Though I really liked the idea of spending two weeks with people that have various cultural backgrounds in a country I’ve never been to I applied for the camp not knowing what to expect. Before I went to IYC I’ve been worried that it might not be good, that I won’t be able to communicate with other people and I didn’t like the thought of singing in front of someone either… turned out that I was absolutely wrong. From my early childhood I’ve been to many scout camps and several camps I’d call “hike camps” (you carry your stuff in a backpack as you hike from one place to another surrounded by nature, sleeping under the stars or simple tart shelters and sometimes even in an abandoned house, asking strangers for water and finishing it off with few days canoeing down the river to your final destination) but I’ve never been to a camp with so many people from different countries with main speaking language other than my own. So here is my humble summary of IYC 2016.
On August the 2nd I arrived in Faia and not so long after me there was a group of other people that came from Guarda. We walked to our campsite where we put our backpacks down, we went to meet others that were already there and we were given colorful strings around our wrists. People around me were saying hi to each other, hugging others they knew from previous camps, talking about the past year and I didn’t feel very comfortable just standing there not knowing anyone so I went to put up my tent. I had a spare place in my tent so I offered it to a girl from Poland. I’ve later on during the camp been mistaken for her and we were both told, that we look like sisters. We decided with few other girls to go for a swim and on our way to the river we stopped and played some name games in the white marquee that could eventually fit all the participants in. After we swam in the river there was a dinner and the last thing I remembered from this day is sitting in a small circle made out of people with same-color strings around their wrists, introducing ourselves and getting to know each other a bit. After that it was time to go to sleep.
The following few days were about getting to know others a little bit more as well as the structure of the camp. Every morning we were woken up by singing staff members, there was a blessing before every meal from different person in their own language, singing that I soon grew to really enjoy, siesta lasting for 4-5 hours due to really hot Portuguese weather, activities took place in the evening, when the sun was no longer shining, and before we finally settled down, one thing was yet to come – Hike.
One evening we sat down in a circle and our names were called out. First of all, there was a staff member name and then their group, which consisted of 8 people. We got a map, food, water, some other stuff we needed and we headed off. Not long after we started, our group had a new member – a dog we named Amber that just kind of stayed with us the whole time. We played a game with all the groups and collected points for mountain tops, villages, pictures and bridges as well as singing along, talking, laughing. Then, two days later, arriving to the second campsite, just a little late, with unforgettable memories like sleeping in a mayor’s house, receiving food from people and then singing to them, unexpected river hike followed by 4 hours of digging through thorns finished off by finding a beautiful place to swim and finally finding our way out of there. Staying up late watching the stars and waking up early for a sunrise hike that replaced the usual tough hike. After two days heading off to our original campsite. As we sat down to take a rest on our way back, we got to see a fire brigade with helicopter fighting against a fire that started from nearly nothing and transferred into this big thing that went all over the hill. It could happen anywhere at any time so we needed to be careful, no campfires, no water bottles lying in the sun and so on.
I won’t be describing every following day as detailed as the hike, it would be far too long and to be honest I kind of lost track of time after the hike. We got up every morning after staff member’s singing, the bell sound told us when to go for breakfast, then singing, workshops (I’ve been in the kitchen which I really enjoyed, I learned some new stuff, we cried while cutting bunch of onions, we danced, laughed and yeah, enjoyed cooking) then lunch, siesta filled with swimming in beautiful river, resting, interacting with others, debating etc. followed by supper, singing, evening activities, story stage and late night hot chocolate with biscuits. Days were filled with talking to people you haven’t talked to yet, sharing stories, memories and interests, making friendships that might last a lifetime and getting to know yourself more as well. I’ve had some really nice conversations during the two weeks and as I started talking more to people, the thought at the back of my mind, that everyone is older than me and that maybe it would somehow affect the way they see me or interact with me soon faded away, because it didn’t really matter at all.
IYC gives you a chance to grow as a person, it makes you question things (not just during theme evenings), you can let go of anything that no longer feels right so you have place for something that does. You can talk about things that weigh you down and let them go afterwards. For me it was a really good reminder that there are good people in the world and that I can live a meaningful life. That it’s fine not to know exactly what I want to do or be. I am so glad and thankful that I went. Those two weeks were the best thing that could have happened to me and I am not even exaggerating. I met many new, incredible, amazing people, everyone was so open-minded, kind and nice to each other. There was time for everything, nothing needed to be rushed and if you needed a hug, you received one even without asking. There’s place for anybody and it is an experience you won’t forget for a long time…