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This is a pretty long post, and really badly written, because I’m exhausted. It’s also a roller-coaster post.. starting with Friday.

I had an awful day on Friday. I was really homesick and sad. I had been feeling it for a while, but it all came to a head because – well – we had visited Emil’s family. Don’t get me wrong at all – I love visiting them because they are so friendly and nice, but it does sometimes make me miss my own family a lot because they’re quite similar some of the time. I was already feeling down, but I was also terrified because of my impending volunteering stint at a CISV weekend camp in the absolute middle of nowhere, and I had absolutely no idea how I was going to get there.

So – Emil arranged to meet me in town after his work so that he could go and pick up his new android tablet. He texted me to say he was almost there, but I hadn’t even left the flat. I was feeling really miserable and sad and was actually quite seriously considering leaving at this point. I went to Korsvägen to get the tram, and then realised I had absolutely no idea which one of the six stops i needed to get on at. I had a look and couldn’t find it, so decided to just walk to the station. Needless to say, it took quite a while.

Anyway, I got to the station only to find Emil wasn’t there. I then got a call from him where I asked him where the hell he was ( I was feeling even worse by then) and found out that he’d gone home. He said he had texted to ask whether to just come to the flat, but i didn’t receive the text until an hour later. We arranged to meet at Brunnsparken near the station. I walked back over to Brunnsparken, feeling more alone than I had in a very long time.

When Emil arrived, I burst into tears and told him I wanted to go home, that I felt so lonely and that everything just seemed to be wrong and that I just missed Reading so much that I didn’t want to stay in Sweden any more, but that I felt like I was failing at something by leaving so early. He looked really wounded but apologised profusely and talked me down a bit until I calmed down and told me that if I really wanted to go, he wouldn’t stop me but that he’d really miss me, and that he loved me.  We agreed that I’d at least give it this week – when he’s off and we have time to actually enjoy living together before I actually decide whether to leave.

We then spent the rest of the afternoon in Trädgårdsföreningen, my favourite place, discussing stuff, and then collected his tablet. I was at this point totally uncertain of whether I wanted to go and volunteer, but eventually I decided to go after getting a phone call with details of my lift to get there. My things were all packed. Emil fed me curry before I left and I got in the car to the absolute middle of nowhere.

My lift was with the parents of one of the kids who was going to the camp. He was really friendly, and apparently used to live in my apartment building, which is why he knew where it is. After a journey through the woods and down some pretty creepy looking lanes, we arrived at the camp. Härsjönäs is in the middle of nowhere, in land where people are no longer allowed to build homes because it’s too close to the airport and so a bit loud sometimes (although I never heard anything). It consists of two buildings in a small clearing in the forest: one is a bunkhouse and the other contains a kitchen, small living room, and a dining room/activity room. It is located right beside a lake and has a little jetty onto the lake. I must admit, it’s absolutely beautiful, even if the toilets are in their own little shed.

Anyway, I arrived into the sheer chaos that is a CISV camp. there were 21 delegates between the ages of 11-13, and five camp leaders. I was thrust straight into the kitchen to help with the supper, after which loads of silly games occured as icebreakers. I also nattered to the leader of the Molndal CISV, who was really lovely. I did all the washing up and then nattered to the leaders, both in te kitchen whilst I did this and afterwards and they asked me if I’d like to do an activity with the kids on the Saturday, because I had suggested a game we had done once at school with sweets simulating trade between countries. Either way, people were awesome and one of the leaders was a total geek and was a gamer, the rest were pretty awesome too. The also got me to introduce myself, and I told them that I could speak a little Swedish but not much, and they all understood me, which made me smile.

Everyone stayed up until 2 or 3 and then I went to bed, after cleaning up the kitchen.

On Saturday I was first up and got all the breakfast ready. The person who was helping me arrived and then we cooked potato soup and made taco pie. This doesn’t sound much, but I got up at 8 and didn’t sit down to rest until 3pm for 20 mins. After everyone ate lunch there was suddenly a huge shout from everyone and it was really loud and they chanted something. I later found out that they were saying thanks for cooking the meal (in Finnish). It was a bit disturbing at first but when I understood it was pretty darned cool.

