Friday, January 16, 2015

From Greece through Spain to Costa Rica.

Making life an adventure.

Dimitris keeps moving. He followed his inner need to go away and this brought him on the other side of the map, to live a fulfilling, simple life in an endless summer. 

Name: Dimitris Kiriakoulis
From:  Patras, Greece
To:      Valencia, Spain and currently Costa Rica
For:     adventure and experience

1. Your life before your decision to leave.
I left Greece in 2008, when I finished my studies. I studies Civil Engineer in Patras, where I was born. At that time, I was feeling generally stuck; I didn't know if I really wanted to work as an engineer but I did not have any exciting alternative option. I did not want to stay more in Patras (too small to keep me) but I did not have any idea of where else I could go.
So, I ended up to the idea of having a master's abroad, in Spain specifically, since I had started learning Spanish.
That time, my main interests were my studies, the Spanish lessons, drinks and trips. I was going out a lot but at the same places with same faces. I think this motivated me a lot to go abroad.

2. Your motivation to go abroad and advice of your close circle.
First of all, it was my thirst to meet new places, cultures and languages. I am very keen on foreign languages, like my mother is. Considering my genes, my mother is Danish and a lover of traveling and adventure that ended up in Greece. My family supported my decision. Most of my friends are not that ambitious and did not have much to advise me. I was always quite independent, a "survivor" that would find his way by himself.

3. How did you choose the country and the city.

I chose Spain for master studies, due to the language. Considering the fees, the requirements and the life cost, I chose Valencia. I did not think about it quite in depth, I just wanted to leave. Then, I lived in different cities before I ended up in Madrid, fall in love and leave again; this time at the other side of the Atlantic.
The reason I chose Costa Rica... The tickets were cheaper than other nearby destinations. Secondly, it seemed to be a small country, easy to explore and adapt to. After we came, everyone suggested that the best place to work is Tamarindo. And that's where we went.

4. What scared you in all this change?
The first time I changed country to go to Spain, things were more difficult. I was feeling worried because things were uncertain. My basic fears where first the money and second failure.
After the first job I found, fears and doubts faded away. Things were getting better and I was more self-confident. Traveling to America was an easier decision since I was more experienced but also because I had a partner with me, encouraging each other.

5. Your first impressions.
Valencia is a classic Spanish/European city. It's a nice city, well maintained but nothing extraordinary. In regards to my impressions of the equator (Costa Rica/ Panama), they were really strong and intense. A different continent, with different people, habits, climate... Everything was different. We left Madrid a morning with 10 degrees, to land after 2 days in San Jose with 35 degrees! It is funny that since then, 2 years now, I have seen no winter! I haven't worn a jacket! Same in Panama; a real paradise! Different colors, images, waters, people. Generally, I could say that the last two years in America have given me stronger images than the rest of my journeys together.

6. The people.
After 5 years in Spain, I realized that Spanish people are culturally very similar to Greek. This made me feel very comfortable. On the other hand, people in Costa Rica are totally different from usl and that is the most interesting thing.
I also realized the intense difference between Europeans and Americans. All those years of social friction and fermentation have given to Europeans this heavy cultural heritage, that enables them to have a different understanding and worldview.
Other than this, it is impressive how different the people are in daily aspects of life; behavior, speech, food, habits and many more.

7. What have you been doing for a living?
A lot of things since I left Greece.
In Spain: teaching Greek, teaching English, building constructions, driver, sales call center, translator in an international company, usher in the Cirque de Soleil. Teaching English was the most fulfilling job I had so far.
In Costa Rica: Cook in a pizzeria, delivery, assistant photographer, and barman in the same hotel where I currently work as receptionist.
In Panama: cook and private driver.

8. What do you love t most and something that you do not like.
What I love the most: the sea, the endless summer, tropical fruits, simple and warm people, multi-ethnicity, easy rhythms, that I can go to work barefoot, my colleagues and the name of the Village ("Tamarindo" is a tropical fruit, delicious as a juice or sauce).
Something that I miss is the olive oil, the olives and the olive trees, the fresh cheese, the oregano etc... Here, the basic food is rice, beans, mapa, corn and fruit.

