I arrived at Trieste airport on September 3rd and was met by Elena and taken to Buje where I met Umberto and Nina and had the first of many delicious meals over my first few days (Istrian ham and cheese followed by traditionally cooked steak).
During a conversation in rapid Italo-Croat I was told that I would be helping out over the next few days at a camp run by the LDA called ‘Youth for EU’. It involved a group of around 30 Croatians, from 16- to 26-years-old, from various parts of Croatia – the majority came from Osijek and Slavonia in the east of Croatia, with a few from Istria. They were learning about some of the effects of Croatia joining the EU, such as the opportunities for mobility within the EU, being able to travel and live, work and study abroad, including on EVS and the Youth in Action programme.
My help mostly consisted of taking photos, but I was able to give some advice and help out during some of the sessions taking place in English. Other sessions were in Croatian and I was less able to help, or even understand, these. I did get to know some of the participants over many long and filling lunches, and learnt about them, where they came from and some of their ambitions and dreams.
After a few sunny days, and many amazing meals, and after Alessio had arrived, we had a trip to the beach at Kanegra, the resort where the participants were staying. A few of the older guys invited us to watch Croatia vs Serbia (at football, the most serious of contests) with them. A 1-1 draw, most notable for a late sacrifice from Šimunić. This result was obviously a cause for celebration, or commiseration I’m not sure, but whatever it was it required alcohol consumption, and after being amused by some of the drunk younger campers, and being told that we were too noisy we went down to the beach. Here conversation ranged from discussions on Croatia’s European neighbours, including Slovenia that, as we could see it from the beach, we planned to invade to the quality of the music of the Pogues.
Waking up with a head like a drum, and slightly bruised, we waited for the bus to take us back to Buje, and the “last meal”, after which we said goodbye, though with the possibility of seeing the campers again on a return trip in Osijek in the new year.
After attending a local awards ceremony, celebrating the work of some local people on projects that improved the region in some way, we had a small sample of some of the local wine, had a quick walk around Buje and then went to rest up for the next day that would bring the arrival of Irena, and make our group three-quarters complete.