The Trail I Paved

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How I found the best job in the world in Dolomites, Italy, thanks to the EVS (European Voluntary Service)

 Written by Ivan Kuznetsov

Good luck

A long time ago I realized, that good things in life often happen by chance. Sometimes we prepare for something, for example, we plan a new trip, but our expectations are different from reality. “We couldn’t imagine it this way”, – we say. However it can be the other way around. No, planning is important. But sometimes everything goes against our plans… because of the plans. For this reason we have to make plans – to change them!

My favorite writer Mariusz Wilk, a Pole, who has lived for the last 20 years in the far north of Russia and has travelled the length and breadth of this wilderness, says:

“I don’t tread the path, the path treads me – this is the law of the nomad: you go not to reach a destination, but in some direction, you go where tundra lets you go”.

 

Volunteering

This is how I learned about volunteering or rather about the European Voluntary Service (EVS). I was thinking, that I would spend the best days of my 7-day trip to the Baltic countries in the capital of Sweden – Stockholm, but provincial Turku turned my life around 180 degrees. Thanks to an accidental meeting with a local girl I went to an ecovillage on one of the islands of the Turku archipelago.

There were a few volunteers, one of whom guided us through the village. We met some local people, looked at how they lived and how they worked (they had their own vegetable garden, own bread, and, of course, Finnish sauna). I liked it all very much!

For the last five years I had lived in Saint Petersburg – a city of 5 million people, and got tired of its noisy life and was thinking of going somewhere closer to nature. In this ecovillage I found the world I was dreaming of.

Volunteers told me all about the EVS. I came back home, learned more about the program and started to look for the project.

 

A village in the Dolomites

My time at the Finnish ecovillage reinforced by desire to be closer to nature: forest, mountains, desert, or an ocean… it wasn’t important. But finally I found myself in the mountains in a small village, of some 3,000 people, called Lamon, in the Dolomites, Italy. The Dolomites are the very beginning of the Alps, the mountains whose height ranges from 1,500 to 3,000 meters above sea level. They are also known as the “Pale Mountains”.

Many people think the Dolomites are the most beautiful mountains in the world. What makes them so special is the rock they are made of – dolomite – a white limestone which can absorb light. At sunset, and sunrise, nature paints the mountains in warm colours, hues of reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows. As if somebody (somebody?) had taken a brush and dipped it into fresh paint before painting stripes of colour meter by meter across the face of the rock. At night and in the early morning palette changes to cooler blues, grays; transparent ghostly colours.

 

Life in a former school and work in an ecological organization

We lived in a former school turned into an environmental educational center. Apart from me there were 3 other volunteers from Spain and Greece and in total there was a group of 12 volunteers in different cities. It was very good: in Italy I got not one, but four homes in different cities, where the rest of us lived.

We worked as volunteers in the local ecological organization Legambiente. In Italy it’s very popular - it could be called the local Greenpeace. We didn’t participate in any major campaigns, but in simple environmental ones and, as I found out later, that this is very important to every resident of any city or a village in any modern country. We learned about separate waste collection, how important it is to buy seasonal products grown by local farmers and many other things. As we worked in an ecological organization all our activities were connected with the environment.

We had our own vegetable garden where we were growing only natural organic vegetables so we never used artificial fertilizer agents or pesticides. Our garden was small and not much to look at compared to our neighbour's, but we were proud because it was all natural.

In the backyard of the school we built an oven for making pizzas. Because of the bad weather it took us four months to complete the oven but the result was incredible. Having finished it we cooked our own pizza. And pizza is the best thing in Italy!

We collected wood which I chopped into smaller pieces. It was my favorite job, because I could work without haste, taking pleasure in listening to how a new axe rings while I while philosophized.

Every Tuesday we organized workshops for children from a local school. Imagine how 20 uncontrolled children ran into our school. They were peaceful for 2 minutes and then started to create chaos. You can’t control them: they are screaming, running, fighting with each other, playing animals: tigers and wolfs… in other words “going mad”. But we allowed them to do this. And their parents knew this too, so they brought their children to us, so that their children could enjoy themselves in ways they couldn’t at home. Together we would do crafts, fold origami, bake cookies, prepare food, and go to the mountains. We also showed the children how to make something useful from old discarded things.

