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ESC Volunteer Karolina

SPECIAL SITUATIONS SOMETIMES REQUIRE SPEACIAL MEASURES 

And suddenly, everything turned upside down. 

What a time to be alive. 2020 for sure has had its surprises. First of all (spoiler alert), I'm back in Germany. Covid-19 better known as the "Corona-Virus" presented itself as a new challenge calling for our action. I'm still in shock over the quick developments and have not quite fathomed the fact that this might be the end of my project yet. But let's go back to last week and the events that eventually led to my return. 

After the three weeks spent at home sick I was finally able to go back outside. I still had a cough but I was just happy to get back into work and to see all the kids in my classes and go to the gym and the language exchange. Everyone was happy to see me back on my feet and I felt great being able to leave the house and move around - and then we had the first case of Corona in La Rioja. Up until that point the whole thing had felt very unreal and far away. Yes, I knew that supermarkets in Germany and elsewhere where selling out of flour and toilet paper but to be honest I didn't take that too seriously. 

A couple days later I was about to leave the house to go to a yoga class when I received a text from my tutor Laura asking me to stay home. The virus had reached Logroño, actually the street right next to Dinámica. Within a few hours the whole atmosphere had shifted. The police were parolling the streets wearing these white full body suits you would normally only see on TV. Since I have asthma and had been so sick the weeks before I clearly was and still am part of the risk group. Therefore we decided that it was saftest for me to stay inside once again until we would have more information. That was on Monday, 9th of March. 

The next day La Rioja had become the region with the most Corona cases in Spain and by lunch time the government had decided to close down all educative institutions including our theatre school by tomorrow. That was when I began to worry. Things had changed so drastically whithin such a small time frame and now it was everybody around me staying home as well. I was sent videos showing ridiculous scenes of people with plastic bags over their heads in the Mercadona buying, or should I call it hoarding, shopping carts filled to the top with noodles and rice. It was outlandish. 

That night Silvia and Laura came home after their last day being able to work outside and I knew something was up as soon as they walked in. They sat down to both of my sides and gave me a look that said: We need to talk! 
I was informed that the spanish national agency had ruled for all volunteers to be offered to go home. This applied to everyone, including Jonathan and Olivier but to me especially. Laura calmly explained how the hospitals in La Rioja were already overwhelmed by the amount of patients coming in and that it would be very difficult for me to get a place in the intensive care unit if I were to get the virus. They carefully introduced me to the idea that it might be best if I left the country. I would be lying if I said that the thought hadn't crossed my mind but I felt conflicted. I didn't want to leave. Also what does that even mean? Would this be the end of my project? 

I decided to call my parents to discuss the next steps and the possibility of me going home. I told them about the current situation and my feelings as well as the concerns. They added that it would make sense for me to leave before the airports would be closing down, as it was happening in that moment in Italy and although it was so sad I had to agree with them. I booked my flight immediately afterwards. By that time the next day, I would already be back in Hamburg. 

Following this turn of events I spent all night packing whatever fit into my suitcase, informing my friends and family at home and texting my coworkers and fellow ON&OFF members my goodbyes. On Wednesday, 11th of March I tightly hugged Silvia, Olivier and Yanis once more and waved out of the bus window until they were out of sight. Later that day my family welcomed me at the airport and I made it home safely. 

So, what happens next? For now the project has been postponed which means I'm currently waiting for the national agency to decide if they will accept my application to return to Spain after the situation is over. The contractual clause that applies here is called causa de fuerza mayor (= force majeure) because the virus is obviously something that isn't in our power to control. I really hope that this wasn't the end of my ESC but even if it was I'm certain that I will return to my second home as soon as possible.

I want to take the opportunity to thank every single person that made my experience possible from the bottom of my heart. I think spending this time with all of you helped me get to know myself better. I don't think I can put into words how thankful I am for the kindness and patience I was treated with. If I could, all of you would get a special bead from me. To Silvia, Yanis, Jonathan, Olivier, Julieta and Laura, the teachers I had the pleasure to assist, the kids in my classes, my coworkers, my friends from the spanish class and the language exchange, everybody from Arsido and the Convivencias: ¡te quiero! 
 
If we're lucky I'm going to see you all in a few weeks. If not, it might be a little bit longer than that. Un beso a todos y muchas gracias por leer el blog. 

Until we meet again, 

Karolina 










 

2020 IN LOGROÑO – SPRING, DMSR AND ANTIBIOTICS

¡Holaaa! 

