February 2020: exactly halfway through the project here in Bordeaux. Six months have already passed since fourteen European volunteers arrived to France, from various European countries, to spend a whole year with ten young French volunteers as ambassadors of European and Olympic values: for a total of twenty-four.
From September 2019, month after month, the volunteers have encountered new and exciting experiences, for some of them very different from there previous fields, for others closer to their future life aspirations. Each one of them arrived in Bordeaux with his or her own background, goals and age. Yes, because the volunteers are between 18 and 30 years old and they have created a real group that finds itself living, working and going out together, respecting different ages and habits.
The impact has also been new in a city like Bordeaux, a small metropolis in southwestern France, where life seems to flow more slowly but is not in reality. It almost seems to follow the course of its river, the Garonne, sometimes gentle, sometimes more turbulent. Every day is never the same, so many things change, so many activities that the European volunteers carry out in Bordeaux, never alone there, always accompanied by an umbrella, a sudden ray of sunshine, a gust of wind, a good glass of local wine and a typical dessert such as cannelés or chocolatines.
Thanks to the presence of the French volunteers, it is much easier and more fun to get acquainted with the culture and society of Bordeaux. The volunteers support each other, share common passions, work and free time, and also meet at weekends. A school in the morning, a language café in the late afternoon, a sports event with CDOS (the Gironde Departmental Olympic and Sports Committee), a French course, a radio talk, a meeting at the MEBA headquarters and evenings to present the different European countries, a shared aperitif, groups on WhatsApp, tram rides, walks in the rain, meetings on the stairs of the residence and in the apartments for tea or an evening with friends, a day at the beach to see the ocean and walk on the sand : the weeks flow and the volunteers become more and more friends. Family, acquaintance, meeting, adventure, sharing, discovery, pleasure, friendship: for each volunteer this project has a different meaning.
However, nothing is without difficulties: the language barrier is still a small obstacle for many people to overcome. In fact, not everyone speaks French, but they refine their linguistic and communicative skills and, above all, they enjoy learning new words from the different languages of origin of the other volunteers: Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Georgian, a melting pot of languages, cultures, thoughts, ways of life.
Not everything is easy, there are also misunderstandings and failures, fatigue and tears. But even in Bordeaux, the rain comes and goes, the laughter comes and the rays of sunshine tear through the darkest clouds. The seasons pass, in a succession of changes, until the warm month of May, when it will be time to celebrate the Festival of Europe. But there is still time for that, while we try to survive the crazy winter weather in February!