Trips After Trips

Ahoj!

I can’t believe I’m saying these words but November has been lovely. The weather has been unusually warm and surprisingly sunny for my standards, it’s not my normal November that is full of darkness, sleet and sadness.

This month, I barely stayed at home. I managed to go to Ljubljana and travel a bit around Slovenia, I went to Dublin, discovered more of Bratislava, visited three Christmas markets in the same weekend – Bratislava, Vienna and Budapest –, and the last weekend of the month was reserved for revisiting Banská Štiavnica. I met some old friends and made some new, distracted the underlying dread of uncertainty with joyous moments, put a lot of effort into being present and cherishing every moment.

 

Ljubljana

I’d been thinking of  doing a week-long trip to Slovenia for a couple of months, perhaps since September. I asked around for suggestions and did my research but I didn’t have anyone to go with. After some hesitation, Elena finally agreed to join me on this adventure. It turned out to be only four days long instead of a week but it doesn’t matter, it was still the best trip this year. Let me tell you why.

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We arrived in the afternoon of October 31st. In previous years, I’ve boycotted the imported American holiday since in Estonia, we already have two very similar ones in November (mardipäev and kadripäev). However, this time I didn’t care. I was abroad and I was going to enjoy it and have fun with Halloween. Elena and I met two girls in the hostel from Spain and Slovakia and invited them with us to explore the spooky streets of Ljubljana. There was a zombie walking down the main shopping street, I was indeed spooked by it. We went to Metelkova, an alternative artsy part of the city. I wasn’t enjoying it too much, the company there was kind of random and it was cold so around 23, Elena and I decided to head to a retro disco at the Orto Bar. Well, that was the best decision of the night! We had so much fun just dancing nonstop for three hours to the beat of the best tunes until we were exhausted and went back to sleep at the hostel.

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The next morning, we went on a free walking tour. Our guide was super cute and told us interesting stories about the city. 🙂 I learned how dragons became the symbol of Slovenia and how Ljubljana got its name.

 

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In the afternoon, after devouring a couple of delicious dumplings, we headed up to the hill to take a peek of the castle. It was cloudy and a little bit windy yet we managed to capture a few nice photos.

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It was around 5-ish when we decided to go and rest a little bit in the hostel after spending the whole day outdoors. We were sitting in the common room, saw again the Spanish girl who was waiting for her evening train, and made some tea for ourselves. There were exactly three teabags left for us to use.

Why is this detail so important? Well, once we’d been brewing our teas for a couple of minutes, two young men approached us and asked if they could reuse our teabags. The initiation sparked a conversation which led to them joining us at our table which led to some jokes which led to, unexpectedly, Elena and I ditching our plan to visit lake Bled the next day and instead deciding to go on a road trip with the guys. Two P(i)eters, one from the Netherlands and one from Slovenia. Some would say it’s not the smartest move but we had each other and the guys seemed decent so I felt rather safe to join them on the adventure.

The next morning, we looked around at the market while the Slovenian Peter, the mastermind behind the whole trip, juggled between delivering bread and organising transportation for the trip.

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I still don’t know where exactly the place we went to was. We were six people in a car made for five. The Dutch Pieter was laying on top of Elena, Hugo (from France) and I in the back. Our driver was Sanja from Slovenia and next to her sat Peter.

We were going to visit a man who has two medieval churches and the ruins of a castle in his backyard. He brews his own beer and plans to make the place a centre for medieval practices and lifestyle. He showed us the weapons and clothes, fed us, gave us drinks – really welcomed us warmly.

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I was sitting there in the cottage, cosy, well fed, happy, so grateful for everything that had led my life to that moment. Full of gratitude. ♥♥♥

In the evening, most people wanted to go swimming in the hot springs and then spend the night at the cottage. I hesitated but after a little bit of thinking, went along with the plan. I didn’t dip into the water myself but I did join the rest of the crazy group on the drive. A part of me wishes I had joined them in the water yet another part knows that it just wasn’t the right moment and state of mind for me. It is okay not to be okay.

The night was fun interesting. I woke up 4 in the morning to a bitter smell and loud blowing. Apparently, Slovenian Peter was trying to revive the fire in the fireplace as it had started dying. The whole house was full of smoke. We had to open all of the windows. I had to relocate my sleeping place because it was right next to a window. Elena was cold. I gave my blanket to her and grabbed a very thick one for myself.

We survived.

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In the morning, we were supposed to check out from the hostel at 10. We were one and a half hours late. But hey, they were super nice and even allowed us to take a shower before checking out. Thank you AdHoc Hostel!

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The more the merrier! From the left: Pieter, Merike, Elena, Hugo
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Peter

Before we had to leave for the bus, we had lunch together, and Peter was super sweet and bought us ice cream. 🙂 Maybe he was bribing us with food, maybe he was just being nice. One or the other, I’m sold. 😀

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Time to go home, bye bye Slovenia!
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Elena, Peter, Merike, Hugo, Pieter – Next Level Slovenian Discovery gang

 

Back in Bratislava… One day I made a quiche and Ivan approved it. I’m proud of myself! 😛

 

UFO

There is a viewing tower and a cafe on top of the SNP bridge which looks like a UFO. Elena’s friend was visiting and they wanted to go so Ivan and I tagged along. I never went before because it costs quite a bit. But the company was lovely so it didn’t matter. And the view was great!

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Dublin

This is a destination that I’d been thinking about for quite a while. I have a Slovenian friend there, Ernest. And in spring, another friend from Croatia, Jelena, moved to Dublin. I actually bought the plane ticket in the bus on the way to Ljubljana, and booked the hostel on the way back. I knew it was going to be expensive but here’s my thought process – next year I will probably find a stable job. I will not have such freedom to go just anywhere. I would have to postpone this dream for a few years. Maybe something unexpected will happen and I don’t get to go for longer than I hope. I do have the time now and I have some backup money that I can earn back. I’ve never been careless with money. Besides, money comes and goes but the memories stay.

