EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT

The European Parliament is an important forum for political debate and decision-making at the EU level. The Members of the European Parliament are directly elected by voters in all Member States to represent people’s interests with regard to EU law-making and to make sure other EU institutions are working democratically. The Parliament represents the second-largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world. The President of the European Parliament (Parliament’s speaker) is David Sassoli (elected in July 2019).

European Parliament in Strasbourg

The Committees of the European Parliament

In order to do the preparatory work for Parliament’s plenary sittings, the Members are divided up among a number of specialised standing committees. There are 20 parliamentary committees that meet once or twice a month in Brussels and whose debates are held in public.

Languages, translation and interpretation

Speakers in the European Parliament are entitled to speak in any of the 24 official languages of the European Union. Simultaneous interpreting is offered in all plenary sessions, and all final texts of legislation are translated. With twenty-four languages, the European Parliament is the most multilingual parliament in the world and the biggest employer of interpreters in the world. Citizens may also address the Parliament in Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician.

Plenary

Plenary sittings are chaired by the President of the European Parliament. The President of the European Parliament is assisted in this task by the 14 vice-presidents, who can take over the chair. The President opens the sitting, sometimes with a tribute or a speech on a current topic. Parliament is in fact constantly concerned to respond to the latest developments in any major issue and has no hesitation in changing its agenda in order to call on the Union to act. The President’s influence can be decisive in this respect.

European Parliament 2019

References

About Parliament. European Parliament, web: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/about-parliament/en (page visited on 09/12/2019)

Wikipedia, European Parliament, web: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Parliament (page visited on 09/12/2019)

European Union: Agriculture

Vibrant rural areas and quality agricultural products

World food production needs to double by 2050 to cater for population growth and evolving food habits. It faces the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, soil and water quality, and the demands of the global marketplace.

EU farm policy has changed considerably in recent decades to help farmers face these challenges and respond to peoples’ changing attitudes and expectations. EU agricultural policy covers a wide range of areas, including food quality, traceability, trade and promotion of EU farm products. The EU financially supports its farmers and encourages sustainable and eco-friendly practices, while also investing in the development of rural areas.

EU institutions collaborate on food and farming policy-making, implementing, monitoring and evaluating it. National and local authorities implement the laws agreed at EU level. Through the EU budget, funds are made available to member states in accordance to rules set at EU level. The EU also monitors how laws are applied, how effective they are, and coordinates amendments.

Agriculture and food related industries and services provide over 44 million jobs in the EU, including regular work for 20 million people within the agricultural sector itself. Thanks to its varied climate, fertile soil, the technical skills of its farmers and the quality of its products, the EU is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of agricultural products.

Agriculture and rural development in EU: Rural development 2014-2020

The EU’s rural development policy helps the rural areas of the EU to meet the wide range of economic, environmental and social challenges of the 21st century. Frequently called “the second pillar” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it complements the system of direct payments to farmers and measures to manage agricultural markets (the so-called “first pillar”).

There are 118 different rural development programmes (RDP) in the 28 Member States for this period, with 20 single national programmes and 8 Member States opting to have two or more (regional) programmes.

EU framework for rural development programmes

Member States and regions draw up their rural development programmes based on the needs of their territories and addressing at least four of the following six common EU priorities:

* Fostering knowledge transfer and innovation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas

* Enhancing the viability and competitiveness of all types of agriculture, and promoting innovative farm technologies and sustainable forest management

* Promoting food chain organisation, animal welfare and risk management in agriculture

* Restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry

* Promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors

* Promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development in rural areas

Source: Official website of the European Union

LET’S TALK ABOUT LITERATURE

So this is my last text like that here and I decided to dedicate it to my one of my big passions, namely to the literature. This was also one of the reasons why I decided to study French Language and Literature in the University of Tartu. These were the best years of my life! I really enjoyed being a student. Now, after I’ve graduated, I try to continue using critical thinking while reading books, without loosing the ability to enjoy the story.

I’ve read a lot of books in my life and some novels have left a deep impression on me. So this time I’ve decided to talk about some of my favourite books and/or writers.

Firstly, one of my absolute favourite authors is Sir Terry Pratchett. I love his Discworld series (Serie del Mondo Disco). All the activities take place on a flat, circular, disc-shaped world which sits on the back of four big elephants, which in their turn stand on the carapace of a giant turtle. Some popular characters who appear in different books, are for example gods, a failed wizard and the DEATH.

