And Then There Was Bread…
One of the most interesting and bonding parts of the camp was, ironically, our (Asija, Erik, Eva and Gašper) journey from Ljubljana to the Netherlands. We opted out for the train travel as the most eco- and budget-friendly option, also thinking about stretching our legs every now and then. You could tell we were not used to the traveling by train system as we first took off to Zagreb, stayed there for a refreshing short break, and went to Austria through the very same city we just came from. Hence, the road took us 26 hours with 4 several-minutes-long changes, but this experience gave us an awesome travel companion and served as a great ice-breaker at the camp. All four of us had genuinely a great time being stuck together on the trains for so long. We ate all the snacks we could find, played Asija’s board games, laughed, cited Erik’s amazing quotes, and slept on each other in very intricate positions. It truly was bonding and we are forever grateful for it. Not to mention, we arrived to a great surprise which made us very excited and energized — it was Amsterdam Pride!
As part of the organizing team, Lars began their journey 2 days earlier than the rest of the group and helped with preparation, cleaning, decorating and other technicalities. During the camp, they were preparing different workshops and activities along with their teammates. He describes his experience as: “Collaborating with a team and preparing activities on the camp was for me educational and fun. Listening to so many young people and their opinions, experiences was empowering. My favorite part was when together with the team members, we invented the new methodology for the workshop. When more people are together sharing their knowledge and ideas, beautiful results will happen.”
All participants were welcomed at the Olde Vechte Foundation with open arms and with open minds of people from Portugal, Sweden, Italy, Latvia, Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands and Slovenia. The friendships just started building themselves, and by the end, we could not believe how close we had gotten with some of the people there. The many hugs and cuddles only confirmed and deepened our attachment to these complete strangers, we came to call friends. Most of us really felt like we created a safe space to share our knowledge, experiences and ideas. Some of these ideas we have already put into action and some we are still working on.
For some of us this was our first Erasmus+ exchange and for some one of many. The thing that surprised us the most was the openness of people participating in the project which spared a lot of interesting topics connected to LGBTQIA+, mental health and human rights in different countries.
In a time of need, emotional or otherwise, there were always multiple people we could turn to. From Cathy, to the team members, to our support groups and also the friends we made there. People always had our backs and we had theirs. The amount of jokes and laughs that we shared there is unrivaled. So was our exponentially growing hate towards wasps. The organizing team felt like they were part of the group, never acting above the participants. We were all like a little family.
We put a lot of importance on “me time”. In that crowded house, it was really important to take some time for yourself and to take care of your mental health needs. People took the time to listen to our stories and we listened to theirs. It is extremely important for a person to have a safe space to share their experiences, without being judged.
The days just flew by us. Suddenly it was almost the last day and everyone was saying goodbye already. We got used to life there so much that going back seemed almost unbelievable. Every day we would meet with our support groups and share our magical moments. It was really endearing to hear these moments. We soon realized that every day was full of magic. From deep talks with people, to late-night snacking in the kitchen, to dancing and being free, it was all like magic to us. Each day was special in its own way. It was filled with different activities and things to do. We hiked with pride and learned about the LGBTQIA+ community. We were also creative and expressive with our bodies. We did some digital activism, as well as playful activism. It all came to an end in the last few days when we tried putting the things we have learned into action – by doing our own street actions. We had a day to prepare with a group, and then the next day we traveled to Zwolle and executed our activist actions.
We truly learned a lot about ourselves, youth work techniques and made a couple of new friends, while older bonds became stronger. The last two days of our stay there were full of crying and hugging, saying goodbye and making promises to keep in touch and visit each other. It was almost unbelievable our time together was coming to an end. The project doesn’t end in the Netherlands though. When we got back home, we had a lot of processing and thinking to do. Besides, we finally saw how beautiful the Netherlands are and we will for sure be back!