Being back

Detalii despre proiectul meu EVS în Lituania aici.

I was an EVS volunteer in a climbing gym in Kaunas, Lithuania.

My second evening back in Bucharest caught me in the city center, with a Lithuanian flag around my body, supporting their basketball teams during the first 3×3 European Championship, which we hosted. I was freshly returned after living one year in their land, where basketball is the main religion.

10013981_10152710402173588_6180474358677679484_nSomehow, I was sitting on that small, improvised arena, somehow I was still in Kaunas, drinking coffee in our garden and feeding the neighbours’ cat while my flatmates would threaten to bake her in the oven. I was watching through the basketball competitions and thinking about all the people who were part of my life in the last year, people who I won’t get to see anytime soon.

At the end of August, I burst into tears at the opening of the new gym party, when someone from behind touched my right shoulder and asked me how do I feel, now, close to the end. That moment corresponded with the gym team calling all the volunteers, to thank us and for group photos. The moment is there, recorded in some photos. I was like a waterfall, of course, caught in one of the ten times during the year, when I decided to put on some mascara. It took some big hugs and some cake to calm down. Then I realised it’s over, “viskas” as they would say.

I realised one year is the exact time frame when I got to feel fully comfortable and integrated. Felt that with my team from the climbing gym, felt that in our house, felt that with my international friends. Felt that when someone was asking for directions in Kaunas and I could answer. After sleepovers in the gym, meals shared together, trips, campfires, biking tours, 3:00 am talks, so many fireworks, lake trips, letters, kids screaming all around, getting lost, improving body language, getting the chicken pox and missing home. After comparing Romania to Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Germany and sharing funny or sad stories about our systems, after the struggles of getting attached and then saying goodbye to so many international friends who finished earlier their projects. I finaly got comfortable 100%, I knew where to find everything and got the courage to ask for help, whenever.

10155002_10152303750853675_1396087198_nSome say that when you feel too comfortable it’s a clear sign you should move again. Well, more than this saying, my project was ending and I had to move anyway from my comfortable corner. Last month of project was full of questions from others, full of non-answers from my side.

I didn’t feel anything about my return. I wasn’t excited, I wasn’t sad. I was nothing. It’s the weirdest thing ever – feeling empty and cold, like a stone. I always put a wall to questions. “So, what are you going to do when you go back?”. Don’t know. “So, you must be pretty excited to go back after one year”. Don’t know. “Bet you’re gonna start looking for other international projects soon”. Don’t know. “Stop suffocating me”, my eyes were screaming.

It’s not like we had time to analyze anything. No time to even think that we witnessed a big change – moving the climbing gym in a bigger space, our team becoming more professional and aiming higher, hence stressed more and sleeping less. Me and my Italian colleague Ste were always in between helping in the new gym, last details before opening/ competition/ party, shopping or making presents and writing letters on our knees for the people who were part of our lives, in between coffee sips and buses that we had to catch.

We were also talking and showing around for the three new volunteers, with whom we got to meet for a few days. They had this fresh enthusiasm, trying to help whenever, wherever, from their first days. I was having mental pictures of our exact same start, one year ago.

1920220_842821129077542_871600935_nI felt even emptier at the final thought that I’m not needed there anymore. Just knew I have a ticket back to Bucharest on the 3rd of September and that I was going to wear the same cowboy boots that brought me in Lietuva at the beginning of last September, in a chilly night. Cowboy boots and a snowboarding jacket. What else can make more sense? I know, a 60l backpack, where I managed to squeeze almost all my belongings. Johnny Cash in my head singing “I don’t know, I know I’ll just be moving along”. 

In my last months in Lithuania I had lots of contradictory moments. I had evenings (because, somehow, all the doubts like gathering during the night) when I would turn the internet upside down searching for abroad opportunities in all the possible fields. I was applying to English teaching jobs in Spain, other volunteering services in Buenos Aires, checking websites like workaway.info, where you can be hosted by local families all around the world, in exchange of helping them a couple of hours per day with family tasks. I had desperate moments thinking I have to see more of this world, no matter how.

Than I would wake up, checking Romanian newsfeeds and seeing great initiatives happening, so different comunities trying to make their projects survive, despite the dificulties they were encountering. And then I was stopping my international search and thinking I can do wonderful things here, where I grew up. I don’t need to run away right now. I don’t need to speak a foreign language forever nor do I know if I want that. I was feeling lost between so many questions, doubts and the fear of depression, once arriving home and in my mind, going to a new place was a solution.

The questions are never ending and I never stopped keeping an eye on international opportunities. Would finding a job in Italy for example, as a nany, with a good salary, make me happier than receiving maybe not even half of the sum for reporting in Romania, for writing in my language, using our endless expressions? Would the organized German society make me laugh at least half of the times Romania does, with its contradictions, with its weird laws and politicians constantly making fools of themselves; with its unfinished roads and bridges and traffic madness. Would the friends I make abroad be as trustworthy as my friends back home? Am I interested in making small differences or just in monthly income? Can old pictures taped on new walls fill the hole of not seeing dear friends for months/ years? Where do I start and where do I continue?

I came back, decided that me and Bucharest have to give eachother a second chance, and a third one, if neccesary. I think I gained a lot after my year abroad – from self-confidence and having initiatives, to being independent, having more patience or being a teamplayer, although I enjoy more working on my own. Knowing when to talk and when to listen, and how to let go. All of these give me enthusiasm back here (and it would take 10 other posts to explain one big year, but for those interested in EVS, contact me).

I didn’t get the chance to get depressed because of all the life this city has in it, especialy now, when a fresh season is starting, when the season of fresh starts is on. Movies, theatre and music festivals, open doors, renovations, exhibtions, street performances and sports competitions, more and more people trying to participate to the cultural evolution of our capital. More and more graffiti on the walls telling me everything’s gonna be fine or quoting romanian writers. I think autumn is a great time to be back, redescovering my own city, with a higher sense for details than I already had.

“What would happen if we would all run away from our countries and trash-talk it to foreigners?”, my Lithuanian tutor once asked me, in response to my questions, “have you ever thought of living abroad?”

I don’t want to find answers to her question actualy, for now I’m happy to be back, to meet again all my dear people and to start working on projects sooner than I thought. Trying to catch up with this year’s events. I pause my personal question flow and keep myself busy. Stopped trying to understand where do I belong and if I’m taking the right decisions. Without ultimatums for the moment, although I’m not saying ultimatums are bad.

For now, I marked my year on my room’s walls, with a Žalgiris poster (the famous Lithuanian basketball team), a map of Lithuania’s touristic point and some pictures. My room needed to know where am I back from too.

Uncertainty is quite unsettling, but also exciting. And then unsettling again. Exactly how my Bucharest always was. It’s a love-hate kind of thing, in the permanent city rush, in between two honks, while crossing on a red light, passing by some beggars and some stray dogs.

Some pics from Lietuva:

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