Blog- Trip to Azores

January 9, 2015

The group in the Azores, Portugal.
The group in the Azores, Portugal. Danielle is seated in front, 2nd from the left.

20/09/2014

….and so the adventure begins!

Before we launch into blogging, just a quick intro – I’m Danielle, longest standing member of the CYPC – in fact, since turning 18 in March, I’m no longer in the council (turns out I’m not counted as a young person anymore, may as well start looking into pension plans now huh?) – but luckily, this trip allows anyone up to 25 to come, so here I am. Lizz, Eddy, Ryan and Elisa also went to the Azores and are part of the council, and then there’s Hannah and Elisha – the newbies! First thoughts; Elisa and Elisha, that’ll be fun!

We were to meet at departures at Gatwick airport at 12, and after a long and stressful journey navigating trains with an oversized suitcase, me and mum made it! It was always going to be a bit awkward meeting up with everyone, but we soon all got talking. I knew Hannah from facebook, but I’d never actually met her, so after both of us standing nervously for ten minutes, I went over to introduce myself, and from there it all got a lot less scary! We also all met Phil (one of the oh-so-responsible adults accompanying us) for the first time, his method of greeting us all was a ‘fist-bump’ – small details!

After checking in, and a bit of mandatory airport-shopping (and a fainting episode from Hannah to break the ice…), we got on the plane and we were off! It was a fairly quiet journey for me, as Hannah slept the whole way (!) and the others sat on the other side of the plane. I did get talking to a lady travelling for a geology trip and told her all about CLAPA and what we’re all about – never pass up an awareness-raising opportunity!

Upon arriving, we stepped off the plane into the loveliest warm weather – it had all started. I then realised that I had managed to pack absolutely everything I owned except my sunglasses! Oh well…

We soon met the Portuguese leaders and young people for the first time, piled into the minivan for the first of many music-filled journeys to the Youth Hostel. None of us were quite sure what to expect, but the hostel was lovely, very scenic grounds and the rooms were comfortable! We had a bit of unpacking and settling in; bonding time with our new roomates! Me, Hannah, Lizz, Elisa and Elisha were in one room (which created the need for immediate negotiation of a rota for who can use the one socket to charge phones!) and Elisa spent most of the afternoon trying to find the WiFi

In the evening, we had a short meeting again with our new Portuguese friends and then it was off to Tasca for our first dinner; the whole of the upstairs of the restaurant was for us, and they had a grand piano! I started playing ‘Someone Like You’ by Adele, and that was our first group sing-song – more bonding time! Then, we took a scenic route home and saw the harbour all lit up – our first truly beautiful Azorean view! We were all exhausted, so went straight to bed when we got back, the first of many late nights, nervous and looking forward to our first full day.

Members of the CYPC.
Members of the CYPC with Danielle on the far right.

21/09/2014

Up early for breakfast in the Hostel – cereal, cheese, ham, bread and juice, now we really were on holiday! Going downstairs and into the meeting room was nerve-wracking; we hadn’t really gotten to know the Azorean people that we’d be spending the week with, and the whole morning was dedicated to ‘getting to know you’ activities and games they called ‘energizers’ – getting us ready for the day! We all had to go around the circle and say our name, age and a motto, common ones were ‘peace and love’ and ‘swag’ – from elisa, of course. We then had to remember everyone’s names and were paired with an Azorean leader/young person and sent for a lovely walk in the park for half an hour with our partner to learn more about each other. I was paired with Hugo (one of the four Hugo’s in

the group!) and we talked a lot about what we want to do in the future, and why we took part in the program, so when we then had to present each other to the group (favourite music, films etc), we were rubbish! Then came lots of games courtesy of Diogo and Felipe (always good to have a teacher on board).

In the afternoon, we were told to practise our ‘performance’ (what performance?!), but luckily we had three hours. We split into two groups; Lizz, Ryan, Ed and Phil worked on a song ft. Lizz’s Ukelele, whereas Hannah, Claire, Elisa, Elisha and I recruited Diogo (the all-singing, all-dancing one man show of the group!) to help us choreograph a dance. Granted, it wasn’t very British, but it was definitively an eye-opening experience! Luckily, the others’ song was very British and comedic (thanks to Ed!) and we managed to put together a little drama performance based on the royal family – I managed to bag the part of Kate Middleton!

