I guess, I will always remember 26 September as the day when I left for a new adventure in 2016 and returned exactly one year later with many stories and unforgettable memories. To be honest, writing a conclusion or a last blog post about an experience like this is never easy. Too many things cross my mind and I don’t know where to start and stop.
Anyway, I told you about all my trips and adventures in individual posts, so I want to keep this general. Of course, I learnt a lot this year as it is the aim of a gap year. Oddly enough, when someone asks me “What did you actually learn?” my first response is always “Cooking and cleaning!” – even though there were probably millions of other more important things that I learnt.
On my blog I mostly talked about all the great and amazing things that happened during my stay. However, there were also times when I didn’t feel good or when I was sad. Luckily, the good memories are always more present than the bad ones. All in all, I don’t regret my decision to dive into another culture for a year.
During my stay on Chios I met many unique, committed and incredibly nice young people from Italy, Germany, Poland and France. Those people turned into the best friends that I could have wished for. At the end of the project traditionally we prepare a personal present for each volunteer to remember our friendship and Chios. The “Book of friends” that they made for me will remind me of our great experiences and I will never forget Chios. Thanks παιδιά, I miss you already!
I haven’t yet fathomed that I really am home now and not going back to Greece. Sadly, I probably won’t have the ocean at my doorstep for a long time now. But I will have green hills, mountains and loads of snow. Austria, I’m back.
The end of summer? Not in Greece! More than 30°C and sunburn tell the whole story – quite different from the weather at home in Austria as they have told me. Especially on the weekends we enjoy this exceptionally beautiful weather and were excited that we would have the chance again to take the sailing boat for a trip. Moreover, all volunteers would go on the trip together and even spend one night together in Katarraktis where the boat would be parked.
Late Saturday afternoon the boat arrived and I could finally hug some volunteers that I hadn’t seen for days, weeks or even months. It is really nice to see everyone again and talk about all the things that we have missed in the other’s life. Together we drove to a nearby beach and dropped our anchor. A year ago I would have declared myself crazy at the thought of jumping into the ocean from a boat but now I do it without giving it much thought and with a lot of joy. Sometimes you just have to do things that you are scared of to let go of your fears.
With twelve volunteers in our house the evening was really nice. While we slept in our beds, the adventure sailing boat continued for the volunteers from Vrontados and they slept on the boat.
On Sunday we went for a longer trip to the most beautiful sandy beach of Chios (at least in my opinion) in Karfas. The way from the boat to the beach was quite far but we still went for it and were not disappointed by the clear water and warm sand. At the end of the day we had to say goodbye again but it was for sure not the last time to see these wonderful and inspiring people.
For the last three weeks of my project I can do my favourite part of work again: school and kindergarten. The beginning of school this year was exactly like at home in Austria on 11 September. However, also in the week before us volunteers helped eagerly to prepare the school for the new school year and we introduced ourselves to the new principal. Cleaning, crafting welcome presents, distributing books and painting the walls with bright colors – we helped where we could.
Καλώς ήρθατε! (Welcome!)
On 11 September there was the school opening celebration with the blessing of the local priest. On Tuesday classes finally started. It was not that easy in the beginning for us because there are many new teachers who don’t know yet what we do at school. Therefore, in the next few weeks we have to show them where we can help.
A box for old batteries.
By now everything works more or less smoothly already and everyone has found their place at school. I enjoy the luxury of having the best of both worlds by working in the kindergarten and the school to give advice as the “old” volunteer. However, in the next two weeks I will slowly but surely have to say goodbye to the people here and start a new chapter of my life.
This weekend we went again to the south, probably for the last time during my EVS. For the Greeks it’s a real curiosity to find someone walking on the streets. So we looked into many surprised faces and heard a loud “Bravo!” from one of the passing air-conditioned cars. I guess that everyone felt a little regret that we had chosen this really hot weekend for our walk through uneven and uphill terrain.
We explored new paths but also visited places which I remember from my first weekend adventure in this area. Our first destination was Pyrgi. At this point I can already call it my favourite village on Chios. Every time I visit it takes my breath away and I don’t want to leave. On our way to the hotel we also stopped at the Mastic Museum. The newly built museum is often recommended and also interesting for us – also because Nenita and Katarraktis have a deep connection to the product. Mastic is the resin of a tree which it produces only on Chios and can be found in many local products.