9. What does Greece mean for you at this point of your life.
Now, Greece for me means holidays, family, friends and acquaintances. Every time I get back to Greece I reconnect with my beloved people. It is also an opportunity to refresh the language. I believe that the Greek language is the most important asset and privilege of being born Greek.

10. What do you think about going back?
Of course I would like to go back in Greece at some point. I think that under good circumstances, Greece is one of the best places to live. After I get tired of traveling, I would like to go back and live in a small Ionian island, like Ithaca, and start a little there. I don't know what this will be, but I believe that all this collection of experiences, ideas and work can result into something good in the future.
Of course I realize how impossible this is under the current circumstances in Greece, but I want to be positive and believe that it will not be always like this. I hope in a few years things will get better and returning will be a better option.

11. What does "home" mean to you.
Home is where I have friends and people I love. Wherever I feel familiar and warm, any time I get back. Home has been everywhere I have lived and had experiences but also the places that I have not been yet but they wait for me for me to discover them and love them.
Of course I feel Greece more familiar than Costa Rica, but my feelings for Greece do not come from the history books, my Greek DNA and other nationalistic views. They come from my childhood memories, from moments that marked my life, the language we share and can always use with great ease.

In my view, if you want to feel part of a country, you should be able to speak fluently the local language. You should try to get the accent and get used to the expressions, the slang, the vulgar words, the proverbs... to learn to think and if possible to dream in this language. Then everything is easier.

12. Where do you see yourself in the future.
I wish I knew! (And that's an honest reply!)

[ Photos provided by Dimitris ]

Monday, November 17, 2014

From India and Barcelona to London

Teaching in a Primary British School

Anjali is practicing a job that is fulfilling for her, combining love for children and passion for teaching. She teaches but also learns from little children in a primary school in UK's capital city. 
Read her thoughs and views on what she does and where she lives.

Name:  Anjali Pamnani
Age:     26
From:   India (born in Barcelona)
To:       London, UK
For:     Primary Teacher (3rd grade)

1. Where do you come from and where have you lived. 

I am of Indian origin but was born and brought up in Barcelona. I have lived in Barcelona, Milan, Chennai, Coventry, and London.

2. Your basic academic background and interest.

I went to an American International school in Barcelona which I absolutely loved. The school was still small and everyone was so united. I then pursued a career in Advertising and Public Relations. This degree opened my eyes to how vast and complex the media world is. It was fascinating! After my degree I decided to go to India where I did a course called the Youth Empowerment Programme. Through this 1 year course I travelled and taught in several local schools. It was during this course where I discovered my passion towards teaching and education. That is why, 2 year after India I decided to get my teacher certificate in the UK where I am now currently teaching a year 3 class.

3.  Your motivation to live abroad and the country you’ve chosen. 

I love travelling.  But living abroad is not the same thing as travelling. What truly fascinates me about living in a new city is how new everything is. The learning is simply exponential. By stepping out of our comfort zone we become more alert and observe as much as we can in order to understand how to survive in the city. Ultimately, moving to a new city means making that city home, even if it is just for a short period of time. The world is huge, there are so many places to see, how can we just limit ourselves to living in one city our whole life? There is simply so much to learn and see and do and experience!
I was always very curious about living in London. It’s such a buzzing city and so close to home too. Perfect for an adventure.

4. Your job. What do you do. 

I am currently a year 3 (7-8 year old children) teacher in London. London is a very interesting city to teach in: the classes are filled with so many diverse cultures that it truly makes the whole teaching experience very unique. A teacher in the UK is expected to teach all of the subjects: from English to Science to Physical Education to Art.

5.  The reason you chased this job. 

My job is my passion. I used to work in marketing before I started my current job and although I did enjoy it, there was something missing. When I travelled to India I discovered how much I loved to teach and what an amazing profession it is. It is one of the few professions in the world that you know that every single day you are making a difference in the life of at least one child.