By this point, it was definitely time for dinner, after all our hard graft putting together performances, the traditional Azorean food was welcomed by all. We were then threatened with the prospect of performing our dance/performance in the restaurant, but I think we decided it wasn’t fit to be seen by the public, so we traipsed back to the hostel and surprisingly got a good reaction to our dance from the others! I attempted

to record the song, but unfortunately it didn’t work, however, it all went well!

All together now! ‘England……England…..’

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22/09/2014

It’s Sete Cidades day! Before you read, just do a quick google search…and be very, very, jealous! It was absolutely breath-taking, and a perfect opportunity for some beautiful photos. We also played some more team-building games – by this point, everyone had already gotten to know everyone and it was becoming an amazing trip to be a part of. We found a picnic spot perfect for lunch where we could enjoy the lovely warm weather and the beautiful views. On our lunch table, we got our first Portuguese lesson from Helena, one of the young people that we got to know really well over the course of the week! By the end of lunch, I was confident that I could go to the Azores and demand a ham and cheese sandwich…and an apple – what more do I need?

Reluctant to leave the beauty of Sete Cidades, we all got back into the minibus and Nelson (one of our wonderful bus drivers for the week!) introduced us to ‘Son of Jamaica’ – the song of the week!

We arrived at the youth centre where all the Azorean people we’d met worked (with the exception of Tania from Erasmus!) and we began our group work for the drama production our week was going to be based around. This was a bit difficult for a few of us, including me, because the drama was what I was most worried about – I always dreaded drama at school! But Joana, our group leader, couldn’t have been any lovelier and we spent the whole afternoon playing drama games – roleplaying ‘english’ situations, word games and imagination activities, along with some more team-building games which had hilarious results!

After a long day and a lot of laughs, we were all both hungry and tired, so it was time for dinner at Tasca again along with another sing-song at the piano! We then went into the room next door for a video and lecture about the History of the Azores – which was very interesting, amazing how unknown the Azores are – they’re so small they’re hardly even on most world maps! The talk made us all want to come back and demand everyone go out there to see how beautiful it is.

Despite it being very interesting, we were all exhausted after another long day, so as soon as it finished (after a few questions from Phil…), we all went back to the Hostel for bed. Tomorrow would be the exploration of Ponta Delgada – the town we were staying in, along with the Azorean intercultural night – we were all very excited, and I, for one, was looking forward to a day off drama, because although I enjoyed it, I still found it all quite a lot to deal with!

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23/09/2014

After a fairly relaxed morning playing some more ‘getting to know you’ games, and the Azorean version of ‘what’s the time Mr Wolf?’ (featuring Phil getting very competitive!). Then, we were put into our teams for Peddy Paper – Claire, Lizz, Hugo, Miguel and Tiberio and myself made up a team, and there were three others (but they’re not important because we were the best). The idea of Peddy Paper is to solve ‘clues’ and find various things around the town, getting locals to help us and collecting photos to prove where we’d been – we had a great time! We even ended up winning the prize for the most original photos! Round of applause to Lizz, who not only found the nicest ice-cream for 1 euro but also managed to fight her fear of heights to get up one of the towers in Ponta Delgada! Yay Lizz! All in all, a morning full of fun and we all got to know each other even better!

The afternoon saw more drama practice, we started to think about why we decided to take part in the youth exchange and how we could portray this in our performance at the end of the week. It was lovely weather so we were able to do our drama practice outside, and we even got the first part of our performance done! The other group came back with tales of stage-combat lessons from Diogo, so we all had fun looking through all the pictures. In the evening we did not – shock horror! – eat dinner at Tasca like usual, we were all taken to Candelaria, back to the youth centre, where the Azorean people treated us to typical Azorean food for dinner as part of their intercultural night! We also saw some traditional music being performed from local musicians/singers, and a modern dance performance from Diogo’s students! Treated like royalty with lots of photos and memories, we thought it was time to go home…then out came the karaoke! At first, it was just Elisa and Lizz, but I dragged Hannah up and slowly but surely almost everyone had a go – it was brilliant! We practically had to be dragged away to go back to the hostel – another fantastic day, and an exhausting one! None of us could sleep, including myself and Hannah, so we spent most of the night looking at photos, reminiscing and not believing we were halfway through the trip already!

