Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vamos a cantar con los ninos espanoles

So having a kind of presentiment that it can be only the beginning we decided not to waste time and the same evening went to Kiev again. As we wanted to speak Spanish with the Chief of visa section but to tell the truth we weren’t absolutely sure that our knowledge of it would be enough to explain our “unusual case” we printed out from all pages about EVS from Spanish site of Youth in Action Program. The next day at 5 o’clock as usual waiting for the dawn we were reading about “intercambios culturales”, “ciudadania activa” and “SVE es un programa para todos”:) and trying to memorize some useful words.

The next interesting rule of Spanish Embassy in Kiev is that for having interview you have to present at 8 a.m. a copy of your visa application form and then wait till 1 p.m. But we were lucky enough and there was no rain so we could take a walk. Returning at 1 p.m. we discovered one more interesting fact – you can’t enter the Embassy with a bag; the security guard suggested that we could leave our bags in the car. But as we hadn’t the key to any car standing near the Embassy we had to look for another solution. Fortunately there are plenty of small agencies offering different services including “luggage office”.

So finally we were ready for the interview. We came in together as we had the same case and at once started speaking Spanish. Without false modesty let us tell that the Chief was impressed (so were we ) and he even asked where we learnt it:))). Though the Chief of visa section was very nice and kind and it seemed that he really wanted to help us somehow , it was evident that he saw our documents for the first time. So after explaining him what all this pile of documents (budget, agreements with NA, party agreements, etc) was for, he asked what is EVS and what we were going to do in Spain. So we told about volunteering, working in socio-cultural centers and teaching foreign languages to Spanish children and so on. Then there was just great question: “Does European Commission know about EVS?” We suggested that the Commission at least heard about it just because of a simple fact that it finances the program. The Chief asked us once again what we will be doing with children. So as it was already said about teaching languages I needed to answer something else and the only Spanish verb that came to my mind was “Cantar”. So was the answer… The Chief looked surprised: - Saben las canciones espanoles? – Si.
We even wanted to sing something to prove it but there were only two songs in Spanish that we remembered: “Para bailar la mamba” which wasn’t actually Spanish and “Besame mucho”, but we didn’t dare to sing it to the Chief of visa section of the Embassy :)).

So we came to the most interesting part of our interview, the Chief had to decide which visa we need. He did a very simple and genius thing, he went to the internet site of European Commission and read about EVS. Than he came back to us and solemnly declared that we didn’t need working visa (we had a sigh of relieve…) but a non-lucrative one. And there were some documents that we need to get for it (… relieve turned into another bad presentiment:): we need to get a certificate from the police and put an appostille on it and a medical certificate with the stamps of 25 doctors, 5 clinics, then of the regional health authorities, Ministry of Health and one more appostille. Than it should be translated in Spanish and the Embassy should approve it.

He finished his long speech, looked at us and re-started it, but in Russian. Maybe we looked perplexed, but not because of language difficulties; we just imagined visits to three ministries and one more detail - we heart the word “appostille” for the first time and had no idea who can put it. So after listening to the same thing in Russian and being completely lost I could only ask: “Que vamos a hacer ahora?”… :)
The answer was simple – go to Kharkiv, try to do all the certificates as soon as possible and come to the Embassy again.
The rest of the day we spent running between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, finding out what is appostille and how we can manage it in the shortest time. And we left Kiev with a strong belief that impossible is nothing and more or less clear plan for the next week.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let the visa story begin and may the force be with you...

Just before we start – some official information :)

Kharkiv – the city where we live. Second largest city in Ukraine with population of 2 million people . Scientific, transport and educational center of the Eastern Ukraine, located 40 km from the Russian border. In the beginning of the century – the capital of Ukraine for several years

Kiev – a lovely, old city. The capital of Ukraine situated on the Dniepr river. Administrative center of the country therefore all the embassies, consular missions and diplomatic institutions are located there. The Spanish embassy is not an exception.
The distance between the 2 cities is about 600 km, there are numerous trains and buses that connect them. The train ride takes about from 8 to 12 hours ( we don’t have TGVs in Ukraine : )
So each time you will see “ we went to Kiev” implies that we had a 10 hour train ride with more or less comfort over night, arriving to the capital at 5 a.m.

