My first month in Germany: Gitanjali Srinivas, Outbound participant – IJGD

My first month in Germany: Gitanjali Srinivas, Outbound participant – IJGD

From 27th November until today, it has been so phenomenal. Each day had its own ups and downs.

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Our flight to Frankfurt got delayed. We had to keep Kay, the Namibian volunteers, and Anushri waiting. They waited for Nikhil, Prashant and me for hours. There were 7 volunteers – James, Matti, Ester, Sara, Nina, Dina, Justina – I thought I would never learn all their names. We all started bonding in the bus from Frankfurt to Münster and the bond only grew bigger and bigger.

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In Münster, we meet Svetlana ma’am, Till and Jules (Red Cross volunteers who volunteered in Namibia). The 10 days of the seminar were really good. We learned a lot about Germany and Namibia.

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We enjoyed a lot, we bonded a lot, we played a game called ‘Werewolf’ every single day because we were so crazy about it (we actually played it in Gelsenkirchen too when we had a get-together for Christmas).

We learned about the project and why these types of projects are important. Ex-volunteers like Anna, Antonio, and Annika joined us.

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We did a city tour at Münster, it was really beautiful.

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The first week of the seminar, we stayed at a youth guesthouse at Münster. We got proper German food there, it was delicious. We tried everything available in the buffet. The drinking water is of two types: sparkling and still water. Still water is the normal water and the sparkling is the carbonated water (I am still not used to it) and we can drink tap water. At first, we were all uncomfortable, but I got used to it.

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On the last day of our stay in Münster, we were divided into two groups and given tasks to complete, so we went around Münster and learned so many things in the process. We were given advent calendars and St. Niklaus chocolate.

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The second week of the seminar, we went to Sendenhorst and stayed at a camping site. We were put into small groups and assigned days to cook for the team. Other ex-volunteers joined us – Patricia and Paul (he had come to Vellore to volunteer for a year).

The seminar was just amazing. We all became a huge family. We had a huge welcome party on December 7. We put up a German skit, all our mentors were there. We said goodbye to each other – it was an emotional moment for us. My mentors Jules and Alex drove me to my place of stay, my roommates were eager to see me – Paulina and Joanna (they are university students). The apartment was on a hillock, fully furnished and my mentors had left me groceries and snacks. I had three days to relax.

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On Sunday, Joanna wanted to shop, I went along with her. It was my first shopping trip in Germany, it was snowing, it was nice. On Monday, Alex came and we went to the registration office, then to the kindergarten to say ‘Hi’ to the staff and the kids and drove back home.

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Tuesday was my first day of work. I thought that I would get lost while going to work, but I reached safely. My group is called Sonnenschein, there are 21 children in the age group of 3-6 (I am getting used to the names). All the children are unique in their own way, I love working with them. My work timing is 8 am – 4 pm from Monday-Thursday and 8 am–3 pm on Friday.

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The people in charge of the group are Gabi, Michaela, and Becky. All of them at the kindergarten call me Gili because they cannot pronounce Gitanjali. I have German classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-11 am in the workplace itself.

My work is to play with the kids, clean up after them, take care of them and clean the kitchen after the evening snacks. The boss of the kindergarten is happy with me (my mentor told me). In the kindergarten, they used to sing Christmas songs every day and sometimes there would be story reading by one of the staff. I am provided lunch in the kindergarten. I have to cook breakfast and dinner.

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On December 15th evening, the kindergarten staff had a Christmas party, it was really fun. I got gifts and the others played Secret Santa. Franzi, a staff member drove me to and from the party.

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On 22nd December, I went to Bochum to my friends’ place (Sara and Ester, the Namibian volunteers) for Christmas and New Year. I had holidays from 22nd December – 4th January. The travel from Siegen to Bochum was an adventure. We started at 12 or 12:30. When we reached the next station, the driver felt pain in his knee and could not drive, so we had to wait for the ambulance and when the ambulance came, they said he should be hospitalized immediately. He was taken to the hospital, so we waited for the substitute driver for 3 hours and then finally I reached Bochum. But the best thing about the adventure was that all the passengers on the bus were really friendly and looked out for each other. We also went to a nearby bakery when we were waiting. In Bochum, I enjoyed a lot, we partied a lot.

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On 23rd December, Sara’s and Ester’s mentor had invited them to his house party, so they asked him whether I could come along with them. He was really kind and I went to his house, the party was so amazing and I got many gifts.

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On 25th, the team had a get-together at Gelsenkirchen. We partied, danced, ate good food, played Secret Santa and Werewolf. It was so exciting, we spoke about our projects and we all felt really secure.

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In Bochum, I got the chance of volunteering at an old age home. All the old people liked me, I felt so blessed. I had to feed the old people. I felt like I had the capacity to look after my family members when they get old and sick.

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On 31st January, we were invited to their neighbour’s place. The neighbour’s friend was a volunteer in Korea even before the internet came and he is also an integration teacher – he integrates immigrants into German society. So he had so many things to share with us. We didn’t realize the passing of time. At midnight, we went outside to see the fireworks. Then, we came inside and stayed there till 5:30 am, talking about cultures and countries.

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Yesterday, I meet an Indian in the FlixBus. Felt really good. I started working today, it was fun, and today on the bus I heard two boys speaking Hindi. I didn’t have the courage to speak to them. Tomorrow, most probably, I will speak to them. All the Indians I know in Germany aren’t staying in Siegen so it will be good if I make Indian friends.

Thank you, FSL-India!

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