Maradona, Eleanora, Dios and Zia Franca

Being part of Project M.A.R.E. means that we are part of a bigger network of conservationists and people trying to preserve nature and biodiversity. It has been the goal of the project since its creation: protecting the Posidonia meadows in the Bay of Ieranto from their mechanical destruction caused by boat anchoring. Based on that argument and under the banner of the MPA of Punta Campanella, we take part in activities regarding the conservation of marine turtles. We are part of the Tartarughe Marine in Campania network that takes care of the nesting season of marine turtles Caretta caretta in Campania and in Cilento specifically. On the other hand, this network takes also care of beached and turtles caught accidentally in fishermen’s gears, also called bycatch, which is one of the biggest problems for marine organisms. It is a catastrophe killing more than 250,000 marine turtles, more than 300,000 dolphins and small whales and more than 100M sharks.

Image from WWF

To reduce this phenomenon, fishermen are mostly targeted in campaigns and trainings to raise awareness. But most of the time, they are more aware of what’s happening around them in the sea. That’s why it has been and still is imperative for the MPA to build contacts and establish cooperation with them.

We were lucky to have had a phone call on January 7th from a fisherman in the golf of Salerno, a place well known to be a resting spot for marine turtles in winter, about two Caretta caretta turtles caught in his nets that morning. We immediately dispatched to the port of Salerno where we met Luigi Guida and Antonio Di Mai, the two captains that found the turtles. The turtles seemed to be in good health. It is a tradition for the one who finds the turtles to name them: One 50kg adult male named Maradona, of 64cm, and a smaller 30kg sub-adult, named Eleonora, of almost 50cm. It is necessary to keep them warm in winter as, like most reptiles, they run on a very slow metabolism, so keeping them cosy is necessary especially after all the effort that they do to liberate themselves from the nets.

That’s why they stayed the night at our mentor’s house and the morning after were taken to the turtle rescue centre in Portici, which is part of the Zoological Station Anton Dohrn of Naples, where they will get tested and have some health check-ups. They will also spend a few weeks in the rehabilitation basins to be sure that they don’t have any health issues. That’s when our job ends when we know that the animal is in good hands.

Our January proved to be very busy turtle-wise as on the 20th, we get a new call from the same fisherman, Captain Luigi again. We went to the port of Salerno on the same day of the call, where we also met the coastal guard and other fishermen. We were able to get our hands on a 62kg Caretta caretta male of 72cm given the name of Dios.

The animal was in good shape and was this time directly transported to the rescue centre that night. We met Dr. Andrea Affuso, a veterinarian from the Zoological Station who conducted an X-Ray on the turtle which came out clean but had some air bubbles in the kidney, which are caused by the sudden rise from the depth while caught in the net. The turtle will pass few weeks in the rehabilitation basins before being released once the veterinarians are sure it’s in good condition to be back in the water.

The French say that things come in threes and on February the 3rd that proved to be correct. We got a call again from the fishermen of the port of Salerno, this time from Captain Giulio Oliviero of the boat Zio Franco. It was about another Caretta caretta again the victim of bycatch, which was recuperated as they said in 50m deep, something extremely rare for turtles as generally, they rest in about 40m. This was a massive adult female turtle of around 77cm long, the biggest that we rescued in these two months, given the name of Zia Franca by captain Giulio. The fishermen told us that this one was too energetic and that it was moving the whole day in the boat, in comparison to the others where they very calm the whole process.

The same day after picking it up from Salerno, we took it directly to Portici, where we met Dr. Antonino Pane who immediately took care of the new guest. He took the morphological measurements that showed that it’s a 65kg female. We also took off the parasitic barnacles on her carapace. Later an X-RAY came out clear but also showed some small bubbles in the kidney. So the doctor immediately started her treatment.

One of the virtues of Project M.A.R.E. is this, having the opportunity to get an inside look at marine conservation efforts. This can only improve our perspective and our ecological thinking. In the end, we would like to thank all the people involved in this turtle rescuing effort, especially the fishermen of the golf of Salerno for their impeccable hospitality and care for the animal. Thanks to such individuals, we are able to help preserve endangered species. This shows how important it is to include fishermen and people of the sea otherwise marine conservation networks would never be as efficient as they are. We would also like to invite any fisherman to work with us and to connect with us in order to save and preserve the Mediterranean biodiversity.

A Dive Far Up North to the Latvian Culture

Located in northeastern Europe with a population of over 1.9 million people, Latvia has vibrant traditions and a long history dating back to early 9000 BC. It’s an extraordinary land that encompasses a mosaic of magnificent woodlands, marshes, lakes, rivers, and other habitats. When comparing to all European cultures that are present in this project, it’s safe to say that there are some distinct qualities that make Latvia really stand out. You can see it, for example, in pagan origins, work ethics or manners when men open doors for women or insist on carrying all the heavy bags. Yes, chivalry is alive and well in Latvia!

Latvian chefs on duty

To be honest, for us, Latvian culture was like quantum mechanics – we had heard of it but knew nothing about it, so having our amazing Latvian friends, Arina and Kristiāns, here was an extraordinary opportunity to discover it. Little by little, throughout December, we got familiar with Latvian culture by trying some delicious foods, exploring their cinematography, history, language, popular games, and music. These experiences really helped us to broaden our perspective of this mesmerizing Baltic country.

