29 October 2017

TC - "Leading to Equalization", Crete, Greece

First of all we would encourage everyone to apply for Erasmus+ projects. Some of you may have that fear of meeting new people, the “What if they are different from me?” well we all have fears and we are all different and it’s ok. That is one of the main topics of Erasmus projects. For example we came from different parts of our country, two of us (Raul and Silvia) are from Bucharest and two from Cluj (Iulia and Eduard) and only Eduard had past experience with mobility projects. Me, Iulia and Silvia had no prior experience and no idea of what is going to happen. We heard stories from our friends but there is no words for living the actual experience.

Why would we recommend it you may ask. Because it’s something different, something that you have to try it for yourself in order to understand it. We were lucky enough to be involved in a mobility in Greece called "Leading to Equalization" in Moires, a small city in Crete. Part of our experience was getting to that place, for me and Silvia was easy but Iulia had to come to Bucharest and Eduard had to take a different flight from Cluj because he had some activities. We finally met him in the first night (he actually arrived before us in Moires but had to leave 6 hours after our flight, the irony).

Initially there were 8 countries involved : Greece, Italy, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia Bulgaria and Netherlands, but due to some issues Netherlands had to retire ( yeah, we were also disappointed ). The most common mistake you can make is to think “ this isn’t for me” or “ it won’t help me in life” or “ I don’t speak English that well and others will mock me “. 

All of those are totally wrong, one of the best things I’ve learned is that we all have the same fears and everything you want is on the other side of fear. The project went from 13th to 20th of October and we met 23 other participants with the same fear. 

Francesco from Italy joined the project because he was not able to speak English very well, Stephane from Bulgaria joined because they have a problem with social exclusion of rroma community like us from Romania, Gert from Estonia is only 18 and is was youngest participant, he joined because they have a problem with Russian community being excluded, he also found out that Vilda from Lithuania and Alise from Latvia have the same problem, Greece organized the project because they are only 300km away from immigrants and they have a problem integrating them. Then there are Luca and Antonio, our trainers from Italy. They had a dream and started their own NGO in 2000 (well Luca did and Antonio helped but you know…). They shared with us their experiences, good and bad ones, the peeks and the pits, the beauty and the beast and so on, the main idea is that they knew their stuff and made the rest of us feel comfortable and sociable.

We were accommodated and Olympic Hotel which is in the city center and our venue was 5 minutes walking. The weather was nice (clear sky and around 23 degrees during the day and 15 to 17 during the night) so we did some out-door activities like simulating a border for example. Some of us had to be part of the police, some part of United Nations and some had to be immigrants which were trying to escape their country. It was fun but made us understand the reality, the fact that people which are searching for a better life have a hard time entering a foreign country and integrating into its culture.

Since the project isn’t about work, work and more work we had a morning activity on a nearby beach (Matala) then a day off to enjoy Crete, and boy it was a nice day. Even though I’ve injured myself stepping on some rocks we explored the region, some ancient caves and we ate some fresh seafood and tasted local cuisine. 

After the day at the beach we had to “be serious” again and what a better way than to simulate a global trading game. I was a part of Germany and had the task to maximize profit no matter what, also had a free border pass along with USA. We had to underpay immigrants and negotiate with other countries for product patterns. There were also India, Rwanda, Brazil and Taiwan - Province of China, each with their own assets but NO diplomatic passports. In the end we had to give “some incentives” to the immigration office officer in order to facilitate some working passes for immigrants to be able to work in Germany, had to negotiate prices with global bank and also some exclusivity rights (my sales experience really paid off here), then we discovered new technologies to purify water and sold clean water to India which was struck by a flood and had no fresh water. The game lasted for about 4 hours and we won by quite a margin, if you can call this a win. I don’t like to call it a win because we basically exploited immigrants, underpaying them and used our power to ditch them when they became too demanding. We were swapping workforce like socks if not often. During those 4 hours it felt like nothing was wrong, but I was feeling dirty, Eduard was one of my immigrants Iulia was representing India and wanted to make trades with us but under our own terms and Silvia was from Brazil with nothing to offer except cleaning services which we already had because our immigrants worked double. When you experience it for yourself you start realizing how big the gap is between countries and the fact that we need to do something to integrate others in our society.

On the following days we had an activity with the red cross to discuss about social exclusion problem and some other activities that showed us how to build a project, told us about EVS in case you want to be a volunteer, EURES in case you are looking for a job in EU and European Solidarity Corps which will replace EVS from 2018.

On our final night in Crete we had a farewell party which had its memorable moments and we were given our Youth Passes.

It was an unforgettable experience for all of us, we made international friends, I’ll go and visit Francesco and Federica in Italy and Martha in Estonia next year, Eduard and Silvia both made some connection in Greece and they will get back there soon and Iulia will visit all Nordic countries somewhere in the next 12 months. Also some of our new friends will come in Romania, they didn’t said when but I’m sure they will.

Well that was our experience, hope you will find yours. Thank you.