Ayah, un’egiziana in Italia – Esperienza Volontariato Internazionale
Alcune settimane fa è venuta a farci visita una carissima ragazza di nome Ayah. Egiziana, attivista di un’associazione partner, era alla sua prima esperienza in Italia. Siamo rimasti molto colpiti dal suo approccio così semplice, di come abbia supportato la nostra organizzazione durante il suo soggiorno nel nostro Paese, ma siamo ancora più sorpresi nel leggere questa incredibile storia, il racconto delle sue due settimane trascorse a casa nostra, un luogo per noi tanto familiare ma che per Ayah ha segnato uno svolta nella sua vita. Cronache di uno shock culturale, ma a lieto fine!
When it feels scary to jump that is exactly when you jump. Otherwise, you end up staying in the same place your whole life.
That’s how I can describe my 15 days in Italy. I will name my trip by “The FIRSTS” because it was the first time for me in a lot of things.
It was my first time to:
- Go to the mysterious Italy
- Travel alone and without anyone who speaks Arabic
- Stay this long away from Egypt, my family and mainly my comfort zone
- See snow
- Live with people from different countries in the same home
- Have to manage my day without the help of my phone
Before I travel I was afraid and freaking out, so I didn’t want to go up there. But a lot of sounds around me said “No, it is your chance to do something different.GO!”
GO Med is the name of project that allowed me to go to Italy for 15 days. Actually, until one day before my flight I didn’t have any idea about what I was going to do there. Then things started to be clearer when I arrived.
Now when I think of the whole experience I realize that it was right to jump because if I didn’t I would have lost a lot. I have learnt more in my working field and most important I discovered new things about me I would have never known if not through this experience.
My trip to Italy was for work purposes. I’m working in “Sting for consultancy”(https://www.facebook.com/StingConsultancy)- It’s an Egyptian organization working on promoting participatory development action and youth empowerment- We started a partnership with an Italian organization ”Joint Association”(https://www.associazionejoint.org/) – It is an organization of social promotion in Milan, active in the non-profit for 10 years, offering opportunities for international mobility and inter-cultural learning for young people- I went there to work on our first project together “GO Med” aims to share good practices in EVS projects and foster the creation of a network within the countries of the Euro-Mediterranean area.
The first phase of the project is a job shadowing that will allow me to observe the work of the Italian network of organizations managed by Joint, in order to create of a similar network within the MEDA partners managed by Sting. The second phase will be a seminar in Egypt that will permit the encounter of numerous organisations working in the EVS (sending, hosting and coordinating), in order to offer new partnership possibilities and to open the discussion of common quality standards for the management of EVS projects. Finally, the EVS mobility among Italy, Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan.
At 10:30 am, they picked me up from the airport and the adventure started. From the first moment I noticed how cloudy it was. That made me wonder if my clothes would be sufficient for this weather.
The streets were really organized and there were a lot of cars, much more than people walking in the street, I thought to myself if a monster has eaten the people. I saw graffiti on buildings like in Egypt. Also I noticed that most of the people were not blonde that made me for a second feel like I am home.
I was tired because I stayed awake for 12 hours. When I arrived to the bed and breakfast, I was going to stay in; I was in a hurry to sleep. I didn’t give myself any chance to think if I like my room, but actually I started to realize that I like it when I was in bed.
In the evening, we went out to drink something and to meet Joint stuff. I went there with Anita. She is responsible for the Bed and breakfast I’m staying in. From the beginning I could tell that she’s a nice person, adventurer and friendly. I liked her.
I met almost all the team that evening. It was very hot inside the bar although the weather was very cold outside.
One of the objectives of the job shadowing is to translate the website of Joint into Arabic to help young people in the Middle East to understand the posted vacancies of European Voluntary Service Program EVS. So I spent my first three days there learning how to work on Word Press to manage and update the Arabic version of EVS website to help youth in the Middle East with finding opportunities to volunteer and I really enjoyed doing that as it was all new to me.
In my third day in Milan I went through a situation that I will never forget. I was working in the office on the site translation but my colleagues who accompanied me home the previous two days left to the other office to prepare for a workshop they had next day, they asked me to join them but I preferred to stay and continue my work in order to make an accomplishment.
I had finished the translation then I went out with two colleagues to go home. We took the subway and opened the map in order to know my station. Their station was before mine so they left me alone for the first time in the subway. I was confused between two stations and when I decided which station is mine, I went out so happy that I remembered the exact station. It wasn’t until I went out to the street that I realized I didn’t actually recognize the way back home.
Suddenly, all the streets are the same and I didn’t know in which street I had to go…..
I marked the street with the shops in the morning, now all of them are closed and seemed the same. And I couldn’t read the signs and the names of shops as I didn’t understand Italian. Even the huge building I marked the street with turn out to be visible from all directions. The situation was just becoming more difficult.
So I knew I needed to ask people in the street but I didn’t remember the address and I forgot the address card in my room. I stayed positive and told myself that there must be a solution. Then I remembered that I texted my Italian friend with the address.
