at the same time reflecting on your own thoughts. A journey of meeting and accepting other people, but at the same time accepting yourself. A journey of enjoying the present, but at the same time planning the future and letting go of the past. 

I want to say thank you to everyone who was part of it. I came to Portugal alone, but I was never lonely. The people I met, they were the ones that made this journey so special. I also want to thank my organization SPIN, that was not only a lovely place to work at, but it was also big support throughout my project. It was a pleasure to be part of the team!

I know that all this can never be repeated in the same form, with the same people and the same spirit. And I am glad for it. Nothing is constant, nor it should stay as such. Things happen, they start and they end and the best we can do is to take the most out of every situation we found ourselves in, learn from it and become a better person. 

Until next time,

O testimunho do Mathieu

Time for my first testimony, a short article for just few days passed in Lisbon. Yes, I am here since
around 20 days. It’s not easy to explain my feelings about this beginning, but let’s try.

First, I really want to thank the Bernardim Casa. I was really curious about this experience, go to a country which I don’t know, alone, for a big project, working with children. But my flatmates came here in the same way of thinking, curious and excited about this new life. And, together, we managed to discover Lisbon, this city which never sleep. Thanks also to Magda to take so much time to help us through this city, to show us so many things… The Miradouru closed to the Igreja e Convento da Graça, the right way (sooo many times we were lost without Magda), the City Center, Bairo Alto…

We had the chance to came here just before the Carnival. Just the time to learn our respective names, and let’s party. And this is why I really fall in love with this city. There is no one day without an activity, and event, or anything to see. So many colours, so many places to visit, so many landscapes to watch during hours.

About the work, before I came to Lisbon, I had many expectations: I wanted to interact with the children, to learn throught them so many things.  And, after this few days with them, I can say that I really love my job too. I work at Vicentix and I wouldn’t change this for anything in the world. The staff’s members are really helpful, while I can’t speak Portuguese yet, they are always trying to help me understand what happened. And it’s a question that, on the beginning, I was asking so many times so myself “What is happening?”. The kids here are very lucky: they had ton of activities, they can do (almost) what they want to do. Ping-pong (which is really helpful to learn how to count in Portuguese!), playing cards, music, dance activities, debates… And, often, they have some special activities : we played football during a competition with… father’s children ! And we had a diner with a small party for the kids during my first Friday at the center.

Also, the kids are amazing. It was quite complicated for me during the first two days, because I don’t speak their language, and they don’t speak mines. But they always want to play with me, interact and teach me Portuguese words. And they also want to learn, every time. They are really happy when I can teach them few words in English or in French. I loved them, and I think that they like me. It’s still complicated for me because it is just the beginning, I haven’t found my marks yet. But with the help of the staff and of the kids, I am 100% sure that I will find my place at Vincentix. I had a conversation with Paula, my tutor in the center, and she asked my about my feelings at the end of my first week. I will repeat it here, and I think it is a good way to conclude this first testimony : I love what I do here.

O testimunho do Miguel

Three weeks before the start of my ECS I could have not imagined that I would be living in Lisbon
for the next 9 months. I had already visited the city a few times before with friends and have to admit I fantasied about living here and speaking Portuguese. So, I can now proudly tick that off my list of things to do in life.

The days running up to the 1st of March were filled up with excitement about this new opportunity and a hectic attempt to get everything sorted out, and say goodbye to friends and family. So, once I had my packed bags, decorations for the new room, and important paperwork ready for the move, I embarked on a 10-hour night bus ride to my new future (hoping to avoid making that mistake for my trip back by taking the plane next time hahah). By the time I woke up from my “short nap” I was crossing over the Tagus river on the Vasco da Gama bridge at 6am, arguably one the best entrances to the city and a perfect start of an ECS in Lisbon.

And what a better way to start this experience than by dancing in the streets! Within the first few days after getting to know each, the group of new volunteers and I had the chance to enjoy the carnival celebrations in Alfama. Thanks to the help and recommendations of the amazing Madga we found a quaint square from which to immerse ourselves into the festival spirit. With the sound of the beating drums, we embarked on our next chapter of our life.

