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

Advertisements

Heritage

On a sunny yet cool Sunday afternoon at my grandparents’, I decided to take my sister for a little stroll around our homeland. What’s the point in venturing around the world when there are so many hidden gems to discover right under your nose?

We began with a visit to the main church of an unassuming town not far way, named Válega. It would be an ordinary church, just like hundreds scattered around the country if it wasn’t for its gorgeous facade! Covered in bright colourful tiles, it depicts various religious scenes and floral motifs.

The sightseeing did not end here though.

Gate

Soon we reached Avanca, my father’s hometown. No, we were not going to pick up oranges from my dad’s house backyard. Instead we drove to find ourselves in someone else’s house. The one who once belonged to Egas Moniz.

  • Egas Moniz, born as António Caetano de Abreu Freire de Resende, was a doctor, professor, politician, writer and best regarded as a neurologist – he developed the technique of cerebral angiography and his continuous interest in the brain lead him to develop the surgical procedure known as leucotomy (lobotomy in current days)
  • His uncle and father-in-law, Caetano Sá Freire, insisted on him adopting the surname Egas Moniz because he was convinced that the family Resende had a direct lineage to Egas Moniz, the tutor of Afonso Henriques (who became the first King of the Kingdom of Portugal)
  • Egas Moniz was born on 29th of November 1874 in the town of Avanca
  • The manor house has 154 chairs! A lot of cleaning needs to be done 😉

 

Nobel
One of the only two Nobel prizes located in Portugal is here, in Avanca. And yes, it is as real as it can get.
Ria
Sunset at the lagoon (aka Ria), always a sight to behold.

Avenue Q | OnAir #5

Before writing anything else, I have to thank T. for introducing and taking me to this play yesterday evening. If it wasn’t for him, this would have slipped under my radar.

Introductions aside, let’s get down to it!

Avenue Q (locally translated to, you guesses it, Avenida Q) is a musical first presented on Broadway in 2003 and given its popularity, it has ever since been produced in various countries worldwide. Portugal was no exception, having Avenida Q first performed earlier this year. The Lusitanian season has been renewed due to the public continuous interest in it.

Avenida Q

So, what is Avenue Q?
Imagine Sesame Street and “The Real World” having a baby. It would be Avenue Q. The show mixes human characters and puppet characters interacting with one another. The actors who give life to the puppets are not concealed, instead they have an on-stage presence alongside the other characters.

The story evolves around Luís, a recently who moves to Avenue Q because he can’t afford to live anywhere else. In that place he ends up finding others who struggle with life in one way or another. We can easily very easily relate with the characters or with bits and pieces from each one of them. The difficulty of growing up is smartly conveyed throughout the show. And also the importance of celebrating our failures. We are humans, after all.

The Ursinhos das Ideas de Merda (loosely translated to Little bears of shitty ideas) were my little guilty pleasure. Who wouldn’t love to have two cute, strident teddy bears by your side ready to instigate you into bringing out your worst. No rules, no boundaries, no limits. And then there is Paula Porca. A sex-bomb that cannot be overlooked.


I can honestly say that despite not being a fan of the whole “musical” concept (I mean, on what purpose do performers start singing so perfectly synchronised with great choreography?), Avenue Q was created with the finest ingredients: snarky sarcasm, humour and enough irony mixed with catchy songs. Enough to head home with a smile on my face.

Obrigado T.

Bodas

It’s been one month since our family grew bigger.

Toxic

Ever since I can remember, my mother (who is the one that dictates things at the house!) had always been reluctant about having a pet. We live in an apartment, so there’s not much space for an hypothetical animal to live within walls. Bodas came to our family quite unexpectedly. My mom began giving hints that she would like to have a cat and soon the five of us became very excited about the idea!

We came across a pet shop in the neighbourhood with a few kittens up for adoption. A cute little that we found there melted our hearts.
My father soon came home with a few bags of cat food. The layette was ready for our “newborn”.
A few days later, my mother went back to the shop to finally adopt the kitten. The employee informed her that the adoption came with a few requirements, meaning that she had to spend €30+ on food and other (un)necessary goods for the cat. A questionable practice, no doubt!

Sneaky Bodas

So we waited patiently.

On the 5th of October, in Oeiras, the municipality where we live at (2780 zip code!), a pet fair was held at the local park. Cats and kittens could be found there, ready to get a new home.

This cute little yellow one caught our attention. He had to be the one.

As strange as it might sound, the name Bodas pays tribute to my parents 25th wedding anniversary. Traditionally, when a couple hits the 25th mark, the celebration is called a “silver wedding anniversary”, which loosely translates to Portuguese as: “bodas de Prata”. Hence the “Bodas”, which sounds cutesy enough be his name.

Under-the-table II

Another foray into the underground world of not-so-legal restaurants in Martim Moniz. I ventured into a new place, right at the main square. Look for number 12 and don’t fear having to walk upstairs from the entrance door, you’ll find it easily. I came to try out a €5 Chinese noodles soup, with a pork chunk drowned on a beautifully flavoured broth.

Once we entered, the place was not so crowded and we were the only westerners in there. That’s always a good sign! 😉

Noodle Soup

The biggest challenge was deciding how to approach the soup: chopsticks, spoon or fork. We had all these at hand and within an hour of hard labouring I finished most of the bowl. Despite not having a sweet tooth, I shared a plate of fried banana to finish our travel through the East.

This is Portugal

Portugal is not only made of postcard-like cities, pristine beaches and breathtaking natural areas unspoiled by men. Every summer of every year, wildfires ravage the country, engulfing trees, forests, animals, villages, people… It has become such a commonality that people are no longer surprised, like the news of another shooting somewhere in the US.

This year was no different. Besides what was lost as part of the ecosystem, more than one hundred lives were taken alongside. O.N.E. H.U.N.D.R.E.D.

Is this the future we want?