June 30th was a fine, sunny day. Even though the early morning was sort of cold comparing to the rest of the previous days, it promised a hot, summer afternoon. The light breeze going through the hair of the two girls all packed for adventure, gave the impression that the following three days would be the ones that stay locked in memory forever.
The train was moving slowly towards Kazanlak (Казанлъ̀к, in Bulgarian), a nice, cosy town located at the foot of the Balkan mountain range, at the eastern end of the Rose Valley. As soon as Leticia and me got comfortable in the train, the conductor asked to see our tickets. The excitement overwhelmed us because it was the first time we traveled outside Sofia. The view through the window breathed life into our eyes, as we passed beautiful valleys, big mountains, and magnificent, breath-taking lavender fields, on our way.
After talking to some of the passengers in Bulgarian, asking them about the exact location of the town, we stepped out of the train on the Kazanlak soil and heading for the fountain with three lion heads in the center. From there, we took a bus to Koprinka dam/lake. The interesting thing about being in the bus that day was the fact that everyone was talking in a high-pitched voice, so that the whole atmosphere felt alive and energized.
The bus took us in front of one of the hotels at the lake. We had a few minutes walk to get to the camping site, where two boys from Spain were sent to greet us. They took us to the place where a French girl was sitting on the chair, seemingly relaxed but curious about Leti and me. After a few minutes, a boy from France,and a girl from Bulgaria introduced themselves to us. Soon, the organizer of the whole project Maria welcomed us with a tent and two sleeping bags. Those were the first people we met at the lake and they have become our very good friends from that moment on.
Sleeping in a tent was a very interesting and quite peculiar experience. Camping under the stars, among trees, in nature, had a great effect on us. It was stiff, and uncomfortable, but at the same time, it was one of the experiences we would treasure and keep in our hearts forever. To rest our back from sleeping in the tent, we used some hammocks near our ‘tent village’. There were so beautiful, in different colours, and so inviting. We read books, talked until late at night, shared our experiences, bonded with the rest of the volunteers, while lying on them.
One of the members of the organizational staff introduced the national Bulgarian instrument called KAVAL (КАВАЛ),and explained to us how sounds are produced by blowing in different ways and directions while keeping your fingers on different holes on the instrument.
Our first task and the main reason why the project was created was to clean the lake from the waste. We could have seen how mindlessly people threat nature and the environment, and how animals are way better than some people in many ways. If we had not been at the lake and seen how much garbage there actually is with our own eyes, we would have never believed it. We spent the first two days collectively doing the cleaning, filling in the black bags, with smiles on our faces because we knew that even though it was a dirty job, we made a great contribution to the society, to people, and to our own selves, too. The satisfaction we got by looking at the clean area that we left behind while cleaning, could hardly be compared to anything. One look at full bags filled us with joy.
The second task was both a creative and a learning one. It had to do with making a mosaic with the name of the organization. The aim of this activity was to gather volunteers, teach them what a team work is like, but also emphasize the power of individual work by having each volunteer focusing on one and only one part of the whole, e.g. one letter, a flower, or a background.
First, you have to think about the measure, the shape, and the colors. Second, you have to have the tiles with the correct colors and break them in smaller pieces (being neither too big, nor in a very small size), using the stones. Thirdly, we had to draw the picture in the wall using a white chalk, and later use the plaster mixture to ‘glue’ the pieces on the wall. Lastly, and most importantly, we had to distribute the colors in the correct part of the wall – the darker tiles were used for the letters, while the lighter were used for the background. While we are doing some part of the picture, with the limitation of the shape, it can happen there is a smaller empty place between the tiles, so you have to break the tile in the color that you need in very small pieces and to put them in those places,thus filling in the gaps.
In our free time, we got the advantage of having the lake beautifully stretched before us, so we took a lot of photos, watched the sunset and the sunrise, and dealt with the warm weather by swimming throughout the day in the lake.
The evenings were filled with music – the organisation hosted a lot of different bands, musicians, gave a chance to talented people to show their singing talents; with drinks, getting to know new people who visited the festival, and just with a lot of fun, in general.
Even the best things come to an end, thus our little adventure has to finish, too. We packed our clothes, said goodbye to people and headed towards the direction Kazanlak. Perhaps the festival was over for us, but the feeling of being a part of something so beautifully designed and the feeling of being useful, will follow us on our EVS adventure.