One or two weeks ago, my mind couldn’t process the thought that my project will end soon. So, I continued my life in Bitola, as usual with all sorts of project activities and socializing. My project mate, Patricia and me managed to move forward with the upcycling workshops with the kids, the main goal being to do jump ropes from plastic bags. I have to say the kids were thrilled about the idea, especially after we told them how harmful these are for the environment, with some useful information about the slow degradation process or the incredible amounts of plastic dump in the ocean. So each workshop passed by like a blink of an eye and in the meantime at the office I continued with writing articles for the website. The last days were pretty busy with farewell gatherings with everyone and getting all wrapped up with the project.
I finished EVS at SFERA and I it has been two months of experiencing awesome and new things, here and there, with a few challenges that are part of the experience. I have to admit it is a bitter-sweet farewell. On one hand, it is great to see results after a 2-month EVS project, but very hard to say goodbye to all the awesome people I have met in and outside my organization. Also, I will miss Bitola with its busy, fun vibe that Sirok Sokak has.
I want to share with you the most important conclusions I have reached after EVS (although I am not over yet that I had to leave so quickly ):
- Never say no to new experiences and do not expect anything good or bad from them. Just live them as they unfold, you will see magical things happening and without even realizing , you will grow into a much better person. This goes for projects, countries in which they take place and people you meet or live with. In my case, honestly I didn’t know much about Macedonia, nor Bitola and I am happy it happened like that, because it gave me a chance to absorb the culture without prejudices. I admit I liked the project and I was already excited about it. As for the people I met, well, as it always happens, I learned something about them and ultimately about myself.
- Enjoy the activities of the project. I am sure you will learn a new thing or two , at least.
- If you come to volunteer with SFERA, get your sleeping hours straight, in office breaks, or in between parties or different social events. These people know how to have a good fun, whether it’s a good joke in the office, or outside at Rakiada in Kamarite Pub or EVS coffee time, on a Saturday morning. So, put some money aside for partying and make the most of the experience. Also, having fun at SFERA means organizing and participating in all sorts of local events, whether it’s charity, fun, educational or about the environment and for me honestly it was combining the fun with the necessary. I admit, at times it seemed exhausting, but in the end that’s how you build memories :D. (Maybe you can save some money by cooking.)
- Try out local food, go out in places the locals go and ask as many questions as you can about Macedonia and particularly Bitola. It’s a cultural lesson you won’t regret experiencing and it will make you more mindful about their history, appreciate the EVS experience more and also understand the people better. There are many great pubs and restaurants in Bitola and their food choices are quite varied. Also, there is the Old Bazaar market, which offers a great variety of local and fresh food. You can buy food from there, while practicing your Macedonian 🙂
And speaking of culture, there are many international volunteers in Bitola, so try to make friends with them and make the most of getting insight on other cultures, their toughts and feelings on all sorts of things.
- Challenges are part of the EVS experience, whether we are talking about cultural shock and getting used to a new environment, being pressured to do a good job with the project responsabilities or having a misunderstanding here and there, probably with the people you spend the most time with. Accept them as they come and go though them boldly, wisely (and take deep breaths) and end up with a smile on your face.
- Travel, travel, travel, whether it is at a local event like Language Exchange at Piano Bar, the Museum of Bitola, Ohrid or Albania, so bring comfortable shoes! Take advantage of your stay there and explore the surroundings, no matter how close or far they are. It’s a lot better than staying home! If you research on Google, you will see there are many things to explore there and you don’t always need that much money for them. For example, if you bring a pair of comfortable hiking shoes, you can do lots of hiking around Bitola or go check out Markovi Kuli by hiking from Prilep ( a city close to Bitola). But I would totally recommend Ohrid, making the most of Sirok Sokak J and Bitola (you will miss it when you leave, I promise you that) and go see Skopje for a day or two (including Matka Canyon), to observe some interesting things there.
Also, I heard Tirana (the capital of Albania) and Thessaloniki (in Greece) are great too, so if you can, go check them out, they are not that far from Bitola.
- I know there are many stray dogs there, but don’t worry. They are super friendly and they will approach you just to ask for some attention and surely food.
I am very grateful to have had this experience with the SFERA family, I am happy I made so many friends, I got to do so much cultural exchange and I discovered Macedonia, and especially Bitola. I don’t believe in goodbyes, since we are travelers so it is just see you later!