EVS Macedonia

EVS Journey
Experiencing The Life in Bitola via EVS
EVS Journey
Experiencing The Life in Bitola via EVS

My name is Pedro. I’m a Portuguese volunteer with SFERA Macedonia, and I’m from Madeira Island. Consequently, my EVS in North Macedonia started with a long trip. I had to get on three flights before getting to my airport destination, Ohrid. The week of the flight was intense in Madeira’s airport, as many flights were canceled 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 for a long day of flights, and at 8 a.m. I was again in the airport waiting to go to Basel. Basel-Ohrid was an amazing flight, as it was possible to see the villages and snow in the Alps. 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 North Macedonia if I wasn’t careful.

After dinner, we finally went to our 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 had arrived earlier and was already making enemies as she was playing cards with Patricia and winning.

The following day we went to EVS coffee time, which was a good moment to start getting to know the other volunteers, SFERA staff, and volunteers from other organizations, also from Bitola. After coffee time, 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 our first night out.

On Sunday, we went 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 met people who didn’t know English but 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 the visit of our mentor, Kristina. She started by taking us to register with the police, open accounts in the bank, visit the bazaar, and show some of Bitola’s tricks, which were extremely useful during the EVS. After that, we had lunch at our favorite restaurant in Bitola, where the two ladies who 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 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 making her days (and ours, too) happier.

The project we came to work for is called “Clean Up Your Mess” and took place at the elementary school St. Kliment Ohridski. The workshops with children always started with some environmental facts, and 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 are normally garbage into useful tools for the 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 for 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 also had to clean and cut some materials to facilitate the 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 North Macedonia. There are beautiful places that are worth visiting. Outside of North Macedonia, I had the opportunity to visit Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. Apart from a lot of hours traveling 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 North Macedonia for any of these countries.

During my stay in North Macedonia, I also took Macedonian classes that helped me communicate 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 the city for the first time. It was a great experience, and I had that experience again almost at the end of March when no one was expecting it.

I also had the opportunity to organize a workshop on youth development and the environment and to present my country to a university class in a formal conference. Together with my colleague, I had the opportunity to teach Portuguese for 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 North 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!