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A ReActing Volunteer II

Full June

June. Crazy month consisting of a few small trips, the presentations of all the plays that have been worked on during the year of classes in Dinámica (including the presentation of my group´s play), having visit from Germany and experiencing for the first time what HEAT really means.


Due to some long weekends I had the chance to make some small trips to Bilbao and to Madrid. To Bilbao because I was longing the sea and beaches (at the end we had winter-like weather and swimming would have costed probably our lives. Not what I was imagining while thinking of Spanish beaches but it was still really beautiful) and to Spain´s capital just because I haven’t had the chance to see it yet. I actually have been in Madrid about 6 times already, but I never left Bus-, resp. train station nor the airport. So, I took the opportunity to see my cousin for 2 days and combine it with a little bit of sightseeing and city-feeling. It was much more relaxed and pleasing than I would have the atmosphere expected to be and especially the Rastro-market on the Sunday made me actually like Madrid as a city.

The next morning after I came back from the Madrid-trip I already had my friend Hannah from Germany waiting for me. It was really interesting; she had been in Logroño already in November of last year. As you know if your following my blog, A LOT of things have changed since then so I actually became conscious of how much more comfortable I feel in apartment, Logroño and in general. One thing didn’t change though: the fact that I am really busy. Next to work it was also the week before presenting our play AND the plays of the other classes which had to be prepared and rehearsed. All this wouldn’t have been half as exhausting if there wasn’t this intense HEAT that prevented us from sleeping during the nights and made us sweat like pigs during the days. All in all, it was a really good timing, like this my friend could see the works of theatre that everyone has been working on and also take part in my rehearsals.
The final presentantation of our play, Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mahmet, went really well, I have to admit that I was really nervous before due to the special way of my teacher to keep us as alert as possible during the acting. That tactic included that we only rehearsed my scene 3 times in total and changed all the names of characters and places a few days before the presentation…


BUT in the end, everything went well and not as stressful as I thought and we finished the (school-) year with another filming week for the Drama for Youthwork-project that ON&OFF is working on. Like always it was really interesting to watch Juan and Laura facilitating and Mario filming, a peaceful ending of the month and a good way to start into the trip to see my family and friends in Germany for two weeks for summer holidays. 




Sun, Snow and Show

I am slowly arriving to the last quarter of my EVS. I had to decide what path I a going to take after my project here and plan my summer a little. I went to the Mid-Term-Evaluation in Malaga and May was the month of the performances of the classes with the kids as well as we had the last performances with the ARSIDO group and finally presented our version of Peter Pan.

I will start with the training in Malaga since it was my highlight of this month. I had already enjoyed the last training so much, I had quite high expectations and guess what, I didn’t get disappointed! They set up a village-like campus for the Injuve-activities and it was really beautiful to be close together but at the same time having space and nature to nun yourself a little from the enormous group of 80 participants plus formators. We evaluated and talked A LOT during these three days and it felt so good to finally share some impressions and experiences with fellow volunteers (as you probably already guessed, La Rioja doesn’t have many). One day we even went to Granada, which happens to be my favourite Spanish city, so I cannot complain about one single thing in these days. Obviously, the weather was perfect as well and I took the silent inner decision that if I ever have to choose a place to live in Spain again, I will choose a little more southern, at least during the times that aren’t summer.
The weather here in Logroño is kind of funny, we already had beautiful, sunny days at the beginning of the month and I thought that would finally mean the start of the summer that everyone is always telling me about. During that time, it looked like it snowed in the park because the grass was covered in pollen, funny sight when we actually have 25 degrees. Now though, the snow disappeared and with it the warm weather, to my horror it feels almost like winter again.

At least I used this shitty weather to work on my theatre skills during an intensive Clown-workshop in Dinámica. 18 hours in two days full of super funny and at the same time super humiliating experiences. I can’t remember ever standing on a stage and having the task to improvise and intentionally make the people laugh while looking in their neutral, or worse, bored faces. And not just once or for a short time, over and over again and sometimes up to 20 minutes. You can imagine how intensive that can be for a whole weekend, the first encounter with the techniques of Clown and not talking about the stomach pain that you constantly have because of all the laughing. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and perfect preparation for our last performances of the ARSIDO-team. Finally, we presented our Peter Pan interpretation last Sunday in Logroño. I couldn’t help but laugh while acting because it was just so chaotic but incredibly adorable! And I really enjoyed to be able to be a Pirate in some and an Indian princess in other scenes.
I am feeling really comfortable and like I have arrived now in my life here and I really enjoy these feeling of comfort and familiarity.  As a manifestation of my new, Spanish self I cut and coloured my hair and shaved one side of my head and I am already looking forward to annoy my mum a little with it when I am going home in summer to visit my family.


