As I draw ever closer to my departure for Zeitz in Germany to take part in this year’s. Eurocamp I am reflecting on what awaits me. On one hand I am a little nervous about how I will cope in the face of new experiences and people. ‘Will I assimilate well into the group?’, ‘will I be a good ambassador for Ireland and its people?’, ‘will I be able to master the challenges that Eurocamp will set me?’, ‘will my German be good enough to bring my point across?’. These are all questions that are on my mind at the moment.
On the other hand I am looking forward to all that I am about to learn, in particular about the lifestyles in the various countries of Europe. Just last week when I was on my way back to Dublin from Cork after having visited my brother I got talking to a girl from Buenos Aires who sat beside me on the bus. We spent the entire three-hour journey chatting about everything from the university education in our respective countries, the benefits of EU citizenship (she has Italian citizenship) to the difficulties that the millennial generation face.
This unexpected encounter reminded me of how enlightening cultural exchange can be. Although I might have been wary of travelling to Argentina before now (the beauties that South America has to offer are unfortunately often overshadowed by perceptions of high levels of crime and corruption), talking to and learning from the ‘other’ does much to dispel many unfounded fears of the unknown. I hope that Eurocamp will be an opportunity for similar encounters.
In preparation for Eurocamp I have been reading up on all the activities that were held as part of last year’s Eurocamp. My attention was particularly drawn to a night of culture during which the camp’s participants took the audience on a journey through the various cultures of Europe. The interesting and most challenging part of the event was that no country’s culture was presented individually, but that students from different nationalities were put into teams and asked to come up with a sketch that incorporated all their countries’ cultures. This could be quite difficult especially when presented with countries that share no apparent common cultural roots like the teaming up of Scandinavian and Mediterranean countries. I suppose that the goal of this task was to draw the participants and audience’s attention to the fact that we are in fact more alike than we seem to believe at first.
I am also really looking forward to having the chance to express myself creatively. On this night of culture, poems were recited, dances were performed, songs were sung and plays were staged. This has gotten me thinking as to what I could include if I were asked to present a showcase of Ireland’s culture. I would love to introduce the audience to poems by the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney. In particular, I would talk about ‘Digging’ in which he compares the act of bog-cutting to the creative process of poem-writing and ‘Bogland’ in which he describes the Irish bog land as being the memory bank of the Irish, constantly churning up objects from past ages from its depths. I also thought about performing a few songs like ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’, ‘Mo Ghile Mear’ and ‘Oro sé do bheatha bhaile’ (surely known to all Irish youth who spent some time in the Gaeltacht:). And finally for a little bit of comic relief a sketch of the Irish Mammy could be on the cards
Although much is yet unclear I would like to think that the other participants in the camp will like me be open to the new experience and willing to work together to tackle the challenges Eurocamp presents. I am sure that this will be a summer like no other and that at the end of it we will return to our homes much inspired by our time together.
Information to the attached photo: Maypole dance in Cork city (a cultural import from Germany). Can I repay the favour and succeed in bringing the Céilí Mór to Zeitz?