Trying potato pancakes

Latvia is such a small country, almost five times smaller than Italy, yet so full of beauty and rich in history, filled with hope and glory. They have a deeply rooted culture and a very strong identity, that they had defended on so many occasions throughout centuries. It has always been under the domination of larger nations, for example, Germany or Soviet Russia. After Latvians became free of the Soviet rule, their cultural heritage was reignited once again.

National symbols of Latvia

Before the Latvian culture month even started, we already had a glimpse of the language whenever Arina and Kristiāns were talking together – so many new and beautiful sounds and a lot of logic behind them. During the first cultural evening, we were trying to read the alphabet and speak the language ourselves, but we must admit that for many of us it was quite a challenge. We got a chance to discover a small part of Russian culture too, since a large percentage of the Latvian population is of Russian origin, as it is the case with Arina. Seeing and comparing both Latvian and Russian alphabets, we noticed how different they are. There are way less, if hardly any, similarities than we expected.

Latvian and Russian alphabets

Our friends offered us a virtual trip to Latvia through a series of videos and storytelling. We got to know cities and towns, such as Jūrmala and Alūksne, where they grew up in and, also, Riga – the capital – which is crossed by the Daugava river that meets the Baltic Sea. The clean and calm environment fantastically contrasts with the bright and vibrant colours of the buildings. We would be lying if we said that we didn’t feel the desire to experience the beauty with our own eyes.

Enjoying Latvian film “A Limousine the Colour of Midsummer’s Eve” (1981)

During the Latvian culture month, we had the opportunity to try many treats. Cold, warm, crunchy, or soft – Latvian cuisine has a lot to offer. Potatoes were included in almost every meal. We really liked the delicious Olivier salad which for some of us even brought back some dear childhood memories. However, the uncontested superstar was the snack ķiplokgrauziņi – fried garlic breadsticks from heaven. Honestly, one of the most savoury and aromatic garlic bread we have ever tasted.

Ķiplokgrauzdiņi
Vareniki and some appetizers
Honey cake

Latvians are still very much pagans at heart. They worship nature by celebrating the summer solstice which arguably is the most important national holiday. It’s a pagan tradition when Latvians celebrate the shortest night by staying up to greet the rising sun, weaving wreaths out of grasses and flowers, burning bonfires and jumping over them. Not only that, they still preserve a form of ancestor worship in celebrating Remembrance of the dead. That said, one thing that some of us found to be the most interesting one was the Ancient Latvian signs. There are so many different symbols and they all have geometrical and abstract forms which represent ancient deities and unique meanings. Kristiāns prepared a mesmerizing surprise by giving each of us a hand-painted wooden piece with an ancient Latvian sign on it so that they could be carried around as protective and empowering amulets. Thank you so much, Kris, for looking after our wellbeing!

Hand-painted wooden ornaments with different Latvian ancient signs

Some of us had heard that people from the north are cold, but we would like to disagree with that statement. It’s quite the opposite – they are probably the most caring people in the group. Once you get to know Latvian, the friendship will be very deep and personal. When either Kris or Arina are in charge, every detail counts and they always pay attention to each and one of us.

Liels paldies Arina and Kristiāns for being so generous and sharing this month with us!

Playing some Latvian games

Our lovely Latvian hosts Arina and Kristiāns: “Looking back to the start of the Latvian cultural month, we remember how confused we both were. We didn’t really know how to present our country in the best possible way. Not because there is little to show but quite the opposite – there are so many beautiful traditions, interesting facts, and tasty foods to share. Soon after starting the preparations, everything fell into place and both of us got extremely excited to show our fellow volunteers how proud we are to be Latvians.

Italian culture is so different from Latvian, it’s like night and day. However, one thing that unites both is the love of food and cooking. We had to choose the recipes carefully because Italy does not have many products that we usually utilise in our cuisine. Many meals that were served, we prepared for the first time in our lives and they turned out fantastic. We can proudly say that we gave our all and succeeded and overcame all the challenges and presented our culture as best as we could! 

The best gift for us was to see how our fellow volunteers and mentors enjoyed the food with a warm smile on their faces. We are beyond proud of our friends because they were so dedicated and gave their all in every cultural evening. We really do appreciate their effort in speaking Latvian because we know it is not easy.

We are grateful and blessed to have each other because we really proved to ourselves that we are a real dream-team. After this experience, it definitely feels like we can do anything together!”

Clean-up of Marina della Lobra

On Wednesday, February the 3rd, we, M.A.R.E. 2020 team, decided to make our day meaningful by giving back to the local community and to begin a journey of positive impacts. After getting suited up with our gloves and trash bags, we dedicated our day to make Marina della Lobra, our dear home, beautiful again. It was such an incredible experience!

Following all safety precautions, we aimed to collect as much waste as possible. It was a true team effort that brought us closer together. First, we started cleaning the small beach near our house. It was filled with tiny pieces of glass and plastic and a lot of cigarette buds. Then we continued by cleaning the path along the coast which was drowning in waste. A lot of it was trapped between rocks and plants. We stumbled upon an overwhelming amount of polystyrene which is rapidly becoming an environmental nightmare. Also, we found plenty of plastic bottles, bags, shoes, hundreds of small plastic pieces washed ashore and, of course, face masks – an item that is still creating a big impact on our environment.

