Category: ESC
“It’s just my opinion” – Paul Lorentz

We have to get rid of the nauseating paradigm whereby all opinions are equals between them. Because they’re not. Eventually, every opinion should be considered, prima facie, as having an appearance of validity. Be given the benefit of the doubt. But only in the form of a presumption that would not be irrebuttable. Because to offer equal value to all opinions is to offer each one of them a sanctuary in which to take refuge in last resort when all reason has abandoned its cause and only the force of habit keeps her valiant. It’s giving a bedrock, an immovable foundation to rootless prejudices, the noxious whiffs of which can, therefore, claim immunity by traveling themselves into virtuous equality with every principle of reason.

American creationism is a topical example of the ideological apocalypse that can result from the misuse of methodical doubt. Recently, American politicians, from Texas to be precise, were pushing for legislation that would de facto allow teachers to teach creationism and introduce it as the equal of Darwin’s theory of evolution, in that both are theories that have not been formally proven. And the theory of evolution is indeed one, in the epistemological understanding of the term. In the sense that we will never be able to completely prove that our emergence is due to the path of evolution because it is not possible to provide direct and complete empirical proof of our evolution over millions of years. We can only provide circumstantial evidence, which is nevertheless all consistent with this theory. Without exception, over centuries of research. And that these proofs, although they do not directly trace the path, nevertheless draw more and more precise contours as they accumulate. And today, the number of indirect proofs of the theory of evolution makes it a theory with an extremely high degree of certainty, which is further supported by each new discovery. So yes, this degree will never reach 100%, as it is materially impossible unless we could retroactively create a black box of the Earth, and therefore the theory of evolution will always remain formally one. But creationism, on the other hand, is not based on any scientific data and solely resorts to mysticism to justify the inconsistencies encountered. Consequently, no, the theory of evolution and creationism are not two theories of equal value. Proponents of creationism are, of course, free to intrude into the margin of error of the theory of evolution in an attempt to demonstrate its inaccuracy, with reasoned argument. Moreover, they are most welcome to do so, because by stimulating controversy they can either further sanitize the basis of a theory, or tear down a shaky building and rebuild a stronger one. As J.S. Mill pointed out, dogmatism, one way or the other, leads to nothing but cerebral death and immobility. But if it is necessary to guarantee freedom of opinion in that it allows a permanent questioning and a continuous process, it is just as essential to guard against excessive relativism, the subsequent pitfall being a consensual shipwreck of reason.

While everyone may have a different opinion, not all opinions have equal value. The opposite case would place negationism, creationism or platism on the same level as their scientifically established alter-ego, lending them stilts that would allow them to avoid all the construction inherent to a system of thought in order to rise directly to the status of an idea, accepted by default. Including racism, nazism, and the whole range of toxic ideas that have and continue to poison the history of humanity.

In other words, while everyone is free to explore the different ramifications of his or her thinking at will when one of these reaches a dead end, one must resolve to turn back to explore others, and not force the elasticity of his or her reason to try to push back an irremovable wall.

And this applies, in particular, to human rights. If we accept ab initio the paradigm of equality between each individual, we must also accept the principles that flow naturally from it through the exercise of reason or make the open choice to recuse ourselves from it. For example, one cannot deny an individual his or her inalienable right to freedom of expression, while claiming it for himself on the basis of human rights. This includes, and even more strongly so, denials for reasons such as religion, membership of a sexual, visible or any other minority, or to deny the individual the right to express one of his or her essential characteristics, which are otherwise guaranteed and validated for those of the majority. Because, as Tocqueville pointed out, democracy should not be confused with the tyranny of the majority, otherwise the Orwellian scenario of all human beings being equals, but some being more equal than others, would be the result.

No one can force you to adhere to an opinion. But if you adhere to the principles of reason equality between individuals, you have a primary duty to guarantee, both passively and, if necessary, actively, everyone’s freedom of expression, to the obvious extent of defamation and incitement to hatred. And you have a moral duty to question, as painful as it may sometimes be, your beliefs and prejudices, to test their validity: the fact that not every idea has the same value does not mean that your own has a superior one.

