Happy January EVS

Hanne Oldenhof
How I ended up in Macedonia
Hanne Oldenhof
How I ended up in Macedonia

Hello again everyone and (belated) Happy Old (and) New Year! I am back on the SFERA blog after a break. I hope that everyone had a great holiday.

If you are wondering what I have been doing for the past few weeks, there are many things to talk about. First off, I want to share with you that I have finished the first month of my EVS project, which means I have also finished the first upcycling project with the children before the holiday vacation started, and the results were beyond expectations. But they were filled with adrenaline from providing support with whatever the children needed during the actual workshops and making sure we finished everything on time. As a reminder, the workshops consisted of doing a Christmas and New Year project—more precisely, building a beautifully decorated chimney from cardboard boxes and a Christmas tree made of toilet paper rolls. In the end, everyone had fun and made the most of their time there, beyond all the logistics and time management.

Besides the upcycling projects, it is worth mentioning the charity event that SFERA organized for the children at the Rehabilitation Center in Bitola. This was the first time I was so close to a fundraising event, and it made me realize how easy it is to initiate a good cause—with the right mindset, of course. After having some donation boxes put in four of the most popular bars for a few weeks, the peak of the donation campaign was the charity event party that took place in Kamarite Bar on the 25th of December, where we had special guests providing the entertainment, more precisely Gandini, the magician, and DJ Dejan Dex and Berry Qyat. In the meantime, we EVS volunteers and local volunteers were reminding people what they were here for. I have to say that even though the event took place on my Christmas day, for me it was a chance to celebrate differently, but in a really good way because I was around great people and raising money for a good cause, so there was nothing to complain about. What was the most satisfying part for me was that we raised a lot of money (15 000 denars) and we managed to buy some amazing toys that the children enjoyed.

Also, through SFERA’s monthly activity of playing floorball to promote a healthy and active lifestyle in schools, I discovered a new way of killing time in a constructive way while socializing, which is really cool. What I am specifically talking about is floorball, a type of floor hockey originally developed in Sweden and which is really easy to play.

Socially, I was a busy bee with all the events taking place because of the holidays. We had a party organized for the local volunteers from SFERA, so it was a new opportunity to meet new people and share cultural insights into each other’s country. This was my official introduction to the Aromanian or Vlach community (through a few people being present there). What was interesting for me, as a Romanian, was to see that we could understand each other, even though we were speaking different dialects of the same language. Another nice experience took place on Christmas Eve when volunteers and SFERA and YMCA members gathered to celebrate Catholic Christmas at the beautifully decorated Sumski Feneri restaurant, up at Baba Mountain (talk about Christmas spirit!). Although I spent the New Year at home, sick, I made up for it by fully experiencing the Macedonian traditions for Orthodox Christmas (which is on the 7th of January) as well as for the Old New Year, or Vasilica, which are pretty different compared to the Romanian traditions. Also, I managed to travel to Ohrid, which was really amazing, and I look forward to seeing it again in my next travels to North Macedonia when the weather gets warmer.

Now the last thing I like around here is all the stray dogs I see everywhere, and they just wag their tails and look at you in a friendly way to take them home. I am a huge animal lover, and I am sorry that I cannot do that much for them and take them home. “But Claudia, you are EVS; there must be something you can do for them,” someone might say. Theoretically, it is true, but unfortunately, I am on a short-term project, and I do not have enough time to implement a project like this.

In a nutshell, this is about it, for now, with my EVS experience, but I still have some catching up to do with sharing my thoughts and experiences here, so I will be back soon with new articles.

Until then, stay positive and enjoy life!