Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Peace Weekend in Dresden

Tine Look reporting from the Czech Republic

As an EVS Volunteer for Atlantic Bridge, I am used to the term "Building Bridges" - but how can this idea come alive? Last weekend (29th to 31th March) I  experienced it with a group of 20 people from all over the world. 
A team of youth leaders from the Mennonite church Dresden and Ian and me (volunteers of Atlantic Bridge) organised a youth events for Czechs and Germans! Moreover, two Chinese and one Japanese joined us, who are studying at the university in Dresden! We called it "The Peace Weekend"._ 

On Friday evening I arrived with four czech youth in Dresden. The German youth group already had prepared a great meal for us and while dinner we had some time to get to know each other. For the evening we prepared some games with the theme of  *"Peace between cultures".* Next, we used the evenings on Friday and Saturday for worship songs and hearing a small devotion about the day's theme. 
The topic for Saturday was *"Peace between God and humans"* . We started the day with the story of Brother Andrew, a Dutch man, smuggling bibles throughout communist europe! - but we didn't just hear the story, we also made it come alive, because the leaders from Dresden prepared a really cool city game in the Old Town of Dresden!! The idea behind it was that we had to smuggle bibles in small groups from one historical place to the other. On our phones we got questions and hints about where the next place would be!! This game was a big success, also because of the wonderful weather God gave us! :-) 
In the evening we cooked a traditional czech meal: Svičkova!
On Sunday we used our chance to present some pictures in the Sunday service of the Mennonite church. 
All together it was a successful weekend, even though the language difference was a barrier sometimes and we had to sleep in sleeping bags. We as leaders learnd more about leading intercultural groups and also the youth gave a good feedback for the weekend. A czech said :

I wish I can be on more events like this. It was super exciting and encouraging.

Friday, March 15, 2019

My guest home weekend in Ouddorp

Guesthome in Ouddorp

Ouddorp is a small coastal village on the island of Goeree Overflakee, just below the big city of Rotterdam. Very nice people live here and many of them go to church. My task on this island is to find out about youth in the churches, what they think, how many youth groups there are and if they are interested in building bridges.

On the 17th of November i went to my lovely host family in Ouddorp. It was quite adventurous to get there from Kruiningen but I succeed. Almost. The buttons in my last bus didn’t work so when I wanted to leave the bus I couldn’t because even if I pushed the buttons three times just to be sure, it didn’t stop. I couldn’t be sure. So I went to the bus driver who was very helpful and kind by the way even if he didn’t really speak English. So he stopped at the next bus stop and I was just thinking how to get back to the other bus station when fortunately Elma (my host mother) just appeared from her car. It turned out that she was waiting for me to pick me up at the bus station so when the bus came, she saw me on the bus and she just followed the bus by car till the next stop.

When I got to their home, I met with Hannah who was their 18 years old daughter and later Jaïra who was their youngest daughter (basically they are 3 but the oldest girl doesn’t live with them anymore). Anyway, so after that we sat down around the table and talked a little bit about myself, what am I doing, and why, and about the tasks what I’ve got from John for the weekend. Later me and Hannah went to the supermarket by bike and bought some ingredients for my oat cookies as we planned to bake some. It was very fun. As soon as we got home and started to bake everything became more fun. I turned my Christmas playlist on and then we did the cookies together with Hannah while we were chatting. I really enjoyed it. And everyone enjoyed the cookies what made me quite happy. As the night came we started the Posthuma family’s Saturday night routines. The father made some fries with croquettes (as I couldn’t eat that he made me fish. It was delicious.) what we ate next to the tv as it was a family movie-dinner night. The food was very delicious and it was nice to watch a movie together. After the movie they told me a little bit more about Santa Claus and that how Dutch people celebrate it. It was quite new for me as here it is almost like a pre-Christmas but in Hungary it’s just only one night. You get some chocolate and that’s it. At home it’s mostly just a celebration for the children. Here in the Netherlands they also have an own Santa Claus TV channel. After that they almost told me everything, we sang some Santa Claus music together then they asked me to bring  my shoe in the living room next to their shoes so maybe the Santa Claus will also give me something. At this point I felt a little bit embarrassed as I felt like I am bothering their Santa Claus celebration but I also knew that if I don’t put my shoe there then I would maybe hurt their feelings so I did it. After we were chatting a little bit but I went to the bed quite early because it was a long day.