How lovely to have you back or to welcome you for the very first time. I want to start of this entry by saying "Happy New Year" even though it will already be March once this gets posted but nevertheless I hope 2020 will present you with opportunities to learn and grow, to have fun and to feel a lot.
Life would be quite toneless if it were to hold only one emotion, wouldn’t it?
At the beginning of the year, coming back to Spain after my Christmas break, I felt homesick for the first time since coming here. 

All the love I have for my family and friends in Germany and the pain of not being able to physically be close to all of them, came crushing down on me when I boarded the plane to come back here to Logroño. Knowing I wouldn’t see them again until November was rough at first but as time went by I started regaining my focus on my life here. I started going to the gym, got a library card and with the sun getting ready to outshine the cold, rainy winter weather I started meeting up with friends from Logroño outside, having a picnic in the park for example. With a lot of work at ON&OFF I was soon way too busy with thinking about fiestas, formaciónes and DMSR to dwell on my sadness. 

What is DMSR, you may think. I’ve mentioned it twice now so I shall elaborate. DMSR is the abbreviation of Decision making and self-reprocessing, a one-week workshop we held in Laguna de Cameros, La Rioja. It was facilitated by Silvia and Laura and included participants from five different countries. We invited organizations from Ireland, Greece, Bulgaria, and Italy to join us on this journey of Self discovery and Learning.
The preparation week turned out to be my busiest time at work yet. I was asked to translate Spanish presentations into English and to create new ones for multiple theories we planned on introducing to the participants.
I enjoyed being the first one after Silvia and Laura to catch a glimpse of all the things we were to discuss and to be able to process them the way I wanted to but the task also came with a new pressuring sense of responsibility.
Me being the perfectionist I am, spent a lot of time working meticulously on the PowerPoints.

Unfortunately, that same week was also the one where Olivier, our new French Volunteer arrived, moved in with us and started working. If you want to learn more about Olivier, you can take a look at his blog here: https://www.onoffteatro.com/p/esc-volunteer_20.html 

Luckily, he didn’t seem to mind the busyness too much and with our mentor Laura gone for a week of training in Ireland, I was presented with the opportunity to give some tasks to Olivier to help me with. Together we prepared for the other event awaiting before DMSR: una fiesta with the topic Noche Vieja


The party was a big success. Around 40 people came and everyone enjoyed themselves with a lot of snacks and (non-alcoholic) drinks while occasionally hearing my voice scream “IMPRO-SHOW” and getting up on stage to act out a random scene with changing partners and made-up titles. We danced the evening away until the clock struck midnight (although in real life it was only eight) and most people bravely attempted to eat one uva for every famous striking sound normally heard at the Puerta del Sol in Madrid. That way I kind of got to experience New Year’s Eve in Spain without being there for the real thing. 

As the next week arrived it was time for Jonathan and I to welcome the international participants for DMSR in Logroño. 

Together all of us took the bus to our beautiful hotel in Laguna de Cameros, a tiny village with seemingly not a soul living there apart from a few cows and dogs. On the first night the only official program we offered was a night-walk for all of those that weren’t too exhausted from their travels. Laura dared me to play tour guide while secretly not knowing anything about the place. I think some people still believe today that there used to be knights protecting the ‘great city wall’ until leaving hurriedly in fear of the alleged ghost in form of a big black dog haunting the old stables.

What else did we do the following days? Let’s keep it simple because what happened in Laguna stays in Laguna. Everything worked out perfectly. We got to know each other, laughed and cried together. We learned about cultural differences, Greek und Bulgarian dancing, about (inner) conflicts and decision-making in groups and by ourselves. I think it’s fair to say that by the end of the week we went from being strangers to friends. And once more I was reminded of the fact that I always feel like my most confident self in big international groups. Something about building international connections and relations makes me really happy and it makes sense in regard to why I decided to go abroad in the first place.


If you do want to learn more detalles about our time in Laguna feel free to visit the blog Jonathan and I wrote during our time there: http://dmsr2020.art.blog/

On the 9th of February we ended the Erasmus+ project. Rain welcomed us back in Logroño. Tired but with a happy heart we said our “goodbyes” and “see you sometime in the future’s”. That is the drawback of surrounding yourself with Internationals, eventually they will all go back to their home countries or go on to new destinations. But who am I to complain as I will do the same in a few months.

The first day back in the office after DMSR I had already woken up with a headache and dizziness every time I moved too fast. Little did I know that coming home that night I wouldn’t be leaving the house for the next three weeks mas o menos except for a few visits to my centro de salud (“Joaquín Elizalde”). Feeling so sick was quite scary especially being in a foreign country with a new doctor, a different health care system and without a diagnosis. I was prescribed antibiotics for eight days along with other medication to inhibit the side effects. Silvia was amazing throughout the whole episode, taking me to the doctor and the Farmacy, constantly checking up on me and doing everything to help me feel better: “Cariñoooo”.  
By the end of the second week, having taken six pills and two powders every day I did eventually manage to leave the house without black dots blurring my vision or my legs giving up on me.

