“People have one thing in common. They are all different”, says famous writer Robert Zend. Even though we have different experiences, interests and come from different cultures, we all love telling stories: from the most famous film producers and animators like Walt Disney to the best-read authors like J. K. Rowling, most influential leaders like Richard Branson and TV stars like Oprah Winfrey to translators, lawyers, communication specialists and students who have chosen Kaunas as a place to live.
Some use stories to build amusement parks, others for writing best-sellers, third ones generate ideas for new projects, and others bring them to TV screens all over the world.
In Kaunas, people come to share their stories to the storytelling workshop of Café du Monde project by Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022 and its open mic events. The aim of the Café du Monde is to gather the community of foreigners living in Kaunas, invite them to cultural dialogue, and encourage them to share their experiences about living in this city.
Café du Monde storytelling workshop launched this March gathered dozens of Kaunasians who live, work or study in Kaunas. With the help from Milda Varnauskaitė, a professional storyteller from Amsterdam, they were learning to tell the stories.
After a short break, the storytelling workshop is back to Kaunas and will invite everyone to make new dialogues between the locals and international communities that are creating or have created their life in Kaunas. The second workshop that takes place on May 8-10 will end in the open mic events, open to all residents of Kaunas and city guests, inviting everyone to Godo bar in Laisvės avenue.
“We invite people to join this programme of Kaunas 2022 with their ideas, experience and competencies. Together we can make sure that the culture in Kaunas would become more available and friendly not only for its Lithuanian-speaking residents”, said Daiva Citvarienė, programme curator at Kaunas 2022. “We want to create a city, where everyone feels like its part”, she adds.
Discovered Kaunas while changing his life
Ms Irene Lo Castro from Sicily has lived in Kaunas for 8 years, she speaks Lithuanian well, and she was one of the participants at the storytelling workshop that has taken place this March. When she arrived at Lithuania with her husband, Ms Lo Castro worked at the tourism agency established by her spouse, organising trips for the Italians to the Baltic Countries. “I was a manager, an administrator and a travel planner. I had to communicate not only with the Italians but also with Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Finns”, she says in fluent Lithuanian.
“I like Kaunas, I feel at home here”, says Irene, also adding that many Italians are living in Vilnius, Kaunas and other Lithuanian cities. “I think there may be around 300 of them.”
Another Italian who participated in the storytelling workshop in March together with Irene was Mr Giacomo Gaggiassi, studying communication under the Erasmus+ exchange programme at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU). “I wanted to change my life, take this opportunity and see Kaunas. I thought that I have nothing to lose and I left”, told Giacomo.
The student is happy that during his studies at KTU, he had a chance to try the public speaking in front of the audience for the first time; therefore, he felt more courageous when speaking at the storytelling workshop and during the Open Mic.
“I don’t think that storytelling requires leaving the comfort zone. Of course, it all depends on what story you want to share with others. When the audience is not very big, like 10-15 people, it is harder for me to speak, because I see each listener, his or her reaction, there is also no space left between you and the audience. When the audience is bigger, I feel better, because the concentration of the attention is not as intense”, says the Italian student.
Storytelling: a tribute to the city
Another participant of the workshop Manuel Rosales came to Lithuania from Spain five years ago, in 2014, for one-year degree-awarding studies. After his studies, he came back but returned to Lithuania to finish his Master’s degree. Manuel started working as a guide and translator, and since 2018 September, he found a job at SpectroCoin, fintech company specialising in cryptocurrency exchange.
Manuel’s study background, his degree in English Philology and his knowledge about storytelling are the factors that have encouraged him to participate in the storytelling workshop. He says that he has been curious trying out his knowledge in practice, improving his skills after the completion of his studies.
“I’ve always been saying that not only you can take what Kaunas or any other city gives you, but give something in return as well. Maybe the story I tell at the Open Mic will inspire someone, reveal new possibilities that Kaunas offers”, says Manuel.
The Spaniard who lives in Kaunas enjoyed not only telling the story he has chosen, but also listen to the stories and ideas shared by other people, and hear out their opinions and reactions to certain events. The stories that affected Manuel were enriched by emotions and feelings experienced by the participants during the workshop.