Friday, 28 October 2016

First Weeks...

 So, tomorrow it will be 3 exact weeks that I am in Lisbon, and I already caught myself wondering if and how I’ll want to leave this place, in 11 months from now. I could see myself becoming one of the many expats I met so far, who had gotten here to stay a few months, for a short term job or a school exchange, and ended up simply not leaving. Lisboa me encanta, she got me already. At Checkin we haven’t start working working yet, since Antonio, our mentor and leader got stuck in Bangok for a week longer than what he had planned and since we had a first two weeks of portuguese language (which was amazing! I can’t wait to be semi-fluent at least); which gave me a lot of time to, apart for preparing my presentation about the Erasmus+ program that we are supposed to give on monday, and finish our language course, to discover more of the city and enjoy her sunny and overly warm days. It’s october 28th, and I am writing sitting on a cafe’s terrace wearing a skirt and a tshirt …. it’s 28 degrees here! 

Since I can’t really talk much about the work at the office yet, I’ll go for a ramble about the city - and name a few of the lovely things I got to know so far - a list of favourite discoveries.

 Miradouro Santa Catarina
Miradouros - Lisbon is built on hills. Lots of hills. They say 7 but I believe they are more - or at least feel like it. So you are always climbing here, or trying not to slide down a hill, on rainy days. Up and Down Up and Down… which creates amazing geometries and geographies of narrow streets, neighbourhoods that are shaped by the morphology of the territory, where the colours of the houses’s facades and their architectonical style (there is old ones, covered in azulejos, right next to brutalist apartment complexes from the 60’s), pink and bright blue and green and yellow and rotten white all mingle together and cope with each other in a surprisingly harmonious way.... and there is miradouros on top of these messy hills. Amazing view points on the city, where people go enjoy horizons, sunsets, drinks and the cityscape.. often there will be music played by young jamming musicians or tour guides followed by big groups of overheated tourists who are half dead after climbing up. I am sure I haven’t found them all but I have a top 3 out of the 8 I spotted so far. Nr. 3 is in Penha da França, and I don’t know its name yet… I ended up there at night, and you can’t really see the river from it, but you get a great view on the whole city and the right side of the river Tago, which is all sparkly and orange at night - there  is some big stones with fences and climbing plants you can sit under while enjoying the sight - and it’s never too crowded there, since it’s located in a less touristy area of Lisbon, and you have to climb quite a bit to get there. Nr. 2 is Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte (The Lady of the Mountain) and it’s right behind our place! You have to climb up quite some stairs to get up there but it’s definitely worth it: there is a small white church on top of the hill, with Pine trees and benches that face the view of the city, the river and the castle on the next hill, standing up impotently on Alfama and Graça’s half run down and charming neighbourhoods. It’s a great spot to take pics to send home from. Nr. 1 is the Santa Catarina Miraduro, which looks on the harbour and the bridge and some very modern and overly big buildings that have been recently built right underneath it. They built biiiiig marble stairs that turn into seats for the many many people who hang out there every night - usually young and not too well dressed, enjoying a cerveja, the many musicians who jam there or someone’s loud speaker’s sound (which can be more or less pleasant) and the sparkling lights of the bridge, the reflections on the river’s water… it’s a magical spot, busy and loud, but magical. Close to there I also found an amazing library - Biblioteca Camões - which still has an old original wooden and art nouveauish interior and from who’s windows you can enjoy an amazing view on the rooftops and the river... if you are lucky enough to get a seat by the window  

                                                                                Biblioteca Camões on a rainy afternoon

Social centres and Cultural Houses - Lisbon seems to be full of social centres, run by young and driven people and collectives and where all kinds of gatherings take place, most of them happen to be in Anjos and Arroios, so it’s quite easy for us to reach them. So far I enjoyed a turkish music concert in Crew Hassan, a Swing night in Bus, a folk dancing night (angolan music, Forró, Afro Jazz, Samba and gipsy music were all played during the same night by different bands, all very good) at Casa Lusitana (which is in Alfama, but about to be closed because they are going to turn the building in a hotel), Documentaries about PT writers at Disgraça and a couple of very nice (and cheap! - since often social centres offer meals for 3/4 euros) dinners at Zona Franca.. and even fado sung by some old men with wrinkles, mustaches (bigode!) and smiling faces in a hidden bar up in Graça: it was incredible - a sung out loud sad jam session. I felt really lucky to have run into; I was the only woman there apart for the bartender, and the only non portuguese speaking person - which was a pity, because I am still wondering what all those men where so sad about… but I guess it is some standard themes they sing about. Saudade, tristeza, mar were words that recurred quite a few times. 

Every day there is something going on somewhere: workshops, concerts, jam sessions… and it’s funny how, since the city is not that big (500.000 inhabitants), I already ended up running into the same people several times… even met some friends from Rotterdam who moved here a few years ago, without making any appointment - 4 nights in a raw! It’s like a big village here; most people are very friendly, it’s easy to start a conversation with strangers, keep in touch, the rhythm of life is human, you can sit on a terrace for a drink without feeling guilty towards your bank account or being robbed, walk almost everywhere in max half an hour.. and recognize people on the street when you do so! Also on my way to Checkin - since I always walk the same way around the same time of the day - there is 3 people I keep running into! I already say hi regularly to one of them :)

 spotted on the way to CheckIN
Dancing people - It looks like everybody in Lisbon is a pretty skilled and passionate dancer: chachacha’s, rumba’s, swing, salsa's, Forro’… nothing scares them. I am not used to it: in Italy really few young people dance, in the Netherlands they do a bit more, but it’s definitely not as well as here. They look awesome and seem to have a lot of fun, and I won’t allow myself to still be as clumsy as I am in a year from now. I am going to take dance classes here, learn how to follow steps and another dancer!