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Lena took this photo and let me be the tourist. We went for Asian food and a beer. It’s always a delight to meet her! ♥

The first morning in the hostel, I was having breakfast and discussing my plans for the weekend with some people from my room. One German girl agreed to join me at the zoo since the weather was super nice. Incredibly, it barely rained during the whole trip.

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Why pay for a photo if you can take a photo of the photo? 😀

There were sooooo many animals and it took us 3.5 hours (including half an hour at the gift shop) to see everything. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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In the evening, though only briefly, I met Ernest. Last time we met it was summer and I was visiting him in Ljubljana. It was 3.5 years ago, wow. But it doesn’t feel so long at all. We have Skype and snail mail to thank for it. 🙂

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Every day I walked past it on my way from the hostel to the centre.

 

The next morning, again at breakfast, I met two guys from Switzerland and France. I was planning to go on the free walking tour and invited them to join me. They did!

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After the tour, I hung around with them for a bit, peeked in the national gallery and then went shopping on my own for a bit. I hadn’t booked a bed at the hostel for the last night so my plan was to chill at the hostel until the last transfer bus to the airport and spend the night at the airport. It was actually quite fun, the guys came back to the hostel and we were just chilling in the kitchen listening to retro music until about 23. Then they went to a party and I tried to catch my bus.

The thing was, my bus didn’t arrive. Nor did the next one. I was panicking a little bit and sent everyone messages about being stranded with my bags in the middle of Dublin. I tried to refresh good old Google Maps and luckily it showed me an alternative connection to the airport. I ran. Probably was almost run over a car. Not sure. But I made it to the bus. I think it was the last one that was going before morning.

So yeah, by midnight I was “happily” in the airport and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible to survive the night.

I made it.

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View from the Dvory bus stop. Imagine, it’s November 17 and the trees look like this!

 

Christmas Market Tour

What does the end of November approaching mean? It means that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and that Christmas markets are opening one by one. Or maybe all at the same time, not sure. Anyway. I wanted to see as many as possible and somehow I managed to fit visiting three of them into one weekend.

Bratislava

We went after Morgane’s workshop to see the opening and lighting the tree. On the picture there’s Olga, Morgane, Elena and me.

Vienna

Elenka came with me as a last minute plan. The reusable cups we sooooo cute!

 

Budapest

This one was a two-day trip. We went to Budapest in spring but the weather was awful. I didn’t see everything I wanted to in May so I decided I’ll go again.

I’ve never travelled alone like this. Usually there’s someone waiting for me at the destination or I have a companion. This time it was just me. I was the only one responsible for my entertainment. And you know what, even though I was out of my comfort zone, I realised that it’s really true what Yeats said: “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” Again, I met people at the hostel. I met people just walking into a bar and listening to a live band. I met people at a party. It was great! The only thing I sometimes missed was someone taking photos of me. 😀 And again, I was so lucky with the weather.

Dynamite Dudes

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Hostel Vitae – same place as last time, new staff, new people

 

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The time of saying goodbye is slowly approaching. My calendar is rapidly filling up with final meetings, last shows, last parties. Also with reunions back in Estonia. Last Tuesday we said byebye to Morgane. It didn’t feel like a sad goodbye, I think I’m still not realising that I’m leaving in two weeks. It’s going to be a busy end, I will not have time for any tears until the last days, haha.

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We went for a ramen place with Morgane, my roommates and Tuuli. I learned that the white thing with the pink spiral is called naruto which means fish cake. I thought it’s a character from an anime? Hmm?

 

Last weekend I also went to Banská Štiavnica for MikiViki. But this is a story for the next blog. It’s way too long already.

I will write again soon.

Until the next time!

 

 

 

Old Women’s Summer

October is nearing its end. It’s been a good month.

The weather’s been amazing for the most of the month, it only turned grey and cold this week. Not often can I wear a T-shirt at the end of October. Bliss!

Ivan befriending a cat in front of our office door

 

Besides the sun, my heart’s been warmed by several meetings with friends from the midterm training. The first weekend of the month, both Alejandro and Jože were in Bratislava and I had the chance to hang out with them for a few days. 🙂 In the middle of the month, Ivan and I took part in the Slatinka weekend camp which was a great escape to the nature. I extended my trip for another two days, visited Veronika in Banská Štiavnica and all the people in Prenčov.

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On the way to Slatinka

 

Slatinka

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Zoja who really loved her ball

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Building a seedbed

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Volunteering footprint

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Prenčov

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I was in their calendar!  ♡ ♡ ♡
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Animal trail, probably cows?
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The Golden Hill
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We picked some wild thyme from the hill, I took it back and put it to dry. I also picked some yarrow (achillea millefolium) since I remembered how my grandmother used to make tea out of it when I was little.

 

There were many pancake days throughout the month (many thanks to Ivan and Alejandro!),  sweet memories. Also several pizza nights, so salty memories as well. We went to a movie night to Morgane, Tuuli and Jorge’s place, had some pizza and watched LOTR part 1 and 2. Finally, I had a chance to meet with Tuuli, just the two of us, and find my way back to speaking the almost forgotten Estonian. We took a trip to foggy Hainburg so you can imagine how amazing the view was on top of the hill :D. But it was still nice to walk in the nature and chat.

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Teletubby pancake
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A very blurry pic of parené buchty that me and Tuuli shared in Flag Ship. Delish!

 

Hainburg

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At work, I came up with a strategy for the INEX YouTube channel. I’ve been producing content like there’s no tomorrow, there’s a bunch of cool stuff coming up. Go subscribe! It’s super interesting to me to try new things with filming and editing and strategising and learning about all of this stuff. I can’t believe that I could pick up a long lost hobby and do it during my work time. I’m honestly really excited!

