15 setembro 2022

O testemunho final da Teele (Spin)

Hi blog,

I’m finally back. Here goes my humble effort of trying to somehow summarize the past 10 months of my life. Where do I start? 

I have been back in Estonia for a month now. Estonia – the land of dearly missed black bread and saunas, not to mention the only country where people can pronounce my name. But I’m here to talk about Portugal, the land of Tosta Mista and WRC bus drivers. During my first weeks in Lisbon, I remember saying that nine months are probably not going to be enough for me. It stayed true until the end so I extended my project for one extra month.  

Some things remained the same throughout the 10 months. I still didn't get used to:
1. the 77-step staircase in front of my apartment, 
2. needing to always have cash,  
3. wearing shoes inside houses,  
4. people saying “how are you?” as a greeting, 
5. peacocks in parks (still crazy). 
Other things have changed. I’m drinking espressos now. And I think my life has a bit more color – I mean it in a metaphoric way but also quite literally. As my fellow Estonian volunteer put it: “Teele, you’re not white as hell anymore.” I felt good about her comment until I got home and it was pointed out that I’m still the whitest one in my family. In addition to that, the inside of my closet has also slowly turned from black-white-gray to slightly happier tones.  Aside from color, something else I gained was independence and confidence. I had lived on my own before, but never in a foreign country. After experiencing that it really is possible to pack your life in a suitcase and move to another country, I have more confidence to do it in the future as well. And Lisbon, being warm and accepting, was a great city to start with.

My work in Spin ended up being quite versatile. The main tasks were office-related, but once in a while we had some bigger happenings like welcoming new volunteers and  making lunches/dinners. I also got to develop my photography and video-making skills and in a few cases when Liza was absent, I took over social media. Another cool task was helping to choose new volunteers and reading through all the applications. 

Furthermore, Spin hosted two big projects during my time, one Erasmus+ training course and one youth exchange. In both projects, I had the opportunity to assist the facilitator. However, my all-time favorite task has to be “take the interns surfing”. Sure enough, I rented a board on my own and joined them on the waves.

When I wasn’t working, I was probably dancing. I took full advantage of my dance studio, going five times a week for 1-3 hours and falling in love with styles I’ve never danced before. I had the funniest-dorkiest popping teacher, the kindest, smiliest house teacher, the most physically challenging contemporary teacher and just simply the greatest locking teacher, to name a few. Over time I became friends with other dance maniacs and a small supporting dance circle was formed. To end the season, we had performances in a theater and I could finally quench my thirst for performing again. 

When I wasn’t working or dancing, I was out with my friends. One thing I didn’t know to expect was this big volunteer community we had. Because Spin is also coordinating many volunteers to other organizations, we would naturally meet and become good friends. And this time it was an incredibly cool mix of cultures. Not only did we have the Spanish, Italian and French people that you would expect, we also had volunteers from Poland, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco and the UK. Add my Brazilian flatmates, Portuguese co-workers and German friends from dance to this equation and you get a full multicultural package. I’m really lucky to have had such kind people around me, always taking good care of me and also teaching me how to be better. 

Seems like I got the full package in general. I’ve been feeling high meeting a lot of people, seeing dolphins in the ocean, driving through clouds in Madeira, swimming under waterfalls and just happily walking the sunset-coloured streets of Lisbon. It got to taste foods like clams, octopus, squid, snails, chestnuts, papaya, passion fruit and dragon fruit. Once, being close to the Spanish border, we made an unplanned 10-minute visit to Spain and were immediately greeted by a herd of wild horses. It was my first time in Spain. Other “firsts include: Halloween party, Carnival and Santos Populares celebrations, spending a night in an airport and taking part in a demonstration (for Ukraine). To think about it, it was also my first time waking up in order to see the sunrise, because usually seeing the sunrise just happens when I haven’t gone to sleep yet. Some other weirdly unexpected things include learning how to juggle, play mahjong and make good tomato soup. The list could go on.

But what’s good without any bad. Remember Covid? We’ve had all sorts of Covid-related situations. One time I had to stay in quarantine, because not only one, but three of my flatmates were positive. I managed to stay clear this time, but two months later I caught an ambulance ride to a hospital because I had just had the worst night ever and suspected I might have a concussion (a longer story). Turned out it was good old Covid-19. One Friday night on the crowded streets of Bairro Alto, I had my phone with all my bank- and transportation cards stolen. I went back to living without mobile data and GPS for three weeks. And if you know me, I’m terrible with navigation. To top it all off, a near falling to death experience in Gerês. Do take signs that read “zone of death accidents” seriously.

And of course, when you get to the middle end of your project, you have the heartbreak of your friends leaving one by one. I knew I was sentimental, but it reached a new level. When it was my own turn to leave, I was trying to come to terms with it for almost two months. Some people asked why I was not staying, but since most of my friends were leaving, I felt like this chapter was ending anyway and I should leave too. It didn’t save me any tears though, because it was the best chapter I’ve ever had.


Wow, congratulations, you’re among the 35% who made it through this essay! Thank you for taking the time. See you in other adventures. ♡

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