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Noam Chomsky

cover credits: google.com

Going back to your family – Paul Lorentz

The further you are from your family, the closer you can become. Things have not necessarily always been easy between us, but the more I took some distance, the more I realized how much they matter to me. Before moving far away from them, I didn’t think of it as a necessity to call them every 2 or 3 days (at the great despair of my mother, I must admit) to have some news, as I pictured them as an immutable constant of my life (and vice versa), that would always be here, as they had always been. I didn’t realize that it was an actual soap bubble, ready to pop if any change in its surroundings was to happen, being through time, space or unpredictable events bringing a pointy needle around this ephemere membrane.

That’s why going back and forth to your family in under one week can be, altogether, heart-wrenching, regenerating, exhausting, refocusing, and frustrating.

Heart-wrenching, because as soon as you have the feeling of having arrived, you have to go back, far away from them, where you don’t get to be grumpy at them for waking you up with their absolutely terrible noises of spoons clicking with their teacup, and where your dog cannot jump on you while trying to reach your face to wash it integrally, with a whole lot of his loveful saliva.

Regenerating, because everyone needs a safe place too long for, where we can feel safe enough to really relax and process all the ups and downs we have been through since the last time we have been here. Because taking distance from the stress and the reasons to worry, no matter how real and/or trivial they can seem is the first step to accept it and find a way to deal with it. And of course, taking geographical distance, changing the environment, can seriously help with taking some psychological distance. Being constantly present in this vortex of our organisation is an amazing thing, as we are fully immersed, we feel appreciated and stimulated, but you don’t appreciate le Radeau de la Méduse by staying 30cm away from it. And no matter what you do, it is really hard to be able to do anything that is not somehow related to our organization here. Look outside your window, you can see the daily path leading to your work. Ho, it is not directly visible, but you can nonetheless feel it being here one bloc away, pulsating its energy into your contemplative mood, innervating your thoughts and rooting them in the fertile but nonetheless enclosed ground. When you go for a walk in the city center, you constantly stumble into places you visited together. Most of your friends here are linked to the organization. Et cetera, et cetera, like an Ariadne thread linking together all the places you have the possibility to spend some time in, and that materialize the one possibility for an exit.

Sometimes, I understand why to captivate and capture have the same etymological origin. Kind of like Ulysse being trapped in Calypso’s island, withering while all his immediate wishes are fulfilled, where he is loved and cared for, you cannot help but feeling this nagging home calling, despite all its flows.

And for me, this safe place to go back to and process things is my family. By their sometimes embarrassing questions, where I can often feel lost about what to answer because I simply don’t know how to, they really help me to put things into consideration, because they ask the questions I alone would rather have left unanswered, hidden in a dark corner of my mind, trying to ignore the problem, applying the ostrich principle  as long as I need to for the issue to magically vanish without me having to deal with it. And of course, when you actually have to face these issues, you might feel uncomfortable for a while, but that helps you much more in the long run (hello people who like so much popping pimples that you had to create Instagram accounts about it).

It is also exhausting because going back and forth in under a week implies a lot of traveling, a lot of people you would like to see (and of course, that you don’t have time to see, for most of them), a lot of activities you would have like to attend to but have no time to (hey Tolkien exhibition, I swear I didn’t boycott you, you’re amazing I’m sure), a lot of energy when really you would rather simply enjoy a hot cup of Christmas tea at home with your loved ones. And no matter what you tell yourself, the choices you made during this period reflect your priorities, people around you know it, and are hurt by them or simply stop caring. You care very much about them, but you simply can’t spare these few hours because  you PREFER spending these with your family. And even a small act matter more than empty promises or wishful thinking.

Refocusing, because when I get caught in the whirlwind of ICI things, I sometimes don’t know where I am anymore, what am I doing, why, what’s the purpose of being here, what really matters to me, what do I want to do, what are my goals, what I should focus on or what do I want to put efforts in. But honestly, I’m essentially getting lost about the reason for me being here, and whether it is realistic and tangible. And because of all these questions they ask, I can find some kind of center again, or at least try to define one, even though it implies a lot of other questions, leading a way to explore what I am really aiming for, during this time here.

