I decided to start telling my story with the words from one of many songs we sing with the children in chorus.
The story starts however in 2010 when I, following my heart, began applying for EVS. It had to be Germany – motherland of the person I was in love with, whom I met owing to EVS. 270 e-mails, one project being rejected by the National Agency, and after two years of searching I am going to Furtwangen im Schwarzwald. To be honest, I didn’t think much about what my work there would be like. I wasn’t naïve, knowing from the experience how much it matters to love what you do. Still, I wanted to go no matter what.
Now I work in a school for mentally handicapped children. I had never been a man who met new people easily. I hadn’t had any experience working with children, let alone challenged ones. My German, which I had learnt alone, capitulated immediately as soon as it faced the local dialects and some children, spitting out gracefully 300 words per minute. The others didn’t speak at all, could hardly move and required help by every day tasks accomplishing which most people take for granted. That is when I realised how blessed we are being able to communicate, to eat, dress and go to bathroom alone, to take care of ourselves. That is also when I started to feel helpless. I wanted to do everything right, and right now, and blamed myself for what I took for continuous failures. I felt like everyone was watching me, expecting something, and I didn’t understand a word, feeling useless.
Still, I have never spoken English to anyone at school from the very beginning. Now I am proud to say that I prepare to take my “German for foreigners” exam. Sure, my children still laugh at my expressions sometimes, but they are also the ones to give me the most valuable certificate: “Na ja, es geht, wir verstehen dich gut”.
With time I started to notice and value every little sign of my children’s success at school, expression of joy and love in their eyes. Every step we do with the boy who used to sit in a roll-chair when I came. Every “I’m sorry” that children say to each other after fighting, without us, adults, instructing them. The discussions in the Religion classes, whose maturity many adults can envy. The good-natured jokes, cooking, cleaning together, playing basketball... And of course, the chorus. “Und wenn wir alle zusammen stehen, Und wenn wir alle zusammen gehen, Dann geht’s ein bischen leichter, Denn Mut tut gut!“
What did I know about the Germans before? They are punctual, they work hard. They produce cars that can be called “cars”. My colleague, a volunteer from Greece, said during our discussion of stereotypes at the on-arrival seminar: “The Germans don’t like to be touched”, finding this a characteristic difference from her country. On my birthday my children and colleagues sang “Wie schön, dass du geboren bist” for me. This song together with the shy questions of my children if I will visit them after my service, their attempts to find Moldova on the map and naive promises to go there on holiday touched my heart in the most gentle way. I am also asked a lot about my country, about the languages I speak with my family, our traditions, festivals. It makes me happy, because I am used to explain to every person I meet, what Moldova is and where you can find it. It also makes me feel more responsible for my work: I represent my country.
At the same on-arrival seminar we had to present our motherland and try to look ironically on its traditions, tell about the stereotypes that foreigners have about it. There was no tention, which occurs when someone makes fun of your country. On the countrary, we had many laughs together. After this seminar I only keep my positive stereotypes: Yes, the French are a romantic nation and they only speak their language – the most beautiful one. Yes, the Turks and Hungarians are hot-blooded, but very open and hospitable. And surprisingly, camels are not used as public transport in Turkey. Yes, the Finns are tall, blonde and have blue eyes. Yes, the Poles have a good sense of humor and they are not necessarily the ones who stole your car. No, Lithuania and Latvia are not the same country. And Norvegia is not the capital of Sweden. And they definitely cheated placing it on top in "The most rude nations"… We are all very different, and that makes it so interesting to learn more about other cultures. But we are also so much alike. We are Europeans, and before that we are people. Because after all, it doesn’t matter where you come from. We all want the same: to have someone to listen to us and understand us, to make our work, our lives count, to see a smile on a friend’s face, to fall in love…
One day I was going back to my small town in the everwinter sleeping Black Forest when I realised: I feel like I’m going home! This is one of a few small worlds I will carry in my heart. The school where I have learnt so much, made friends and hopefully helped children answer their questions, find their ways. The seminar in Münster and twelve-hour trips through Germany to the follow-up meetings with the other volunteers. The unbearably too short mid-term seminar in Würzburg with interesting, funny, talented people. These worlds is where I with a grateful smile on my face will find my memories when searching for strength and confidence on a hard day. I am not naive to say that everything is perfect in our world, that there are no problems. And I do still have hard moments from time to time. The world appears to be the same. But I am different. I am prepared. I came to Germany to experience a completely different world which I had heard so much about, and instead I found new myself, crossed the personal borders I had never hoped I could. I have learnt to look with less criticism at what I couldn’t accept before in my country, now feeling I can try to change it, and not only complain. I have learnt to see all the good Moldova has given me. I have seen and worked with people all over Europe who don’t give up, who have a lot of ideas and enthusiasm and who do their work every day to make the world a better place. And I have hope. “When we all give the power, We all give the best, Every minute of an hour Don’t think about the rest…”
Soon I will see my family and friends. They will all ask: “So, how’s Germany?” How do I explain all that, where do I start? I will probably start with a smile and my favourite, however wrong, stereotype: “Well, the Germans don’t like to be touched…”
A hearty friend of mine once said,
“You know, they aren’t the same.
Our people value their souls,
We struggle, dream and learn our roles.
You’ll leave now – you’ll regret”.
My mother said, “Go, find your way,
Leave all your fears behind.
Few men don’t spend their time in vain,
Times change, but question’s still the same:
How tell you wrong from right?”
I grabbed my bag. How do I fit
My life in these few slots?
Warm clothes… They said, “It snows hard here”.
Last night with friends… heart-warming words…
When will I hear them again?
That’s coldness that I fear.
They have their lives. Who’ll notice me?
I’m like stars, falling in the sky:
My time is short. Days, weeks fly by,
I do my best, learn, struggle, try…
Soon - time to say goodbye.
But if one night a lonely soul
Was trembling in the gloomy dark,
This falling star could show her way,
Lead gently to the light of day,
Away from wolves, at moon who bark.