donderdag 7 december 2017

November, enjoying the cold weather

November was a cold month, starting with crispy autumn leaves and ending with real snow. On the last day of November while I am writing, I am sitting next to the window with in front of me a green needle-leaved tree with a layer of snow. These last days of the month we are preparing Mikuláš and Christmas activities in the office. We will have a small theatre play next week at a school, a company and our Integra friends, a centre of people with special needs. My main task was to design Christmas cards that children could colour in. I enjoyed drawing very much. And I am happy that I finished all of the work.

All my weekends were spent with friends who were visiting me or who I visited. These last weeks I want to spend well because I don’t want to miss anything. Like my sister said I have Fear Of Missing Out. And I think it’s especially now, now I don’t have so much time left here and there are still things to see, to discover or to explore. The first weekend of November, my Dutch friend from Prague visited me and I showed her around Bratislava.

The next one I visited Brno were a Slovak friend lives who I met in Iceland. It was lovely to see her again she showed me one of the most beautiful places in Morava, an area near the Czech border with Slovakia. There we felt like princesses visiting the castle of Lednice, built by the Lichtenstein family. We walked in the gardens with the beautiful coloured trees and the autumn coloured leaves covering the ground. Since I am hear I feel like appreciating the seasons more, every season has something beautiful and I hope climate change will not change that.
During the week I participated in a youth exchange of Mladiinfo, I did my gratitude workshop for thirty-seven people. I also talked with young people to inform them how EVS is for me. They were all enthusiastic beautiful people.

A few days later I had to pack my rucksack again because I went to Graz, the second biggest city of Austria. This city I really wanted to see, so my boyfriend, sister and her boyfriend decided to meet there. It’s a really cute city, and finally I saw some more bikers, this street view I really miss the most in Slovakia. We used USE-IT map which is a really great to discover European cities and it is made by locals. I printed it on paper and taped it together; we left it at the Airbnb for other travelers. The Airbnb was a really cool old-school place and downstairs was an art gallery. We spend our time eating pizza, drinking tea and reading books.

One day we hiked in the mountains around the city. We met a homeless person in a cave and gave him the 5 euros that Ralph found when was waiting for me to open the door of the Airbnb. The homeless person was listening to the radio, he had only one candle and he said ‘grüß got’, that’s what Austrian people say when they say hello. We also saw many Christmas markets, there were fourteen in total. On Sunday it was time to say goodbye again. Now only one month was left when I will see them back home.     

I worked at the office again, most of the time I spend drawing for the outcome of my EVS, because I made some kind of a comic book to illustrate what I did do this year.
The last weekend of November I went to Dolné Kočkovce near Púchov, because my Mentor Svetlana wanted to show me her home. It was a very cozy house with a fireplace. She helped me with filling in my youth pass, which is some kind of certificate I receive for being an EVS volunteer. We talked a lot and the next day we went into the forest for a long walk, all day. We finished at a well. There was ironed sparkling water, which tasted interesting. We filled our bottles and went back to the house. I met her family and we ate goulash of wild, because her father is a hunter. It was a long time since I ate meat; it always tastes very special when I try it. The next day I would go climbing but the train I would take had 80 minutes of delay. So I missed it. I was a bit disappointed. I haven’t done many sports lately because it is so cold and I want to stay in the flat, it is already dark at 4.30 pm. I hope next week I’ll have more success climbing and doing yoga.   


vrijdag 3 november 2017


This month I am more often thinking on going back to the Netherlands. Probably, because time flies. On 17th of December I will take the train back home. Till then I have plans for every weekend.

In the first weekend of October I finally saw Budapest, it is only a few hours by train from here. It is a city with a lot of contrast between poor and rich. There are many homeless people, but also very beautifully built ancient architecture. We went to a ruined pub which was a headquarter of the Germans in the second world war, now it is art. The next day we went to the spa. It was perfect to relax on Sunday in an old Turkish spa. I was lucky that I was with EVS people who went to Budapest many times before, so they showed me the best places.

One of the best things I did this month was that I went to a concert in Vienna from an Australian band called Tora. They played in B72  a music club under the metro line and in between two highways. The perfect place to make a lot of noise. I was really happy when Egle, an Estonian EVS, asked me if I wanted to join her. We had a lot of fun and we spend all day in Vienna. This concert reminded me to all the concerts I saw with friends at Vera in Groningen.

