So, in the last months I have been working on my own project within my EVS in Bologna. Every volunteer has the right (not the obligation though) to develop their own project as a part of the main one they are doing during their voluntary service.
Since I’m a graphic designer, I have decided to use my skills and prepare something I always wanted to do, but never had a good enough idea to create: an infographic.
To explain the thing shortly — it’s a visual representation of data revolving around a specific topic. It can be presented in various ways, starting from charts that you can create in Microsoft Excel and ending with complex graphic designs consisting of various information and containing a layout created specifically for this purpose.
My infographic is an attempt on reflecting the information about all the previous editions of Festival della Zuppa in Bologna. It has taken me a lot of time to gather all the data as I had to go through the archives (that were not always very well organised) and find all the numbers I needed. But it gave me also a lot of satisfaction as I was discovering how many soups were presented each year and finding out about the European projects that my association took part in along with organisations from Germany, France and Spain.
Finally I had everything I needed to present the development of the festival throughout the years. I added my own knowledge of the topic regarding this year’s edition, putting in also some interesting facts about how many litres of coffee we drunk during organisational meetings and so on.
Following all this, I can now present you with the fruit of my work (click to see the full size):
How does it happen that the nicest things come and go in a blink of an eye?
The Pride weekend is over, but it was a wonderful experience. The parade started at 16.00, but we went a bit earlier to check out the stands of LGBTQ organisations and walk around enjoying the view.
Then we met with some friends with whom we later did the whole parade. The percourse wasn’t a long one (basically just two streets), but since we were in thousands, it took two hours to cover the whole path.
I brought my Polish flag with me as a sign of support, but also as a reminder that Poland is in the same point of the fight for LGBTQ rights as Italy — with no law regulations, no civil partnerships, marriages, adoptions, well… no rights in general. And as I was making my way to Piazza Maggiore, I was being stopped by random people who either asked me what flag it was (sad to say, but many Italians don’t generally have a good knowledge of flags of other countries) or who were not believing I’m truly Polish (sic!) or who just simply were Polish themselves. Enough to say that I was attracting a bit of attention.
But then of course it was a crazy big crowd and I think that when we all finally got to via Indipendenza, that is the main street of Bologna, we for sure covered it all with people wearing rainbow colors, carrying flags and dancing to the joyful music played by the DJs. People were waving at us from windows and everytime the crowd saw an old lady on her balcony clapping to the rhythm, they were simply going crazy.
That basically explains my excitement before this Saturday, when I’m going to attend the Bologna Pride, organized in the city since, many years. When I discovered how gay-friendly Bologna is, I was truly surprised (positively of course). And it’s not the only city in Italy, where the Pride is being organized this year. There are actually many of them: Rome, Turin, Milan, Bologna, Verona, Catania, Palermo, Naples, Genova, Perugia Pavia and more (see all the locations here: Onda Pride).
It’s seriously shocking for me how many people attend the prides in Italian cities. Looks to me like the Roman one attracted much more participants than the Equality Parade in Warsaw this year (they took place on the same day). See for yourself:
It’s funny to think that Italy, the country of Vatican and the Pope seems less conservative and catholic than Poland. It’s sad for me to say so, but Poland is still in the tail of Europe when it comes to gay rights and while in Italy the legal situation is no different it looks to me like the Italians will anyway be the first to take a step (or more) forward. Well, at least the nation’s attitude is much friendlier.
An experienced volunteer speaking here (8 months and still going strong):
1. Don’t expect anything
Whatever you might be expecting from your EVS, it’s gonna be totally different: people, places, work — you name it. Believe me.
2. Be ready for everything
Judging from my experience it’s better to prepare yourself for the bad stuff. It’s gonna come. I’ve met many volunteers doing their EVS in Italy and learned about all kinds of problems. Of course it doesn’t concern only Italy. No matter where you go, you’re going to face some obstacles and it’s better to be ready. Then of course it’s nice to have also the positive suprises and I had those too. They fortunately make a healthy balance with the bad stuff which makes it all worthwhile.
3. Count only (or mostly) on yourself
There are volunteers working within organisations doing EVS since many years and there are those (like me) that work withing organisations that are still a bit “virgin”. Everything has it good and bad sides. The EVS programme in general is not perfect (and in my opinion is still quite far from it). Sometimes you will encounter grave problems and you will find out that the people who are supposed to be there for you, are not able (or are unwilling) to help you. In that case it’s important to have support from people who are close to you and not give up. It’s difficult, I know. In the end you are in a foreign country, you don’t know how things work, where to go, how to deal with things. I would really like to say that you’re not alone, but sometimes you are and you have to make things work anyway. Contact your relatives back home, your sending organisation, the national agency if you must. You have rights, remember about it.
4. Don’t let yourself be a slave
As a volunteer you will be bound to do all sorts of things. Things that maybe were not written in your contract and yet your organisation makes you do them (if that happens, report it!). It’s important though to know your own rights and know that you’re there mostly to learn and to develop your own skills, not to do jobs of other people for them. You are also not being paid crazy amounts of money (which anyway depends on the country you’re in) and you are not supposed to be held responsible for any projects just by yourself. In any case, you have your contract behind you and you are protected by it. And that leads me to the last thing:
5. Respect yourself
Don’t let yourself be used (or even abused) at work. Depending on what your project is about you will have to do all sorts of things — also things like cleaning, washing, dealing with peaople difficult to deal with (in my case it’s usually drunk people…). But it’s important to not force yourself to do things you don’t feel okay with or that you despise. Forcing yourself to do them is going to reflect not only on you, but also on the people around you. Remember, you’re there to challenge yourself, yes, but also to have a positive experience and to learn.
OK guys, I have to confess something. Even though I’m living in Bologna already since 8 months, I still meet new people that ask me what I’m doing here, where I’m from and for how long I’m staying. And that last question has recently started to be an upsetting one, since it makes me realize, that my project ends in two months.
Yes, I have only two months left.
It’s difficult to think about it, because I have already sort of established a life here, I have found my nisch and friends, I have finally figured out the labyrinth of streets in Bologna’s city center, I started travelling around a bit. I know where to go to listen to a nice concert, where to find good ice cream, where to order best pizza from… Heck, I even have a fidelty card at the supermarket!
How do you leave a place that has almost become your home? A place you already feel you belong to? A place where hairdressers are freaking expensive and where people have no idea what traffic rules are, but at the same time a place where your heart is, where ragu’ comes from and a place where you got so deep into the language of the locals that your own friends back home tell you that you speak your mother tongue with an Italian accent!
And last but not least: what do you do after you come back? You drown yourself in memories, in habits you can no longer practice, in depression because you’re once again in a situation of not knowing what to do next, how to proceed with your life.
But let’s not get too sad. In the end there are still two months ahead of me and I better use them well. So what there are 35 degrees in the shadow outside? I’m gonna go and play djembe in the park all day this Sunday! I’m gonna travel around Tuscany, I’m gonna eat more pizza and gain even more kilos (yeah, I already gained 4 since I arrived here…). And I’m going to feel wonderful doing all that.