You know that well-known saying that life begins out of your comfort zone? I have heard that saying for many times, on many occasions, from many different people. Those same people gave me a sense of living, a hint of the beauty that life brings with it, all the unknown and scary things it offers; but none of that, they used to say, comes unless you make that leap of faith and courage, and jump into the very same life, with your eyes fully open, and arms fully stretched; leap out of your comfort zone, into the unknown. Thus, I made that leap.
I recall the day when I found out I could be a part of the BYF (Balkan Youth Festival) one more time – this time for the whole year! The first time I was a part of this amazing festival was in 2012, in a short-term EVS project.
The feelings of joy overwhelmed me and filled my heart almost in an instant.The images in my mind started to dance their own choreography in the same manner plenty of dancing groups did on the festival four years ago. The pictures queued one after the other, almost in the same chronological manner I took them, day by day. This year would be my year to show what I have learned four years ago, and gain a great deal of new skills, wrapping myself in the transparent ducktape of experience.
After a few months of impatient waiting for the project to be approved, followed by yet another waiting for my visa to be issued, I finally woke up one rainy morning and jumped right out of my bed, with a complete understanding and a realisation that that very same day I would get on the bus and then a train, dragging my two big suitcases along with me, with my head in the clouds, and my heart on the edge; I realised that very same day I would have reached the border of Bulgaria by the last sunbeam, and set my feet on a different soil, a quite different ground.
Upon approaching Sofia, looking through the window of a slow-moving train, I could not wait to get out of the train, and meet my first mentor Boyana, who greeted me with a great smile on her face, and gave me a warm hug. I had but a little clue that one of the mentors from 2012, called Ina, was waiting for me in the apartment, and that I would have the pleasure to have her as my own mentor, this year. On our way to the apartment, a girl on a bike, looking quite fit, with peach-coloured cheeks, presumably from riding her bike, approached us and introduced herself as Pres. With her, the circle of the three volunteers was closed.
I was given a warm welcome in the office by the BYF team, followed by their immense help, guidance and support in finishing all my tasks.
Thus, I gained experience working in the office – arranging documents, scanning and copying, making presentations, and putting my creative side to usage, in the very first week. I loved the intensity of work, the whole spectre of diverse tasks; particularly, I loved the feeling of being useful, responsible, and rewarded with lovely words, and warm hugs that Emilia so freely and unconditionally gives away to all her volunteers.
During my first week in Sofia, I was trying to adapt to living in a big town; the town in which people live faster than what I was used to. My days were quite short and passed very quickly. I finally figured out how to use the GPS on my phone, and little by little, roaming through the city and the neighbourhood streets, I started to feel much more relaxed and free to go out and explore.
The apartment is situated in a wonderful area, where the fragrance of Linder Trees (Tilia) leaves no one indifferent. In addition, Limeflower tea made from dried flowers has a pleasing taste and is commonly used by folks here.May was the perfect month to set foot in this area because the flowers were in fool blossom, so I could enjoy the sweet fragrance every time I opened my windows.
The following days were spent in anticipation for the arrival of the second volunteer, Leticia, all the way from a faraway land, known as the Kingdom of Spain, cosily located on the Iberian Peninsula in South-western Europe.
Our dear Leti has finally arrived this very month, and quickly adapted to living with me in the same apartment. We cook, clean, and work together; we explore the city, share the daily events, understand each other despite the differences in language, culture, and background; but, most importantly, we have a lot of fun days filled with laughter and happiness.
On her second day, Ina came to pick us and take us to a restaurant to try some great Bulgarian traditional food.
Yesterday, a friend of mine took me by his car to the biggest mountain in Sofia, called Vitosha. It is said to be a symbol of Sofia and a well-know place if you are in love with hiking, alpinism and skiing. I spent a few hours there, on the top of it, looking at beautiful Sofia to my right, and other big mountains, and a green, thick forest, to my left. The sight of Sofia on the tip of my finger left me speechless – the splendid tile of white buildings, houses, and roads prostrated like a pancake on a pan.
It seemed like I was in Heaven. The sunset was both beautiful and quite romantic, causing the sky to change colours often, from pink, to orange, to yellow, until the only thing that was left and was visible to the naked eye, was one small beam of the last breath of the Sun.
Soon, the Sun was replaced by the Full Moon, whose bright light shined over this amazing city, as if trying to fight for its dominance over the street lights and the shiny, glittery ones, coming from the buildings and many of the shopping malls in Sofia.
(Continue on reading to find out how Leticia made the courageous leap out of her comfort zone, into the unknown.)