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Diary of a Volunteer: My ESC experience in Cyprus

It was a cloudy afternoon of April 2019 when I received an email that I didn’t know how much it would have changed my life: I had officially been accepted for an ESC project in the island of Cyprus!
After the first moments of excitement and confusion, a wave of thousands of doubts and uncertainties (some particularly silly such as…”wait a moment where is Cyprus exactly on the map?”, I started to pack my stuff and I run to the mall convinced that I needed to buy a lot of things for my departure. Of my endless mental list of useless things that I thought that I needed, in the end fortunately I didn’t buy anything. I don’t think that a pineapple-shaped pencil sharpener was essential for my trip but I went home with a new diary. I thought that I wasn’t necessarily going to use it but I liked the idea of having it with me and the fact that it was a Game of Thrones theme.
Anyway, in the end I surprised myself and I wrote quite a lot. Now after one year I find myself rereading its pages with a hint of nostalgia. I am surprised by everything I have learned and faced during this journey. So I decided to tell you about my experience just as I lived it in the first person, written randomly as it comes to my mind at the moment and without filters (well, more or less… I preferred to keep some things for myself).

May 10th, 2019
It’s been 10 days since the beginning of this adventure. I don’t have realized that I am here for real and that I have to stay in Cyprus for one entire year. On one hand I’m feeling like I am on holiday but on the other hand I’m feeling like Robinson Crusoe. Yes because when Robinson Crusoe arrived in the desert island he had to start his life again, and even the simplest things suddenly were not taken for granted anymore. Similarly, I find myself by chance in this wonderful island and the life, my life, that I thought I knew, so well marked in its rhythms and in its habits has become like a white canvas. I’m scared because I’m here and I would like to start painting but every time I pick up the brush I don’t know with which color I should start with. […] In my head there’s an absolute chaos right now. I have thousands of ideas that crowd my mind…they accumulate on top of each other, mix, fly away at the first breath of the wind, move and I just would like a damn closet, drawers in which I could put everything in order. Either this or someone that is able to reboot my brain. But even though I’m awfully scared, I’m happy. Happy because I am going beyond my limits and because in this journey I am not alone. […] Terrified of the future, euphoric of the present, nostalgic when I think of the past. I keep walking along this road that is like the streets of Nicosia, sometimes you don’t know exactly where they lead sometimes concrete gives way to grass. Other times (or most cases!) there are no pedestrian crossings and the only thing you can do is jump in the middle of the road, without fear. You just need to rely on a good dose of luck.

July 21st , 2019
Is it possible to change so much in such a short amount of time? [… ] Sometimes, other people help u understand something more about yourself. I am always myself without any doubt, but something is definitely changing and my soul shines every day a little more.

NB. Small personal achievement: I know how to use the projector by my self!!!

October 12, 2019
I still love living here but after the trip to Troodos I am starting to feel the the routine […] Yes, this is how I feel, BORED. Here it is! Hello my eternal problem! Welcome I was waiting for you! The truth is that I get bored easily and it’s happening now every time I get tired easily. But no, this time it will be different, I WANT IT TO BE DIFFERENT and YOU my dear eternal problem certainly will not win! I feel that I’m missing something. I feel that I am not fully exploiting this experience that I am living. What am I missing? What could I do? I need new ideas to give me a boost. What do I want to do? What to improve?
NB I learned how to make potato tortilla [ followed the recipe but it’s super secret sorry there’s no way I’m gonna tell you]

I chose these three texts of my diary because I think that they perfectly symbolize the stages that almost everyone can face during an ESC: initial euphoria, change, crisis, an eternal swinging of ups and downs, conquests but also defeats. Because of course there are also defeats. Do not expect that everything will be perfect because it will not. But the suggestion I would give you is to not to be afraid of the defeats because they will be part of your growing process. I don’t want to puzzle you, but it is true that from mistakes and facing the difficult moments, you learn how to rise up and find a solution. But once you’ve faced those bad moments, well everything else will be a walk downhill or as I called it at the very beginning…a wonderful adventure. A path in which every day is a challenge, a game, an occasion to get involved and learn…even a simple thing like using a projector or making a potato tortilla!

From October 12 my diary became a sort of chaotic notebook, and this is because from that moment more or less Alessia had no more time for it. I continued to learn and grow every day. I was often wrong but I always learned the lesson. I cried, I laughed, I had parties, experienced some powerful hangovers (even in this case I learned something…that I have no longer the age for certain things ). I substituted the time spent filling those empty pages by living really and fully every moment and by speaking openly with people about what I would have written on those pages, comparing myself with others, with an open mind to question everything. And so no, it’s not that I didn’t have time to write in my diary, I just didn’t need it anymore.

I hope this testimony will be helpful to all those who don’t know yet whether to start an ESC project or not. I’m not saying that for you it will be as helpful as it was for me nor that it will be an every-day-party…
I just say “TRY IT!” I had the courage to do so, and after 3 months from the end of my project I am still convinced that it was definitely worth it.