Monday, August 19, 2013

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.

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