Monday, August 19, 2013

On-arrival seminar in the rocky mountain Treehouses

We were invited to join the short-term EVSers for their on-arrival seminar at the treehouses in the mountains and I wasn't sure what to expect as we set off in Filaretos' car. Singing Irish songs to beat the band, we took in ever-more amazing views of Kalamata and the Messinian bay with every wind of the ascending mountain road.

As we neared, Filaretos pointed across to the shape of an amphitheatre in the distance. "That's where we're going" he said. The mystery deepened; treehouses and amphitheatres?! Nice one. When we arrived we descended the stairs into a seemingly different world, it was like we were stepping back in time.
We were greeted by our EVSers-in-arms, who were from Croatia and France, and our gracious hosts, had a few chats and settled in.

After a while we got started with the seminar. It was all about EVS, general information and it's practicalities. Although this seminar was primarily for the short-term EVS volunteers, as our 'official' one is on in September in Athens, Fotini and Filaretos felt it would be a good experience for us and I'm glad they did. The first activity was about our fears and expectiations regarding EVS. A straightforward enough concept but very necessary to discuss. After we affixed our post-its to the flipchart Fotini and Filaretos talked about all of them in turn, reassured us and clarified what we were to experience over the next 10 months. The next activity was Mission Impossible. Here we were assigned an number of tasks to be completed in an almost-equal number of minutes! These tasks included: compose a group song, make a poster for the group, find 10 differences and 10 similarities between all the countries represented in the group, gather things from around the camp that began with each letter of the alphabet, make a group dance and make a list of everyone's favourite food, colour and artist. Everything had to be done as a team, no delegation here! Everything went well apart from the song and dance! But the craic was good and loosened us all up a bit! After lunch, the short-term EVS volunteers made shelves for their tents and us long-haulers made bread. LOTS of bread! Sotirios and Panayota made dinner and the food was amazing. Cooked in a homemade oven which sat outside the main house that was built by Sotirios 4 years ago. He's some man for one man! After dinner we watched the sunset beautifully over Kalamata and the Messinian bay. 
After dark the sky was amazing. The view of the Milky Way and the multitude of stars was something I had never seen before. Wished on a few shooting stars and played a dice game where I got my arse horribly kicked! No beginners luck for me. 

On the second day, as I dealt with my incessant sleepiness, others had to deal with mosquito bites on account of their seemingly tasty blood! After breakfast we discussed EVS mentors, what they are and their roles. We were split into two groups and asked our knowledge artistically. Our group did a comic strip featuring an elephant like Dumbo  teaching birds to how to fly. Cheesy, cute and succinct in equal measure! We were then introduced to our rights and responsibilities as EVS volunteers. We were again split into two groups, one rights and the other responsibilities. We were asked to make a dramatic presentation of what our rights and responsibilities are. This was followed by an explanation and a clearing up of a few minor misunderstandings.  
After a tasty lunch prepared by Panayota and Sotirios (with a little help from us!) we discussed the youth pass and the 8 key competences. We were asked to take post-its and put our projects on the relevant competences. After a discussion and a promise to be introduced to the fax machine we chilled and hung out for a bit before leaving. We packed up, bade our goodbyes, exchanged numbers and made our merry way back to Kalamata on a promise to return. And return I certainly shall. 

Welcome to the Hotel Kalamata

Dia dhaoibh! Fiachra McKeever is ainm dom agus είμαι από την Ιρλανδία.

So.... my first days in Kalamata have been fairly intense. From the moment Dorian, Hippolyte and Melina collected me and Lina from the bus station up until now my mind has been flooded with fresh sights, new faces, crippling heat and frappes.

Being from Ireland, where all we talk about is the weather, the first thing that hit me (like a ton of bricks!) was the heat! Although I had mentally prepared as much as one could, my pale skin was in no way ready for the desert highway it was to experience. With any luck, before the end of my tenure here, all my freckles will join together and I'll be bronzing nicely! Once I got over the heat my attention quickly turned to other things. I noticed how friendly and smiley the people here are. Very nice, keen to help in any way and also in possession of a great sense of humour!  

When we got to the apartment, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it. And the fact that there were balconies! "I could definitely get used to this!" I thought! After Dorian took us for food at M.a.m we went to the youth centre for a going away party for some of the other EVS volunteers who had been here. There I met a whole host of friendly and animated people, all having great craic. We drank beer and Irish whiskey and I went home at some unholy hour in an equally unholy state! Καλώς ήλθατε στην Καλαμάτα o Fiachra!!

