The return home – the biggest cultural shock?

Bring it to the Public is the last period of the Fighting with the Poor program. The focus of this period is sharing experiences and stories from the program.

Stoyo, from May 2015 Team, has held presentations about his experiences in Bulgaria. He also traveled through Europe meeting like-minded young people and sharing stories. Here, in the first part of his Bring it to the Public report, he tells us how it was to be back home in Bulgaria, and how it was to talk with a younger public about Africa.

 

Returning from the project in Mozambique, I struggled to get my life in order: the routine, the changes, and above all, the people around me. I discovered with great surprise how much I changed in the last 2 years or so since I joined the school in Norway. I found myself in that same village in Bulgaria where I grew up, surrounded by the same people, hearing the same stories. But I was not amused anymore. After the travel in Asia, and the project in Mozambique, I discovered different things that are more important to me now. And I felt that I had to tell people about what I’ve seen and how I feel about the world. But sharing these changes in me was no easy task.

In Mozambique I was a volunteer for 6 months in the Food for Knowledge project, and I worked with primary school children and their teachers. It took me a lot of time and effort to make things work in Mozambique. It was a real challenge to get used to people that did not share my values and views. Then, coming back to Europe, I found myself in the same situation all over.

It is rather difficult for me to be silent about the things I believe in. Nonetheless, I’ve been trying my best to cope with different views and opinions, and to learn to present a certain cause in a normal, casual way. But this meant that during my stay in Bulgaria, I often had to  avoid bringing up what is really important for me. Especially in everyday situations. So in the end, I tried involving the people in a different way in the topics that are important to me. During presentations I could express myself more freely.

The first presentations I did in Bulgaria gave me an insight of what it is like to present a strange (but luckily exciting) topic to an indifferent crowd. The first presentation I held was in my old high school, where I had been invited. My high school was a place I was comfortable with, because I knew most of the people in the audience (I graduated in 2014). I prepared a presentation with lots of pictures from my entire stay in Mozambique. I subdivided my mission in three parts:

  • My work as a teacher in the context of life in Mozambique;
  • Why Africa needs our help;
  • Personal and societal responsibility in the connected world.

I started by explaining a little about the history of Mozambique, its connection to the Indian Ocean and the devastating effect of Portuguese colonization on its people. Next, I focused on my work in Mozambique, the challenges, and the gains I had seen through. I explained in detail what a day at the school looks like over there. I showed videos of the children in my classes, as well as pictures and other materials from the schools and the activities we did there. Also, I included the teacher training activities I organized. I emphasized the inevitable entanglement between work and home: how personal relations were a part, if not the base, of my work with my fellow colleagues from Mozambique.

While in the project, I made a fundraising to help the primary school children from Mozambique. Many of the high school students in the audience donated money for this cause. So, in this presentation, I included a short summary of the things I realized in Mozambique with the funds they donated. I used this as an example of how they can also get involved, even if they are so far away.

I proceeded with the larger scale of what is happening in Africa and how our everyday decisions reflect the lives on the other side of the planet. I gave particular examples: the two orphan HIV-positive kids I became guardian of while in Mozambique, and also many cases of misconduct I have witnessed, varying from the destruction of Sumatran rain forest to the looming inequality in South Africa.

I had an interesting Question & Answer session with the students. They were very inquisitive and eager to learn more. Naturally, more questions were about the everyday life in Africa. But I was pleased to hear a lot of questions related to poverty and to their personal involvement in reducing it. All in all, I think it was a very well received presentation and it will have a long-lasting impact on the teenagers in the audience.

Other experiences that brought me an unusual amount of positive energy and a great time were the presentations I held in my old primary school where I studied when I was a kid. I held two presentations there: one for grades 1-4 and another for 5-7 graders. The first presentation was more about the travels I had while being a part of the program in Norway. So I included pictures of Iceland, Southeast Asia, and Africa. I also pointed out how the African kids of the same age live. This impressed the Bulgarian children very much. I had to answer a ton of questions from them! As a whole, I think it was an important reminder that the kids of my village are lucky to have been born there, and also a reminder that they can travel the world and meet new cultures.

The presentation I held for the 5-7 graders was more serious and to the point. I followed the structure of my high school presentation, but in a lighter way. Anyway, it turned out to be extremely long. To the teachers’ surprise all students sat quietly, and were very interested and involved. I tried to make the presentation a little interactive and I included different questions and little ‘tasks’. It was a great experience that gave me a lot of positive energy!

These presentations are the only ones I held so far in Bulgaria. I already have new ideas about continuing Bring it to the Public over there. I love giving presentations in my country because it is easier to connect with people. Also, I think it’s important to educate young and old generations alike about life in another part of the world, which is so different from the life they know. Also, while giving these presentations I learnt more about what people perceive as important and interesting. I got many new invitations to make presentations in high schools, but they will happen throughout March and April.

While in Bulgaria, apart from these presentations, I talked a lot about my experiences with former teachers, or with other acquaintances, relatives, friends. Somebody once told me that the cultural shock happens not when you go somewhere, but when you come back. This couldn’t be more right. I found that people I knew for a long time were mostly indifferent about my work in Africa, and about my travels. I soon discovered that I had only handful of friends with whom I could share the things that are important for me.

This is just a small part of my Bring it to the Public activities. I also traveled through Europe with my team mate Sandra as part of this period. About those travels, in a future post.

Stoyo – May 2015 Team 

 

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