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The filming nook

In other news, I finished the outcome of my workshop, it will soon be up on the INEX web page. We also went to the Economic University for a promo event. I didn’t enjoy it very much, it’s not my cup of tea to go and try to sell my brand. I’d rather be behind the scenes coming up with ideas and strategies. But hey, at least I tried. On the 23rd, we hosted a Tea Meeting, it was an international quiz that the three of us created. I’d say it was the best Tea Meeting so far – fun, interesting and exciting both to prepare and execute. There are some photos here about it.

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INEX man waiting for the bus to go to the university

 

The only sad thing about this month was that our Slovak lessons came to an end. No more meetings with Zuzka :(. We took a test and it told me that I have A2 proficiency. I’m not too sure about it, maybe comprehension but definitely not production. Still, I’m pretty satisfied with myself.

slovak level

 

Now, the next things will be to create an outcome of the whole EVS project and to fill in the Youthpass. I’d like to go on a couple more trips as well. Talking about trips, on Thursday, Elena and I are going to Ljubljana for an extended weekend. Let’s see how the city looks like during the time of spirits… I’ve only been there in June.

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In seven weeks, I’ll be back in Estonia. Whoa.

I’m not worried too much, I already worried a lot in September when it finally hit me that the end is creeping nearer. I’m just sending job applications now and then, trying my luck. In this day and age, everything can happen and change so quickly that there’s no point to exhaust oneself with worrying about the future.

One thing that I do know is that I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward. I have lots of dreams. I want to work in the capital but also to live in a country house and grow my own vegetables. Maybe one first and then the other, who knows how it’ll work out. I want to build an insect hotel. I want to build my own seedbed. I want to learn about digital marketing, perhaps to create my own business, to master another foreign language (maybe Russian or German) not just to dabble in it. To create, craft, love, laugh, cry, hike, breathe… To live.

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Insect hotel in Slatinka

 

Right now, I’m feeling good. So far, it’s been the best year of my life.

Until the next time!

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Wake Me Up When September Ends

It sounds a little bit melodramatic, I know. But in general this is the way I feel about September.

The end is crawling closer and closer. The summer is over. The days are long but the weeks are flying. I’m thinking about what comes after and missing home a bit. Not much motivation, mostly staying home in bed… To be fair, I was kind of ill from the end of August until mid-September. I even had the honour of visiting Slovak doctors. Twice. Now I’m better, nothing that a good rest can’t fix.

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Even though, looking back on September, the first word that comes to mind is ‘gloomy’, there were also a bunch of sweet moments. Now that I’m out of the dark hole or at least fighting against it, I want to focus on the positive. I managed to edit the videos for the Brekov and ECO-Slatinka camps and people were saying great things about them. One evening we went to Dungeon pub for a board game night with some volunteers and Adam from Iuventa. I learned to defuse a virtual bomb. 😀 I also went to a drop-in session of improv theatre and helped Morgane with filming a video by starring in it, haha (ah, but that was still in August!).

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Visiting Ivan at the Integra camp for the Feast of Cultures

 

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game night in Dungeon pub / also my first time trying to play an arcade game

 

The Evolution of Inex Man

 

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Probably the most beautiful sunset I’ve seen in Bratislava
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I never get tired of this view

 

From the third week of the month, things seemed to become a bit brighter. We had more stuff to do in the office, like preparing presentations for Potáborka, and at the end of the week we had people from Dell coming to help with some works around the office for the Volunteering Week.

We were cleaning windows, painting the barriers of the balcony and reorganising the stock house. In the evening, we had a barbecue and after that we went to a story telling evening. Finally, after seven and a half months of being the only Estonian volunteer among the hordes of Frenchmen, Spaniards and Greeks, I met another Estonian girl at the event. Yay!

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Elena and Ivan pretending to work 😀

 

On Saturday, we were back in the office for Potáborka. It’s an event for camp leaders to share their experience from the summer. Us, EVS volunteers, had some extra tasks such as setting up the snacks, energizing, calling to action and speaking about our Messenger workshops. At the end of the day, we all got our certificates and then we had a surprise. We went bowling! 🙂 I was pretty good, not the best one but also not the worst. When the time was up, we moved to another bar and stayed there for a while, chatting and laughing. It was a great day!

The next thing in the office was the Tea Meeting about taking meaningful photos. I got to know some great tips and new interesting apps. We had fun editing our photos in Photoshop Fix and later sharing our creations with everyone. I also made some sweets with kama for the event.

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On Saturday, I decided to go shopping. It was raining but I thought enough is enough and I need to get some fresh air. I ended up going to two second-hand shops and Lidl all by foot. Later I checked from Google maps that I’d  walked 7.5 km.

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Sooo many balconies!

 

In the evening, there was an event at A4. There are now new volunteers so I wanted to check it out. We hung out there for a bit, met volunteers also from another organisation and then Elena, Ivan and I decided to go to Dungeon pub, again. It was their birthday so we assumed it’s going to be full but I guess the stars were in our favour or something. There was exactly one empty table which we quickly occupied for the rest of the evening. There was ‘Just Dance’, there was free champagne and cake, there were prizes and finally, there was a dance party. It was such an amazing night, I haven’t danced like this for a whiiiile.

I’m hoping the next months to be better, to make the time I have left here worthwhile. Lezz doo eet!

Until the next time!

A Change of Heart

It’s September. My favourite month of the year has officially ended. It was a blast! Not too busy yet I managed to squeeze two trips and lots of laughter into it.

From 15 to 18 August, I was attending my midterm training in Terchová. Last time I wrote I was feeling a bit anxious about the new group. Turns out they’re a lovely bunch of people, nothing to worry about! I don’t know if I felt freer because nobody knew me in the group or I just vibed better with these people or I was in a different place with myself than in March or it was the combination of all of it… but I enjoyed this training a bit more than the on-arrival one.

At the time, some tasks seemed unnecessary since I constantly evaluate my process anyway. It seemed to be too much of the same thing. But to be fair, I gave the experience a little time and it eventually changed my way of thinking. I let some things go, I made peace with some topics in myself… Now I’m really in the mood of looking forward. It only took me seven (!) months to get over myself. Why am I so slow with everything?