I really like his writing style. Pratchett’s books are very funny and enjoyable to read, especially because he treats in a comical and satirical way real world issues and problems. You can also find references about different religions. For example the characters called The Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse are described in the last book of the New Testament (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). Also, The myth of a giant turtle/tortoise supporting the world occurs in Hindu, in Chinese and in Native American mythology.

My another favourite book from Russian literature is “The Master and Margarita” (Il maestro e Margherita) by Mikhail Bulgakov. He imagines very well the Russian/Soviet society of that time. At first sight, the text seemed too weird and confusing to me. But the more I read the more interesting it seemed. Finally I got used to the characters like the giant talking cat and the devil Woland, who had come to Moscow, and all the weird things that happen. This book has been considered as one of the best novels of the 20th century. I really enjoyed it and I would recommend reading it for those who haven’t done it yet.

The next book series doesn’t need a long introduction, I guess. I really like “Harry Potter by British author J. K. Rowling. In my mind, it’s absolutely amazing how she has described all the characters, all the places and all the mystical events.

A German-speaking Bohemian author who I quite like is Franz Kafka. I have read his books called “The Castle” (Il castello) and “The Trial” (Il processo). At the beginning, his writing style seemed very weird and it was very hard to understand what he wanted to say. While analysing the text a bit more closely, I found the books actually quite interesting. The main characters of both of the books have to deal with ignorance. There are events and circumstances that don’t depend on them.

In “The Trial”, the main character called Josef K. is unexpectedly arrested one morning. Nobody never explains him what he had done wrong (if he had done anything wrong at all), he only has to go to the court. Even the lawyer doesn’t seem to have any intention to help Josef K.

In “The Castle”, the main character is called simply K. He arrives to a village where he should have had a job. it’s impossible to speak to an official named Klamm. K tries to go to the castle to ask for any information, but he fails.

Another great book that I enjoyed a lot is “The picture of Dorian Gray” (Il ritratto di Dorian Gray) by Oscar Wilde. It’s a great story about double life, supernatural events that reflect the reality. In Gothic fiction, that this book also represents, the paintings have often a sinister role. In this book, Dorian Gray stays young and beautiful while the painting of him becomes more and more ugly and finally it’s so disgusting for Dorian himself that he hides it. Although “The Picture of Dorian Gray” might be a bit terrifying, I believe it’s still worth reading.

Concerning Italian literature, I really love “The Divine Comedy” (La Comedìa/Divina Commedia) by Dante Alighieri. I have read only the first part (Inferno). Other two parts include Purgatorio and Paradiso. It’s a poem where ‘sweet new style’ (Dolce Stil Novo) was used for the first time. It represents the vision of the afterlife through the medieval world-view that had been developed by the 14th century in the Western Church. In teh forst part, the main character travels with Virgil throught the underworld.

Another book from the Russian literature that I really like is “The Idiot” (L’idiota) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I should read it more attentively myself, but I still believe it’s a great book. It’s a story about social issues and norms in Russia that cause a lot of problems for the main character called Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin who has returned to his homeland from abroad and who is not able to integrate to this society any more.

As last recommendations, I decided to choose something also from the French literature. The first book, that is quite difficult to read, but that is still an amazing piece of work, is “Nausea” (La nausea) by Jean-Paul Sartre. The protagonist, Antoine Roquentin, tries to finish one of his researches, but he often feels that the world is weird and absurd that evokes him a sense of nausea. The only way how he can deal with it, is music. Sartre’s philosophical approach and existentialist concept makes it a bit difficult to read, but it’s still very interesting novel.

And the final one… I’m a huge fan of Molière, a 17th century playwright, actor and poet. Strongly influenced by italian commedia dell’arte, his comedies treat social issues in a satirical way. Although commedia dell’arte was based on improvisation, Molière’s early comedies were based on its scenarios, but with scripted dialogue and not improvised. Some of his plays I really like are: “The Imaginary Invalid” (Il malato immaginario), “Tartuffe”/“The Impostor”/“The Hypocrite” (Il Tartuffo), “The Ridiculous Précieuses”/”The Affected Ladies” (Le preziose ridicole).

A French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist René Descartes has said: “The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” In my mind, reading is fun, educative and a perfect leisure time activity. So I would like to invite everyone to read books and to think about what the writers have to say.

Tramonta già il sole su Nea Moudania… oppure no?

Carissimi, eccomi di nuovo a scrivere della mia esperienza come volontaria italiana in Grecia. In questo articolo voglio concentrarmi su quelle che sono state le mie sensazioni e riflessioni riguardanti il progetto e la mia vita qui man mano che il tempo scorreva durante i mesi di agosto e settembre, alcune positive ma alcune anche negative, perché un’esperienza di volontariato all’estero non è tutta rose e fiori, e voglio condividere quello che ho vissuto sperando possa essere utile per chi deve ancora partire o per chi, magari, ha attraversato la medesima fase e ha bisogno di ritrovarsi.

