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During the last few months of my project I spent the majority of my time caring for the our army of (once peaking at 90) juvenile and adult swifts, with the number mostly made up of juveniles. The very basic daily care involved feeding each swift at usually at least 4 times a day. For adult Common and Pallid Swifts this would consist of 40 mealworms, and for Alpine Swifts it was likely over 100. The boxes in which they are kept would also have to be changed at least once a day, and each swift needed to be weighed every 2 days. These tasks would of course become more difficult than you would otherwise anticipate because the juvenile swifts once they had grown strong enough, and had energy to spare, would spend it on trying to and were not that infrequently successful in escaping their boxes. Consequently, a lot of time and energy would be wasted in finding then returning the missing swifts to their correct boxes by matching them to their individual identification paper and coloured tag. 

The responsibilities of this care increase when considering other tasks that quickly became part of the routine:

- adding daily supplements such as a calcium/phosphate powder to the mealworms, active microorganism to the water

- administering any specified medication that had been prescribed by a vet and was written on the bird's identification paper

- monitoring of physical and neurological behaviour of the birds, and then raising any concerns with a vet, or,  acting upon them if for example the bird was cold it can be placed in the warm room (if it is in its own separate box)

-regular cleaning of work space and gloves (or changing) in order to minimise spread of infection or causing it by damaging and dirtying feathers and eyes. 

Although at times this extremely demanding work de to its monotony and long working hours, caring for these birds became a very fulfilling responsibility as over time they became more than just a task, but creatures to which I had formed an emotional attachment. 

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At the very end of my trip I stopped over in Athens for two wonderfully chaotic, hot and sweaty days. By staying in the central area of Omonia I was within easy reach of the Acropolis, National Gardens, Syntagma Square, the neighbourhood of Plaka, the flea market at Monasteraki, some of the best falafel and gelato I've had in a while, and a overall though hectic, friendly crowd of both locals and tourists. One of my best memories of my time there was walking to the top of Lycebettus Hill to watch the sunset over the city and the Aegean Sea - it was utterly stunning. I could not have wished for a more perfect ending to the adventure of a lifetime. 

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At the end of my project I decided to see more of Greece outside of Thessaloniki and experience more of its varied and diverse culture. This of course meant that I had to visit at least one of its iconic islands.

The first, was the rather innocuous island of Hydra. A convenient 1.5 hr trip from the port of Piraeus, Athens, Hydra revealed itself to be a surprising gem. Despite being littered with tourists, once you step off of the main promenade a sudden hush falls over the streets, to reveal quiet little bakeries and tavernas, where locals enjoy their morning coffee for the full length of the afternoon before crossing the street to order their eveni

 

Next was the island of Ikaria, famous for its blue spot award – an area recognised by the longevity of life of its residents. We were eager to experience such a lifestyle.

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Greece isn’t all sunny beaches and island life, as I learnt when I visited the city of Ioannina, visiting its beautiful lake (and the tiny island of jewellery makers the sits in its centre), and the nearby villages of Zagoria, such as Kipi which is pictured here. We explored the old bridges that connected the village to the further mountain paths, which though abandoned now, would have been central to life there before the accessibility of cars and buses.

 

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This week I spent 4 days at Nisi, Raches, exploring the different aspects of what it means to be an EVS volunteer, in the form of a Mid-Term Evaluation seminar. The sessions focused on a variety of topics from reflecting on our individual journeys to becoming EVS volunteers, leaving our families and friends behind in order to start a new life abroad, to possibilities beyond the technical work of our projects through creating personalised side projects, and life after EVS. However it was the unspoken exercise of bringing together individual volunteers, all of whom were isolated in their own project bubble, and opening it up to those that have similar but alternative experiences, in a stunning location, that was truly unforgettable. I am very grateful to the National Agency here in Greece and most importantly to our trainers, who were committed to producing the best experience possible for us all. 

 

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How to reach us...

Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/N1SRq7wK2zz

We are along the cross street intersecting the side road of the Thessaloniki-Athens highway, at the 9th km, just before the Mercedes car dealership. Following this cross street, you can find us 1km ahead, towards the sea, just after the ZAK shoe factory.

 
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