It’s difficult for me to explain my personal experience in Bytów. I arrived in Poland on the 1st day of October and, since then, it never ceased to amaze me. Bytów is a small town in the north of Poland, almost on the coast of the Baltic sea and two hours away from the famous city known as “Trójmiasto” which means “Tricity” (Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia).
Bytów is a small village with about 16.000 inhabitants and situated in an independent area known as Kashubia. The distinctive feature of this area of Poland is that they have their own language, identity, culture and traditions. Here people speak “Kashubi”, they are a bit old-fashioned and they consider themselves the most catholic, traditional and conservative community in Poland.
To describe my present situation here, I couldn’t find two words that are more appropriate than resilience and loneliness.
Resilience: this country isn’t used to immigration, and for this reason they are not very open to diversity. Since I arrived, I calmly and emotionally tried to be positive and bring up the optimism that we always carry, even if sometimes we’re not conscious of it, in order to make the best out of this amazing experience. Facing an extremely sharp and a bit unpleasant autumn and winter, I put myself to test in a closed, religious and not very opened society.
Loneliness: I’m the only volunteer in this village. Even though making friends here isn’t easy, now I have four and we are very close. From the beginning and until half of January it was a hard, but at the same time positive, period. Living alone without having anyone to talk to is not easy but, being alone, you acquire new knowledge and experience that you never thought possible and this helped me to be strong and, on top of everything, it helped me to value and respect myself.
In this period, I’ve had the following tasks:
- In this small city with a big historic legacy, there is a Teutonic castle. Well, I worked in the touristic information point translating the books and fliers from English into Spanish and Catalan;
- On the other side, I carried out a project I ideated on the diffusion of the Spanish culture. I teach Spanish and, once every two week, I organize workshops on both Spanish and Catalan literature;
- Soon I’ll start the sessions on Mediterranean cuisine.
The people in the village welcomed and accepted these activities. I’m very happy I had the opportunity to show my culture and to open their minds to new ideas and ways of understanding things.
I reckon that this experience has a great and positive background and it always teaches us new things. It puts us to test emotionally and, at the same time it teaches you something very important: to walk by yourself, as long as you have faith in yourself.
In October it’s going to be a year since I arrived and, if everything goes well, I will conclude this phase of life that, day by day, is teaching me so many things that until now were unknown to me
Before finishing, though, I would like to give a big piece of advice to all of those who want to participate in this volunteering: this project doesn’t fit every person of every age, but of one thing I’m sure, when it ends and you go back home, you will be completely changed and renewed.