Iniziamo dunque. I primi due mesi trascorsi a Nea Moudania, paesino di mare nella penisola Halkidiki, sono stati molto intensi e movimentati, poiché You in Europe, organizzazione presso cui sto svolgendo il volontariato, ha ospitato due scambi giovanili (uno youth exchange di una settimana a giugno e un ESC di un mese a luglio), ma una volta terminate queste attività e dopo che i ragazzi con cui avevamo condiviso l’esperienza erano tornati ai loro tetti natii, ho avuto veramente modo di capire le dinamiche del mio progetto e come mi ci stavo inserendo, sia da un punto di vista pratico che emotivo. Procederò con ordine, raccontando prima di tutto il mese di agosto, che è stato un mese pieno di domande e di dubbi su cosa stessi facendo, probabilmente perché è stato il primo momento in cui mi sono trovata da sola con i miei pensieri, senza mille impegni o persone da vedere ed eventi da organizzare.
Le attività in cui ero impegnata, insieme agli altri due volontari del progetto, consistevano ora principalmente nel lavoro mattutino presso i due centri ricreativi dove ci eravamo inseriti sin dall’inizio del volontariato, e in una riunione settimanale insieme ai responsabili dell’associazione per riportare l’andamento delle attività. Il resto del tempo era praticamente tutto libero, e sebbene il lavoro nei centri procedesse molto bene, questo è stato un elemento che mi ha portata più volte a domandarmi “cosa sto facendo qui?”. Qualcuno, tra chi leggerà queste righe, potrà pensare che sia matta: lavorare quattro ore al giorno per poi spaparanzarsi al sole fino al tramonto è stato motivo di crisi esistenziale? Potrebbe sembrare assurdo, eppure.
Come ho scritto, le attività all’interno dei centri ricreativi stavano procedendo nel migliore dei modi: stavo portando avanti un corso di italiano per i bambini delle elementari, e un corso di yoga per il gruppo di adulti con disabilità. Entrambi questi gruppi mi avevano accolta a braccia aperte ed ero in grado di lavorare insieme a loro nonostante la barriera linguistica del greco in maniera sorprendente. Mi rendevo quindi conto dei punti di forza di questo progetto e dell’impatto positivo che la mia presenza stava avendo sulla comunità locale, e questa energia positiva rimbalzava anche su di me, facendomi sentire utile per il ruolo che svolgevo, pur non essendo una professionista o esperta.
I dubbi che mi hanno assalita riguardavano il resto della giornata, quando non erano presenti attività definite né un orario serrato, momenti in cui pensavo se ciò che stavo facendo fosse abbastanza, se mi soddisfacesse davvero, o se fosse giusto per me. Il fatto di poter godere della spiaggia dopo il lavoro era sicuramente piacevole, ma continuavo a domandarmi quando o se avremmo iniziato seriamente con altre attività.

Posso affermare quindi che, nonostante riuscissi a cogliere la validità del progetto di volontariato, al contempo mi domandavo se ciò che mi veniva offerto fosse quello di cui avevo davvero bisogno per sentirmi soddisfatta del lavoro e se bastasse per trovare un senso nell’aver intrapreso la scelta di restare un anno all’estero. Credo che ogni progetto abbia le proprie criticità, e che non esistano progetti perfetti o che vadano incontro alle necessità di ogni volontario, così come possono sorgere dei dubbi in qualsiasi lavoro una persona stia svolgendo, e questa consapevolezza mi ha aiutata a superare i momenti più duri e a ridimensionare ciò che stavo attraversando, considerandolo normale e umano.
Tali pensieri ed emozioni mi hanno accompagnata fino al mese di settembre, quando qualcosa ha iniziato a cambiare: innanzitutto, l’arrivo di un nuovo volontario che veniva ad aggiungersi al nostro gruppo ha sicuramente movimentato la situazione; il nostro progetto era infatti stato scritto per quattro persone, e You in Europe è riuscita a trovare il partecipante che mancava solo alla fine dell’estate.
In secondo luogo, con la riapertura delle scuole pubbliche e delle attività sportive anche il nostro orario lavorativo ha subito dei cambiamenti: abbiamo infatti iniziato a lavorare nelle ore pomeridiane nei centri ricreativi, e un’ulteriore opportunità si è aperta per noi che abbiamo infatti potuto iniziare a dare una mano agli allenatori delle squadre di pallavolo del paese, supportando le loro attività con bambini e ragazzi in palestra. L’avvio di queste nuove attività mi hanno quindi ulteriormente aiutata a ricominciare a sperare per il meglio e a ritrovare un po’ di motivazione per il mio volontariato.