And finally, frustrating, because when you get to go back for a week, you actually get pointed out to what you left behind, what sacrifices you made and all the stuff you paused in order to be able to get here, in Ukraine. You realize what home means to you. All the small habits you had come hitting you again, with all the weight they gained over the years in Rambouillet, my city of birth. You can taste the biscuits that, as a child, you were craving for every afternoon, but of which you were only allowed to have one or two, from time to time, because else they would taint your teeth (and for sure, I still, even today, have trouble refraining me from eating the whole pack all at once). You can lay in the armchair whose left leg is slightly distorted, and on which you mechanically compensate for the lack of equilibrium by moving your weight to the right, without even realizing it anymore. You can’t find your favorite tea around. It is one thing to make those sacrifices when you don’t get them pointed out every day because they simply don’t have any equivalent here, and another to have them hitting you all at once, like a shot of sugar after fasting, or a long-awaited cigarette when you finish your work.

Somebody to love – Luca Bonamin

Week 6

If San Nicolas had been with us he would have been happy with how we celebrated his day.

And maybe he wouldn’t go home sober.

I had never celebrated December 19th. Indeed, I did not even know that in other cultures, such as in Ukraine, it is celebrated, also exchanging Christmas gifts on this day. It was a strange thing for me since I’m used to everything being celebrated on December 25th, but at the same time, I’m very happy because that’s exactly what I wanted: to live a different culture.

 

Christmas is also approaching, which is here on January 7th, but that for me is December 25th. Tomorrow. And with it came the first hard blow of this experience: the first real lack of home. It was terrible, and it still is. But that’s okay, it’s part of the growth path.

This will be the first Christmas I spend away from home and my family.

 

But what is family if not a group of people you love, with whom you are well and with whom you can trust each other? I know it may seem early, but I don’t feel like saying that here I am so far away from the family, because here in Ukraine I found one (and yes ганусся, you are the mother who doesn’t want me to say bad words).

One thing I can never complain about is not having found great people.

I hope the situation is mutual. I love you guys.

 

cover credits: Вікторія Матевощук (who I didn’t ask rights for the photo)

Trusting your bus fellows – Paul Lorentz

It’s actually one of the first things I noticed after arriving here. People handing over some money to each other on the bus. A 5 hryvnia bill passing from hand to hand until it reaches the driver, where it can be exchanged for a bus ticket. And then the ticket going backward, sometimes unsure whether it will find its rightful owner, or not.

That was really flabbergasting to me. And the more I think about it, the more it is. It takes an enormous amount of trust in each other to handover your money like this. Of course, it is not a large sum of money, as it represents only about 20 cents of euro. But first, it is, relatively to Ukrainian standards, way higher than it would be for me, back in France. As a comparison, there, a tram/subway ticket is about 2euros (50 hryvnias).

Second, you don’t actually trust each other with those 5 hryvnias. You trust each other with the possibility of being fined 100 hryvnias. And controls happen often. I have been more controlled here in 2 months, while taking the tram 3 or 4 times a week, than I have ever been to Paris, using public transportation every day for several years.

Don’t get me wrong. You shouldn’t pay the ticket out of fear of a fine, but instead to co-finance a functioning public transportation system, allowing everyone to travel at an accessible price while being ecologically responsible. But it doesn’t fundamentally matter, in our situation, if you are that kind of idealistic moral person. In order to trust people with your money, you then have to believe everyone on the way to the bus driver will share that belief, over simply enjoying a free ride. And that’s a very different level of idealistic.

So when you take the chance of sending some money to some complete strangers to travel the whole way to the driver, back and forth, you consider it likely enough that the ticket will come back to you, or that the probability of both it not returning AND being controlled is low enough to risk it. And of course, as you don’t know any individual along the way, you have to consider all of them equally as a potential risk: every single one of them is susceptible to decide to simply refuse to pass it on and keep it for himself instead. The only variable is how high is that risk, therefore how much do you trust your random fellow bus-taker.

Concretely, that habit probably started with one guy, one day, who realized he had no way to get to the driver to pay for the ticket because the bus was too crowded (or that he was simply too lazy to go), then decided to try his luck by sending some money over, that he was going to flip a coin and trust every single individual on the way with his money and make it circulate freely among them.

And, surprisingly, it worked.