6. The class. The children, their age and the atmosphere.

My kids are lovely. I have a very culturally dynamic group of 7 and 8 years olds. They all come from different backgrounds and cultures but the blend is absolutely lovely. It’s very interesting to observe how despite their differences there are so many similarities. What I find most fascinating about teaching these children is that you can already project how the personality of these children will be when they grow up. 

7. Something priceless about this job. 

The minute you see how a child learns a new concept. The minute you see that smile flash across their face and they’re so excited because they understand what you’ve taught them. The minute a child comes up to you and gives you a hug; they truly know how to make you feel special.

8. …and the most difficult thing about it.

The most difficult thing is reaching out to the needs of each child. The education in the UK believes in an inclusive education where children with special needs are in mainstream schools. It is difficult to bring out the potential of each child when there are so many needs in a classroom. But with the support of several teachers and different strategies, we all do our best to make sure each child makes progress.
Another challenge rather than difficulty about this job is that you’re always being watched. Whether you are aware of it or not, there are always 2 little eyes looking up to you. A role of a teacher is not only to teach but to also live up to the principles and values that you want your children to have. What makes it challenging is that you must always show yourself at your best, regardless the obstacles you have to face. Teachers are role models for children, if I expect my children to behave in a certain way and imbibe certain values, then I must be the first one to practice them.

9. An unforgettable moment in the class. 

Uff so many! The day I played a song to the children and the next day they had learnt it. The day one of my most able children in maths wanted to miss his playtime so that I could teach him a new addition strategy. The day a parent told me that their child really looks up to me.  It’s the small things that truly touch your heart.

10. What children get most excited about. 

Children love learning new things. They love to learn songs that are relevant to them and explore the world of animals. They simply love to use their most creative imagination and write an adventure story. They get excited with anything that looks fun and is colourful. They’re so innocent, it’s really sweet.

11. Your personal highest value of education.

I truly believe that everyone has a right to an education. Education doesn’t only mean knowing how to add numbers or write stories or learn facts. I believe it is equally important to teach children how to be good human beings. It is hence extremely important as a teacher, that we are role models.

12. The hardest thing to get used to in London. 

The transport. It takes way too long to get from one place to the other. Public transport is also so unreliable. And the people in the public transport. Everyone walks in their own little bubble and nobody really cares when they bump into you.

13. People of the city in 3 words. 

Fighters, cold, accommodative.

14. Your furthest dream. 

Realistic: start a school.
A little unrealistic: to work for the UN.

15. Your personal definition of “home”

Home is where you have people that you can call family. A place where friends become family and family becomes friends. Home is where you heart smiles and feels light. Home is a place where you feel that you can be you and nothing else matters.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dance as science and way of life

Exploring movement mechanics and different cultures 

Christina has been involved in the dance field many years now, by perfotming and studying as well as conducting research in movement mechanincs. 
After Greece and London, she now lives in Amsterdam, building up on her own movement methods and doing sessions for dancers, athletes and amateurs. 

by Aqvilon

Name:   Christina Mastori
Age:      24
From:   Athens, Greece
To:       Amsterdam, the Netherlands
For:      Movement & Bodywork workshops and sessions

1. Your basic education and interest.

With dance and movement exploration being my paramount interest I studied Dance, Sports and Exercise Science at Roehampton university in London, UK with a focus on performance biomechanics and injury prevention training.

I continued my studies with a masters in Dance Science, from Trinity Laban conservatoire of Music & Dance in London,UK where I focused on Neuroscience, Somatics & Physiology.

2. You and dance. The start and the development of this relationship. 

I started training in classical ballet from my early childhood and it didn’t take long for me to start exploring contemporary dance techniques as well.
At the university I concentrated in a partnering dance form called Contact Improvisation where touch and physical laws such as gravity, momentum,inertia, etc are the main principles.
As it happens frequently with dancers, I had a number of injuries that prevented me from dancing for extended periods of time. For that reason I decided to study the mechanics of movement and explore the variety of possibilities that the human body offers.

3. London. How long did you stay and what did you do. 

I was born in London, therefore my connection with the city was already strong. But during my adult years I stayed there for 4.5 adventurous years. I studied, met people, generally enjoyed myself to the fullest and it definitely re-shaped my point of view for the world.