I’ve been feeling very happy after the midterm. A new life, a new perspective, a fresh start. I know that I have just 3,5 months left here but I’m feeling hopeful and energized about what is there to come. Not just the last months of the project but also afterwards. I have several ideas and I know it’s going to be a lot harder than this fairy tale life here. It doesn’t devastate me, though. I believe that when I start looking for the next job/project well in advance I can actually make my dreams happen. I feel invincible. And I feel the thrill of being uncomfortable. That’s how I learn the most.

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Inex man joined me for the midterm training.
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This composition symbolizes the acitivities of my project so far. There’s office work, there are trips, workcamps and also the relationships I developed with different people. 
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What to do after the project ends? Here are all the options presented on the tree of knowledge which was illustrated by Adam from Iuventa.
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Terchová

There’s this guy Jánošík who’s called the Robin Hood of Slovakia.

 

Once the midterm was over, I had still one more day off from work, so I decided to visit Banská Štiavnica. It’s the most beautiful town in the whole country. I felt like I was in a fairy tale while walking around there. Lovely Veronika from Ukraine hosted me and showed me the best places including the calvary.

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It seems that last year there was an Estonian volunteer in Banská Štiavnica. 

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Besides the midterm, I was editing workcamp videos at the office and learning new little things about video editing. A couple of times I managed to visit Bystro as well. And oh, one evening there was hilarious. We played Werewolf and The Psychologist and later some other mind games. I honestly don’t remember when was the last time I laughed so much. Ah, such a precious night!

The end of the month was reserved for a little getaway to the Czech Republic. It was just Brno and Prague this time, and a mini-trip to Karlštejn on Saturday morning. Last time I was in Prague five years ago with people from an AIESEC project. I remembered that the city was magnificent but the customer service was horrible. Luckily I rewrote those memories and I only have amazing experience from this trip. Despite my little illness and blisters I thoroughly enjoyed the five days. Czech Republic – check!

Brno

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Breakfast in Brno
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Crazy bears taking over the main square in Prague

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John Lennon wall
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I see something shiny, I go crazy. 😀 I bought way too much candy from this shop, came out 10 € poorer yet very happy.

We didn’t go in, although it looked intriguing… but also kind of scary.

Mini-trip to Karlštejn

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Prague in the sunset

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I was considering for a while whether I should buy this, hence the guilty face 😀 But it was soooooo good!

 

So there it is, the last post of the summer. Now I need to set my mood to autumn… Please don’t come to me with anything about Halloween or Christmas just yet. It’s way too early!!

Until the next time!

Brekov Castle

Ahoj!

Ako sa máš? (How are you?)

Welcome to the story of the workcamp in Brekov. Meet the participants: Cynthia, David, Caroline and Thomas from Mexico, Taiwan, France and Germany. And then there’s me, the sole leader of the camp. 😛

 

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Castle festival where medieval fighting techniques were displayed.

Work

On the way to work

We went to work quite early every morning, around 7. In some mornings, there was fog everywhere and it was so beautiful! The most amazing was the view from the castle when some of the fog had faded away and there were these clouds that looked like cotton candy.

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Every morning they were waiting for us to pass, staring way too eagerly.
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One day after work we went to pick mushrooms and had them for lunch (not me, I don’t like mushrooms! :D).

Work

We were helping with digging up an archaeological site at the castle. There were a lot of stones and dirt we had to pile up or transport somewhere else, for example onto the road to fill the holes in it. Sometimes we were lucky and found some pieces of ceramics and bones among all the sand and rocks.

Archaeological findings

Breaks

Sometimes we were just chilling… In the second week, there was a break with singing. 🙂 And of course petting the village dog and during lunch breaks drinking coffee and eating sandwiches that we had prepared in the morning.

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The workers fed us well during lunch breaks. A lot of meat, a lot of sausages. These in particular were filled with rice and some meat I think.

Trips & Free Time

There were a lot of opportunities to explore around the area. Stano, the local partner, knows what he’s doing, he had an amazing programme for us so we went somewhere almost every day.

Strázske

We walked along the riverside to Strázske, had a beer, ate some sausages and came back. In Strázske, there is also an amazing ice cream place. I forgot the name but there was a picture of Marilyn Monroe on the house. (Edit: Google says the place is called Cambera).

Humenné

It was supposed to rain on the second working day so instead we went to explore Humenné. There were two museums, one indoors and one outside. Apparently I didn’t take any photos in the first one but it looked like a manor house and used to be a castle before it was rebuilt.

Open air museum

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Befriending a mushroom

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At the train station

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Švejk

Thermalpark Šírava

The first Friday evening was reserved for a hike but then the weather started playing tricks on us. We needed to rearrange the plans a little bit. Instead, we went to a waterpark with thermal pools. Stano and both of his sons also joined us, we took two cars and rolled to Zemplínska Šírava. After the thermalpark, we explored a nearby night market a little bit before coming back home.

Jasenov Castle / Laundry Day

On Saturday, some of us wanted to rest and some of us wanted to hike and explore. So everyone did what they wished to do and in the evening we all went to see the performances in the Brekov cultural house.

Brekov Village Days

Poloniny National Park

On Sunday evening, we wanted to go to see the stars at night at the dark-sky park. Before that, we explored the drinkable water reservoir in Starina and two wooden churches in Topoľa and Uličské Krivé. At the last stop, there was a little bar where we ordered some Kofola, some of us more than others :D. I could practice my broken Slovak because of course nobody spoke English. We got what we ordered so I guess I did alright.

Wooden churches

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We wanted to go to the dark-sky park but it was too stormy.
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Instead, we went to see the Ukrainian border.
Čičva Castle
On Monday, after work, there was another castle to explore…
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…after the exploration, we treated ourselves in the nearby restaurant. We stayed there for a while and played some card games.