It would never have happened in France. More, people would have considered you stupid for even trying. They would likely consider you deserve to be stolen if you’re naive enough to hand over some money to complete strangers. Because what will you do if you never receive your ticket back? Ask the whole bus where it disappeared? What if someone tells you, yes, I took your money? What are you going to do about it? Get angry? It will be a pathetic show if, as it is very likely, he is not impressed at all. Be violent? Out of moral implications, go ahead, risk a criminal record, pay 1000euros in damages, all of that to get 20 cents back (or 2euros). That is, in the eventuality, you actually ‘win’ them back instead of simply ending up with a broken nose. Call the police? They won’t even come. And if they would, it would be to laugh in your face. You can just either go get another ticket, or sit back and pray no controller shows up, in shame.

But in Ukraine, it worked. And not only did it work the first time. It worked a second, a third…. Until some people decided to follow up, slowly developing into a general habit. It means that the ticket going back and forth was not a statistical aberration of one lucky dude. It means the bond of trust between individuals in Ukraine is strong enough to trust each other with their money on a daily basis. It means they respect each other enough to consider that this habit shouldn’t be abused, that you shouldn’t sit on the bus, wait for one ticket to get to you, and just use it for yourself, or this habit would be short-lived.

I am not sure if it sticks together because of some kind of auto censure, a culture of mutual social surveillance, or some generally shared ethics. It actually happened also several times that some people checked on tickets that didn’t belong to them at all (‘Did you pass over the tickets I gave you money for already?’). It is very possible that such a gesture is made possible only because, in case of abuse, people would collectively pressure the abuser. Taking him out of the tram for example. It nonetheless means that the incentive to protect that possibility of cooperation is stronger than simple social inertia and/or apathy (‘this is none of my business’).

And that’s somehow all together beautiful, coherent, poetic, and a bit scary.

 

cover credits: unsplash.com/Mohamed Osama

Starting looking deeper – Luca Bonamin

Week 5

If someone from now will tell me “busy week” I will know what it means.

Really, this week was crazy. If I look at the negative side, the stress level has risen over 9000, but just looking at the positive side I remember again the reason for being here, away from home, surrounded by new people and new experiences. New experiences. This is what I have been in front of my eyes for more than a month.

To name two:

We started photography, lighting, editing lessons, for which I must thank Гала Козютинская and Віктор Петров, THE photographers.

It’s something I’ve always been interested in, at least to try, but I’ve never had the chance to do, perhaps more courage to go into something unknown to me. Thank you. Thanks to them and to Cиків Медіа.

And last but not least, three times a week we have Ukrainian language lessons, which really: if you don’t need it for important reasons, don’t try to learn it, you would waste everything you know about logic.

Joking aside, even just having to learn a new language, with rules (or non-rules) different from one’s own, changing words’ genders and three ways to say “and”, is to test oneself to broaden one’s horizons.

But anyway what I would like to talk about finally, cause we have also the opportunity to make our thoughts heard, and for this, I must thank SII, is the condition of the country. Because I didn’t think that, at least comparing it with European standards, the situation in which the educational system is, for example, was like this. I could have thought it perhaps fifty years ago, but not today, practically in 2020. Teachers must provide with the help of families in setting up a classroom with basic tools. Just, for example, the blackboard. Maybe after the book, the tool that represents the act of teaching.

I’ve always known that to be a teacher, a person must love their job. Here a teacher must truly be able to love his task so much to have to overcome the state’s shortcomings.

All my esteem to all these people who act to be able to live worthily. All my esteem to that teacher who bought a blackboard for his children. Because where I live it would never have happened, no teacher would think of buying one.

He would just complain.

Culture shock – Carla San Andres

Little by little I discover more things about culture, but it is a complicated process. There are aspects of culture that are easy to explore and keep in mind, such as language, food, clothing, vacations and holidays … but getting deeply into culture is a long and difficult process. Discover beliefs, values, ideals of beauty … in general, those aspects of culture that belong to the interior of people. I really enjoy and would like to meet more local people, to be able to reach those aspects that are invisible, and really explore the culture in all its essence, but in turn, the language barrier is a problem. There are many barriers that partly prevent my goal of making this new culture part of me, but little by little they break. 