Then I could ask people but I realized that they can’t speak English until two persons heard me and asked me “Do you speak Arabic?”, I said “Yes”, they were Tunisians and told me there were a lot of Arab in the area. I told them what I was asking for, so they helped me and asked some people but they did not get an answer. So, they told me that we should go to the subway station as there is streets map. We headed down and searched for the street then they pointed the street for me. I was really grateful for them and thanked them a lot and they said to me “Be strong, don’t be scared or worried.”
On my way I noticed a lot of Arabic speaking people and I asked them “Where is this street?” so they opened GPS and showed me how to go there. Finally, I was home. I guess if I had phone with internet I would have found my way easier but getting lost in a strange place definitely is a good way to learn to have emotional stability and to find solutions on your own.
Two days later, I attended a youth exchange leadership training with Joint association and the most impressive thing was that although we were just two international participants, the training was held in English not in Italian to be able to understand them and participate effectively. That made me feel really welcomed.
The main questions this training was dealing with were; what is the youth exchange? What is the role of the leader? How to write a youth exchange program? (Youth exchange programs is one of the programs of Erasmus+
The training was really informative for me and I got great knowledge which will help me with my work.
I went on my first trip inside Italy in the morning of the seventh day. I travelled to Geneva to visit the organization which will host an Egyptian volunteer as a part of the project. I took the train which takes two hours to Geneva.
When I arrived to the train station, I couldn’t find the girl who was supposed to wait for me, so I waited for her thinking she would come in some minutes until one hour passed. I wanted to reach her to know what to do next whether to wait for her, take a tour around Geneva or even go back to Milan. I wanted to find public phone so I started to ask people around the station hoping they would speak English. I asked some people who didn’t know English and seemed annoyed for asking them in a different language. The only way I could communicate was through non-verbal communication, this way I communicated with a lady who led me inside the station but still I didn’t find a phone. Lastly I thought that younger people would know some English, so I asked a young girl, she understood me and let me use her phone. So I finally could reach the girl and i thanked her and went back to the station to find her standing there.
We went to “IL Cesto” organization. It is working with both Italian and refugees’ kids. They organize activities for kids that usually depend on art, sport or languages.(http://www.assilcesto.org/)
I met the person responsible for the organization. They let me attend a session with the kids. The teacher welcomed me telling the kids that I’m from Egypt and then he started to ask them questions about Egypt like “what is the name of the river in Egypt?” and mentioned names of great people in Egypt like “Hatshepsut and Alexander the Great.” I was surprised and glad that the kids knew the answers theses questions. Then some of them started to teach me the numbers in Italian.
As art is an important part of me, I was happy to help with preparing the new office of Joint with decorating one of the walls. I drew the world map using Mandala art and wrote down welcome in Arabic, Italian and English. Each volunteer goes there would write WELCOME in his/her own language.
I travelled to Turin to meet my Italian friend. She hosted me for one night in her house where she lives with her mother. I went there by and I could see the Alps on the way. It was amazing and I wanted to take pictures, but then I discovered that I took the camera without the battery. At this moment I was becoming really annoyed but then I told myself that I will be able to enjoy my time even if I couldn’t take the photos I wanted to. And still the mobile camera could capture the beauty of the Albs.
It was snowing the day before so I could see the remains of the snow on the road.
My friend and I had a tour in Turin. We started from The Castle of Valentino to The Mole Antonelliana (the National Cinema Museum), Palazzo Madama and Piazza San Carlo where we saw its triumphalist statue of Emanuele Filiberto on horseback. I had an amazing time that day with my friend, and she made it better by being a really good tour guide.
After my tour in Turin, it was the last tour that was in Milan.
On the last day for me at joint I did some observation of the work done by Joint’s staff working on EVS project. I learned about the EVS sending procedures, the documents and process of sending volunteers. I also learned about writing youth exchange projects and how they manage the website for international volunteering opportunities.
It was a day rich with new information. I didn’t work on this kind of projects before but I believe I am now able to work on similar projects with the help and knowledge I got from Joint staff.
In Italy I adopted the habit of enjoying drinking coffee anytime of the day. I got used to seeing dogs everywhere. I was amused by the fact that scooters are used by many people. I learned some Italian words including the most famous “Allora”, it is used a lot and can be translated as “then”, “so”, “therefore”. I liked hearing it as it has distinguished sound.
I also learnt that here my name is used to express pain
I went to the three cities that are called The Industrial Triangle where I visited many beautiful places and tried many types of food which need a dedicated article.
The most important thing happened in Italy is that I discovered myself in ways I didn’t expect. I got to test my courage, my confidence and my ability to reach my goals. I got a life time experience. It wouldn’t have been so amazing if not for the help and encouragement from many people who I will be forever grateful for. Allora, we are now preparing for the second phase of the “GO Med” project in which we organize a seminar for all partners of the project in the end of April in Cairo.