Connecting The CommUnity – Kalli Kolberg – 2 Months Volunteering in Italy
Name of the project: Connecting The CommUnity
City/Country: Lecce & San Cesario, Italy
Volunteers blog: https://learnitshareit.weebly.com
I returned from Italy more or less a week ago and I already want to go back, be one more time part of a project, society, and culture, like the one I experienced during my ESC. Connecting The Community project lead to so many emotions. It is going to take a while to explain all of these tiny thoughts and feelings, so I will make a choice and tell you about my highest and lowest points.
When I arrived in Italy I didn’t have this special ooh-I-am-in-Italy-feeling. Yes, I saw cactuses, palm and olive trees, Italians with a taste of fashion, and old white houses with blue doors, but that’s it. No feeling. Until the point when I and my fellow Vulcanic volunteers were in San Cesario, acquainting ourselves with the community for whom were going to organize events. We interviewed a woman in Forno Rollo. This encounter was memorable for two reasons. First, she gave us a bunch of sweets (that’s not happening in Estonia if someone new comes to the bakery shop, mkm). Second, the woman told us that she is worried about their community, people go away, go to study somewhere else, live somewhere else. This was a clash of information. The woman welcomed us like we were now part of the community, how is it even possible to be worried about the community feeling when there are people as kind and friendly as this, how can people go away. This was my first Italian moment – I was welcomed to the community (community is a keyword for Italy, for sure), and our job as a community builder started from there.
As you understood there were two important feelings was hunting for – helping people realize that they are part of the community and looking for the feeling that I as well am part of the community. The first one was much-much easier to achieve than the second one. After all, we organized events, we brought people together, we interviewed them, asked their opinion and lead them to tell stories about their community and hometown, help them realize that they are important to others, gave them a reason to bond and belong. And they did bond and belong – they told us so, they hugged us at the end of the event and they were smiling, eyes shining and promising to come back and participate in the next event. About my sense of belonging, I couldn’t feel it in Estonia and at first in Italy neither. I socialized with people, went out almost every night, listened to how people were singing and playing the instruments, but nothing, niente, I wasn’t part of this group of nice people. I was lost and I couldn’t find myself. Until the point, we started with our second event. I wasn’t a facilitator, that time it was my fellow mates’ turn. I was there to help. I didn’t have the pressure to break the ice people but I wanted to do it for them. That was the moment when I did yoga, that was the moment when I enjoyed the moment the most – no pressure – and that was the moment I belonged somewhere. It is hard to explain why. I think I did what I really liked, I did it with others, I connected them and we all enjoyed that.
But it is important to show the other part of the culture as well – everything wasn’t delicious pizza and sweet gelato. To start with, those drivers are wreckless – it was interesting to see that they don’t care about the lines on the road, they make their own lines. They drive with only one hand or even without a hand and a knee, drinking is not a problem and they count on bikers to adjust to the cars, even if they should stop. I had so many almost accidents because of them and one real. Luckily, nothing serious. But this wasn’t a reason to want to go back home. In two months I had only one occasion which made me feel homesick. Two days before my departure, I went to do a PCR test. First, it was impossible to find the place where to get tested, first because they didn’t have that information on their web page, secondly, even if there was the address written I couldn’t understand it anyway, it was Italian – that is the story about Italy, everything is in Italian – but my Italian coordinator helped me. I got the address and the time frame. But on my way there I got lost – that is the story of me, getting lost – but one old man kindly gave the directions (in Italian and I understood!). The clinic didn’t want the appointment for testing, so I got there and I was standing for two hours under the hot sun. I needed to fill up a form – once again everything was in Italian, couldn’t understand everything, asked my smart friend google, but even my friend couldn’t understand what they want from me. I just wrote there. At one point two hours of waiting period ended and I went to the tiny room and they put the stick in my mouth and both of my nostrils as well. This experience made keck and cry. And miss the Estonian system. After that, I went home and slept a siesta.
So now you know a little bit more about my adventures, but then again it is just some moments. There was always something happening, mostly good things, but sometimes bad things as well. Nevertheless, I loved the experience, I loved Italy, the work I did, and the people. I am going back and for sure I want to continue on the field.
This Project was financed by European Commission’s European Solidarity Corps Programme