Prague and beyond...

As I wrote this blog my body has been left sore and broken from a 30 hour road trip has left me needing much recovery, in recent years my heath has not been the best but I have had luxury for too long of flying around to international conferences with our movement, so I decided to travel from Kosovo to Prague with bus. For many participants from Kosovo this was their first trip outside of the country, something I take for granted as a British passport holder and yet at the same time something special as young people’s first experience abroad was with our movement. 

Our first stop was at Prizren (2 hours from the capital in Kosovo) to pick up a participant and allow for a cigarette break, I decided to take the opportunity to use the bathroom but was greeted with an Asian toilet? Now for those reading wondering what such a thing is, it’s basically a hole in the ground… nothing more, nothing less! No seat, no bowl…. Just a hole!!!! Luckily I had come across this type of thing before in Turkey, on that occasion I complained the toilet was missing to the hotel and was left with a red face as someone explained the concept to me. This time I faced the beast down… I put to bed that experience.
No comment!

Traveling with the Kosavor’s made me realise how lucky I am to have been born in England, every country we entered and exited on route to Prague the groups passports were scrutinized by the police, except mine, I got a nod or a quick glance and I could go but it was certainly for me a very intimidating few minutes at check points. A realisation also that some boarder police can hold you as long as you want, I certainly witnessed items like drinks and cigarettes being exchanged in order to speed up the process. The feeling of being at people’s mercy is horrible but there was nothing you could do or say it was their rules! 

It took us 2 hours at the Croatia checkpoint and each member of our delegation was ordered off the bus and had to walk through the boarder alone after having their passport checked. This was a worrying time as couples and groups of friends waited for others to gain access. I had always wanted to visit Croatia as a teen but the experience had the opposite effect on me. One girl I  work with on a weekly basis was very worried and she was only 17, as she walked alone I was so worried she wouldn’t be accepted that I had to hold back tears as I watched her joy at being let through. 

Everyone after getting into Croatia!

A stop of 7 hours in Croatia was on the cards, a beautiful country. At school my geography teacher made me cry as I was unable to spell the countries name in front of the entire class, I smiled thinking of this experience and sipping my local beer wondering where he was in the world now. 
I'm in Croatia Mr Firth... where are you?

The festival was what you would expect music, people, color and an undertone of excitement and expectation. Despite constant storms throughout the week spirits were high! The Danish delegation managed to pull off a flash mob in the center of Prague and a personal favorite was witnessing the release of a new video from the world alliance! I remember feeling once again huge waves of pride and excitement, similar to my first International experience years ago, only this time I was cheering and sitting with my brothers and sisters from Europe as we roared and jumped in the air when our continent was mentioned! Talk about a pan-European approach there is certainly a lot that can be achieved by sharing a room with the rest of the world!

World Alliance's Johan Vilhelm Eltvik & Jose Varghese with myself and Dorina
Prague also happened to be the first time the Change Agents met, As I just mentioned not only did it connect me with my fellow European’s more but also the rest of the movement. The training was ultimately led by two American’s and as it’s a style I’m not used to experiencing so at times their approach did little for me, the team building session also proved very difficult as my leg was swelled from insect bites, but I persevered through for the good of the team!  One of the main things from the Change Agent training that I took away, which maybe wasn’t the aim was when one of the session leaders referred to us as “the future” Immediately this annoyed me if I’m honest, and one thing I hope to personally achieve during this training is to challenge that mentality in our movement… this is perhaps a topic for another blog but the fact remains that we are the now! The YMCA would struggle to function without its ‘young’ leaders and managers and in some parts of the world there wouldn’t be a presence of our movement without them. I heard many Change agents say that true change starts from within… if this is true are we as a movement ready to change?
World Alliance teaser.... Change?
Having not taken up a volunteer or leading role at the festival it was quite liberating to just enjoy myself and enjoy the entertainment and festival content. Joining with the RGE group (see previous blog for explanation) it was cool to collect signatures to raise awareness about festival recycling and individual responsibility, I loved the traditional teas and cakes tent and the outdoor tech tree houses looked amazing and like something out of the film Hook.

As my role here in the Kosovo movement develops if was a pleasure to spend time with our participants, joining them as many experienced the metro for the first time was fun, getting lost during the storms and lack of transport helped us bond and relaxing and listening to what participants had been up to honestly made my trip better. I met many fantastic people and reunited with many friends from all over the world including young people who I had worked with in a previous YMCA. To finish with some true and thought provoking words from a young person who had the chance to be on the stage in the evening to share his experience with everyone, later when I spoke with him he said he has got lost in translation on the stage but what he really meant was....
Side by side with youth!

  “This festival makes me feel connected to the world!”


  1. I have other pictures of toilets from Europe.
    Good man, the Blog was a solid B+.

  2. This is an incredible blogpost, Adi.

    This movement needs your raw honesty. Yet what is most admirable and needed is the way you pair bold truth with the elegance, humility, and desire to edify that gives you the authority to say it in the first place.


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