The first week in Poland with intensive training has passed and today marks the first day of working at the Polish schools. All in all, the experience has so far been absolutely amazing (stupefacente in Italian) but also very exhausting! Being surrounded by several different cultures and living in a combination of languages already by itself takes a lot of energy. When you add to the mixture the aim of building educational workshops to Polish teenagers without knowing that much about pedagogy or Polish, there is quite a lot to eat. Luckily, eating is great fun especially when you do it in excellent company!
The project I am participating is funded by European Commission who covers all the basic needs of the participants including flights to and from the project. We are 7 volunteers from different countries – Finland, Denmark, Italy, England, Greece, Spain and France to be exact. Our aim is to bring intercultural experiences and more tolerance to diversity to the small town of Minsk Mazowiecki in Poland by organizing workshops at local schools and cultural events at EBU Lab which serves both as our working space and as our home. In addition to us, there are four more French people sharing the flat and working with us even though their focus is slightly different and the project is longer.
Living together has it’s downsides (e.g. half of the house has been sick during the course of the past 7 days) but so far it’s been mostly great to share my room with an Italian and a Dane. I don’t remember a time when I would have laughed as much as we’ve done during the evenings! Most importantly, I have learned some very important things with them examples being that Italian roosters say Kickeriki (Kukko kiekuu in Finland) and Japanese bees say Boon-Boon-Zh-Zh-Zh, which makes a nice beat when you keep repeating it. Even though it sometimes requires patience, it is relatively easy to forget the undone dishes and tomatoes disappearing from the fridge when you share the experience with such great people with whom you can laugh the occasional frustration out.
Learning about Poland and the very basics of Polish language has also been interesting. For example, Dzién dobry! Jestem wolontariuszką EBU. Gdzie jest pokój profesora?, will be a good way to start the day at the school when I am lost and not finding the teacher’s room. Practically that’s the only thing I can say in Polish and I wouldn’t understand the reply anyway, but it is still a start and makes a great combo with non-verbal communication. Regardless of the language barrier, a smile has helped us to ensure a Polish woman who had fallen with her bike was okay as well as saved us from paying for a fine when traveling to Warsaw with a totally wrong train ticket.
I have also had the chance to taste Polish food like pierogi (Polish dumplings) with different fillings that can be sweet or savoury. As you cannot tell by the looks of the pierogi if it is filled with strawberries or spinach and our Polish skills are slightly defective, we had the pleasure of tasting sweet cheese pierogis seasoned with salt and pepper – wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. However, as our Polish mentors took us to the supermarket last week, it’s been ensured that not all the packages feel like Kinder eggs with a surprise inside. I discovered they sell oatmeal and cottage cheese also in Poland so my mornings are covered.
There is so much going on that I could write every day but the schedule being busy, you’ll hear from me again next week when I’ll share more about my work and learnings in the school environment!
P.S. It is now confirmed that my next adventures after Poland will take place in Costa Rica and Brazil before hitting Australia in May!