I remember when I first came here wondering how it was gonna be my life. First people I met was Ilvars (my coordinator), Valentina (my mentor) and Francesco (my collegue). They picked me up in the airport and seemed friendly and nice. I felt comfortable in their company.
I thought it was a bit cold for being October, just a couple of weeks ago I had replaced my short- summery clothes for something a bit warmer in Spain. Poor me! I knew nothing about Latvian cold yet.
That night we had dinner in Hesburguer (the Latvian McDonalds). It was good and cheap, perfect to know it for being volunteer! Then we arrived home, I tidied my stuff and slept in the one which was gonna be my bed during the next year.
The following days everything was new, the village, the people, the timetables… I also met Martins (Francesco’s mentor). He made kind of a treasure hunt for us in Ropazi to find out more about the village and its curiosities. Ropazi is not big, but has an amazing nature.
We also had some “youth evening”(the first of following lots), where we meet a group of youngsters to do entertaining activities like games, watching films, singing, etc. and they are always connected with a human value as the topic. I enjoyed them, as much as I enjoyed our first archery lesson although I was quite clumsy, the first time I visited Riga (such a beautiful city!) or the time and conversations with my new work-life team. Bit by bit all of that was becoming my routine.
In the end of October I had the “On Arrival EVS training”, where a bunch of volunteers around Latvia met together and got more aware about the idea of the program we came with, Erasmus+. It was not just informative but useful in so many aspects for me. We met a lot of interesting people from around all Europe, we shared ideas, experiences, learning and specially lot of fun! That weekend was really rewarding and I did some bond that make this whole experience even more interesting.
Francesco and I started to attend Latvian lessons with Anna. She is such an intelligent, qualified and full of patience teacher and that really helps because Latvian is all but easy. We started with some greetings, colours, numbers, etc., but step by step it’s becoming harder.
We also prepared an Italian and Spanish presentation-quiz and played it in different classes of Ropazi and Zakumuiza schools. Youngsters found it funny and interesting and even in some classes they asked us if we could keep going to teach something about our culture and language, which will be a future proyect.
Besides that, we started to work in different multifunctional centres from the linking villages: Kakciems, Silakrogs, Tumsupe and Mucenieki. And that ment we needed to drive an electric car to get there.
It was really weird to drive it after being used to the regular cars, it’s so silent and without gears.
In Tumsupe we’ve mostly worked with children. We try to do some organized activity but it’s hard to keep their attention because they barely speak English and are full of energy. So, even if we did some little craft and team activity, most of the time we spent it just playing with them Twister, Hide and Seek or whatever.
There is this issue about Kakciems, where we have been twice. The first time nobody came while the second one we just had a few teenagers. We will consider another ways to attract the youth from that village before taking the decision of still going or quit in that centre.
A similar situation occurred with Silakrogs, where instead of youngsters we had eldery and did some activities with them like crafts or cooking, but in the end not many were coming either.
The coordinator of that centre suggested us to change the day and start with the youngsters who came on Saturdays, so we’ll probably do that in future times.
In Mucenieki we visited two centres: the multifunctional one and a hosting centre for refugees.
It was really interesting for me to know more about the situation with the refugees in Latvia and how they are managing the asylum. In that centre we also were once doing games with some of the kids, but we found it quite hard for the fact of not speaking any language in common. They didn’t speak English, most of them didn’t even know Latvian, just Arabic languages. There was a guy who sometimes came to help and translate but we mostly had to communicate with gestures and couldn’t carry on well with some of the activities we had prepared. Although, I still find it interesting, we would just need somebody else with us to translate, but I don’t know if it will be possible. We’ll need to wait until 2018 to know how it goes with that project.
The multifunctional centre in Mucenieki is great, clearly the best that is working in my opinion. Everytime we’ve been there, there were people so willing to do things with us. Even if not all know a lot of English, they make the effort, ask doubts and help each other, so every activity we’ve prepared or participated in has been successful.
In December, besides keep going with the regular activities: Latvian classes, going to the multifunctional centres, archery, organizing meetings, events, games, etc., we started with two new projects.
The first one was to create a teamwork with some local youngsters to organize big events where all the youth of the nearest villages could attend and this way promote a union between them.
And first big event was just around the corner: Christmas festival.
I took this idea from my hometown, where every year we had a festival organized by students, in which we had activities like team games, a talent show, some awards, etc. energizing games, group photos in a photocall or hot chocolate with gingerbreads and mandarins (Latvians eat them in Christmas as a tradition).
Together with the team, we had tons of ideas, but being realistic we didn’t have the time to do all, so in the end we decided to carry on this plan: form groups of mixed people from different villages, split them in tables and do a funny and Christmasy competition based on a “karaoke- guessing song” prove, a “kahoot! Quiz” and “1min to win” game (where every team needed to end skillful tasks within a minute) as main activities. Then another little recreational issues like
Apart from the work, we’ve kept on touch with some of the volunteers we met in the EVS training and on 18th we celebrated all together the Latvian Independence Day in Riga. We marched around the city with torches. Riga was full of people and it was beautiful to see all the torches lighting in the name of Latvia. After that we invited our friends to
stay in our flat and had a great time together.
I’m also meeting quite often and getting close with my mentor, Valentina. She cares about me and helps me as much as she can.
There was a lot to prepare in a short time because the established date for the festival was on 22nd, so that kept us busy a bunch of days.
The second project we just introduced this month was to do with the request of those people who had asked in the schools for some more Spanish and Italian lessons. We started to think about that idea and had some meeting with the students in both schools (Ropazi and Zakumuiza) to find out more about their interests and find a way to carry on better with the task. We will develop it from January.
December was a month full of emotions, starting with a guest who came to visit me for my birthday, all the nice greetings and good details I received from my country and all the people here (our teamwork and the other volunteers). Following with the satisfaction of having a great, funny and successful Christmas festival and travelling to Tallin and Helsinki with a couple of friends in the holiday period. It was amazing!
First week after holidays we spent it in a camp site for youth. We did a lot of team work, crafts, sports, games, videos etc. Every day was focused on a value topic like humbleness, solidarity and generosity, so there were also some speeches and activities connected to them.
During those days I enjoyed a lot as part of the group, where everyone put their grain of sand to make things go in a heartwarming way. But also I learnt a lot in many fields, from socializing and improving my foreign languages and organization skills, to practical abilities like making a lamp out of a bottle or keyrings with hamma beads, creating and editing videos and lots of useful and funny activities to do with groups.
Plus we had exercises every morning and my legs really could feel it, I wish I had kept doing that, but with nobody pressing I don’t feel like welcome the day with a pile of squats.
We chilled out with live music, had great food and I finally tried Latvian sauna with their tradition of sink in a freezing pool intermittently. I have to recognize after the experience that it was so relaxing!
Once we had to say goodbye to the life in the camp and start with the routine, we had some meetings with the teachers and students in Ropazi and Zakumuiza schools and set up pur following Spanish-Italian lessons.
First one was on 18th in Ropazi, we did an introduction to both languages and I think they found it quite interesting, even one teacher came to learn something. In the second, Francesco was in charge and he presented the region of Lombardy in Italy, talked about the culture and did some learning game. I’ve been preparing my first lesson which will be on 1st of February and I’m a bit nervous about it because I’ve never acted like a teacher before, so it’s quite a challenge.
In the multifunctional centres we kept playing and organizing activities for the children and youngsters. We moved the visits to Silakrogs centre for some Saturdays and it was such a right move, we had a really good group to work with!
Tamara, voluntaria europea en Letonia