Like an ancient creature emerging from its cave I was stunned to be greeted by spring temperatures and the tiniest blossoms appearing on the trees around town. March had snuck up on me and taken me by surprise.

I was astonished to learn that 1/3 of my year had already gone by. Time flies. I’m doing my best now to stay healthy and to enjoy the next months as much as I can. In order to do to that I’ll try to focus more on my language practices so I can communicate properly with the locals and take part in more activities that are held in Spanish.

Now there’s nothing left to say other than stay healthy and
¡Hasta la próxima!



VIGO, SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA AND THE PERKS OF BEING A VOLUNTEER

¡Bienvenido!

As promised in my previous entry you'll now be able to read some more about my past few days spent traveling through Spain and completing my on-arrival training. If you expect me to write about how beautiful the places I visited and how kind the people I met were, you're absolutely correct! ¡Vamos!

Let's start with my travel buddy and favourite compañero: Jonathan.
One evening we sat down at the kitchen table, he plugged in his laptop, looked at me and asked:
"So, where do you wanna go?" We were lucky to have two días de puente right before our on-arrival training so we wanted to take the opportunity to explore Spain a little more. And since Bilbao, Pamplona and San Sebastián can easily be reached and visited during a normal weekend, we decided to go a little farther to the west. Vigo. That was our new dream destination. From there we decided to drive up to Santiago de Compostela and after that to Reinosa to meet our fellow Volunteers and to go with them to Coruña, Cantabria for our training.

Friday morning at 4 am we departed from the bus station in Logroño for our eight hours drive towards Vigo. Occasionally waking up to look at the sunrise or the ever-changing landscape outside the window, we made it to "the city of christmas lights".
Outside of the bus station we were immediately confronted with our first problem. The station seemed to be quite far from the city centre and figuring out what kind of public transportation could take us there, presented to be too difficult for our tired minds to handle. So we walked. Two volunteers, with backpacks and a suitcase in a unknown city. Later we found out that the only lockers existing in Vigo were at the bus station, so please keep the picture of us with all of our luggage in mind for the rest of the description.

First stop was the Museo de Arte Contemporánea where we looked at the different expositions before aimlessly strolling around the streets and searching for the famous fish market (spoiler alert: we didn't find it...). Vigo turned out to be quite hilly, especially the old town which was undoubtedly the most beautiful part of the city. Later we met up with a spanish friend of Jonathan, who lives in Vigo. She was happy to show us around, leading us to the most amazing viewpoints and presenting all of the cities light ornaments. She even was so kind to drive us to our Airbnb located in the next city, because all of the trains for the day were fully booked.


The next day we went back into the city and parted for the first part of the day. Ignoring the fact that I had to carry my maleta and my backpack with me, I walked up all the steps to the highest point of the city, a fortress in a beautiful park from where I had a fantastic view of the city. After that I met Jonathan again down at the harbour and we took the ferry to go to Cangas and were greeted once again by Jonathan's friend who offered us the opportunity to leave our luggage in her car and took us on a short hike.


This was by far my favourite part of our first half or traveling!

After walking up to "Monte de Facho" and seeing the beautiful land of Galicia below, we drove up to the other end of the promontory to explore a lighthouse and to be closer to the coast line. Eventhough it was very foggy that day we had a pretty good view and the water was very rough which I've always loved.
Also this type of weather is very typical for Galicia so we came prepared with rain jackets and warm clothes and our spirit wasn't crushed by the little rain we had up there.

Despues it was time for us to go to the train station for our trip to Santiago de Compostela. Of course we were unlucky enough to get stuck in traffic, so we jumped out of the car in the middle of the street and ran towards our train. Exactly three minutes before the departure we reached the station, but little did we know that you have to go through security before being allowed on the platform. So we missed the train. Frustrated we had to come to the realisation that all other trains for the day were once again fully booked. Luckily a very nice spanish bypasser offered to call the bus station for us to ask if there was another way for us to get to Santiago later that day. Turns out there was a bus departing half an hour later. Without hesistating we hailed a cab and made it to the station on time!

The first thing we did upon arrival was find a supermarket. Packed with our luggage and two more bags of groceries we walked up all the way through the narrow streets of Santiago towards our Airbnb. After a nice little cooking session in our freezing kitchen and a very weird encounter with our spanish-speaking and overly talkactive flatmate, it was time for us to go to bed.

