As part of our ESC journey, all four of us volunteers had to attend the so-called Mid-term evaluation at the end of March. We had already done a similar training, on arrival training, at the start of the project, and the general consensus was that it was an amazing experience. We gained a lot of useful information. We laughed a lot, made a lot of friends, and we enjoyed the accommodations and the tasty food.
When the plans for our mid-term were announced, understandably we were disappointed because we were going to be split from the rest of the Croatian volunteers, our friends, that we had met at the first one. I was the sole person keeping up the spirits in our household. Not only because it was really funny to go against the general mood in the household, but also because I could somehow feel that it is going to be a great experience. I was completely right. If I was wrong about that, it would not have been written here at all. This is the story of our great mid-term experience in Sremski Karlovci, Serbia.
The first day was the travel day. I spent most of it listening to Ender’s Game audio book. So, the six hours on the bus passed pretty quickly. It was already 5 pm when we arrived at the place of our stay. We were one of the first volunteer groups to arrive there. Eventually more people came, and the schedule for that day was only a dinner and some welcoming/breaking the ice type of gathering. However, just before that there was one very lovely volunteer that managed to boil rakija instead of water in his attempt to make coffee. That was the highlight of the evening and a memory that will stay with all of us forever.
The place nor the location were anything special. The activities, for the most part, were good enough to hold my attention for short periods of time. Still, they were not very memorable or life-altering for me to remember them. However, the people there were something else. The rakija incident could have already given you the idea that this training had so many ‘special’ individuals. Their quirks, all our interactions, and the incidents have been all inscribed in my memory.
A head turner
It was a European Solidarity Corps training so of course we discussed solidarity during one of our sessions, and as Angel would say “be solidarity,” so I was. At one point, this wonderful volunteer was sitting too close to a wall, and when turning to look somewhere, she ran with her head into a wall. I witnessed the whole thing, which would have been an incredible sight even without the incident. In the spirit of solidarity, I gave her a nice sneer to acknowledge that I saw.
What brings people together
We were really a bunch of misfits there, even the trainers. One of the trainers lives to party. It really showed during the training since he was the one initiating all the partying. If I had to guess, he was probably also the person who came up with or at least suggested the “wine-tasting” event which was a wine drinking event masked as wine tasting one if you ask me. I was definitely getting drunk at the end, and I am not a lightweight in any sense of the word. However, something really good came out of it since one volunteer got so drunk, and in that state, she was truly a sight to behold. You literally couldn’t miss her given how close she would be to you when speaking.
The place of our stay also had a cat that resided within the premises. It was a nice addition to the whole ordeal. It ended up being a vital element in maybe my favorite incident during this training. The cat was not supposed to stay in the hostel during the night. However, the night of wine-tasting I went to bed at around 1 am.
Trying to fall asleep, I noticed a movement in the room which I shared with Angel and one other volunteer. It was the cat. She came to my bed, and I let her stay with me. After a while we fell into a slumber only to be awakened by Angel around 2 pm. The cat and I woke up to the lights and the noise. Angel eventually settled in his bed and was getting ready to sleep. He was still checking his phone as we all do in this modern age, and that was when the cat decided to follow the light and she jumped off my bed.
At this point in time, Angel had no idea the cat was in the room. She went straight to his bed, jumped on it and then on Angel which startled him and made him scream something in Spanish which was really funny to witness. But then he also said ‘Michael Jackson’, which later I learned was the name he gave the cat. That made me erupt in laughter, and we woke the other volunteer who was peacefully sleeping. I wish I had this on a video, because describing this does not do it justice.
Some volunteers there struggled with English, and had to translate most of the things, but that only added to the magic of the whole training. I came in there knowing I would have good time, and in a way, I manifested that into reality. I was not expecting anything, nor did I really want anything out of it, so I was ready to accept anything it offered to me.
I hope to see these people again, but even if I don’t, I know that these memories will be with me, especially during situations where being serious is expected, like funerals. I would not change a single thing during that week. Just one more reason for why ESC experience is worth it.