While cleaning the beach, it was very nice and sweet to receive some uplifting words from the locals. People showed their support by stopping by and expressing their gratefulness, asking some very interesting questions, and giving us tons of encouragements. A simple grazie, “complimenti” and “buon lavoro” really did wonders and gave us motivation and joy to carry on with the work. That’s a good reminder that one kind word or a simple appreciation can change someone’s entire day.

There is a major difference between seeing photos of pollution online and witnessing it with your own eyes. It really makes one think about the devastating impact human activity has on the environment. We strongly believe that picking up trash is one of the easiest things a single person can do to help the environment. Imagine if a hundred people start doing it, then a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million…we could make a really big change. We have got only one Earth. Please be respectful and treat it right!

Beach clean-up in Tordigliano

On Monday, 18th of January, we continued the series of beach clean-ups proceeding with Tordigliano beach – the last one before the Punta Germano where the Marine Park officially ends within the zone C. To arrive there, we followed the windy road which going further leads to the famous places of Amalfi coast such as Praiano, Positano, and Amalfi. It took us around 20 minutes to reach Tordigliano following the sentiero (eng trail) which offers beautiful views.

Once we reached the sea, we observed the small beach with very thick banquettes of decaying Posidonia oceanica. Sea Grass Posidonia oceanica plays an important role in the marine ecosystem by providing habitat and nursery for diverse fish and invertebrate species and reducing coastal erosion. Facies of banks of dead leaves of Posidonia have been recognized as a EUNIS habitat type (A2.131). These facies are characterized by the accumulation of plant debris made up mostly of dead Posidonia oceanica leaves and/or other marine phanerogam* species.

*phanerogam species – species of plants that reproduce using seeds, not spores.

It is also known as “the lungs of the Mediterranean” because it produces oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide. Posidonia is being endangered and mechanically damaged by anchoring of the boats. For this reason, we are monitoring the Bay of Ieranto during the summer season and do not allow unauthorized boats to enter.

Posidonia beds

In Tordigliano we stumbled upon a couple of fishermen repairing the fishing nets and, also, a lot of cats lurking around the area. Well, Tordigliano is famous because around 20 cats inhabit this hidden paradise. Cats of all colours and sizes enjoy their ”private” beach, and although they are not completely wild, do not expect that they will want to be stroked!

After crossing the small beach, climbing metal ladders, and a big pile of rocks, we discovered a stunning and spacious rocky beach. At the first glance, it seemed that the beach is clean and that we will not have a lot of cleaning up to do. However, when we took a closer look, between the rocks and other hidden spots, once again we witnessed the big amounts of plastic waste, mainly polystyrene, two big car tires, pieces of iron, and abandoned or lost fishing gear. Moreover, the nets are known as ‘’ghost nets’’ which continue to float in the sea, entangle and kill marine wildlife.

Tordigliano beach

The most common waste was foamed polystyrene, or as we mostly call it a Styrofoam, which is one of many types of plastics, puffed with air becomes incredibly light and useful in food packaging, housing insulation, or in protecting our products while being transported. So light and practical, yet so harmful material that easily breaks into very small pieces. Waves and the sun help to break it into tiny pieces which are very hard to collect and remove from the environment. Pieces of cooling boxes that probably come from the fishing boats, buoys, and many other products are threatening sea birds and many other sea organisms. In which way will we ever get rid of famous tiny polystyrene balls remain an enormous challenge for humanity. Some scientific studies show that there are efficient decomposing bacteria and sunlight which can turn polystyrene into Carbon Dioxide and Dissolved Organic Carbon. For more information, read the full paper HERE! However, what we know for certain is that as individuals we can try to reduce our negative impact by paying attention to the packages that we are buying, especially to be careful with the takeaways packed in polystyrene boxes!

Before and after

After 1.5 hours of cleaning the beach, a lot of trash was been collected. Besides the project M.A.R.E team, we had help from a young man who came to soak up the sun but motivated by the collective action he joined and helped us with the cleaning.

Our special thanks go to the Comune di Massa Lubrense, Comune di Positano, Terra delle Sirene, società Multiservice and Associazione Macchia Mediterranea for helping us with the transport and a proper disposal of the trash next day!

Looking for volunteers for the 9th edition of the project M.A.R.E. and for the new sister project MARE for S.E.A.

Thanks to a strategic partnership with the Italian National Agency, our organization is offering the opportunity to take part in TWO different projects:

  • MARE for S.E.A. Short term ESC (3 months: May-July 21) at the Marine Protected Area of Regno di Nettuno (Ischia NA), that will host 4 volunteers from Spain, France, Portugal;
  • Project M.A.R.E. Long term ESC (10 months: April 21 – January 22) at the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella (Massa Lubrense NA), that will host 8 volunteers from Spain, Tunisia, Portugal, Croatia, Latvia.

M.A.R.E. family is a big community made of more than 50 volunteers from more than 10 different countries that have reached the project during the last 8 years. Now we are ready to open the doors of MARE world for those who are interested!