Natural State of Chaos 

Another crazy month in Logroño is over and I don´t even know how to start this blog because I feel so overwhelmed with the experiences of the last weeks. 

So, I will just start with the most profound experience: a big shock, mentally and physically, was a bicycle accident that I had on my way to work. I can’t even say that it is surprising because I already realized in my first weeks here in Logroño that it is not the safest place to go in bicycle and that I would be really lucky to go home without having any accident. But this knowledge obviously didn’t prevent me from trusting that the car will stop to let me pass and I ended up crashing first onto the car and then hitting the street. Luckily nothing serious happened, just bruises and pulled muscles that weren’t at all pleasant but will heal in a few weeks. A good thing about the crash was that I got the experience to be in a Spanish hospital and had an insight about how police and insurance agencies in Spain work... And after a month of avoiding any kind of movement on two wheels I will soon start to move in bicycle again, but with a lot more caution.

Despite this unpleasant experience I am starting to love the north of Spain and La Rioja in particular more and more. Because the summer is slowly starting (and warm weather and sun always make places more beautiful for me) and because I am making a lot of small trips during the free days and weekends to hidden places and villages in the region. And there are A LOT of them and in fact really beautiful ones. During the Semana Santa vacations for instance I went with a friend in his van through the Pyrenes to the East coast of Spain.

We passed an enormous Buddhist temple in the middle of nowhere, spectacular mountain ranges and turquoise rivers until arriving to the beaches of the Costa Brava. Unfortunately, the weather during these days was as shitty as you´d expect a German but not a Spanish April to be, but we still made the best out of it and it made me even more exited to travel and see more of Spain during the summer. A thing that made me laugh a lot during these weeks of summerstart is the fact that almost all of my Spanish friends got sunburned very quickly and prefered to stay in the shadow while I love being in the sun and my skin is quite resistant to sunburns, opposing all stereotypes and prejudices of the German type of skin, ha!

Directly after the Easter vacations I went on a Convivencia with ON&OFF in Alfaro, a nearby village that is famous for its storks, and I had a really good time! It was kind of special and exiting because I organized it and planned the roleplay-mystery game of the second night. I spend so much time working on it, especially on the mystery game that I was quite nervous how its going to work out at the end. But I guess if you put Juan in the role of a prison guard and let him wear a police hat and give Laura the task to just randomly scare people almost nothing can go wrong anyway and furthermore the hostel in Alfaro actually used to be a prison so the needed atmosphere was created immediately. The only thing that went wrong that night was the actual escaping (I created an Escaperoom for the guys) due to tiredness and some technical problems we had to end the game earlier and let everyone be killed by Laura. The most important things about the game though, the characters, improvisation and the interactions between everyone worked out perfectly and I had an amazing time watching everyone acting out what I was planning and imagining for such a long time beforehand. The rest of the convi consisted of really funny games (that I couldn’t play because of the injuries of the accident, but that were still fun to watch), a lot of talking and laughing and watching the daily activities of the storks.
The rest of my life is going on like normal: crazy and overloaded with stuff and by now I just accepted it as the natural state of chaos and I enjoy it a lot. 

Marching

Slowly spring is coming and half of my year in Spain is already over. Again, I learned and changed a lot in the last month.

Part of the highlights of the last 4 weeks was definitely the Women’s March on the 8th of March: an incredible amount of people and energy on the streets, 35 times more people than in my hometown in Germany, which has the same number of inhabitants. Also, that day I stroke for the first time in my life (yeah... as a volunteer but anyway it was a cool feeling).
Speaking of political activism and women’s rights- in my theatre classes we started rehearsing the play that we are going to perform in summer: Glengarry Glen Ross. For those of you that don’t know the movie, it’s pure capitalism and ONLY consists of men characters in the original version. Funnily enough we are only women in my theatre class… I love it! It also makes me learn even more swearwords in Spanish, source of amusement for my south American friends that witness the slow but radical change of my Spanish.
My work is going quite well- I had a conversation with one of my working mates about the difference between “smart”- and “hard”-workers and it still sticks to my head. It made me reflect a lot about my working style and made me a little bit more conscious about my cultural heritage and that a different and more sufficient way of working (compared to how a lot of people in Germany work) is actually possible. I love to be able to work with so many different people, I feel like I am picking up and learning from everyone and still have the space to evaluate which working style also fits for me personally. During the last ARSIDO performance for instance I was doing the lights together with the two guys from the technical team, two perfect examples of smart workers. I almost died of my inner stress of just “improvising” and “playing with the lights” during the actual performance instead of having a proper plan that I can stick to. Until reaching this state of relaxment I definitely need the next six months in Spain…



