Sheep can jump.London-Theater Studies, Spring 2009

After an extensive amount of walking through Prague I took a train to Choceň Czech Republic.

After a few hours of being pointed in the different directions, being motioned onto a bus to be taken to a new bus station, and being instructed rapidly by people speaking Czech, a language I knew none of, I found the right bus and was dropped off in Kostlecke Horky, a small, small town with two streets and no lights and perhaps one street sign. Here I would be working with nine other people at a volunteer service camp organized by SCI-IVS. Service Civil International-International Voluntary Service is not the only organizations that coordinates volunteering.  There are many other great organizations such as Volunteers for Peace, International Voluntary Service: Volunteering for Peace and Social Justice, and Worldwide Helpers. Typically you donate a set amount of money (dependent on which country you are coming from), request a few camps out of an extensive list (there are more options for summer months like June and July), and are placed in a camp. Camps vary in length. My camp was two and a half weeks, but some long term volunteering can last for a year.

We, eight volunteers, along with our two Czech leaders helped to maintain two buildings. One was the old school where we slept. The other was down the street and called “The Blue House”.  Long-term volunteers lived in this house.  Also in this area were the sheep, goats, chickens and other animals.  We did mostly manual work: helping to cut firewood, weed the yard and garden, and clean inside and outside to keep up the area. We worked five days a week and the other days we took the trains to towns in The Czech Republic.  We visited some really cool places including Kostnice, where there is a “bone church”!  Some nights we also walked through fields and over hills to other nearby villages.  Luckily our leaders went with us on these trips so we did not have to use our language-translation guides all of the time.  We slowly accumulated a Czech vocabulary, as well as a Korean, German, French and Ukrainian vocabulary since we all wanted to learn from each other.  We shared songs, stories and even card games.   We all tried our best to cook our own national dishes with the Czech ingredients and came up with some wonderful meals.  We talked about our past and our future, or as much of our futures as we could imagine and developed a sense of community.  I would definitely recommend such an experience as a great add-on (or alternative if the full semester does not work out) to studying abroad.   I now have the basics of languages that I never thought I’d learn and if nothing else, plenty of couches to sleep on for my future travels.

And, because it can not go without mentioning I did have the opportunity to help with the animals. Henrike, a wonderful long-term volunteer, let me and a few of the other volunteers help put the goats out to feed and bring them in a few times.  And, one night the sheep escaped and we were even called to help heard them from the bus stop back to a fenced in area.  While you can find great adventures anywhere, you cannot find this sort of adventure everywhere!

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