It is with a heart full of memories that UNA Exchange’s long-term volunteer Mercè has left Stackpole, in West Wales. Read her moving essay on her nine months spent away from her native country, Spain.
It’s been 9 months in Stackpole already and I’m bringing back home a lot of things, more than what I could ask for.
Lots of things changed from the first moment I arrived at Stackpole until now. I remember how excited I was of coming but nervous at the same time. I’ve only talked to one person that was going to be my tutor, ranger Alex, by phone and in this moment, I realised that I was going to be struggling to communicate in English with everyone.
The reason why I wanted to come to Stackpole was because I’ve always wanted to try the ranger position, it’s a job that in Spain doesn’t exist and I was always curious about it. So, I saw the option to go to the Welsh coast and try this opportunity. But what was going to happen to a girl from Barcelona, that struggles with cold weather, that has to improve English language skills, really, really bad with orientation and goes to a remote area to learn what’s it’s like to be a ranger? For me, that sounded like the perfect plan and now I can say that I’m more than happy with my choice.
I fell in love with the beauty of Stackpole, the cliffs, the lakes, being able to spot wildlife every day, the amazing dunes with orchids, the wild garlic flowers and the bluebells, the forest, the quarry… every month the landscape changes and I loved to discover nice spots and views. And as well with the Stackpole team, little by little knowing more about every one of you. It’s true that in the beginning, I wasn’t able to express myself really well in English. Leaving home to start again in a new place is hard for everyone, even harder if you don’t know how to say something or try to be funny but fail because you realise that what you said it doesn’t make sense, but you laugh anyways about the nonsense. Anyway, if you give the opportunity to meet others you can be surprised of how they really are, and I had good surprises. I think that it’s really important, and we should give more opportunities to everyone. Here in Stackpole, it’s really important to have friends, you will be really lonely if not, because you are going to be trapped for a long time here if you don’t have a car, then it’s really important if you find someone who will care for you, and the most important, it’s that you care for the others. Here there are wonderful people to meet if you give them a chance.
In Stackpole, I discovered as well what I want in my future, and thanks to the ranger team I discovered that I can be stronger than what I thought. Working outside it sounds cool but it’s challenging, working with cold weather or even if it’s raining and physical work all day it’s not easy. In the beginning, I found it hard and after lunch, I would rather go for a siesta which I think that actually I’ve done in the back of the ranger truck going back from work because I was exhausted. But if you work every day and without giving up, you can make it. Like the little chainsaw, I’m still slow-working but I do the job. I have still a long way to improve, but I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved. And I really enjoyed my time being your only volunteer because I could spend more time with you guys and learning from you.
I want to say thank you to the Stackpole team for giving me this chance to stay here, it was a pleasure to be working in the ranger team and to help with another task as well because it made me learn so much and it was fun.
Thanks Stackpole, I will come back for holidays sometime soon!