Last Sunday, I went with Piotr my mentor, to an English Club that organized Green Forest in a cafe, where I had the opportunity to meet many local people and their views on different topics. The girl who organized the event handed out a photo of a person/group of people to each of the participants, and we had to ask each other if the person in our photo for them was good or bad. It was a really enriching activity because the topics that were exposed were mostly related to the Church, LGBTI people, charity, politicians … so it opened my vision about how Ukrainian culture affects these issues. Thanks again to my mentor who is great, for discovering such enriching events !!

Also during these weeks, we are having a photography workshop, both production and postproduction, which is helping us explore our own tastes and increase our creativity, which is really amazing for me because capturing reality in audiovisual format is something that I  would love to work in the future, so planting seeds in my knowledge in this field, I love it.

Now I have been officially living here in Lviv for a month, and the streets are full of colors, sensations, and smells of Christmas, and it has been here when the feeling of nostalgia towards my house, my city, and the people closest to me, has increased, but I am really happy to have the opportunity to enjoy these dates in a city as beautiful and different as Lviv. Anyway, I’m looking forward to coming home and telling you how my experience is being here and bringing all the energy this city is giving me.

The less I have, the more I want to give – Francesca Rossi

This is a concept that seems to me to be present in the minds of the Ukrainian people I have had the pleasure of meeting. 

By the type of person I am, I have always done a bit the same: I am not happy if I do not share, do not offer or do not give. 

The big difference, however, is that I, in Italy, believe I have and have had more of what people have here.

More than once in Italy, during lazy afternoons, I offered food to those who needed it, but here two women who sold food on the street, once in the center and once in this district, have brought me fruit, without accepting the money I offered. And in a fraction of a second, a battle was born within me in which I did not know whether to accept or not. But I accepted because I saw that they were doing it with the heart and not just to ask for money.

Being here, I opened my mind and heart more. Seeing so much generosity from those who do not have, I wondered why I am so selfish not to do more. 

I can explain myself better with a practical example: in Biella, my hometown, I helped those who knew I needed help, knowing those people perhaps for years, even if only having met them a few times. I started, so to speak, to join the group, after meeting a person belonging to that group, so I could learn more about the stories and help as I could. And I never dared to help anyone directly, who I didn’t know. Here, instead, influenced by the generosity shown to me by acquaintances and not, I did something concrete for the first time. 

I would like to point out that I tell it not out of pride, but to make it clear how much I have changed and how much this country has changed me: I was in a pizzeria eating with a friend and in a table next to us there was a homeless person with a glass of water in front of him that was brought for free by a waiter. We had our pizza in front of us: big, appetizing and steaming. And at that moment I really realized how unfair life is sometimes and how heartbreaking it is to see at your side someone who doesn’t have, while you have. And especially if it’s food. So, without even thinking about it, I called a waiter and asked him if the man had ordered something to eat, and to his “no” as an answer, I turned around and put on the table half of my remaining food, on a plate. 

That man’s eyes were like a punch in the stomach for me because they were a thank you, but inside me, I felt bad knowing that who knows how many other times I have not done such a gesture. I know that it is the drops of water that fill a vase. I know that life is unjust. I know that those who have always want more, and those who have not to remain silent and watch. So I can not understand the selfishness of people, me first, who are silent to watch, entering a store without considering people out to ask for money to feed themselves or those they love, and after coming out with packages full of double clothes, triple, which maybe do not even use. 

I don’t understand people’s selfishness when they judge who is on the street saying phrases like “why don’t you look for a job” when they don’t know the situation for themselves. 

But I noticed this more in Italy, where I have not heard anyone talk about how lazy and idle people are and do not want to start looking for work. And I hope I don’t hear it again because no one has the right to speak if they don’t know a wide range of people in that situation.

Obviously, as for everything, you have to start from the small, to get to a situation that can be defined as “decent, livable”. 

Speaking of me, I can say that I have started, although I can do much more. I hope that this will spread more and more and that each of us will do internal reasoning and that this idea of selfishness that corrodes us will go away. Do we really need everything we take? What can we do for those who don’t have it?

We open our hearts, we open our minds and above all, we open our eyes to see what we can do for others.

