"Non gogoa, han zangoa". Where your heart is, your feet will go. I will always remember these four words. My heart is and will always be with my Basque heritage, but now I want to be far away from the Basque cliffs, the tiring sirimiri* and the basque traditions. I want to be far away so that I can grow and not stand still.
Because of this I applied for EVS in a remote city in Croatia, far from the big cities and bustle. Vukovar is not for you if you are an urban dweller, If you love the asfalt and crazy leisure. However, if you like the peace and reflection, then Vukovar is your city. Here in this city surrounded by nature life is polako*.
Vukovar is a wounded city, a relaxed and happy city. It was a soldier, that in many was caught on both sides. The municipality almost have 40.000 inhabitants and the centre of the city is only somewhat 15 years old. Ruins are spread throughout the landscape of red brick two floor houses. In a lot of houses you can clearly see the marks from bullets, and the bare bricks used to repair the old houses show the simplicity of a nation recovering from it wounds.
YPGD " Youth Peace Group Danube" is the name of the organisation where I volunteer. A youth organisation involved in integrating the croatian and serbian youths living here, on the border of Serbia. Every day they organise events, cultural projects, teaching and solidarity projects. They are young Serbian and Croatian people with the desire to change Vukovar with the hope of healing the wounds. Even though the war is still a delicate theme, they still pull through.
Besides working together with both Serbians and Croatians I also with a lot of international volunteers from Germany, Argentina, Denmark, France and Portugal. When we work together, music is created; language lessons, literature clubs, music lessons ... Culture to heal.
This is my third week here, and I have problems with sleeping; the sunrise at 05:00 is not good for a spaniard. Neither that the sun sets at 20:00 in the middle of May. Every day I go to bed tired. I don't have time to myself, there is always some activity to do and always time for drinking a beer with friends. However, in these 21 days I have not gone to bed feeling unhappy. I am always with a smile on my face. And that is of course what EVS is about: Learning, friendship and a lot of experiences synthesised in 6 months.
The first week was hard; change of situation, adaptation, preparations and the worst thing of all: the language barrier. Knowing a language influences the behaviour of a person. My english skills blocks me in my daily life here in Vukovar, since I can't express what I think and feel perfectly. This disadvantage makes my mind slower and my vocabulary limited. The climate here in Vukovar didn't help either. It was cold and rained most of the time, and every time the clear blue sky returned it seemed only to refuel the fury of the clouds.
During the second week I had to go to a training course in Orahovica; a small but very known for its artificial lake and the ruins of and old fortress. There I met other volunteers doing EVS in all parts of Croatia. New friendships were made with people staying in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka, and hopefully I will meet them again in a few months for the next training. During five days we came together, either by workshops, or simply working around the lake or being lost in the hills of Orahovica trying to find the ruins of the fortress overlooking the city.
The third week is now coming to an end. The projects that I am part of is starting to take form and now I feel at ease. Now i don't feel uncomfortable and the difficulty of being far away from home.
The hardest thing about EVS is the sudden change of not having your friends and your family around, not speaking the same language and having to communicate through a third language as well. Moreover you find yourself in a different culture where you cannot do the things you are used to and without security. But I don't feel regretful. You should never feel bad over the decisions you have made; even though you made a mistake, even though you are suffer, even though you have days where you go to bed thinking about your love, your family and your world. These 21 days I have offered me more than the last few months Bilbao.
Always the same sentence in my head: "Non gogoa, han zangoa" And for the time being my heart is here in Vukovar at the riverside of the Danube.