Hello! My name is Gary Duffy, I am 15 years old, I live in Northern Ireland and I’m here to tell you about my time in Norway as part of the PeacePlayers Champions4Peace Lead4Peace exchange. It’s a long but savoury ready so sit back and enjoy!
Leading up to the trip, I had all sorts of butterflies, nerves, and excitement all at the same time. I wondered what the people would be like, would they like me and would I fit in. The next six days turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with PeacePlayers.
The first day we arrived to Norway, I was so excited as we waited for the Middle East group to arrive. It was exciting for me as I was going to meet new friends from different parts of the world. Once the Middle East arrived, the participants from the previous exchange all met up and said hello, giving each other hugs. I had to make myself known and introduced myself. We then got on the bus to go to our host families homes and that was when I met the first person on the exchange and that person was Yuval from the Middle East. When we started talking, Yuval had told me about his first time playing Gaelic football in the Middle East exchange last October. We had a laugh on the bus and was amazing getting to know him. On our journey to our host families, we had a party on the bus or what we came to call a PeacePlayers ride. We were blasting music, introducing ourselves and chatting with all the new people we had yet to meet.
After about an hour on the bus, we arrived to Nesodden and I finally got to meet Edvard who I had been chatting with before the trip and I was so excited to finally get to meet him and it was amazing. Me and Eoin (Lead4Peace participant from NI) were driven up to our host families house where we were introduced to Edvard’s family.
On the first day of the camp, I didn’t get to meet many new people. So my goal was to not sit with people I knew so I can begin to make new friends and to get myself known to everyone on the exchange. Edvard’s dad dropped us off at Nesodden High School. This was where we met the coaches from the other sites – Gøril, Roar, Jamie, Nicos, Ståle, Sissel, Latoya, Bahar, and Sean. The coaches introduced themselves and shared something interesting about themselves, they were all a laugh and I knew I was going to get on well with them.
After all the introductions, we were split up into our teams. This was when I met my teammates – Thilde, Jinan, Christain, Martin, Gur, Serife, Ayanda, Anne, & Beth and Anna. We called ourselves Team Fire Ball to match our team colour, red! Later that day after we all played basketball, it was time to lead our session on Trust & Communication. I wasn’t as confident at the start but when I saw Beth and Anna do an amazing job, I said to myself it can’t be that bad and went on and led my activity and I did a good job.
After that session, it was time for dinner and that’s where I finally got to talk to the new people. That night was my favourite night in Norway because I made everyone laugh and made myself more recognised by everyone. Later that night, Edvard and William set up a Norwegian food taster for me, Eoin, Max, Tahir from Cyprus & Ryan. We all sat at the table and began tasting Norwegian food which was amazing and very tasty. The third day was the day we all went to the hotel and did the fun in the snow the first activity we all did was ice hockey.
The third day, we headed off to Sormarka which was about an hour drive from where we staying in Nesodden. The first activity my team did was ice hocky, it was an amazing experience and I enjoyed it so much even though I got warm pretty fast becaue of all the
layers I was wearing. Our next activity was snowboarding and just having fun in the snow. This was the first time I ever went on the snowboard and I fell many times. But nonetheless, I still had an amazing time. After all the fun in the snow, we went to a little area and had hotdogs for lunch. Later on that day, we continued with our classroom sessions on social action led by the Cyprus coaches.
That morning I woke up and got my heavy clothing on and brought my bags down to the hotel reception as we were all going back to our host families in Nesodden. This was the day we all went dog sledding and it such an amazing experience. I’ve never seen such peaceful dogs before, the dogs were just so adorable and they were the cutest dogs I’ve seen my life. Later on that day, we took the ferry boat back to Nesodden, the boat was the best transport for me as I love boats.
We arrived in Nesodden and we watched a match. Edvard and William play for the Nesodden club and they had a game that night. We also helped with making waffles which we gave out to the fans. Me, Jinan, Brooklyn, Malak, and Nagham all made the waffles and they were amazing. The basketball game was so intense and it was very exciting to experience. Unfortunately, Edvard’s team lost that game but it was a fun match to watch.
After the match, we were split into two teams and played basketball until we had to go home. The next day was all about school visits! I got to coach in two basketball sessions which was amazing, I had such a laugh with all the kids. After coaching I got to do a classroom session with 15-16 year olds where I shared how I was introduced to PeacePlayers, I also told them about the conflict in Northen Ireland. I was so nervous at first but when it came to it, I did a pretty good job and I was proud of myself.
After all that was done, me, Edvard, Eoin Thetha, Nitzan, Nagham and Maria all walked home to Edvard’s. We had free time so we decided to rest and get our energy back up. After the rest, we all got our gear and headed to the ferry. We got to the ferry and met up with everyone else. The ferry is so cool, I was in love with it. We got to our destination and had to get a bus to Kolbotn where we played more basketball. We got a lot of basketball time and was a lot of fun. When our matches were over we all had a big game of knockout and the winner was Ryan who’s also from Northern Ireland. After all that we all went home. The last day for us all to be together which struck me but
The next day was last day for us all to be together which struck me but I made the best of that time and made such great memories. So, the first thing we did was get on the ferry. After the ferry, we all met up and did a bit of sightseeing around Norway and the view was so pretty. We all went to the parliament where we had a member of Parliament talk to us about Norwegian politics and the king of Norway. It was so interesting and fun to learn about. After the Parliament, we took the underground (subway) to visit the Vigeland Sculpture Park. This was also where me and coach Joanne recreated the heel kick photo and we all had such fun. We then visited the Nobel Peace Centre where we had a lovely tour of the 2017 exhibition.
We came back to Nesodden and played in a 3 on 3 tournament. My team made it to the finals but we lost. After the tournament, we all went into the lunch hall and had our final time together. I was sitting down with everyone getting food before the awards were given out. After dinner, the awards were presented and I won the Spirit Award. The Spirit award is given to someone who takes part in everything with a positive attitude while cheering everyone else on. I was so proud to be gifted that award. After the awards were given out, I completely broke down as this was the final time I’d be with everyone before saying goodbye. I went around hugging everyone and spending my final hour with everyone but we didn’t let that bother us as we all had a ball. We were all singing and dancing even the coaches joined in!
So you might ask what has this exchange done for me, it has made me more confident in leading sessions and in being a coach. It has made me a better leader, I made new friends and it might have even made me famous! I was featured in the in the local paper! And what I am looking forward to the most is seeing everyone again when they visit Northern Ireland in July!