Story | telling

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.

TK

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.

Stream

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:

  1. Script writing
  2. Voice recording
  3. Media gathering (visuals)
  4. Video editing
  5. Screening

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.

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.

Riding

Now is the time to replicate what we learned! Soon a workshop on storytelling will take place in Portugal!

The Erasmus+ Training Course “Sharing Stories, Building Bridges” was made possible by Caucasus Youth Nexus, MasterPeace Georgia and Digital StoryLab.


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.

Sausages

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.

Endless

Acid Bar 4

Sure. Exactly.

Turkish Airlines

Time to say goodbye. And a promise to return.

მშვიდობით

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We’ll always have Paris!

My friend Mafalda and I bought the plane tickets to the city of Love without much thinking. It was one of those “let’s do it now or never” moments. It would be a weekend getaway to celebrate her 23rd birthday.

Early on Saturday morning, while the city still slept, we found ourselves at Lisbon Airport.
Our adventure had already began the evening before, with Mafalda celebrating her anniversary with a late dinner at a Nepalese restaurant (quite a good one!). Of course, the candles were only blown once the clocks announced midnight.

Biz

Once we landed, off we went straight to the Eiffel Tower. Going up was not in our plans (I have been already) since it was quite expensive and we were on a low-cost mindset. Paris’ recent history with terrorist attacks, the city was on defensive mode… plenty of military strolling around, the ground area around the Eiffel was limiting the access only to paid visitors who had to go through a tight security check. We’d better enjoy the view from a bit further.

Hidden

We crossed the Seine to the Trocadéro area. Sun was high and warm. Laying down on the grass, treating ourselves to a sunbath sounded plausible, but we had to keep on going. Resting only once we’d be back in Portugal!

We try to chase down all the freebies. Checking out my square and avenue was one of those. Arc de Triomphe soon followed.

Triomphe

From the top of the Arch, I saw a skyline of high-rise buildings further down one of the main boulevards (later learned to be part of the Axe historique). In between those glass towers stood the Grand Arche de La Défense, a modern, 20th century reinterpretation of the famous old Arch. Having a knack for modern architecture and having heard of it before, I immediately wanted to go there.

PicNic

Soon it was time to grab something to eat. We found a supermarket where we bought some goods and went towards the cube. Along the way we found a park, Bois de Boulogne, were we decided to stop. I put out my blanket (one of the perks of flying business class…) and we had an healthy meal together. The only things missing were baguette, cheese and wine, in order to make it extra French.

Grand Arch

With our energy levels restored we walked down 5km to La Défense. This modern neighbourhood was bustling with people, commerce… life! I have always been fond of modern architecture, having in the past the dream of becoming an architect even, so I felt welcomed in this place, trying to breath in as much as possible. Once we cooled off (we had walked for long under the Parisian heat) we headed to the subway to get to Montmartre.

Mafalda had always been hooked on Amélie but so far she never had the chance to visit the café in Montmartre where the protagonist worked as a waitress, le Café des 2 Moulins. A beer kept us company while we enjoyed people watching.

Beer glass empty gave us an extra boost to keep on exploring the area. We walked up to Sacré-Cœur where we were crammed with hundreds of other passers-by. Rubbing sweaty shoulders with one another was definitely leaving me uncomfortable. Down to la Place de la Bastille, we had the time to do some window-shopping and to count dozens of African hair-salons in one single street. How does one try to differentiate from the another one next door?

€35 poorer after being fined at the Métro, we got to the square where once stood the Bastille prison, destructed at the end of the 18th century, during the French Revolution. The kebab I had for dinner was no help to my cranky mood. Mafalda introduced me to the Algerian couple, Med and Karima, she had met during the summer in one of her hitchhiking trips.

A few beers by the Seine accompanied by the ukulele played by the passionate Med helped to lift my spirits a bit. The evening was already long, but our day was far from over.

Nous

We sad goodbye to Med and Karima and promised to be back in a couple of hours. We took the L1 subway heading east until we reached the final station, Château de Vincennes. We walked for what it seemed like forever by the curb of a road that crossed a dense forest, or something alike. It was around 2 a.m.. and we were presented with the creepiest episode: an old man slowly pushing an old woman in a wheelchair. I have to remind you that we were kind of in the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m.. Scary encounter aside, we moved on and soon reached our intended destination. Mafalda met the French and off we went to Rouen, a short 2,5 hours drive.