Background Info

Project M.A.R.E. and MARE for S.E.A. represent a unique experience in collaboration with the PUNTA CAMPANELLA Marine Protected Area and the REGNO DI NETTUNO Marine Protected Area (since this year), to support marine conservation programs based on initiatives to reduce human impacts on natural resources.

Volunteers will work to spread awareness about the richness of marine ecosystems, to promote ecotourism, to stop anchoring and pollution, to clean up beaches and the sea, working side by side with operators of the Marine Protected Area and many local organizations that follow the same path of sustainable development.

During the last 8 years of activities (from 2013 until today) volunteers have participated to many local initiatives, international meetings and conferences, and they have achieved many results in terms of support to the Park and personal development.

This life-changing experience has a powerful input to make people realize what’s the interaction between humans and ecological systems, and this helps a lot to understand the direction to take along their lives.

Site Info

Punta Campanella MPA and Regno di Nettuno MPA are located at the two edges of the Gulf of Naples and they represent the most natural sites within this basin.

Both territories are made of mountains that fall into the sea. Due to their location in the Naples region, they are characterized to be a preferred destination for luxury and mass tourism. The Marine Parks are also protecting natural places like Ieranto bay or Sorgeto Hot Springs, where there are signs of old civilizations that make these natural places still more fascinating and mysterious.

The continuous exploitation of these coastal areas led to a need in the reinforcement of marine conservancy and therefore, the two Marine Protect Areas were created within the last 25 years. Due to the difficult access by land and their transparent waters, these areas are the perfect spot for boats and yachts to stop and anchor during holiday periods. This leads to a big threat for marine life, especially Posidonia oceanica and hard substrate communities (made of encrusting sponges and algae, the so-called coralligenous community).

Since their foundation, the MPAs are carrying out many summer initiatives to reduce the impact of mass tourism (between June and September) and to let people enjoy the Park in a sustainable way. Monitoring, ecotourism and conservation are the keywords to have a balanced usage of marine resources, and volunteers have an important role in helping these operations.

Position offered

We are looking for 12 volunteers (4 short term – 8 long term) that are able to work with different levels of organization:

  • The project team, made of the group of volunteers from different countries, cultures, backgrounds + a coordinator + a mentor
  • Park team, made of biologists, educators, mariners, divers, park guards
  • Networking with local organisations (Foundations, Associations, Parks, People) that work for the same cause.

Volunteers should be open-minded, curious, tolerant with a positive attitude and willingness to learn. We would like to host people with special interest and love for nature, ocean, marine conservation, education, outdoor activities, to involve in a wonderful dream made in an international environment.

Duties:

Volunteers will support the park initiatives with a 30 to 40 hours/week commitment (6-8h/day). They will enjoy 2 Weekly free days (not weekend free days during summertime). They will also enjoy 2 monthly free days, to travel across this wonderful country, or just to relax. The work will be done at the office (50%) and in the field (50%).

The schedule is following these steps:

 DescriptionMARE for S.E.A.Project M.A.R.E.
TRAINING and ORIENTEERINGIntroduction to the territory, Italian language, marine resources, outdoor activities, active communication, park rules, marine conservation.MayApril-May-June
INTO THE BLUEA non-stop engagement in marine activities, during which everybody will be following a different schedule with different free days in order to cover a full week plan of initiatives.June-JulyJuly-August-September-October
MATURATIONDuring the fall-winter season volunteers will slow down activities, and they’ll concentrate more on the evaluation of everything that has been done in the summertime. They’ll present their work in many different meetings, from the schools to the conferences, from the local environment to the international meetings.//November-December-January
The SCHEDULE could undergo changes according to COVID emergency restrictions!

WORKING INFO

The Marine Parks are working on the activities that are listed below. According to the period of the year, volunteers will be involved in one or more of them. They will be asked to take part in these initiatives with a positive mood, active collaboration, using English and Italian languages.

Marine Conservation – to reduce human impacts on nature through reducing illegal activities, making people aware of the protected marine resources of the Park

Environmental Monitoring – to collect information about abiotic, biotic and human factors in the area of the park

Info & Awareness – to educate people about park rules and threats to marine resources

Outdoor Adventures – to meet nature face to face, and enjoy its power and energy

Beach and Sea Cleanups – to slow down one of the biggest impacts we have on our oceans

Intercultural Dialogue – to learn about different cultures, tolerance and diversity

Ecotourism Promotion – to spread info and open the doors to eco-compatible interactions between humans and nature

SUPPORT FROM THE PROJECT

The project is a part of the EUROPEAN SOLIDARITY CORPS, and it is financed by the Italian National Agency. Thanks to these funds we can cover these expenses for volunteers:

  1. Round trip – to come here at the beginning of the project, and to return back to the hometown;
  2. Accommodation – a shared flat with other volunteers ;
  3. Food Expenses – an amount of 150€ per month is guaranteed to volunteer to cover food expenses;
  4. Pocket Money – an amount of 150€ per month is guaranteed to volunteers for extra expenses;
  5. Training – several training sessions will be offered to volunteers in order to give them the best tools to support our work;
  6. Orienteering – the first step of the project is to become a local person, trying to orienteer in the new town, understanding also the geography of the Peninsula and the province of Naples, to make you feel at home;
  7. Mentoring – volunteers will take part in weekly meetings with a mentor to analyze the training process and the problems that they might face during the project.

