My Salvadoran Story

How I Spent my ICS Volunteering Placement in El Salvador

2015 has already been possibly the best year of my life and I owe most of it to my volunteering experience in El Salvador.

How did it all happen? I finished university in July 2014 and moved back home as an unemployed graduate soon after. I considered myself lucky if some of my job applications even received a rejection letter. I always kept volunteering with ICS (International Citizen Service) in mind thanks to the recommendation of friends, and in October I finally completed the online form, the first step of a process that would be well worth it.

The background

Even though my group received pre-departure training, we knew barely anything about what our project would be like. The only certain piece of information was the name of the community that would host us: Santa Marta. It was the 8th of January when I flew from London to Houston and then San Salvador with the rest of my team, twelve volunteers in total.

Volunteering in El Salvador

Building the first walls.

The first few days were spent in the capital, perhaps to help our transition be more gentle. After a day or two of orientation, the Santa Marta volunteers joined us to get to know each other and talk about the project. Meeting the seventeen young Salvadorans we would be spending ten weeks working with was an interesting and awkward experience: communication was a bit fractured, especially since many of us knew Spanish only from Duolingo, if at all. Latinos are well-known for their friendliness though, but people from Santa Marta? They’re special. They share a history and a reality that unites them in unbelievable strength and passion to achieve their common objectives. In just a couple of days spent together in a hotel, our fellow volunteers made us feel welcome in their community, even before we reached and knew it.

Volunteering in El Salvador

The complete volunteering team and Progressio staff.

In those days we learned about the recent civil war that affected the country from 1979-1992, between the military of the Salvadoran government and the guerrilla groups that would become the present major left-wing party FMLN (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional). The war is over, but the feeling of conflict still hangs in the air, and many issues remain unsolved. While the rich and poor divide is still widespread, new problems have arisen, like gang criminality. Concerning poverty, the community of Santa Marta does not have access to running water, good paved roads or trash removal services and suffers from severe pollution. These are only some of the reasons our volunteer efforts focused around the environment.

Volunteering in El Salvador

The bio-construction coming to life.

The project

Our main project was the construction of an environmentally friendly reception centre for tourists on top of a small hill. This building is one step in the promotion and realization of the historical route of Santa Marta, aimed at remembering the brave guerrillas and the terrible consequences of the war on the community. Pretty much every day, from 8am until 5pm including a lunch break, we performed physical work under the heat of the summer Salvadoran sun. Collecting rocks and forming human chains to pass them up the hill became a much-dreaded activity after long, arduous mornings; carrying buckets of sand was probably my least favourite activity, but I learned to enjoy it once I managed to carry them on my head; digging with the pickaxe became a challenge against the strength of my arms; and the final decoration of the bio-construction was a welcomed inclusion of my artistic side.

Volunteering in El Salvador

The finished building.

These were not the only tasks: there was also digging, hauling water, cutting, collection of bamboo and plastic and glass bottles, the making of eco-bricks (and passing them up the hill too), the fixing of the path, and painting. And this was only our main project!

Volunteering in El Salvador

Horatio hauling water.

Complementary activities included talks in the school for children, talks for adults, a cleaning campaign, a radio spot and an eco-festival. Although it was not necessary that the whole group participated, each activity needed planning. It came to a point when I wasn’t even sure why I loved El Salvador so much, since 90% of our project was hard construction work; but then, again, I do know why.

The experience

As I mentioned, physical work every day can become monotonous. What really made the experience special was the personal achievements and knowledge acquired thanks to our fellow volunteers, host families and the whole community opening their doors and memories to us. Never would I have thought that 10 weeks would be enough to share and learn about culture, history, daily life, hopes and dreams. We learned to appreciate what we have by working alongside our new friends, who need to overcome many challenges to achieve their goals. Getting an education is often something we take for granted, but not so in El Salvador, where only one public university exists; physical work in the corn fields rules, so artistic careers are not valued; and making it as a woman is far more difficult, due to a prevalently sexist society.

Volunteering in El Salvador

Taking a break from the construction work.

