Travelling to Lisbon from 17-21 April for a reporting trip organized by the European Journalism Centre and co-financed by the European Commission I met more than 20 erudite, determined and knowledgeable bloggers and photographers from all around the world and became convinced of several important issues. One of them was that globalization is not an abstract concept anymore used only by theoreticians; it is a part of our life – something we can not grasp, but still can feel with all our five senses. There are countless opportunities beyond every door, the relations among people become more fragmented, the distance between continents decreases and the borders imperceptibly disappear.
April 17: Arrival. Seems that the organizers have arranged everything – they have found and booked the best flights for us, they have chosen the best hotels and explained in details how to get to our apartments. However, they have not foreseen one really tricky thing - there are no numbers on the walls of buildings. Or maybe it was just too dark when I arrived… A Portuguese girl I meet running in the street in midnight Lisbon helps me to find the necessary place and it does not matter at all, that she is not able to communicate in English – we talk in Portuguese+Spanish+English+nonverbal language. I get the impression that Portuguese people are very friendly and supportive (which does not change during the trip). If I asked for help in Riga during that hour of the day, I would be ignored and would hear a lot of unpleasant words. Sounds sad, doesn’t it?
April 18: The first day of the trip. We make acquaintance with each other. The first blogger I meet is Ronny from Belgium. I wonder of his knowledge about different specific issues. But when I got to know that he works for Transparency International – the important European organization I have touched so often in my studies– my surprise continues to grow. Then Mirza from Bosnia and other participants join us. Somehow I have a feeling that I know all these people for many, many years. The European Commission representatives introduce us with several projects regarding water issues, the environment and so on. The effects of the global warming are quite familiar for us, that’s why one of the speakers talks about the main challenges for Portugal and the Mediterranean area. We visit European Maritime Safety Agency, where we get to know about the biggest challenges in the field of maritime safety, for example, prevention of pollution from ships. The first paragraphs of our reports appear.
April 19: Today the theoretical issues are successfully frameworked in practical activities. In the morning we are introduced of historical background of Lisbon as water frontier through the visit to the aqueduct and the reservoir. A trip to Lisbon suburb of Sintra (described as “glorious Eden” by Lord Byron) follows in the afternoon. I fell like a dwarf in Wonderland. Monserrate Palace and Nature Park astonishes to a great extent. There is the biggest concentration of species of vegetation I have ever seen – as from thujas, enormous sequoias and arucarias to different indigenous species. Moreover, we are not common tourists here, we have the great opportunity to engage in the preservation of the ecosystem of the park; we perform a small, but very important task – we hang up bird-cages on one of the trees of the park.
April 20: I love dolphins very much. However, I could not even dream that I will see them in their natural surroundings one day. Usually people get acquainted with these fantastic mammals in such places like Klaipeda dolphinarium in Lithuania. But it’s not the same! It is not the same as to see them in the ocean and to listen to the explanations of experts. I am surprised that Portuguese experts know the names of all the dolphins, they remember the weight of them and are aware of the main challenges these mammals face. Seems that dolphins are quite happy to see us. They express their feelings through amazing somersaults. The afternoon passes in another - Arrabida Natural Park.
April 21: In the last day of the trip we go to EU-funded waste water treatment plant of Alcantara. After that we are interviewed. We have to address the situation of water issues in our countries, to speak about the main challenges bloggers face writing of water issues. We are also asked to describe this trip in three words. Amazing, valuable and well-organized, that’s my evaluation.
April 22: Departure.
What has changed since the trip... I have become convinced that the diameter of the globe diminishes every day and the people in the world become like neighbors. I met Andrea who has visited Europe for many times, studied in Madrid (turned out that we even have two common friends in Europe from other projects) and is planning her trip to Russia. I did not stop to wonder about Benno who has visited more than 90 countries within his professional activities, has dived with dolphins and climbed the mountains. And still… he has not lost the pleasure and enthusiasm to visit new places and communicate with different people. Because of the great variety of different countries represented, I had to explain again and again the location of Latvia - it is situated between Lithuania and Estonia. But huge was my surprise when I got to know that many participants are aware of my country – some of them have been near the Baltic sea, visited Kurzeme, western region of the country, and some are planning to come here during the summer. Welcome!
*** I have made a small video (included the greatest moments from the trip) using the photos of all of us, hope that nobody minds!:)