Next day we woke up early, ate our breakfast and got ready to the church. And the Santa Claus also came so we checked what we got. I am very grateful to them for involving me in this and That they bought me sugar free chocolate. It was so nice how they tried to do their best. As soon we got ready we went to their church together. They had a very nice service. This service was a special one where the pastor mentioned the people who died and the people who were born in that year. I had the opportunity to speak with the youth leader of the church thanks to Elma and later with the pastor as well what hepled me a lot to be done with my tasks what I’ve got from John. I had a very successful talk with the youth leader and the pastor as well. They both liked the idea and the pastor even said that their church is always open for Bridge Builders. After the service we and played some board games with the girls. Later we ate Lunch together, then we went to the beach to collect the plastics together and to walk a little bit. I enjoyed it so much That we collected plastics. I am personally quite worried about the nature so it made me feel very good that we made something useful like that. We also collected some sea shells and saw two seals. It was cool.  I mean you can’t just see randomly seals in the nature anytime a few meters away from you. After that we went back to their place. Everyone was quite tired so we just took a rest and had nice conversations. The dinner of the last night was gluten and lactose free lasagna. And I can’t even tell how delicious it was. The girls also mentioned that I should come more times if they are always going to prepare these tasty foods. Well I definitely agreed with them. After dinner we continued what we did before: taking a rest and just talking, have some nice time together. I went to sleep early again as I had to go to teach next day. The morning was very slow. I mean I was quite slow as I was tired but I got ready in time. I even took a picture with Elma and Hannah before I left so I can have a nice memory of them. Unfortunately the others were still asleep so they couldn’t be on the picture.

I was so glad to be a part of that family even if just for a weekend. They were very nice and hospitable family. I very liked how I could always feel how they like each other. I can’t even imagine how big love there can be in their house during the Christmas Eve but if I’d have to describe it, i would say a super huuuuge endless love. And I would like to wish that kind of love to feel to all the people on earth for Christmas because this is what that is about: showing your loved ones how happy you are to have them in your life and spend some gold time together.

Dinner at the Grey Cat in Antwerp

There is Tine on the left, Maikel in the middle and me!

Dinner at the Grey Cat in Antwerp

by Kincsö Horvat

The next stop of the tour of the region was Antwerp. We visited the Grey Cat community. 

I had the opportunity to prepare Hungarian lens soup for 24 people. Moreover this is the only soup that I know how to prepare so I didn't leave a choice for anyone.

That Friday seemed very adventurous and I couldn't wait to meet the Grey Cat community. I really like them, they are very kind people and also the city where they live is a quite cool place.
However, we wasn't really in a hurry in the morning. We woke up, had a meeting, then an hour rest. I don't know what happened to me in that moment but I just had the mood to bake a cake and surprise myself with it so I just started to make my brownie. During that, Michael, my cooking mate arrived and we went together to the supermarket to buy the groceries for the dinner in Antwerp.   An hour later we were ready to the departure with John, Micheal, Wim, Tine and Ian. As soon as we arrived in Antwerp I've got a small heart attack as I realised I forgot the most important ingredients like paprika powder,  and gluten free flour (i know i was so silly) for the soup. So yes.... The moment when we had to leave the house was so sharp and hasty that i just simply forgot it. Thanks to my memory as soon as we arrived to Antwerp my first task was to hunt a supermarket and buy the special ingredients for the soup. I very enjoyed walking and exploring the streets of Antwerp all by myself. The workers in the supermarket were very kind and super helpful and i went back to the bridge builder team with a big success. They were waiting for me in the Koffieklub where they met the owner of the Koffieklub who even told the special story of that place. The Koffieklub of Antwerp gives a second chance for women who used to sold their body but would like to stop. They have the chance to find a safe place in the Koffieklub where they can start their life again next to a normal job. Personally I very respect these kind of places and appreciate those people who make these places possibly.

