Hello… I’m Manjunath Kannal from the southern part of India. I have been working with FSL-India for the last two years as an International Work Camp Team Leader, at different locations in India. I participated in the workcamp on environment and renovation, organised by FSL-India’s partner, SJ-France.
I had a really good time at this work camp – I learned many things about the country, people, food, their culture and also from the volunteers.
I started my journey from Bangalore to Paris, met FSL-India’s earlier volunteer and had breakfast with him.
It was really good to see him after a long time. I took a train to a place call Bordeaux, changed another train and reached Montendre train station.I was late by 2 hours for the meeting point. No one was there and I had the challenge to find the project site myself.
I didn’t know the language, so I found a person and showed him the info-sheet with the address of the camp site. He told me in French and by body language how to go there. It was difficult, but I finally found the project site and met the team leader and the other volunteers.
Overall, the schedule was renovation work in the morning and cultural activities in the afternoon. Working with the local political people was hard because of the language, but soon we started understanding the body language by actions.
We found that it is not a barrier, working with 14 other countries’ volunteers and talking about huge cultural differences was fun.
Safety in our working place was really cool. In India, we don’t care much like France about safety in the working places.
In our team, we had a technical team leader who took care of the work – mainly safety. Talking to him and discussing about the lifestyles in different countries in his mixed French-English was fun.
We had two people regularly cooking for the team. It made me so happy because we could taste the different countries’ food.
I cooked one day – it was my first time I became cook for the day. I cooked very well and people liked the food. Now, I can confidently say that I can lead an independent life, I have to learn and adapt to it.
On Sept 9, there was a village forum, where all the local organizations come together and share their activities that they are doing around the village.
It was very interesting to meet more than 50 organizations, knowing which are the organisations working for the village, interacting with them. Their presentations and performance were very, very good. I learned so many things, met many people and we shared what we are doing in our work camp, where we come from, our work and cultural barriers.
Manuel was our leader and on behalf of SJ, he took us around the forum – it was learning day. It was also my birthday, so once we came back, we celebrated it. I was lucky to celebrate it in France.
On our weekend, we went to lle d Aix. It was the best part to meet the other work camp volunteers.
We had international cooking with them and had a party. We become closer with our volunteer and other workcamp volunteers.
We went swimming in the ocean and played volleyball. In Europe, weekends are very special for them to have fun traveling, have drinks with family, friends and colleagues.
People love to travel on their weekends and enjoy their life. In India, we do travel, but not everyone does. Basically, we go to a temple, or an outing in town, or shopping.
Overall, I had so many cultural shocks like Friday night pubbing – we went in the first week. We don’t have such pub special Friday nights in India, drinking with families. I know it is the culture, but practically seeing it surprised me so much and teenagers smoking in public, it’s common too, but in India, adults also cannot smoke in public. I saw most of the people socialising in France by smoking, drinking wine together and meeting in pubs. At a party like that, people make more friends and become familar, wine is like tea.
Through this work camp I understood the feelings of the volunteers once they come here, adjusting with food, culture, life style and people. I strongly say that I have to accept whatever culture they have in their country and respect it and at the same time, I can share the differences of other cultures and try to make them understand it.
I just wanted say thank you very much Rakesh Sir and Ragland Sir for selecting me to attend this work camp and thank you so much SJ for giving me this opportunity. I have decided to do Long Term Volunteering in France and understand more cultural differences in the future.