When we got to the apartment, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of it. And the fact that there were balconies! "I could definitely get used to this!" I thought! After Dorian took us for food at M.a.m we went to the youth centre for a going away party for some of the other EVS volunteers who had been here. There I met a whole host of friendly and animated people, all having great craic. We drank beer and Irish whiskey and I went home at some unholy hour in an equally unholy state! Καλώς ήλθατε στην Καλαμάτα o Fiachra!!

For the first few days Dorian, an EVS volunteer from the south of France, showed us the sights and sounds of Kalamata. He lit up a candle and showed us the way to the miles and miles of beach (a good man is Dorian!) as we soaked up the sun. We attended an anti-fascist gathering in the park next to the railroad cars, apparently quashing a Golden Dawn gathering that was supposed to be happening at the same time in the same place, met some nice new people, drank some beer and sampled some fruity ouzo. All in all a really nice, relaxing introduction to Kalamata and a beautiful few days.

But then of course, some 'work' had to be done. We had to go up to the mountains to a beautiful place with treehouses, an amphitheatre, breathtaking views of the city (and at night - the galaxy), nice people, gorgeous home-cooked Greek food and some good craic thrown in for good measure. Woe is me! :P All this was for the on-arrival seminar for the short-term EVS volunteers who were staying at the treehouses, and we were asked to participate also. It was 2 days of non-formal learning on the topic of EVS and it's practicalities. It was a lovely 2 days - see dedicated article!

We were also introduced to the youth centre. The office itself is an inviting place - a glass wall covered in colourful pictures from different events, projects and activities organised by the youth centre. We sat outside, enjoying the vibe of the square, playing guitar before siesta, inhaling iced coffee. Happy days. In the seconf week we were told we need a tour of the city and Bjartur was assigned as our tour guide. He instructed us to be at the youth centre at 10am Greek-time and he'd show us around; all the things we needed to see, and maybe some things we didn't! He showed us the castle, the old revolutionary church - where Greek independence was won, some lovely places for coffee, the bus routes, and other useful places to know like the Greek equivalent to IKEA, the Post Office and the bike shop.

After almost a week and a half in Kalamata I can say that I'm definitely getting used to the weather and am beginning to feel at home here. I've already met some fantastic people and I dread to think of how difficult it will be to leave. But as they say: we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, so I've to enjoy every day here as much as I can. Welcome to the Hotel Kalamata, such a lovely place, such a lovely face. Plenty of room at the Hotel Kalamata, what a nice surprise, come all my alibis! 

Erika's First Days in Kalamata

I come from Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I am 25 years old and am currently in the process of finishing university. In a few months I expect to graduate with a degree in Philosophy and English language, which will enable me to become a teacher of these two subjects in the future. My main interests outside university are art and sustainable development.
One of the reasons why I chose Greece as the country of my EVS long—term exchange is the fact that I am half Greek and  have long had the desire to learn more about the country of my family's origin, experience the life here, and learn to speak the language well.
In my ten months in Kalamata I will do my best to contribute to the local community as much as possible. From September on you will be able to find me facilitating a yoga workshop at the Youth Center as well as offering Slovene and English language lessons. Another project I plan to realize during my stay here is a cycle of socially and politically engaged documentary movie nights as a way to raise awareness regarding neoliberal practises that directly affect European citizens in their every—day lives.
Let the adventure begin!

Den kanei krio stin Ellada 

The first thing I noticed as I descended from the bus at the Kalamata bus station late in the evening was definitely the flush of heavy hot air that at once enveloped me from all sides. My bus arrived almost half an hour too early, which took me by surprise. I looked around, made sure that it was really Kalamata where I was and then texted Fotini, the coordinator of my EVS project, as it had been previously agreed. Then I sat on my suitcase and observed the people slowly leaving the station until a local volunteer from the Youth Center came to pick me up. I immediately recognized him as he was holding a paper with my name on it. After we introduced ourselves, he kindly offered to help me with the suitcases on the way to what was going to be my new home for almost a year. Since the walk took about 20 minutes, there was enough time to exchange some first impressions about the city and a little conversation about ourselves, what we do, the Youth Center and its activities. I was also explained that the reason for the heat is high humidity in the air and that one gets used to it after a while. Albeit slightly skeptical, I decided to believe this to be true. 

When we arrived to the house, there were many people there already. They were sitting on the terrace, chatting, listening to the music and preparing dinner. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. Apart from me and Giorgos, the volunteer that brought me from the station, there was also a girl from Lithuania, another girl from Germany, two French guys, and one more from Ireland. I got introduced to everyone and was shown my room, where I left my bags before joining everybody on the balcony. The French were the ones cooking and I must say it was incredibly lovely to be welcomed with a nice French dinner and a glass of cold wine. Everything was still new, yet I was somehow already starting to feel comfortable and homey. 