4. The most important thing you took from London. 

The feeling of being able to be yourself and express your ideas and opinions freely. Individuality is always strongly encouraged!

by Aqvilon

5. Amsterdam. The most exciting thing about it.

A very multi-cultural city I would say. You have the chance to meet people from numerous parts of the world. Share your ideas and even some traditions. After spending some time here you have a small but useful knowledge of more than 4 languages that you normally wouldn’t learn, in any other case.

6. Your motivation to change city once again. 

Connecting with people and experiencing different cultures. Opening yourself to new possibilities.

7. What do you try for in this city.  Or what do you do. 

I have recently started my own practice and I am collaborating and sharing the space with an Art Healer.
 I am teaching body awareness and movement refinement through bodywork and movement sessions. I also offer a kinetic training and biomechanics programme designed for athletes and dancers that want to understand their bodies and enhance their exercise performance.

8. How would you like to personally contribute in the dance sphere and the human-dance interaction.

I am interested in assisting people re-connecting with their bodies, re-gaining balance and control while moving more ergonomically. It is very fascinating to see people exploring their movement possibilities through personal expressive dance.

9. Your greatest achievement so far.  Or the most intense memory.

I could consider an achievement being able to follow my dreams and interests while traveling and exploring multiple parts of our world. But I would definitely not take the whole credit for it.
Almost every memory on stage is intense for me. Performing is a strong mental and physical experience that activates your survival instincts.

10. In what way dance may have cure dynamics? 

When you are dancing it’s because you are eager to move. It’s a creative act which engages you in a number of ways; physically, emotionally, instinctively,etc. Therefore, dance could be considered more of a holistic approach than any other kind of physical therapy, in the form of exercise repetitions. Moreover, when you are dancing you become aware of your movement possibilities and limitations. You pay more attention on how your body feels and you become more able to identify problematic areas that cause discomfort and tension. This is happening for the simple reason of exploring your movement potentials and enriching your movement “vocabulary”.

11. Have you developed your own methods?

Yes. During my masters degree I started developing a neuro-movement programme based on the effects of touch and sensory awareness called Somanatomics. In my practice the main focus is given on the feedback that you receive from your body when you move. In order to get rid of all the habitual patterns that may cause discomfort in your every day and stop you from experiencing your life fully. We develop these habits in order to cope with the fast pace of our lives and we end up using our bodies automatically. We wake up, change our clothes, brush our teeth and walk to work in the same way everyday. With bodywork and movement sessions you retrain your mind to control the muscle activity, consciously engage and relax muscles. To achieve this you will have to learn how to take a step back, observe yourself and understand the signals you receive from your body.

12. Artists and situations that inspire you. 

I will say that most of the dancers,athletes that I have met have inspired me. Due to their strong will, athletic excellence, their discipline and achieving effortless visual results while being in serious physical strain. I would say that Sylvie Guillem has definitely raised my expectations for dance performance and Pina Bausch has planted a seed for individual expression and pushing my physical and mental limits further.
Thomas Hanna and his revolutionary work in the Somatics field have also been a major influence and inspiration for my work.
And I find the neuroscience findings and applications thrilling and they have proven to be a great impetus for me.

13. The most difficult thing to get used to in the Netherlands.

That would be the lack of delicious vegetables and fruits, but that is an expectation you give up when you leave Greece!
Another difficult thing to get used to would be considering as “the sea” any kind of dark coloured water.

14. Where do you see yourself in the future. 

Not easy to say. I would like to keep experiencing new cultures and keep my possibilities open.

15. Your personal definition of “home”

Home is anywhere I feel comfortable, happy and I am able to do the things that I love. A place that challenges me and offers me new experiences.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Erasmus in Spain

Castellón de la Plana, Valencia, Spain

Jrisa was looking forward to going for Erasmus abroad, some years now. She took the opportunity to live alone for the first time and create a little new life before she goes back in Greece. 
Here are her impressions and pictures. And God save the Erasmus.

