25 Feb 2019

First month impressions

So it has been a little bit more than a month since I arrived to Georgia for my twelve month EVS. Must say, that so far I have had a pretty interesting and wonderful experience.
So let's start with the environment I'm living in. I've more or less comfortable with Rustavi now. Fixed a bike from scout center and took a ride all around the town. I know what Marshutka's to take to get to new Rustavi, as well the ones to come back to Batumi st. 22, where I live. Also I know which ones to take to get to Tbilisi, although not ones to come back, because I still haven't went there alone, but that's OK, I still have time.

This month we actually went to Gudauri with some other volunteers. There's not much to say about the experience other than that it was purely amazing and breath-taking. Love the mountains. I think I might revisit Gudauri some day, for sure.

Have had some dog encounters. One of which happened when I was trying to cycle up to the hill where the huge cross stands. Went around the highway with a bike as I noticed some guy with a stick, waving around and screaming something. Didn't think much of it, thought he was just some drunk guy, roaming around the mountains. Turns out he was a shepherd, completely sober and concerned about my life, as he was trying to warn me about his dogs. What happened was that as I continued pushing up the steep and got to the top, then, in a matter of 7 seconds, I got surrounded by 6 sheep dogs. From my experience with dogs, I knew I can't show fear, as dogs are extremely good at sensing fear in people, which may result in their aggressiveness. What I did was just stand still, with my head down, hands up, let them bark at me, sniff me. Stood still for about 20 seconds, then proceeded biking forwards, to apologize to the shepherd: "Bodishi", I said and told him that I couldn't hear the warning because of the wind. No need to say he was not very happy, but when I apologized, he calmed down. So then I went a bit further up the highway and realized there are more sheep ahead, which means more dogs, I decided to turn back and not continue my trip to the cross, since I was alone and didn't really have any self defense tools.I would consider myself kind of lucky, because who knows how the dogs would of acted if it weren't for their owner there. Crazy story, huh?

Locals- the best. Hospitality is off the charts. Already made some friends in bars like Omi (amazing place BTW, you should visit it) and Taoba.

The food is great. I enjoy Khikhali, Khachapuri, Kubdari and all the other delicious goods from the bakery, except Lobiani. No way, people who eat it, I congratulate you, but with all due respect- beans and bread don't go together. Facts. 

Wine- amazing. Have tried only Kindzmarauli so far tho. It's amazing and pretty cheap. Actually everything is like twice as cheap as it is in Latvia, which is another bonus for a northern European like me.

So another thing. Being a crazy uncontrollable circus freak that I am, I have already visited the hospital, oh yes indeed. What happened? Well, long story short- I fell from a bike in the night, trying to be bit too extreme in Meria, when it was slippery. Don't drink and drive kids, leave it to professionals- me, haha.
The service in the hospital was actually pretty good, I would say. The doctors seem a little more concerned about you, to the point where they actually seem paranoid of what might be wrong with you. Got an x-ray, they even checked my stomach for any inner bleeding. Gave me some painkillers, awesome, I asked for morphine, they wouldn't give me any, haha. Just kidding. Although I did ask them.
So now I'm healing a strained muscle in my upper left back. Still hurts a little bit after 2 weeks, but I should be fine after one or two more weeks.

Other than that I'm feeling great. Doing my "work" in GYE. I'm teaching juggling and rhythm, also I lead the chess club. All of these activities are more or less my passions so nothing to complain about, since by teaching the youngsters, I also improve myself in these fields. Plus I've always enjoyed teaching my skills to others. 

For the near future- I want to fix more bikes from the scout center, so other volunteers would also have this amazing way of transportation around Rustavi. Also would like to travel around Georgia more, because the nature seems otherworldly-beautiful.
For long term future- I want to make these "night rides" with bikes around Rustavi as a weekly event, on Fridays for example.
Also would like to build a freak-bike and get a unicycle.

All in all the first month has been a blast. With ups and downs, but positive overall. I'm sure I missed something, since time is passing so fast and it's hard to remember all the experiences. We'll see what the future brings. I want to get a skateboard, because the park of Rustavi has some marvelous flat-ground, as well as a skate park. We shall see.

Continue improving myself,
Progress daily,
Don't "work" too much,
Stay positive,
Jah, Rastafari!

Martins 'chuks' Piebalgs.

13 Feb 2019

Jurmala, Jurmala, EVS in Jurmala

My name is Salome Mtchedlishvili and I done my EVS in Latvia. Everything has happened really spontaneously. In summer 2018 I started to reevaluate things that I was doing in my life, my profession, my environment, daily routines and I realized that I was canned in a very narrow frame, everything I was doing was boring, I wasn’t gaining anything new, my life routine was just stepping on one and the same place.

I started to think what could I do to change the situation. Started googling, asking friends, about projects abroad.  I wanted to go far from my routine, out of my comfort zone. Then I remembered about EVS, which I was thinking to do when I was in my early 20-s but then I started a full-time job, and have forgotten about this program. So, I have remembered about it and then I asked one of my friends, who has done it twice, where could I find EVS vacancies, she sent me several links of Georgian sending organizations. I started checking vacancies, I saw a vacancy in Jurmala, Latvia, it was about working with youths and it sounded interesting, because I already had some experience in working with youngsters as a private teacher.

