Thursday, September 10, 2015

Last post - Reflections on what I (re)learnt while being a volunteer

As I promised, here's the last post to share with you what I've learnt from my volunteering year.
To be honest I still find it difficult to sum it up (despite the fact that it finished 2 months ago), nevertheless I will try. :)

In the beginning I didn't have very clear goals for the project, I just wanted to change my environment and see how is life at an NGO and after quite some years in the cold world of big soulless companies, I sort of wanted to regain faith in humanity. (I know this sounds a bit weird, but if you get stuck in a job you don't really like for years, you get burnt out... at least I did.)
Truth to be told I felt sort of stuck personally too: always the same activities, the same circle of people (don't get me wrong I love my friends and family, but I also like meet new people and I felt I just didn't know where and how to do it anymore), the constant itching to go abroad again and all the what if-s and "big questions" of life. 
So yes, I wanted to get out and see what happens. :)

Well, I'm happy so say, that my aim of regaining faith in people was 100% achieved: I've met more great people during this time than I thought I would. They all are special and each have a lot to learn from. Being with them every day (or on a regular basis in case of my "students" and the ones who came to our events) made me see many things differently, sometimes even myself. I'm very grateful for this, because thanks to them I re-discovered some parts of my "old-self" that I needed to see again.
I made some very good friends and I think it's safe to say that my colleagues here became my local family too. However I also realized (again) that nobody can ever replace my family back at home and my closest friends, who all followed and supported me during this experience. Even if virtually, their presence means a lot to me.

Professionally speaking I also learnt a lot, but I don't want to write a list of the things, that's what the CV is for. Working at a small NGO like Ecocompartimos can be very challenging: obviously not the same way as at a big company, but it does have its own difficulties. Money though is also a central item here: not as a main goal, but more as a constant need to survive and keep being able to provide the services to people. This gets frustrating sometimes, because I think an NGO should not be so focused on money... However, in the current world we live in, I understand that this is the only way of surviving. But still, I find it unfair.
Besides the financials, I found working at a small shop very diverse: as we were a small team, I got to do and see a lot of things and Helena involved us in pretty much everything. And she also gave us a lot of space to come up with ideas and make them happen. Though what really struck me was how hard it is there to find collaborators. I'm not sure why, but it seems that in Illescas if you are not an "insider" you can't find anyone to collaborate with. One time we went to a school to offer them free English activities and such things, and after waiting for an answer for a very long time, they just said that they are not interested as they have enough international activities. This was quite sad, since we didn't even ask for anything in return. However there are thankfully a few places that are open to organize things together (like the radio).
One more thing I also liked at Ecocompartimos was that because it is so local, it was easier to see what problems people really face each day and also the positive impact we had on their lives.

And last but not least I've learnt Spanish, this was on my list for quite a while now. :) And not only the language, but a huuuuge amount of things about the culture as well. Not to mention expressions that I most probably wouldn't have learnt otherwise. :)

So all in all I'd say this project gave me more personally than professionally (strictly speaking), but it was actually perfect this way. I don't quite know yet where the future brings me, but I hope I'll have more experiences like this later as well.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Today my project is officially ending and tomorrow I'm heading home. I leave Illescas with mixed feelings: I'm sad that my EVS went so fast and is already over, but on the other hand I'm looking forward to seeing my family and friends back home and start my new adventures.

This is definitely not a goodbye forever, as I plan to come back to Spain. But of course it will be not the same without going each morning to Ecocompartimos and see those familiar faces there. Since we were such a small team, this place and these people really became my home and family for these 10 months and I hope to keep these relationships even longer. :) I feel very grateful and lucky that I found such a great project, it gave me a lot both professionally and personally.

Also obviously I can't wait to be with my family and friends back in Hungary, there is no place like home. :)

I'll write another post a bit later about what I learnt from being a volunteer (it still needs to sink in) and that will be my official goodbye-post of this blog as well (however I will keep the page open even after the last post). 


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Radio Illescas again

Today we got invited to the radio again! :) This time not only to give an interview, but also to help with interpreting an interview with 2 Dutch musicians. Since they couldn't find anyone available who speaks English, Raquel the interviewer asked us to help out and we thought why not. :) It was a lot of fun, though I had some difficulties translating the specific musical vocabulary, but I think it went fine in the end.

