Prepare yourself for a preeeeeeeeetty long one! If you don’t have time right now, leave and come back when you do have time. Because I assure you, you will need a couple of minutes for this one! If you miss some color while reading, don’t worry. From the next post on, I will start including pictures, as well!
So, how did everything start? Well, everything started with many realizations. I’ve always known that I’d like to spend more than a couple of months abroad. Here in Germany, the majority of the students after graduating from High School take a year off before studying in a university. They do things like I do and participate in social projects, they “Work and Travel” in different countries. Mostly to east Asian countries, Australia or New Zealand. They get a job in Germany, work for a while and earn some money or they just do the things they’ve always wanted to do while in school but never had the time to.
In Middle School I’ve always wanted to visit the US for a year. I wanted to work, travel, spend some time with the American side of the family, to find out, if one day I’d actually like to live in the US, since I’ve got the American citizenship. But then I suddenly became more interested in seeing and experiencing things that are more “unknown” to me. I really liked the exciting idea behind “Work and Travel”. Getting a small job abroad to earn some money to eventually travel to another place and get a job there. Many people stopped recommending “Work and Travel” though, since the classic “Work and Travel” countries, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, are too popular by now. Which means that it can be quite hard to find a job. Which means you must have a bit of money beforehand or you have to live with the risk of maybe flying back to Germany a bit earlier than planned. A group of boys in my High School, who graduated in 2014 for example, went to Australia to “Work and Travel”. They planned on staying one year. Well, they got back after less than two months because they didn’t find any jobs.
Eventually I started looking for the “unknown” in the third world instead. I’m aware that the word is very controversial. But I’m talking about countries, which aren’t really categorized as “western countries” and aren’t as industrialized as the US or Germany for example. I somehow wanted to spend a year in a country which doesn’t have the same standards. I had and still have many questions. Can you be happy without an awesome car and a big house with a beautiful garden? Does your view of the world change after you have seen a different, a poorer, or in general, more countries. Maybe this might sound weird. But is it possible that a person might not be able to judge what life really is about, if that same person has only spent all its life in one place, in one country, in one and the same culture? Mustn’t there be lacking knowledge of the world, of the reality? Yes, I liked philosophical questions in school.
I would like to travel to Asia once but at the moment there are places which I find more interesting. Up to this point Africa, except of South Africa, hasn’t really caught my attention at all. The thing is, that I would have liked to improve my French or my Spanish. So, Latin America seemed like the place to go. I like Spanish more than French anyway. Besides, Zaida, the woman who took care of me when I was a little kid, is from Ecuador. And there’s still the possibility that I will one day live in the US. So I thought knowing a bit about Latin America, where most of the immigrants in the USA come from, can’t be that wrong. Of course, there were other more general, non-geographical motivations for going a year abroad as well. I will talk about those in one of the next posts, though.
Finally, last summer, August 2015, we visited the US again! I’ve been talking to uncle Rod about Latin America. Since he had been working for a big company, which has clients all around Latin America, he travelled to quite a few places in his career. He strongly recommended Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina. These suggestions were mostly based on the aspect of security! Mom wouldn’t have let me go to “dangerous” countries anyway. Since I was quite interested in coming back alive though, I didn’t really have a problem with these suggestions. And honestly, those stories uncle Rod told me were in fact quite frightening! But if I had the chance today to choose again, I think I would also look out for projects in Mexico or Colombia for example.
Fall 2015, I’ve actively started looking for organizations, which send people abroad, on the Internet. I hadn’t forgotten about my adventure ideas concerning “Work and Travel”, but I decided to postpone these planes to a different point in my life. The site which I used for my research is called weltwärts.de, which means more or less “towards the world”. Different social organizations use this website to promote their projects. I scanned the website for every, honestly, every project, that these organizations had to offer concerning Costa Rica and Argentina. This took weeks. But you know, I wanted to find the best possible projects there were.
If anybody is reading this though, who would like to do social work in a different country, and is in need of an organization, like I was, I hardly recommend starting earlier than I did or to not be as picky as I was. Because, at least in Germany, these projects are so popular that you should at least apply one year before you want to start your trip.
All in all, I really liked the website except of one mayor thing. The website gives people the illusion that they are applying for a certain project. When in reality, you first have to apply for the organization, which will afterwards tell you, which project they have for you. Not the other way around. Ooo and if you have asked yourself what happened to Chile. Well, I’ve spent quite some time in school learning about Chile and the country, their history, the geography didn’t really interest me that much. Maybe I’ve judged too quickly but Argentina and Costa Rica just seemed like more exciting places.