  Later we quickly went to a little sightseeing. We saw the old protestant church and the Saint Jansplein market. The Saint Jansplein market was built on the 8 of october 1868. It's located to the north of the city and it is the one of the biggest squares of the city. There are also weekly markets on Wednesdays and Fridays. It used to be a place where those women lived who's husband died in the war. The conclusion after the sightseeings and my personal little discoveries in the city was that i just started to like Antwerp the more and more. After the sightseeing we went to the Grey Cat Community's main place and me and Michael started to prepare the vegetables for cooking. It was very fun to cook together. John, Ian, Tine, and Wim helped us to cut the vegetables and everyone had the opportunity to show their potato peeling talent. The cooking was a little bit stressful because it took a long time for the water to boil up but besides that everything went fine. Me and Michael had a good time cooking together and talking with the members of the Grey Cat. Unfortunately the end of the cooking was a little bit stressful as I started to run out of time but thank god the people could wait a little bit more.

I was very happy that my soup didn't kill anyone and that the people liked it. After the soup I ate my life's first stampot. Stampot is a traditional Dutch dish with  the combination of mashed potato and one or different vegetables. This stampot was made from mashed potato, bacon, salad, and usually there is also cheese in it but thanks to my lactose intolerance I couldn't enjoy that part.
There was also 'jus' next to it which is a brown sauce. For dessert we had a super big cake as it was the birthday of José. She is also a member of the grey cat community. We spoke and had a lot of fun during the dinner together.

It was real honor that John had so many trust in me that he let me prepare the soup for the dinner in Antwerp. I very enjoyed my time there.

I really do hope that in the future we are going to have more activities with them.

Friday, March 1, 2019

The Big Picture 2.0

The Big Picture 2.0

Earlier this week I received an email from my sending organisation; they were asking me to write my mid time evaluation. Really? Already half of my EVS time is over? I almost couldn’t believe it, but well, they were right. 5 months are over, 6 months are still to come. So I guess it is time to take a look at the Big Picture again!
Out of these 5 months I have been living in Most for only 9 weeks. The other three months I spent on the music tour or for other activities with Atlantic Bridge in the Netherlands, but still – 9 weeks of living independent and on my own in Most! This I surely know: God is painting His picture and nothing can hold Him back from doing it!

A time full of experiences
I visited churches and youth groups and started to build up friendships. I got to know Most and visited cities like Prague, Carlsbad and Pilsen. I painted my apartment and visited other volunteers. I built up contacts with schools and churches and right now I am planning on some smaller activities and big events. Sometimes I meet youth to practice their German and my Czech and once a week I have my Czech lessons... Every two weeks I teach english for a mixed group of old and young people. I started to regularly meet a friend and his grandma in the next village and I hope that the old lady will teach me more about the Czech culture (for example how to cook Czech food) - but my absolute highlight so far was an international futsal tournament in Prague I participated in! Some friends from Germany came and we played together as the representative team for Ambassadors Football Germany!
I am sure that all these things are only possible through God's power and strength, as we read in Isaiah 40:29: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. And when I look on the small and big events that are still going to come I am sure that God will bless every work that praises Him – but let’s be honest: How often do we look back to the cross? How often do we really live for Christ’s sake, knowing that all good things come from Him? My opinion is that here are two aspects that hold us, and that hold me, back from intimacy with Christ: comfort and volume – We don’t feel a need to speak to Him and we are too busy.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017


We, Sandor, Sophie and Brigita had a unique and inspiring year in Atlantic Bridge. It was a year where we learned a lot about crossing cultures and about the various parts of the Christian faith. As we look back, for each of us it was a different experience. So we would like to give you a brief overview of what this year has meant for each of us. Not for Leo, though, as he started later and will continue till November. This photo puts us at the front of the City Hall of Hermsdorf, Germany, where our adventure started! Leo was not with us then!


