02 setembro 2020

Testemunho da Ana Sofia (Short Term ESC Vienna)


Hi, I'm Ana Sofia from Portugal and for 3 weeks I was an ESC volunteer with Grenzenlos in Vienna. 22 days in August of new experiences, laughs, and challenging moments. First, the borders between Austria and Portugal were closed, so I had to take the COVID-19 test, which was fortunately negative. There were no direct flights and I was the last arriving at the accommodation, at 11 pm, which was a little embarrassing. The group that I found was amazing and that made living together in a big room at a scout's house easier. The lack of private space, which is something I am not used to, was evident there, but it was not a bad experience, my social skills improved, and it helped me to feel the pleasant group spirit. It was important to be aware of the group necessities and to have in mind that something bad for an individual was probably bad for the group, so I was worried about the other people more than I would normally do. The place of work was a wonderful garden in the 2nd district of Vienna, Augarten which has two second world war flak towers. The work (gardening) was sometimes hard because of the hot weather and it was physical, which was another outside of my comfort zone experience. Painting, which we did in the second week, was more enjoyable.

I had a lot of free time and I felt as if I was almost on holiday most of the time. The work was just in the mornings and the weekends were free of it. For me, the camp was not about the work but more about living together as a group (9 people, 6 nationalities: Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Austrian, Colombian, French). We organized international dinners with the other volunteering group, which was preparing a theater play, excursions to the city, and went out at night to the Danube Island to dance and listen to music together. There were cooking groups of two, and the moment they told me about it was the only time I panicked during the entire experience. It turned out to be a very enriching though unexpected task. I learned to estimate and cook food for nine people and at the same time created a little cooking book of international recipes with the particularity of having learned with people from each country.

I visited a lot of places in Vienna, many with the free guidance of the group leaders. For example, the St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna State Opera, the wonderful main building of Vienna University, Prater, the Central Library on the Gürtel, Schönbrunn Palace, Spittelau waste incineration plant, Vienna Central Cemetery, the Museum of Technology, Mozart's house and the Vienna University of Technology. At the Naschmarkt, I tried Mohnzelten and saw the biggest dried fruit and spice stalls I have ever seen. I went to Mariahilfer Straße, the fancy, nineteenth-century shopping boulevard several times because of Paolo Bortolotti Italian ice cream. There are three shops in that street and the one at the door 22nd serves higher quality cones, although ice cream is the same. Dark chocolate (Bitter Schokolade) was the best flavor I tried. It was opened until 11 pm which in Vienna is late. The only thing that annoyed me in Vienna was that almost everything closed at 6 pm and on Sunday all day.

I had the pleasure of listening to street musicians playing Vivaldi Violin Concerto in G Minor, RV 315 L'estate (No. 2 from Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione, Op. 8): III. Presto in Tuchlauben Street near Rolex Boutique. On the way to Leopoldsberg, I was able to see Vienna's vineyards. Grüner Veltliner wine I tried was almost as good as Portuguese wine, I enjoyed it. I think it would be a good idea to install in Lisbon the water fountains with cooling water spray, which they call Sommerspritzer. I understood their existence just on a really hot day, but it was lifesaving. Sachertorte is a good chocolate cake with apricot jam that I will try to bake at home.

On the last day, we made a wonderful barbecue with the gardeners and it was the moment I forgot I had been a vegetarian for almost three weeks.

Now that I came back to Portugal, I am doing a voluntary quarantine and I am very satisfied with this rewarding experience! Also, my German improved, and I made amazing friends. Special thanks to my sending organization, Associação Spin, and Grenzenlos Interkultureller Austausch.

Sintra, 26/08/2020

Ana Sofia Trigo

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