The process of applying was quite exhausting. I wrote to different organizations. Including ICJA, inVia Köln, eine Welt NRW and Eirene. Applying itself took so much time because every organization wanted the people to apply in a different way. Every time there were different papers to fill out, with different questions. Some only wanted a few sentences, others wanted multiple pages. Some wanted only your name, others wanted pictures of you, as well as all kinds of documents. And it happened exactly what always happens to me, when I start something new: Everything failed! ICJA and inVia Köln instantly rejected my application. Eine Welt NRW invited me to an interview in Münster one weekend. Unfortunately, the organization didn’t seem that personal, so I’m quite happy it didn’t work out. I visited the organization Eirene for three days, where they informed future applicants about their projects. Afterwards visitors where allowed to apply for their projects. But what happened? Well, their website had problems for weeks, so nobody was able to apply for their projects anymore. I started losing hope. I was aware that me WRITING applications was probably the issue and that I might have been a bit too picky. It was noticeable that these organizations were more interested in people who were fine with doing anything they were given. Not with somebody who’d only go to one of two countries and only wanted to work with children, instead with older or handicapped people. I already started thinking about maybe going to England for a couple of months and earn some money there. Anything that would get me away from Germany for a while! But thanks to God, after failing about twenty times, just before giving up, everything turned out to be alright. Like it somehow always happens. I applied for an organization called Via.ev. Here is the link to their homepage: via-ev.org. The first step was to simply answer a few questions. If Via.ev were interested, they would contact you. I was contacted. Instead of writing pages and pages about yourself, Via.ev’s application process afterwards was all about interviews on the phone. Finally! Finally, I was able to talk, to use a strength instead of having to tell a person about me via letters. The first woman on the phone seemed to like me. The second one as well. The third one, too. And all of a sudden I received a confirmation e-mail in my inbox. I was going to Argentina! Interestingly, the other organizations, ICJA, InVia Köln, etc., started contacting me again. Asked me if I was still interested in their projects. I’ve heard that many times a few months before volunteers are supposed to leave the country, they become scared and decide to rather stay home instead. That’s probably the reason I’ve been contacted again. But well, I already found a different organization to send me abroad.
I was the perfect candidate for Via.ev. They only have one project in Argentina, a project with kids, and needed exactly one more spot filled. To be honest, I didn’t really have a choice. But I didn’t care at all. I was so happy, finally having a confirmation to go to Argentina after months and months of trying. I mean it was March already! The only “issue” was, that the project Via.ev had in Argentina, is one of their most difficult ones. So they said on the phone. I don’t want to talk about details and about the reality yet. But I want to give you a short summary of what I was told on the phone.
I was told, I would go to San Marcos Sierras, Argentina. A hippie village in the middle of Argentina. No cities, nothing. Quite rare, if you consider that about 90% of the projects in Argentina, that you’ll find on weltwärts.de are in Buenos Aires. The man, Julio Laciar, who owns Sierra Dorada, the children’s home I would go to, was supposed to be a very conservative man. Via.ev supposedly often got calls from him complaining about the German volunteers spending too much with the evil Hippies in the village, eating too much food and more. He sees himself as the “Padre de Argentina” and expects that everybody who works in the children’s home shares the same intense passion that he has. Other than that, the German volunteers have complained in the past that they would only work with laundry here instead with the kids. Via.ev even wanted to cancel the cooperation with Sierra Dorada last year, since Laura and Sarah, the two German girls, who worked in Sierra Dorada before us have had a pretty difficult year in Sierra Dorada. But decided to give Julio one more try and send four Germans this year instead of just two.
After I was told about all of this, I didn’t really know what to think at first. I was still super satisfied to have the opportunity, to go to Latin America and that I would find a way to cope with these “issues”. I must admit though that my overall happiness about going abroad had been a bit suppressed. Other than that, I hardly had time to think about all of these things because Finals were already knocking on the door. I finally had a spot and knew I had to concentrate on school now.
Soooo, that’s it for today! Thanks if you’ve made it through all of this! My resolution writing short texts instead of long ones is working out well, as we can see! Trust me, I already cut out quite a few things, I wanted to talk about. But well, I would like to talk about everything, as well as getting to actual “Argentina experience”. I hope you enjoyed the post, though! Next time, I will give you some facts about Argentina. That will be the third post. Other than that, the fourth post will be about the donation process, the fifth post about the meeting with the other volunteers. The sixth post will be about the last weeks in Germany, and finally, the seventh post, will be about the flight to Argentina and the first impressions. Stay tuned and see you next post!!!