Per concludere vorrei quindi dire che credo sia normale avere dubbi e che sollevare delle criticità può portare al miglioramento delle scelte che si intraprendono, soprattutto se di lungo periodo e lontano dalle persone care. Anche aver attraversato questa fase critica mi ha aiutata ad acquisire più consapevolezza in me stessa e nelle persone che mi circondano, e sono convinta che sia importante fare tesoro dei momenti negativi e come siamo in grado di superarli, poiché spesso ci possono insegnare molto di più delle esperienze positive. Vorrei inoltre aggiungere che i dubbi su alcuni aspetti del progetto e le domande interiori riguardanti questa mia scelta non sono spariti con un colpo di bacchetta, né la mia routine, posso dire abbastanza tranquilla, è cambiata radicalmente; ho però cercato giorno dopo giorno di gestire i miei sentimenti e vedere il lato positivo della situazione, provando davvero ad imparare da ogni cosa, anziché cercare una via d’uscita “facile” e abbandonare tutto.

Grazie per aver dedicato del tempo alla lettura di questo articolo, a prestissimo da Nea Moudania!

Federica

FIRST REAL CULTURE SHOCK

About a week ago I thought that all my days are the same now that I have nothing to write about any more. Well, I forgot – it’s about life… Something happens all the time; things go wrong, sometimes everything goes perfectly well. My room mate arrived and we have had a lot of fun the last weekend. But… then I also faced for the first time the first real culture shock!

Some paintings

Usually don’t go out to have a dinner or to the cinema with somebody. One evening, my room mate and I decided to go out for dinner. As I’ve been in Faenza for about two months already, I took her to a place that I quite like myself. It’s a nice place near Piazza del Popolo. We entered the room. The first problems started even before we could sit down. The reason is quite clear – my Italian is almost non existent and my room mate’s Italian is not better. Fortunately one of the waiters spoke a bit English. So we got a table for two. The waiter brought us a menu and explained what they have. Usually I’m not able to choose very quickly one meal between all these Italian choices of food, but this time I knew already what I wanted so we ordered a drink plus buffet aperitivo. Later, my room mate took another drink. I always try to spend as few as possible, so I did also this time. The place was very noisy, a lot of people and quite loud music. But, well, that was fine. Surprisingly. Finally we went to pay for our dinner. In my mind it’s funny that here you can eat and drink before and then you pay. What if I forgot my wallet at home and I have no money? Sorry dude, but I already ate your food… Bye then!

Anyway, in Estonia it’s normal and very common that when you go out with your friends, everyone pays for the things they ordered. But here they had put the bill together, but we wanted to pay separately. And what did they do? They just split the final sum and I was forced to pay more than I should have paid!!! Ok fine, the sum wasn’t that huge, but this is a question of principle and I have to say that it was a shock for me…

A nice breakfast few days before the culture shock

Another time my room mate and I decided to go to the cinema. It sounds funny that two foreigners who don’t understand a sh*t of the language go to see a film without any subtitles… Well, probably one way to learn a language, but still… It was surprising that actually I did understand quite a lot. At least in my mind. And as weird as it sounds, but it is one of a few places where I can actually hear Italian (and hopefully learn at least something). Very soon I’ll start my personal project. I hope to be able to do many personal projects, but this time I’m going to do a language exchange. I don’t really know yet how it will work, but hopefully I can finally learn a bit Italian and in return help with some English and/or French.

Coming back to the previous topic. Again, a cultural shock hit my in the face even before I could enter the auditorium. At first, we had to buy tickets (hahah, at least here we need to pay before can actually see the film). As we went to see a film in Italian, I thought it would maybe be a bit too weird when we happily announce everyone that we speak no Italian at all. So I tried to use some few words that I managed to remember and surprisingly the booking clerk didn’t switch to English (I assume his English might have been even worse than my Italian, so he just let me suffer). I asked for one ticket, but as I was there with my friend, the booking clerk automatically asked about both of us. And as my friend don’t speak Italian yet, I did answer for both of us. Again, according to my Estonian background, I naively thought that each of us is going to pay its own ticket, but, you can already guess how did it go… The booking clerk asked me 9€. So it was obviously me who had to pay for both of us again!!!!!! At least when I saw the tickets I discovered that we both got a discount, but the fact that I always need to pay for someone else makes me so angry!!! So this is the price when you try to “speak” Italian!? Now I’m absolutely terrified to go anywhere with somebody again…

