Un viaggio in Repubblica Ceca… oppure un paio d’ore nella sala audiovisivi di Valsalice! Non abbiamo infatti dovuto percorrere oltre 1000 chilometri per raggiungere Praga e conoscere la quotidianità di questi 25 ragazzi cechi che, con nostra grande sorpresa, hanno mostrato di avere con noi più punti in comune di quanto ci saremmo aspettati.
In questo incontro, tenutosi giovedì 28 febbraio al termine delle lezioni, è stata offerta la possibilità a coloro che aderiscono alle attività di volontariato di venire a contatto con giovani appartenenti a una cultura lontana che nel corso di circa due ore (seguite da un abbondante merenda!) hanno provato a spiegarci con il loro inglese, a volte un po’ incerto, in che cosa consista la loro opera di volontariato presso un oratorio salesiano nei dintorni di Praga.
Anche noi ragazzi di Valsalice abbiamo fatto sfoggio del nostro inglese, in alcuni momenti forse anche più titubante del loro, per presentare le iniziative di volontariato che la nostra scuola propone e a cui gli studenti, sempre più numerosi, partecipano con una grande di voglia di mettersi costantemente in gioco.
After the meeting, we asked two volunteers to share with us their experience. Before starting reading the following interview, it’s important to us to let you know that it wasn’t just a formal and simple interview: it was a full moment of cultural experience (even though the bell ring made us stop several times!). Actually, Jacob and Costantin are from Canada and Germany and live in Czech Republic, we are Italian and we all spoke English. But while we were “interviewing” them, everyone of us seemed to forget the country he came from. We were just five teenagers sharing words, laughs, cultural differences and… Facebook accounts! It was an amazing experience that taught us the international meaning of love, faith and youth.
Yes, this exchanging experience was really fun. You know, meeting new people is always nice. And most of all, we finally came here: we only used to know these places looking at pictures as “the places where Don Bosco used to live…”.
Have you enjoyed Turin?
We’ve stayed at Colle Don Bosco and then moved to Valdocco and Crocetta, and that’s all we’ve seen of Turin. It’s such a pity we haven’t seen the city center (we’ve seen it from the bus while we were coming here)… but referring to what we’ve seen, we really loved the beautiful hills, valleys and fields that we’ve seen in Colle Don Bosco. It’s very different from Prague: there aren’t so many modern buildings, Turin is an old city, while we’re trying more and more to catch up from the West, which obviously doesn’t mean Prague’s not a very historical city but it’s just getting modern faster and faster.
What’s the most similar thing and the most different one in the way of teaching and living education?
Well, we basically do the same thing: children playing and also improving the spiritual side of it… even if it’s not always easy to get the spiritual side when you’re playing football! (laughs). We didn’t see many children here in Valsalice but I guess that’s just because this is a school, more than an oratory. The most different thing -and this was really surprising!- is that when we went to Valdocco we saw so many young guys smoking and drinking and eating, and this wouldn’t be happening in Prague.
What’s the most difficult thing about working with children who come from different cultures and religions?
We have never happened to work with children who are not Christian, I guess that happens because there aren’t many Arabic immigrants. The “problem” is working with children who are romans: Roman people fight against society and it’s not just that they’re not Catholic, but they have their own way of living. You may happen to work with children who grow up in a family system where there’s no love, because they might have economic problems or something. It might happens that you take these children to the Church and they start putting on their headphones or start playing Angry Birds. But we are trained to help them: we are supposed to let them know that we could be their second family, their second home. I remember once, before Christmas, a boy was drawing comics, then a salesian started telling about Jesus and succeeded in catching his interest. This is what really matters: once you catch their interest, it’s possible to work also with them. You just have to open the door to their hearts.
What about Czech school system? Is it much different from ours?
In Czech (we didn’t attend school there, but we know how it works) you must attend primary school for 9 years, then 4 years of high school, and then, when you’re 14, you have to make a decision about your life: you may either go to a specializing training school (maybe in order to become a blacksmith, or a plumber…) or to a regular gymnasium.
What about you? Where and how do you live?
We live in a salesian community: we are expected to attend daily prayers (some of us go -as we all should do- but some others actually don’t!), we are responsible of cleaning our room, and it’s a very spiritual life. Even because, even if you don’t realize it at first, even when you’re working, you always pray. (Jacob says) For me it has been like all the salesians were telling me: “Oh, you’re a young man, you should be a priest!” even my mother told me “you should be priest!”
No, since I live with them… well, I don’t want to say that it’s not a… “too dynamic life” but… (laughs) the very joy of my life would be having my own family: wife and children.