It is really hard to summarize a year just in a few sentences, but since the time is here, I will try. I have written another blog post where I mentioned how different were my first insights I had with Atlantic Bridge from that I experienced before, which was due to the organisation’s Christian background and due to the fact, that I didn’t have this background. My grandparents were Christians before the Communists got in power in Hungary after the WW II, but I couldn’t say about me the same anymore. My curiosity drove me back to their faith, but for a really supportive community which helped me to learn about Christianity I had to leave my country. Thanks to the projects and the experiences I gained together with the other interns I got closer to something unique, something really valuable.

But this year wasn’t all just about Christianity. I got time for myself, tried out things, fell and stood up and all this in a way that I could be sure nothing could go wrong. It is hard to pick specifics I learnt, but if I had to I would mention that I developed my language skills which will play an enormous role in my future and had time to rethink the priorities in my life.

But all this couldn’t have happened without the other three interns I now, without any doubts, can call my friends. Friends, who understood me at the end almost without saying anything and who will never forget that “broken glass is actually fun”.

When I left Northern Ireland for the Netherlands I had no idea about what Atlantic bridge was or what I was getting into and an entire year seemed like a very long time. However, now I’m reflecting on what was possibly the craziest year of my life, it seems like my time in Kruiningen was all too short and I can’t quite believe it’s over.

Working with Atlantic Bridge has taught me so much about Youth, different cultures, working in the middle and of course being flexible! Over the course of my time there I met so many amazing young people who I formed relationships with and got to know on a deeper level. Not only did I meet young people but I also became part of the larger network which is the Atlantic Bridge family. Therefore the Youth Work Factory was the perfect way to finish off my year by spending time with so many wonderful people who I have come to know and love over my time with AB.

Looking back I have done things I never would’ve imagined doing in my lifetime from teaching Dutch students about Northern Ireland’s political history to sailing down the vltava river in Prague whilst eating a rather delicious pizza. This year has been one of exploration, travel, self discovery and growth and I am a more rounded person because of it. I love Atlantic Bridge’s vision and I am excited to see how this develops and grows in the coming years.

However, my time with AB wouldn’t have been the same without the other interns: Sándor, Brigita and Leopold. We became work mates, house mates and best mates all merged into one. We have entirely different taste in food, taste in music, religious beliefs and opinions on current affairs but this is how we learnt from each other and opened each others eyes to different slants on life. I have learnt lots from them and I’ve hope they’ve also learnt something from me, even if it’s only understanding sarcasm. I can’t thank them enough for all the good times over the past year and for making me laugh every day. Although life in Northern Ireland is a lot more straight forward, I will miss the madness of the vierslag!

So thank you to Atlantic Bridge and everyone whom I have met over the past year for teaching me so much, I will remember this year fondly. Who knows you may see my face pop up again in the future, but until then, keep on building bridges!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Is honesty the best policy?

EVS is one heck of a journey. Not only in terms of the distance you travel, but also in terms of personal experiences. When I came to the Netherlands I expected to visit different countries, travel lots, and eat a wide variety of food. However, I did not expect the cultural differences between myself and others to be so vast.

As a British girl manners are of utmost importance. Now, whilst I would agree that we are an excessively polite nation most of the time, I do find myself somewhat stressed by the differing levels of what is considered ‘polite’. As a British person you never want to sound too harsh, we like to soften the blow. Contrast this to the directness of the Dutch and you have two diametrically opposed styles.

