The ACARBIO Diaries – Lydia (ESC volunteer)

As the temperature begins to drop (finally) and the long summer in Tramonti comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on my time here. It feels as though we have come a full circle, the season is now quieter, the masses of people have calmed and the sun dips behind the mountains sooner everyday.

When I arrived back in March it was cold, not the kind of cold that I expected from moving to Southern Italy, despite the warmings. We would wrap up warm with multiple layers, put the fire on in the office and always have hot herbal teas brewed ready to warm us up, it wasn’t bad at all.

It’s strange to look back on this time. So much has happened since then, it almost feels like a lifetime ago. When I arrived I was fresh with hopes and inspiration for the project to begin. In such a short space of time, this place has become my home and it feels like I have been here for much longer.

PROJECT LIFE

The season started with our first project “Make it Local” which took place on the beautiful town of Praiano along the Amalfi Coast. Since then we delivered 5 Youth Exchanges and Training Courses, A school summer camp, A beach-clean project and many other collaborations with the community.

The projects have been incredible. They have been hard work, long days, lots of chaos and time spent together. Between all of that were some beautiful moments of friendship, emotional support, learning, growing, experimenting and trying new things. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful people throughout this placement, some people that I am sure I will stay in touch with.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the work that I would be doing with ACARBIO, and I think that was the best way to be. I was mostly helping to facilitate the projects which meant many things from helping to prepare communications before hand, making presentations or running reflection sessions during and then follow up dissemination activities after. This was really great as I gained skills in so many different areas. One thing that I will cherish especially is teaching yoga and meditation to the participants out in the nature.

ACARBIO is a small organisation which means that everyone is welcomed into the family and we spend a lot of time together. It also means that we had to adapt to the situation as things changed, learn to be open minded and not stick too tightly to a plan. At the beginning this was tough, but I found myself becoming more and more relaxed by the end of my project and found being flexible coming easier for me.

The great thing about the projects is that they approach multiple different obstacles at one time. Most of them have a focus on a social or environmental cause that the organisation want to tackle.

TIMES IN TRAMONTI

Tramonti is a little gem of treasure buried in the mountains just away from the Amalfi Coast. It is a little buried pocked of gold that I secretly hope the tourists don’t discover (judging by the over crowding in the summer months of the other popular towns along the coast). There, you have the best of both worlds, mountain and sea. ACARBIO is situated in Polvica, the centre of Tramonti, where in a mere 15 minutes on the bus you can get to the beach of Maiori. The town itself is still fairly undiscovered by tourism and is mostly populated by locals, which gives a true authentic Italian experience. I found myself surrounded by Italian culture, people, food, weather and nature all in one.

From pizza parties with locals to pasta dinners at the town hall, ACARBIO is really the heart of the community. It was very touching to see how much of an impact the organisation has had on the region. In the office, we would often be visited by people passing by calling in for a “quick” coffee.

There’s not so much to do in Tramonti so you have to find ways to entertain yourself. I used to really enjoy going to a hike or a run in the mountains or, of course, down to the beach. There are many places to explore nearby with all of the towns along the coast then Salerno and Naples which you can arrive to in a couple of hours. In the summer months there are some small local festivals that take place centred around a seasonal food or wine. It is truly a magical place to live if you want to get close to nature and connect with the community. I have really enjoyed watching the sun dip below the mountains, seeing the stars at night, breathing fresh air every day and having such wonderful office views (they will be hard to beat).

I can’t leave Italy without talking about food…

What’s all the fuss about? I didn’t really get it at first. How important can it be? Is it really necessary to talk about food THIS much? Yes, yes it is.

It started off with a pizza party in the office. And from that moment I was captivated by the culture and (let’s face it) obsession with food that takes place in Italy. And with good reason too. The food is incredible. I thought that I would get tired of eating pasta almost everyday, but I was wrong. There are so many different types of pasta, dishes and ways to cook it that it can be exciting everyday.

We had the absolute pleasure of being cooked for everyday in the office by the wonderful Enzo. He was very creative and passionate about food (whatever you do, do not put tomato ketchup anywhere near a plate of pasta). The love and attention to detail that he would put into the cooking would be apparent through the flavours and taste of the food. My favourites were the veggie lasagne, pasta with beans and lemon and pepper spaghetti.

Speaking of food, during the summer months we got to grow our own vegetables in the garden at the office. In the spring months the seeds were planted and then cultivated during the summer. We grew; tomatoes, aubergine, courgette, pepper, rucola, lettuce, pumpkin and many more. I really enjoyed this experience although it was hard work (especially for Antonio who was out there every morning) but it was very rewarding. We would get the food from the garden and come up with creative dishes.

A final note about food. Tomatoes! I never knew they were such a big deal before. Let’s be honest the tomatoes in the UK just cannot compare. ACARBIO are also working with a start-up tomato sauce company which was established after cultivating an almost extinct type of tomato. After planting the tomatoes early in the year and a lot of hard work to maintain them, we finally got to enjoy the fruits and they were amazing!

I never thought that I would find so much pleasure in the process of growing, cooking and sharing food but now I finally understand why it is so important in Italian culture.

The end of the season…

As my time here comes to a close, I look back with fond memories on all of my experiences here. It has been a rollercoaster of events and I have learned so much about myself, others and this beautiful country.

This experience wouldn’t have been the same at all without the people that I shared it with. I had the honour of living with a group of wonderful women from all over the world; Lithuania, Colombia, Turkey, the UK and Austria. During the busy summer season, there were people coming in and out of ACARBIO to volunteer with us for a short time. I also got to connect with some of the participants of the projects who were from countries that I had never got to visit before. And of course, the lovely staff at ACARBIO who helped to support my project.

I am leaving with a full heart, slightly tighter clothes and a smile filled with memories of this beautiful place.

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