volunteer adventures

Tree Day in Macedonia by Koen
November 23, 2011, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Today – Wednesday, November 23 – is one of the days in the year that is proclaimed ‘Tree Day’ in Macedonia. Although we already planted some trees last week on ‘Tolerance Day’, we were excited to join the masses to some place outside of the city, using the free busses that leave from the big Sports centre close to our house.

Together with the volunteers from Kreaktiv in Skopje ambitious plans were made the night before to go early in the morning. When we finally were ready to go in to the wild, with the 14:00 shift, five young Europeans went on their way to re-forest Macedonia, one tree at a time.

As is usual in Skopje there is little to no information at bus stops, so we decided to wait on the street in front on the arena, all of us feeling the usual combination of uncertainty and despair when waiting for a bus to come. After a few minutes we decided to look around the corner at the main street to see a bus full of children with a small improvised Tree Day sign in the window racing passed us. The children waved at us enthusiastically. Then we saw the bus leaving towards the – undoubtedly re-forested – horizons.

Fifteen more minutes of waiting brought the unanimous decision to walk back home. Apparently our EVS colleague Anouk did plant some trees on mountain Vodno. The trees that were left from Tolerance Day, but no-one will ever know or see the difference, I guess.

Back home we found small consolation in our own garden. Our beloved pear-tree; that gave us almost unlimited fruit-goodness during summer but now sadly has lost all its leaves seemed to be in need of some extra autumn attention. Pictures below.

Set out your shoe
November 12, 2011, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

The start of the mandarin season, a new kind of candy with marzipan from the shop around the corner and the smell of freshly baked gingerbread reminds me of the arrival of Saint Nicholas (‘Sinterklaas’). Coincidence or not, today children’s best friend arrived in Antwerp by boat from Spain. At least that is where he supposedly lives since the 19th century. Some say the tradition goes back to Nikolaos of Myra, a Greek bishop to whom many miracles were attributed.

In Belgium, the Netherlands and a part of Germany Saint Nicholas can be compared to Santa Claus. He is an old man with white hair and a long beard. He wears a long red cape and an alb and on his head stands a red mitre. He carries a big book with him stating whether the children have been good or not. If they have behaved well their names are written on the golden pages, if not, their names are written on the red pages and they risk go be taken in a bag to Spain. Saint Nicholas is always accompanied by his white horse and traditionally one Black Pete (‘Zwarte Piet’).  Black Pete helps Saint Nicholas by carrying the candy and the presents and going down the chimney to put the presents in the shoes of the children. On the evening of the 5th of December Belgian children set out their shoe and a plate with food for the horse near the chimney, a window or a door. In the morning they find gifts, tangerines and chocolate.

Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in Europe in many different ways. In Czech Republic for example children disguise as Saint Nicholas, the devil and the angel and sing songs from door to door. In the German part of Switzerland the saint sits on a donkey and does not come from Spain but out of the woods. In Croatia ‘Sveti Nikola’ visits on December 6 bringing presents to children as a reward for their good behavior. If the children have been bad, they will be visited by the creature of ‘Krampus’, who will make the parents punish the children.

Belgians most popular television show about the arrival of Saint Nicholas (‘Dag Sinterklaas’) is almost 20 years old but is still being shown on national television every year during the weeks before the 6th of December. I suggest you all set out your shoe…

November 7, 2011, 11:03 am
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Speaking whit my housemate Koen, volunteer from The Netherlands, I realized that things that for someone can be normal, for other people can be disgusting.

We’re talking about cheese. My island is quite famous for the huge number of sheep (there are more sheep than people…) and from their milk we produce cheese of different kinds. One of them is called Casu marzu, that literally translated becomes “rotten cheese”. The explanation for this weird name is easy: inside of this cheese you can find live insect larvas. These larvas go into the cheese and create a soft cream. Of course, if you want to eat this cheese, you have also to eat the larves, but this has never been a problem for the people of my land.

In this video you can see how relaxed is the Sardinian man with green t-shirt while the other one is a little bit perplexed.

Problems started when oversea people (from Italy and the European Union) decided that, according to the food hygiene-health regulations, maybe the larves can create illnesses for the stomach and the cheese was outlawed for a time. This didn’t stop the production of Casu marzu and the sole effect obtained was just an increase in the price. But every law has a loophole: because of the insistence of the sheep farmers, the government declared the cheese a “traditional” food and now its productions is no longer considered illegal.

According to some statistics, Casu marzu is one of the most terrryfing foods in the world. Well, only people from outside the island think this because in Sardegna this food is considered a delicacy…Personally, I don’t eat it, but for us it’s normal to see other people eating Casu marzu with relish. They assure that it’s fantastic and if you try it for sure you’ll enjoy..

By the way, no one died eating Casu marzu!!!

November 1, 2011, 10:15 pm
Filed under: EVS | Tags: , ,

Wanna make a perfect barbecue in October on the beach?