Even though the thought of staying at a hostel for the first week was at first worrying, it turned out to be great. Not only did we as a family get to know each other in a more relaxing and different environment, but we also familiarised ourselves with the Bairro Padre Cruz. Its open-air urban art exhibition brings out both the life and the friendliness of its neighbours willing to give us a nice and warm welcome. It truly is an example of how communities can come together and an opportunity for us volunteers to follow through our own ECS projects.

After a few days of wandering around the city, moving into the new flat and enjoying the good weather and the company, it was time to start at our respective organisations. I will be volunteering at the Câmara Municipal de Lisboa, to support and promote the municipality of Lisbon’s volunteering platform. I had chosen this project as a way to deepen my knowledge of the relationship between public institutions and non-governmental organisations with the goal of improving the city’s wellbeing and social connections.

Whilst rapidly developing my Portuguese skills, I hope to expand on my organisational, logistical, and communications skills and broaden my appreciation for good volunteering practices. So thank you Spin for giving me this opportunity and thank you Lisbon for letting be one more Lisboeta for the next 9 months.

A guided tour of 31 536 000 seconds

This will be a retrospective weave of memory threads of one year of my life, in which I have lived more than 31 million seconds as a volunteer in Lisbon. It’s quite an enormous number, no? (Trust me, I Googled it, it’s correct.)

In the first second I was confused, and in the second one I was happy. In the third I wanted to cry and in the fourth I started laughing.

Summarizing millions of moments seems like an impossible challenge. Maybe it is not possible, indeed. But what I can tell you dear curious mind, reading these lines, is that I loved every minute of it. For sure, there were ups and downs, but that’s how it works, don’t you agree?  I cannot share everything that I experienced, but I can give you a small guided tour to Lisbon, Portugal and my memories.

I was 19 years old, coming from a Southern Hungarian city, called Szeged, when I decided to move in the March of 2018.

The house that I moved into in Lisbon is called Casa Anjos. It’s old and smells a bit humid, because we dry the clothes inside and then bump into everything because there is not enough space. Inside the ‘house of angels’ there is Menino Morto, the guardian spirit watching over the building and over all the strange individuals living inside. There is a big corridor, with leftover memory pieces from people living there before me, which makes one realize that you were not the first one and you will not be the last. It’s almost like a small interactive museum of the happiness of others and yours, so definitely check it out for yourself. If you go straight, your reach the kitchen. It’s full of azulejos, traditional Portuguese tiles and has an old stove. It usually smells like food all the time, because you can always find someone there out of the 8 people that I lived with, that’s cooking or just drinking wine and laughing. I shared many family dinners in that kitchen around the white table that always needs more chairs. Some of those dinners were funny, some were serious and some were spiritual, we had it all.

If you take a few more steps, you reach my old room. It has two beds, the one closer to the door was mine. I shared this room with two amazing people throughout my journey. If you take a peak on the left side of the room, there is a balcony. I’ve seen many sunsets and sunrises there, and had many crazy or meaningful talks accompanied by a coffee or vinho verde, a typical Portuguese wine. Next to the balcony door was my desk. I kept many old travel tickets in a chaotic order. For example, travel tickets to the North of Portugal.

To Porto, the birth place of Harry Potter. Or Braga, one of the most religious cities of Portugal. Also to Geres, a national park, surrounded by mountains and lakes, where I had a training course. Also another training in the city of Viseu, where I met amazing people.

I also had some tickets there to Setúbal, a city close to Lisbon, which has a secret abandoned palace next to the ocean shore in the middle of its national park. And another close-by town, Sintra, and to its enchanted castles.  Also to the middle of Alentejo to a city called Évora, filled with Alentejo spirit, Portuguese cheese and wine. Or to Vila Nova Milfontes and its amazing shores and cliffs. I also had a ferry ticket there from Peniche to the Berlengas Island, where I learned how not to panic if you are accidentally stuck in a city, because you miss your last bus to get back to your home.