Name:     Jrisa Kommata
Age:        21
From:      Piraeus, Athens
To:         Castellón de la Plana,     Valencia, Spain
For:        6 months Erasmus  in Universidad Jaime I

1. Which were your top options and why you chose Castellón de la Plana?

All my options were in Spain because I've started studying Spanish and I really liked it. My first options were Sevilla and then Granada. Castellón I didn´t knew it before I come here and I chose it since I wasn´t accepted by first choices... But finally I think that I made the right choice.


2. Your motivation for following the Erasmus program.

I wanted to follow the erasmus program even before I got in the university.  I think that is a very good oportunity to meet new people, “discover” yourself, new cultures, learn new things and exercise the languages you know.

3. The first difficulties.

The first 3 weeks, maybe month, it was really difficult. Fortunately, I wasn't alone. I had met in Greece two more girls going to the same city, we just went for a coffee and booked the plane tickets together. I traveled with one of them and the first four nights we stayed in a hotel. The days after, we were searching for a home and we found one, not so close to the university, but in the centre. In the begging we were living with the guys from the previous semester for about one week. 
It was quite difficult for me, because back in Greece I live with my parents and here I had to organise everything about the house and also about the money, by myself. But as the days were passing the things were getting better. Regarding socialization, things were very easy. The guys that we were living together for a little, helped us a lot and we also met some Greek guys who also helped us to get used to the language, as well.

4. Your house. What do you see from your window?

Well, from my window I don't see anything interesting. Only the opposite apartment. But the house is really comfortable and the living room has 2 big windows, so it's very bright. This is what I like the most.

5. Your academic field and basic interest.

In Greece I study Social Anthropology, but here I study history and philosophy.

Spanish night

6. Your impression of the university.

The university is really good. There are buildings for each department separately, plus the building of the library and another one for sports. Also, the lessons are very good and the professors very helpful with us!

7. The food. 

The food here is really perfect! Paella (rice with barbecue meat or vegetables) is their traditional plate and I really like it.They have  some cheeses and jamón, which are a kind of cold cuts. They have also seafood, potatoes (patatas bravas) which has a sause (ali oli) with garlic and olive and the tortilla which is like our omelette. 

8. The people of the city.

The spanish people are very kind, they will help you with whatever you might ask and they are always happy! There is only one problem, the language. Most of them they don't speak English so you have to speak Spanish to communicate with them and this was a big problem the first days here.

Spanish men playing Greek rempetiko

9. Erasmus people.

The majorities of the erasmus people are French and German. There are people from everywhere
(France, German, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Finland, Turkey, America and Latin America, Austria, Australia).
Most of our friends are from the erasmus programme, not natives.

10. The best and the worst thing about the city.

The best thing about the city is that is a small city and you don't need to use the means of transport, but because of that, sometimes you don't have so many choices of doing new things.

11. A Spanish habit you have almost adapted.

Spanish people, wherever they go out for a long time, they have  a home-made sandwich to eat with them (bocadillo). I think that this is the Spanish habit I have adopted here.

12. How do you see young Spanish people face the economic crisis.

I think that the young Spanish people is like the young Greek people. Of course they are worried for all this situation, but they don't debilitate and they are trying to have fun, even they don't have enough money. I'd also add here that the life here,generally, is cheaper than Greece.

13. The most important thing you have gained from this experience, so far.

Everything. The friends I have made, the places I've seen... 
I believe that this experience made me stronger about learning how to live alone.

14. Where do you see yourself in the future.

Travelling and healthy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

University books and tennis rackets

Athlete and student in USA

At the age of 18, Eleanna left her country to go to the US for studies. A young tennis player, always attracted by challenge, shares views and experience about her new start.

Name: Eleanna Fulop 
Age: 18 
From: Athens, Greece 
To: Springfield, MA 
Purpose: Studies and tennis training

1. Your life before leaving for the USA.

Before leaving for the US, I was still in school and played tennis on a championship level. I wanted to leave and thus considered the US a very important opportunity for my life. The US is the only country where you can combine studying and doing your sport on a good level. Namely, to keep improving in the sport you have been doing many years on a competitive level and study at the same time. Moreover, it’s a country that provides scholarships to athletes. This is a basic reason I chose to come here. I had the possibility to choose among several universities offering a scholarship for me to study in the US and play in the tennis team. 

