Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Changing Rooms - Summer 2002

This was the first time I had ever really travelled anywhere new on my own and I was so nervous. Emma from the same camp was travelling on the second leg of my flight with me so we were able to meet up for a while. We had to meet in the train station the next day and with both of us staying in different places we split up and met the next morning. The station was like a cattle market with people heading off all over the country on different camps. We were herded into the main square where we met our group leader Povilas and the rest of the people on the camp. I remember realising just how far people had come from to be there, I was one of the closest! Ulrich, from Germany, asked me if I spoke any German and I replied yes, to which he babbled on in German and I panicked thinking what on earth is this bloke talking about!

We travelled about two and a half hours out of the capital Riga to our home for two weeks; the 'Pargauja' orphanage in Valmiera. We were greeted by the adults and children from the orphanage and spent the evening together playing cards and trying to organise ourselves. At that point I remember thinking some of the group were much more confident than I was.

Povilas has asked us to bring photos of home and family to share with each other which was a great start to getting to know one another.

We soon became more involved in the daily running of the orphanage and gradually became experts at mixing paint, painting bedrooms, stripping wallpaper, putting up wallpaper and then catching wallpaper as it fell down! The children helped as we worked in the bedrooms. We totally changed the feel of some of them which was brilliant, all we needed was Carol Smiley and we would have had it all! We managed to find a local hardware shop to buy more things for us to use and by the end we had decorated three bedrooms, the kitchen and done other things like mended tables, fences and cleaned floors in preparation for a party!

Looking back now I can't believe how close we all grew over the two weeks we were there, from not knowing each other at all to being able to insult each other and joke around and we have stayed in contact since the camp. Since coming back from Latvia, I have recommended camps like this to so many people who I think get fed up with me talking about it. I can remember hearing people talk about the travel they had done, the people they had met and the things they had seen. I can also remember not taking much notice - until now! When I am the one talking and doing the convincing! I can't believe what an amazing time we had; I look forward to seeing everyone again!

Matthew Perret

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