Erasmus+ Exchanges at home (08-17.06 and 01-08.07)
Posted On August 26, 2023
This summer I was on Erasmus+ activities in Bulgaria for the first time. I participated in a youth exchange and training for youth workers with two very cool NGOs: National Association of Youth Workers in Bulgaria and Bulgarian Youth Forum.
Make no stress, create art 08-17.06.2023
In June, from the 8th to the 17th, I was in Primorsko. The theme was great – Make no stress, create art explored how creativity can be used to develop emotional intelligence and cope with stress. There was ecstatic dancing, discussions and debates, working with clay and colors…
The presenters were the wonderful Ksenia, Alona and Iryna from the Ukrainian organization – initially the project was supposed to be in Odessa, but immediately after the project was approved, the war broke out. The girls shared some of their experiences with us during their intercultural evening, and the rest of the time they were completely and utterly immersed in the present. I admire how they handle the situation and how they put into practice all the techniques and tools they showed us in their sessions.
On one of the first days, there was a special time set aside for everyone to introduce themselves on stage with what best describes them. It turned out that the group was extremely diverse and creative – the participating countries were Ukraine, the Netherlands, Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Romania and, of course, Bulgaria.
During the project, we visited Sozopol, climbed a wall outdoors and shot a bow in the green areas of the hotel complex “Helios”, ate horovats and Georgian shashlik, and participated as guests in a Dutch wedding organized by the Romanian group in their traditional way… Also, I helped with the collection of travel documents and I found Hovik, one of the Armenians, fascinating. The fiancés teased us that we could only see each other on a double date and that they were glad we found each other. I’m also glad for that. O:)
I was sad when this project ended. Not only because of the separation with Hovik, but I liked the atmosphere so much that I wanted to visit such events again and again. From there I got inspired, finally, to learn how to organize, conduct and report an Erasmus+ project from beginning to end. I’ve thought about it before, but now I’ve made up my mind and started acting on it.
After a short break, signing my employment contract with which I started working in Sofia and finding accommodation in the capital, I was on my way again. This time for a training organized by the Bulgarian Youth Forum in Varbovo, in which we talked about how the European Union is structured, what democracy is, whether there is a digital one and what active citizenship is.
Participants and my language barrier
Again, most participants were from non-EU countries – Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. Almost everyone understood each other in their native languages, except for the Turks. The Romanians were from a Bulgarian village and spoke a slightly more archaic Bulgarian, which took me some time to get used to. However, with Serbian and Macedonian, I couldn’t get it right. I understood here and there what they were saying, but I didn’t understand as much as the other Bulgarians. Also, I was the only one from Eastern Bulgaria and we commented on how different our language is depending on which side of the ya border we are on (a concept I learned on this project – the way of speaking in Bulgaria is divided into two: western and eastern dialect, according to how ‘ya’ is pronounced. Mleko/mlyako, as an example, both mean milk). Macedonian and Serbian are closer to the Western Bulgarian dialect and the speakers of these languages get along great, even when I have no idea what they are talking about.
Until that moment I hadn’t visited Northwestern Bulgaria, and I was very curious. The area is beautiful – depopulated, yes, but in the municipalities of Vidin and Chuprene there is a desire, supported by actions, to keep the young people there. To provide them with opportunities. Tsetsi, one of the Bulgarian participants, works in the municipality of Chuprene and is quite active in making it attractive. We, together with two of his young colleagues went for a drive one afternoon to Belogradchik and enjoyed a magnificent sunset. On the 3rd day, I led a workshop on digital democracy, which I am glad the other participants found useful and interesting.
The project group and I went for a walk in Vidin, where I was impressed by the “Baba Vida” fortress, but I would like to see it for a longer time, when it is not so hot, as in the middle of July. Two girls and I sat down at a restaurant boat in the Danube where a boatman wanted our attention by speeding along the side of the ship. We also visited the Belogradchik rocks, from where there is a view of the nearby mountains. The vegetarian food was soo delicious.
On the Bulgarian evening, the hostess of the guest house we stayed in gave me and the other Bulgarian traditional costume each – original, kept for more than 100 years. Naturally, we really liked ourselves in them and did a mini photoshoot. O:)
After this project, I went home and packed my luggage (well, 70% of it) for my move to Sofia. I know I haven’t shared anything about Romania yet, but I don’t know when exactly I will do that. Summer is intense and full of surprises. Such as…
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