Or to the South of Portugal, to the Algarve region and its indescribable beauty. I also had many tickets to a small city next to Lisbon, called Cascais, where I spent many summer days enjoying the sun and the waves of the ocean with friends.

So take the train with me back to Lisbon from Cascais, and you arrive to the metro station. If you hop on the metro alongside me, you will eventually end up at my workplace in Bairro Padre Cruz, after a lengthy wait for the bus that is always late. There you find the office of Associacao Spin, with a big mural inside, surrounded by all the graffitis of the district. There in that office, I advanced a lot with graphic design, which was one of my main goals to do during my project. We hosted many groups in our social hostel, and I met people from all over the world. We ate a lot of soups from Churrasquinho, and had an overdose of coffee every day. We were planning, organizing, executing and having a lot of fun. I learned how to handle paper work, how to host people and manage a hostel, how to plan and execute events, how to promote, how to interview, how to work on online and print designs alike and had the opportunity to be creative meanwhile. I learned a lot during this one year, both professionally and personally.

If you come back with me to the city centre from the office, you will find one of the most controversial ambiances a city can bear. I found utter calmness inside the sunny Lisbon, and joyful and chaotic liveliness at the same time. Lisbon is the city of the Sun, sardines, bacalhau, music, hidden streets and beautiful people.

Take a 20-minute-walk with me on the old, tiled streets to arrive back to my home, maybe take a Pastel de Nata (you have to try it, it’s addictive) on the way and have a cigarette with me on one of the miradouros (viewpoint) enjoying the cityscape. Enter the old building, go to the living room, and you will see the place where I spent my last second waiting with my luggage for the taxi, crying like a new-born baby out of happiness thinking about all the beauty this one year gave me.

I travelled, I loved, I kissed, I hugged, I laughed, I ate, I drank, I sang, I swam, I learned, I was helped and I helped, I gained and I gave.

But the most important thing is, that I gained a family and a home, which I will always love and cherish.

I hope you enjoyed my small tour, even though I might not be the best tour guide ever. But this is not just a guide book, it’s a love letter to all the people that I met, to Lisbon and to Portugal. Thank you!

Kisses from Szandra
To You

Nürnberg, Germany

20 março 2019

O testimunho da Ana

So I am finally here, in the city of my dreams, Lisbon. I am in the beginning of my 9-month ESC
service after I left my life in Croatia.

And what a beautiful life I had, said many of my friends and family members when I announced that I am leaving my secure job as a pharmacist, my newly renovated apartment and all of the loving people there to go volunteering in a foreign country. And they were right, it was a beautiful life indeed and I have no regrets. However, I also know it wasn’t the life for me, at least not in the next few years that are to come.

I needed a change of my daily routine, I needed time for other activities, other learning opportunities and I also needed to change the environment. I have always loved traveling and I have never spent a day of my vacation just lying and doing nothing. It was always a trip to another country, some project or just some other activity than my usual routine. This time I decided I need more. I need to do something bigger, somewhere further but also doing something that has a purpose. Some will say that I ran away from reality. Maybe I did, but I am creating a new reality as we speak.

I will work as a volunteer for the next 9 months with people from all over Europe in an association that coordinates and hosts youth mobility opportunities. I have always liked working in a multicultural environment and I am familiar with youth projects. However, this time I’m not only taking part in a project. This time I will also have to live with 8 other people and share my personal space with people I meet for the first time. Also it will mean that my financial situation is changing from a salary to an allowance. For me, it is a big change since I have been independent ever since I moved away from my parents 10 years ago. But I am ready, at least I believe so.