Once in country, I realised how this, out of the other destinations offered by Progressio, was the perfect match for me. It fit with my Politics, Philosophy & Economics degree and finally allowed me to experience the practical side of learning, rather than feeling the frustration of not making any difference while I was studying. Living with host families gave us access to plenty of stories about the civil war and refugee times, and it is an honour to have contributed to the historical route of Santa Marta and to be able to share this story.

I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed the determination and strength of incredible people and learn from this unique experience, people who welcomed me in their home and whom I can call friends now. After my placement, I cannot recommend this experience enough, despite all the health issues and fatigue that may come with it, because that does not diminish the level of cultural depth it offers.

*Special thanks go to: ICS UK, the Progressio ICS staff in the UK and El Salvador that has made it all possible, the community of Santa Marta for welcoming us and making us feel at home, our facilitator Ana Maria for being an inspiration and an incredible woman, my fellow volunteers from the UK and Santa Marta, and our two great team leaders.

The blogs written by me and Progressio ICS volunteers of cycle 5:

El Salvador: Chickens, chuchos* and beautiful bright stars
El Salvador: Dear Diary – A Salvadoran Story: First Day in Santa Marta
El Salvador: Dear Diary – A Salvadoran Story: First Day of Work
El Salvador: My experience in the greenhouse
El Salvador: Our first week of work
El Salvador: Voices
El Salvador: My personal experience in the ICS volunteer programme
El Salvador: CoCoSi – Towards a sexually educated society
El Salvador: Eco-festival – A day dedicated to the environment and the community

One Thought A Day

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Hello, my kind readers!

Not too long ago I was inspired by the “one picture a day” challenge that people do sometimes. I wanted to do something similar, but with words. I originally started my One-thought-a-day project in November, but it didn’t get far: I kept up with it for five days and then completely forgot about it. In January I decided to pick it up again and follow it through for a least a month. In the end I did it consistently from 17 January to 1 March; I promise I haven’t cheated! Sometimes it was hard to come up with something to write down, but in general they are one liners written quite impulsively. As a consequence, a few aren’t necessarily things I strongly believe in or that make too much sense at a second reading. Also, some where inspired by the happenings of my days or events I attended.

Here are my thoughts-a-day.

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  1. 17/1: Whose idea was it, to need to depend on each other in this life?
  2. 18/1: We all have our mountain that we like to visit once in a while.
  3. 19/1: Everyone says to follow your dreams, but no one tells you how to be sure they’re the right ones.
  4. 20/1: If our conception of time was limited to the present, how many things would we get done. Take advantage of every second.
  5. 21/1: If I was a workaholic, I’d work a lot on the sofa.
  6. 22/1: It is brave of us to live knowing that eventually we will hurt people.
  7. 23/1: Without expectations our whole lives would be a surprise.
  8. 24/1: You shouldn’t be ashamed of the things you’ve done, because they made you who you are today.
  9. 25/1: Aim high, and if it doesn’t work out, you can always aim lower.
  10. 26/1: If we always acted impulsively, everything would unravel much more easily.
  11. 27/1: Live, create, live forever.
  12. 28/1: Waiting for it is not a way to make it happen.
  13. 29/1: Don’t let society’s standards define you; you can be whoever you want to be.
  14. 30/1: The fact that you don’t like what you see does not necessarily mean that it is wrong.
  15. 31/1: All of us get ourselves down once in a while, but good news is that, on the other hand, there will always be someone looking up to us and seeing the good.
  16. 1/2: Support from your loved ones will get you anywhere you want.
  17. 2/2: We are obliged to achieve the things we need, before the things we want.
  18. 3/2: Sometimes you’ll be affected by an action or a conversation and everything else will lose meaning – or maybe it didn’t have any in the first place.
  19. 4/2: You wouldn’t believe the difference a deep breath makes.
  20. 5/2: If you cannot express it with words, tell it with creativity.
  21. 6/2: You can be broken, but strong. The shell is just a measure of protection.
  22. 7/2: It doesn’t make any sense hanging out with people who don’t make you feel good about yourself.
  23. 8/2: It’s just life: if we don’t make the right turns, hopefully we’ll learn from our mistakes.
  24. 9/2: Truth is, if the truth hurts, I’d much rather be lied to.
  25. 10/2: Instead of recording just the drama, we should appoint our high points too, to remember how good it can get.
  26. 11/2: The first step to knowing you’re doing the right thing is enjoying it yourself.
  27. 12/2: Words that don’t come easily might not be the ones you were supposed to use in the first place.
  28. 13/2: The senses offer a universal type of communication that goes beyond language.
  29. 14/2: It’s sad that, out of all the things we could do, we resulted to competing.
  30. 15/2: “Just do it”. And instead we’re here learning how to do it.
  31. 16/2: Is an obsession that doesn’t end a passion?
  32. 17/2: Having something to make me want to jump out of bed in the morning is something I look forward to.
  33. 18/2: Sometimes one needs to walk away to realize s/he was always on the right path.
  34. 19/2: There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to perfection, as long as you realize that perfection doesn’t exist – yet.
  35. 20/2: Do you ever wish that a fact or an event were a memory already, to re-live it safely in your mind?
  36. 21/2: Wherever you are in your life right now, there is at least another person in the world going through the same thing.
  37. 22/2: Words that hang in the air, untold, are sometimes received more than those said out loud.
  38. 23/2: People who are “crazy” are finally free, acting according to instinct, with no second thoughts.
  39. 24/2: I’d give so much to know where motivation lies.
  40. 25/2: Is loneliness the greatest fear of human beings?
  41. 26/2: The only ones putting pressure upon us should be ourselves.
  42. 27/2: We seek attention, and when we don’t find it in the people we love, we get disappointment.
  43. 28/2: Keep your mind distracted and you won’t have any problems, ever.
  44. 1/3: We should treat ourselves how we treat others. Surely life would make more sense.

