Change and not change

Even though it feels like I arrived yesterday, I’ve been in Spain for three months now. Before starting to write this post I reread what I wrote here two months ago and to my great surprise I realized how many things have changed in a short time.

Now I consider a bit mine the house in which I didn’t know where the bathroom light was, the room has become my room, with my posters, my books, etc, now isn’t a neutral room. 

Silla isn’t just a town 15 minutes from Valencia, but a place with my house, with the supermarket 5 minutes away, the station 20 minutes away, Gabi’s house near the square, the bar at the end of the street near Tola, etc.

And the same is for Valencia, it isn’t now just a Spanish city with the sea, but a city with “La filmoteca” in “Plaza del Ayuntamiento”, with the Italian bar called “La finestra” that makes pizzas for 4 euros, with Javi’s house near the center, etc. 

Something that was previously foreign from me now starts to become more familiar. Furthermore, now I know a little about Barcelona, where I spent Christmas with my cousin who I hadn’t seen for years, and I know something about Zaragoza, where my girlfriend Chiara lives, who I often see but who I also often miss.

In this period I having continued my relationships with the people I had already met, I having welcomed and met Andreja who now lives in our house and works with me and a few days ago I having reluctantly had to say goodbye to Ilkan who returned to Turkey having once his volunteering was over, but I finally started going to “Centro Ocupacional Tola” where I work as a volunteer from Monday to Friday. There I had the opportunity to start interacting with the people who here in Spain are called people with discapacidad intelectual and who in the center are called usuarios, to differentiate them from those who work in the Centro, the monitores. 

More than people with an intellectual disability, I have known Adrian, Sandra, Gemma, Marta, Ector, Manu, etc, I have known many names, each with its own singular characteristics and different from all the others. I also met people who work in the structure and I began to have a relationship with them, people with whom I can talk about cinema and psychology and after have an alcoholic evening of dancing in the center of Valencia.

Now that my level of English and Spanish is slowly improving, learning the language is no longer my only thought. Little by little, the desire to return to putting at the center of my days what has kept me most busy for years, the investigation of the human soul, grows in me. Let’s say that once I have learned the tongue a little, my interests are returning to focus on the language. While the tongue is different in each country or region (Italian, Spanish, English, etc.), the structure of the language is the same throughout the human world. This is the difference between tongue and language, although in English the word “language” is often used for both. For this reason it would probably be easier for me to communicate in Spanish with a spanish person who in “Centre Occupacional Tola” is called a monitore, compared to if I had to speak in Italian with an Italian usuario, if there was one. The difference is the mental structure, therefore something that is on the side of language and not of the tongue. This is why I finally started reading again, also because Tola is an environment full of diversity that makes me think. Attending a place like this without some theoretical reflection would be a great waste and boredom for me. But this is just my personal experience.

Returning to the topics that I mentioned two months ago in the previous post, I can say that while before starting to work daily in Tola my encounter with diversity was limited to coexistence and relation with people who speak another language and from different cultures, now I have to try, more difficultly but also in a more interesting way for me, to relate to people with a different mental structure, although perhaps at the core not so far from mine. For now I just think I have begun to glimpse that the master of the “Centro Occupacional Tola”, that is what cannot be seen but which coordinates what people do and that is covered by many attempts to simulate joy, is suffering and violence that cannot be verbalized and elaborated and for this is occasionally acted out.

But, as my “tongue skills” improve, I will focus more and more on improving my language skills, which are extremely more important in psychology, to try to better understand all this, also through comparison with those who work there, who I have found available to dialogue with me.

I believe that there are at least two levels of inner elaboration that a European volunteering experience can make happen and for this reason, to anyone who reads me, I recommend to do this adventure although with a little bit of initial fear, but also peacefully.

The first level is what makes us perceive a radical change and an initial disorientation that everyone experiences: suddenly we find ourselves having to speak a new language, relate to new people, live in a new culture, eat new things, with new plans, etc.

The second level, however, begins to be perceived more slowly, as time passes we realize that in reality nothing changes. We are far from our land, from our family, from our friends, from our language (in reality just from our tongue), but in reality we have something of all this stuck to us, it is what Freud called the return of the repressed. But unlike before we are starting to see it more clearly and this is a very important step.

We experience with more intensity what lives within us most intimately and which follows us like a ghost wherever we go and whatever we do. Said with a simple word, we realize that what does not change despite all the changes that volunteering makes us experience is unconscious, simply repeats itself here, as it did before.

So despite nothing changing, because maybe nothing ever changes, we can experience more vividly what never changes, enjoy it a little more, and maybe learn to complain a little less. Being a volunteer can start to make us perceive that what bothers us most or what makes us happy is not in the world, but in the most intimate place of ourselves that we so laboriously manage to inhabit. The volunteer experience that uproots us from our land can show us, perhaps 3000 km away, that our most intimate root always is the same and that many things need to change to realize that nothing changes. Più precisamente bisognerebbe dire che nulla cambia, ma qualcosa può variare senza cambiare.