Although I enjoyed the first evening in my new home, the heat and the tiredness from the long travel were probably the factors that most contributed to the fact that I got almost no sleep the first night. I kept waking up restless and falling back into nervous sleep with the fan next to my bed rhythmically turning from one side to the other, providing steady but sarcastic company. Towards the morning as the day was dawning, I tried to ignore the noise of the garbage collectors outside, and the idea that everybody else in the house except me was sleeping and enjoying a good rest while I was lying awake was making me really frustrated. However, it was just around this time that I finally sunk into a good sleep, the sunbeams gently entering through the window and lighting up both my mood and the room.

My first morning in Kalamata started with a light breakfast and a stroll down to the Youth Center together with two other EVS volunteers from the house. We had a meeting there and were presented the plan for the following days. After the meeting we headed to the beach, which was the highlight of the day. It felt great to be able to finally cool down, be carried by the waves for a while and then relaxing on the sand. There was an anti-fascist gathering organized by some volunteers of the Youth Center taking place later that evening, which we attended to show support and experience the social activity in the city. It was a nice event and we stayed there until about 1 in the morning.

The next two days were spent in an eco village in the mountains that surround Kalamata. We had an on—arrival seminar there, learning about the formalities and theoretical background of EVS. The two days were spent with a group of short—term EVS volunteers, whose project is to build tree houses in the village and learn about environmental sustainability. The seminar was fun and interactive and I especially liked the fact that it was held in the beautiful environment, where we were surrounded by nature. There were fruit trees and herbs everywhere I looked and in the evening we had home—cooked dinner under the most beautiful sky I have ever seen. The stars above us were shining and twinkling like countless diamonds. It was a great start to what is hopefully going to be an unforgettable year.

Melina: My first days in Kalamata! :)

Hi everybody!
My name is Melina, I'm from Germany and I started the EVS programme just two weeks ago. In this time it happend already a lot so this is just a short sum-up of my first days in Kalamata! :)

So the 5th of August 2013 was my arrival date and I arrived at 21:00 at the airport in Kalamata. Expecting to take a taxi or go by  bus I was really surprised to see Fotini and Jelena picking me up. We drove directly to my new flat directly at the beach. There was already a lot going on. My new flatmate Bjatur was celebrating his birthday and  so I already met a lot of new people in my first night! Next to all my new flatmates, I also met other volunteers and some greek locals. They were all very nice and integrated me immediatley in their community!
I was surprised that my flatmates are all male and one of them is german. So there was no traffic in the bathroom and I had a german introduction in Kalamata that made it a little bit easier for me.  
The next day I visited the Youth Center for the first time, were I met the short term volunteers of the street festival.  In the late afternoon we picked two new volunteers up - Fiachra and Lina. In the evening there was a party in the Youth center because some of the short term volunteers were leaving. The next days we spent a lot of time in the city, at the beach or just eating. Then came Erika, the last new volunteer in August.

 At Thursday we already had our first trip. We went to the project of Tree Houses in the mountains. There a lot of new short term volunteers were expecting us eagerly because they were so isolated and needed to meet new people. At the Tree Houses we had our first on-arrival- seminar and we were taught by Fotini and Filaretos themselves. We worked a lot in a group and got to know eachother by funny games. In the afternoon the long term volunteers – like me – tried to bake some bread that took us a long time to become like it should be. Finally it became a really big and tasty bread. The boss of the Tree Houses area was Sotirios a really nice guy who takes a lot of care of his voluntary sheeps. In the evening we had a great meal in the amphitheatre with very special greek music. The atmosphere was just great. We slept in a open tent that’s why I woke up with so many mosquito bites in my whole face. The worse were four bites directly at my eye that became so big. But thanks to Sotirios’ natrual medicine it became better. The next day our trip came already to the end.


And so we started a new one: Poliminio – Waterfalls. On Saturday we went to a place full of tiny and big waterfalls. We went by bus and walked around one hour to the swimming place. It was very rocky and difficult to climb but we had a lot of fun. On our way home we just took a short break at a very nice tavern and ate really tasty souflakia and mousaka that was our motivation for the whole way.

Now we are already planing our next trip during our free days this week! :)


Lina's first days in Kalamata

I arrived on Monday evening. In Athens I met another volunteer, he is from Ireland. His name is Fiachra. It was nice to meet him. From Athens we traveled together, it was much easier and more fun, but still the last part of the journey from Athens to Kalamata was really very tiring. In Kalamata we were greeted by two French gentlemen, who helped to reach our flat. Later we joined the party in the Youth Center. There was a lot of volunteers from previous projects that are ending now. It was nice that we had the oportunity to meet them, even if it was only one evening. So my first day was really very long, tiring, but with a lot of excitement.