We enjoyed the pool and the amazing breakfast in “Emporios Bay Hotel” where I also spent the night with Giorgia in May. Because nobody felt like walking anymore on Sunday we spent the day relaxing on the beach. Like ever so often, Mavra Volia and Komi. All in all, just a perfect weekend.
Before leaving for Austria in a few days to manage some university stuff I got the chance to spend some time in Vrontados with the volunteers there. We did many things together the last days and also had a lot of fun.
First we visited Καφεκούτι the only venue in Vrontados that would pass as a bar. They offer a magnificent view of Vrontados, by night and by day.
We spent the weekend mostly on beaches due to the good weather. I will miss all the sun back in Austria. The bus connection from Vrontados to Karfas was surprisingly good and we enjoyed the fantastic sandy beach the whole Saturday afternoon. You will notice easily on the picture who of us spent more time in the sun or can spend more time in the sun without risking a sunburn.
On Sunday we then went by foot to “Monastery Beach” which is a local insider tip. Fine gravel, the crystal blue ocean – what more do you need?
15 August was spent on “Glaroi Beach” a party beach in the middle of nowhere with a bar and loud music.
After just a few days my visit in Vrontados had to end and probably it is even the last time that I will see this place before leaving for good soon. On the way home to Austria I had some time to explore Athens.
To explore our surroundings on foot is what we did the last two weekends here. Our first destination was a park in the next village over, situated a little bit higher than Katarraktis and with a great view of the sea, Chios and Turkey. We took a lot of food with us on the trip to make a picknick in the park.
We spent a lot of time there playing cards and had fun together. It is really a beautiful place to be.
At the next weekend the original plan was to just go for a coffee and later a small walk. However, because of a sign that said “Old Katarraktis” and our curiosity the small walk turned into a hike of 11 kilometers. Even though we didn’t wear the right shoes for that nobody complained and the experiences made it worth it. On the way we discovered a beautiful monastery and old Katarraktis which is ruins from stone houses. Finally, we arrived in Pagida, a small village, and stayed at a tavern there. The village had so much charm that we decided to come back while still being there.
Well, things sometimes happen when you expect them the least.
Good question. Philosophically speaking as well as in everyday life I have often asked myself this question. It’s not that I don’t have enough work here, on the contrary, but rather “Why am I doing this? Why am I here?”. The answer is and stays always the same: I learn. I learn from good situations and from bad. I learn from living with different person(alitie)s, I learn from arguments. At the end of the day I might not always feel good with what I’ve achieved but at least I learnt something.
Now to the actual reason of this blog entry: to explain my work. The most important thing about it: it’s divided into two parts, work with children and work with the computers.
In the first nine months of my year I spent three to four hours in the morning at a primary school and from time to time also at a kindergarten. To answer the most important questions:
My tasks were to keep the children concentrated during class, to make photocopies, to prepare and think of handicrafts, with sufficient Greek knowledge also to correct exercises and look for mistakes, to cheer them up in PE, to look after them in the breaks and much more. Every day was different and it was always a fulfilling task.
Not many children here speak English well (they’re between six and twelve years old) which is why Greek is the main language to communicate with them. At the beginning my conversations were limited to “Hello! How are you”, “Good. Thanks.“ and the very important „I don’t understand.“. However, after just a few months I was able to have small conversations.
In the afternoon at 5pm we started the computer work for two or three hours. At the beginning of the year seminars with small groups of children about Photoshop or WordPress were also part of my work. It was a lot of fun but difficult due to the language barrier.
Another big part is our radio ChiosRadio where we write, record and edit articles with different topics (Greek culture and mythology, bands, interviews with fictional characters etc.).
We created Rocketwar from scratch which is about an Easter event on the island. A short while ago we also started the page Curiosity which is still waiting in the wings. We also brought Chiosmania back to life with articles about places, beaches, transport and much more on Chios.
Now in summer school is closed and therefore our work schedule is a little different. We work in the morning on the computer and create our websites and in the afternoon we organize every day two hours of games for the children here. The effort is totally worth it when you see the children smiling at you happily.