European Voluntary Service

This is Pekarna's blog for EVS volunteers. Pekarna is a sending and hosting/receiving organisation for EVS volunteers and their volunteers (send and hosted ones) will keep you up to date about their work.

Evropska prostovoljska služba

Pekarna Magdalenske mreže Maribor te vabi, da se tudi ti pridružiš množici prostovljcev/-k Evropske prostovoljne službe (EVS) in odpotuješ v organizacijo po svoji izbiri v drugo državo EU. Smo pošiljajoča in gostiteljska organizacija EVS, ki mladim od 17. in do 30. leta za obdobje največ enega leta uredi vse podrobnosti za brezskrbno in povsem brezplačno delovanje v tujini.
Evropska prostovoljna služba je del programa ERASMUS + Mladi v akciji.

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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Mid-way reflections

This month I have entered the second half of my EVS at Pekarna Magdalenske Mreze and of my staying here, in Maribor. I believe this is a good time for some looking back and some introspection. I’m a pretty self-reflective person, so naturally I’ve been analyzing my reactions, my feelings and my growth along the way. I am 30, and as I was saying, quite introspective, so I know myself quite a bit by now. However, one of the best things about my stay here is that I got to observe myself in some new situations, and got to learn a bit more about who I am, what I can, what I can’t and how I react to certain things that I was less exposed to in the past. I am pretty familiar now with Maribor, it somehow feels like home and sometimes I forget to appreciate the novelty and the chance I have in front of me. But at times I walk on the streets and I remember that I am in this new place, far from what I know and what I am deeply comfortable with, far from my coziness, my great group of friends and network of support, far from my secure job and projects, and far from the ever-changing, yet so familiar lovely city.

Photo by Alina Sileanu
This starting-all-over experience was one of the reasons I wanted to do an EVS. For a teenager or a twenty-something person, a (good) EVS can bring possibilities to travel low-cost, loads of fun, the excitement of meeting new cultures, making new friends etc. These matter to me as well, but much less. I wanted to see myself doing the sort of work that I like as a main ‘job’. I wanted the possibility of hands-on practice in theater. I wanted to break the pattern of home coziness. I wanted a change. And I wanted to see myself building a good living situation for myself again. And in part, I’ve managed to do that.
Photo by Nataša Usar
The novelty of a place and of people and everything that comes with it fades away after a while, and you are left with the normal, daily life. My organization is very well connected, it has a lot of ‘friend-organisations’ and a network of followers and friends, so I got to meet quite a lot of people here. I was also interested in some activities and people outside of this network, so I expended my acquaintances a bit more. Some of these people I really like and love to have around me, some I don’t particularly care for. Just like everywhere else. In the 2nd and maybe 3rd month though, it became a bit alienating – I would have people around that I could work and hang out with, but it was just that – hanging out. Talking about the same things and keeping the conversation to the shallow level of ‘visitors to a new country’. I missed not as much my friends, as having friends, having a deeper connection and a meaningful, soul-warming conversation. I care a lot about having friends and sharing my life with them. And as much as I enjoyed the new people here – and I did, a lot of them are exactly my type of people – I felt alone at a certain point. And this was a good chance for reflection. What constitutes a connection? How come the time by myself is very important and refreshing when I know I can always call someone and ask them out, and so grim when I know I probably can’t? How important and deep does failing seem when you know you’re living just a ‘temporary life’? How much can you really prove yourself to yourself when you still have a net of safety of someone ready to take care of you? Would things really be different without the language barrier? These are not compulsive ideas that just ran through my mind, but voluntary, directed questions meant to make me understand my existence better.

Photo by Alina Sileanu
I realized I can live without my friends. I realized it is hard to live without friends. I realized, once more, that the public speaking fright is lessening more and more with each voluntary exposure, but it will never completely go away. I realized that that’s completely fine. I realized that work and everything around you becomes much better when you have friends and someone you like to share things with. I realized, once more, the big difference between people who lived their lives independently and took care of themselves from an early age, and people who always have someone to look after them. I realized I can enjoy working with kids. I realized I can work and spend time with teenagers and take them and their view point seriously. I realized that art and creation do not require a genius invention, but they’re always going to be a new form of the old. I realized that it’s your choice to present your creation as something completely special or as a wanna-be product, and that people take your word for it. And I realized other things that I won’t mention here.

Photo by Michal Čerňanský
I’ve made friends and have tightened connections meanwhile, and it makes sense that everything takes time. I have written, acted, participated at festivals, worked with kids, worked with teenagers, had great conversations, had boring conversations. There wasn’t a moment when I was really unhappy here, because I realized that my ups-and –downs were completely normal, and that it takes time to set the ground for a new day-to-day. But yes, it can be hard for a while. And definitely, you need to do things for yourself. And unfortunately I’ve heard quite a number of stories about shitty EVS experiences at shitty organizations. I think it’s pretty important to really research the place and especially the organization that you want to join. And if possible, to contact one of their ex-EVSs and ask about their experience.
I’ve seen today that my organization has launched the open call for the new EVSs that will come starting February. I thought it was quite a good match with my reflecting time. For anyone reading this, I truly recommend trying to become a part of my organization. They are nice, fair, respectful and trustful. You can join activist, artistic, social, political, child-related, creative projects of all sorts. You can suggest your own, and you’re encouraged to do so. The city is pretty small and not a lot of events are in English, but the people speak English and you can make things happen if you want to. And I’m open for questions :).


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