Young and beautiful

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It was September 9th 2011, evening. I remember like it was yesterday, actually if you think about it, it was yesterday. That’s when we started our adventure (and I say we because I was lucky to find a project where I could go with my boyfriend). We embarked for a new adventure in Osijek, Croatia for a year.
I remembered how it all started and how I found out about EVS. It was just a regular evening zapping through TV channels. I couldn’t find anything interesting so I left it on a TV channel that I usually never watch. Something caught my attention, volunteering in a foreign country, hmmm that sounds interesting. After that I did some research on Google, found a sending organization by which I was very pleased and that was it, after some paperwork, a few months of waiting if the project will be approved or not, the day has finally come. I was in the train station with my friends saying goodbye and I remember perfectly the butterflies and all the anxiety that I had. And of course the luggage, which was too big and way too many stuff, which I realized after I had to pack to go back home.
I arrived in Osijek, the people from the hosting organization were waiting for us. The apartment were we stayed was so nice, full of balloons and welcome notes. In the evening we went for dinner to discuss about our project and the activities. I was supposed to work in a kindergarten, English group with 4 year old kids to teach them English and the youth club, to make activities with the youngsters there and to talk with them about volunteering. And also there was a weekly blog. Through the course of the year some of the activities changed. I was making also articles (the topic was for me to choose), video making and a personal project. I choose for my project to make a video with other EVS volunteers from Croatia.
The first day in the kindergarten was hard and strange. It didn’t know what to do, nobody knew what I was doing there, they never heard about EVS and everybody was confused, I was the most. But apart from all this they were warm and welcoming and trying to make me feel comfortable. The kids were very funny, asking me where I was from and why do I speak in English with the teachers (I have knowledge of Croatian language since I lived there before). In the youth club it was ok, we explained what we did there, and some of them were interested but sadly most of them not. We tried to make more activities but the hosting organization didn’t approve, which leads me to the next chapter…
Yes, of course, like most of the evs projects, a thing that I learned from other volunteers, we had problems. But I am choosing not to talk about them so much, because I want to remember my evs as a good thing and no matter how much problems I had it will never change my opinion and feelings about it and I will never regret it but I will highlight them, I moved to another house with 5 more volunteers, we had problems with money, activity agreement and activities. We overcome them with the help of our sending organization and everything went back to normal or maybe it didn’t but I choose to make the best of it and to remember what I have there, friendships. Friendships that I know will last forever and the people I met. For this I will never regret it.
I always knew that I love being with kids but working in the kindergarten made me even more sure of that. I don’t want to lie, of course sometimes they were tiring and mean but the rewards received at the end of the day in hugs and I love yous compensate for everything else. I feel that everything I did there was rewarding, even talking with the kids in the youth club about other countries and seeing their interests made me sure that it was a good decision.
Days went by and in the kindergarten I was more and more comfortable and that I belonged there. The teachers were very nice, we became friends, went together out; meet their families and doing different activities. I was so happy to see the kids grow before my eyes. I helped with the activities. Every week they had a different theme (autumn, flowers, healthy food etc.) and every day they worked with these themes making paintings, drawings, toys and saying their opinions about them in the morning circle. We went together with the kids to many trips, to the zoo, children’s theater, ice skating etc. Of course working with kids has its downsides also. In the winter I was sick 6 times and three of these times I went to the hospitals. At some point it was funny, the doctors knew me but they always treated me with respect and very nicely. If I think about it, all the people that I met in Croatia were nice and friendly, except the ones from our hosting organization. But you can’t have it all, huh?
We traveled also, especially in the summer because I and Victor took the car from home so it would be easier to go around. There is nothing compared with spending all your pocket and food money on trips and then wait till the next month to receive them again. Pasta was the volunteers’ meal, but at least we stayed healthy away from fats. The moment went the car didn’t work anymore and we had to repair it with no tools. The host from our seaside accommodation woke up in the morning to help but finally some guys stopped and give us some tools. Driving in the middle of the day, in July in 35 degrees with no air conditioning, priceless.
I even miss the fights from the house. If you want challenges just put 8 people from 6 different countries in the same house. We had a lot of arrangements, who is cooking for who, who is cleaning what and when. We made a common budget for the things that all of us used in the kitchen, cleaning schedule, party schedule. But no, of course none of this worked and we end up everybody on their own. I have to admit that, even if I was angry and frustrated because we couldn’t make things work between us, I am grateful because I don’t think that I will ever have the opportunity to live with so many different people in the same place again. It was one of the hardest challenges: to learn to respect others and their opinions and to put yourself in their shoes. But I think that the most important things that I learned from this are that you don’t have to be friends with everybody and to understand each other without knowing any common language.
The last few weeks of the project were the hardest, never mind the fights, the problems, when I knew that I had to leave I was sad (I can’t remember when I cried that much as I cried in my last day of EVS). Sad that this amazing experience will come to an end, sad that even if I knew will see each other again it will never be the same again. We will be grown-ups (even though most of us were), we will have to face life and situations where maybe people will not appreciate your help and creativity anymore, where you can’t skip work for a day because you have a cold. If you can find that in your life and do what makes you happy then that’s the reason you did all of this.
One may say that I “cheated” because I didn’t have the full experience of the unknown because I knew the country and some of the language but I think that everything happens for a reason (because I applied for other projects in other countries) so I am waiting for that moment when I can finally say “so that’s why I went there” and realize that everything is connected.
EVS changes you, changes you in ways that you don’t even knew that it was possible and even if you don’t realize it now, you will later. You will find that piece in you which is there because of that. I think I am a better person with much more understanding for other people and their cultures. Since I finished my EVS I went to visit already 3 times. Happiest day ever when the kids come running to you, hug you and tell you stay here forever and the smiles on people’s faces when they see you again. I consider this beautiful country, Croatia, as my adoptive country.
I will recommend this for anybody, as I said earlier I don’t regret a thing and I think that from all the problems I had so much to learn. Definitely do it, 100 times do it. You will always remember the laughs, the tears, the hugs and the friendships that you made because in the end we are all young and beautiful no matter how old we are and no matter the appearance.

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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