Ch-Ch-Changes

Since I decided to learn more actively and throw myself into new challenges life offered me some good opportunities to try myself out. The last weeks consisted of a LOT of changes and events, from moving to a new flat to helping in a training course here in Logroño to start learning how to teach the kids in the theatre lessons.

The most profound shift was the change of apartment at the beginning of February, living in a new area of Logroño and sharing my house with new people. I am really glad that I made that decision and got supported in it, I am feeling much more comfortable now, living with two really nice women, central heating and closer to work and friends.Simultaneously to that change of flats I helped during a training course happening here in Logroño and like always during these kinds of projects I really enjoyed being surrounded by like-minded people and sharing a project to work on together. This time the project included filming, which is something I´ve never done before, so I really enjoyed being introduced to that form of creative expression. What is kind of weird about these special events is that it is still difficult for me to find my place as a volunteer, floating in an open space between not being a participant but neither having a leading/important role in the project. The next undertaking, the Convivencia in April, I am going to organize though, so I´m curious how this experience is going to impact the upcoming events during my EVS.In the last month I was able to take part in another big learning opportunity: the performance of the sketches we developed during the theatre classes with ARSIDO (Asociación Riojana Syndrome de Down). Spending the whole day of the performance in Haro, a city close to Logroño: rehearsing, setting up the stage and finally performing in Haro´s theatre. I was actually surprised that it was SO much fun, performing as well as organizing and facilitating the Down-Syndrome guys backstage. Also, how could I not enjoy the performance being able to be a flamenco dancer for 5 minutes of my life and even having a solo-dance of 20 seconds? (In the second sketch I was acting as a fly, so no further comments needed.)Looking back at the last blog entry I am really happy to see that I could actually realize some of my resolutions, being more involved in the Erasmus+ work and planning work in general as well as having the opportunity to practise my teaching skills while trying to facilitate parts of the theatre classes with the kids. It has been quite some time ago that I felt this extent of stress in a situation like when my Co-worker Juan left the circle and let me alone with the kids and I was trying to explain a game in Spanish while making sure that everyone is behaving well and I actually build up my role as an authority. I guess I just have to accepted the stress and the struggle as part of the learning process and focus on the good feeling of actively making an effort to learn. Still, I am feeling quite sure already that I can erase becoming a teacher in a school from my possible future-jobs. Another cool thing that I did in the last month was visiting Bilbao with a really weird combination of friends from Germany, the US and Chile and unexpectedly ending up having beautiful summer-like weather! I appointed myself as the group-leader, since I was the only one speaking all three languages of the group and managed with the help of Google-maps (by the way, in version of Google maps they use the Basque street names, like “Urkixo Zumarkalea” or “Basurtoko Geltokiaren Kalea”, which are even for a German difficult to pronounce ) to find some really cool spots and activities in Bilbao that really make me want to come back there soon. The highlights have definitely been the “Open-Space” flea market in an old biscuit factory outside of the city centre and the performance of “McBeth” in the Arriaga Theatre.



All in all this has been a very exhausting, but instructive month and I am really happy about how things are proceeding here in Logroño as well as curious what the next weeks will bring. 






Reflection Time

The last 3 weeks mostly consisted of spending quality time with friends and family in Germany over Christmas and reflecting upon the learning process that I have gone through so far during my EVS. Here I will share some of the thoughts that go through my mind at the moment.


What was interesting to realize during this reflection was that I seem to be learning passively at the moment and that I would like to change this to a more active way of learning. To give you an example: Since living in Spain I improved my Spanish by listening to the people around me, having to communicate in daily life situations. I’ve been learning how to work with kids and disabled people, just by doing it, because it is part of my work. So, I was automatically learning but not making a big effort to really store it in my mind and reflecting on it. Now I feel like it has come the point of starting to learn more actively. Throwing myself into challenges (that I could avoid if I wanted to) and asking for help and explanations to really deepen the experiences.

