OUR VOLUNTEER – Viola Brueninghaus

Labdien Latvia!

I am Viola I am 20 years old and come from Germany. I grew up in a small town with 15.000 inhabitants called Erwitte. I finished my school with a high school diploma and an apprenticeship as an educator. For a long time, I had planned to work abroad for one year, so I decided to do a European Voluntary Service. I do this in Latvia in the NGO Klubs “Māja”.

In the days before I came to Latvia I always calculated in my head “Still 2 weeks until I am in Latvia”, “In 7 days I am in Latvia”…., “Tomorrow I will wake up in Latvia”. Time passed quickly and suddenly I was standing with my family at the airport and had to say goodbye to them. I felt the excitement in my stomach. And when I saw the tears in the eyes of my parents I would have liked to cry too. But I didn’t want to stand in line crying, so I said goodbye quickly and went to the security check.

Arriving on the plane I knew that from now on I had to get over myself and talk to the people in English, which is absolutely not easy for me. Concentrated I tried to understand every word the flight attendants said (of course I didn’t understand more than half of it). I thought that the first months would not be easy for me. I wondered why I don’t stay in my country like most people and make it easy for myself. I also wondered what people would think about me, if they thought I was dumb because I don’t understand everything and can’t answer properly in English. After some time, I decided not to think about it anymore, I wanted to do a year abroad for a long time and now my dream is coming true and if all the knits were torn, I could still fly back home and work in the kindergarten.

When I arrived in Latvia, I saw Raivis and Alexandra from the organisation where I would work now. Also, Onur, with which I will work and live together from now on, was there. They greeted me friendly and I tried to talk to them a little bit, but I noticed that will not be easy with my knowledge of English.

On my way to my new home I was rather quiet and concentrated on the city Riga, the old and new buildings, the bridges and the river. I enjoyed the thought that I could stay here every day for a year. Before we reached my new home, we bought something to eat.

Then we went to the apartment. I was asked to open the door and saw some other girls inside. Together they had organized a surprise welcome party and decorated the living room with beautiful balloons and other things. I guess I couldn’t really show it, but I was very happy about it and felt welcome. Raivis showed me every room in the apartment and I brought my luggage to my new room. Then we ate pizza together and played a game.

After all the guests had gone to their home, Onur and I stayed “home”.

I couldn’t sleep yet so I unpacked my suitcases and took a shower. It really didn’t feel like home, a lot of things were sticky and dusty and I had to get used to the traffic noise that can be heard all the time. Unexpectedly, I could fall asleep quickly.

The first two weeks passed quickly, we cleaned the apartment so that we felt at home there, we met some people from the organization, went to work and got to know the city. At work we designed a banner and decorations for an upcoming event in the city Ikšķiles.

Among other things we went to the cinema (Lion King), took a boat trip on the Daugava, ate at Ezītis Miglā, organized an movie evening in our apartment and took a lot of walks. Towards the end of the second week I felt like I was at home when I came into the apartment.

In my final examination as an educator I dealt with the topic of bilingualism with children. I learned that children who come to a new country and don’t speak the language develop strategies to make friends. They pretend to understand the language and with a few words they can speak, they try to make it seem that they speak the language. Of course I am not in the same situation, but I have sometimes found myself nodding or laughing although I have not understood what the other person is talking about. And what should I say it works.  Because I am regularly surrounded by people, I am forced to speak in English and in retrospect my understanding, vocabulary and grammar improves every day.

In the third week we took part in a Youth Exchange in Krimulda, which was planned by the organisation I work for. There a total of 40 people from Romania, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Latvia came together for 10 days to discuss health and sport. I really enjoyed meeting new people, consciously thinking about my own health and seeing the beautiful nature of Krimulda.

When I drove back home for a day during the Youth Exchanges, I felt homesick for the first time. I was alone for the first time in a long while and had time to think in the bus, realizing that I wouldn’t see my family and friends for a year and that a year is a long time. I felt better when I talked to my friends and distracted myself with work in the afternoon. I think it will happen again that I feel like that but I think that’s part of it?

On the weekend the festival in Ikšķile was on the agenda. My task was to take photos and videos and a singing competition. I was a bit nervous whether I would succeed in this task. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun making the recordings.

After enjoying two days off I started editing a video of the dance competition. It was a big challenge for me to find the right music and to make it look like the dancers are moving in rhythm. But in the end, I managed to finish my video.

Full of anticipation I drove to the On-Arrival Training in the fourth week. I’ve been looking forward to meeting other volunteers all week. On the first day we mainly got to know each other, which means that we more or less only played games. During the week I learned a lot about self-education and the Youthpass and I set goals for my Year in Latvia. In addition, I enjoyed the time with the other volunteers.

After we had left the training Onur and I prepared a Turkish/ German culture evening. At Maxima I bought a lot of German sweets. In the evening we drove to Ādaži. There I reported to the participants of the summer camp of the German culture, we watch videos and played games like. “Pumpssack” and “Schaumkuss Wettessen”.

After a month here, I can say it is not always easy to live far away from home, without family and friends, but it is worth it. I have learned a lot in this short time, met over 80 new people and spent many nice and funny days.