Cilia's ESC Diary in Portugal

Apr 19, 2022  •  12 min read

I’m Cilia, am 18 years old and come from the Netherlands. On the first of October, I arrived in Portugal to start my nine months of volunteering, where I will work with people with a mental disabilities. Luckily, we didn’t start work immediately: the first two weeks, we were free to explore as we saw fit, and because the weather was exceptionally nice, we went out almost every day.

During those first two weeks, we saw a lot: we discovered Lisbon, hiked up to the Palacio da Pena in Sintra, visited Cascais with its beautiful beaches and lighthouse, enjoyed the sun and the ocean at Carcavelos and ate Pasteis de Belém at the riverside.

Last weekend, we also had a Halloween party with all the volunteers at Casa Europa, which was absolutely fantastic. There were many different dishes and even more gorgeous costumes. At work we also had a celebration, with many spooky decorations and all the clients were dressed up.

My first month here in Portugal was lovely, and I can’t wait for new adventures to happen!
Cilia van Duijn
Portugal, October 2021

This is my second month in Portugal, and it’s been lovely so far! I have since started working, and the work is very fulfilling. I assist in daily activities, such as walking the dogs, baking cookies, painting, folding laundry, making music, etc. The work is very varied; no two days are the same. The people at my workplace are all very kind and always ready to teach me some Portuguese.

We also celebrated São Martinho on the eleventh of November: instead of making lanterns and singing songs, the Portuguese celebrate it by eating a lot of castanhas – I don’t understand why but I enjoyed it. The weather is still very good, and this is apparently called ‘São Martinho’s summer’, caused by the Saint cutting his cloak in two to give warmth to a beggar.

Together with my flatmates, we visited Setúbal, where we went to a Christmas market, enjoyed our lunch by the sea and enjoyed the sunshine. The day after, I went into Belém, where I visited the beautiful Mosteiro dos Jéronimos, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and even went to Campolide to walk on the famous Aqueduto das Águas Livres.

Even though November was a busy month for me, I enjoyed it very much and am looking forward to December!

Cilia van Duijn
Portugal, November 2021

December started with a week-long training in Porto. At this training were a lot of volunteers who worked all over Portugal; I even met some who live in Madeira! The training was very informative, both about our job as a volunteer and the importance of communication and non-violent conflict management. Furthermore, Porto is a beautiful city. During breaks, I managed to see quite a lot, though I definitely want to return. The best part wasn’t the training or the location but the other volunteers. I met so many people from different cultures and nationalities. I loved it.

After Porto, I went into Lisbon and visited the Cemetério dos Prazeres and the Basilica da Estrela, and held a siësta in the truly magical Tapada das Necessidades. The next day, I climbed up to the Castelo São Jorge, the imposing castle in the centre of Lisbon. Because it’s so high above the city, the view is wonderful. The same goes for the other miradouro’s that I visited, but my favourite is the Jardim de Torel.

For Christmas, we had a Secret Santa dinner at our apartment. We all wore fancy clothes, enjoyed the tartiflette the French made and laughed a lot.

Overall, December was a wonderful month, and I am looking forward to 2022!

Cilia van Duijn
Portugal, December 2021

I celebrated Carnaval for the first time this month, and I really enjoyed it! I went to see a parade in Alfama. It was really impressive to see all the different costumes, listen to the music and just the sheer amount of people coming together to celebrate. At work, we also had a party to celebrate Carnaval, with all the clients wearing costumes and a lot of dancing. I enjoyed it very much, even more than the celebrations for Dia dos Namorados.
Together with my flatmates, I watched the Estonian Eurovision Song Contest. We had a lot of fun criticising the acts and comparing the different competitors. After this, we also watched half of the Spanish contest, which had some really interesting political songs.

We also attended the demonstration against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There were many people with the same idea, and the amount of support was overwhelming. Many people wore blue and yellow clothes or make-up and carried protest bords saying things such as ‘Stand with Ukraine’ or ‘Não à guerra, sim à paz’.

Cilia van Duijn
Portugal, February 2022

This month I went to Porto for a weekend, which was very lovely! I visited a friend I made during our On-Arrival Training, and it was nice to catch up with her. She showed me around and together we saw a lot of Porto’s historic centre. My favourite was Livraria Lello, a truly magical bookshop. From the Torre de Clérigos you have an impressive view of Porto, including the cathedral.

Together with my housemates, we visited Mafra, with its beautiful palace. Especially the library was impressive, with a lot of decorations and very old books.

With my organisation, we went to a boccia tournament in Oeiras. It was really nice, especially because it was an opportunity to meet with friends that work at other institutions. We have also started preparing for Páscoa, with many rabbits and chicken decorations.

I also participated in Futuralia, where we spread awareness about the European Solidarity Corps and the possibilities that participating in a project can bring.

Cilia van Duijn
Portugal, March 2022