With the musicians
Of course after the interview we also had our own, about how our experience was here in Illescas, what are we going to do next and so on... I liked it, I felt much better than the first time, more relaxed and I'm pretty sure my Spanish was also much better hehe. :)

Here are the links to the interviews:

Oh and speaking of Spanish... Yesterday we found out that we both passed the Spanish exam of UNED! :)

Monday, June 29, 2015

June activites part 2 - Sun & Fun

As I promised, here we go with the non-work part of June! :)

I started the month with the Barcelona trip, which was practically the last trip of my volunteering time. The rest of the weekends I spent relatively calmly (meaning I didn't travel further than Madrid), but not any less exciting.

The second Saturday I went to Matadero Madrid to see some short movies. Normally I'm not a big fan, but a friend of mine convinced me, so I gave in... they were much better than I expected. We saw like 5-6 movies, and except for one very weird one, I liked the rest. They were all made by Spanish directors, however the topics were very diverse, from food to strange love stories and gay rights in Russia.

The following Thursday I went out to have lunch with Vanessa and Ana (with whom I had the quilling sessions in May) here in Illescas. We went to an Asian all-you-can-eat kind of restaurant to celebrate Ana's graduation, it was very nice. The place was very good, but they had a strange ordering system. I imagined that they'll have all the food there and we can just go and pick whatever we want, but no. They gave us a menu and an extra sheet where we could tick the dishes we wanted and indicate the quantities. The only rule was that we could "only" order 15 dishes per person... :) We ordered 15 altogether for 4 of us (plus desserts ;)) and it was more than enough, so I wonder how can one person eat 15 dishes... :)

Then on the 19th, Marta (one of our English students) invited us for a dance show, where both her and her daughter were performing. It was the annual show of the dance school, so we had all age groups and all kinds of dances. I really enjoyed it, especially the second part, because that had mostly Spanish dances (sevillanas, flamenco) and for the flamenco they even had a live guitarist and a singer. It was amazingly nice, and since I haven't been to any Spanish dance show before I was totally impressed. Both Marta and her daughter danced really really well, so I'm very happy I got invited. :)

Also June was a farewell month not only for my volunteering project, but for two friends of mine who decided to take up a new adventure in Canada. :) We had their farewell picnic in Retiro last Monday with a bunch of cool people, it was a lot of fun, I actually almost missed my last bus, since I didn't really feel like leaving... :)

The mandatory group picture of the picnic participants :)
Then this weekend I went to a walking tour called "Urban Safari": it is about street art in Madrid. I found this initiative randomly a couple of months ago and got very curious, but till now they haven't had any suitable dates... so when I saw that they finally have a tour on a Saturday, I signed up. Normally they have these in Malasaña (which is the most artsy district of Madrid), but now they had this one in Lavapiés. I was a bit disappointed, because I would have wanted to get to know Malasaña better, but since I had absolutely no clue about street art in general, it was very interesting, regardless of the district. :)

Our guide explaining about the signatures of each street artist: some have small figures, some have special ways of signing their names and some have their specific colors.
An abandoned shop decorated by street artists
Random masterpieces :)
Some "ordered" street art: the fence of a cultural center is decorated by different street artists.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June activities part 1 - Ecocompartimos

It's hard to believe, but my volunteering experience is coming to an end... as such, June was a very active month (and full of goodbye events), so I decided I'll dedicate 2 posts to it: one about my last month at Ecocompartimos and one about my free time activities.

The month started with the Toledo excursion I already wrote about, which was a very good start.
Not as much the English playground with the kids that week... I think that was the toughest time we had with them ever. There were many of them and for some reason most of them were noisy and kept fighting with each other. We couldn't get them to focus and play normally, in the end we had to shout at one point to get their attention... it was quite bad, because this way even the ones who wanted to play couldn't. But then the next time most of them didn't show up anymore, so the last 2 sessions we had were calm. At the last one we had a small farewell party kind of thing with food and drinks, and we did some handicrafts with Félix, Amelia, Paula and Daniela, it was very nice. :)