We had two tea meetings this month. One about hitchhiking in Belgium, from Martina. Another tea meeting by me about Iceland. It was fun to give a presentation. I learned a lot from the presentations I did. Telling stories give me another perspective on the experience. It makes my memories more clear and lively.

We did some promotional activities, at the national agency and the university of Economics. We tried to attract students to our workcamps, tea meetings or trainings.

This week I was sick again, and also that made me want to go home. I noticed that I am more often sick since I am here. Maybe because it is such a busy year with many impressions, new people and lots of activities. Also this weekend I was leading a workcamp in Slatinka where was not great hygiene. It was fun though; we all enjoyed the nature, the work and Italian food. We planted apple trees. My friend Nynke came to visit me and she joined the camp as well. It was great to see her again.

Besides I worked very hard on the outcome of my messenger workshop and outcome of EVS. Because of that I am totally on schedule with all
my work which feels pretty good. Making a comic book prepares me for an animation film I want to make when I am home. I learn a lot from trying out different styles. I am using now Indian ink on tracing paper pad. I use the computer to colour in the drawings. You can see some drawings for my comic book in this blog.

maandag 2 oktober 2017


These weeks I was travelling to Iceland and the Netherlands and via Vienna back to Slovakia. This was a nice adventure and I made Worldwide Friends (name of the organisation) during the camp. I started to understand the Icelandic culture a bit better. I saw the northern lights, beautiful sunsets. Sunsets in the airplane where clouds playing with the sun. The sunset at the glacier lagoon where the sun played with the icebergs. And there were seals playing with the icebergs. 

While we were driving through huge lava fields I saw from the car in sky northern lights, it was pretty dark. As someone said; Northern lights are like a green snake moving in the sky. I haven’t seen it very clearly, but in real life you can’t see it as clear as in the pictures, because it has a very slow shutter speed. So you see a longer time in one picture.     

I think Icelandic people are more creative, because in dark times when the sun doesn’t rise they make music, knit woolen sweaters, express themselves in arts or fantasize about elves. 

After the camp I went snorkeling in ice-cold glacier water. In between the tectonic plates there’s a river were you can snorkel or dive with a dry suit. I rode a horse, Dager (meaning daylight); all horses are Icelandic horses, coming from Norway in the 9th century. They have their own gaits. Not only step, trot and gallop, but also tölt and flying Pace

In the health and rehabilitation clinic I learned more about healthy food. I learned how to grow tomatoes, how to thief them and more about bumblebees. They had one greenhouse with cucumbers as well and I worked there a few times, it was very hot in this one.  

Iceland was an amazing experience for me. To educate other people I will give a tea meeting about it at the Inex office.

I visited my new house in the Netherlands on my way back from Iceland to Bratislava. I’m looking forward to being home again in our new house, to make it cosy and comfortable. I am happy that other people already warmth up the house a bit. I feel grateful as well that since I traveled, there are more places that I can call my home. Because of all the friends I made and the time I spent. 

In the first weekend when I was back from travelling, I traveled again. I went to Prague to see an illustration festival with Elianne.  She’s my only Dutch EVS friend near Bratislava. It’s always relieving to talk Dutch again and we both love arts. We spent almost the whole weekend together. I stayed in a hostel and had many nice conversations about India and America. From the festival I got lots of inspiration for my comic book which I’m making to evaluate my EVS-year. We drunk the best tea in a tiny little tea house with amazing interior. 

I was back at the office for only one day when I got the invitation to go on a Midterm-meeting. It started already the next day, they were a bit late, but I was very happy. It was a chance to meet new people and to have a different view on my project. This is part of my EVS. It’s about evaluating the project, meeting other EVS-people and making plans for the future. It was in the High Tatras, the greatest mountains of Slovakia. Now it’s autumn it was beautiful calm and sunny there. From other volunteers I learned how to make a bee house for wild bees. I gave my workshop about gratitude; I think it’s getting better every time. I also spoke with the trainers how to open up a teahouse; they have a coffee place in Czech Republic in a small village. So I could learn from them. I may want to start up a tea house when I am back in Amersfoort. From this training I got fresh energy to finish my project, it’s already less than three months.   