Some of these I cannot even figure out myself. Others I am quite proud of.

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Please do let me know what you think and which ones are your favourites. Among my favourites are numbers 5, 9, 25, 33, 34, 38.

Thank you for reading!

Spoiled, Lazy, and Lucky.

“Cause I’m a 21st century digital boy,

I don’t know how to read but I’ve got a lot of toys”

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If you’re a student, or generally a young person in 2014, you’re a procrastinator. There’s no doubt about that. You can be the most responsible youngster, but you’ll still get distracted by the latest episode of that tv show you love, the cat video someone posted on Facebook, the endless pictures on Tumblr, those biscuits that are looking at you from the other side of the room, the birds in the sky… everything is a distraction in this century. Technology has taken over the world and it can only get worse. We have gotten to the point that if the Internet stops working for a few hours we become bored with ourselves. And we cannot study either, because we need the Internet for that too, to save trees and stuff (but seriously, do care about the environment), and the DVDs we’ve got we have already seen endless times. We are slaves of this abstract cloud that first acquired our information, and now controls our whole lives.

Anyhow, I was talking about procrastinating. Have you ever thought how hard it is to maintain concentration with all these distractions? We basically go to work/study in the same place that we associate with leisure. It’s like your workplace also acted as a cinema and pub.

We grew up hearing our parents tell us that we are spoiled and a lazy generation and lucky. All of those things are true. We are spoiled, thank you and sorry parents, because you spoiled us. And don’t blame it upon us if while we were growing up civilisation did not stop and made our youth considerably easier than the ones you had. We are lazy: I mean, we have a laptop, even a cell phone, on which we can control most aspects of our lives. We could never leave our houses if we wanted to and still attend every one of our duties probably. And we are lucky, oh so lucky. We can read books on screens, we can buy pretty much anything online, we can learn (learn!) lots of things we have no knowledge about nor experience just by going to Google or Youtube, and we can communicate via a webcam with our loved ones even if we’re miles away from home.

For all of those things I am very grateful for. But if we are living the same decade, you’ll agree with me that you need a great deal of motivation (which I might or might not lack…) to set yourself to complete your duties before attending anything else.