I spent my first 2 days in Lisbon at a friend’s place and then the big moment came and I had to move to my new house, casa Anjos. It was Friday morning and I already knew who my roommate is going to be. I was very lucky because it was a girl I have met the previous year
in another project that also took part in Lisbon so I had a really nice welcoming and introduction to my new home. It is a pretty old house, close to the city centre, with old furniture and a lot of posters on the walls left by people who previously lived there, not to be forgotten. I guess this is what makes it so unique. Not to mention the amount of stairs you need to climb just to reach the house itself. But hey Ana, you’re in Lisbon now, there will be many ups and downs (literally). I had many doubts when I came. How are 9 of us going to make it sharing one bathroom and one kitchen, are people going to wash their dishes and clean after themselves, what if I don’t get along with everyone, am I going to make friends here and many more. It turned out that people here are really nice, kind and always ready to help.

I came there just a few days before one other volunteer was about to leave since her project just ended. This was the moment where I saw how incredible connection can people make during less than one year. Everybody was overwhelmed with all kinds of feelings having to say goodbye (maybe forever) to a member of a family. Because this is what you become, a family. I am wondering if I will make the same kind of bonds during this period. I am very happy to be in Lisbon in the first place because this city won my heart the first time I visited as a tourist only. I still remember that day, when I told my friend that I will definitely move here to live, at least for some time in my life. Many didn’t believe me, maybe sometimes even I wasn’t so sure if I will ever be able to make such a huge change in my life. But I did it. And now I’m here.

I don’t have all the answers yet. I don’t even think I have all the questions. But what I do know is that I will try to use this period of my life the best I can. I will devote some time to my personal growth and self-development, to learn all the things that I never had the time for. Also to make a lot of connections, to talk to people from different backgrounds, to hear and share ideas. I will try to think of my own personal project and I will try to be the person who can have a positive impact on other people’s lives. Not to mention I also want to travel through this beautiful country and meet more of these heart-warming kind people who don’t have a lot but always keep on smiling.

This testimony turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. Especially considering it is just a start of my life here. However I wanted to share at least some of my thoughts of my new adventure. I will tell you in 9 months how it went.

O testimunho da Giulia

Por começar, é bem apresentar-se: sou Giulia, uma rapariga italiana nascida e criada em uma pequena
aldeia de Sicília.

Vim para Lisboa a primeira vez para começar o meu mestrado em desenvolvimento e cooperação internacional. Fiquei apaixonada por esta cidade que tinha escolhido sem conhecer nada. Desde o início aqui senti-me bem recebida e apaixonei-me por este lugar.

Portanto, porquê não fazer um CES aqui?

Estava a precisar de uma mudança na minha rotina e também achei que após ter acabado o curso, poderia ser o melhor momento para participar no corpo europeu de solidariedade.
Nestes anos participei a uns intercâmbios juvenis e cursos de formação e sempre tive a curiosidade de conhecer todo o processo que há atrás. Por isso candidatei-me como voluntária na associação Spin, onde irei ficar até novembro deste ano.

Durante o meu primeiro dia na Spin, conheci o pessoal e os outros voluntários, alguns que já tinham começados há uns meses e também outros novos. Foi um dia cheio de sensações positivas. Apesar de ser todos de diferentes países europeus e ter vivido experiências distintas, desde o início senti que nós tínhamos as mesmas emoções e vontade de começar uma nova experiência que ir-nos-á formar e enriquecer.

Embora tivesse morado dois aninhos nesta cidade, graças a esta oportunidade dada, estou a conhecer o Bairro Padre Cruz (que pertence a freguesia de Carnide). Até o momento em que fui aceite no projeto, não sabia da existência deste lugar.

Um pequeno canto de tranquilidade, cheio de cores, graffitis e um miradouro espetacular. Tenho muita vontade de aprender tudo o que for possível e descobrir as histórias das pessoas que estou a conhecer através desta experiência.

A energia não me falta! Então, bora!

19 março 2019

O testimunho da Agnes

Congratulations, you are chosen! Pack and organise your life, your year in Lisbon starts in two weeks.

I love a bit of a challenge.

So I got my health checked, documents renewed, hugged my family and friends, and went to the airport.