If you are interested in this project, you are WELCOME to M.A.R.E. world!!

Check out our Facebook page and our blog to better understand who we are!

HOW TO APPLY: send a mail to mareapplication@gmail.com with your Curriculum Vitae and Motivation Letter. Please mention if you are applying to project M.A.R.E. or MARE for S.E.A. (or both).

DEADLINE: 20th of February 2021

Report of the Summer Season 2020

Project M.A.R.E. presents the report of the summer season activities in Ieranto Bay.

In this report, you can find a great overview of what has been done, understand what role our project plays in the protection and monitoring of the bay, comprehend the valuable statistics from this summer and reflect on the situation in Ieranto. As well as, see the ups and downs that we have faced this year and successful challenges that we overcame.

You can open the PDF of the report below.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us via email and our social media platforms.

The clean-up of the Crapolla Cove

The past few weeks brought us an exceptional amount of wind and rain, forcing us to stay and work from home up until last week. On Monday, January 11th, we finally got blessed with a clear sky and we decided to use the opportunity to get out of the house and do something meaningful. We had a relaxing hike to the beautiful Crapolla where we organized a beach clean-up and had one of the most rewarding teamwork experiences in a long time.

All together

Crapolla Cove is a spectacular place, a real hidden gem. The crystal-clear turquoise water and tremendous scenery from the hike going down (650 steps, to be exact) are worth the effort, and it embodies what hiking is all about – magnificent views, tons of fresh air and a good workout. Before reaching the beach, you can stop to visit the small Chapel of San Pietro and appreciate some columns and marble bases of the ancient buildings next to it. Whereas next to the beach you can see monazeni – ancient fisherman shelters, dating back to Roman times – that are engraved into the rocks and some other important Roman structures, such as cistern remains from which the freshwater was taken.

Enjoying the beautiful scenery

Upon arrival, we were shocked how much trash was washed out on such a small beach. Most of it was plastic, so much of it, as well as shoes, glass, and an enormous amount of polystyrene. Surprisingly, we didn’t find any face masks that were creating a big impact on our environment last year. Looking closer into the sand we could also find many tiny pieces of plastic, that most of the time are hard to spot and collect. Honestly, this was upsetting. However, our team made a great job and a small but significant difference. We also tried to recycle rubbish straight away while collecting and putting it into appropriate bags. The next day half of our team returned to Crapolla by boat to collect them.

It has always been a challenge to maintain the beach clean because currents constantly keep bringing rubbish to the shore. During summer the municipality organizes weekly beach clean-ups, whereas in winters people from nearby places do it themselves but there are many obstacles, such as storms, that often get in the way. Also, the beach is surrounded by steep slopes that make it incredibly difficult to bring the collected trash up to the village. That said, it often gets burned on the spot because people don’t know who should be contacted to take the rubbish away. Toxic gases and chemicals emitted by burning plastic materials, such as dioxins and furans, have a significant impact on the atmosphere as well as human health. Dioxins attach to dust particles and they can be carried long distances by the wind. During the rain, they usually get brought back to the sea, causing toxic pollution.

Before and after

Every place we have been, everywhere we have swum – full of plastic, and that’s the harsh reality of today’s world. Let’s make a collective effort every time we visit any natural place to leave it better than before! Our nature needs help more than ever, and it is our responsibility to try to make it a better place. That said, if you collect trash in Crapolla, Recommone or any other remote beach, please contact the Marine Park of Punta Campanella and we will organize a trash pickup!

Returning to Crapolla to collect the trash

Remember, that if there is no blue, there is no green!

A spicy dive into Tunisian culture

Tunisia reveals a rich past that lies beneath an eclectic mix of intertwined cultures and religions. Throughout time, it has naturally become a multicultural and multilingual country that perfectly combines traditions and modernity. Fortunately for us, both of our Tunisian volunteers, Akrem and Oussama, are from different parts of Tunisia, so we got a wonderful chance to explore this magnificent country from north to south and back again.

All together :)

Tolerance, hospitality and joy…these are just a few words that describe Tunisian culture. It’s so different than we have used to see in Europe in nearly every possible aspect you can think of. It’s mind-blowing to realize how many different civilizations have left a certain degree of cultural print that makes Tunisia so interesting and magnificent.

Our first Tunisian dinner and introduction to Arabic

While playing history-related games, we learned that Tunisia and European countries surrounding the Mediterranean, especially Italy and Spain, have so many things in common, such as the Mediterranean diet and the excessive use of olive oil, the traditional Tunisian music that bears a close resemblance to flamenco or numerous linguistic coincidences. Surprisingly, but all of them also have been under the same empire or territory for more than a thousand years, with the Phoenicians, with the Roman Empire and later under the rule of the Arabs.

Playing some educational games

None of us had ever seen such a beautiful yet complicated alphabet as the Arabic one before. It really seems like a piece of art. Just the fact that you need to read Arabic from right to left is incredible. Learning it made us think how amazing it is that so many different, complex languages and cultures co-exist. However, we must admit – it takes a lot of effort to speak the language, considering the fact, that many sounds for us, Europeans, aren’t quite familiar.

