Being a volunteer has a somehow schizophrenic side to it: you’re local and tourist at the same time.
European Volunteers come from abroad and are living and volunteering in a foreign country for a considerable amount of time. The everyday routine, shaped by the project, somehow makes the volunteers locals of the city they stay and work in. Although I would not go as far as considering myself a local of Funchal, even though I’ve been here for half a year, I feel like I know the city well and my tour guide experience means that I probably know more about Madeira’s capital, its history, buildings etc. than many born and raised locals. So I suggest the term “temporary local” because I do feel at home in Funchal, thanks to the warm welcome of the people and the beauty of the city.
Still, I remain a tourist. In the eyes of Madeirans because I don’t look Portuguese, but also because I have a foreigner’s perspective when exploring the island. Now I’m not yet entirely sure if this “schizophrenic state” is a good thing or not. It definitely does get annoying when even after six months, waiters still try to lure you into their restaurants, even though you pass them almost every day and they should have figured out that you’re not on vacation. On the other hand, having the perspective of a foreign person is a most enjoyable thing, because you are constantly keeping an eye out for new things. I told myself I would try to keep that explorer attitude in places I’ll live in in the future. And it is something the locals of Madeira should do more often, to discover more of the beautiful places their island has to offer!
Students’ Union German Volunteer
Project co-financed by ERASMUS+.