All you need is:

– 1 grille from the oven,

– 2 Polish,

– 2 Germans,

– 1 Spanish,

– 1 Sardinian,

– Ohrid trout and wine as much as you like!!

Last week during a cold afternoon Kuba, volunteer from Poland, had this brilliant idea… People from South-Europe (me and Manu, from Madrid) looked at him astonished. Was it possible? Was it good to spend the evening in the beach with that cold weather when we could cook the fish comfortably at home?

Well, it was possible…

As soon as we arrived in the beach, the Polish (Kuba and Grzegorz, another volunteer) and Germans (a couple that’s travelling around East Europe by bike), equipped with light on the head, started to find wood and make a hole in the sand to build a barbecue with a normal grille and two stones. Manu and me were more and more amazed… In less than no time, the fire was ready and our teeth stopped to chat with cold. Straight afterwards also the fish was ready and it was extremely good..

And so, thanks to North European savoir-faire, we enjoyed exquisite fish, good wine and excellent company!!


“My friend Kim” by Sylwia Gorska
October 25, 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: On the way, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

Some time ago we had an unusual guest in our house. Kim from South Korea, who stopped by during his travel around the world on his…bike! Yes, because Kim decided to give up his job as a Japanese teacher and travel around the world for 2 years, only on a bike, with almost no money or even mobile phone! He has like 50 kilo on his bike and a small blue box with a sigh “I need food”. He has also a big heart, inner humility and many priceless stories to tell! As what’s the most important strong belief in good people and that there is something more than money and social position in this world.

Meeting Kim inspired me and started to think that if you really want everything is possible. How often we even don’t try to do something simply just because. Because we have no money, no time, some responsibilities, we live in wrong place, in wrong time…always something. In fact to fulfilled your dream you don’t have to be a hero, you have to find a faith and courage to change something in your mind, to follow your heart not the crowd.  I know it can be hard but you have to search until you find, it can be a place, a person…when you find it, you will know that you don’t have to search any more. What’s most important you have to find yourself, your inner peace, without it you cannot build good relations with the world.

How it’s possible that Kim is travelling in this way without spending any money? I know the answer but I’ll not tell you. You have to figure it out alone!

You can follow Kim’s adventure here


Good luck Kim! Let your stomach is always full!

BITOLA, DAY 3 by Sylwia Gorska & Antonella Nuvoli
October 20, 2011, 4:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For today, just some tips about the films that we’re going to see!

THE BOY MIR, by Phil Grabsky: this film relates the life of Mir in Afghanistan diring his first 10 years of age.


THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL THING, by Paolo Virzi: the story of an Italian family from the 1970s until present.





HOMELAND, by Syllas Tzoumerkas: the drama of the adoption in a rich Greek family represents the drama of an entire nation.



“BITOLA, DAY 2” by Antonella Nuvoli & Sylwia Gorska
October 19, 2011, 12:55 pm
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This morning woke us up with a beautiful sunny weather so we decided to take some short walk around Bitola before our film marathon, which is going to start from 15:30 with shorts movies. Our friend Miguel, volunteer in Bitola from Lorca, was our tourist guide. Thanks to him we could go a little bit out of the centre, through the gypsy part of the city to the empty Monaster, and the cross on the mountain. We had a beautiful view on the whole city, which convinced us that Bitola can be really called the second biggest city in Macedonia. We also saw mass grave of 3406 German soldiers that were killed in this area between 1914-1918 year. We also visited St. Dimitri church in the centre of Bitola, one of the biggest in the Balkans. It was built during Turkish times when churches were not allowed to be ornate on the outside. That´s why it doesn´t look like a church from outside but the inside makes a great impression! While walking around Bitola we could see its former glory in pretty 18th and 19th century architecture.

Yesterday we were completely immerged in the Film Festival atmosphere. We spent the afternoon and evening running from the Small Hall to the Big Hall in order to watch all the film we were interested in. We started with the Spanish Film The most important thing in life is not being dead, settled in Catalunya during Franco’s dictatorship. Noteworthy is also David wants to fly, a documentary by the director David Sieveking. He tries to find artistic inspiration, following the path of David Lynch and entering in the mechanisms of Transcendental Meditation, an Indian billon-dollar industry. Blood Relation is another documentary by Noa Ben Hagai. Telling the story of her family, split into Arabs and Jews, the director found a new way to show that the conflict  between Palestine and Israel is not near to end.

See you tomorrow!

Life in Bitola between the movies


“BITOLA, DAY 1” by Antonella Nuvoli & Sylwia Gorska
October 18, 2011, 12:39 pm
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Here we are in Bitola at Manaki Brothers Festival. We arrived late afternoon and were welcomed by cold, northern weather. With the snow on the mountains it’s almost felt like Christmas! After small rest in our friend’s apartment we went straight ahead to the festival to see movies we chose from the programme. It’s not hard to reach the festival venue, it’s just in the centre and there are 3 main places, one very close to another, which is very useful cause you don’t need to be in a rush while changing place between the films. Of course the festival centre and volunteers serve you with any kind of information you may need. One ticket is only 50 denars and the students of Film Academy can enter for free.

