Interview with Samuel, the EVS volunteer from Zamora

Hi Samuel. Please briefly introduce yourself speaking about your past experiences, your studies, your decision to try the EVS experience and some other personal information like your ideas about the meaning of life and your opinions about the extinction of the whales in the Mediterranean Sea.  I studied Economics in Spain and I have lived in several cities. I accidently discovered this program and I decided it was the right time for this experience. I always wanted to live in another country, proving myself and discovering other cultures. On the other hand, I have been a Red Cross volunteer in Spain and I found my current project very interesting when I saw it for the first time.

  According to the most common opinions you can find Spanish people everywhere in Europe but just few of them are able to speak good English and communicate in a proper way with the people from the other countries (for the Italians it’s more or less the same). Do you think this stereotype is close to the truth? How many difficulties have you faced because of your language gap at the beginning and how is your everyday life going now after four months of living here?  It’s totally true. In my opinion, this is mainly for two reasons: First – an outdated education system, where English is taught and studied as if it was a dead language, it focuses only on the English grammar and being imparted in Spanish. Perhaps this is due to subpar teachers. And second, I feel that Spain and Italy share historical similarities that includes the audiovisual media implanted by their nationalist regimes in the 40´s. Perhaps for that, nowadays in my country all films, commercials, TV shows, articles, video games are duplicated instead of subtitled.  As for me, at first I had many difficulties to communicate in basic matters, administrative issues or subject related to volunteering. Today these themes do not pose a big problem, yet I have not acquired the ability to communicate fluently, spontaniously or understanding conversations with advanced level. I perfectly understand what do you mean when you speak about the awful way of learning english in the latin countries. In any case, despite your first difficulties (or encouraged by them) you tripped by hitch-hiking around Bulgaria and in the border countries more than any other volunteer. Speak us about the wildest places you visited and the most amazing tripping adventures you had on your path.  I visited Romania (Transylvania and different places of the capital) and in Bulgaria: Shumen, Veliko Tarnovo, different mountain areas, monuments…I remember Bucharest – wandering all night, amazed with the architectural diversity of the city (art deco, neoclassic, soviet style). Also in Buzludja exploring the underground floors of this ghostly monument, it was dark so we wanted to sleep inside. When our limbs started freezing, we made a fire in the basement. Later we decided to look for a hotel in the middle of the darkness. Previously we went up and down the stairs of the tower to get warm because we heard a strong wind and the temperature was -25 °. Upon descending, all the hotels were closed and there was only one left to check, we finally got to stay there.

Which kind of activities are you doing here in behalf or your hosting organization? Would you change anything about your job and your usual tasks?  I’m working on a shelter specifically there are victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. My role is playing games and doing activities with people in the center. For me to feel fulfilled in my work as a volunteer it is fundamental and I can say that I feel like this. It is not an easy job, a very heterogeneous group of people (in age, cultural and intellectual level) but once adapted, there are very gratifying moments. Although at first it was difficult to understand the dynamics of the center and overcome language barriers, but now I would not change anything about my work in here. What do you think about Bulgaria and its contradictions according to your expectations before coming here? What have surprised you the most and what have you found disappointing or unsatisfying? If I tell the truth, I had no prior expectations; I came ABSOLUTELY open to live this experience with what it means to live pleasant moments and difficulties. Perhaps, on the one hand what has surprised me about the country is that there is a greater solidarity (which I have observed in many everyday situations) than in countries that are considered more developed, which have become much more individualistic societies. Moreover, life here is difficult for most of the population, with very low wages relative to supplies and high prices of commodities and major deficiencies in health or social coverage.

  Tell us something about the weirdest encounters or experiences you have faced during your life as EVS volunteer (I don’t wanna influence you so i won’t make allusions to a certain drunken Rumanian guy in Bucharest. Ops). Different stories come to mind; for example, in my hitchhiking trip. After waiting in Varna for an hour and a half, a Bulgarian picked us up, we were relaxed thinking we would lead us to Veliko Tarnovo when he suddenly stopped the car and told us to go down. -15 °, in the middle of a road without traffic and 15 km from the nearest town. After two hours, a car stopped and we reach our destination.

Thanks Samuel for the ABSOLUTELY nice interview. Hope the other volunteers will know you better after reading this. See you under some bridges in Berlin to discuss about the unsolvable contradictions of life or in the gypsy Narnia watching films.