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24/09/2014 – By Hannah

Wednesday seemed to come slowly, yet at the same time it rushed upon us like the northern line at rush hour. I found myself and others commenting on how we only had 2 days left, with disbelief and a slight hint of disappointment, however when you looked back on all that we had done, it felt as if we had been there much longer than just 3 days.

It was an exciting day for me, as I got to finally see a real-life volcano. We set off at around 9:30 and made a quick stop at a tea factory. Whilst there we learnt how Azorian tea is made, which apparently the Queen drinks, and had the opportunity to taste it as well. At that moment I really wished I could be more British and enjoy tea, as, if Elisa’s 4 plus cups is anything to go by, it was really good.

After the tea factory we drove to Furnas where we jumped into our swimming costumes and had a dip in the thermal baths. A smell of sulphur lingered in the air due to the water being heated by the volcanoes but the water itself was beautiful and incredibly relaxing.

It then came to the time to visit the volcanoes. The volcanoes were not what I had been expecting, as they did not rise from the ground, but instead they were below it. As we walked over them, you could spot boiling waster bubbling through small cracks in the floor, and when you felt the ground it was hot. Scattered around were deep holes where our lunch was being cooked by the heat. Some of the guys that we were with pulled up 3 tin pots from the holes and brought it to the table where we had a delicious lunch of various meats, vegetables and salads. It really was a unique experience eating beside the beautiful lake and fertile volcanic lands that surrounded us.

The evening was our intercultural night. Although it had a few hiccups, such as serving tea without the milk or sugar, it generally went really well! We set the room out in the style of a British street party, filled with shortcake biscuits (which went down a storm), traditional party games, loom bands, videos of our towns and ended with a pub quiz. Competitiveness erupted, but all in all the evening was filled with laughs and good old banter.

At the end of the night we all banded together, Azorean and British alike, to clean up, before signing the pre made paper flags and heading off to bed.

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24/09/2014

So…after the loom-band thrills and tea-related festivities of the night before, we all woke up more than a little bit tired on Thursday morning. I remember, at this point, thinking “when was the last time I got a lie-in?” but I was still more than happy to get up and get on with the day (this says a lot about how much I enjoyed the trip, because usually you’d be lucky to see me looking breezy before 10am). After a breakfast of the good old bread roll and sliced cheese and ham, we all headed downstairs to meet Claire, Phil and the whole multitude of Portuguese leaders and young people who always greeted us every morning with so much enthusiasm that we forgot how little sleep we’d all had!

After some uncertainty beforehand about whether or not we’d be able to go whale-watching, we were told that we could and our slot was for around 1pm! This got everyone really excited as we went off into our drama groups to start the days’ preparation for tomorrow’s performance (eeek). Joana, Hugo, Ryan, Elisa, Lizz, Ruben, Hugo (2!) and Tiberio all sat in a circle and began playing drama games to see what it was that we wanted to do. Me being me, got completely confused during the first of these games (‘tic-toc’ to those that were in the group!) so we decided that this probably wasn’t the best one to show everyone. We then started thinking about putting music to a poem I’d written (enter Lizz ft. Uke) the night before about our experiences in the Azores, the culture we’d seen and how this might affect our perceptions of culture and youth in Europe. After a rough tune had been worked out, we had a short break, during which I played some piano on my ipad and we had a little sing-song – ‘Happy’ by Pharell Williams was definitely a good choice by Tiberio! We then went on to create a short drama that could be performed alongside the newly formed song (enter Lizz ft Uke and voice).

It was time to go whale-watching!! We arrived and got kitted out in our uber-attractive waterproofs and life-jackets and got onto the boat. By this point it was raining and the speed of the boat meant that we all got absolutely soaked! Several selfies later and a near ‘man-overboard’ incident (me again, I was not made for standing on moving boats), we were told that there were dolphins nearby – it was amazing! All in all we saw two different kinds of dolphins, some alone and some in groups, jumping very close to the boat – some people got some amazing pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any whales, but we were told lots of really interesting things about them beforehand, they obviously just didn’t feel like being seen by a group of tourists that day.

