White-blue checkered tablecloth barely peeks under the bowls with olive-basil sauce, plates with the last pieces of great smelling moussaka and dewy glasses now only reminding jars of cool water. Oblong tables set up somewhere in the cooling sand of Perei beach and 39 full bellies sitting behind them engaged in evening talks. Croats, Serbs, Bosnians, Poles right next to Lithuanians, Greeks and Turks, all forgetting the discords of the past or fabricated disagreements of politics just enjoying the company and southern wine. Setting sun is replaced by cosy glow of wooden torches while trio of old man is tuning their shabby bouzoukis. Sounds like a fairy-tale? No, it is just one of many projects of the European Commission.
My conscience is a little uneasy: „how have I deserved this? “ One week at an amazing place, with amazing people, deep breaths taking the smell of Greek culture. A week of escape. From cruel reality of only recent exam period to morning swimming in Aegean waves – not even hundred meters away from full buffet tables. A week of laughter, rest and games. A week of creating and building, I believe.Building something? Ok, Iadmit that we came to explore new places, history, and cuisine, make hundreds of smiley pictures and dance the nights away but I think that it is not the main reason why we are here. The reason why we left the comfort of our beds at home and safety of our own routine, why we risked hundreds and some of us even thousands of kilometres to the unknown environment loaded with only basic knowledge provided by couple of pages of information leaflet.
Having an afternoon coffee with Saim, ever-smiling Turk with a distinctive beard. After this project all my ideas about underdeveloped Turkey pushing itself into the EU or aggressive Islam were replaced by excellent English, distinguished gestures and wide socio-economic overview. This time I get to know about the compulsory military service, constant tensions and offensive ambitions of Turkish politicians. I learn about the fear of the boy only two years older than me. Aphostolis (nice name, right?) is sitting next to us. I find out that collapsing Greece is not giving up yearly youth bullying and investments into uniforms.
Later at a different table during a different project, boys from different parts of Ukraine and also from currently so much talked about Donetsk are convincing me that information from today’s „free“ and „worldwide“ media are not even remotely complete. They are not enough for me to realize that day-to-day mediation about „what I will have for breakfast „or „when I will go for running „or heart-breaking worries about the result of the recent exam are not suitable for the serious situation in which our society is right now and everyday reality of people close to me not only by age or desires but also by opinions or ideals.
Project in former Sicilian monastery and the horror on the face of young law student when he finds out that a real shaman (this is not a metaphor) will be leading him through the issues of refugees, migration and European citizenship, hours of sessions of spontaneous dancing on an esoteric music alternating with playing pantomime and short improvised sketches. And you know what? I couldn´t have gotten any better lesson about how „serious“ I was taking myself till then, about how much talent, abilities and more importantly energy is hiding in people who I would maybe put into the same basket before. Final outcome – presentation about youth issues at the local high school showed me that not always the conservative way is the right way and sometimes it is good to try something new and unknown even if it would require bending your spine and rather close your eyes a little while twisting your pelvis timidly.
I believe that we came to express ourselves, contribute by a little part of ourselves. As free citizens at the forums of Antique cities in the past (stay calm, I am sober it just sounds great) we came now for our maybe still young and maybe quiet or weak but not insignificant voice to be heard. It cannot be insignificant as other 38 pairs of ears so different and yet so similar came to hear it. So yes, a week of building something. I believe that regardless if it was or wasn´t the goal of European Commission when starting these projects and regardless their topic, location, purpose or the sum of refunded costs their outcome is building. Buildings? Friendships. Such which no one will convince again about the inferiority of another (nation, colour, and pendants around the neck and so on…) and about the fear from foreign, unknown. People not saving but recklessly making, gestures of kindness, happiness and perhaps gratefulness. Leaders determined and persistent working not only for themselves but truly for others which follow them.
Maybe it´s enough…probably it´s not essential to describe every blade on the meadow. I wanted to capture as much as possible but to say only one thing. Thank you.
Ivan Rosa, participant of the training course
Video from the project, can find https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBo-aXTnn6g and its really worth to see it 🙂