For me it made sense for I had a strong feeling that’s what I’m supposed to do. And by that i do not mean that i know exactly what is going to happen or why i need the experience, or in which ways I’m gonna grow, not the slightest. But i had a strong feeling sending my application and it only grew doing the Skype interview, packing my suitcase, the plane landing, meeting with my roomies and planting the first seeds of coriander on our balcony. And with meeting with my co-workers and getting to know the projects more closely it only seems to keep doing that...

Sharing a home with 5 other people was what was making me nervous. As i am the eastern - European with dry dark humour, coming to live together with 4 other people from the middle- and south - Europe. Maybe the others don’t get me, maybe i seem distant, maybe they’r hot blooded temper is too much for me. Now I can tell you that it’s a silly thing to worry about. Of corse conflicts can comes but to worry in advance gives you no experience or skill to deal with the situation, you just have to deal with it as it comes. And I know that it will, and I know we can overcome it when It does. Overall we are all great young people who have come together to volunteer and do good.
And as a sidetone about the flat:  I absolutely recommend to bring a picture of friends, favourite candlestick, small decoration or any kind of other personal belonging to make you feel at home in your new home.

Getting to know the city itself has been surprisingly undemanding. Moving around and up and down the hills of Lisbon feels more like a sweet village than a big city. I got used to it so fast it surprised me. Not to say that I have it as the palm of my hand but the logic is there. And even if you wander off into the wrong direction you are so mesmerised by the sights it doesn’t really bother you. And the people have the best kind of warm presence, they make you feel like you are welcome to wonder around the streets as in your own home. 

I recommend to see the outskirts of the city as well.

O testimunho da Nikoleta

Hi, I´m Niki, and I´m from small town in the south of Slovakia. I´m doing my 9 months ESC project at SPIN from first of March 2019.

But how this all happened?

In my third year of University my roommate showed me projects and some Slovak asociations with words: “Look, I’ve never tried this, but it looks cool, this is a great option – we can go, learn a lot and travel all around a Europe and it is almost for free.” I was almost sure, it’s not true, that couldn’t be real. 

Why someone offers to young people chance to travel around the Europe almost for free?
Yes, of course I skipped this option. Maybe I was too scared, maybe too lazy and I felt so good in my bubble. Safe one. You all know this feeling. You wake up every morning same bed, same food, same people around you, same school, after school gym, friends, family, just regular life.You know what to expect. Every single morning. Yes, for some of you it is scary. Now, I feel the same, but it was hard to change this stereotype.

I don't know exactly what happened me to, but one day after my bachelor degree I woke up and decided to move for few months to Netherland. We worked there hard in meet factory and I was sure, this is not what I want. This experience changed me a lot and my master degree was totally different... I was on my first Erasmus + youth exchange project, moved to Prague, did my Erasmus, my internship and travelled a lot – thanks to the person who supported me and always stayed by my side. Then one day, after my studies I found nice job in Prague, with amazing people around, but I still missed something. I missed new challenges, intercultural environment, different traditions, traveling…

And that was the reason why I decided to find ESC. Yes, I had some favorite countries… but Portugal just happened. I was searching more than 1 year, and I really wanted to work in position connected with marketing. I love what I studied, and I was also working on this position. And than I found this project – work for SPIN – marketing, graphic design, propagation, project coordination… I was sure. YES! It is this one!

Leaving Prague was a difficult moment in my life. I have been talking about this step for many months. My family thought it is just my crazy dreaming, I am so glad it wasn’t!

I felt positive energy and friendly environment from first contact – Skype interview with Ines, and this feelings are still the same, maybe even deeper. 

I came here only few weeks ago, and Lisbon is for next 9 months my home, volunteers from all around the Europe my family. I live in shared flat with them. Our flat is full of posters, marks, links, pictures from previous volunteers and in the air I feel something what makes me feel at home.

I didn’t know very much about Portugal, about Lisbon or people of Portugal. I´ve never expected that I will live here once. But, now I am here, and I have 9 months to explore all country around, help to Spin with their projects, realize my own ideas, find good friends and find myself. 

Lisbon, here I am, and I am ready for you!