If you have to give us three reasons why someone should do what you are doing, they would be…
1) If there’s even just one person you can help in your life and see how he grows up and becomes a better person, that’s a very big satisfaction. Even when they come back from school and bring you bad marks and you have to reproach them… it’s part of the game!
2) You have lots of things to keep in mind, you become more responsible. Now I have to take care of myself, cleaning my room… and not only when people come visiting! (laughs) Now I’m 18, I’m an adult.
3) And then, I can tell you for sure, you get a lot more back than you give.
1) You meet new people coming from all over the world.
2) You make new experiences.
3) And then it’s really great to see how far you are in your life, you can see what you have to improve and what you are able to do. It’s like a life’s test.
Why did you decide to start this experience?
Jacob: I had no idea about how it happened. I mean, when I was growing up, I would have never seen myself in Czech Republic. Then when I decided to start this experience, I told my mates: “Don’t worry, I’m leaving but I’m coming back soon!” but in fact it didn’t really went like that… it had to be a God’s plan. I just asked if salesians had open spaces like the ones I was used to see in Canada and then I said: “Ok, let’s do it! No problem.” So it started, and I’m happy now.
Kosta: “In Germany after you’ve finished high school you have a gap year. Until two years ago, boys were obliged to join military service. Now you can choose between studying or social service. I wanted to do social work and I wanted to go to Scotland. But they sadly told me that it wasn’t available, so they offered me Czech Republic and a night to think about it. Then I accepted and it all started.
… parents’ reaction?
The same afternoon I told my mum that I was going there, her reaction was not as bad as I had thought. My both parents told me “isn’t better a place where you can speak English?”, but seeing how intentioned I was, they soon accepted.
You look very determined about what you’re living now, but how do you see yourselves in the future?
Jacob: Homeless, drunkhard (laughing). A part from jokes, I don’t know if in Italy you are used to it, but in Prague you can teach in oratories and be paid for it.
I sometimes happen to speak with children that do not know a sentence in English: when I hear them my ears are bleeding for what they say. This is why I would like to be a teacher: seeing their improvements would be so rewarding!
Constantin: My biggest dream would be working as a brewer (Jacob imitates him shouting and pretendig spilling beer). Since it is not going to happen, I think I am going to become a social worker in oratories.
You stay away from your families for very long periods: don’t you ever miss them?
Jacob: I was sitting in my bedroom, saying: “Oh Holy, what I’ve done!” . But meeting new people was amazing. On Friday I am leaving to come back to Czech Republic and on Saturday I am flying to Canada for two weeks. Just two weeks, the time necessary to visit my parents and then… bye bye again. I used to be quite a “mama’s boy”, so at the beginning I thought “it’s gonna be so hard!”, but then… it’s funny how it all changed!
Constantin: I have recently seen them once, on Christmas I went home. I still remember my first week in Czech Republic: no German speaking people, total confusion. Then you meet new friends and you spend with them more and more time, so you gradually forget about the rest. Sometime you’re in your room (maybe on Sundays) and you hear your phone ringing : it’s your mum. That’s the moment you think “Oh my God, I have a mum!”.
A particular curiosity about summer camp?
There’s a particular cheese we call Smažený sýr. It’s exquisite – and not just for kids! You fry it in oil and it costs just one euro, it is perfect when you are hungry – especially when children are, during the summer camp!
Last question about including us: some reasons for which we should come?
1. We have nice bathrooms! We were surprised when we came to Italy and saw turk baths. We were always taking pictures of it: “Ehy, there’s a hole in the ground”. No way to find them in Czech Republic, someone ironically asked “Is this Europe, is this “West?”.
2. Food is great and so much cheaper (we, interviewers, think that it is quite difficult compete with Italy!)
3. Different mentality: we are damneged from the comunist time, but Czech has regular people, everybody is really friendly.
4. Particularly, Preague is fantastic -visit it if you can!-, but we also have many oratories and salesian centres in smaller cities, where you live as in a family. Not only Salesians and children, but also with all the people in the city: you live a great experience, meet new friends and learn Czech!
… And this is what we’ve learned:
“Non rimandare a domani il bene che potresti fare oggi, perché domani non avrai tempo per farlo.”
“Don’t put off till tomorrow the good you can do today, because you won’t have time tomorrow.”
“Neodkládej dobro na zítřek, když ho můžeš udělat dnes.”
“Was du heute kannst besorgen, dads verschiebe nicht auf morgen.”
“Μην αναβαλεις για αύριο το καλό που μπορείς να κανόνες σήμερα γιατί αύριο δεν θα έχεις το χρόνο να το κανείς.”
“Nunca dejes para mañana el bien que puedes hacer hoy , porque mañana no tendras tiempo para hacerlo.”