Learning (trying) Arabic

The landscapes of Tunisia are simply beautiful, and it is impressive how diverse it is. Through the screen, we were able to see some of the most breathtaking sights of the islands, cities, mountains and deserts. On top of that, Oussama surprised us with jebba – a key element of Tunisian traditional men suit made of flax and silk – that he brought from his home. We would be lying if we said that we didn’t find ourselves with a strong desire to visit the country and experience all the beauty with our own eyes.

Admiring the beauty of Tunisia and Oussama’s jebba

One extra spicy advice we can give you after the Tunisian cultural month – never judge harissa (a Tunisian hot chilli sauce) from the one you can find in the supermarket! We highly suggest you to try the real one, the one that will make you feel like there is smoke in your mouth. Apart from that, we also tasted some very delicious and hot traditional dishes, such as leblabi (Tunisian chickpea soup), mlewi (Tunisian flatbread), kafteji (Tunisian fried vegetables) and couscous all spiced up with, you guessed it, harissa. All dishes were made with an incredible amount of patience and love, and we really appreciate it.

Delicious kafteji and leblabi
Mlewi

Ayeshkom, ragazzi, for an extraordinary experience full of new flavours and sounds that we will cherish forever!

The first thing that comes to our mind when thinking about Tunisia is…

Akrem, our lovely Tunisian host: “It has been a blessing to share what I felt representative of what makes me Tunisian. I’ve been raised to be a good host and generous to my guests, so it was natural to share that with the good company of the team. I liked how they were receptive and engaged they were in the different activities that we did. Moreover, the fact that few of them would try some of the dishes that they helped me prepare. Even though a month is short to show all about a culture, it’s a good amount of time to get to know it and have a taste of it. Thank you, guys, for giving me the privilege to be an ambassador of Tunisia! I hope I was a good one!”

Middle of the Project: A time for self-reflection

Before reaching the top of Monte Faito

This is it. We are officially halfway through the project. We would be lying if we said that it isn’t a little bittersweet. This year has been such an emotional roller-coaster, fuelled by uncertainty and anxiety. The pandemic has had a strong impact on the way how things are getting done in 2020, and all we can do is to evolve and adapt to a “new normal”. Despite all the chaos in the world, we, M.A.R.E. 2020 team, have done amazing things that no virus can take away from us.

In this article, we wanted to share our thoughts and feelings we are dealing with at this time. It’s important for all of us, especially now, during a pandemic, to make time for self-reflection and remind ourselves how far we have come before continuing with the journey ahead.

ARINA:

It is hard to believe that half of the project is already over, time flies incredibly fast. So far it has been an amazing opportunity full of new experiences. Weighting all in my head, I would not choose to do anything else instead of this project in this period of time, I have a feeling that I am in the right place at the right time, despite everything that is happening in our world right now. I feel grateful for this chance in life, and I think I grew and matured significantly over these past months. Learning something new every day from each other is very valuable. I can say that each day brings us, volunteers, closer and we have become like a family with our own inside jokes and understandings, that sometimes does not require words. 

We all know that it is now a COVID time, and therefore, a lot of our project activities are restricted or cancelled at all this year, which is sad, but what keeps us going is our team. It is beyond belief, whenever I think about it, that we all live on this planet, and never know about the existence of each other, running busy through our own problems and everyday lives, and then one collision of mini-events brings us all together to share nine months of our lives with each other. To me, this is a very precious and important thing. 

I can say that I try to stay positive and appreciate every small thing that happens every day, this helps in these challenging times. Living by the sea is another thing that we are all blessed with. My heart is filled with gratitude and I am looking forward to the lockdown to be over, so we can all enjoy Italy a little bit more because this country is incredible! This quote by Giuseppe Verdi represents perfectly how I feel about Italy: «You may have the universe if I may have Italy». I want to experience as much as I can of it, and I don’t think I can ever get enough of this beautiful land!

Stay safe and positive, beautiful human beings! Hugs, Arina!

First time together in Regina Giovanna Bath, early July 2020

KRISTIANS:

Time flies. I think it’s hard to understand this phenomenal concept until you experience it first-hand. Before coming to Italy, I had a feeling that this adventure will pass by faster than I can blink, and wow, was I wrong… Honestly, it’s so strange reminiscing on my time here, remembering the highs, lows and in between moments. Even though we still have four incredible months ahead of us, I’m beyond grateful for the lessons I’ve learned. I feel like I’ve discovered a new side of myself and I’m very keen to see how it evolves as time progresses.

Patience has always been one of my strongest virtues and now, while being in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve developed it even more. Yes, this definitely has been a challenging year for everyone and never in a million years did I expect my volunteering experience would turn out like this, but, through it all, we as a team have done incredible things and I’m so proud of us. Being surrounded by such amazing and kind people from all over the world has been a rewarding journey that I will cherish forever. Ragazzi, if you are reading this, you are amazing!

It doesn’t matter what I do – I can save little hatchlings, collect trash from the beach or raise awareness on marine litter – the fulfilment I find in helping those in need is incredible. It makes me feel human. Yes, I may not be solving problems globally, but I feel so good knowing that I’m doing my bit to make the world a better place and inspiring other along the way.