Fine, we have abused our condition. Passing a table and seeing all parts involved staring into a cell phone is not nice, it is actually a depressing view. More scarily, where will we go from here? Shout out to all the families that were forced to bond during every meal of their lives and still bear each other. Personally, I am kind of jealous of that, and it is exactly why I am pretty much the only one who uses the dining table in my house. Maybe I’ll still eat by myself, but at least I’ll be taking a break from my room and my virtual bubble of fictional characters and comedy shows. There is just so much content and information available out there! Even though I’m the first one to think that life is too short to re-watch a movie multiple times (and still fall for it anyway), life is also too short not to live it right now. Maybe we should all make an effort to focus on the things that matter despite the distractions. Remember, it can only get worse!

P.S.: yes, I might have exaggerated things slightly… isn’t that what blogging is about?

Brownie points and lots of admiration for getting the quote!

Art by DeMoose on Society6.

Fave Music of 2013 part 2: Honourary Mentions

Last week I talked about my favourite albums of the great music year that was 2013. But, alas, advising you with only three artists that you should check out was not enough. So here I am, ready to talk you through the remaining artists that are worth being mentioned (and listened to). I will list them in no particular order and will most probably forget someone incredibly important despite the post-it. Having mentioned Arctic Monkeys last week and still absolutely loving their last album, I will start with the other rock bands that made people talk about them.

First up are Queens Of The Stone Age. The singer actually appears in AM, doing some backing vocals in Knee Socks, while Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys has a small part in the new QOTSA album …Like Clockwork. Even though the two albums (and bands) have different sounds, I relate them somehow. The albums, I find, are both night listens, with QOTSA having a less fun and dancey, darker but still highly enjoyable album. The singles My God Is The Sun and I Sat By The Ocean were played on the radio over and over and opened the album beautifully, followed by If I Had A Tail and the more dramatic The Vampyre Of Time And Memory.

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Next are The Vaccines. True, in 2013 they’ve only released an EP for the single Melody Calling, which by the way is a great song. However, the album Come Of Age was still going strong from the end of 2012 and it is impossible that you haven’t heard the singles No Hope, Teenage Icon and I Always Knew being played somewhere. This album reminds me the earlier Arctic Monkeys albums because of the fast dancey tunes, at the same time reminding me of the punk era of Clash and Sex Pistols (Okay, I’ll stop with the dancey tunes. But they are in fact dancey.). Come Of Age I feel is aimed at a younger audience, with No Hope being basically the anthem of the student in mid-youth existential crisis: “And I, I don’t really care about anybody else when I haven’t got my own life figured out, ’cause when you’re young and bored and 24 and you don’t know who you are no more, there’s no hope and it’s hard to come of age…”. The songs are pretty much all good, although every time I listen to I Wish I Was A Girl I go in my head ‘No, you don’t’.

More on the pop rock side we find 30 Seconds To Mars with the new album Love Lust Faith and Dreams, with a cover art by Damien Hirst (brownie points). It is more pop and less dark than the previous albums, but a really great and easy to like album. Up In The Air was a great single, but Conquistador deserved to make the radio too.

30_STM_-_Love_Lust_Faith_+_Dreams

Another band that feels like it should be mentioned even though there were no new releases in 2013 is Band of Skulls. I first heard the amazing single I Know What I am on the radio, and their 2009 debut album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey is really good and I love the title.

Moving to a different genre we have Lorde. The name says it all: this 17-year old girl from New Zealand swept us off our feet with the singles Tennis Court and especially Royals. But enough with those songs that we probably don’t want to hear for a very long time now. Lorde is young, gorgeous and she’s got the voice. And she’s got style too. Pure Heroine is an easy-to-listen pop album, apt for a rainy stay-in day. The songs are only 10 and not too long, but for debut album of an underage teenager it is more than enough. Songs worth checking out are Buzzcut Season, 400 Lux and Team.

Sticking with the so-young-and-successful-that-I-hate-you category, we find Tom Odell with his debut album Long Way Down. The blond British guy is 23, which means that there is hope for all of us graduating from university this year to become rich and famous soon. He has a peculiar voice and plays the piano beautifully, although after 10 songs about love played on the piano you might find yourself sleepy and bored. My favourite songs on the album are I Know, Grow Old With Me and Till I Lost, while I don’t particularly like the single Another Love.

