It’s not a happy post*

Honestly I thought I’m not going to write anything more on this blog after my sort-of-final post just before my departure from Bologna. But now I feel that I really need to communicate something connected to the EVS experience and this is the right place to do so.

So, I have already mentioned that no one can prepare you for your EVS. Everywhere it’s different and you’ll get a different experience depending on the country you go to, the culture, the people you’ll work and go out with. This is obvious. Every EVS volunteer will tell you that and you’ll find this observation on their blogs. But what no one says out loud is that what you REALLY don’t expect is the PTSD (or should I rather say TSD, since the trauma is happening now and not before) you’ll get after coming back from an EVS.

Now, I don’t want to speak generally, because everyone is different and we all came from various backgrounds, had various reasons for doing the EVS, so I’ll just tell you how I feel now, after being back since already a month. It’s awful and terrifying, that’s how it is for me now. I feel terribly confused and lost, I have no idea what to do with myself. Like a fish out of water I have been deprived of an environment and life I need, of a place where I felt happy and fulfilled. Now I just simply don’t know how to go on. I don’t know how to find myself in the new-old reality which is my hometown, where I no longer belong.

I have moments in which I truly HATE relating to my countrymen and speaking in my mothertongue. And then I hate myself for this.

These are all things you will never be prepared for. This feeling of being empty inside, cause all your “contents” have been left somewhere else. This consciousness that you’re no longer a citizen of just one country.

The EVS has been such a great experience for me and Bologna has become my city just as much as the one I have been raised up in. Some of my fellow volunteers have found (or are still trying to find) a way to stay in Italy after their projects. I now deeply regret I haven’t tried harder to do the same.

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*You have been warned.


EVS crash test

As I’m starting to work on my YouthPass* my head fills up with thoughts and worries about the nearest future (brace yourself for this is NOT going to be a cheerful post).

One of the main goals of Erasmus+, and so also the EVS, is to give young people a chance to develop themselves in an international environment, to learn things they would probably never learn in their home countries, to give them something to add to their CVs that could encourage employers to recruit them. And while I’m describing all my experiences and the knowledge and skills I got from them, I can’t escape the thought that it’s all very nice and neat, but it’s probably not going to be of much help.

Yes, I did learn a new language to a point that I can have a decent conversation and I’m more or less able to use it also at work, where it’s all about complicated vocabulary and structures and yes, I have had many various experiences, work-related and not, that enriched me as a person and as a worker, but is it really going to be appreciated? In the end my Erasmus in Finland wasn’t as much of a “thrill” to my probable employers as I thought it would be.

Well, either way, it’s still a gamble. You go back to your home country from a year during which you didn’t have to worry about anything and you have no idea what to do with yourself. You got used so much to living among people who didn’t speak your language that when you finally hear it (your language) it sounds weird and completely out of place. You got used to a certain way of spending your days (and nights), you made friends, you’ve developed connections. And now you have to leave all of it, because there’s no other way. And on top of all this, you have no idea what’s out there waiting for you.

Some people might see it as a possibility, an adventure. I don’t, sorry. In the past two years I have traveled more than in my entire life before that, I got used to speaking languages other than my own, first English and Finnish, then English and Italian and for some reason, going back to Poland, speaking only Polish, interacting only with Polish people seems so incredibly dull and unexciting that I’m getting depressed by only thinking about it.

And then there’s your heart. Your heart that is no longer only yours and that got used to some things too. And there’s no way of telling it to suck it up and wait. Life lies ahead and you need to get hold of it.

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*Youthpass — an official EVS document confirming you did a voluntary service and stating what skills an abilities you obtained during your project.

Bologna‬ é ‪Pride‬

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.

Foto Nucci_Benvenuti / Corriere di Bologna
Foto Nucci_Benvenuti / Corriere di Bologna

The long awaited day

I’ve never been to Pride before.

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:

Photo: Roma Pride
Roma Pride, 13th June 2015 / Photo: Roma Pride
Photo: Parada Równości
Warsaw’s Equality Parade, 13th June 2015 / Photo: Parada Równości
Photo: Bologna Pride
Photo: Bologna Pride

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.

Da questa parte, prego!

The soup festival finished more than one month ago and I promised myself that after that I will take some days off in order to really enjoy the fact I’m in Italy. And so I did: I went first to Rome for 4 days and then to Sicily for a week (yes, I’m trying to excuse myself for not writing here for a month).

While I decided that I’m not a big fan of Rome (even though I enjoyed some of the sites I visited), I have discovered that I’m crazy about Sicily. Me and A., we went to visit one of my EVS friends, that is doing her project in Catania and while we were there, we also took time to travel around. In this way we were able to visit many places, among which Taormina, Aci Castello & Aci Trezza, Siracusa and Palermo.

A view to Etna an the eastern coast from Taormina
A view to Etna and the eastern coast of Sicily from Taormina

When I was walking around trying to understand and grasp the Sicilian accent (well, more like: trying to understand anything at all), A. was mostly struck by the low prices of basically everything. In fact, one of the highlights of our whole trip was the visit to a market (and later on also to a fish market), where basically a kilo of whatever fruit or vegetable costed 1€. And in the mornings we were always suprised when we were walking out of a bar with a pastry as big as my head, a coffee or a bottle of water, paying not more than 1,50€ for everything. So yes, when I’m rich and I can do whatever I want, I’m gonna buy myself a house somewhere in Sicily (preferably close to the sea) and I’m gonna spend every spring there (you heard me: spring).

And having that beautiful picture in mind, I leave you with a video I made at the market in Catania. They could sing opera with those voices!

Fun fact: in Palermo people thought I’m from Milan judging from my accent while speaking Italian. Ci sono quasi! ;)

Italian pride

There are some things you should never offend when it comes to the Italian culture and the first one of them is pizza. This is where McDonald’s fell. As you might know, this year’s EXPO is in Milan. It’s theme is Feeding the planet, Energy for Life. So, as it is somewhat related to food, McDonald’s has become one of it’s main sponsors. Recently it has come to my attention that the company released a TV commercial, that I think was not really thought through. Check it out yourselves:

An Italian kid that prefers Happy Meal over pizza? That’s a blasphemy (it’s already big coming from me, imagine the outrage of Italians). I mean, generally food at McDonald’s fa schifo, but even if it doesn’t, it could NEVER be better than a true Italian pizza. McDonald’s, what were you thinking? Of course, it was not necessary to wait long for a response:

It’s even more hilarious because of the language – the kid is speaking in the napoletano dilect (Napoli is of course the place where pizza was born). Dear McDonald’s, everyone makes mistakes, but this was just stupid…

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Thanks to Costruirecollego for the scoop!