It was a great first week (read about my first week in the first article). This week other STARS EVS Volunteers are doing their On Arrival Training with their Hosting organizations (It’s a compulsory training for all EVS Volunteers). I have to wait a bit. However, on the sunny side, the training will be conducted on the mainland, which means I’m heading to Malaga on the 4th of July for a week long On Arrival Training by the Spanish National Agency of Erasmus+ Programme.
So what did I do during the week? Let’s see…
I had a meeting with Professor Vincente of the Universidad de La Laguna on Monday. He’s one very active professor and very active in projects and hiking in general. He’s an active member in several organizations related to sustainable hike routes. The meeting was fruitful, even though he did not speak English; I got the essence of what he was proposing. He proposed brilliant ideas to participate in hiking activities and possible future collaboration and social participation, which is superb and interesting and very relevant to what I hope to achieve and gain from this project. The one that stood out was the revival of trading routes used by the locals (before industries, technology and globalization took over) as hiking routes. The concept of linking culture with tourism and involving the locals is just what I need!
I also met Bacha of Desaplatanate, an organization that organizes hikes with a focus on social and sustainable tourism. The organization is very active in the promotion of sustainable tourism with regards to hikes and also every active in organizing activities that help to promote and look after the environment. Hiking excursions are organized as a social event, but during the hikes, hikers are involved in picking rubbish and learning about the environment. A picnic at the end is often socially fulfilling. The organization uses this opportunity as well to take pictures and videos to promote the unique environment of hike routes, and promoting these hike routes on social media. The activities aim to make people and tourism to be conscious of the environment as well a way of conserving and minimizing the impact of tourism in the area. It was a good meeting and I look forward to doing some of these activities with the organization.
Empapate is an organization of about ten young men and women. My mentor and I met with them to collaborate on a possible activity. Lucky for us, the team had been planning a Photo Contest. After much discussion, we agreed on a two hour walk through La Laguna city. During the walk, participants are to take photos that capture the cultural essence of the city. The aim is to present La Laguna city as a culturally vibrant city, and not just a World Heritage Site. Its empowering to see young people take on the initiative to voluntary organize activities for young people. The group started in 2005 to give young people alternative leisure activities under the Cabildo de Tenerife (Island Government) framework in drug prevention, aimed at developing young people of the island by engaging them in alternative activities to consuming toxic substance during their leisure time.
Outside the meetings, I was able, with my mentor to do a tour of the La Laguna City with a tour guide from the information Office. La Laguna is a city swimming in so much culture and history, dating back to the 14th century, with a lot of Italian and Arabic influences over the years. This is evident in the building architecture, with Italian designs on the walls, inner courtyard ands Arabic inspired ceilings. This was possible, because the city was used a stop in the trading route from Europe to Africa. It was the first city built without a wall. It was usual then, to have a centre, with streets shooting off in all direction and walls at the boundary. La Laguna was built without walls. It is also interesting to note that some cities in South American countries were modelled after La Laguna. These historic buildings were built with volcanic rocks. The use of volcanic rock was a sign of wealth. A feature of these buildings that captures my attention, are the balconies in front of the house and also the ones facing the inner courtyard. There are two staircases; the bigger and grander, are for the owners. Smaller ones, usually at the opposite side, are for servants. Walking through these buildings is like walking through time. One can truly imagine what life was like back then for the people.
I spent the second week with the STARS project coordinator at her office. The colleagues are superb, friendly and welcoming. It was a comfortable space to learn Spanish and do work. Everybody tries to teach me a word or two everyday. Daily tasks involve, informal Spanish lessons, preparing and improving a power point presentation, learning about European Voluntary Scheme and project management. I enjoyed (and it certainly has increased my knowledge) learning about European Commission grants and project proposals, how to apply for grants, what makes a brilliant project and how these grants are accessible to countries outside of the European Union. It is interesting to note, that while, Solomon Islands and other countries cannot present a project proposal to the European Commission, it can through programme countries (countries in the European Union and European Commission) as partner countries to a project. However, it is not so easy to get grant approval, as it is very competitive.
Fatima and Moises are two interns, recent graduates of Universidad de La Laguna. Fatima is a budget guru. She has this excel sheet where she records each cent she spends during the day. Moises, is all about the food. I call him the eating machine (haha). Using Fatima´s love for excel and budgeting, they created an excel for me to write down what I spent in a day and on what item, as a way of finding out how much I spend in a week. At first, I wasn’t very keen on the idea. But after a week of writing down expenses (I filled out the excel on the day of the budget meeting in the Tranvia), I realised it has helped me understand better how much I spend on this and that. And with the limited monthly stipend, I am now more conscious on how I spend my allowance. I don’t want to run out of $$$ before the next allowance… Now that’s depressing…
I was able to try some very local dishes with the team on Friday. After work, we all went to this typical restaurant, built into a garage. I don´t really know the name of these fanatastic dishes, but they were very good, though I did not like a typical canarian desert. It’s like a sponge cake, but it tasted like raw eggs. That is the first time, I didn´t like something of the Canary Islands.
That´s basically my second week, full of meetings, meeting new people, getting to know the team, especially Moises and Fatima, and at the same time, finding time in the busy schedule to relax and enjoy good food, good company and peaceful walks along the beach. To finish, I did a presentation at Fundacion General de Universidad de La Laguna (my host organization) on the history, culture, my work and some interesting facts of the Solomon Islands. And I do hope I did my country justice with the presentation.
Till next time, Junita.