Lastly, I have recently had an obsession with Clean Bandit. They incorporate strings into house and electronic music, which by itself is a great idea. The cello and violin complete songs like Dust Clears and Mozart’s House beautifully and the videos are always well thought of and interesting to watch, particularly Dust Clears and A&E. Moreover, the guest singers always present powerful voices, like the current single Rather Be at #1 of the UK charts. They will release their debut album in 2014, so that’s something to look forward to. Like Rudimental, I feel like they will quickly gain their deserved recognition.

Finally, for the music that did not amaze me, as much as I liked Jake Bugg‘s first album, the second one Shangri La which come out at the end of 2013 did not impress me too much. He’s only 19 and I don’t understand his rush in releasing new records. There was also a big fuss about some specific artists in 2013. Personally, I find that Bastille‘s Bad Blood is an enjoyable but not fantastic album, other than the acclaimed singles. Foals and Imagine Dragons had their moment too. Foals released great songs like My Number and Inhaler as singles, but the album Holy Fire as a whole does not stand up to their standards and bores me in the end. Imagine Dragons did the same thing in my opinion: Radioactive is a great rock song, but the rest of the songs in the album Night Visions released at the end of 2012 does not impress me. I feel like the song On Top Of The World would be the perfect soundtrack for a charity commercial.

Well, that was a long post. These two weeks I have understood that I have lots to say about music even though I’m not good at reviewing it probably. I just want you to listen to good music, you know! Here is a lovingly put-together Spotify playlist so that you don’t even have to go look for the music on your own.

Favourite Music of 2013: My Top 3 albums

What a better time to talk about “The Best of 2013” than 31 January 2014, right? Well, better late than never.

Today I want to talk you through my favourite music of 2013. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think 2013 has been a great year for music. I don’t know if I paid more attention to it or just experimented more with new music, but in the end 2013 has given birth to some great works of music. So many artists released new albums and so many of them were good! Without forgetting the new artists that introduced various talent to the industry. I will now present you with my top 3 albums, following in my next post with some compulsory ‘honorary mentions’.

3) In third place we find the debut album of a new artist, perhaps a little out of my usual music preferences. Home by Rudimental is a drum and bass/soul-ish album (thanks Wikipedia) which definitely hosts some great singers who are reaching the stage one by one (Emeli Sande, John Newman, Ella Eyre).

ImageThe album starts slower, more into soul and works its way towards the club tunes like Waiting All Night and Not Giving In, both singles, together with Feel The Love, which gained them the well-deserved attention. Among my favourite songs are Powerless, Waiting All Night, Hide and Free. Compared to my other favourite albums this one is the one that presents the most ups-and-downs, still managing to end with a strong first CD, by a band from which we can certainly expect great things.

2) Arctic Monkeys – AM

I will start by admitting with shame that I might have started listening to Arctic Monkeys quite late. 2013 was probably the year, in fact. Other than AM, my favourite Arctic Monkeys albums are Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not (Dancing Shoes, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, Mardy Bum) and Favourite Worst Nightmare (Brianstorm, Fluorescent Adolescent). If you’re thinking that Arctic Monkeys certainly get the titles right, you’ll be pleased to know that they write great lyrics too, even though sometimes they have you frowning (“Put on your dancing shoes, you sexy little swine”). AM is a great example of this, even if a darker, late-night album in comparison to the past ones.

ImageThis indie rock album alternates lively beats to slower songs, staying strong until the end and proving that rock albums can be fun and dancy. The single to open (greatly!) the album was R U Mine?, followed by the equally as good Do I Wanna Know?, a song that will definitely have you singing along to it (“Baby we both know, that the nights were mainly made for saying things that we can’t say tomorrow day”). The next single still follows the question mark rule, being Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?. This song is catchy as hell and a perfect soundtrack for a night out. The next single I don’t really approve of: One For The Road is a slower, mellow song, but I guess Arctic Monkeys wanted to continue with the concept of the previous singles. They regain my respect by having Arabella as next announced single. Other songs worth listening to are Snap Out Of It, Knee Socks and Fireside. Definitely a sexy late night album.