The next day after sleeping in until 12:30' we made our way downtown. What we quickly grasped was the fact that Santiago de Compostela seemed to be at least as hilly as Vigo but also a lot prettier. The outside of the great cathedral (the inside was under construction and not completely accessible), the small tiendas and the strings of christmas lights spread between the houses of both sides of the small streets gave the city a homely and welcoming appeal. I loved every second of it. Loved going to the three-hour opera night in the local theatre, loved watching Los dos papas in the cinema the next day, loved the wine and hot chocolate we drank and the backpackers and soulsearchers we witnessed finishing the Camino. If there is one thing I would want you to take away from the blog, it's this: Santiago de Compostela is worth a visit and I would recommend going in winter to see the most beautiful christmas lights and not the waves of tourists that I'm sure will be overcrowding the strees during summertime.


Now on to the next stop: our On-arrival training in Coruña, Cantabria. The term "On-arrival training" seems to be a little ironic for the fact that I had been in spain for almost two month already, Jonathan for almost four. Nevertheless there were others that had just arrived days before the training so we were lucky in a sense to be quite prepared to talk about our work schedules, normal days in Spain and the problems that can occur when moving countries, dealing with insurances and the difficulties of making friends. The training was facilitated by former volunteers who are now working as mentors or youth workers for different organisations in Spain. Their aim was to teach us more about the spanish culture and how to be open to new experiences, what it means to be a european volunteer and how to live by european values, but most importantely it was their goal to help us make international friends and connect with other volunteers throughout Spain and Europe.

The whole experience was great. I've always loved meeting new people, hearing about their lives and beliefs and talking about our differences and similarities. Hearing the different perspectives of people from Finland, Estonia, Belarus, England, Denmark, France, Ukraine, Italy, Serbia, Poland and of course Austria and Germany  (there were probably more that I'm forgetting about at the moment) was once again enlightening and I'm feeling very grateful for being granted the opportunity to have this volunteering experience. Thanks, Cuerpo Europeo de Solidaridad!

That's it for today. Thank you for reading this blog entry. I'm very excited to see what the next ten month will have in stock for me.
Until the next entry, Feliz Navidad.

Karolina










EVERYDAY LIFE AND WORK SCHEDULE

¡Buenos días todos!

Time flies by so fast that I'll already be flying back to Germany for christmas break in two days. Life has been busy in España. But now that you can not see the trees for all the christmas lights in Logroño, it's time to give you a little life-update.

It's been about six weeks since my arrival here and I've started to get used to my everyday life abroad, including my work schedule and language classes. For the past ten days me and Jonathan have been travelling and completing our "on-arrival training" and it was nice to get some time off to explore my new temporary home: Spain.

A lo mejor it would be a good idea to give you an overview of my tasks at ON&OFF.


Every morning I go to work in the office from 9:00' to 13:00'. I have a list of task that need to be done, some more urgent than others,  and I can mostly decide for myself in what order I want to complete them. Today's most important task for me is to write this blog-entry. Not one day is the same so on other days I would probably need to scan and/or organise some documents first before heading down to the Almacén to create props for upcoming performances or to repair the ones that were damaged during rehearsals or plays. Often I have to go to surrounding stores to buy office material, snacks or (christmas) decorations. These little errands normally turn out to be more difficult than anticipanted because of the language barrier. It makes me sad not being able to hold a little chat with the local shop owners as I know very little spanish and they mostly won't know english. Nevertheless I appreciate these short encounters as they force me to test my spanish skills when asking for an invoice (always!) or an electric kettle (once). ¿Que más?


After lunch break (siesta) I have a different schedule every day:

On Moday I assist a dance teacher in a primary school near my home. Children in Spain start school earlier than in Germany, where it's normal to start by the age of six, so the class mainly consists of three and four year olds.
What felt very overwhelming and uncoordinated in the beginning, has started to turn into the biggest opportunity for me to get to know myself and my new language more. Now that I've learned some of the children's names it's easier for me to transform their concentrated energy into a fun coreography to their favourite Disney-songs.

On Tuesday I have a free afternoon but my I need to go to my curso de español in the evening. Jonathan and I are in a class with people from the USA, Romania, Taiwan, Germany and the Czech Republic. Our spanish levels within the class are quite different so the class feels alternately easy and hard for me.

