In the Spotlight with… Rita Mendes!

In the Spotlight with… began as a little project in my previous blog (Take the Plunge), in which I invited friends from all around Europe, who were crazy enough to become EVS volunteers in Lithuania, to share a bit about themselves and the projects they were developing.
I have now decided to resurrect this idea and invited my dear friend Rita, who recently became a volunteer in Lithuania as well, to share her thoughts.
Live from Biržai (Lithuania)!

Who is Rita? Be brief.
1,70 cm, brown hair and eyes… Well, that is difficult. I think Rita is a strict person, concerning the things which really interest. I consider myself as tolerant in many different ways and subjects, but that doesn’t mean absence of criteria or limit. Actually, I have my ideas quiet well defined but I always try to understand the others around me. If I do not understand them, how will I expect that someone will understand me? I like to meet with different people, but I also cherish having my own space and time. I like to think about issues but also to enjoy a very good moment just by emotions. I care about people in general, but even more the ones I really like. I’m not a person of having many people around, unless it means to party! I could say a lot, but I think this is enough.

Santa Rita

What made you decide to become a volunteer? Both as an EVSer (European Voluntary Service volunteer) and in your previous experiences?
The need and willingness to help and know people more.
Regarding the need to help: please don’t see this on the romantic way of showing off and being kind just to say that to the world. For me that is not the real volunteering or kindness. I simply believe that all of us have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s in our power to use the good we have in ourselves, share it (it can be simply a conversation with someone else) and with that we may change a life. We are not all born in the same places, we don’t naturally have the same access to good weather, food, money or even knowledge.
I believe I can help someone through different actions, by sharing my knowledge, helping to cross a street, having a good conversation, … I think the aim should be always one: make the people with whom I interact better in a certain way. This feeling fulfils me a lot.
About knowing more people the reason is short: I think we become more complete as human beings as much we know about other human beings. And we just achieve that the most when we contact with different ways of living, different realities. It shows us how small we are and give us much more sensibility and human tolerance and conscience.


It is normal for people to make stereotypes, especially when you are unfamiliar with the subject. Introduction aside, what were your thoughts on Lithuania before being there?
Actually, I did not have that much information about Lithuania. For me it was a country as any other of this unknown European region, where I had no idea about lifestyle or people. When I searched for EVS program it was one of the reasons that made me choose this country. Meanwhile, during research I learnt a bit more about it and also could talk with some people who already had gone there and it was essential to decide. Besides, having a friend (YOU) that made EVS in Lithuania helped me making the decision and knowing more about the strong and difficult weather, the food or some aspects of lifestyle.

 

What is a typical day for you in Biržai?
Well, I wake up at 7:30 every weekday, walk to my working place, the “Biržų krašto muziejus – Sėla”. I work there from 9:00 to 16:00 and have one lunch hour. Usually I go to have lunch at 12:00 with my tutor and my partner, also savanoris (volunteer), Natalia. We go to the public canteen, Valgykla, where we meet lots of locals: policemen, teachers, museum staff and others.
In the museum the tasks are many and we don’t usually do the same things everyday. We work on texts to prepare tours in English and other educational programs that museum offers, also attend to some workshops and prepare and give lessons, give ideas and discuss about what to improve in the museum.
After work, around 16:00, I usually go to the supermarket to buy groceries or for a coffee. Sometimes I go together with other volunteers to the gym or to attend a sports’ event. I am usually at home by 18:00, since it is very cold and gets dark very early. Occasionally we (all the volunteers) meet in someone’s flat to have some tea and enjoy the time together. The typical time to go to bed is 22h30 +/-.

Besty

Be honest, how is your Lithuanian going?
Well not that good, unfortunately. It is a very difficult language and I was not expecting that. Everything is different, from sounds to way of thinking and of course the words. So until now I just barely understand some words or usual expressions. But I am determined on learning it. I want to be able to communicate with everyone here and I feel that the language is in fact a barrier.


Have you already discovered something about yourself during the time you’ve been in Lithuania?
I don’t think so. At least not that clearly. I think it’s too soon for answering this question with a clear response. We are always changing ourselves and finding something more about us. Here is no exception. Maybe things are more intense in the way we live because everything is new, and maybe it will result in a bigger exposition of our personality. But until now I didn’t think on that too much.

Snowy Biržai

Now for the cliché one: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Well, still have no idea. That is the one million question! But doing something related to my course, physics and bio-engineering, making more volunteering actions or doing something related to my ‘’passion’’ arts. In fact I have some ideas, but still being developed inside.

IMG-20180120-WA0003

If you had to give some advice to future EVS volunteers, what would you say?
To choose properly the project they want because it would be half of their daily time and a good project is half of the way. To try to know the most about their receiving organisation and have some previous feedback because it will influence the way some personal problems will be solved and the accommodation conditions, which also depend on the place of the project.
Being conscience about which are the rights and the duties of each involved part, since they will be our “laws’ during EVS program.
Besides, to try to enjoy the most and take the best part of what this experience is. We have a freedom to be ourselves and improve the skills we want, sharing it in a multicultural way that is extremely rich.
Each one make their own experience. Make it worth your while.

Obrigado Santa Rita!

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OnAir #6

THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD

Netflix is a well-oiled marketing machine. Almost everything that is under its umbrella is highly scrutinised by the media and usually met with great receptiveness. The End of the F***ing World is not different.

End

A TV series premiered on the British broadcaster Channel 4 in October 2017 and it only gained international momentum once Netflix bought the rights to be aired beyond the Brexit Kingdom.

Short and thriving, The End of the F***ing World follows the story of James, a 17-year-old who believes to be a psychopath and kills animals for his own pleasure. Grown tired of such endeavours, he seeks for an upgrade: killing a human being.

Enters Alyssa, a cocky and grumpy girl who brings a breath of fresh air into James’ life. Mutual interest leads them to cut loose with their past and embark on a dark and indie (yeah, something) adventure through midland England. Blood, swears and tears and complete this package.

Fucking World

You get involved in the story from the get-go, and eight episodes of roughly 20 minutes each seemed too short. I was craving for more and the ending, albeit perfectly suiting the show, left many things without an answer. One way to unravel what might be in for a future season (unclear if that is going to happen… with Netflix, who knows?) is by reading the comic book by Charles Forsman, with the same name, in which the TV series is based.

Also worth noting the excellent photography and soundtrack.

/trailer

Postcard

Ahead of Christmas I came home to find this in the mailbox.

Gran Canaria

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.

Mr. Wilfriend wrote us!

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