Arts Lab Report: Ups & downs of my volunteering journey

It has come down to this. The final monthly report… Maybe. I am sitting here in this room that I had spent living for the last 7 months, sick because of the sudden change of temperature (not because of COVID). September was a very dramatic month for sure.

After coming back from the Holiday, everything felt more accelerated. I was preparing a lot of things for the organization: Caravan workshops, editing videos about conferences and folkloristicas, intercultural night. By this month I was exhausted and depressed. I was struggling to find a proper motivation to continue with the project and felt alone in the house. Thankfully, there were people in my life who helped me to finish the project. When it felt like I had no one to talk to, there was Nikolia and Mona, my tutor and one of the local volunteer. They were willing to listen to me and provided me proper care. I am forever grateful for their actions and when it felt quite hopeless, I had a new motivation: To finish the project for the children who are willing to learn and for the people who deeply care about this project. Quitting the project days before the end would make me feel guilty.

The next Caravan event took place in Oțeleni, a village nearby. That day was one hell of a busy day because we had to give a workshop at a school, visit a traditional seamstress, interview a folk singer and finally visit the war memorial of the village where we interviewed the mayor of the town. As always, kids are sometimes hard to handle as their attention span is short. This time though, some kids were really appreciating the fact that they learned how to do short films with their phones so it wasn’t a complete shipwreck. I recorded the event and it’s always welcoming to see the traditional Moldavian culture.

So, this month we had the intercultural night. I was going to do Spanish at first but in the end I did the Korean night as people were more interested. I knew a lot about Korea so I was able to share some fun information and snacks with the participants. I didn’t had the time to cook some spicy food but at least the people were entertained by the traditional dance and dancing again the Gangnam style as if it was 2012 again. The others presented their country and showcased food and culture. The little kids: Iosif, Luca and David clearly loved the Italian because it involved Tiramisu.

Feredeni was possibly the best Caravan so far because the community was very involved with the whole event. The priest was able to gather around almost every youth of the village and they were all proactive with our workshops. After a detailed visit about the history of the church, we were welcomed with a gigantic feast of traditional Romanian dish which involves: Mămăliga, Sarmale, Smaântana, grapes and more! It was made by the kind local elders so we returned the favor by recording an interview with them.

Next was Durău. By this point, every week I was busy with so much things and honestly, I barely had time to think or prepare anything other than editing. The conference of Durău was a great experience when it came to team bonding, even though the conference wasn’t as successful like in Târgu Frumos. The whole team (local volunteers included) spent 4 nights in a mountain side hotel where we ate like kings everyday with every evening to night there was something to do. The conference itself was quiet and relaxing as the number of participants wasn’t as high but it wasn’t at all a hard job. Altogether as a team we went to a hill at night to look at the stars, did a very pleasant game of secret friends, walked around the town and on the final day climbed up the mountain. When I was on top of the mountain, looking at the rocky terrain all around the world, I fell in love with Romania’s nature. Hiking is the best thing to do here and I swore that I will come back again to see this nature. 

The driving to all these Caravan and conference was also exhausting me. At one point I felt frustrated that the others, who were capable of driving, not offer their service and kept on watching Netflix on the back of the van. Then there was Dumbrăveni and Hârlau. Both events were also pleasant because the kids were very involved with what I was showing them and loved recording with my reflex camera. Also, there wasn’t much folkloristica event to record apart from one priest who was an artisan and one young singer who sang traditional poems that were passed on by her family (I was still impressed). So these two Caravans felt more relaxing than the others where I was recording the entire day.

Reaching this point, I feel a bit sad that I don’t have to write these expressive monthly reports anymore. However, that doesn’t mean my adventure has ended here. I will still be here until mid October and will keep updating my journey through the organization’s project and social media. This project was nothing like I expected (both in a good and bad way). It was hard but I learned a lot from it. I got to know what it’s like to live in a different country without the dependency of my parents and was successful at maintaining my own home. I got to learn how to live with my roommates and work with them (even though the friendship didn’t last long). I got to adapt to a different culture and learn its’ traditional beauty. I’ve learned to work within an organisation that has its’ challenges but tried to have a balance. This project did change me as a person and I am grateful for this experience even though a lot of people express that we didn’t arrive at the ideal moment due to the ongoing pandemic. Also, the people around were really kind and helpful to me. I won’t forget about you guys.

Written by Hanul Choi

Hanul is European volunteer for 8 months, in Arts Lab 2.0 project, funded by European Solidarity Corps, with the support of European Union.


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