What’s it like to be a volunteer?

Very soon I will be halfway with the project and 5 months are left to complete. Our project will end in the end of June and after that we are thinking about travelling a little more and then… I have absolutely no idea! Fortunately, I still have almost half a year to figure things out.

First of all, I must say that it has not been all sunshine and beaches, just relaxing and enjoying my life. It has been pretty difficult as well. The more I get used to the Spanish way of life, the more I can feel the cultural differences between Spain and Estonia. Well, I have mentioned before that people are very open and friendly. They talk to you in shops, on the streets, in cafeterias and so on. You will get used to it, eventually. If you are a closed person, you will become more open and easily start conversations with strangers, if needed. Also, it seems that they are totally chill about money. When you go to the cafeteria, gym or a shop and say you don’t have any cash or you forgot your money home, it is totally fine to pay the next day.

On the other hand, a thing that I see as a huge disadvantage is their disorganization. It is totally okay if someone sends you a message at 10pm and asks you to prepare something for the next day. Sometimes I am sleeping during these hours, but here they just start with their dinner. It often happens that they ask you to do something at the last minute, they just don’t plan ahead. Moreover, if you fall ill which has been the case for me many times, you should not inform them about this in the evening, because you need to wait until morning as maybe by then, after taking some medications, you already feel better and can still go to work. For some people here, work is the most important thing in life, more important than health.

I have been also struggling with the extracurricular classes. I have two groups four times a week from Monday to Thursday after normal classes. It is nothing related to my volunteering project, it is an actual job with a contract. It is all perfect with the second grade, but in the first grade the children are completely different. There is one boy who needs a lot of attention and he is always acting out to get it. Of course, it creates a bad atmosphere in the classroom in general as other children don’t like him and they provoke him. By now I have reached to a conclusion not to continue with this group. On the one hand, I feel sad as it feels like I am giving up on them, but on the other hand, I feel that this is my 10 months in Spain, once in a lifetime opportunity and it has nothing to do with my volunteering, so I just don’t have the strenghts to deal with this at this very moment in my life. I want to focus on other things and enjoy my experience.

And then, those who follow me on Instagram already know that I have been sick so many times I can not even remember. I think the most of November I was sick, I had temperature of 38+ degrees, cough and a runny nose. I even looked into it and found on google that it is totally normal as when you move to another place, your body has to adapt to new viruses, bacteria, water and air. And believe me, the air here is super polluted, you can smell it all the time. It is particularly bad on a cloudy day, then it feels as if I was standing behind a moving vehicle when in reality I am on a small empty street. A two weeks ago when I was sick and I felt as if it was not getting any better, we went to the emergency at the biggest hospital here. They took us in in 10 minutes and everyone was super friendly. I just freaked out when they told me they wanted to inject me in my bottom.. I was like WHAT?? I have never had this in my life before and I am super scared of needles. Anyway, the shot itself was not painful or anything, but the pain that started like 20 seconds afterwards, was horrible. You could literally feel the liquid running down your leg and it was burning and painful and just super weird. My body was in shock and didn’t know how to react. Then I had to go to the x-ray and as soon as they said “don’t breathe” I felt like I was about to pass out. Fortunately, there was a chair which I crabbed and everyone ran to me as soon as they noticed my condition. Then I was transferred to a bed in a wheelchair and this is when I started to feel better. For a moment I really thought that this was the end for me as I just felt like sh*t. Anyway, I am well now and hope to stay like this. The only thing is that I have lost weight and by body mass index I am now underweight. This is all because of being sick so many times and having diarrhea for two weeks. I have to think of a healthy way to gain back the lost kilos and I am also taking vitamin D as this was showing low in my lab results.

Other than that, I am used to speaking in three languages every single day. In the beginning it was tiring, but now, I don’t care anymore. I definitely feel that my Estonian level has gone down as I don’t feel comfortable writing in it at all. Sometimes I can not remember some words, sometimes I know some words only in Spanish, sometimes only in English. Anyhow, it feels weird to feel uncomfortable in my mother tongue.

Financially speaking, everything is fine and it is totally possible to live with the money from the project. Food prices are almost the same as in Estonia, some things are cheaper, some are more expensive. Plus, we also get extra money for the extracurricular classes, so there is enough for travelling too.

Spain is the number one country in Europe for public holidays. There is a Friday or a Thursday/Friday off every month. In addition we have free time when there is a school holiday, so there is plenty of time for travelling. We have been to Madrid many times, Málaga, Córdoba, Seville, Santiago de Compostela, Toledo and many small villages near us. I still want to go to Cádiz, Alicante, Murcia, Canary Islands and Málaga again. Coming here by car was definitely the best decision.

There is no sign of Christmas, of course, the shops and streets are decorated, but it feels wrong to have all these decorations when there is no snow. Trees are in colours and the temperature rises to 15 degrees. It is like nice warm Estonian autumn. I am definitely waiting for snow in Estonia during Christmas.

Regarding Estonia, it is super bizarre that back home I was always looking forward to my next trip and could not wait to get away.. Now, in Spain, I can not wait to get to Estonia and spend my holidays there. I feel sad that I will spend there only 10 days, but the tickets were super expensive in the beginning of January. One can only hope that our flight back gets cancelled and we can pick a new flight for free (it has happened to me before).

At the moment I just feel exhausted and tired of everything. I don’t feel very motivated and the only thing that helps me to get through the day is the thought of long Christmas holidays, starting on the 19th for us and ending on the 7th of January. It is almost 3 weeks long, yeash! We are thinking about going to Lisbon in the beginning of January, but I have not booked anything yet, so we need to hurry or cancel it.

Eight more days and then flying to Estonia! I can now understand my friend who lives abroad and comes to Estonia feeling super stressed as everyone wants to meet and then someone is upset as they feel they don’t get enough of him and he is just trying to share himself with everyone. I can already feel that a bit as my calendar for these 10 days is getting fully booked. Anyway, I am super excited and can’t wait to hear people talking only in Estonian!!!

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