At the same time, I am trying to reduce the things I do and try to figure out what really matters to me. It might sound like an easy thing to do, but for me personally it was always quite hard to settle for one or two or even six things. I guess it is also the time we live in, basically being able to do anything, which is incredibly beautiful in my eyes but also a big challenge. Because it means I am dividing my energy and on a lot of different things, wanting to get the best and most meaningful result out of it and then feeling upset because I my days are too short, because I feel the need to rest or because I realize I have to put in more energy and time to really get something out of it, let it be a skill, a human-relationship or a project. The interesting thing for me to observe is also that this habit does not seem to come from a place of lack, but rather from a curiosity and excitement about things. And this is something I really value about myself, because it enables me to stay open to experiences and people. Still, it would be really helpful if I could add a little minimalism to my life and this is what I will try to work on.

But how do we actually know what we want to do/to learn? Is it because we think it would be helpful for our future, for our security, for the people we care about? Is it because we feel drawn to it and it fills us up with energy and we feel like its adding to our general happiness? Or maybe because it is fulfilling the expectations that people around us have or that we have from ourselves? Probably a combination of a lot of things anyway, but still I think it can be helpful to ask ourselves these questions, just to be aware of on what we are spending our energy and time and what reasons we have for it. 

Discovering Spain

The third month of my EVS in Logroño is almost over and exactly the day I arrived three months ago I will travel back home to spend Christmas and New Years with my family in Germany. I have a lot to reflect on and to process, especially the last month has been very busy and filled with an incredible amount of new experiences and joy.

From hiking in the Riojan mountains and a vegan Pincho and Vino-Tour to hosting my German friend and sharing my new life with her to discovering the Spain outside of La Rioja.
My first trip was all about the sunny Andalucía, staying at my friend`s house in Sevilla and then traveling to Cadiz with her. You can imagine the relief of going outside during the day and it actually feels like a German summer, even though in reality it is the Andalusian winter… I got a small impression about the life in the south, going out every night and being constantly surrounded by very, very crazy but also very, very nice people. Also, I`ve never experienced before that someone I just met invites me on a full dinner and even insists on ordering more even though I claimed eight times that I reached the top of my gastric-capacity- a small culture shock. After one day of literally digesting this trip I went for the next adventure: my On-Arrival-training.
Thanks to my whole team at work and plenty of other people I talked with about my trip my expectations quite low about this week in Miranda de Ebro. This led to an ecstasy-like state of excitement when I arrived at the youth hostel and started to meet participants (31 of them from 15 different countries) and the four facilitators and we started the activities of the seminar. It is impossible to put the amount of energy and inspiration I got from this week into words, but I will try to describe a little bit of what we did and talked about. So basically, the On-Arrival training is meant to prepare the volunteers for their EVS, talking about all the necessary information, about their rights and the overall-rules of the program. Let aside the fact that my training came at least two months too late and I already knew most of the content it was still interesting to reflect on it again and learning the things I didn’t know before. Another important part of the On-Arrival-seminar is the sharing of the cultures of the participants as well as learning about the culture of the hosting country, Spain. Since we were such a diverse group this was enlightening and full of self-reflection at the same time. Not to forget about the stomach pain I got from laughing about the activities: our facilitators dressing up as fortune-tellers helping us to develop a personal project within our EVS, living and feeling a culture shock of a few months within five minutes of activity through a group-role-play…
All this laughing and sharing created a really strong sense of belonging in which we were also able to share the more `serious` parts of our EVS and life in general: chanting and meditating together, playing traditional Castilian music in a workshop, traveling to Burgos and discovering history and food of Northern Spain…

To sum up, it has been an amazing third month and I am incredible grateful for meeting all these amazing people that I now consider as a new kind of family all over Spain. Carrying all these experiences, feelings and inspirations in my heart and mind I will go home end of this week, already looking forward to come back for the experiences in Spain in 2019. 





Starting my (work-)life in Logroño

The first month of my EVS passed by super quickly. The weather went from sunny and warm to rainy and freezing cold. Logroño went from a weird, new city to a place that I now have at least some kind of orientation in. And the Spanish culture went from something already familiar and known to a strange mystery. 