I’ll give you some examples. If a situation occurs and a British person says “It’s fine, don’t worry about it”, the Dutch would never think of it again. Whereas the British person is probably stressing out about how terrible this situation is and will not be able to stop worrying about it for the foreseeable future. Now, I am aware of the fact that our use of language may seem very confusing to others as what we say vs what we actually mean can be quite contradictory, but we are a wonderfully peculiar species and we understand our own kind.

Whilst living here I have experienced conversations that I would never dream of having back home. The list includes comments about disliking food I made, the way I look/dress, the lunacy of the British people in voting for Brexit and countless ignorant statements about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. All of which I have attempted to respond to with as authentic a smile and chuckle as I can produce.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had many fabulous conversations here and I have met so many Dutch people who are more welcoming and pleasant than one could imagine, the bluntness is simply something you have to get used to. I do not think that the British people are in any way better due to their politeness, I have just learnt that Honesty, in all circumstances, is clearly a core value in the Netherlands. Learning about these differences has definitely broadened my worldview and understanding of the Dutch culture, and this is merely one of the limitless cultural differences I have experienced. I think that embracing these is what EVS is all about.      


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Visiting a Calvinist Church

Visiting a Calvinist Church for the first time

by Sophie Grier

In all honesty I was not looking  forward to attending the Gereformeerde  church last Sunday. I had witnessed the dark figures in black solemnly pass my house many a Sunday, and it always looked to me as if they were headed to a funeral as opposed  to a service of worship. Their formal attire seemed to drain them of any personality or joy. Nevertheless, we had heard a lot about the Calvinist community in Kruiningen, but were yet to meet such people, therefore I was intrigued to go and learn more about them.

I was invited round to a family’s house a few days prior to Sunday, to be briefed on what to expect at a Calvinist service. The family were lovely and welcoming but some of their church’s traditions seemed very old fashioned and outdated to me. For starters I had to wear a skirt. This may not sound like a big deal, but as a girl who loves her jeans and only wears skirts to weddings it seemed a bit far-fetched. However, my fashion woes did not end there. I also had to sport a hat in order to cover my head. I do not wear hats so one of the girls was kind enough to lend me one out of her collection. I come from a church with no dress code, therefore the fact I had to wear certain clothes to attend a service was a somewhat horrifying reality for me. After witnessing the black parade go through the streets many times I asked if black was compulsory, a question at which the whole family laughed and replied “of course not”!

Sunday morning arrived and I begrudgingly put on my skirt and hat and decided to stick to dark coloured clothing to avoid drawing any unnecessary attention to myself. I arrived at the church which was flooded with people pouring in and surprise surprise, they were ALL WEARING BLACK. Boy was I glad I didn’t wear yellow. . .
However I was pleasantly surprised by the nods, smiles and hello’s I received that morning. Normally if I was walking through the streets on a Sunday these people would do everything in their power to avoid eye contact with me. However, since today I was wearing a skirt and a hat it seemed that I was accepted as one of them and I received countless ‘goedemorgen’s’.
It was the busiest church I have been to thus far, but also the quietest. Once inside the church all conversation ceased and I felt as though people were watching as I walked down the aisle to my designated seat in the very front row, number 450.

Everyone had to stand as the minister and all male board walked into the church, then we sat, and I didn’t stand up again until the board and minister left. In this church females are not allowed to stand during song or prayer like the males are. To a 21st century western girl like myself this seemed like a derogatory tradition from 400 years ago and I found it hard to fathom that so many women were sitting there week after week of their own accord.

In spite of these blindingly obvious differences, the core, structure and style of the service was very similar if not identical to every other service we had attended.

Afterwards we headed back to a family’s house for lunch. They were very pleasant and one of the girls gave us a short summary of the sermon in English, which was very helpful as my dutch still needs a lot of work.

Overall, the service was better than I thought it would be, although I may not agree with their requirements for females I met very nice people and it helped me put a human face on the term “Calvinist’’ which I’ve heard so many in this town talk about. It was interesting to see things from their perspective and I feel it was a worthwhile  experience , but I won’t miss the hat!