So after a happy summer full of adventures, both of us finally met in Ukraine in September. It was time to get the visa ready. After reading numerous times all the information that the Spanish embassy has on their site, and endless calls to their consular sections, we still didn’t know what kind of visa we should get, because no one could give us an exact answer. So we collected about a ton of papers, and were just waiting for the invitations from Ruth. We scheduled an appointment for the 19th of September, and we got the invitations only on the 18th in the morning. After having picked up the invitations, and buying tickets for a train that was leaving in 3 hours, we started getting ready to go to Kiev. However after a quick read through the invitation papers we discover an awful fact. Given that we have same names, there was a copy/paste error. My invitation was ok, however Lena had hers correct in the beginning, but in the middle of it my last name wasn’t erased. So it was kind of an invitation for 2 people at the same time :) So after calling Ruth, whose creativity was just stunning, we printed the page with the mistake on a color printer, and then discovered another mistake, already on both of the invitations – the project started on 1st of October, and ended on 30th of June and all in 2008 :)) So after reprinting another 4 copies, we rushed to catch a train and actually made it. Next morning started at 5 a.m. in the Kiev Railway station by de-stapling, re-stapling, and well, actually frauding our invitations… Kiev greeted us with cold rain and 8 degrees. The documents had to be submitted to the visa section of the embassy, the address of which we had printed out, but had no idea where it was, even though both of us now the capital very well. The visa section is located in the industrial zone, with quite picturesque sites…However we managed to find it. The girl who took the documents has ever heard of an evs or volunteering at all, so just put “trabajo” on our documents and turned them in telling – we’ll have an answer in a week. After that we had to pay a consular fee of $55. but in the embassy, which is on another end of town, and don’t forget the rain :) Another interesting fact, don’t know why, but the Spanish embassy accepts all the payments only in American dollars, why the embassy of a European country in Ukraine has a rule like that? No explanation, just why not? So having bought 110 USD we went to the embassy, since for security reasons they didn’t let both of us in, I was waiting for Lena outside, she came out, and I was ready to go home, however… She said that they didn’t accept the payment. Why? Because one of the bills was folded. Another interesting fact , Spanish embassy accepts the dollars that are NEW, NOT FOLDED, WITH NO STAINS or MARKS on Lena for her question – so this bill isn’t good, got an answer from a girl with a smile - Of course it is a good bill, you can use it anywhere, just we will not take it here. So we had to look for a currency exchange and ask them if they had any pretty dollars we could buy, and after choosing with the bank workers the prettiest ones, returned to the embassy. This time the appearance of the American president was satisfactory for the girl to accept kindly our money. So we spent the rest of the day in a train returning home, drying our feet and hoping that in a week we will have an answer.
However Tuesday next week both of us got a call from the embassy : “ Your case is quite unusual, so the embassy asks you to come for an interview with the Chief of a visa section during next 10 working days…” Who knew that it was just the beginning

Friday, December 5, 2008

How it all started or "we want to host you both"

La primera cosa que vamos a decir hoy : Feliz dia internacional del volontario!!!!!

Second - it takes too long to look for accents on English/Russian keyboard, so sorry :)

We were touched to get this many visitors the first day, so it gave us the desire to keep on writting :)) Thank you all for your kind words.

So now we will go on with our story, and surprisingly start with the beginning :) The beginning was 5 years ago when Lena and Lena met - the first day of University. Right away we understtod that we should do smth great together , but we just didn't know about EVS yet. So we had content ourselves with crazy ideas on local and somewhat international level. This ideas gave birth to L&L group, the label of which you can see as our picture :))) We will not say what L&L stands for - it is up to your imagination. So the beginning of our story goes back to September 2007 and it is not at all in Ukraine, but in a lovely country of Dobra - Poland( who by the way easily gives visas). Both of us ( separately) were selected for a study visit to Gdansk, of course we did send applications in the same envelope cuz we didnt have money for more, but they didnt know we were friends..Anyway, in a wonderful city of Gdansk/Gdynia/Sopot we discovered a whole flat ( or even 2) of crazy EVS volunteers from all over Europe. They showed us what it means to be an EVS - and it was decided right away. The hard part is that in our dear Ukraine noone ( including the Spanish embassy) heard of such a thing. But we were lucky cuz one of the girls from Gdansk - Olya, finished her EVS and wanted to become our sending organisation, she was also glad to help us with all the practical questions. So after signing the papers in University in December - telling them that after our 4th year we are leaving we were already on our trail :))The University didnt let us go willingly, but they had to accept it.

So after New Years a quest for an EVS begun. We would like to assure you that we looked for it separately and were sure that it was impossible to go together. So the aim of both was - Spain. Even though people tried to convince us that it is the hardest country to do an EVS at, because the embassy is kinda weird. But the easy way - is not our way. The quest begun. over a 100 of copy/pasted mails to Spanish NGOs, including some Italian and even Malteese. Even a poor Belgium one, who recieved my mail about how i love Spain...and even replied with a positive answer...In May, when we were in an international exchange in Warsaw, both of us discover that we were preselected by Don Bosco.. We were shocked, and feared that it would be only one of us selected. After a week of exchanging emails and Ruth trying to call us we started to doubt that we were confused as one person, sorry Ruth :))One more week later a crucial call from Ruth to Lena ( La Brune) informed us of a wonderful fact - they were not confusing us, because we had different pictures and they wanted to host us both !!!!

After crazy sending of agreements and euphoria, in the middle of the summer we found out that the project was approved ( both in Russia at the moment) and the only step - last, but not least - was to get a visa :)))

To be continued...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Welcome/Bienvenido/Добро Пожаловать

Santiago de Compostela, Cathedral of St James

Dear Visitor,

In case you are still confused, we will give some explanations. We are Lena and Lena – 2 girls from Kharkiv, Ukraine, best friends and since some time – volunteers. Both of us were selected for an EVS ( European Voluntary Service) by and NGO in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Our project started on the 1st of October,2008. And at first this blog was dedicated to describe our adventures in Spain. However, now it is December 2008 and we are still in Kharkiv, waiting for our visas. After being mad or upset, we decided that this part is as well a part of our project and a part of our way of St James, which will eventually lead us to our Santiago and our adventures in Spain. We dedicate this blog to our friends all over the world , who are interested in what we do and will follow it later on, when we will finally get to Spain, and also, to our future flatmates and volunteers of Don Bosco, so that they discover what we are doing at the moment, and where in the world did the 2 Ukrainian participants get lost. We sincerely hope that it will be interesting to all of you and appreciate your time and interest :)))