We traveled so much and never forgot our responsibilities

AKREM:

I still have the image of me hugging my father before boarding the plane. It happened like it was yesterday, well, more like 4 months ago. And what a journey it has been so far! Long story short, we kayaked, we hiked, we snorkeled, we dived, we explored, we helped preserve the environment, we saved someone’s life, we partied, and most importantly we discovered a small part of each other that we probably didn’t knew existed. Sometimes it was challenging to keep up, but it felt good learning new things. Sometimes it was tricky to handle what’s happening around us (i.e. a pandemic) but it felt good to find joy and have fun marine adventures while respecting the environment. And I guess that’s what the project is about. In the past 4 months, I had a lifetime share of memories, but I know that it will not stop there, and I will continue experiencing so many marvellous moments for the second half of this journey. Ci vediamo in 5 mese!

Trying Naples street food for the first time, late August 2020

RAQUEL:

Four months have passed since I arrived in Italy to start my M.A.R.E. project experience. I still remember the night I got to meet the team and mentors in person for the first time. Very welcoming and warm moment. Then came all the learning process… and I’m talking about not only the Ieranto work and how the MPA of Punta Campanella works, but also about the Italian language, culture and the places around. Looking back on time to those warm summer days, I can clearly remember the beautiful days in Ieranto, the turtle nesting in Cilento for 10 days, travelling around and living beautiful experiences and moments with all the elements of the project and with the ones that join us every now and then. I have very nice memories and I’m grateful for them. Now, in the middle of the lockdown, I feel that creativity is the key to make the project keep going since it changed a lot compared to previous years. But it’s ok! Let’s keep positive and safe!! That’s all I wish for you too!! Ci vediamo!!

Our little backyard paradise

PETRA:

After four and a half months of my ESC voluntary service, I want to share with you my favorite parts of the experience on which I am very grateful to the whole team of project M.A.R.E.

Big thanks to the M.A.R.E. because It gave me an opportunity to:
Experience life close to the sea;
Learn about the marine environment, kayak, snorkel, and see the octopus for the very first time in my life;
Create and nourish our own garden, grow a bunch of bietola and make delicious meals with it;
Experience ”slow life” which gave me time to spend more energy on cooking and taking care of my health; reading and watching movies in Italian;
learn about the Italian, Latvian, Hungarian, Tunisian, Spanish, French, Portuguese culture and have space to share mine;
Explore Sorrento peninsula and its natural and cultural beauties;
Build close relationships with other volunteers and mentors;
Improve my Italian and English;
Work on my communication skills.

Ragazzi/e thank you for all the internal jokes, serious and less serious life advices, shared cookies, soups, songs and motivation! The only part of the project which is lacking for now and due to the Covid-19 circumstances we are not able to carry out is educational activities with children and being more close to other people. I hope it will be possible in the future so we can spread the main values of our project.

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We cooked and enjoyed so many delicious meals together

GONZALO:

Last November 15 we reached half of the project and in these four and a half month time has flown by, it seems like yesterday when we were still going to work in Ieranto, it was hot, the days were long and ultimately the precious summer was with us. This year is being different for many reasons, especially caused by Covid-19, such as the fact that we are in lockdown right now in the entire Campagna region but even so I couldn’t imagine that I would spend a whole day of lockdown in a kayak or cooking with my friends or enjoying the cultural nights, if it is true that it is a somewhat difficult year for everyone but at least here we live in a small bubble far from reality, without television, without much reading of the media and of course having each other which is the most important thing. Therefore I can conclude that until now (half of the project) everything has gone wonderfully, I have met invaluable people, I have carried out activities that I had only dreamed of before and I find myself in a clearing within the storm that 2020, unfortunately, is being.

Always having productive office days

OUSSAMA:

Time passes by hastily till we reached the halfway… Different profiles from different countries gathered in one place for one reason which is maintaining the sustainability of the project MARE in a small fascinating place so called IERANTO. It’s quite surprising what we have done so far, finishing summer season with good results, gaining life experience filled with a bunch of new things, memorable moments with such a great team. By the same token we have been also a part of an amazing experience which is “turtles rescue”. At the same time, we were framed by great mentors, they gave us the opportunity to dive deep into the Italian culture.

Each of these stages, positions made an important contribution to our understanding of project MARE. We are still in the halfway, there are a lot of things waiting to be done, places to be discovered and memories to be made… I couldn‘t be more thankful.

A day to remember – after spending less than 2 hours in kayaks, we collected ~43,44 kg of trash, early October 2020

MARGOT:

Bonjour! Apparently, we are already halfway of the project! I have the feeling it just started… No wait that is because, for me, it actually just started. I am very thankful to the team because I feel like I was here since the beginning. I did not go through all their ups and downs so I might be lost sometimes but I progressively learn about us. I say US because while learning about each of them, while seeing how different we all are from each other, while living and working together 24/7, I also discover more about myself. This project is as much a challenge as an incredible experience. I am learning a lot whether on a personal or professional level. Knowing that I still have 4 months in front of me makes me quite curious of who will be the Margot after the project. One sure thing is that the Mediterranean thought me to pay attention to underwater details. As It looks all pink from a broader perspective the colours appear while getting closer. Maybe we can take it as a lesson and while in the life we have a first impression it sometimes worth it to look at the details to understand the real picture.

