I am back from the sky.
Air bound, countries ran from under me, taking me across a continent and landing me in Serbia for 12 days.
I have returned to Dublin now and gradually start to bring pieces of the past few days together. Those pieces include the bonds of new friendship, the spark of new ideas and the honing of skills. There are lots of stories too, gelled together with laughter and giggles. In between there is learning.
I was in Serbia to attend a training programme on Conflict Resolution and Non-Violent Communication in a town called Mali Idos, in the north of the country. Gathered together were 24 people from 7 different countries (Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Ireland, Italy and Poland). They included representatives of NGOs, psychologists, social workers, youth workers, teachers and environmentalists. They included sparky, wonderful, inspiring people with a passion for engaging with the world and the drive to make it better.
The course, part of the Youth in Action strand of the European Commission was intended as a sampler of different techniques and styles for conflict resolution. We touched on cultural and language factors, intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict, identification of conflict triggers, non-violent communication techniques, mediation and political peace movements. The facilitation included a variety of learning methods, including interactive games and use of a drama method called Theatre Forum (part of The Theatre of the Oppressed) developed by the Brazilian Augusto Boal. The technique offers participants a chance to act out a ‘conflict’ and then through interaction with the audience, act out interventions and methods to try to resolve it- a learning style with deep layers of possibility and potential.
We also looked at some social documentary including footage from Israel and Chile which once again sparked my own interest in the visual storytelling to heal, inspire and tell a new story of change.
It was nearly 40 degrees some days, so an afternoon dip in the ‘lake’ (aka muddy pond replete with a menagerie of wildlife) was also appealing. There was lots of singing and dancing too. And sunflowers.
Like so many gatherings, the side bar conversations, the ones over meals and the ones that linger late into the night, were also revelatory. Talking with the participants from the Balkans, I got a taste of a bittersweet history, a complex political context and a region steadily carving out new identities and roles in the the world. There are many stories to share but for the moment, some images….
My camera was alive when I was away. I spent a lot of time taking photos but I also ventured into some film (using my Canon 5D). A five hour layover in Frankfurt was put to good use and out popped this little video, edited to give you a flavour of the training.
(The card game you will see is an method to stimulate what it is like to enter a new culture. It is played in silence, and as you can see, can lead to some entertaining insights. It is called Barnga)
Also a few photos also captures some of the faces and features along the way. More to follow in next few posts…