2. The first days there.

Emotions were mixed during the first days. First of all, I felt sorrow and insecurity because I left my family, my friends, and my boyfriend behind, but simultaneously, I felt excited about such a big change. I was anxious whether I’d be able to do everything on my own but also very eager to cope with this great challenge that “landed on my doorstep”. During the first days, for about 2 weeks, my mother was luckily with me and this helped me a bit since I didn’t have to swim through deep water right away. But as soon as she left, it was rather very hard for me to get used to both her absence and the absence of the rest of my family that I would get to see after 4 months.
When it comes to accommodation, I didn’t need to look for a place. I reside in university premises and this was included in the scholarship I received.

3. Your daily life…

Every morning, I have lectures that I am required to attend, then there’s a small break to eat, rest and Skype with people, and later at noon I have training until early afternoon. Some days it’s tennis training, while others it’s gymnastics. After I’m back from training, I eat and study. In the first semester, I used to watch matches of other sports in the university over the weekends, and sometimes I went out to dinner and shopping or to the gym. Now that the season is over for most sports, I get some more rest in the weekend. Our season is also about to begin so we will be travelling to matches in the weekends, thus I don’t think I will have much free time to do things.

4. You and tennis. What does it mean to you and what is your biggest goal?

Tennis is a part of my life. I cannot imagine my life without it. I love it very much and I don’t believe I will ever quit playing. By no means am I pursuing a professional level, but I continue training hard on a championship level. I want to improve more and more every day and reach my limits. I enjoy hard training and prefer it over a match. I can be in the court playing tennis for hours on end.

5. What’s the thing you like the most in Springfield?

I would say that Springfield is a weird area. Even though it’s one of the biggest cities in Massachusetts and full of universities, there aren’t so many things to do there and, as most American cities, it is unsafe. I have not discovered the thing I like the most about Springfield. I guess I could say that I get very excited by the fact that I see little squirrels around the campus as if they were pigeons in Athens. This could be the thing I like the most after all!

6. What was the toughest thing to get used to?

I would say that the toughest thing to get used to was the absence of the people I love from my daily life. I was, and still am, very close to my family so it was very hard to get used to their absence. Even now, after 5 and a half months of being here alone, there are times when I cannot realize that I don’t see them daily; that they are so many miles away from me and I cannot see them no matter how much I want to. I had to wait until Christmas and now I have to wait until May when I complete the first year to go back and see them. 

7. Your favorite new habit or routine?

My favorite routine is my lessons. I am really excited about them and I think they’re very interesting. Plus, the fact that they are not in my native language makes it even more challenging to cope with them.   

8. What is it you see from your window?

Unfortunately, I live in the basement so I see the grass. There’s also a bush right outside my window but I also see the lower part of a building right across. Ok it’s not that bad… I don’t mind much.

9. Your favorite place in the city?

It’s a restaurant with very good Italian food. The US is not particularly popular for its nice and healthy food; hence the food served in the university isn’t the best quality. And since I am forced to eat it every day, a good meal will be something very exciting. Thus a restaurant with good food will become the favorite place in the city. 

10. Which are the most beautiful places you’ve seen so far in the US?

I think Boston is one of the most beautiful places in the US. It’s lovely! I was really excited and enjoyed it very much. It’s a place I could live in. Also, New York. Even though it’s a very boisterous city with so many people, it is really impressive on the first visit. Personally, I think you cannot live there for a long time. Boston is much better. 

New York

11. What do you miss the most?

What I miss the most is my family and my boyfriend. It’s very hard to get used to living away from those you love. But for better or worse, you need to make sacrifices in life and show the strength you have inside.

12. What are your thoughts about going back to Greece?

I haven’t thought about it yet. Whether I’ll go back to Greece or not… Time will show...

13. What is your biggest dream in life?

Tough question… Definitely, one of my dreams is to succeed in completing my studies and then do a master’s, somewhere in Europe perhaps. But I still don’t know what my biggest dream is…