After lunch at Tasca, and the mandatory piano and karaoke session that came with every meal, we headed back for some more drama which went really well as we managed to pull together our ideas for the performance. It was all getting quite nerve-wracking and exciting at this point, we were going to be performing in front of the whole group the next day! At 7:45 we headed off to dinner which again was lovely, especially the Oreo mousse for dessert! After dinner we went to a lecture in the room next door all about gender inequality and how this may – or may not – differ across cultures, given by a local teacher/lecturer. She was very enthusiastic and obviously knew exactly what she was talking about, giving us the ‘abc’s of discrimination, taking questions from the audience and encouraging us to form our own opinions about what she was saying. At the end of that, I think some of the group felt a bit frazzled by all the new information (!) so we walked along to a little coffee bar for a drink and a wind-down. As usual, it ended up being a late night, but the day and evening – I think – really brought everyone closer as a group because emotions ran both and high and low, but its safe to say that everyone went to bed happy and with some unforgettable memories.

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26/09/2014

Our last day! Noooo! We all woke up with somewhat heavy hearts, but determined to make the most of the last full day in what had turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. Before we got into the drama- the main theme of the day, we had some presentations in the morning. One was given by Claire – CLAPA’s chance to shine! She explained to everyone who CLAPA are, what we do and why we do it. No-one in the group had heard of cleft lips/palates before, so everyone was very interested and especially wanted to know how they could help – I think they were all surprised at how much we’d all been through, especially in the alveolar bone graft operation; some of the group even showed off their hip scars!

Next was my presentation – I was terrified – my job was to give everyone a personal account of living with a cleft, and the response was honestly amazing – I’ve never been so overwhelmed! Practically everyone was in tears, even Tiberio! Not in sympathy, mind, I really really didn’t want that to happen, it was more of a humbling experience – we had all grown so close, and I think the emotion all caught up with us. I’m so glad I did that presentation, and I think I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.

NEXT! Drama-time! We had the whole afternoon to perfect our performance ready for the evenings’ show. Luckily, ours was coming together quite nicely, and by all accounts, so was the other group when it came to dinner time, we had lots of sing-songing at the piano (now a responsibility shared between Phil and myself, him being a music teacher with amazing piano skills, by the way!). Next came the performances, our group was first! Lizz sang our poem whilst playing her Ukelele, whilst we acted out our mini-roleplay. We then held out words that we thought summed up our week such as ‘friendship’ and ‘diversity’, strung them all together and played an audience-participation game, resulting in everyone being surrounded by the words we thought captured the experience – the joys of abstract art! It was lots of fun, and a big relief to get the performing out the way! The other groups’ drama was amazing! Their theme was ‘discrimination’ and aimed to show us all how we could help to eliminate it, breaking down the barriers between cultures or anyone ‘different’. Another brilliant evening.

Finally came the moment I’d been dreading, we all got our chairs in a circle ready for the ‘final evaluation’ and we all said a few words about the trip and what we’d gotten out of it. I was in tears from the third person I think! A memorable quote from Eddy “the people from the Azores are just as beautiful as the islands themselves” – no more needs to be said!

Several million selfies later and some more tears on my part, it was time to head back to the hotel for our final night, alarms set for 5am ready for the flight home!

Some more wise words from Eddy:

Friday our last day in paradise, over this week we made friends that will last a life time. Even though we live thousands of memories apart you will always be in our hearts. Friday was the saddest day we had to say goodbye to the people we loved even though we will see you again Azoreans, obrigardo.

I’m sure I’ve missed something out, because to write about everything that happened is impossible, every minute of the trip was absolutely amazing in its own way. I thought I’d finish my blog post with the poem I’d written for the drama performance, so this is me signing off – hope 10265643_688037601272941_4192032750336774893_oyou enjoyed the blog!

What is culture? Do we really know?
There’s no real measure, but lots of places to go.

We really need some clarification,
On this confusing situation,
So that we can attempt to map,
Why there is a bridge to gap.

The future is youth, the people all say,
And we were only given seven short days,
But those seven days opened our eyes,
To the meaning of culture, not disguised,
By race or colour, language or past,
When we came together, the result was vast.

 

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