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Reminiscing about warmer days at the magnificent Bay of Ieranto

A flavourful dive into Portuguese culture

New month, new culture to embrace and explore! We dedicated the entire month of October to dive into the rich Portuguese culture. We truly had an amazing time playing fun games, taking our taste-buds on some delicious gastronomic journeys, learning Portuguese and moving our hips like there’s no tomorrow. What are our thoughts and biggest takeaways from this experience, you may ask? Let’s find out!

Family ♥

Arina:

In October, without moving anywhere, I could have a glimpse of unique Portuguese culture! The sound of their language, with a rich amount of vowel sounds, is pleasant to the ears, and their exceptional cuisine wakes up your taste buds and inspires to cook and discover more of the traditional dishes their culture has to offer. Not to mention the friendliness, kindness and warmth of the people from there! I enjoyed learning introductory phrases, playing traditional games, listening to Portuguese music and eating all together the most! I can not choose the favourite meal that I tried because I liked them all way too much! I have never been to Portugal, but now it is a MUST on my list! Muito obrigada Raquel and Érica!!

Preparing Portuguese traditional dishes

Margot:

Ciao! I arrived halfway during the Portuguese month and those cultural evenings were a nice way to learn about my new team. It is definitely not easy to keep all of us focus during a whole evening, but our Portuguese knew how to attract our attention. First, we learned a little bit about their language. Portuguese has a very warm and generous accent. Second, we played games! Words game, cultural quiz, etc. Did you know that Portugal has around 10 million habitants? Finally, we also learnt a little bit of kizomba. Work still needs to be done so I look forward to our next lesson.

Learning Portuguese while playing fun games

Akrem:

For a first contact with the Portuguese culture and language, it was surprising to see the similarities with other cultures that were familiar. But the most surprising part was the differences in the Portuguese and Brasilian-Portuguese dialects. It was extremely useful to hear and to have some exercises about the language. It showed that it was fairly manageable to learn its basics as it didn’t sound new or unfamiliar. The food was unusual, but it was delicious and savoury. It shows that they devote a lot of time and energy to prepare those magnificent meals. It was also a good chance to have more general knowledge about the Portugal and its history. Long story short, I believe I came out more interested in Portugal and most definitely more enthusiastic about trying to learn the language. Thank you for sharing with us.

Exploring Portuguese traditional dishes (from left): sopa de Feijão, bacalhau à bras, torta de laranja

Kristians:

For me personally, it wasn’t the first time I encountered Portuguese culture. After graduating from university, I went to Lisbon to do my postgraduate internship. That was my first solo trip abroad and it will always have a special place in my heart. Portuguese cultural month brought back many beautiful memories and reminded me how much I miss that spectacular country. Portuguese are one of the warmest and friendliest people I’ve ever met, and they will always be glad to help you. Their cuisine is incredible, it’s full of wholesome and loving flavours that leave you wanting more. I really enjoyed listening to Fado, which is known to be the soul of Portuguese music. It really has a unique sound that captures my imagination. Oh, and the language… Despite having similar sounds with Latvian, I find Portuguese a difficult language to learn, BUT its phonology and rhythm, in my opinion, is something phenomenal. I really can’t wait to visit Portugal again (hopefully very soon). Raquel e Érica, obrigado pela experiência!

Enjoying magnificent sunsets

Petra:

After a month without cultural nights, I was happy to have them back so we can all together enjoy another countries culture through food, music, and language. Raquel and Erica, representatives of Portugal, did an amazing job and made me curious enough to try their local dish Bacalhau à Brás, a dish that is made with cod and chips. As someone who doesn’t like fish in general, I must say that I loved it. Hopefully, Portuguese words that I have learned will stay in mind long enough to use them one day when I will go to visit Portugal!

Getting familiar with Portuguese expressions

Gonzalo:

Portuguese culture is not something unknown to me, since living in Spain we have many connections with the neighboring country, even so, this Portuguese cultural month has been very interesting for me, because I have learned a lot of things that I gave for known and actually had no idea, such as the unimaginable quality of their towels or their professionalism when preparing the cod. It is true that Spain and Portugal are very similar culturally, but at the same time, it is interesting to realize that in some aspects we are so different, despite the proximity!

Preparing Francesinha – traditional dish in Northern Portugal

Oussama:

First of all, I want to thank Raquel for everything. Few nights have never been enough to present a whole culture but for our beloved Portuguese friend was enough to give a general idea about Portugal. We started with the food as a first step into the Portuguese world, different meal every time, different names, different way of cooking and different taste. Personally I got “jiggy” with the “zoupa di feijao“ original taste mixed with some special flavors. Passing by the historical part, she presented some important information about Portugal through games, and throughout all the cultural nights she was smoothly teaching us how to say some words and what are common words between Portugal and Italy, and the last part was about the Portuguese lifestyle. A trip to Portugal was an excellent experience that I will never forget. Muito obrigado, ANA RAQUEL!

Playing more games and learning some useful Portuguese phrases

Which culture we will explore next? Stick around to find out!