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Second Shelf, Third Aisle - A Blog From Our Erasmus Student Traineeship Volunteer Matteo Polimanti

Matteo is from Rome, Italy and is on an Erasmus+ Student Traineeship with us until May. He is studying Theatre Studies in Rome. Matteo looks after our monthly newsletter, and co-facilitates workshops in the Steiner School and the Holy Family Secondary School. He is the workshop assistant on a number of projects including the Indigo Collective in Kildare Youth Theatre. In this blog Matteo describes the feelings and experiences he had had in his first three months volunteering. He notes that the first letter in each paragraph, taken together, spell an important sentence about his experience.

You can find more about the programme Matteo is a part of here::


Second Shelf, Third Aisle

It’s already been three months since I came here. 

Lots of details from my new daily routine surprised me at first: everyone greeting me on the street even though they didn’t know me; the cashier at the supermarket patiently waiting for me to pack all my stuff before starting to serve someone else (it made me so anxious in the beginning!); all the 

questions I had to answer to drink a simple coffee – “Which size? Roasted? Blend? Would you like some milk on it?”, and so on. 

Obviously, none of these things prevented me from making myself feel at home in this new environment. 

Volunteering with all the other guys from Crooked House, mostly facilitating Kildare Youth Theatre workshops, has been from the very first days, the foundation stone which allowed me to settle in, and to start learning how to contribute to this community in such a creative and collaborative atmosphere. 

EXTROSPECTION: I learnt this new word a few weeks after my arrival, and it’s still in my mind, reminding me of the importance of always looking outside myself towards other people’s values, thoughts and habits, discovering infinite possibilities of being and feeling alive. 

When I came to The Crooked House studio for the very first time, one thing in particular struck me: there was actually a kitchen. 

Honestly, that was the last thing I would have expected to shock me in an artistic space full of interesting books, random props and amazing posters on the walls. 

A simple kitchen where to have some tea or coffee, with a tiny fridge, a sink, and lots of cups and plates. 

The moment I saw it I realized what the philosophy of the entire space was: we were not only supposed to attend scheduled activities, but we had the chance to live in that space for the sake of just being together, having a good time and enjoying each other’s company. 

It was OUR space, and it was up to us to shape it with our own values, rules and

characteristics, despite all the cultural diversities between us and the possible

misunderstandings due to our command of English. 

Actually, if I think about it, “to have a cup of tea” is one of the most emblematic invitations used here to make somebody feel at home, especially in a new and therefore potentially overwhelming environment (for example, in my host family, every time there are guests in the house, it’s impossible for them to avoid having a cup of tea, as my landlady will keep nagging them like Mrs. Doyle in the Father Ted TV-series). 

My main worry in the first days of volunteering was that I wouldn’t be able to do anything useful for the young people living here in Newbridge. 

Due to so-called culture shock, it was hard for me not to feel stressed: even though I knew that it was just a normal phase, I still was concerned about my new life in a new country, having pessimistic thoughts like: “There’s no point in trying such a challenging experience if you can’t even buy groceries!”.

On a metaphorical level, I was like a tea bag (red berries infusion, €1.55, second shelf, at the beginning of the third aisle) which had just been immersed in a cup of hot water, complaining about the fact that I wasn’t able to release my full flavour and at the same time being afraid by the possibility that I didn’t have any. 

In spite of my own thoughts and feelings, eventually I realised that the best way for a tea bag to release its full flavour is to be left infusing together with other teabags in a huge teapot, ready to fill a lot of cups. 

Now that I know that my teapot is Crooked House’s studio, I am way more relieved and enthusiastic about my experience, and there’s only one word to express my joy for sharing my “infusion time” with all these wonderful people. 



This blog is a part of a wider set of blog produced by our volunteers for the 2022-23 season. You can view the previous one here.

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