My name is Pedro, I’m a Portuguese volunteer of SFERA Macedonia and I’m from Madeira island. Consequently, my EVS in Macedonia started with a long trip. I had to get three flights before getting to my airport destination: Ohrid. The week of the flight was intense in Madeira’s airport, as many flights were cancelled because of the winds. The first flight went perfectly and I reached Lisbon even before the scheduled time. I stayed there one night to prepare a long day of flights, as at 8 am I was again in the airport waiting to go to Basel. Everything perfect again and just one flight to go. Basel-Ohrid was an amazing flight, as it was possible to see the villages and snow in the Alps. The approximation to Ohrid was the worst part of the whole trip, as the first approaching to the lane didn’t go well at all, because of the strong winds. First attempt failed and the plane kept travelling around Ohrid to try to land. Fourty minutes later the plane afforded finally to land in Ohrid. Just a final review of the bags and I was ready to leave the airport. Kate and her brother Nikola were waiting for me and we went to have dinner in a typical restaurant near Ohrid. That was the moment when I realized I would get fat in Macedonia if i wasn’t careful.
After the dinner we finally went to the true final destination: the beautiful city of Bitola. We went straight to SFERA House and I met the other volunteers: my countrymate, Mariana; my roommate, the Turkish volunteer Furkan; the Turkish volunteer Aynur and the Romanian volunteer Patricia. Mariana arrived earlier and was already making enemies, as she was playing cards with Patricia and winning.
The following day we went to EVS Coffeetime, which was a good moment to start knowing the other volunteers, SFERA staff and volunteers from another organizations, also from Bitola. After the coffeetime we went to have lunch and then to Rakijada, to start adapting to Bitola’s culture. At night we had the welcoming dinner, with SFERA staff and then we had the first night out.
On Sunday me, Mariana and Patricia went on hiking around Bitola and visited Heraclea Lyncestis, a truly beautiful place, where we had a guided visit with someone who knew about Portugal and was also a fan of our typical music, Fado. The hiking continued between the villages around Bitola, where we knew people that didn’t know English, but that were trying to help us the best they could. We finished the day playing cards (which became a good habit between me, Mariana, Patricia and Aynur) and watching a movie.
The first day in the office started with our first weekly meeting in SFERA and with the visit of our Mentor, Kristina. She started by taking us to register in the Police, to open account in the bank, visiting the Bazaar and showing some Bitola’s tricks, that were extremely useful during the EVS. After that we had lunch at our favourite restaurant in Bitola, in which the two ladies that work there received us really well and became our friends.
The following days were filled with SFERA’s activities, in which I tried to participate as much as I could, to support the other volunteers and give them an extra motivation.
We started visiting the Rehabilitation Center, a place for children with health problems. The first visit was to open the Christmas presents, that SFERA Macedonia offered, after a charity event. After that we scheduled weekly visits to the Center and I stayed with Aynur, on Tuesdays. It was a truly amazing experience to play with the children and contribute to make her days (and ours, too) happier.
The project we came to work for is called “Clean Up Your Mess” and took part in the Elementary School St. Kliment Ohridski. The workshops with children always started with some environmental facts, that the children (between the ages of 11 and 12) listened carefully and answered our questions. The second part of the workshop (upcycling) was always to transform some materials that normally are garbage into useful tools for daily routine. The experience was truly gratifying, as is good to awaken environmental conscience in children and see the awareness of environmental issues growing workshop after workshop. The preparation of the workshops was a challenge, because we had to decide what to do and then start collecting the materials we needed, in order to make interesting workshops. We had also to clean and cut some materials to facilitate children’s work during the workshops.
During the weekends we had the liberty to visit other places, and I had the opportunity of visiting National Park Pelister, Prilep, Ohrid, Skopje and Kruševo, in Macedonia. Beautiful places that worth a visit. Outside Macedonia I had the opportunity of visiting Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. Apart from the lot of hours travelling by bus and the freezing controls outside the bus in Serbia and Kosovo (in a snowy mountain), the experience was truly worth it, but I wouldn’t switch the experience in Macedonia for any of these countries.
During the stay in Macedonia, I had also Macedonian classes that helped communicating with local people. It was very interesting to learn Cyrillic, as it’s very different from what I was used to.
In Bitola I saw a lot of snow in a city for the first time. It was a great experience and I had that experience again almost in the end of March, when no one was expecting it.
I had also the opportunity of organizing a workshop (Youth Development) about Environment and to present my country to a University class, in a formal conference. Me and Mariana also had the opportunity of teaching Portuguese, one hour a week, which was a great experience, as the students were very interested in learning the language, as well as some Portuguese culture.
To sum up, the EVS experience in Macedonia was truly amazing. I will take the people I met in my heart, as I made great friends who I’ll never forget. I hope to come back here early, so: see you soon, Македонија, Мило ми беше!