Visit to the local vineyard

I have to be honest, this was a pleasant surprise for me. Since the weather forecast wasn’t promising anything better for the following nights, we had to give up or at least postpone the plan of seeing the stars. And then Stano proposed to go wine tasting! Amazing! :3

The wines were all natural and didn’t have the chemicals in them that shop wines do. I wish I’d bought some bottles to bring with but I missed the right moment to order some. Ah.. But such lovely atmosphere and memories!

Hike to Morské Oko & Sninský kameň

I was talking about this day in my previous blog. It was all worth the effort, the photos speak for themselves.

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It’s only the beginning and I’m already sweating, haha.
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When you have no one to take the group photo so you use timer and run on the photo
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For a moment, I thought we had reached THE stone. But no.. This was just a tiny one compared to Sninský kameň.

Morské Oko

There was a buffet next to the lake so we stopped for lunch, gathered some new strength and off we went again.

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“Take a photo of me with this beautiful scenery”

Sninský kameň

There was a point when some of us decided to go back down. I hesitated but finally decided to go and conquer the final tip.

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I was so proud that I made it!

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Next morning, I was so weak that I felt quite ill. I went to work with the others but soon came back. I think it was a good decision not to strain myself more. I cleaned up the house a bit, had a shower and started to prepare the place for the evening.

Feast of Cultures

On the second Thursday, on August 1, we had the feast of cultures. Some of the workers came, we shared the food, songs, dances… The atmosphere of the night was elevating and warm. Authentic.

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Final day at work

We worked a little bit, less than on other days. Then we started preparing the goulash that the workers cooked for us. Yum yum yum!

Goulash

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Us with the lovely workers – like a big family!

By the end of the camp we had established a very special connection with the workers. We didn’t speak the same language at the beginning yet managed to communicate and learn something from each other. Sharing food, songs and dances during the two weeks really created a special bond. 🙂

I’m thinking of going back to Brekov in September to help to pick grapes in the vineyard. I’ll see how things work out but it would be lovely to see the workers as well as Stano and his family once again.

***

Košice

I’ll add this to the post even though it’s not exactly anymore a part of the camp. The final day, bye-byes…

Caroline, Thomas and David left earlier by Thomas’s car, Cynthia and I followed a couple of hours later by train but we all ended up in Košice. I managed to get a glimpse of Caroline and Thomas just before they headed to the airport. David had a bit more time so we went for a lunch and I introduced halušky to him. Later I explored the town alone for a little bit before it was also time for me to leave.

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I arrived to Bratislava around 22, took all my stuff and dragged it home. I almost lost my sleeping bag on the way, it fell under the train :D. Luckily, there was a nice man who saved it for me. I was probably looking very sad and tired, maybe he felt sorry for me. I reached home, I survived.

Ooh, and there it is! Many great experiences, lot’s of amazing memories!

Until the next time!

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Reflection After the Camps

Hi! Ahoj! Dobrý deň!

It’s already the seventh month of my EVS. How come is the time going so fast? I know I keep saying it almost in every post but it’s true.

I was just scrolling the photos on my phone back to February. It’s bittersweet to look back and see how far I’ve come. I remember January when I was so content with myself. I thought I knew everything, I thought I was complete. Haha. Good joke. There’s always room for development.

Isn’t it funny that the moments that improve us the most are the most uncomfortable and frightening? I guess that’s the reason I chose to go for an EVS. I was too much in my comfort zone. I wanted excitement and new experiences, I needed questioning and confrontation.

After the two camps in Zlatna na Ostrove and Brekov, I can honestly say that I got what I needed. I was like fish out of the water, especially in Brekov. Leading the camps is so different from participating in them. It was less about connections and wonderful moments, even though perhaps that’s what I wished for, and more about

handling situations,

making decisions under pressure or stress,

taking the lead,

learning to let go,

understanding my limits,

pushing my limits,

learning to be more patient,

figuring out what’s important to me and to others and what isn’t,

managing expectations, time, cultural differences,

setting boundaries,

understanding what respect means to different people…

The list could easily go on and on.

I learned a lot about myself. I realised I’m more introverted than I wanted to believe I was. The reason I didn’t realise it sooner is probably that before I was given plenty of space to be on my own. Now that I was put into the role where I was responsible for other people and I needed to be available to them at all times in case of an emergency, I didn’t really enjoy it. Was it because I really needed the space to go and be just by myself? Or was it because that’s not what I was used to, because my comfort zone was being “intruded”? Maybe it was a mix of both.

I remember being tired a lot and feeling guilty because I didn’t have the energy to cheer people up, to keep good vibes going. I sensed when something was off yet felt crippled by the fact that I didn’t know how to change it. I don’t have that “thing” in me that some people do and that I admire. I can have fun but I struggle a lot to be the initiator of fun. I don’t know why. Is it just my personality or are there ways to change it? My question to myself is: should I accept this part of myself or should I improve it? I really don’t know at this point. Maybe I will figure it out later.

One thing that I did figure out (I think, I hope) was that I need to explain myself more. I see it now. It stems back to when I had trouble at primary school with maths because I didn’t understand why I need to write out every single step of the calculations. I saw the final result and it was clear to me. Apparently not to the teacher. Several years later, now just a few years ago, I remember the notes of my supervisors when I was writing both my BA and MA theses. “Explain more,” they said. “Write it out more clearly.”

I tend to get ahead of myself, sometimes my thoughts move at the speed of light and I come to a conclusion which makes the most sense to me. However, I understand now that when I don’t fill in people outside of my head about how and why I came to the conclusion, they might see me as stubborn and inflexible. Once I have my conclusion or decision, it’s difficult for me to see alternative solutions. It doesn’t mean that I won’t accept any other way, just that I have one idea very clearly in my head and I kind of get tunnel vision in terms of any other ideas.

So, what to do about this issue? I can alert others about it and explain that I don’t mean any harm and I’m honestly open to other solutions, I just need time to understand why the alternatives are good or better. I can be more aware and train myself to shed light on my thought process about the conclusion. I can also train myself to be more patient and find a sincere motivation why I should explain more. This thing, seeming to be stubborn, is surely something I can work on.