dinsdag 15 augustus 2017

June, July and August

The past few months were kind of a roller-coaster for me.
It was an interesting experience. I’ve learned how to be a leader by doing. Together with my co-leader Martina we were leading a group of seven youngsters. We all worked very hard on a farm, but had a lot of fun as well by going swimming, horse riding, to the pub and canoeing. I’ve learned about other countries; France, USA, Ukraine, Japan, India and Slovakia. Improved my English and learned many sayings from the Americans. It’s interesting how American and Japanese people look at Europe as one continent. I’ve always felt I was Dutch, but slowly I think I become more European, by being with Europeans all the time. Though I am becoming more aware of what’s typically Dutch too. For example when we has the Feast of Cultures. It’s a study part in our workcamps, where you make your national dish and talk about your country.

I am really happy that I found a bicycle in Bratislava, which I can lend anytime, because I became a member of the komunitné centrum bystro. I discovered the bystro when they organized an evening with stories about the lives of people from Mladiinfo, another organisation who has EVS volunteers. Tomorrow I’ll probably go for a ride just for fun near the Danube River. Because different then in the Netherlands, I'll not use a bike as a transport to go from A to B, but for recreation.

I’ve never walked as much since I’m here in Slovakia, especially in the summer in the city and in the forests and mountains. I can feel this in my feet and legs. I went hiking with Ralph in the Malá Fatra, where we stayed in a cottage called Chata pod Suchým. It’s beautiful there, I had a chance to practice my Slovak and we had lots of fun. After coming back, my sister came over to Slovakia and we went hiking again to the same cottage, where they know me by now. We’ve tried out different routes. Thunderstorms were predicted and I was afraid to hike to the next cottage, so we only made small hikes in rainy weather. Thunder came late in the evening... On our way back home, we took a footbath in the river, where I saw a snake in the water just in front of me. I was surprised and ran away. It was quite big but harmless, it only eats frogs, as Wikipedia told us later.

I worked a few weeks at the office again and gave my messenger workshop at a kidscamp for the volunteers in Bratislava. I loved spending time with those people and they were interested in my workshop.

In July I went to a Slovak wedding with my boyfriend, it was in a beautiful castle near the mountains were they brought so many friends and family together from all over the world. I feel very blessed that I could be a part of it.

After the wedding I immediately left to the next camp where I got sick during the second week. Probably because these months were too much and overwhelming. I went back home earlier, I had to stay for one week at the flat to not contaminate anyone at the office. I spend my days reading, watching Netflix, cooking and day-dreaming about the future.

During these last weeks I had good and bad experiences. For example I met many new people with their own habits and culture and I got deeper into Slovak culture. For example roles between men and woman especially during the camps I experienced that woman do other jobs than men. They particularly needed men to use hammer and pinch pin while woman were cleaning the droppings. In my opinion it would give more variation in the work if we would have changed sometimes.

Also only men were building the walls of the castle. When we wanted to do the same work as men. An old men told us that we should spare or bodies for giving birth to children. I still don’t know if that was a wise men. But I would think that woman/people get only stronger if you do hard work. And the work is more fun if you do it altogether. Though they constantly they gave us prestávka which means break, especially when the local partner wasn’t at the castle.

The people working at the castle are only Roma people. Remarkably Roma’s don’t mix with Slovak people, there seems to be a distance between them. They have their own culture and habits they don’t adapt to Slovak culture, have their own language and they have many children. Compared to the rest of the country Bratislava is very rich and less than one percent of the society is unemployed. However the wages aren’t high.

Another disappointment was that cars usually don’t stop for passengers at zebra paths. Even if they see you and you have already one step on the path. So be careful if you’re in Slovakia, maybe this is in more countries like that, but I wasn’t used to it. Once I saw a child with a dog who wanted to cross a zebra path, a car was coming very fast. The child stopped but the dog ran further, he got hit by the car. I was shocked; Fortunately the dog stopped crying after a while. But the car drove further while surrounding people were shouting at him.