Félix and Amelia gave me the cards they made as a present :)
The second week we had our Spanish exam at UNED... The organization was quite strange, we had to go the assigned center based on our family names and they signed us in by reading off the barcode of our student cards and printed the exam right there... I wonder why we needed to go to specific centers for this. Anyhow the exam was quite easy, I think both the written and oral part went well, but of course nobody could tell us when we'll have the results... so we'll eventually find out if we passed. Or not. :)

That week Helena organized a little surprise party for us too. Sandra invited us out for Friday night for a drink, then all of a sudden Helena, Mabel, Olga and Mari Cruz (from our English class) showed up and we had a very nice evening together. I had some suspicions earlier that something's going on, but I wasn't sure... I really appreciated the gesture. :)

Smily faces :)
We also had our usual English classes in June, though the fact that summer is here is very visible: from the once 10-12 people group we had, now we usually have maximum 4-5 people showing up (and they arrive late too)... Well, last week we actually had only 1 person. :P So I guess everyone is already in vacation mode, nobody wants to be tortured with English anymore hehe. Anyways we have a farewell party in the next class, I hope at least for that I'll get to see them again. :)

There were the usual 2 intercultural chats as well, one about the future and the last one to say goodbye to that group too. We were not many, but the "hard core" was there, so we got to enjoy their company for these last times and we could say goodbye to them.

The last intercultural chat
I'm also about to finish my mosaic classes, but of course not my latest work... I guess it'll take another few months, but now that I know the technique I can finish it by myself. :)

And last but not least, this week was our last week with Helena and Mabel, since they will not be here next week when we leave... so on Friday we had our goodbyes with them (or better say "see you soon" as we'll see each other again very soon), it was very intense and emotional. We got a surprise: a textile bag with our names and a book made personally for us, with everyone writing/drawing something personal in it. It is a great gift, I honestly don't think we could have received anything nicer than this.

The cool bag and some pages of the book :)
A collage of photos I made as the cover of a small photo book I prepared for Dilya, Helena and Mabel as a little gift. :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Corpus Christi afternoon in Toledo

In the beginning of June we organized a quite spontaneous trip to Toledo. As it was Corpus Christi, the whole city was decorated for processions and there was also a contest of the inner gardens (patios) that are usually not open for the public, but that week they were, so we could visit them. We were quite a big group of people in the end (over 20) moving quite slowly, so we didn't get to see all the gardens, we saw around 12-15. They were very interesting and all quite different.

After the visit we had a guided tour about the legends of Toledo, which was really cool. The guide was very interesting and entertaining, which helped a lot to focus, because we were already quite dead from all the walking before (not to mention it was a very hot day). :P

Here are some pictures of the trip:

Some very green gardens 
And a very artistic one with a blue horse :))
A part of our group in the first garden we entered
My favorite garden: the flowers are recycled: made of the paper bags of bread
One of the decorated streets: with flowers and shades against the heat  
Our cool guide explaining the (legendary) history of the expression "menuda noche toledana" to our half-dead group :))
With our friend Charo, who participates in every single activity we organize :))

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


My brother turned 18 this year and as a present from our parents he received a trip to Barcelona. As a nice addition I got to go with him, so last Thursday I took off. With a lucky coincidence Filiz had her flight to Germany on the same day, so we got to go to the airport together, which was pretty cool. :)

I've been to Barcelona before, but it was 6 years ago, so I didn't remember the city much. Though I had some places in mind that I couldn't visit the last time, so now they were on the top of the list.
Also since my brother is a huge Barca fan, we had to go to Camp Nou and take a tour there, get him a T-shirt and of course we had to watch the Champion's League final on Saturday. :) In the beginning I had my doubts on how I will handle these (since I like football but not that much), but in the end I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Also in return I dragged him to Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and other sights to see, so we both had our fair share of fun.

Here is our trip in pictures:

Inside Camp Nou - the picture doesn't show it that much, but the stadium is very impressive, it's enormous
There is even a museum inside with the history of Barca - these are some of the trophies they won

Sagrada Familia - always under construction

The amazing arches and colors inside

View from the high above - in the 75m high tower of Sagrada Familia

The obligatory "beach and palm tree" photo

Delicious paella

Parc Güell

Arc de triomf

Huge fountain in Parc de Ciutadella