European Voluntary Service in Romania - a year of retrospect

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This is my personal recollection on my eight months spent in Romania, supposedly volunteering for environmental project for NGO. The project promised non-stop work for environment, planting, cleaning, educating, meeting youngsters and promote green living, but I had to be very adamant to get what I have been promised. Many reasons prompted me to do this, but mostly all the nice and sugary stories of other people I have red so much on the internet.

It is not as easy and careless as everybody writes. It depends on The Organization and culture you have signed up for. If you have a terrible organisation or culture of organizations - you will be forgotten and your every initiative will be a burden for everybody. If you want to do something for your project - you will have to fight for it. I fought hard for kitchen without smoking, promised supply of cleaning products and some activities to do during EVS at all. You will learn to be taken seriously or just slack around without any purpose. You will have to choose. Everything depends on you.

a tractor in Stanciova eco-village

I had a great opportunity to meet over thirty creative and zealous youngsters. Besides our sharing of burden in kindergartens, city sporting event assisting, fiction writing club, we also organized socially significant film screenings at a bar, participated in glass art, pottery and photography courses, helped with city’s exhibitions, organized environment cleaning activities. In between we traded food for services, baked cakes for one another, traveled and attended cultural events. Everywhere we went we had somebody to stay with. That was the most amazing time of our lives.

Those who wanted to do nothing - did so; those who volunteered for the cause - found their own ways out of the situation. I loved my permaculture experience high in Carpathians and visit to Stanciova eco-village. I enjoyed the hell out of my first bicycle race and my 108km race from Békéscsaba in Hungary to Arad, Romania. I attended informal education courses, photography and pottery classes. I hitchhiked all the North and central parts of Romania, have been high in the mountains, all around Balkans. I started journalling and running. I was a major hinderance to The Organisation, but I got praised by many for my activity, alhough I feel I could have done much more with appropriate cooperation.

hitched a pickup in Transfagarasani, what an amazing ride that was. Fortunately, not the last time we hitched a pickup!

Here up in the north, people are much more reserved and cold. It took some human radiators to change how I see other people and the world. No more stereotypes, measles of mankind and senseless pride.

Despite all the frustration with the project and The Organisation, all the battles and confrontations with other volunteers, I enjoyed my experience. I can no longer imagine myself without that experience and people I have crossed paths with. Eventually we will grow apart, but time spent together will be part of me.

I cannot lie and say that we did our bestest, but we did more than we were pursued for. We did what we could. The things we’ve done will bring memories and emotions to the children for years to come.

High in the mountains in Northern Romania, enjoying one of the amazing basins on top of the mountain

Perhaps we didn’t change the place, what officially the project was for; but we changed ourselves more than anything and will bring that change into the world - that is something the project was secretly intended to.

A year later, what did I get from that experience? My perspective broadened and the world suddenly became smaller. I grow into friendlier, more outgoing and mindful person. I opened up to the people and experiences. I caught permanent wanderlust. Yet I still am exploring all the continuously growing inner change. I learned that uncomfortable people win in long term. I won many of my battles and rights to work and do. From Romanians I’ve learned that no law or idea is cast in stone - just by asking you can get not only a cardboard or a patch of garden to pitch a tent, but even a free ride or a whole adventure.

I don’t know what the future will bring me, what fortunes will my path attract, but as long as I pursue similar experiences and adventures, I know I am not wasting my time for nothing.

with new friends in Predeal