This week’s blog is a recap of some of the experiences of PeacePlayers-Middle East (PPI-ME) participants during their recent trip to Norway.
In mid-February, participants from all four PeacePlayers International (PPI) sites had the privilege of traveling to Norway for the third leg of our Erasmus+ Lead4Peace exchange. It was a wonderful week of cultural exchange, leadership development and, of course, basketball. The exchange was made possible through a European Union grant called Erasmus+, which focuses on education, training and youth sport. Click on these links to read about PPI’s previous Erasmus+ exchanges in Cyprus and the Middle East.
For PPI-ME participants, the trip to Norway began with both excitement and nerves; participants were excited to see their friends from other sites who they’d met on previous exchanges, but they were also nervous because, unlike on previous exchanges, in Norway, participants were staying with host families. Everyone’s nerves settled after one night, however, as all of the participants declared the next morning that they, in fact, were staying with the best host family.
One of the highlights of the trip for all exchange participants were the snow activities. The entire group spent two days in an amazing hotel in the forest where participants went dog sledding, played ice hockey on a frozen lake, went snowboarding, and enjoyed sledding. Participants Bashar and Gur had some additional unique experiences including early-morning ice bathing in only shorts and a t-shirt with their host family and skiing for the first time in their host family’s backyard!
Another highlight of the trip was when participants went to different schools in the area to speak about their experience with PPI. This was the best part of the trip for Nitzan because of the bond she formed with the participants she was paired with from other sites for the presentation. She was nervous to present but her partners gave her courage and confidence.
For many, a memorable part of the trip was the last night when participants said their goodbyes. They played videos from previous exchanges, laughed and danced together, and shed MANY TEARS. For Malak, the last night was special because it allowed participants to talk and share things they hadn’t had a chance to say during the week. It was also an opportunity to speak with people she hadn’t seen much during the week. That was bittersweet because after speaking with them she wished there was more time to get to know them. Over one short week, these participants and families, who started as strangers, became friends and were sad to part ways.
Each Erasmus+ trips has been amazing and saying goodbye gets harder and harder. The PPI-ME participants are already asking about who gets to go to Northern Ireland in July.