I also don’t like the drinking culture of home-made alcohol and social pressure to drink. It’s probably because I don’t drink and I don’t know how to behave to drunken people.
What I love most about Slovakia cottage where we stayed in the mountains called Chata pod Suchým. The people were very kind and it was sweet how they scream 'halušky' through a microphone. Where you can hear outside through the speaker to get your national dish.
Slovak dishes are mainly with potatoes, sheep cheese, meat and anything which is fried (cauliflower, pancakes, dumplings). Which is tasty once in a while, but I was missing vegetables a lot after some time.

Maybe I became a bit negative about Slovakia now but I think it was because this summer was overwhelming and I got sick. It’s normal as I heard on the pré-departure training to have a crisis in the middle of the stay in another country. The art is not to get to deep in it and to get out again. For this my gratitude workshop could help me to value the pretty things.

donderdag 1 juni 2017

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Another month of my Slovak life has past :) I had some lazy days, but also many days with lovely moments. In the beginning of this year I had a meeting in Utrecht at the national agency, where we got prepared for this year in a foreign country. They asked us a question. When was the last time you did do something for the first time?
Now things are real, and I’m living the Slovak life. I try to travel the countries surrounding Slovakia as well. Slovakia has five neighbors; Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine and Poland.

The week started with Bratislavský majáles a festival with Slovak music and Slovak food in the Janko Krale park. It was much fun because I met almost all EVS volunteers of Slovakia. Spanish, Italian, Greek, Honduras, French, Macedonian, I’m actually the only one from a more northern country. I feel very welcome in this group of volunteers. We all have the same goal to make Slovakia nicer in different ways.

The first weekend of May I went with Giulia to Győr in Hungary. It’s a small city just on the other side of the border. It’s surrounded by four rivers. I liked the park on the island the most. There were students doing some special way of water sport. Standing with one knee on the floor of the boat, peddling with one peddle.

The second weekend I met Elianne in Prague. She’s Dutch, we met on the EVS training before I went to Slovakia. She showed me all the best places. We saw the opening of the Prague Spring concerts outside in the park. They say for every Czech there is a musician. Unfortunately it started to rain. I met other EVS who are also from INEX but from Czech Republic. Because twenty tree years ago Czech and Slovak people were living in the same country. On the last day I went to the Botanical Garden. This is one of my favorite activities when I visit cities. I already saw the gardens of Hamburg, Göteborg, Antwerp, Copenhagen and Bratislava. I like this because it’s often a quiet place in the city. Elianne and I were constantly comparing the Czech and Slovak countries and their languages. I heard Czech people have more humor and Slovak people have more enthusiasm. They also have much in common. For example food or the public transport system. But Bratislava and Prague are completely different. Prague feels for me more like a fairy tale city. Bratislava doesn’t have this for me. I love Bratislava because it’s small. There’s good ice cream. It has all facilities and there are not that many tourists. There are though many Japanese tourists, who I always meet in the line for the ice cream.

I have been cycling to Austria again with Sasha and Giulia. The weather was great. It would be perfect if I had my own bike here. It’s only two hours away but Hainburg an der Donau has a different atmosphere. Agriculture in Austria has more variety then I have seen in Slovakia. Lucerne, rapeseed, soybeans and different grasses.

I had the same feeling like a fairytale city in Banská Štiavnica, where we had democamp. In two weeks I will lead my first voluntary workcamp. This democamp we had last weekend makes me feel we’re well prepared for that. We learned to make how to make a program for the volunteers. With games; Name games, icebreakers, cultural games, and games for the whole workcamp. I tested my gratitude workshop which was going well. We were taught how to solve conflicts, this could be very useful. I already had a first aid training in the week before.

Last week I went climbing for the first time in Slovakia. Which was great, the rock is just behind the castle in a little forest. Though it’s still in the city. Only one bus stop away from the city center. I met beautiful people. It’s a pity I don’t have much time to go climbing this summer because of the camps.

