I am from Czechia, so the first impression that I had when I arrived in Cyprus was that “the HEAT will definitely kill me sooner than I will finish my project!”. This idea was resonating in my head even before, but I managed to suppress it and decided to boil myself but follow my interests.
At the time I was recent graduate with a passion for exploring different cultures, who did not want to get tied up in a stereotypical job for ages right after studies. And also, if you study cultural anthropology, which was the core part of my studies, although super interesting, in the same time, the best chance is that you will end up unemployed. So, it was quite difficult to find a job in my field, especially without professional experiences. I knew about the what was called EVS projects from my friend, and it sounded as a convenient solution from the begging. What I did not expect was that I will find such a suitable project for me, with a great group of people involved, and that it will turn into one of the best decisions I took in my life.
Our project, called “Mission Tradition”, aims to rekindle the interest of Cypriots in the rich cultural heritage of the island. We work in a team of 7 volunteers from different countries: Italy, Spain, Romania, Martinique, North Macedonia and Czechia, which is interesting in itself to work in a multicultural environment with people from various backgrounds. It is a unique possibility to understand and appreciate different realities and life styles. Moreover, our work basically lays in the exploration of Cypriot culture, and this is amazing for me. We search for local traditions, trying to capture and record them by descriptive as well as visual techniques, and based on them then organize various workshops, events, etc. in order to bring these customs closer to the younger generation. In addition, we have the opportunity to follow and develop our individual interests in form of personal workshops. So far, I feel that I have learnt from this experience a lot, and not just because when you successfully finish your own project it is satisfying and gives you self-confidence, but also because every task related to our project is done by us. And that includes a little bit of everything, from graphic design (we are creating our own website and flyers), project management, promotion, to fundraising for example. In order to gain as much experiences as possible, we have also been offered the opportunity of volunteering in other organizations. And for me that organization is Caritas Cyprus, whose mission is to work for a better world for those vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Working with marginalized groups regardless of religion, race, and orientations it is such a meaningful job which enables you to expand your horizons outside of your social and cultural bubble.
If you are thinking about doing ESC, you should be aware that of course the experience depends on the project’s objectives and the personalities you are going to meet and work with. But definitely I would suggest you to try it. It gave me confidence which is so much needed in life, and I have a great time here in general. Usually we have a lot of fun in our office; so far, I volunteered in several arts festivals, travelled around the island, enjoyed the delicious food and local hospitality, which by the way is limitless. For sure, sometimes you will feel like you left your family alone back at home, and you will miss your friends. Still, it is worth it. Personally, I met such wonderful people, who became my close friends in the blink of an eye, and I cannot imagine that I will have to leave them when our year will come to its end. Some also could argue that volunteering is not such a good approach because everybody should get paid for their work. My response to this is very simple: volunteering can teach you that money is not the only value one can gain, acquiring experiences it is invaluable. You will gain so many new skills or discover the ones that were already there but never knew about them. Above all, when you are doing something meaningful, “a good deed”, it will enrich your heart.
About Cyprus in general? Cyprus is the land of cats. You can find diverse types: lovely cats, psycho cats (one of these we actually adopted, our office mascot now), the cutest kittens, hungry cats, annoying loud cats (these usually appear right when you want to enjoy your dish), cats that want to kill you, and cats that want to kill themselves which cross the roads like queens owning the place, slowly and confidently. This country can be perfectly described by just two words, σιγά, σιγά [siga, siga], the phrase is widely used across the island, and translation would be slowly, slowly. Actually, they are more than words, they are a life style and it is very easy to get used to it. Even though, I am not going to lie, this mañana style sometimes can be frustrating. Especially when you rely on someone’s work to be finished on time, you schedule everything perfectly, and then the country strongly reminds you that: Hey girl, you are not in Germany or in other country where punctuality conveys good manners, you are in Cyprus σιγά, σιγά! …If you want to improve your improvisation skills, come to Cyprus! -Michaela Minasova