It’s really strange to realize that my EVS is ending and it’s hard to believe that 11 months passed so fast. But I guess it’s always like this when you do something nice… time flies fast and even the good things come to an end. I remember like it was yesterday how I arrived in BIR’s office – it was late at night and I was dragging a big heavy suitcase behind me. I made a big circle around the neighborhood until I found it on the other side of the bridge.
So how was this year and what I will take with me? It’s a pretty hard question… because there were so many special people that I’ve met, so many interesting activities, so many things and places that I saw, so many emotion and thoughts. It’s like when you are moving to another place and want to take everything with you but the space in your backpack is limited.
In my mind I split these 11 months in 3 periods : 1 – The long retreat, 2 – parlo poco italiano, 3 – Now I am ready to do more! But… I have to go back home.
The long retreat:
I remember my first day in the office, large bright rooms with modern design, nice welcoming people smiling to me and a very relaxed atmosphere. It didn’t feel like in a normal office in which people are stressed about deadlines or afraid of their boss; it was more like chilling at work.
In the first 2-3 months my main activity consisted mostly of silent observing and listening. I guess it was the most silent 2 months of my life and even if I’m not the type of person who usually speaks a lot, it was too much even for me. I was feeling like a Zen Buddhist monk who took a vow of silence in a very long retreat.
There is one particularity that you may not know about Italy: most of the Italians don’t speak English so… it’s basically either Italian or Zen meditation. At the beginning it was disappointing but then turned into the best motivator to learn Italian.
I couldn’t understand why my colleagues from the association or people that I was meeting were talking so emotionally. Often, I felt frustrated when somebody was joking and everyone was laughing loudly but I couldn’t understand why… that situation when you put a confused smile on your face and pretend that you also get it.
We spent the first month visiting different social and youth centers, schools, other associations where BIR was doing their projects. We were very lucky because BIR has a big variety of projects so it was very interesting and exciting and I felt lucky that we could choose the activities that were closest to our interests. And by “we” I mean me and the other 3 EVS that also were in the same project with me. Together we were like the fantastic four of BIR – always ready to use our superpowers for making the world a better place! We even had a special button on the gate of the hub where was written “Volontari BIR” so people could call us anytime when they need the help of a professional Superhero…
When the sensation of everything new passed I started to realize that I could not really get involved in the activities, or make friends, or have a deeper conversation than “- Ciao, come stai? – Tutto bene, grazie” because my possibilities were very limited and the limits were determined by my capacity to understand and speak. For the first time, I experienced so deeply the importance and the power of the word. My world in the first months in Italy consisted of my room, office and a couple of people who spoke English, then slowly by learning it, my world started to extend and become larger, including new things, new people, new places, new possibilities. I heard many times and in different variations the idea that the language is capable of creating the world but I used to take it more as an abstract idea or a beautiful metaphor, where in fact it’s not so abstract. It’s that case when you became conscious of your teeth just when it starts hurting.
Parlo poco italiano :
After 3 months, I got used to my new life and as I was able to understand Italian pretty well, I started to make little basic conversations. I even learned to cook pasta like Italians (not boiled to much so it steaks a bit ot the teeth) – they call it “al dente”, it’s a big thing, because in Moldova and some other countries from East Europe we call pasta “macaroane” and boil it until it becomes very soft. In Italy it’s almost a blasphemy against PASTA so they can send you back home for this. Ok I exaggerate, but there are some things that you have to be careful with in Italy; respect the Italian Pizza, Pasta and Coffee.
I finally had my (more or less stable) schedule with my weekly activities it looked like this : Monday and Tuesday I usually was spending in the office half of the day learning Italian and in the evening I was going to the meeting with volunteers or related to the projects that I was involved in. On Wednesday morning and Thursday and Friday evenings I was “making” (because it was more assisting in the beginning) in a social center/market called Vetrine. We were making activities with children and elder people. I also had an activity at the local markets 2 times per week we were collecting the fruits and vegetables donated by the sellers and giving them for free to the beneficiaries. Also a lot of occasional event, workshops, trainings, presentations so pretty intense.
Meeting new people and creating new relationships I guess it’s one of the most beautiful part of this type of experience and it was very rich in meeting amazing people, I guess i could write a story about each of this meetings. Starting from my homies (other 3 EVS from BIR) our coordinator Serena, BIR people, volunteers, beneficiaries and many other nice and not always nice people J.
I was feeling more comfortable to get involved in the activities. And a big step was also that finally the long (sometimes too long) meetings that I was assisting on started to make sense…
When I came to Moldova for holidays for the first time after 5 months away I was happy to meet my family and friends but I had also a strange feeling that I miss my life in Italy, the people, the city. Didn’t expect that I will get so attached but now Milano is like my second home.
My big discovery in this period was the culture of volunteering in Italy… here it became something so natural and normal for the Italians that they almost don’t understand why I’m so fascinated about. In my country we are just making first steps in this direction and seeing so many people of different ages, from different cultural and social background willing to sacrifice their time and energy for helping other people is really a beautiful and inspiring thing.
Now I’m ready to do more but… I have to go back home
Now I speak Italian pretty well, to my cooking skills added making coffee with moka and a decent risotto. In my last months of project I took part in a summer camp in Romania with a group of Italian volunteers, I made an amazing 10 days walking trip in mountains of Sibillini, my main activities ended because everybody went to vacation.
I feel good in Italy and enjoy what I’m doing, I’m ready to do more but… I have to go back home.