1) And my favourite album of 2013 has been… Secondhand Rapture by MS MR. I should say upfront that the only thing I don’t like about this New York duo so far is the name of the band: MS MR, pronounced Miz Mister (thanks Wikipedia). I don’t know about you, but I will stick with my first impression of spelling out the letters.

ImageThis album is everything I look for in a good music album. Yes, I do realise that at times the 11 songs might seem similar to one another, characteristic that another one of my all time favourite albums presents (Unleashed Memories by Lacuna Coil). And as in that album, the lyrics in this CD play a big role in my choice, however always accompanied by dreamy and flowy tunes (no wonder Wikipedia calls it dream pop). The album opens with two strong tracks: Hurricane, one of the singles, and Bones, one of my favourites (hence it should have been a single) which apparently became popular because used in Game of Thrones. The other singles are Think Of You, another song I wouldn’t have chosen as a single, and Fantasy, one of the very good ones. Among my other favourites that made this album so special to me are Dark Doo Wop, Head Is Not My Home and Salty Sweet. Even the last few songs are not much weaker than the rest. Overall such an enjoyable album, perfect to listen to before bed, while studying or pretty much at any time.

What was your favourite music of 2013? What are you looking forward to listening to in 2014?

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to watch this space next week for more great music and artists that made my 2013.

Film Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)

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Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts.

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck.

Review:

Telling the story of an average American teenager who is feeling suicidal, It’s Kind of a Funny Story promises not to be another sad drama set in a psychiatric house, but rather shows the development of the character in a funny, relatable way.

Craig (Keir Gilchrist) is only 16 and nothing is massively or worringly wrong in his life. He has a loving family, some friends and he attends a prestigious school in Brooklyn. Sounds like the normal life of a teenager, right? However, Craig has been depressed for a year when he checks himself into a hospital, holding on to life just because of the consequences his absence would have on his family. In fact, even he realises that the reasons for his depression are not so serious. But they are building up, and they have come to a point where he cannot handle it anymore.

The hospital’s adult psychiatric ward ‘3 North’ is what you’d expect from a mental health clinic: a white floor filled with all kinds of weird people defined by various life stories. Nevertheless, Craig makes some new friends: Bobby, played by comedy actor Zach Galifianakis, is very good at giving advice but not at taking it; and Noelle, the ever-pretty young actress Emma Roberts, is another one of the teens busy finding herself. Through sharing worries and fears with his new support circle, and having them opening up to him too, Craig finds time to discover a new artistic talent that he actually enjoys doing, while helping himself a few other people as well.

The story is told in first person by Craig and the movie flows nicely, alternating the hospital scenes with flashbacks and funny imaginative sketches in the style of Scrubs; for example Craig fantasizing about what his life might be like if he doesn’t achieve all the things he feels pressure to reach. Adding also a nice soundtrack presenting tracks like Under Pressure, Let’s go Surfing and Icarus, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a an enjoyable movie in which it is very easy to picture oneself, making it suitable to an audience from teenagers upwards.

Turning a dramatic and delicate topic into a surprisingly funny comedy, through Craig’s story this movie reminds us of how sometimes we need to escape our usual routine and environment to find ourselves again.

Chain Of Emotions

What do we do when we share an emotional load with someone else?

We make it into small pieces and create a chain of sorrow, fears, smiles and tears,

sharing a heavy load with friends, or whoever will hold out a hand.

And even though you might not want to share the worry, wouldn’t you also love to hear that funny story?

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What did you just read?

The other night, with the lights out, just before falling asleep, I was thinking about when, sometimes, a friend shares an emotional burden with us and it might feel a little heavy, or we’d prefer not to have to carry it at all. But that’s just the price of friendship, isn’t it? We share the burden during the not so great times to be part of the happy ones.

What do you think?

[Picture of me by Sohini (http://www.capturesohini.portfoliobox.me/).]

On Worrying About Home

EDIT: post written in occasion of the floods that occurred in Sardinia on 18 November 2013 and caused 18 victims.