Rouen is a beautiful, picturesque city that reminded me a lot of Germany with its cute wooden houses. We walked around, had lunch, walked a bit more and soon we had to catch the bus.

Rouen

Back to Paris. We met again with Med and Karima for moules et frites at their cute little one-room apartment. The perfect ending to our Parisian getaway.

Back home.

Let's Fly Away

Wanderlusting facts & figures

  • 2 siblings
  • 41 days
  • 13 countries
  • 2 flights
  • 4599 kilometres travelled
    • 2763 kilometres by hitchhiking (48 rides!)
    • 1836 kilometres travelled on 7 trains and 2 buses
    • First time hitchhiking on a truck!
  • 40 nights
    • 10 nights Couchsurfing
    • 5 nights with friends and families
    • 9 nights wild camping
    • 2 nights on a campsite
    • 12 nights on hostels and guesthouses
    • 1 night sleeping (or trying, at least) on a bus
    • 1 night sleeping under the stars
  • Black riding dozens of public transportation
  • Lost (& not found)
    • 1 mirrorless camera in Geneva (Vitor)
    • 1 shirt in Vaduz (Catarina)
    • 1 t-shirt in Verona (Vitor) – deliberately…
    • 1 pair of swimming trunks (Vitor) – deliberately…
    • 1 bottle of water in Venice (Vitor)
    • 1 hoodie in Budapest (Vitor)
  • Stranger things
    • We saw an accident live!
    • Thought we were going to be kidnapped by a Russian in Albania
  • Climbed 11 mountains/mounds/hills.
  • Wrote twice on a complaint’s book


12 messages from my mobile service provider welcoming me to each of the 12 countries visited. Yeah, in the end it was 13 countries. But in one of those I did not turn on my data plan… Can you guess which one?

 

Thumb #17

From Gyenesdiás (Hungary) to Budapest (Hungary) – 194km


Mr. Wilfried was not willing to let us hitchhike to Budapest (“it was unsafe”…), so instead he advised us to take a bus from a town nearby directly to the capital. We agreed, even so bitter-sweetly. Forty-seven rides in the end, we thought.

Right after the last sightseeing stop, at the city palace, our Hungarian grandfather drove us to the supposed bus station/stop, to which he had never been before. The bus venue was nowhere to be found… and we ultimately agreed that it was too late to catch it. Before turning back home (Gyenesdiás) to look for the next bus, I told Mr. Wilfried we could just hitch to Budapest! We had come all the way from Vienna the day before, so how hard could it be? He sighed, but readily drove us to a spot right before the highway entrance. Fare-wells behind us, we put our thumbs in the air for one last time.

One final cardboard
B-U-D-A-P-E-S-T

Ride #48
Our ultimate ride! As usual, few cars drove by, some noticing us, some just flying by as if we were invisible… A high-end Audi passed by super fast and I immediately made a snarky comment to my sister about the “typical driver” of cars like this one. If only I knew that right in the nick of time the car turns around to pick us up! Shamefaced me.
Father and son, heading straight to Budapest. We talked little to nothing, but they were kind enough to drop us off where I asked for. We got to Budapest even faster than if we had taken the bus we intended to.

Balaton

Balaton

When we went separate ways, already a month ago, Mr. Wilfried gave us a little business card of the guesthouse he runs with his wife in Hungary. At the time my sister and I didn’t think much of it, but as days went by, I came to the realisation that it could be a good idea to show up in his town before finally heading Budapest.

And so we did! Gyenesdiás, a town right next to the city of Keszthely, on the northwestern tip of lake Balaton, was the perfect place to rest in between all the hustle and bustle of urban living…

Once we arrived to Mr. Wilfried’s house, I was quite apprehensive, thinking “Maybe coming here was a bad idea… What if he doesn’t recognise us? What if we have to pay to stay here?” [sorry, but it did cross my mind…]. These thoughts vanished pretty fast… Maria, his wife came to the gate, I handed her the business card and albeit being a bit suspicious, she went to get Mr. Wilfried, who was very surprised to see us there. We were incredibly pampered… delicious food, cozy bed, invigorating swims at the lake. It felt like being at my grandparents’. In Hungary.

Wilfried!
A selfie at Festetics Palace, in Keszthely