Tutto il mio folle amore (2019)

A few words about the film itself. The title of the film we were watching is Tutto il mio folle amore (2019). It’s a drama by Gabriele Salvatores based on a true story that talks about family relationships. At the heart of the story are an autistic boy called Vincent, Elena, his mother, Mario, Vincent’s stepfather and Willi, boy’s natural father. One night when Willi comes to the house of Elena and Mario after having a concert, he’s drunk. It’s the first time when he sees his son. Elena is furious at Willi and kicks him out. The next morning, Willi leaves to go to perform in another city. When he stops his car in the middle of nowhere, Vincent jumps out of it and starts running. Willi is shocked. He informs Elena that their son is with him. Elena wants him to bring Vincent back at home, but Willi decides to continue his trip with Vincent. They have a lot of problems, accidents and worries, but this adventure also makes the relationship between the father and the son much stronger.

Suddenly, there was a pause for 3-5 minutes… In a cinema!!? I couldn’t believe that, I’ve never seen something like that in a cinema before. Only possible in Italy… 😀

Elena didn’t give up and she went to search for her son with Mario. At the end, all of the family members meet. I quite liked the ending of the film which was a bit sad, thought-provoking, not like all of the Hollywood movies with an eternal happy endings… Although I think that this film had also a happy end.

In my opinion, it’s a good film, worth watching. I’s a bit sad, but beautiful. The actors were very good. I liked the main character’s acting, in my mind, the actor played well a person with a mental illness. And the music they used in the film, was also good. I really loved the Imagine Dragons’ song Next to me at the very end!

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the film and the fact that I was able to watch it in Italian! I definitely want to watch some other Italian films in the future.

A LOT OF MUSIC

As the time goes on, the routine begins to take shape step by step. It means that during the week, I stay in the office, I write blog posts, deal with international project and go to the after school.

During the weekend, I try to find some places not very far from Faenza (mostly because of money) to travel a bit, although sometimes I feel very lazy, I would better stay home and sleep. But I don’t want to deepen my laziness, so I try to find something to do. On the other hand, I feel that during the week I have a lot of things to do, my daily schedule is quite full. So maybe there is some kind of balance after all?

This week I went again to Brisighella to visit an event called “Sagra dell’agnellone e del castrato Q.C.”. There was a market where products like meat, jam, etc. were sold; some musicians were performing onstage and a lunch was offered as well. I have to say that I really like Italian food, but the menu might be very confusing for me; and not only because of my inability to understand Italian, but also because the meals can be cooked so many different ways and it’s hard for me to choose which ones I might like the most. Also, I’m a horrible cook myself. Nevertheless, while in Brisighella, I also used the chance to enjoy once more this wonderful nature and picturesque landscape 🙂

There will also be other similar events in Brisighella which might me worth visiting.

Back to Faenza, I discovered that there was an event in the Piazza del Popolo: “Camminata del dialogo“. It was the final gathering of a walking tour organised by the “Centro di Cultura Islamica” (Centre of Islamic Culture) which was dedicated to the promotion of the coexistence of different religious cultures. A great cover band called Onde Radio were singing Italian songs of different artists and also some food and drinks were offered there.

I really love music and that’s a shame that I’m not really able to play any instruments myself. But I listen to music a lot. Usually I combine my love for music and my love for languages and so I mostly listen music in different languages. The following list of singers and songs is a bit long, but hopefully there’s something interesting for you too 🙂

First of all, some singers (and some of their songs) in French:

1. Zaz (Isabelle Geffroy) – a French singer-songwriter who mixes jazzy styles, French variety, soul and acoustic. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Je veux”, “Eblouie par la nuit”

2. Black M (Alpha Diallo) – a French rapper and singer-songwriter. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Sur ma route”, “Le plus fort du monde”, “French Kiss”

3. Maître Gims (Gandhi Bilel Djuna) – a Congolese singer, rapper and composer who grew up in France and who has worked with several international artists such as Sia, Pitbull, Lil Wayne, Stromae, Maluma, Sting, etc. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Est-ce que tu m’aimes?”, “Lo Mismo” ft. Alvaro Soler

4. Stromae (Paul Van Haver) – a Belgian musician, rapper, singer and songwriter. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Alors on danse”, “Tous Les Mêmes”

5. Christophe Maé (Christophe Martichon) – a French pop singer. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Tombé sous le charme”, “Il est où le bonheur”