I discovered some stereotypes about the Slovaks. I feel like I am starting to get a bit under the iceberg of Slovak culture after four months. I am speaking about the Iceberg Theory of Ernest Hemingway. Here are some differences between Slovak and Dutch:
They have special shoes to wear inside, sometimes sandals with socks. They have warm lunch, and then they eat sandwiches for dinner. This is the opposite in the Netherlands. Bratislava has many shopping malls, five, my favourite is Aupark because it’s close and near the park. On my way home from Aupark I can always hear the crickets make their sounds. Somewhere in the grass just next to the highway. These sounds remind me of the summers at my parents farm.
The park is not crowded with students who do BBQ’s like in Groningen. But there are many moms strolling with their prams. Moms have much longer holidays after they have a child than in The Netherlands. And children attend later to primary school. I saw kids having organized bicycle lessons in the park. Almost everyone lives in a byt, this is a flat. I see dogs everywhere, but I saw only a few cats. Probably they are in their byt. They say Slovak people are direct. This I haven't noticed because Dutch are the same.

Yesterday I went swimming for the first time in a lake with Quentin and his French friends, it’s at the last tram stop on the border of Bratislava. Because it’s hot already and the summer will be even warmer. So I get a bit afraid of the warmth that this beautiful country has to offer.

Today I had Slovak lunch, sweet dumplings with plum jam, recommended by my Slovak language teacher. It was nice to try and it made me feel more integrated. After four months I still do almost every day something for the first time here in Central Europe.

I want to thank all people which make my EVS so nice! And the dishwasher that spontaneously started working again after three years.

woensdag 3 mei 2017

Into the great outdoors!

31st of March we organized activities at Integra, a centre for people with special needs. I enjoyed it very much. We were clowns and trying to be funny. The first time I was at this centre I found it really hard, but now we did have to think about activities ourselves and we learned to know the people a bit better it was more fun.

On that day the weather was extremely nice. Because we had to work at Integra early and we had a game night in the evening before, we were free in the afternoon. And so I walked around Petrežalka, the part of the city where all the communist blocks are, to the Danube. It’s where I live, I enjoyed. Though it was just spring. For a long time the weather was great in Bratislava.

From our organisation we got the opportunity to do a voluntary workcamp abroad. I got accepted for my favourite in Iceland. I will be working in a greenhouse heated by geysers. I am very excited, because there are even tropical plants. The fruits and vegetables are grown for
a health and rehabilitation center near Reykjavik.

The weather changed and 19th of April there was snow. Maybe this changing weather made me and the rest of the office sick. Or maybe because I had busy weekends so I couldn’t rest well.

Despite that these weekends were really nice. I did a lot of sports like inside climbing, cycling to Austria, which is one hour away from Bratislava, running and hiking with my mentor to the ruined castle Pajštún near Bratislava. Another weekend I did a hiking trip of 18 kilometres to Devin castle, which is near the border of Austria.

For Easter me and my colleagues went to Barbi’s flat, there we painted eggs and baked ginger bread together with her children. I felt integrated in Slovak family life, her kids had so much energy and they were really happy that we were there. 

A few days later I painted eggs again with Aphroditi and Nadia, we used red onion peels and it worked nicely. They got a nice Bordeaux red colour.  

The weekend of Easter I went to the East. I went to Prešov, and Košice with Giulia, an EVS friend. We had such nice conversations during our travels. Our travel by train took us more than 7 hours. We saw the landscape changing from flat near Bratislava to small mountains near Žilina to High Tatras with snow in Liptovský Mikuláš. The beautiful lakes on or way to Košice. I’m sure everyone must like the nature of Slovakia, because it’s amazing.

Because it was cold we decided not to go camping but we stayed at the house of a hipsterish Buddhist, he had a beard, he was vegan and a wood artist, he was very kind. We were tired from our travel after discovering Prešov. Which is a cute little city with coloured houses. The next day our host drove us to the best hitch hiking spot and already after 10 minutes a car stopped which went to Košice. The man and woman were super nice, we tried to speak in Slovak but soon we found out that the man spoke Italian. We continued speaking Italian which was much better than his English. He had worked at an Italian company.

Half an hour later we got out near the centre of Košice. After a coffee, where the bartender spoke Italian as well, we went for a small hike in the hills of Košice. I heard another woodpecker and I saw for the first time a dark brown squirrel. We went to one of the plenty of ruins Slovakia has. Napoleon Bonaparte destroyed most of them on his way through Slovakia, to prevent any future attacks. This castle was almost disappeared. But there was a tower which we climbed just before closing time. The view was beautiful we could see the city and the mountains around it.