The days and nights are really very hot in Kalamata. So the next day, after we got the maps of Kalamata we went to the beach. The water was really very good. In the evening the volunteer from Slovenia – Erika – has arrived and the French gentlemen made a wonderful dinner for us. The day after we also had some meetings at the Youth Center and tried to find and remember our way home. In the evening we joined a party in the park, which was against nazism in Kalamata.

On Thursday and Friday we had a small on-arrival training course in “tree houses” somewhere in the mountains. There we met other short-term volunteers. It was a really wonderful place. Apart from the on-arrival course we tried Greek food, and some games. At night there were so many stars in the sky. More than I had ever seen before. It was amazing. The number of ants in our tent was just as impressive, but they turned out to be quite polite and by the morning, they left the tent only for us.

When we came back from tree houses the next day we went to the Polilimnious waterfalls and lakes. It was also a wonderful and amazing all-day trip. There we saw a small Greek village and could feel the small impression of Greek life. On Saturday evening all volunteers from the tree houses came to visit us in Kalamata. We showed them around the city that we already found by ourselves – including the beach. The next day – Sunday  it was a day for relaxation.
From Monday we started our work in Youth Center to full-fill a lot of forms and documents. Everything is new and unusual.

Monday, August 12, 2013

People come & go - let the creativity flow!

The year have passed so fast and already more than a week new volunteers have been able to wonder around lovely Kalamata!

We all say big warm HELLO to ALL of YOU!!

Welcome to Kalamata guys! We hope you will like here.

Volunteers from last year

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

EVS year though volunteers eyes

Our volunteers have managed to capture their year in Kalamata to video. Here is what they say about it! It's a bit more artistic & we hope you will enjoy it!

Let us briefly explain what is this video-artistic conception all about... ! 
During EVS time all of us are feeling, living through various amount of emotions, situations, periods and so does the idea to create something abstractive enough & still easy to understand and free for interpretation appeared!
It is a stream through-out the EVS daily life with a main pressure point on how "myself" deals with new surrounding, challenges, difficulties, negative/positive aspects, small details, big standpoints, different values, various issues, etc ... !

We wish to thank all our EVS fellows we have met during this time, mentors, locals, our coordinators Fotini and Filaretos and there are many more who are worth the credit! THANK YOU!

So enjoy the video and we hope You will like it!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

LiNK nr. 43 Epilogue of 7th Street Festival of Kalamata

STREET FESTIVAL - 3rd day - Theater Day

SUNDAY 28th July

The third day of the festival was devoted to miscellaneous kinds of performances ranging from 
pantomime and stilt walking to aerial dance. As during the previous days visitors could again watch tricks performed by young skates, get on a climbing wall, explore photography exhibition and stands with hand-made jewelery, find some pretty garments at gift bazaar or buy refreshments in the bar.
Apart from all those attractions, on Sunday you could admire additionally posters sent to KANE by various organizations dealing with problems of discrimination, racism, homophobia or women abuse.
The organizers of Street Festival place much importance on diversity, that is the reason why we could see also kinds of art, that are not usually connected with street art. Artists read randomly chosen poems of writers from Kalamata and Nobel Prize winner Giorgos Seferis whose lyric expresses a deep feeling of Hellenic culture. Listening to those verses one could notice that poetry is simple and understandable for everybody.
The exact main stage program was not known until last minutes before the start. The program started with dance show prepared by an international group of EVS volunteers. They were skillfully changing from one style to another: swing, salsa and tango. Several other dance groups prepared amusing shows: salsa group, Fame Dance Academy, Just Dance. We could hear as well soft voices of the Choir of the Youth Center and watch Jimmy who performed popping - a special kind of street dance.
Street Festival hosted several clowns and circus groups especially attractive for children, and a juggling show.
The most interesting point of the night was show prepared by participants of the Youth Exchange “Peace, Love & Unity”. The show began at staircase with youngsters singing such hits as “We will rock you” and “Samba de Janeiro”. Then accompanied by special light effects which created a sense of mystery there was a dance telling a story of a princess and warriors. Following stilt walking man who was spreading money we reached next point. Three girls presented breath-taking acrobatics on trapeze and one man was dancing on a rope. Silk climbing was also impressive and caused shivers to go through my body while watching it. Subsequently we came back to the main stage, where we observed several dance shows including French-Portuguese break dancing group – although they met only a week ago, they were dancing as if they known each other for years. In the background there were constantly people with slogans encouraging fight with racism and discrimination – this year’s topic of the festival.
It’s impossible not to mention astounding fire show featuring Polish ethnic electronica music. Light circles were rhythmically moving in the air and stimulating imagination of the viewers.
The festival turned out to be - not surprisingly - a huge success. Thousands of people from Kalamata and surroundings were crouching on the hill slopes in the park and enjoying the cheerful atmosphere of the event. Street festival is definitely getting better and better from year to year!