6. Gaël Faye – a French-Rwandan singer-songwriter, rapper, writer and interpreter born in Bujumbura, Burundi. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “A France”

7. Grand Corps Malade (Fabien Marsaud) – a French slam poet and lyricist. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Roméo kiffe Juliette”, “Funambule”

A great Spanish-German singer-songwriter is Álvaro Soler (Álvaro Tauchert Soler). SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Sofia”, “Volar”, “El Mismo Sol” ft. Jennifer Lopez

Some great Danish singers:

1. Tina Dickow/Dico (Tina Dickow Danielsen) – a singer-songwriter. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Pigen ud af Aarhus”, “Alt hvad hun ville”

2. Rasmus Seebach – a singer, author and producer. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Øde Ø”, “Under stjernerne på himlen”

Some singers and songs from Iceland:

1. Friðrik Dór – an Icelandic R&B and pop singer and songwriter. SONG EXAMPLE(S): “Í Síðasta Skipti”

2. Gréta Salome & Jonsi: “Mundu eftir mér” (Iceland ESC 2012)

Some great songs in (Scottish/Irish) Gaelic:

1. “Cé a chuirfidh tú liom” by Arcanadh – a six piece traditional Irish vocal group of musicians from all over Ireland

2. “Cad é sin don té sin” by Caladh Nua – a band with origins rooted in the south-eastern counties of Ireland

3. “Hùg Air A’ Bhonaid Mhòir” by Julie Fowlis – a Scottish folk singer and multi-instrumentalist

Finally, there is a great Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata Diawara who sings in the Malian language called Wassoulou. I really like her album “Fatou” (2011) where she explores themes of war, abandonment of children and female circumcision.

This list is definitely not complete, there are a lot of wonderful singers and very good songs and I like to listen almost every genre of music, vocal and instrumental.

ABOUT BOOTS AND SHOES

New country, new experiences, new gladnesses and new problems. Possibility to grow internally, danger to have a mental breakdown. My life in Italy its has ups and downs, as everyone, as everywhere. One of my favourite writers Terry Pratchett has said: “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”

I have to say that Italy is quite a messy country – people are often quite disorganised, the traffic is crazy… But at some point I also kind of like Italian life style… sometimes. Lately I went to the market, because I needed new boots. I found one quite nice pair, not very expensive, but when I tried them, I discovered that unfortunately these ones don’t fit very well. So I asked for smaller ones. I have used to the fact that everything is in order and placed in a clear way – when you want to find smaller or bigger boots of the same type, you just go and take them from a place where you have all the same type of boots. Clear and easy, isn’t it? But how things work in Italy? Well, after I’ve told to the salesman that I would need a bit smaller ones, he tried to find them from the boxes that were under the boots I had tried. Then he went to the other side and searched them from there. He was looking for those boots almost everywhere and finally he came back and told me that he was sorry, but he couldn’t find them at that moment; and he told me to come back on Thursday… 😀

When I already started to talk about boots and shoes, there is another cultural difference that I’ve noticed: entering the room with your boots. In Estonia, it’s very impolite, disrespectful and even unthinkable to enter (especially somebody else’s) room/apartment/etc. with your shoes on; we always leave them in the corridor. There are some rare cases when the host asks you not to take off your shoes though. But here in Italy, it seems totally normal and usual thing to just to drop in with your shoes on. Well, in Italy or not, but in my room, I wouldn’t let people walk around like that. As my future room mate (who will arrive very soon) is from Finland, I hope that we share the same principles…

As the time flies by so fast and we’re always in a hurry, I feel that I need to charge myself and to take some time off. And the yoga classes are perfect for that! it’s the place where you can feel really calm and relaxed.

Also, finally I had the chance to practice again another activity which is one of my my big passions too – it’s rock climbing!! The last time I had the chance to rock climb was in the beginning of September. The climbing hall where I go here in Faenza is quite small, but at least it’s something. There is the possibility of climbing with ropes (lead and top rope climbing), bouldering and speed climbing (that I personally don’t like very much). Hopefully I will have the chance and courage to do more lead climbing in the near future as well.

Last but not least, last Sunday I visited Bologna! It’s also very beautiful city. I’ve always liked to watch some street artists from YouTube, but now I finally saw myself a wonderful drummer playing his self-made drum kit, a guy who was playing guitar and singing very nicely, an artist who was moulding a dog…

In general, it was again quite nice week full of different activities. Although you can never know what to expect from Italy and from the other people. But if it doesn’t kill me, I can manage it.

A presto!

VOYAGE VOYAGE

Elif Şafak has said: “I love commuting between languages just like I love commuting between cultures and cities.”

