EVS in Belgium and Someone Rides a Bike

“December is a universe…” a friend once wrote. Today is the first of December, exactly one month since I jumped into my EVS experience and my life in Antwerp, Belgium started. A cup of hot coffee, a song from Beirut playing on the neighbouring computer and plenty of pent-up inspiration are a good opportunity to write a story or just to describe what happened to me last month.

It all started exactly a year ago when I decided to either I study my dream Master’s degree in Germany or to find an inspiring EVS project to digest the coming year. I quickly gave up on the Master’s (thanks to a number of reasons and circumstances), and the perfect EVS project came my way in April. It was the second one for which I had applied and was rather an exception, as I was involved in the activities of the organization, CVS-Bulgaria.

While volunteering with CVS and coordinating several projects last year, I had the opportunity to become part of the Bulgarian family of SCI and to fall inlove with every single thing I did with the girls there. This is only a small part of the reason to be an EVS volunteer nowhere else, but in the International Secretariat of SCI. A great chance to improve myself in different ways as well as to learn and create.

For those who don’t know SCI (SCI International) is an international network of organizations whose primary mission is to promote a culture of peace by organizing international voluntary initiatives and projects. CVS-Bulgaria is the Bulgarian branch and practically, my project is like continuation of my work in CVS. The challenge here is that the projects are now at international level, with a lot more work, communication and coordination. The Secretariat is that core that moves larger projects, supports partner organizations, deals with finances, promotes the network itself online and offline, attends meetings and supports each working group within SCI. “What is your job?”, is one of the most common questions that I encounter with regard to my project. The two main things that I do are communication and support of the Create a Climate for Peace Campaign, for which I will participate in various meetings and seminars related to the campaign. This is a challenge for me as a not-very-eco-oriented person but I’m curious to learn more and more and to make more conscious and informative choices in my life. At least when it comes to protecting the environment and our nature, yes. The second thing I do is again (surprise) communication and coordination of projects within the working group SAVA, which in turn is regionally oriented and deals with the involvement of young people from the Balkans. In general, all good things… and people (especially people). Besides all the communication and coordination, and I have my own projects that I am enthusiastic and motivated to accomplish with the support of SCI. I will tell you more about them later.

It all started exactly a year ago when I decided to either I study my dream Master’s degree in Germany or to find an inspiring EVS project to digest the coming year. I quickly gave up on the Master’s (thanks to a number of reasons and circumstances), and the perfect EVS project came my way in April. It was the second one for which I had applied and was rather an exception, as I was involved in the activities of the organization, CVS-Bulgaria.

While volunteering with CVS and coordinating several projects last year, I had the opportunity to become part of the Bulgarian family of SCI and to fall inlove with every single thing I did with the girls there. This is only a small part of the reason to be an EVS volunteer nowhere else, but in the International Secretariat of SCI. A great chance to improve myself in different ways as well as to learn and create.

For those who don’t know SCI (SCI International) is an international network of organizations whose primary mission is to promote a culture of peace by organizing international voluntary initiatives and projects. CVS-Bulgaria is the Bulgarian branch and practically, my project is like continuation of my work in CVS. The challenge here is that the projects are now at international level, with a lot more work, communication and coordination. The Secretariat is that core that moves larger projects, supports partner organizations, deals with finances, promotes the network itself online and offline, attends meetings and supports each working group within SCI. “What is your job?”, is one of the most common questions that I encounter with regard to my project. The two main things that I do are communication and support of the Create a Climate for Peace Campaign, for which I will participate in various meetings and seminars related to the campaign. This is a challenge for me as a not-very-eco-oriented person but I’m curious to learn more and more and to make more conscious and informative choices in my life. At least when it comes to protecting the environment and our nature, yes. The second thing I do is again (surprise) communication and coordination of projects within the working group SAVA, which in turn is regionally oriented and deals with the involvement of young people from the Balkans. In general, all good things… and people (especially people). Besides all the communication and coordination, and I have my own projects that I am enthusiastic and motivated to accomplish with the support of SCI. I will tell you more about them later.

Riding my bike carefully and for short distances I start to get to know more and more about the beauties of Antwerp. I already had the first moment that I wanted to capture the feeling in a jar, to take it home, and to open it when I’m bored or just need something inspiring for my soul. It was last week on Thursday, when we were at Ecokot – an eco-oriented organization that deals with different things. They have a nice, colorful garden and from time to time organize some events. Every Thursday at 19:00 they cook from the garden in order to raise funds for the organization. They have their own homemade organic beer, which is not bad at all, there is a bike doctor – that’s right! He can fix your bike for free. Ecokot is also a friendly bar with a lot of books and carpets on the ground with a Zen atmosphere; it is like you are in someone’s huge cozy living room with a small “stage” where musicians can play whatever they want. The same evening a musician had played the guitar, then others joined him, playing djembe drums, trumpet and even (!!!) a tambourine. One lady sang Nora Jones, Manu Chao… the perfect thing to listen to before going to sleep.

Everything was so informal and unpretentious, and I was filled with emotion and fairytale-ness. I think that was the moment when I felt the spirit of Antwerp. They said it’s “the country’s capital of cool” and they are not wrong. There are enough cafes and bars that you can go to a different one every day (as Ela said once before I arrived). The river, MAS museum where you can see all the city lights from the roof, street musicians, many galleries, fries and waffles on every corner, cycle paths, a Turkish area, a Chinese area, a Moroccan area and a Jewish area where you feel like you are in a movie. All the things that one newcomer needs to get used quickly with the life here. Antwerp is definitely a living city.

I have many ideas that I hope to realize during the coming months, challenging myself with little things that so far I haven’t experienced or seen. Small challenges such as spices. And, yes, I am lucky to live with Marta from Catalonia, with whom we get along so well, as if we have always known each other. She is one of the most sincere people here. We share food, beer, gossip, sometimes rooms when we have guests. She cooks tortillas, and I cook tarator. She makes risotto and I mishmash. Food connects, but to have someone to share it is even better.

A month and it is like much more. I will not stop repeating that to be an EVS volunteer is one of the best things that can happen to you.

Article by EVS Volunteer Victoria Marinova (2014)

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