STREET FESTIVAL - 2nd day - Hip-Hop Day

SATURDAY 28th July

Second day of the Street Festival was connected with this what comes to our mind, when we think about street art. Hip hop? Graffiti? Skating? Yes! But also much much more.

During  the “Hip Hop Day” which took place on Saturday, 27th of July, almost 3000 people visited park and enjoyed positive and artistic atmosphere created by volunteers and artists from Greece and different parts of the world.  Everything started like every day on central part of park, specially prepared for skates and BMX.  Youngsters from Kalamata could use it and present their skills in skating. At 6 p.m. graffiti artist from city and guests from France started prepare its pieces of arts. Viewers could observe whole process of creating graffiti in more than 10 spots in different parts of the railway park.
As Street Festival is not a commercial festival, but is created by active citizens, very important part of it have been social projects. One of them was an art installation, final result of project “Step”. Through an open call immigrants from all over the world - regardless of age or sex - wrote down their thoughts and ideas connected with word “step”. These were collected and “dressed” the tent which was used after the earthquake in Kalamata. It stood  as a symbol of safety and protection. Viewers could visit this tent and as well as express their thoughts and  then sew them with red string to the tent.

Another important action was project “RE:Think”. This artistic and social project aims at raising awareness for the city of Kalamata. A part of this initiative is to create improvised composters in home and neighborhood and thanks to the effort of the network in the county composting in the Municipality of Kalamata, which already operates a pilot phase. Part of the project are also workshops, in which authors learn how to use recycled materials for various aims. During the festival, in wagon which belongs to the project’s authors, there was an exhibition of everyday things  created during workshops made with cans, wood, paper, plastic and even pasta. Authors of the project were open to talk about their job and mission. They claimed that they participate in Street Festival, because on one hand they want to promote their activity, on the other, they want to take part in the event, which gives the local community a possibility to gather and use their social space in creative and active way.

Second day of course could not exist without music and dance. And because of that, on the festival stage we could see and hear local and international MCs like Eisovelas from Athens and Kazdall from France and participants of Youth Exhange “Love, Peace and Unity” Zakari also from France. Portugal and French participants of YE and local dancers gave a great break dance show.

Hip hop day, was just like this music genre, full of energy. Concerts gathered a lot of people and it was really nice to watch a crowd around the stage. There was a great music  and a lot of fun. What is more there was a place for active social project. And it is one of the reasons why Street Festival is itself a fantastic social project as well.

STREET FESTIVAL - 1st day - Rock Day

FRIDAY 28th July

After a lot of preparations it was finally time for the Street Festival. All the volunteers were very excited and also the visitors were enthusiastic. The railway park turned into a festival area where you could enjoy music, acts, bazaars, … . Happy people were wondering around everywhere to see what was going on. The first day was immediately a big success and it was like that all the days of the festival.
Young or old, into music or not, people just passing by, … everybody definitely  found something they liked. The festival is very accessible, so you could see different types of people, which made it interesting to just observe everybody.

In the gift bazaar you could find free clothes (women, man and children), there were a lot of clothes and most of the people who stopped by also found something. There were retro clothes, clothes for theme parties, sportive clothes, city clothing, casual clothes, nightwear, … . I’m sure we made a lot of people happy with their new wardrobe, some of them even put on their new conquests right away.
In the bar everybody was working hard to make sure the visitors didn’t have to wait too long for their drinks and arms were sacrificed to keep the drinks cold in a large tub filled with ice cubes, after a few hours of taking cans out of the tub it was hard to feel the difference between warm and cold. But no festival without drinks of course.

In the skatepark everybody could show their tricks and moves to the others. Young and old visitors brought their skeelers, skateboards and bmx’es to show the others what they could do. We saw a lot of impressing things.  Next to the skatepark there was a climbing wall for children. The red cross stayed around just in case something would happen, luckily nobody got seriously injured.

On the stage rock-bands were blowing away the audience with their great music. You could hear the music on all the other spots in the festival-area, so you could for example try on some clothes while listening to the music. A lot of people also gathered in front of the stage to be sure not to miss anything from the concert.

The first day set the trend for the rest of the days, after this successful day everybody was tired but happy and ready for the other days to come.