I’ve been in Faenza for a bit more than a month by now. The lingua franca is still English; sometimes I can use French, but not very often (and speaking French one of the things I miss a lot). Lately I went to the laundry. I was quite afraid to do that because I knew that probably they don’t speak English there (which was the case by the way). I wasn’t able to understand what they said in Italian, but as a little surprise, one if the ladies said that she spoke French! So, thank god, we were able to communicate!

Faenza

From time to time, I try to use some words or expressions also in Italian. Here are some examples of my attempts to use Italian:

– One day, I was ordering a coffee in a bar. I was alone, so I didn’t have a wiser and braver friend to help me out with the language. I have to say that I was quite proud of myself that I used no English, although I said only one short sentence in Italian. Nevertheless, it’s extremely hard for me to speak in a foreign language if I don’t speak it well, and especially with native speakers.

– The other day, I was trying to say something in Italian to the kids in after school, but it’s still too hard for me, because my level is not good enough for that. Sometimes I do feel myself like Mr. Bean on his holiday in France: “Oui. Non. Gracias.” (Mr. Bean’s Holiday, 2007).

– Sometimes when I’m in a shop, I don’t ask the salesperson to use another language when I’ve understood the price for example. However, if they decide to say anything else besides the price, I need to ask them to say this in English or to answer in English that I didn’t understand this or just smile, nod my head and to pretend that I’ve perfectly understood them (although this wouldn’t be very smart thing to do).

All these small things make me feel good, but they also make me overcome fear and break out of my comfort zone.

Piazza del Popolo, Faenza

I’ve been talking quite a lot about languages now. Last but not least I need to say that I’ve finally started my Italian classes. I decided to try B1 level which is pretty crazy, because normal people don’t usually skip all the basics when they start to learn a new language. I mean, after a bit more than one month in Italy, I can already understand a little bit more than when I arrived here (which is quite logic, I think). Still, I know nothing about Italian grammar and it’s too hard to create a normal and understandable sentence. In general, I quite like the challenge and I do feel that A2 level is a little bit too easy and the progress might be a bit too slow. Hopefully I will be able to survive in B1 level classes…

Concerning the activities, there are not many changes. Things are going to be more calm and stable now. Twice a week I go to after school classes and once a week I work with international projects. I also write blog posts and follow some courses related to art therapy and teaching in Udemy. Hopefully I will soon start to develop my personal project as well.

In my free time, I finally have stable yoga classes and I really really hope to go soon to rock climbing too! Mostly when I come home, I’m quite tired; I like to spend time alone in my room, to relax, to listen to music and sometimes practice ukulele.

Ukulele

So much for my everyday life and for “commuting between languages”. Just like Elif Şafak, I also like “commuting between cultures and cities.” During the last weekends, I’ve been travelling to the towns and cities near to Faenza. I started with the town closer to Faenza and every time I went farther. As a picture is worth a thousand words, I will add more photos than text in the following part.

So my first destination was Brisighella which is undoubtedly my favourite place so far! This lovely small town just about 10 minutes from Faenza by train is a real paradise! I really love nature and the hills. It’s so green and lively everywhere. I felt very calm and very grateful among all this beauty and I’m very happy that I had the chance to visit such a wonderful place. Besides the nature, I also saw some towers: I visited La Rocca and La Torre dell’Orologio wchich were very beautiful as well.

My next destination was Ravenna which is a very nice place too. I visited some museums and mausoleums. It’s weird that they don’t sell any single tickets, you have to pay about 10€ and then you can visit all of the places there. But in general, the city was nice.

Lastly, my third destination was Florence (Firenze). It’s a very beautiful city and very popular among tourists, so it was too crowded. Still, I really liked the Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) and the river. While walking around the city, I saw statues, street art, the panorama of the city, etc. I also went to a bar for lunch. I really like Italian cuisine, it’s definitely one of the world’s best. However, it is not very pleasant for Italians to see how I try to eat long pasta (if possible, I try to avoid that). As I haven’t acquired (yet) the right technique, it’s very painful for me to eat this kind of food when I try to twirl a kilometre long spaghetti to the damn fork… But well, maybe I will learn how to do that one day. Anyway, I try to give my very best.

Definitely I’d like to get to know more about this culture, to continue learning Italian, to travel more and to discover other closer and farther cities. It’s so easy to fall in love with Italy with all its beauty, weirdnesses, vivacity, architecture and impressive nature!

From Estonia with Love,

Triinu

A Greek is in Town

Hello to my lucky readers,

I am the last expected from this year’s voluntering programs (ESC) and I am finally in town. So many things to say, some many things to do and still don’t know how to start.