So, I applied, sent my CV, motivational letter and application form. I didn’t have big hopes, because I thought that younger applicants would have had higher chances but, soon, in a week as I remember, they wrote me an e-mail about skype interview. The interview went really well and about int 2 weeks they wrote to me that I was accepted and adventure has begun from that moment…

1st of August. Me and Nini, second volunteer, started out voluntary work, which was joyful, interesting, fun, a lot of new people, new experiences, everything was new and different. During August we worked for summer camp, in Jurmala. We were planning daily activities for youngsters 13-15-year kids. We were playing on the beach, I and Nini taught them games we used to play when we were at their age. Summer was pleasant, sunny but not hot weather, so playing and swimming with them on the beach was not working but a long-term vacation.
At the end of August, I and Nini had on arrival training with other volunteers from all over Latvia. And I had an amazing 5 days. I met amazing people and made new friends there from different countries. Our daily routine was non-formal training, we were discussing the benefits of EVS, how to plan the project, how to brainstorm, how to communicate locals. We also made a project together in the local city, our goal was to communicate with local people and spread the positivity.  We made to boxes one, full of apples (Latvia is full of apples) and one full of wishes and we were giving pedestrians apples and wishes (wishes were written in Latvia ofc) these five days I spend there with other volunteers were one of the best during my voluntary work.

From September our office work has started, but it was fun as well. First of all, the office was so cool. Walls and ceiling were decorated with graffiti. We had a colorful couch and a football table. This place was a favorite place for youngsters and we had to make it more interesting by planning interesting events and activities. My first project was a Movie night club. We watched movies, ate popcorn and had fun together, it was kind of fun activity to cheer youngsters up after tiring school day. Sometimes I and Nini were collaborating and planning things together. So, at the end of October, we organized a Halloween party with a local school. It was so fun. We made decorations with our own hands.  Youngsters really liked it, and on the annual youth day it was named as the best event planned by our center and I am so proud and happy because of this.

During 6 months we have planned many small projects, such as DIY workshops, painting on jeans, a workshop about social media.  Also, I and Nini were involved in events which were planned by the center, mostly we were dealing with decorating events, which was really fun. Also, we were teaching Georgian language and once Nini made Khachapuri making workshop, the center was full of youngsters. My last and biggest project was a Photo contest, the theme of this contest was the breakfast club (named after the movie, with the same title) my goal was to make youngsters think about something really important, teenager life issues and think, how to visualize their thoughts. After announcing we had a movie night and discussion about key points of the movie. We had an exhibition of the work of finalists and awarding in Jurmala’s museum. All finalists received diplomas and the winner was awarded by Fujifilm Instax mini camera, also we wrote about him in the local newspaper.
You might think that volunteering is only about being in the city you have to do your voluntary work, but no… one of the best parts of volunteering is traveling around in the neighboring countries and inside the country, visiting other volunteers in their cities, meeting new people, having fun and memorable moments.

Salome's hosting organisation is Jūrmala Children and Youth Interest Center

Project supported by Erasmus Plus programm - European Voluntary Service 

Life changing EVS in Italy!

My name is Nino Kurtanidze. EVS gave me an opportunity to live and work in another country in a totally different situation. I were eager to take part in the project because I knew it could give me personal growth, new skills, and different life experience except studying and daily routine. I was volunteer in non-profit organization which hold a country house for educational and environmental activities in Rome suburb-Aniene Valley.
I prepared rooms for the groups and restored area around the structure.I had opportunity of gardening and helping professional cookers in the kitchen to prepare traditional Italian food for for the guests. I did morning yoga, gymnastics, guiding in the nature and some adventurous activities with the scout kids. I helped educators to work with refugee guys.

With the team I planned some programmes and excursions for foreign group. I’ve got workshop of fixing bicycles and took part in the project of Google Trekking. Also I had an exchange with another organization where I worked  in the donkey farm with disabled people. And it was awesome to see how much work they have done to rise plants and make art around the farm. In the project I was free to introduce my ideas and use imagination for personal activities. I did upcycling of old furniture. I managed the page of the organization and wrote articles for the EVS blog. I got chance to be volunteer at festival in another region where I worked in the bar and Italian restaurant where I met amazing spirit of Italian people,volunteers and became the part of their team.
After getting a lot of experience in hospitality I was able to manage activity programmes, budget and groups arrival alone.
Most part of my project was about hosting different groups. Most exciting and beautiful thing I remember is that I felt myself like their family member. That was the sweetest thing while being far away from my home country. We discussed problems and share our thoughts and emotions.
I think all days was particular with the experience. But for sure funny moments was connected to food and coffee in Italy. Before the project I loved to enjoy my life with the big cup of Americano. But after arriving in Italy I figure out my pleasure time was so short with shot of Espresso. Then I found solution to order Cappuccino to make it longer or I just used to drink lot of Espresso like I got headaches :D <3
There is so much to say but to sum up that six month of EVS was exploration of myself, getting my goals and setting new ones, getting and sharing lot of love, having new friends and awesome memories, becoming the part of amazing thing called volunteer world. That project gave me the chance to work and travel together that helped to make difference more and enjoy my stay. At the end motivation is number 1!

Nino was hosted by TAVOLA ROTONDA – IL CASONE 
Coordinating organisation A RUOTA LIBERA ONLUS

Project is funded by Erasmus Plus programm - European Voluntary Service.