Ahead of Christmas I came home to find this in the mailbox.
Written in German and addressed to me and my sister:
Liebe Catherina, Lieber Viktor, viele liebe Grüße aus sendet Euch Wilfried + Maia aus Ungarn. Danke für Euren Kartengruß gut zu wissen, dass ihr gut wieder in Portugal angekommen seid. Zu den Feiertagen alles Gute und ein gesundes Neue-Jahr 2018.
Georgia came unexpectedly into my life.
No, I’m not talking about a girl, neither about the north-american state.
This is Georgia, a country located in between Europe and Asia, in the Caucasus region. Its capital and biggest city is Tbilisi.
Georgia came with a purpose: to participate in an Erasmus+ Training Course named “Sharing Stories, Building Bridges”, supported by European Commission’s Erasmus+ program. The main goal of the project is to teach youngsters how to use the method of digital storytelling, in order to express their personal stories using digital media.
Georgia came at the last minute: only a week ahead of the beginning of the training course I got my acceptance letter.
Backpack ready with my winter gear (thanks to my time in Lithuania!), two Turkish Airlines’ flights later and four time zones ahead of Portugal, I arrived in Tbilisi. A cool, wintry breeze welcomed me in Georgia. I was actually looking forward to that.
Soon I ended up meeting some of the fellow colleagues that would accompany me through this storytelling journey. In total, I met 26 participants from the following countries: Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Ukraine.
As usual with training courses, the first day was meant for participants to get to know each other better through a series of ice-breaking and team building activities. After all, we were going to spend almost a whole week together, both during the actual work hours as well as during leisure time. We also had the chance to explore the village of Bakuriani, where we were settled, and meet with some locals.
Over the next 7 days we had the chance to immerse ourselves in the methodology known as digital storytelling, with the help of Signe, Dorthe and Kasia, our facilitators. The first handful of days were dedicated to the creation of our own individual stories, where we had to put our skills and imagination to work.
“To be a person is to have a story to tell”
The sentence above sums up what storytelling means. At least for me. We can just be normal people (what is normal anyways?), living the normal life, and still having amazing stories to tell. Even if sharing the stories with the outside world can be important, the storytelling process allows us to reflect on personal moments of change.
The concept of digital storytelling is subdivided in the following components:
Media gathering (visuals)
Stories are meant to be authentic and personal, so before we plunged on the script writing part, we were offered some creative writing exercises to (you guessed it!) exercise our brains.
Once we had an idea of the story we wanted to tell, we followed to the scrip writing part, in which the only guidelines we had was not to make it longer than 250 words.
One might think that this is a very lonesome method, but the truth is that along the way, we gather in small groups, aka story-circles, where we have a safe space to share our writings and the problems we might be facing during the process. Moreover, we are assigned a buddy, with whom we can further discuss and collaborate. All in all, we are not meant to be left in the wilderness alone.
When I came to Georgia I had zero ideas on the story I wanted to tell. I just tried not to create any expectations and go with the flow. The idea came organically has conversations took place with my fellow colleagues. Script writing was a breeze, unlike the voice recording part. Eventually I managed to succeed, not without a huge help from Signe, who lend me her quiet room. Visuals soon followed and before I knew it, time was running so fast that for some moment I thought I would not be able to finish my film in time for the screening!
I wanted to pay homage to those people I had met in Lithuania, especially the ones who took their time to knit such a beautiful, warm and cosy scarf. I wish I had more opportunities to wear it however, cause you know… Portugal is a bit too warm for that.
Once we finished our screening session, not without getting a bit emotional, we were rewarded with an afternoon trip to one of the most famous castles in Georgia: the Rabati Castle. A Georgian traditional dinner was also one of the perks we got afterwards. With endless toasts.
View from Rabati Castle!
Back to the mountains, for the second part of the project, we went through various sessions aimed at preparing us, the participants, to become digital storytelling facilitators back in our countries. We also had the opportunity to better understand the method behind the digital storytelling.
In my opinion it was very smart to first have the opportunity of creating our own stories and only afterwards explores the theoretical side of it, as not to overwhelm us with rigid ideas and workflows. We were able to discover the process mostly by ourselves, subtly guided by our facilitators.
And the time in Bakuriani could not be complete without some horse-riding time. For as little as 5 Lari.
Now is the time to replicate what we learned! Soon a workshop on storytelling will take place in Portugal!
When we were back in the capital, I still had two full days to enjoy myself and discover this city. Together with some of the people I had met during the training course.
Being in Georgia would incomplete if I would not talk (or write, in this case) about Ana, my Georgian psychologist/ballerina & friend, who was an EVS volunteer in Lithuania too! I have heard that “Love at first sight” happens, but in this case I’d reformulate the cliché to something like “Friendship at first sight”.
Being toured by a local, Ana, allowed me to go off the beaten path. Yes, I crossed the Bridge of Peace and went up the hill by cable-car to the Narikala fortress and Mother Of Georgia. But I also wandered around an historical area which, albeit in ruins, was incredibly charismatic.
There’s a sign like this in every village, town, city nowadays…
The high-tech Bridge of Peace.
With An na!
With Ana and… Ana
I was also presented with the opportunity to go with Ana to the school where she works as a psychologist to talk with some students about the opportunities of mobility that the European Commission offers and how it can have a positive impact in the lives of those who take part in these.