What else? In Brekov, I really pushed myself physically. I’m not the fittest of them all. Every day walking up the hill for half an hour to get to the castle was an enormous challenge. In the second week, we went for a 7-hour hike. I’m so happy that I pushed myself but also the next day I was dead. My body wasn’t so happy. 😀 I know now that I can do it if I want have to. I knew before already that for these kind of challenges I need an external motivation. On my own, I’m lacking willpower, I’m too easy on myself and the mentality of “tomorrow” kicks in way too easily. Maybe this will be the next thing to  tackle. Or maybe I just need to outsmart myself and trick myself into doing sports so I don’t even realise that I’m making an effort? I don’t know… Do you have any advice for that?

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In other news, I’m going to my mid-term training on Thursday. I finally got the invitation just before leaving for Brekov. Since it’s another group than I was originally assigned to, I’m a little bit apprehensive whether they will accept me. They already know each other. I really hope it will be a fun time exploring yet again another part of Slovakia. The training is in Terchová, in the North Middle part of Slovakia. Fingers crossed!

 

I’ll be back soon with a big bunch of photos from the Brekov camp.

Until then!

Zlatna na Ostrove

Hey stranger!

This post is dedicated to one of the most exciting parts of my EVS project: workcamps (I think we’re over the “international voluntary camp” thing by now, right?)!

From 15 to 25 June the very first INEX camp of the season took place at the border of Hungary in Zlatna na Ostrove. I was lucky to lead the camp together with L’ubka who is such a sweet and compassionate soul and an amazing problem solver. It was an ecocamp, we worked at an ecofarm and were surrounded by dozens of animals. Every day we were cycling to and back from work, I think I haven’t been using a bike so much since childhood.

I’ve been writing, speaking and thinking about the camp quite a lot recently but to a very limited audience. There will be a video coming up, though, probably some time in August or September, depends on how fast I manage. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel like going into too many details now, if you want to know anything, you have to ask me personally. 🙂

Hereby I present you a visual recollection of the camp:

 

Arrival

Moments from 14 June, the day before the camp when we cleaned the accommodation from dust and spider webs

 

Preparation

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First food shopping
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Preparing the schedule

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Secret friends are waiting for gifts and surprises

 

Animals

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❤ ❤ ❤

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Work

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Afternoon & evening activities

 

Trips

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Komárno

 

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Hey hey, swimming pools are calling!
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Back home we go!

 

More photos of the camp, the participants, the overall vibe can be found here.

 

Until the next time!

Summertime Madness

Hey beautiful person reading this blog!

It’s time for another update. June…

For most of the month I was somewhere out of the office. It started with me visiting Brekov, the place for my second camp. In hindsight, I’m still amazed how I endured 2 x 8 hour rides by train in two days and yet had time to look around and get acquainted with the place and people.

The local partner took me first to Humenné because he thought I was arriving later and hadn’t finished his workday yet. So I looked around a little bit.

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In the afternoon, he kindly invited me to his home and I got to meet his wife and two adorable sons. The boys welcomed me warmly and invited me to play with them. We played badminton and the younger one was eager to show me different games on his phone. 🙂 In the evening, I went to sleep in another house where we will be staying with the volunteers during the camp. The view from there is amazing and also the train stop is really close to the accommodation.

 

The next morning, very early, I was picked up by two workers who brought me to the castle and showed me around. It’s going to be such a cool site to work on!

 

 

After walking around the castle a bit, it was time to walk down the hill again and go wait for my train back to Bratislava. The train stop is literally a tiny house with one bench.  I got there a bit early and waited in the blazing sun for an hour or so. There was no one to see, not a single soul until… One guy approached me and started asking something in Slovak. It took me a while to figure out what he wanted from me. I tried my best with my elementary broken Slovak. And when I realised he was begging for money I was already too deep into the conversation. So I gave him 1.50 € and hoped (although heavily doubted) that he w i l l use it to buy a bus ticket as he claimed. Well, about 20 minutes later I saw him from the distance crossing the railway going back to the exact same place he came from. With a bag in his hand. Sooo he probably just went to the shop for a beer. What can you do? You win some, you lose some.

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Tiny train station

For the next couple of days I was preparing things for the camp in Zlatna na Ostrove, we also had a training about the financial book and the final Slovak lesson before the summer.

On Friday, June 7, there was an event called Naše Mesto (Our City) at Integra. It’s an event where people all around Slovakia go do some voluntary work for their local communities – for their city. People from companies got a free day from their work to come and help in the centre. Some went to spend time and do activities with clients, some (including me) were washing the windows and the rest were helping out in the garden cutting bushes, mowing the lawn etc. You can check out the photos here.

The window cleaning team had only 8 members and the building has two wings. Somehow it happened that 6 people were on the one side which left me and a man called Daniel to the other side. I felt a bit rushed and couldn’t finish all the windows but eventually we were laughing about it and we were an efficient team. 🙂

 

After the work, all volunteers were served goulash and later Jarka’s husband Danko dropped us off at the apartment. Officially, the workday had finished but Elena and I had still stuff to do.

There was an opportunity to visit Žilina in the weekend. Our travel costs would be reimbursed, our accommodation provided and all we had to do was to prepare a 6-minute presentation about our EVS project. Of course we jumped at the opportunity! So, on Friday afternoon, we were preparing the presentation. Next morning, we took the train and enjoyed a whole day hanging out with other EVS volunteers from Slovakia before we had to present in the evening.

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Waiting for the train

 

After the presentations hanging out continued, some of us even decided to go to a club. I should have estimated my tiredness better because right after we arrived there, I started to fall asleep. Everyone else was dancing and having fun but I was simply too sleepy to join in. Luckily, we didn’t stay for too long, I think we left around 3AM. We were staying at the EVS people’s house, what a palace it is! It had four floors and eight rooms I think. All just for EVS volunteers!

