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  • Writer's pictureVoluntar inTransilvania

"Transpotting" in Sighisoara : A One year journey (part 3)

Summer : Learning how to recover after being knocked down/ its not how many times you get knocked down but how you choose to get back up

I would say summerwas probably the hardest time I had during my stay. A lot of things were not great for me and I struggled a lot. I think I was mostly upset and tired. And that's an important thing regarding volunteering. I feel like, doing a long term has a tremendous toll on you because you interact with people all the time whether it is work related or not. It is difficult to actually find time for yourself. I remember that one of the first pieces of advice I gave new volunteers was to never be afraid to take time and separate themselves from time to time.

During those times I really felt the need to be more in sync with myself and I wasn't really in party-mood all the time. The thing with this experience is that you can get wrapped up in so many things that you lose a sense of who you are and of what you are doing. So you have to be careful. Especially when you're staying for as long as I did. That's why I think the perfect long term period is between 6 to 9 months not more. I think by this time you can experience everything that you could possibly want while stayingsomehow fresh.

I was already exhausted emotionally and physically and we had a lot of work during those months. In August we had to prepare and host 2 summer camps for local kids - one from 7 to 9 and the other from 10 to 14 but we had to organize it since July. The themes were ecology and anti-bullying. It was a great learning experience because we had to come up with literally everything from the ideas, the schedule, the materials and even some choreo for the younger camp. This was also the time when I got an idea of the true meaning of teamwork.

I didn't know if I was ready to hear that level of honesty.

As a team we had our struggle, a lot of miscommunication, and arguing but I was really happy with the ending result because the kids were so receptive to what we did. It was also so good for me because I always felt somehow intimated by the idea of working with kids. They are unpredictable and will not hesitate to tell you if they like something or not. I didn't know if I was ready to hear that level of honesty. However, all of those fears were thrown out of the window when I saw their reactions to our activities. They were mostly grateful and it really warmed my heart. I was also so happy that I could connect to some of the kids despite the language barrier even though they could speak some english (for the oldest) but not fluently. It was fulfilling emotionally really but tiring.

Till this day, it is the most impactful thing I ever did in my life!

As a result, I felt the need of a break and that need was at its peak because I had to deal with some issues that affected me a lot. I was the only black person in the entire group and it would happen sometimes, that people would make insensitive jokes, or say inappropriate things to me. They did not mean to hurt me but it did anyway. The big problem is that I have had to deal withracism and comments like that since my arrival, from some volunteers or from locals. At thispoint, I was just tired and felt it was time for me to speak up and stand up for myself. I had aunorganized workshop about racism and discrimination issues in front of everybody fromcoordinators to volunteers. Till this day, it is the most impactful thing I ever did in my life and itwas so empowering. I felt so great because for the first time I actually stood up for what was right for me and asked for the respect that I should have had. And even if it only concerned a few people, I felt the need to express it to everyone so that I made myself clear. No moremiscommunication or misunderstanding about my boundaries.

Thanks again to my coordinatorsbut also the other volunteers that supported me through that. It meant a lot. I was really proudof myself at that moment. The workshop went well overall but I realized I had built up so muchfrustration and anger regarding that issue that I felt like a zombie after all. I did this workshopthree times in total because it was needed and I think as a minority myself It felt right for theassociation that I was the one talking about it and opening the subject. I'm in no way therepresentant of every black guy on the planet but it was important to make my point in theassociation. I was also inspired to speak up because of the many many injustices happening inthe US or in France at the time. It felt right. It knocked me down several times but I chose to get back up this time and take a stance.

On a lighter note, August was cool because the association had to welcome new volunteers to replace the ones that left since May. It was great to have new faces and people to connectwith. I also traveled a bit – not as much as I could but it was a good start- I went to Sibiu, Cluj, Alba Lulia and Transfagarasan with one of my roommates and two lovely volunteers-friend that we met earlierin the year. I alwaysremember that road.Absolutely spectacular. Immaculate.

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