Wednesday's we assist in another class in the same primary school I go to on Moday's. But this class includes children from the age of two to twelve and is supposed to be a theatre class. We're doing our best but it's hard to teach theatre techniques to this wide age range by using the same methods and games. That's why we sometimes divide the group and come up with performance ideas that are suitable for niños pequeños as well as niños mayores. Although it can be challenging, I feel like we're on the right track including everybody into our small performances.
In the evening Jonathan and I normally go to a Language Exchange in Logroño which is one of my favourite things to do around here. You get to meet people from Logroño who want to learn or perfect their English, as well as foreigners from all over the world who are studying spanish. That is always a good opportunity to make friends and to get your mind off of work.

On Thursday I come back into the office at 17:30' for some more "Volunteertasks" and our weekly volunteer meeting with our Mentor Laura, where we can discuss personal and professional matters. Afterwards it's time for spanish class again.

At the end of the week, on Friday, is my busiest day. I'm assisting in another theatre class in a different school with students aged eleven to twelve. The classes I'm assisting last 90 minutes and in this class the children are normally very energetic so it can be exhausting. Especially when I'm trying to understand what the activities are going to be or even facilitating a game in spanish. Afterwards I meet up with Jonathan and we walk over to the university where we help Silvia manage Arsido, a group consisting of people with down syndrom or other intellectual discapacities. It's always a lot of fun to work with the group but at 20:30' when the class is done I'm normally more than ready for bed.

Que guay! Now that you have a pretty good idea of my work life, I would love to come back to the past ten days of travels. Surprisingly this entry is very long already, that's why I decided to write about my trip to Vigo and Santiago de Compostela and of course the On-arrival training in the next entry. Gracias for reading up until this point and please continue reading the next article, if you're interested.

¡Hasta Luego! 


Karolina


FIRST FEW DAYS

Moin!

That`s how we greet each other in my hometown Hamburgo in Alemania. My name is Karolina and I will be an EVS volunteer at On&Off for the next twelve months. This is my first blog entry and I`m excited to share my first impressions of Logroño with you today. But let`s start from the beginning:

Saying goodbye to my family at the airport was the first moment I realised that this was really happening. The last months at home were spent waiting and hoping for the Spanish national agency to finally approve of the EVS-application made in February. Not knowing when I was going to be able to start my experience, the reality of moving out and going abroad seemed to move farther away with every morning waking up at home. But now at the airport, the realisation that this was actually happening, hit me and I couldn`t stop myself from feeling a little anxious. Luckily the flight went well and I arrived at Bilbao Airport on November 1st at 13:55´ with very heavy luggage, but an even lighter heart. After finding my way out of the building into the sticky warmth of this mid-autumn day, I took a bus into the city centre.

Driving through Bilbao felt like I was meeting an old friend. But I knew that for the city, I was a stranger. The streets, the people, all the different parks and buildings were familiar, because I had been to Bilbao before. But not knowing the language and the way of living made me feel disconnected.

I took the bus Jonathan (the other EVS Volunteer) suggested for me to take, and continued my way towards my final destination: Logroño. 
Feeling tired from the long journey, I took my assigned seat and looked out of the window. I don`t know why but I somehow didn`t expect there to be mountains in this part of Spain. Now looking to my left, I was reminded of Austria or the South of Germany with these giant rock constellations forming in front of my eyes. Outside of the opposite window, large vineyards, painted in yellow and red by autumns soft strokes, stretched across the land. As cheesy as it sounds, that was the first moment I truly felt blessed to be on this journey.

Rain welcomed me when I finally arrived in Logroño but it only helped wash away my sleepiness and I felt extremely excited to see my new temporary home for the first time. At the bus station a young man called Martín picked me up and brought me into his mother´s flat, where I also met Yanis, his sister.  She greeted me with a kiss on each cheek and I had never felt so Spanish before. My first evening was spent walking around the neighbourhood with Martín and having pizza con jamón y queso.

The next day I joined Yanis on a trip to the supermercado and in the afternoon Martín took the time to show me around the city, introducing me to some of his friends and showing me his favourite bar(s), as well as introducing me to the local street slang (you know what I´m talking about, primo!). 

I was surprised by all the different areas he showed me. I expected Logroño to be less modern in a way, because when you search for pictures on the internet you will most likely be confronted with photographs of the cathedral or the old city wall or the famous Calle Laurel, which is a tapas street also located in the old town. That night, enthusiastic about all the new places I had been shown but also exhausted from walking around all day, I slept peacefully until the next morning.

Since it was Sunday, there wasn´t much to explore for me. I let my body rest, started studying some more Spanish and walked around a park, which is a ten minute walk away from the apartment I´m staying in until we find a good flat for Jonathan and me. In the evening I drove with Martín to pick up his mother from the bus station. We had dinner together and talked about the upcoming weeks at work while trying to get to know each other and overcome the language barrier. Talking to the family and spending time with them was amazing. I even started feeling a little bit at home!