After all, a man who falls gets up more easily if there are so many hands that meet him. Am I the only one who believes that?

The nomadic blues – Paul Lorentz

Sometimes, I wonder where did I leave it all behind.
It’s been a few years now that I’m living this nomadic experience that has become my life. I can’t seem to stay more than a few months in the same place. My time in Ukraine, far from being a short interlude in between a continuous symphony, is actually the longest period of time I will have stayed in the same place for years. In total, during the last 3 years, I have moved 9 times, not including the times I was desperately looking for refuge outside of my own ‘home’.

It started from just a city to another, but the more time passes, the more I increase the distance. It’s not even necessarily a geographic distance. It can be the impossibility to travel to visit and maintain regular contact with your close friends (or, sometimes, who used to be your close friends), being for time, money or any other reason. Because it’s hard to relate to a universe you no longer are in, and sometimes because reminiscences of that universe just hurt you further, so you prefer just avoiding the pitfall. Because so many things you enjoy so much are simply not an option to you: having a cat, wandering around looking for a book that you either would enjoy reading or let age on a shelf…

Sacrifices you make are not necessarily immediately obvious. Time erodes the relations you had with your friends, slowly draining them further away until you notice you barely know each other anymore. At no point can you identify a rupture, as it is a rift slowly nibbling your inner sphere. I have been drifting so far away from what are now the considerations of my friends -salary increases, buying a house and having a child, that sometimes when I meet people that used to be very close to me, we simply have such a hard time to communicate. Most often, we have to go through a phase of creating a pantomime of conversation, making it a double monologue where neither of us really understands what the other is talking about, because we navigate 2 parallel universes, before finally finding a personal middle ground. We are trying somehow to create a buffer zone in which we can try to get closer little by little, like two foxes who would turn around, breathe the air and hope to perceive the familiar fragrance of the other’s personality.

And of course, the people you would relate the most to, alike nomadic people, are also using this very same pattern of superficial exchanges. I feel like wide atoms colliding with each other, sometimes pairing for a few microseconds, only to spin further on.

And every time you leave again, you know this very same mechanism will apply again. To the people, you met and you got close to. To the people, you will meet next. So you start enclosing yourself, barricading the way to others as you don’t want them to get in only to get out with a part of you. You feel like an egocentric animal, avoiding intimacy as much as possible. You can literally perceive the fracture between you and the surrounding in your daily life, and you feel really at home neither in your own city or in your selected country. You have alienated yourself, without any perspective of really returning anymore.

Loneliness is just the one thing you are used to. With a cigarette, of course.

I feel stretched between two extremities, wanting to have my inner place to go back to, and at the same time knowing I still have so much to explore. Feeling more French than ever since I am abroad, and at the same time unable to identify what is my identity as French. I can feel it vanishing, as I integrate the norms of other cultures, becoming a conglomerate of different perceptions. It can become a real struggle to define which part is mine, trying to build an identity out of comparison instead of identification.

Don’t get me wrong: it is also amazing to put into question your cultural norms. But it implies such a

dislocation to define yourself in that cluster of whirling perceptions of society, instead of simply relying on a predetermined common background. It is the dismantlement of your former self, to patch it up with unlikely pieces.

It feels like looking for the exit of a labyrinth, only to realize you lost access to the entrance when you reached it.

 

cover credits: unsplash.com/Mantas Hesthaven

Life is a never ending class – Sarah Azevedo

We had some snow during the last week in Lviv. It reminded me of home, of my mountains in Les Vosges that I miss from time to time. It’s been a month and a half since I first arrived in Ukraine and I already lost count of all the things I have accomplished in the last weeks.

I had the chance to organize my first project: a linguistic and intercultural meeting in a vegan café (the Om Nom Nom). Around fifteen persons came, and I was very pleased with the results. We exchanged a lot; I met a lot of new people coming from divers’ horizons and it made me want to do it again. Besides that, I keep giving French classed every Friday and working with children, even if it is a challenge, represents something new to me that I am very happy to be discovering. 