Funny, right?

I suppose that I can talk a little bit about the crazy and awesome opportunity that I have to come for a year and work as a volunteer in Italy. The European Union founds every year a lot of organizations to take volunteers and give them the best experience of their lives. This year I was one of the lucky, lucky ones and this organization in Italy, known as S.E.MI, saw something in me -I really don’t know what, I have to ask them at some point- and they chose me as a volunteer for a year in this little and beautiful Italian city, Faenza.

I arrived in this beautiful town of Faenza in a sunny Monday morning – I really hate Mondays, but that was a good one- and from the first moment I had the feeling that I was home. There are many differences between Italians and Greeks, for sure, but with the first impression, the energy that Italy and Italians give you feels a lot like the greek hospitality and kindness.

The first thing that everyone notices in Faenza is the medieval architecture with all these beautiful tall building, the huge wooden front doors, the vintage windows with the tiny balkonies and the small, traditional avenues. I think you can find it logical that I got lost from the first walk in this town. I mean, why people keep trusting me alone, right? Just kidding, I am pretty indipendent and I can find my way back in any case. But my first day here I really wanted to get lost in these small streets so I did it.

I also was really, really happy when I found Parco Bucci, a park full of animals like ducks, rabbits, swans and unfortunatelly pigeons -my greatest fear of all-. So, I desided to start healthy this year -as a resolution from the mainstream quote ”new town, new me”- and start running at this park everyday, even though I haven’t done it yet – it was raining,ok? I wasn’t bored-.

Parco Bucci, 02/10/2019

From the second day I started socializing with the other volunteers here and had a great time. We had a tour in the city of Faenza, we took all the necesities -because let’s face it, we are going to live here for a year, I need a lot, like A LOT- and then we tried some traditional things, foods and activities here.

So far so good, I don’t think that I can share anything else because we must have something to talk about the next time. For now…

Arrivederci!

WHAT A WONDERFUL TOWN

Time passes so fast! I’ve been in Italy for almost three weeks by now. It has been pretty fun and full of activities. I’m quite excited that there are still many amazing things for me to discover in Faenza and about Italy in general.

Piazza del Popolo

During the last weeks, I’ve been preparing the room for after-school activities, thinking after school activities for kids and also done after-school helping children with their homework. I had no experience in working with children before, so I was a little bit worried, but the kids are actually very nice and cute and I quite like the task related to after-school activities.

The great thing about after-school is the fact that there’s time for playing and time for studying. We tried to find some games which are fun and which also help Italian schoolchildren to improve their foreign language skills. To get to know each other, we had an activity in pairs – each person asked questions we had prepared to another person and then they introduced each other to the rest of us. During this activity I also had the chance to practice my horrible Italian.

I really love those courtyards that I’ve seen quite often here. One of those courtyards belongs to this office where we have after-school activities. It’s so lovely – quite small and cute yard with a lot of plants and palm trees which looks like a tiny magic world. Very exotic to a Nordic person!

I have other duties such as promoting Erasmus+ projects on different Facebook pages and finding partners for different projects. Such tasks are not very easy for me, because I’m very bad with all this social media and technology stuff. But the positive thing is that at least there are many new things for me to learn and to develop. Another new skill that I learned was how to use Canva to create graphics. At first I thought it will drive me crazy, but it was really cool actually. As my first task, I created a sheet for students in the after school activities, which came off surprisingly nice in consideration of my computer skills.

On Sunday, September 22, there was an event of organisations in Piazza del Popolo. Raquel and I had a task to do – we had to exchange one sticker for any other thing. For that, we were forced to use our “wonderful” Italian language skills. Of course it was much easier for Raquel, who is Spanish, to speak to Italians, but I personally was in a big trouble! As my Italian is still limited – all I’m able to do is to introduce myself shortly using about five or six very basic and easy sentences. But this time I didn’t need to introduce myself, I needed to explain what I want and as I didn’t even know any words I needed for that, I just typed the sentence on google translate (one thing I usually never do) and showed this to the people I had chosen for he exchange challenge. The sentence was surely not correct, but somehow they understood what I needed and I did accomplish my task. Well, thank you, google translate!

Last but not least, I cannot omit to mention that I’ve been attending to yoga and mediation open days during the last week, which has been absolutely amazing! As in the other place, the courses are totally in Italian here too. Fortunately I’ll attend to official Italian classes since next month, so hopefully my language skills will be better soon and I really hope that after some months, I will be able to try writing a post also in Italian!