In this first month my working routine started, as well as my theatre and dancing lessons, I participated and worked in ESYT (First European Seminar on Youth Theatre) and my head kind of started to get used to my new life in Spain.
I will start telling you about the biggest and most important part for me in these 4 weeks: the work. Like Laura did before me I work in the office during the morning, sharing the working space and breaks with Silvia and Juan and the Dinámica-Team. The afternoons are filled with a lot of different things, like ARSIDO, which is a group working with people with Down Syndrome by using in-formal education like playing theatre and dancing. On other two days of the week I help Laura and Dani giving theatre lessons to kids in schools and on Wednesday I am leading the Language Exchange, that invites people of all kind and origin to meet up in the Sala Negra to talk and share parts of our cultures and languages with each other.
It is crazy how fulfilling the work with the kids and in the ARSIDO group feels like. Since it is the first time I work with kids and handicapped people I didn’t really have any expectations neither had I any idea how I would cope with the work or feel about it. Well, maybe I had some expectations but definitely not that its going to be so funny and satisfying to be surrounded by them. Of course, I also feel overwhelmed a lot because there is so much to learn pedagogically and also language-wise (my Spanish really isn’t that good yet). But through situations like last Friday when one of the ARSIDO-guys was asked to complete the sentence: “A “mom” is the one that cares about you, give you hugs…” during a rehearsal and he ended it, feeling very confident that it is right, with “and kisses you with tongue”, you simply cannot take yourself that seriously anymore. And since these situations happen on a daily basis in ARSIDO and with the kids I have a constant reminder how blessed I am to be able to experience the pureness of this work and people like a blank page and without any theoretical concepts in my head I could refer to.
Also very statisfying I experienced my work during ESYT. It was a completely new experience to be on the “other side” of the seminar, organizing and caring for the people instead of merely participating like I`ve normally done. I really enjoyed being surrounded by so many interesting and inspiring people from all over Europe and I also liked my tasks during that week, like preparing the coffee and snacks (vegan AND gluten free, you can imagine…) or picking up the participants and welcome them to Logroño. The week dashed by and before I knew what was happening I already had my first traditional Pinchos and wine, which at the same time was the last evening and end of ESYT.
Outside of work I am also learning a lot. Next to taking classical dance lessons with Lydia and theatre classes with Fer, that rather feel like group-therapy sessions really, I am learning how to live with people that don’t want to use the heating more than one hour a day (right now it is 5 degrees cold outside and not warmer than 6 degrees in my room) to save money. I spent my whole Sunday in bed covering myself with three sweaters and all the blankets that I could find and still wasn’t able to feel neither feet nor hands until the next morning`s shower.
Another interesting thing about Spain that can be really therapeutically helpful is that you are forced to trust and to let things go when you want to use the bike in the city. Spending most of my lifetime in Germany blessed with special bike paths that are actually approved by the other traffic participants, I got spoiled and weak. Now, living in Logroño and sharing all kind of streets with cars and pedestrian zones with hundreds of people that are thinking about everything except that there might be a person on a bicycle trying to get through, I am practising letting go and trusting life and people, because I simply have no other choice if I want to move quicker than I’d do walking.

As you can see my new life in Logroño is all about learning and adopting myself and finding my place in work, daily life as well as in the highways of Logroño.




First days in Logroño

After 16 hours traveling I finally arrived to Logroño on Friday night, the 21st of September 2018. If you now wonder if I was from a small village close to the northpole that it took me so long to get to Spain- I have to disapoint you. It only took me so long because we are crazily good at money saving. I am actually from Oldenburg, a quite big city in North-Germany. 
My name is Jana and I will be part of the ON&OFF-team for the next 12 months doing my EVS. I already know Logroño, Juan, Silvia and some of the youngsters from two theatre projects I particpated in last year. So when Juan told me "by the way... save some energy for tonight, we are going out for San Mateo and you will meet everyone" I was not really suprised and after a ten minute-nap I resigned myself to my fate and went out with them into the dancing, loud and crowded Logroño of San Mateo and actually enjoyed myself despite my exhaustion.
My first two days in Logroño I had to spend resting as a result and used my time to discover my neighbourhood, make some strategic friendships- with Ali, the Kebabseller next to my house and the shop assistant from the closest supermarket (he gave me some free Oregano-Seeds, I interprate that as a good sign)... and I started the search for anything that could give my apartment a little more atmosphere. Or to say it in different words, a litlle less of the scary atmosphere and the old smell. Especially because in my flat were supposed to live three other people but I did not see one of them during the first days, so the scaryness-factor was increasing everyday, with every sound I heard in the apartment  that could have been one of them, but was`nt. So you can imagine how I was more than happy to finally meet my flat mates on Sunday night. 
Also, I had my first encounter with the new Dinamica building that day during a cabarett show in the Sala Negra to which Silvia kindly invited me. Even though I hardly got anything of what the actress was saying- I had an enourmus fun and I went home happily, looking forward to the time at Dinamica and to my first workday that would start the next morning.