The next morning we went to the best ice cream place in town. Ice cream for breakfast, why not? We were walking around a bit after that but since the late night, we woke up quite late as well and didn’t have too much time before the train back to Bratislava.

 

 

Back in Bratislava, we’d been invited to a grill party by Olivia. She’s a friend of L’ubica or L’ubka who is an INEX trainer and who was also my co-leader in Zlatna na Ostrove. Olivia has been coming to a couple of Tea Meetings, some Quo Vadis events and she also joined us at one of the improv shows. It was such a nice atmosphere at her place, a garden just beside us and all girls talking about the issues of the world. Ivan had his sister and her partner visiting that time, that’s the reason he didn’t join Elena and I for the weekend activities.

The next week, I had to pack for my camp and all of us had to pack up the whole office. The office upstairs was moving out and took back the furniture that had been borrowed to INEX. So, we took all of the things out of the shelves and put them to the seminar room upstairs until we got the new furniture. We even had to put away the computers! After that, it was quite difficult to work. 😀

Luckily, it was good timing because on Wednesday, June 12 we were out of the office anyway and the day after, Elena and Ivan were going to their midterm training. On Wednesday, we were again blessed with the opportunity to go to Integra. This time, it was a trip to a nearby town Pezinok. There was a wine museum and after that we went for coffee, Kofola and ice cream.

 

 

 

Back from the trip, we treated ourselves to a final lunch together before the summer madness started and we wouldn’t see each other for three months.

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And there it was, Thursday, June 13. I went to the office, prepared to have a lonely day and do my final test before the camp. I arrived and I was sent back home almost immediately because there was nothing to work on, literally. Everything had been packed up. So I took the stuff for the camp and had a home office day.

The next morning, another big adventure began. My first international voluntary camp as a leader was about to unfold… But this is a story for the next time.

I’ll be back shortly with the adventures of Zlatna na Ostrove.

Until then, enjoy your summer, enjoy your life!

 

 

May Be Like That

 

08.06.19

Hi!

It’s the second week of June, I’m sitting on the train to Žilina trying to write a blog about May. The EVS life has become a metaphorical train that doesn’t really want to stop. I’m not complaining, I have an interesting life and I really appreciate it. It’s just that it’s a bit difficult to find moments when I can sit down, not be tired, be somewhat inspired and just write. So, I waited for the arrival of Mr. Stress to get productive. It really improves my time management.

Let’s do this!

May was an annoyingly rainy month. At times, I felt very low: I didn’t have motivation to do anything and I my thoughts were walking on dark roads. There was a weekend when I got really ill and for the first time here, I had to take a sick day from work and spent the whole weekend in bed.

At the beginning of the month, though, although it was such a rainy weekend, I was still cheerful and positive and didn’t let the weather ruin my trip to Budapest. Elena went a few days earlier, Ivan and I joined her for the first weekend of May. We stayed at a really cool party hostel – Hostel Vitae – in the city centre. I think it was the evening programme that made the whole trip worth it despite the cold rain. The hostel enabled us to meet super cool people and the best thing was that even though it was a party hostel, the sleeping area was quiet at night. I want to go back for sure with a better weather, maybe in August or September.

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Our hostel
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Estonian poetess Lydia Koidula or Empress Elisabeth of Austria? Who knows.

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Ivan, Alex from USA and I after quitting the free walking tour

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These guys turned the rainiest Sunday into such a fun day! From the left: Elena and Ivan, crazy fellows from Germany – Noah, Kiki and Philip (sitting) – and of course the boldest shopper Jake from France.
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So cooold!

 

In Slovakia, May 1 and May 8 are bank holidays so we had some time to stroll around the city. Ivan and I explored Slavín while Elena was in Budapest and the week after we hosted Lea aka Little Chicken who we met at the on-arrival training. We also hosted another Tea Meeting on May 6, which was a music quiz this time. Sadly, there were not so many participants but all who came seemed to enjoy it a lot. 😊 You can see some photos of the quiz by clicking on this sentence :D. 

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Slavín peeking

 

On May 15, the beloved Funnylicious Improv Theatre had their five year anniversary show in Kalab. There were guests from Vienna, there was shampagne and cake and we even managed to convince Ivan to come with us this time. And he liked it! Here are some photos of the show.

While the others were preparing for the DemoCamp, I was making plans for my first visit back to Estonia since the start of the project. Steneli, my dear friend and classmate for 12 years was getting married, of course I had to go to her wedding! I had booked the plane tickets for a couple of days before and after the wedding so I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry. Eventually I still managed to make so many appointments that I couldn’t fulfill all of them. It was so great to see my friends again, go to a birthday party, hairdresser’s, meet my ex-colleagues from the theatre and attend a wedding – all in five days. Although I hadn’t seen my people for three and a half months, everything felt so natural. It was as if we’d only met the week before.

As I mentioned already, the next weekend I got ill. Can’t have too much fun. 😀 My body didn’t agree with my ambitious plans. So I took time off and rested properly.

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I was super tired and still weak from the illness but Morgane invited me and Ivan to go to the lake nearby. Lots of birdies ❤

On the last Wednesday of May, I presented my workshop at the Tea Meeting. Elena and Ivan had the opportunity to do it at the DemoCamp but since I was away, I tested it out later. I think the workshop went well, I felt confident while presenting and people seemed to enjoy it. I also got feedback and tips how to improve it. 😊 It was really nice that people had practical advice that I could use. Check out the album for the workshop!

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After the workshop we went for pizza with Ivan, Elena, Anthony and Pet’o. The pizzas were massive! Even 5 people couldn’t destroy all of them. 

The next day, Elena and I went to discover a new place for us called Bystro. It’s described as a community living room. It’s possible to hang out there, play board games, buy some drinks and get free leftover food from the restaurants. The people who run the place are very welcoming and what’s best, they speak English. Since then, we’ve been back one more time, and I’d like to keep going there. It’s only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, though.

