On-arrival training (culture club)

Our Croatian dinner started with a plate of local cheese and salami, which was tasty, though nothing compared to what followed, a variety of meat cooked in different ways. This included sarma, a Turkish dish that has been appropriated across the Balkans, and further, it is minced meat and rice wrapped in a cabbage leaf; a suckling pig, unfortunately not presented as a whole; and a dish of meat wrapped in pastry. To go with all this meat there were various salad and vegetable dishes, and a selection of local wines, beer and more rakija (home-made locally, of course).

Enjoying a Croatian meal

After the dinner we had a cultural evening, where all the volunteers shared aspects of the culture of their home, whether it was music, film, games, traditions, jokes or anything else. It was opened by our hosts with a promotional video of Croatia, showing many beautiful places and with traditional music played on native instruments. During the evening I learnt about the state of Polish cinema, alongside some clips of the Italian masters of cinema; that some Italians really don’t like to be stereotyped; the beauty of the German language; examples of Portuguese and Spanish music and how to deal with waiters endemic to Macedonia.

We had a puppet show and game from Léa, Jana and Ane, where we had to guess which of their countries (France, Germany and the Basque Country) certain items and phrases came from. We also got to see the puppet making skills they had gained on their project.

Some thing cultural...

Talking about the UK I decided to look at a few stereotypes, and show that the UK isn’t just London as I spoke about where I had grown up (Rochester), where I went to university (Bath) and where I was living before coming here (Bristol). The topic of afternoon tea came up, but I also went onto another popular drink in the UK (and, along with tea, is one that you can’t get of the same quality, as easily, here) – beer. I spoke about some of the types of ales you can get, and was backed up by Piotr on the fact that they are good, but not found elsewhere.

After this we had a multinational wedding, where I (an English guy) was married to Léa (a French girl) in a traditional Bulgarian ceremony, run by Teodora. This involved me negotiating with her friends (and surrogate family) for a good price, which included money in several currencies, watches, phones and anything of value. Traditionally this would have been the money and gifts that the couple would use to begin their married life. After this we were quickly married before learning some simple wedding dances.

Learning the wedding dance

The evening continued in the training room with more dances being taught from the Basque Country, France and Bulgaria. Although signs of weariness were beginning to show, alcohol and the good feeling from new friendships and the experience meant that we were able to party on into the night again, though with a little less energy.

More dancing

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