 

This morning I started hearing about the strong rain that fell down unstoppable on my island, my land, my Sardinia since last night. At first I did not give it much thought, I don’t think it is unusual exaggerating things back home, and I thought to myself “Everything is fine, it’s like when in the summer we complain about the drought and in the winter we complain about the excessive rain, never satisfied with what the weather sends our way”. However, this evening I started seeing on Twitter pictures of flooded towns, from the wheels of cars in the streets underwater to only the roofs visible in the worst cases. The situation is bad, bridges have fallen, roads have been closed, people cannot be found. Someone has died in the basement filled with water. At this point the concerns kicks in: it doesn’t matter that my area hasn’t been hit the worst by the heavy rains, it is the place I call home that we are talking about here. This is what hurts the most of being away from home: you never know when something is going to happen that will make you worry, and if it will, you will not be there and you will not know instantly if the people that mean the world to you are okay. It does not feel good discovering online that your neighborhood has been hit by a storm and seeing the picture of your street with trees pulled from the roots and branches all over the streets. These are the events that make my insides knot and a lump form in my throat, and I blame my country that had me running away in search of better luck for not being there when I’m so fond of the beautiful place I come from and my culture and the people I owe everything to. But that is another story.

And it’s not strictly homesickness I am talking about, even though that is ever present too, some times more than others. It’s about not being able to do anything to help, it’s about having tears in your eyes because things like this can be foreseen and avoided and no one should ever die of causes that can be forecast. It’s about knowing that this is the same thing that happened a few years ago, only worse possibly, because the sewers were not cleaned properly or at all. Because when do we think that such misfortune should happen to us, to our loved ones, to the place we so much love? It’s about that person that on Twitter writes “A fascinating island to enjoy in the summer, an island to ignore in the winter”, and I think, “That’s true, that’s what it feels like”. And it makes me remember that time that, talking about how late, or better how early the last train was, I told my mom that we weren’t the Third World, there would certainly be later trains. And she said “Yes, yes we are the Third World”. And she was right back then and she is still right now.

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Tweet by @insopportabile (grazie).

FAQ(t)s

Hello.

This is something just so that you get to know me a little bit.

Who are you?

That’s a good question! Just kidding, I can give you at least some basic info about myself.

My name is Giulia, 23, I am from Sardinia but have studied at university in England and am now travelling.

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Why are you called juliarunaway?

Julia is easy: it is pretty much my name in a language that you will not misspell or mispronounce hopefully (that’s really annoying).

Runaway comes from the Italian expression ‘cervelli in fuga’ to indicate the people that move abroad for study or work reasons, in a search for better opportunities. Cervelli in fuga can translate to ‘escaping brains’ and I have only just discovered thanks to Google Translate (I know, who would have thought that it could get anything right…) that it is the equivalent of the expression ‘brain drain’. So that is why I am a runaway. Still better than being called juliadrainer, right? The dictionary also gives the meaning of ‘out of control’ or ‘gone crazy’ for the word runaway, which is not so far off from how I perceive myself either.

What’s the purpose of this blog?

Mainly to motivate myself to write regularly and gain some writing experience that won’t look so bad on my CV. I don’t have particular type of posts in mind, whatever I want to communicate or comment on will go here. This is a place where my creativity does not have restrictions.

What language are you going to write in?

English. Occasionally Italian maybe if I want to reach a different or wider audience, but mainly English.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

Okay, here are some facts.

I am definitely an introvert. My family is the most important thing I have. I am insecure: if you ask me a Yes or No question I will probably go for Maybe or I don’t know. I like all kinds of music and to sing. I am slow: in getting ready, writing coursework, you name it. I enjoy art a lot and sometimes I paint or draw. I like my privacy. I am quite an independent person. Even though I know perfection does not exist, I am a perfectionist and never satisfied with myself. I like food and cooking and baking occasionally. Sometimes the sun makes me sneeze. I like reading, just not full-time as university seems to want me to do. I probably watch too many TV series. I want to travel the world and make a difference. Caffeine is my friend. I care too much about other people: not really their judgement, more their well-being. I hate indifference concerning issues I judge important. I have been an exchange student in the USA. I care about the environment. You would say that I’m weird.

I hope you will stick around and read my posts. Don’t forget to comment and give me some useful feedback!