So we cooked the taco pie up and after dinner some of the leaders offered to wash up so that I could go and do my activity.  I had five boxes of sweets, one for each group. Each group was a country, and each bag was meant to be a different resource. Some countries had more sweets than others. The aim was to get some of every type of sweet. Seems pretty simple, but it’s never as easy as it sounds! We then also did it the hard way, where some countries couldn’t talk to other countries because they were at war with each other, making the game even more difficult. When countries finally all had the resources, everyone realised that each country had ended up with different numbers of sweets, so there were some richer than others because it simply wasn’t fair. My response: exactly!

It worked really well and they didn’t even need translation into Swedish from the group leaders who were watching me, which was pretty great. I let them have the sweets afterwards but asked them to share with other groups so that no-one got left out too much and so it was fair, which went down well.

After this came the real insanity. We played ‘Dracula’. Now, Dracula works a lot like hide and seek, in the dark, only better. You start with one Dracula, and no-one knows who it is. Everyone stays in the kitchen and one by one go out into the darkness of the rest of the house to hide. It’s pitch black in the house, and impossible to see so it was hilarious trying to navigate to a hiding place only to hear a squawk as you accidentally sat on someone. Anyway, the dracula, when shut out of the kitchen, goes outside, and waits. eventually, when all are hidden, someone shouts ‘DRACULA KOMMER!’ (trans. dracula’s coming) and dracula has a set amount of time to come and find one person. the Dracula then has to find their neck and touch it with two fingers across the jugular to ‘bite’ you.

When the time runs out, it’s morning and you go back to the kitchen and start over again, only now there are two Draculas. the next time, there’ll be four Draculas, and so on. Out of thirty people I was one of the last few people to be caught, and I know who got me as he told me afterwards! The draculas come into the kitchen like everyone else, so you never know who’s still Dracula until you count all the people outside!

It was insane, I hit my head a good few times, but it was great fun. we did kinda play for three hours though. The winner had been hiding under the sofa. yes: UNDER the sofa. When we finished I washed up ( they had gotten hungry and raided my kitchen. I also found out that one of the leaders at least watches Dr Who and knows what a TARDIS is, at which I could have hugged him!)

So once everything was clean. I set up for breakfast ( which had to be defended from the ravenous kids in the activity room who were still awake at… 3am I think it was). I fed the ravenous crisp-bread and butter to sate them for a bit and to save the breakfast foods from demolition, and then went to bed.

When I woke, there was frost everywhere. I put out the milk, the yoghurt and the fridge-stuff and everyone appeared as if by magic just as I put on the kettle. It turned out that today I had not one volunteer but three to help me! This meant I had time to tidy up some of the chaos caused the night before by Dracula, and to make sure that everything was really good and nice.

We made Hamburgers for lunch, which the kids were all really excited about, and it was really quite nice. They did the food-thanks thing again and it was so loud it made my ears hurt.  Over the course of the weekend they all became used to me and loads of them came and asked me for stuff and spoke English to me which was really good. A pity I didn’t use the chance to speak more Swedish but Simon at least occasionally asked me what things were prompting me to remember the words I do know. It helped that he asked me about things that were in the kitchen!

And then we were done: packed up and ready to go. I rescued the butter and some milk and said my goodbyes, got rounds of applause for my help and hugs from most of the leaders and then I was in a car home, with a lift from a kind parent and three of the kids in the back.

The weekend did me the world of good. It was insanity; sheer insanity, but it was brilliant insanity, and I loved it. I put a post on Facebook when I got back thanking people, and got the following response:

‘Thanks a lot for your help in the kitchen, for your activity and for the talking this weekend and I hope that you want to do more CISV activities, CISV is like the tardis after all! ‘

Sometimes, it’s amazing how much helping out a group of strangers can help yourself. Thank you CISV Goteborg and CISV Molndal for basically making me feel so very very welcome. I feel a spree of more volunteer activities coming along!



About Lady Octavia

I'm Charlie I spent a year living in Sweden and I'm now a full time librarian in a primary school in the UK. In my spare time I have an allotment, I sew and I bake.

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