We had the great opportunity to watch a film “As if I’m not there”, directed by Juanita Wilson and based on the novel by Slavenca Drakulic. It is Macedonian, Irish and Swedish production and we watched in the big hall of the Cultural Centre in Bitola. The cinema was full of people and for 109minutes it was so quiet that you could heard the grass growing.
The director chose to tell the Bosnian war of the 1990s from the eyes of Samira, a young teacher from Sarajevo that works in a small country village. When the soldiers arrive, they kill the men and keep the women in a camp where they have to satisfy all the pervert desires of the soldiers. Contrary to what you can think, there is only one brutal scene and the characters barely scream. Most of the feelings and actions are supported by the music and sounds and by the expression of the actors’ faces.
Mainly filmed in Macedonia with a lot of Macedonian actors, it must be remembered the interpretation of Natasa Petrovic into the shoes of Samira, the main character. This actress knew how to transmit to the audience the feelings and fears of the young teacher and for her good work she received a lot of attention in the film festival in Berlin.


“MANAKI BROTHERS” keep on watching
October 13, 2011, 11:09 am
Filed under: Culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

It seemed not possible but it happened! Autumn came to Skopje! And I feel like in polish lift in my 15 floor block. You’re going up and your neighbor’s complaining about the hot temperature, you’re going down and the next one complaining that it’s going to rain! There is never good enough, isn’t? Anyway, the best way to spend chilly autumn days is cinema! And we have a great opportunity to try it just this weekend, during the Manaki Brothers Festival in Bitola!

It starts on Saturday and lasts one week. Many great films, meetings, workshop and additional events.  The website of festival is just perfect, easy to read, with all the information you may need, so just visit it and check the programme, finding the films you like the most http://manaki.com.mk/

During the festival we will have a chance to watch new productions from all over the world but also some older classic films like “The Last Of The Mohicans” by Michael Mann or romantic “Amelia” by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. These are the films you can see many times, also because of the great music.

Personally I am waiting for Canadian “Incendies”, which I haven’t had a chance to watch so far. It’s a story about twins journey to the Middle East to discover their family history, and fulfill their mother’s last wishes. It was nominated to Oscar and got 2 awards in Venice Film Festival. I was also attracted by a description of “Burried” by Rodrigo Cortes Paul – “an American truck driver working in Iraq in 2006, realizes he is trapped inside a coffin, buried alive. With only a lighter and cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death rap…”, interesting, isn’t it?

We’ll have a chance to watch documentaries, including Balkan productions  and two, awarded during the DokuFest in Prizren this year – Polish film “Out of reach” and UK production People I Could Have Been And Maybe Am” by director Boris Gerrets. I’m looking forward to see my favorite movie form – Short Films, including Macedonian “Sarah, the Myth” by Sasha Stanishic or “Violent Youth” by Marko Gjokovik.

While being in Bitola don’t forget to visit places connected with Manakis brothers – like a house of Milto Manaki, his statue and of course the Museum of the Manaki Brothers, where you can find more about the creators of the first motion pictures in the Balkans. Also the beautiful cathedral church St. Dimitrija, one of the largest Orthodox churches in Macedonia. It’s about films so I have to mention that the opening scenes of the film “The Peacemaker”, with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman were shot there, as well as some “Welcome to Sarajevo” scenes!

by Sylwia Gorska

October 5, 2011, 1:51 pm
Filed under: evs adventures | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

After the on-arrival training in Sarajevo, five brave young volunteers decided to go back to Macedonia hichhiking trough four countries.

No plans, apart from few cities that we wanted to visit for sure.

No places to sleep, apart 2 tents that in the end were useless.

But most of all, no stress.

We split in two groups to have more possibilities to catch a car, establishing the next meeting point.

No more words, only picture to tell us the atmosphere of the trip.

The Dream-Team ( + Gosha, volunteer in Kosovo) arrives to Mostar. The picture with the bridge (and an unknown) is a must…


A group of 13 EUFOR Turkish soldiers picked us up until Neum, in the adriatic coast of Bosnia Hercegovina. Thanks to them, we crossed the borders without showing our passports and we ate their food rations for two days.


A good morning by the sea. For some of us, a quite wet good morning…


The Dream-Team visiting Dubrovnik. First aches: testing stomaches and feet.


Our heroes reached Montenegro, after spending three hours under the boiling sun of Croatia to have a pick from a car…


At the beach in Ulcinj. Everyone swam, as well as two of them that were unable…


Leaving Montenegro with our Karma disguised as a watermelon…


Welcome to Tirana, rakija, sexo and marijuana!


Keep in touch for the next adventures!