People ask me why I come back to Lithuania…
It is quite easy to answer such question, as everything can be summed up in one word: people. Cliché… but clichés exist because they can be true.
After losing the bus that would take me from Rīga to Biržai, my backup plan was hopping in a mini-bus that left me on the outskirts of the Latvian capital and then sticking my thumb up, hoping that someone would be kind enough to give me a lift. Sooner than I expected, I got a ride from a Lithuanian guy that left me close to my destination. My confidence was quite high and in no time another car stopped and Biržai soon became a reality, one hour ahead of the bus I was supposed to take.
Rita was waiting for me outside
her palace the museum where she is working as an EVS volunteer. I had never been in Biržai before, so Rita managed to be my local guide until the freezing cold weather forced us to find warmth in the apartment she shares with other savanoris. Tasty, intercultural food and drinks kept us chatting until I couldn’t keep my eyelids open. I got some sleep and early in the morning a bus awaited me. And this time I couldn’t afford to miss it.
As I was crossing the flatlands of Lithuania, I was getting more and more anxious. Plungė was soon becoming a reality. The town that I had made my home for 10 months was receiving me for a few days once again.
Kristina was the key to make it all happen. She received me with a smile in her house. She cooked for me. Drove me around. Kind of like a mother.
March gave me the chance to be once again in Latvia! This time to take part in a youth exchange as team-leader of the Portuguese entourage.
The first thing I faced upon reaching the Scottish capital was how to correctly pronounce its name. One would think that given the ending – burgh – it would be articulated as in Pittsburgh. Wrong. English wouldn’t be complete without its quirks… Ask a local how to correctly say it: ED-IN-BRUH. Yes, bruh!
The second was the freezing cold temperatures that made it pretty unbearable to spend some quality time outside. Truth be told, when I packed, I took as if I was going to expect mild, rainy weather. Mistakes do happen and I paid the price – a runny nose along with a tenebrous cough.
The third ordeal I had to go through was the accommodation. I thought about doing Couchsurfing due to the fairly steep prices, but a few days before coming to the city I was able to snag a pretty good deal: $13 for 2 nights at a fairly central hostel with average ratings. I knew beforehand I was not in for anything spectacular and it managed to be even worse: dirty floors, uncomfortable mattress, Arctic cold room due to bad isolation, one single toilet for a 12-bedroom and staff that was nowhere to be seen (I waited for about 20 minutes outside the hostel because no one was at the reception). Avoid staying at City Stay Hostel Edinburgh. The price you pay doesn’t make up for all the hassle.
In spite of all this ranting, Edinburgh really found its way to my heart. Inspiring architecture everywhere I looked (from the medieval Old Town to the neo-classical of the New Town), a state-of-the-art museum where spending a full day might not be enough, striking hiking trails that offer great panoramas and at last but not least, affordable prices on food, shopping… (at least when comparing with London!).
Pomelo + mandarine = sweet orange
Portugal and oranges have been tied together for generations… Since the 15th century at least. However if you ask a Portuguese if they have heard anything regarding their country’s connection with oranges, they will most likely raise an eyebrow…
During the XV century, brave sailors from Portugal began wandering into the vast ocean to uncover what was on other side, on other worlds… Today we know these adventures as the Portuguese Discoveries. They ventured into unknown territories along Africa, India and the far East.
Let’s first learn how to pronounce the word orange in several modern Indo-European languages:
Albanian | portokall
Bulgarian | портокал (portokal)
Greek | πορτοκάλι (portokali)
Macedonian | portokal
Persian | پرتقال (porteghal)
Romanian | portocală
Other languages have similar names as well:
Arabic | البرتقال (bourtouqal)
Georgian | ფორთოხალი (p’ort’oxali)
Turkish | portakal
Southern Italian dialects, such as Neapolitan, pronounce orange as portogallo or purtuallo.
I guess you can now sense the similarities between the pronunciation of the fruit orange and the country Portugal!
Portuguese merchants were the first to introduce the sweet orange in Europe. At the time, the orange was an hybrid fruit made from the crossover of a mandarine and a pomelo.
I guess we can thank the Portuguese for giving us the juicy sweet orange we all know and love!
With affordable Ryanair flights all around, it becomes incredibly easy to just hop on a plane and spend a few days somewhere else. Dublin was the chosen destination, as to smell the scents of an unknown territory. The scent of roasted barley, mostly.
Our trip began in great haste. The boarding closed at 9 a.m. and we made it to the airport just 5 minutes before. We hurried through the security screening and soon we made it to the gate. If the flight had not been a few minutes delayed, we wouldn’t have made it. A great rush of adrenaline even before we set foot in Dublin!
That’s the way you pronounce it. But you should write it as “craic”.
Let’s go have some crack! said every Irish once weekend comes. Not to worry, the Irish are not on the verge of having to check-in to a detox clinic. Craic is an Irish word, with no exact English translation. The closest meaning to it is fun.
“Having craic” is having a good time or a laugh. However, due to an unfortunate similarity in pronunciation with a well-known and illegal narcotic substance, not everyone gets the right idea about it… So if you are in Dublin and want to have some craic, head to Temple Bar and have a good time.
If you happen to be in Dublin for a few days, I highly recommend hopping on a train (or bus, or whatever transport suits you better) and go immerse yourself in the nature. We chose Howth, a seaside village merely 20 minutes away from Dublin by train. Set out for a walk along the cliff paths and soak in all the misty and damp beauty of the place. Make it extra worth and bring with you some light sandwiches for an invigorating picnic.
Do you know what Guinness and Ryanair have in common? Take a look at their logos… You’ll notice something: the harp! Only when in Dublin I came to such realisation. Silly me.
But why the harp?
Both Ryanair and Guinness were born in the leprechaun island.
Is is known that the harp as history dating as far as 1000 years. Brian Boru, the last High King of Ireland (death: 1014), is said to have been an accomplished harp player, but little evidence remains to sustain this fact. However, 12th century historical records refer to the Celtic harp being the only music played during the Crusades.
At this time, the Gaelic harp was hold in high regard in Celtic culture (and all over Europe). Scottish and Irish kings had their own resident harper who, in turn, enjoyed high status and special privileges.
In 1531, when the English monarch Henry VIII declared himself King of Ireland, the country’s harp was taken into high regard, being chosen as the official symbol of Ireland and stamped on every coin issued during Henry’s realm.
What not to forget!
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:
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.
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.
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.
Time to say goodbye. And a promise to return.