During the 8 months we did many other jobs: we organized such events as a cinema-forums and cooking courses; painted benches in children’s playgrounds and cleared rubbish from mountain paths; had excursions to the mountains and hosted a local karate team and an orienteering group. In the summer we had 4 short-term volunteering camps of teenagers, adults, and even a family camp. All of them were successful.

 

The main goal

The main goal of the project was to be involved in the life of the village or a Commune how it's called here. Apart from Lamon there are many smaller villages called “frazione”. As volunteers from Legambiente we participated in all local events, holidays, and sports competitions. Or we just sat with friends in bars.

By the way in Lamon like in all villages, a bar is the best place to meet new people on one day and become a local guy. The main festa (holiday) in the village is the 1st of May when there is a “Night of the Bars” as I called it. In Russia we have “Night of Museums” and a “Night of Libraries”. All night people go from one bar to another and it’s very funny. I don’t drink so much and my Italian wasn’t up to the level to easily start a conversation, so for me it wasn't easy, but my Spanish and Italian friends had a lot of fun.

Village life looks ideal at first sight. But in reality sometimes you want to escape from the city to nature, likewise sometimes you want to go from the village to the city… But only for a weekend. After 8 months in Lamon I turned from a citizen of the second capital of Russia into a village man. And I will never exchange my village life for life in a big city again!

 

Best job in the world

Every volunteer had their own personal project. I created my project myself and named it “The Mountain Keeper”. Do you remember a competition called “The Best Job in the World” that took place a few years ago, where people had a chance to get a job as a keeper of some tropical island somewhere near Australia? Well, I didn’t take part in any competition, but thanks to EVS in Italy I found the best job in the world, because I like hiking so much!

There were 15 paths for hiking around Lamon and my aim as a volunteer was to walk all of these paths (more than 120 km in total), to take pictures of the most beautiful and interesting places, or the places where it’s easy to get lost. To take care of these places and to draw up a new maps. I also collected some garbage on the paths, fixed some signs, and made some direction arrows on trees and walls so people could find their way. The results of this work will be useful for volunteers who will come in the future or for tourists who will visit Lamon.

But this is not the end of the story yet. In the mountains, after I have walked all paths, I paved my own one – I wrote and published a book about my experience as an EVS volunteer in Italy. I liked my project so much, that it became a literary project: instead of chapters in the book I have paths: Ding-Dong path, Shepherd's path, Azure path, Snake path, Wildberries path, and many others. To raise money for publishing my book I used a crowdfunding campaign on the Internet on a website called Boomstarter which is a Russian version of Kickstarter, so the idea was successful. The project was successsful and raised anough monet to publish my first book. The EVS not only helped me to find this job, but helped me to find my lost childhood dream to be a writer!

 

Labors and days

So those were my labors in Lamon... I say “labors” because there are two words in Enlgish: “work” and “labor” and we often confuse them, but I think, that there is a difference between them. Work is what you need to do for a living. And labor is something you really like to do, and do it with pleasure – it is the living!

I spent 8 months in Lamon, not the whole year, but I saw the winter, spring, summer, and autumn – all four seasons, nature’s year. And I have seen the village and the beauty, that surrounds it: under the snow, with flowers, covered with green grass and golden leaves... In my opinion, it's more important to see one place from many different sides, than many places only from one side.

I liked this kind of travelling and volunteering. You are not in a rush, it is not a whistle-stop tour or “galloping across Europe” as we say in Russia. But you discover a country slowly, thoroughly, meditatively... When you don't need to hurry, there is no guide, no hotels you had already booked, and no worry about money. You can stop at any moment and see a place in every detail, learn how the local people live, about their pleasures and sorrows, take part in local holidays, become a local guy in a village or a town. And maybe you can find there a second home and the best job in the world just like I did.

 

And if I started my story with a quote from my favorite writer, I will end my story with another quote from him:

“The world is picking up speed, but I don't like to be in a hurry. I like to wander. It doesn't matter in space or in time, in a city or in the tundra, from a man to a book, or vice-versa. <...> wandering teaches you to be patient”.

Fifth Edition

5While closing the 4th edition of Scriptamanent, after the final meeting in Izmir, we are already preparing the new call for the next edition of the project. Stay tuned!

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