Food - Food findings of my first three weeks are: Coffee! Which is still as good as I remembered it to be here, slightly longer than our italian espressos, which makes the pleasure a bit extra long. / Pataniscas de Bacalhau!!! It’s a paste made of codfish, onion, parsley, flour ... fried. And it’s going to be my guilty pleasure for the year / Bacalhau à Bras - which is again a cod fish dish - but with, apart for potatoes and onions and parsley (all regular so far) - eggs in it! Mixing fish and eggs is something you could be hanged for in Italy, and that is why I would have never never never expected it to be such a tasty combination.. but it works amazingly. / Bifana is another thing I’d never expect to be so tasty; it’s simply a sandwich (sande) with pork meet inside, grilled, or boiled in some tomato/garlicky sauce, that you seem to have to top with mustard and accompany with an imperial (draft beer, to enjoy. I tried, and it works! :)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Let`s discover Lisbon...

My name is Antoine, I am 23 years old and I am from France.

I studied law for three years, and after a couple of internships, including one in the USA, I decided that, even though it can be very challeging, this was not the field I wanted to work in. I guess many people in my age feel the same, and it is a pretty big decision to stop and start something else, I had the chance to stay in Athens for a semester during the last year of my degree, it was really there that I started taking interest in other subjects, mostly humanities, from arts to philosophy. I then completely shifted from law, and switched to study fine arts, for a year, in Paris. This year was enlightening for me. I got to do what I wanted at that time, mostly painting and drawing. But I wanted to travel, to discover new things, new cultures and new languages. I used my time away from university to do what I loved most, mostly reading, going to the movie theater, concerts, travel and just hang out with my friends. But somehow I was looking for a new challenge, a long-time commitment that would help me grow and flourish. This is when the idea of doing an EVS struck me. I heard many good things about working in an organization, from the working environment to the contents of the missions. And, to say the least, everything was even better than my already high expectations. Even though I just got here in Portugal, I am already fond of the culture, the people, and the city of Lisbon is a great place to live. The place I am working at is full of young people like me, looking for a place to try different things, eager to learn a whole lot, and overall think differently. I think it is safe to say that I am going to have a great year, doing something I am invested and interested in, with awesome people, in such a vibrant city. What`s not to like?

Very first Emma-steps in Lisboa!

Ola! I am Emma, 23 years old, Italian - grew up on a hill, in a small town in Tuscany. When I turned 18 I moved to the Netherlands, Rotterdam, where I started art school, as an Illustrator. During my bachelor years, I got the chance to take a minor in cultural diversity, focused on social design and worked in an internship as a designer for a small NGO in NYC. After I completed my bachelor in July, I was - and still am - quite confused about what I want to do next, with myself. I know I want to be a "social" change maker and that I'd like to keep designing too, but haven`t come up with a formula yet. I also still want to learn new languages, travel and live in different countries - don't want to miss out on challenges.
So I had decided to start a second bachelor in Arabic and Middle eastern studies and signed up for it, it would be in Venice - back south, almost back home... somehow I felt it was too soon though, I had just gotten out of school two months before! So when scrolling my FB page on a rainy dutch afternoon I saw a call for EVS volunteers at Checkin association I was like: I have to try this! I had spent a few days in Lisbon during a trip a couple of years ago and left promising myself I would have lived here at some point; I had been struck by its multiculturality, kindness and rythm... and there was my chance up for grabs!
And so here I am: ready to start, learn, contribute, doubt, challenge and re-think myself a little, in this pastel-colored and lively place, inside the Oh so nice Checkin team! Thank you Portugal for having me over, sou muito grata! Can't wait to get to know you better :)

Here I am!

Hi my name is Federica, I’m 27 and just one week ago officially began my experience here in Lisbon as an EVS volunteer.
Before to decide to apply for this opportunity I hadn’t planned anything but unfortunately my job contract would have expired a few days later. Everything happened almost by chance even if I’ve always had the idea on my mind to do this kind of experience before getting too old. So, I found the vacancy, applied, did all the interviews with the hosting association and - go!! Everything in less than a month!
And now, here I am since almost one month and everything seems to be amazing!
From the first moment, all the team of my hosting organization made us feel like home, and supported us in all we needed. That’s why I feel that even if we began just one week ago, we already are a “Big Family”: all the Check-IN team, other EVS volunteers from different countries, local volunteers or simply friends.
Along this adventure, which will last until next October, I hope I will manage to support the Team in all the activities as much as I can and at the same time take with me experiences and unforgettable life moments.
Next step: on arrival training in Braga! Hoping it will be a moment to share with a lot of new people and volunteers from different EVS projects here in Portugal.