Last weekend I met my co-camp leader, we were drinking coffee. She told me stories about previous workcamps. In her opinion Zlatna is the best workcamp. We have to work at a farm, cutting grass, we can ride horses and we will organize a children’s horse riding match. We will play many games. As leaders we have to think about these. The camp will be near the Hungarian border. Because of the river in the summer there are many mosquitoes. Every day we have to ride with our bicycle to the farm. The work can be really tiring, but also heart fulfilling. This summer I will be on four workcamps in total.   

One of the nicest moments were the night walks around the lake with Aphroditi. It’s in Petrežalka and there are many swans. It's pitch black at night around this lake, so you can see the starry skies. We tell each other stories about our countries, our point of view about Slovakia. It often gives me a different perspective on things, because we have the time to reflect. We picked Bear's Garlic, it’s an herb which is rare in The Netherlands, but there is plenty of it growing around this lake. The next morning I made an omelette with it. It makes me appreciate being in nature a lot.

At the last day of April I took the bus to Vienna. It’s such a touristic city and everyone was using selfie sticks. I went to the national library where I took selfies with old books like everyone did. They had the first bibles in German with pictures of gold. It wasn’t allowed to touch anything. Sometimes I felt a bit lost but I was happy that I brought Harry Potter which I read during the lunch, in the park and in the bus. He was good company. 

woensdag 29 maart 2017

Second month - Swerve off topic

The month has almost past, so here is another story from Slovakia. Things are changing fast. Spring has come. And everything looks more cheerful with the green colours. There is more light, no snow anymore. Yesterday I found out that it gets dark about one hour earlier than in The Netherlands because Bratislava lays more east. 

Daily life is exciting. I bought this fluffy angora sweater on a bazar in an old school, everywhere I go I leave rabbit hair ;) But it's so soft.

Slovak people drink different coffee. The supermarket shelf for instant coffee is quite big. There is no slow coffee hype here. Instead I could say there is a fast coffee hype. But the coffee in the office is okay.

I like the work in the office. For example I am making a game ‘Spot it!’ for Inex. We can play this game at the camps for the summer. For this I need to draw pictures, it helps to learn Slovak. Now it’s spring we often have lunch outside in the garden.  We are organizing a game night and we will arrange a special April Fool’s day for the people in a centre for special needs. We will be clowns and I will play a song on my guitar. I like these challenges although there are many things that I’m a bit afraid of.

I start to appreciate communist buildings more. The sunset on the flats can be really beautiful sometimes. And as I have learned from my Greek friend, you should look at the details of the blocks if you want to orientate. They are painted in nice colours. Many shops are hidden in these blocks and close by is a yoga studio. This has a cosy atmosphere inside.  My first impression was that blocks are coldly. But if you look better you can find secrets in this city. 

I found a nice climbing hall here as well, but I don’t have so many people to climb with as in Groningen.

We had full weekends; on my weekend in Brno (Czech Republic) they had the best coffee in a small hostel called ‘Mitte’. In Brno I was surprised that I could
hear a woodpecker near the castle when we lay in the grass. This would be pretty rare in the Netherlands. But in Slovakia you can hear them too.

We had a training for camp leaders in Senec, a small place near Bratislava. This was very useful because I don’t have so much experience with being a leader. Now I know different ways to communicate with groups, before I never thought about this.

On my free day I went to Vienna with Quentin, my EVS colleague. We went to Schloß Schönbrunn where people were doing handstands in the grass. And we climbed the St. Stephen's Cathedral. Up in the tower was a very nice man who told us that they clean the cathedral every month with a climbing team. This building is made of sandstone, which is very sensible to pollution.

Last weekend I had my first weekend voluntary camp. It was in Eco Slatinka. A beautiful small village in the middle of Slovakia, there was no internet or tap water. They had
a wood-burning stove and oven. The weather was beautiful. We made a bonfire every day. In the morning we were saving frogs by helping them to cross the road. They want to go to the river on the other side of the road after their winter sleep. In the afternoon we planted apple trees with special names. The alley we planted was named translated to English something like ‘alley of European understanding’

And then last but not least. Today I met a chimney man and we shook hands. In Slovakia this brings good luck, if you touch the chimney man or if you touch a button of your clothes when you see him.