Beyond that, I’m learning a big number of new things every day. We started getting Ukrainian courses, something we’ve been waiting for for weeks now and to be honest, it is even more complicated than I thought it would be. But being able to finally read the Cyrillic alphabet, understand some sentences, some words, give me a feeling of accomplishment I hadn’t felt in a long time. I also was able to participate in some workshops, one was related to the concept of digital storytelling and through this project, I started learning how to use an editing software, which is something I was waiting for impatiently (the media aspect of the project is one of the main reasons I wanted to participate). I am also starting to get to know the concepts of photography and photo editing with Lightroom. Even if photography isn’t my main goal during the project, I am very happy to have the opportunity to learn it and develop skills in this field.

In a more informal way, I had the opportunity to learn how to cook a couple of Ukrainian dishes: Varenykys (Ukrainian dumplings with mashed potatoes, meat and/or mushrooms) and Bortsch (an amazing beetroot soup) which were both great (probably because they were cooked under the oversight of Katya, a Ukraine native who cooks amazingly. I’ll get back to you with more details when I will try to cook them myself.) I also went to a tango dance class with some friends which I really liked. I reminded me of my childhood when I used to take dance classes. I am thinking of getting back to it maybe in the next months. 

I realize that I do things here that I would have never even thought about in France. Like going to a private hammam during the evening for the modest sum of seven euros per person, a thing that would have maybe been five times more expensive in France. I open myself to new opportunities here because, as a stranger and a volunteer, I am offered a lot of choices, ideas of things to do or implement. A lot of people that I meet wish to get to know me and my culture better, that we spend some time together to talk, to create things together and therefore propose to go out and to discover things a lot more that If I was in France. Because of this privilege and the rule that I set to myself not to say no to any opportunity, I have a lot of occasions to do things I would never do at home.

I am also learning a lot of things about myself, how I handle pressure, responsibilities, how to live alone in a different country than the one I grew up in. The human experiences I am living right now is deeply changing me, thanks to the skills I am acquiring every day, but also thanks to the life experiences I discover as time goes by.

If I go ahead with this step, I can’t even imagine how many new experiences I can have – Francesca Rossi

The snow has finally arrived! I didn’t expect it so early, I thought it would come later, but the snowy Ukrainian landscape I have to admit it’s something spectacular. And even this period of time has been full of activity and new experiences and every day that passes, I am more and more content to be here.

The Italian day, organized only among the “colleagues” of the office passed between Italian music and polenta, cooked by Luca, the Italian volunteer, taking me back to an environment halfway between before and during, a disconcerting mix, if you can say so, but it was a nice dip in the past. And speaking of dives, how can I not mention the evening in the sauna, in a place reserved only for us, without other people, with food and music and a total price with which in Italy you could only pay two pizzas.

I also passed on to me the experience that I saw pass to all the migrants that since 2011 my family and I have followed in the reception centers, as regards the residence: hours spent sitting and waiting, always accompanied by at least one organizer of the project, trying to keep the place in line, seeing people passing in front of it and returning home twice without having concluded anything. Ironically, the time I spent there, in the immigration office, is nothing compared to what other people normally have to go through. And I have to say that it made me especially enter the office, answer questions, take pictures and take fingerprints (a difficult process moments before the delivery of the document, since I had cold hands for the outside temperature, but it went well in the end).

Last week I and all the other volunteers started the Ukrainian lessons and I was looking forward to it! It’s strange now, to go around the street and try to decipher the alphabet in the billboards, in the writings of shops and in the various sentences written on the tram.
I can’t forget to mention the youth talent, with a jury, where I could see and better understand the Ukrainian culture, by young people, with traditional dances and songs, acting and various exercises. On this occasion, I was in charge, together with all the others, of taking pictures of the event and I am really happy to have started this project finally, having wanted to do it from the first day I arrived here. The evening ended with a pizza-based dinner in the restaurant-pizzeria Celentano, which is really famous here and to which many pizzerias are dedicated, something that I never imagined.

What can I say, if I go ahead with this step, I can’t even imagine how many new experiences I can have and how much more I can open my mind and my eyes, but I’m v anxious every day to wake up and try to guess what will happen that day because it could v happen to everything. So now I can add “sauna” to the list of first experiences, after the first football game in a stadium and the first ride in the leaves.
I hope to spread my experience as much as possible, so there may be other people who can live wonderful experiences like this!