The month ended with a first aid lecture for the camps. Now I should be fully prepared for my camp in Zlatna na Ostrove that starts already in less than a week! I’m still cramming the study material that the others went through in the DemoCamp, I still need to finish polishing my workshop and I still need to pack. Otherwise I feel excited! We don’t have 10 volunteers but we also don’t have 4 volunteers, which was the case a month ago. It’s going to be great! I’m sure about it. 😊

So, the next time I’ll be writing I’m going to be more tanned, fitter from doing physical work, enriched by a new experience of being a leader, and hopefully also smarter and wiser.

Until then!

Amicable Animals of April

Ahoj!

The last month has been full of wonderful experiences, trips, people and animals. It’s been so packed with events that I haven’t had the chance to sit down and write them down. I have a feeling that the next months are also going to fly by at the speed of light. There’s a lot coming up. Exciting!

The 1st of April, on April Fool’s day, we spent the morning with the lovely clients of Integra and performed our play. We were so lucky with the weather which turned out to be sunny and peaceful. As a tradition, we went for lunch at Barbi’s place later. Elena also met little Mat’o, the coolest baby on Earth. I was really exhausted and fell asleep on the sofa while the others were chatting and playing.

This was not the only time to visit Integra in April. On April 15, we got a surprise request from Jarka. Apparently, 9 out of 10 volunteers who were supposed to come help the next day cancelled. So, superheroes as we are, Elena, Ivan and I got up early again on the morning of April 16 and went to the transport museum with the clients of Integra. We were also joined by Eeva who’s a volunteer from Finland in Quo Vadis, a volunteer-based café. The weather was lovely and the museum was nice but it was more interesting for me to see the technical part of going on a trip with people with disabilities.

It’s not like a school trip where a group of people jumps in and out of the bus like a galloping herd of gnus. Everything took a lot more time. One by one the clients were taken to their seats on the bus, out of the wheelchairs or in some cases the wheelchairs were secured with straps. Then there was a slow ride in the midst of the morning rush hour. And once we arrived, the bus had to reverse to the right entrance and everyone was brought out of the bus in the reverse order. The clients seemed happy and for them, this is the only reality. There were a lot of old-timey cars in the museum, it seemed that they really liked the experience. Something different, something outside of their routine.

Besides going to Integra, the main focus at work was preparing our workshops. It was a little bit stressful at first because I didn’t know where to start from. Once I got past reading and rewriting the theoretical part, I calmed down. On April 25, we all presented the first version of the workshops, got some great feedback and advice, and now it’s time to polish them for the second try. Ivan and Elena will present them again at Democamp but since I’ll be back in Estonia at my friend’s wedding at that time, my workshop will be in the form of a Tea Meeting at the end of May.

Speaking of Tea Meetings, we hosted one about Colombia on April 11. You can check the album on Facebook. This time we had about 30 people attending, it was delightfully surprising how many people are interested in a country in South America. Peter spoke in a captivating way and had many interesting stories to share. For me, it was all new and intriguing. And many EVS volunteers from other organisations in Bratislava came to the meeting, that was the loveliest surprise. 🙂

Other than work, there were a couple of trips outside of Bratislava that included many animals. The first weekend of April, I was invited by Tania, a participant of the leaders’ training, to a volunteering weekend in the Eastern part of Slovakia. I asked from Elena and Ivan whether they wanted to join, they said yes and off we went. So, equipped with raincoats from INEX, rain jackets from Monika (for me and Elena), winter/hiking boots and, just in case, too many clothes, we started our trip at 8AM from Bratislava.

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Bee hotel

 

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First, we found doggos… or more like they found us! 🙂

On Saturday, we helped some frogs to cross the road to their mating pond. 😛

In the afternoon, the weather became better so we went to say hi to donkeys and ground squirrels (suslikud!).

We also helped to cut some small bushes and trees to create a grazing area for cows. I got really into the cutting, the next day my hands were hurting.

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On Sunday morning, we took a 2.5 hour walk with the donkeys. We had to bring them from their stable to the area where the ground squirrels were living. The donkeys graze, maintaining the area habitable for the squirrels. It was such an experience! First, my donkey almost threw me to dirt but later we got along pretty well. She’s called Rosa and it seemed she was pregnant so she wasn’t too fast for me. We had to take the donkeys over the streams which they didn’t really like. So, in some cases we had to take the longer route on the railway. At some point we were crossing a highway and a car stopped to look us go. Children came out of the car to stare at our peculiar company. 😀

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Rewarding mudbaths at the end of the walk

In the afternoon, we helped to prepare a nesting area for lizards and some other animals.

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And that was it! Super intense yet super rewarding! I’ve never touched frog or handled a donkey or fed a ground squirrel before. So much love! I love animals!

 

I got a little bit ill from the weekend so the next one was more relaxed, mostly I just rested and slept. However, I didn’t have time to chill for too long as I’d planned to visit my dear friends in Croatia during Easter. I took one extra day off, and from 19 to 23 April, I spent a lovely time in Zagreb with people I met at the ASHA centre as well as Ana’s two cats and a dog.

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Lexa ❤ ❤ ❤ 

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Milkshakes with Lena!
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After three years, there I was again.

I completely fell in love with one of Ana’s cats called Bubek. He slept at my legs every single night of the stay. One night, I wasn’t feeling so good and he came to my lap until I felt better. How precious! Now I want a cat. My love for them grew exponentially.

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What a drink!

I’m so happy I could meet all of you – Ana, Lena, Anja, Marko, Ante and all the new human and furry friends! 🙂

 

Some other exciting nights in April included an international dinner with EVS volunteers from Bratislava to which everyone brought a dish from their country, another improv show by the Funnylicious Improv Theater who asked me to come on the stage and serenaded to me, and a stand-up show where we were roasted for organising “workcamps”. Poor choice of words for the last one. Should’ve said “international voluntary camps”.

I hope to make a video about April soon, until then, here’s the one from March.

Until the next time!