From Vietnam to two workcamps in Italy!
Written by Ariane Jovovic
Thanh is a 26 years old girl who did two workcamps in Italy this summer. She will return to Vietnâm this year and is still trying to understand herself more trough new experiences. She agreed to share her summer experience with Ariane Jovovic.
Where are you from ?
I am from Vietnam. I grew up and lived in Hanoi, but I moved to the countryside not too long ago to farm and live in a small community. I wanted to explore other perspectives.
What are your hobbies ?
I love writing and dancing. I manage a diary that makes me reflect about myself and my feelings. I am learning Nia which is a discipline that mixes fitness, introspection and dance as well, that is why I also like to dance. In general I like to discover new things and new ways of thinking, this is the reason why I like to travel.
Where did you travel before doing the workcamps in Italy ?
I went mostly to the South-East part of Asia, to Japan and I also went to France. I love to travel and my dream destination is South-America because I have never been on this continent, it seems traditional yet lively and in harmony with nature. I am really curious about new perspectives in general
How would you describe yourself ? What are your qualities and flaws regarding volunteering ?
I would say that I am an adaptable person who tries to understand the world through different perspectives. My biggest quality would be that I have a strong stomach which I trust and maybe for volunteering projects I am a bit of a loner. I am very independent and I like to have my privacy. I also think that I tend to be too nice even when I disagree with somebody. I have difficulties expressing my true feelings, it may be a cultural behavior. I do not think that I have a problem with direct behavior from others.
What were you doing before the two workcamps ?
I was living in a small community that is self-directed and I was practicing Nia. Nia is a lifestyle that includes body, mind and health. There is fitness, dance, introspection and reflection in it.
Did you already do volunteering work before those two workcamps ?
Yes, I have been doing it since high school. I worked as an intern for the SCI in Vietnam. The bigger project that I realized was the coordination of receiving Australian engineers that came to build tanks and help them do it. I think it’s a great way to encounter international people and to live in a different environment. It also led to cultural exchange.
What kind of workcamps did you do this summer and why?
I did two workcamps. One was near Parma, it was for the ecovillage (sustainable and inclusive) of Granara. We plastered buildings, renovated the library and participated in village life. The other one was near Torino, the Agritermine farm. We were at the beginning of the project so we had to build basic things and farm. The goal of this project is to create an open community with farming. I did some bricolage, I painted, I planted strawberry pipes and did some gardening, I built toilets, a bench… I decided to do those workcamps to move a bit. In two years of Covid I was isolated. The community where I live is small and closed. I did not have a chance to go out to speak English, have contact with international people and explore the world. Besides meeting people, I wanted to have more experience in the countryside and agricultural work. I never experienced bricolage before and I am much more confident in my skills now. I also care about sustainability and human beings.
What did those workcamps bring you that you were not expecting ?
The mud ! I mean the second workcamp was much more basic that what I was expecting. When I thought about Europe, I imagined something fancy, at least a proper house and toilets. It was like in Vietnam ! I did not expect the living conditions.
What would you keep from it ?
Workcamps brought me confidence in my skills. During the last two years I was the youngest one in my community and I often felt guilty, less skilled and powerful than others. I saw myself on younger volunteers and I felt more confident. I learnt new things.
What difficulties did you face?
I think the most difficult thing was the food. I am kind of proud of my stomach and it was the first time I was sick like that. There is just too much fat and oil in Italian cooking compared to the way I eat in Vietnam. I missed Phô ! I do not speak Italian so sometimes it was difficult to talk to people because some of them did not speak English but we succeeded to become friends without too many words ! I really want to see them again. We talked mostly with body language and a few words. However, when there were conflicts regarding the involvement it was difficult to communicate without the same language. One time, on the second camp which was really basic as I said, the tent was covered in mud and rain but it also created more bond with others.
Will you bring some things home ?
I bought rice salad ! I think food is a good way to know a country. I love to go to supermarkets to know more about what people buy, how they live. If I had to choose one thing to bring to Vietnam it would be gelati…
Do you have any funny stories to tell me ?
When we were planting strawberry pipes, there was a good house nearby. Someone joked about the fact that we were on the wrong side of the border, in Mexico and the other side was the United-States.
Have you had doubts sometimes, about workcamps and volunteering ?
Sometimes it is difficult to see the big picture, especially the second workcamp because we were at the beginning of the project. The work could be messy sometimes. I think my advice would be to move forward, try your best to do your task and maybe ask the coordinator about the project.
How do you define culture?
The way people live in general and not only material things.
What do you want in the future?
I want to live in different countries and I want to explore. I would like to become a NIA (discipline for the mind, health and body that is mixing different arts like dancing, yoga, Taiichi and martial arts) teacher. I am always looking to add new points of views in my mind. I also care about humans and a sustainable life. For me ecology is more about people in relation to nature than just nature.
Why do you think is it important to travel ?
I can know myself more and understand my contradictions through differences. I can see more what influences me by seeing what is evident for me but not for others.
Thanks Ariane, the new volunteer at SCI Italy, for this article.