Friday, June 21, 2013

Volunteer in India

 Experiencing a different cultural reality

Anastasia left her job as a journalist for a while, to travel in spiritual India as a volunteer in a children teaching program. Having explored the Indian daily life, its bright and dark side, she came back with strong impressions and beautiful pictures, some of which she shares here. 

  Name:  Anastasia-Areti Gavrili
  Age:     24
  From:   Piraeus, Greece
  To:       Bangalore & Calcutta, India
  For:      Volunteer Program: 
            Street Children Teaching

      1. Your motivation to go in India as a volunteer.

“While working as a journalist over the past four years, I have written dozens of articles about poverty, human rights and all kind of social and economic problems that less-developed countries face. But my work was always done through a computer in a safe and comfortable office. 

I suddenly realized that I wanted to open my eyes and see the real world, discover a new culture and a different -and definitely more simple- way of life. I wanted to change my attitude in life, appreciate what was given to me and do something meaningful.”

2.     How long did you stay?

“I spent two months in India volunteering in two different programs. My visa was only valid for three months so I could not stay much longer. But there are volunteering programs that last over a year. And there is always need for help back there.”

3.     Where did you stay?

“During my first month I lived with a host family in a small house in Bangalore. I had to live as a true Indian… Sleep on the floor, eat with my hands and take a “bucket” shower, as I used to call it. When I moved to Kolkata I shared a room with other volunteers at a University facility, next to Mother Teresa's house. Being able to share and adapt is really important while in India.”

       4.The most impressive thing about India.

The colors! India is like a huge colorful canvas. Every corner looks like a unique work of art.”

5. The hardest thing to get used to.

“The images of children sleeping on the streets, walking barefoot and playing on piles of garbage. Eating rice and spicy carries for every meal was a big challenge as well.”

6.     What was your job?

“My job was to help children from the streets return to the regular schooling system and stay away from exploitation.  I used to spend 6 to 8 hour a day with 4-12 years old children, teach them English through creative methods and keep them occupied with art activities. I also undertook some simple renovation work in the schools like painting and tree planting in order to make their environment more welcoming.”

  7. How was the communication with the children?

“Like an imagination game. The children did not speak English so we had to be creative and find new ways to teach them.”

8. Some of the activities you did with the children.

“English lessons, games, drawing etc. One of the best days in my life was March 27th. It was the day we celebrated Holi Festival with the children and welcomed spring by throwing tones of color to each other.”

9.     The best memory of you as a “teacher”.

“One of my strongest moments there was my last day at school when some children wrote me beautiful goodbye notes.”

      10. The best way to spend the day in Kolkata, when not working.

“Get on a local bus and get off on Howrah Bridge. Follow the people carrying huge baskets full of flowers on their heads. At the East end of the bridge, the Mullik Ghat riverside you can see Kolkata's unbelievable lively and amazing Flower Market. When you manage to walk through the chaotic alleys find your way to Victoria Memorial monument. Walk in front of the Writers’ Building and end up at Mother Teresa's house. Don't forget to taste some delicious mangos! Enjoy!”

Flower Market


11. Is it really a different reality as they say?

“It feels like it is a different world. A spiritual and crazy place at the same time. You experience new tastes, sounds, religions…”

     12. Something that “we” think about India which is not true.

“Not all Indians are bad and dangerous. They might stare at you for hours and try to take pictures with you like you are the world’s biggest celebrity, but they are usually harmless”.

     13. The taste linked to India.

“Mango ice creams and freshly cut pineapples! I am not a big fun of curry…”

     14. People of India in 3 words.

“Religious. Curious. Calm.”


  15. What you will keep forever?

“My students' drawings, my love for India and Gandhi's quote: “Poverty is the worst form of violence”.

[Photos by Anastasia]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Studying Architecture in Torino

Una Greca in Italia

Maria was always sure about what she wants to do and never gave up chasing her dream. 
By the time she left Greece at her 18, she managed to find her balance 
between growing up and living alone.

 Name:  Maria Stergiou
 Age:      25
 From:   Piraeus, Greece
 To:       Torino, Italia
 For:      Architecture           in: Politecnico di Torino

1. The progress of your relationship with Torino.


"When I came here, everything was new and strange. It was too difficult for me to understand people and their culture, not because they are different from us-not at all-, but I was feeling like "detached" from my beloved city at a very young age. 
It was too early
However, I was observing the city (without admitting to myself that it was beautiful) and I started finding things to do that where making me happy, such as going on my bike for hours in the parks and hanging out with my friends, discovering bars and places. I was trying to make my new life similar to my old one and many times I achieved it. 
Now, I don’t know if I want to leave Torino. I love it. But every person that I love is in Greece or somewhere in Europe. I don’t know if I have to follow and who I want to follow."

2. In what way architecture changed your point of view?

 "It might sound silly, but architecture made me more sincere. With myself, with my relationship with the professors, with my parents, with my feelings. I was thinking: if I wanted to continue my studies in that unfamiliar city and spend my perents’ money, I had to decide if I really liked what I was doing. The only way to find it, was being sincere."

3. The hardest thing to get used to.

"The fact I didn’t have my family next to me, in every step I was doing. It was the first time I had to deal with everything on my own and I had to organize my life, my priorities and my desires. Discipline was too hard for me."

4. Your basic interest in the field.

"Architectural, eco-sustainable projects and restoration."

5. What would be your personal contribution in a better world through the art of architecture?

"Stop doing architecture! Or better, stop constructing. Architecture has not only to do with the concrete. Landscaping could be a more helpful way to make better this world. We need green, we need water, we need oxygen. We need our history and heritage. Restoration and renovation could be a solution."

6.International majorities in Torino.

 "Morrocans, Romanians, South-americans, Africans"

7. People of the city in 3 words.

" “Bon vivant”, competitive, superficial."

8. The song linked to your life there.

"“Love in Portofino”, Andrea Bocelli "

9. The taste.

"Fresh basilico and tomato."

10. The best thing to do alone in the city.

"Biking along the river, reaching the cliff and watching the whole city spreading in the horizon."


11. What is special about the University.

"The large number of workshops that give us the opportunity to practice on programs and become better at the presentation of projects."

12. Your new (Italian) habbit.

  "The Coffee, of course! And the “aperitivo” "

13. Your furthest dream.

"Become an upstanding architect and go back to Greece with my future family and work there. In an island maybe. Wherever near the sea."

14. The greatest thing you learned during these years in Italy.

"Patience, helping (me and the others) and loving whatever I am doing."

15. Your personal definition of “home”.

"Home is not only the house I was raised in anymore, but wherever I feel comfortable and full of love. Wherever someone tells me “Here, I prepared something for you to eat”. Wherever we talk for a while before we go to sleep and wherever the sheets smell like soap. Wherever there is someone waiting for me."