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Summer culinary work camps

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I couldn't wait more for this summer to begin, not only because of sunny weather and heat but also new kind of experience which I decided to take part in. My friends suggested me to participate in 2–week–long work camps which were going to take place in different parts of Ukraine. It seemed to be even more attractive thanks to interesting local festivals which the participants were supposed to help and organize.

The first work camp “ХЛІБ своїми руками” took place in a small village Obyrok in the north of Ukraine between Chernihiv and Sumy in the beginning of August. It aimed to go through a traditional process of making flour and baking bread out of it. 12 volunteers from Italy, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Poland gathered all together to work in a small community where we lived in a common area and shared almost everything. We used the same sink placed outside to brush our teeth, eco-friendly shower and toilet. In general we lived in some kind of unique ecovillage far away from civilization, with low mobile reception and few technological solutions. It might sound rather poor and a bit hard but believe me or not that it has been one of the greatest moments this summer. On the other hand there were many different kind of advantages like hammock in so called German garden (built by Germans), dining room in the fresh air – spots where you could always meet somebody and many more small but meaningful places. I didn't take my computer with me so that I could spend so much time simply enjoying beautiful nature all around, going for a swim in the lake and lie back in the afternoon when the temperature and sun didn't let us leave the shade. I don't know if I have ever spend more than 3 weeks without my computer but it has been an amazing time.

Our tasks were to help in the kitchen preparing food for everybody, work in the garden, plaster walls of one building and other. Later on many more Ukrainian volunteers came to help to prepare the whole five-days-long festival. I was responsible for a field of wheat which had to be ripped completely. It took us around 3 days to do it using 5 sickles and help of many participants of the festival. Later the wheat has been threshed and the grain has been separated from straw and chaff. At the end everybody who has some time to kill could have a sit and separate every single grain one by one to get only a good quality product. Obviously it all took much time. The last part involved a manual mill used to make flour. All the children present at the festival turned out to be priceless. They got into turning the mill and did it so eagerly that I believe they did most of the job there.

The atmosphere and around 100 participants who came to the festival together with their families created an unique society full of positive mood, common aim to make bread with help of two professional bakers and spend pleasant time without alcohol, drugs and cigarettes which was the principle there. I would love to come back there and live such amazing moments once again. Now I understand why some of the participants there have been already there for the second, third or even more times. I hope my story will go the same way.

The second work camp took place in Opishnia close to Poltava. I couldn't find a nice connection between the first and the second place so I decided to hitchhike. It turned out to be the best idea as I waited just 20 minutes to catch two lifts who drove me around 200 km to the place where I wanted to get. How lucky I was, I said after all.

This time we lived on the outskirts of the town and slept in tents. We had a glade surrounded by forest with some facilities like an brick oven, some shelters, a hummock and tap water. A beautiful landscape spread in the horizon with some hills and meadows. Admittedly there was a beautiful clear sky full of stars most of the time in the night.

The festival “Borsch” has been organized there for the first time and it supposed to last only one day. We spent one week on clearing a part of the wood nearby to get more space for the tents of all the guests and preparing some facilities for them. Besides we worked in a different place where there was a small house with a large collection of old traditional utensils, dresses and art, just like a small museum. One of the tasks there was to paint a fence so as there were 2 post-graduates of art, they took care of the design and brushes. Such situation has been described as a story of “How Spanish and Polish people were painting a fence for Ukrainians”. Besides we had a culinary workshop where we prepared one delicious traditional dish and biscuits. What more we learnt the story of лялька мотанка – a typical Ukrainian puppet and couple of different interesting facts about Poltava region. As for me I couldn't stand being in one place so once I took a bike and went to explore some villages nearby with my friend. We got lost a few times but luckily we made it to come back home before night came.

When the time came we all woke up early in the morning and get to our tasks. There were 4 experienced women chosen to cook 3 type of borsch giving all together 12 pots of borsch. I was supposed to cook kind of kasha but finally this plan has been changed. All the participants could try all the soups and different dishes too. Unfortunately all the soups have finished quickly so that not everybody was able to feel the taste of every of them. In spite of that everything worked well in my opinion. A few days later some of the participants of the work camp took part in a 2–days–long bike trip. They visited a few small villages and asked old ladies for recipes of borsch. I didn't go as there but I enjoyed the last days at the camp.

The advantages of this work camp lay in quite much free time we had, cooking by ourselves everyday by different cooking team, beautiful landscapes all around, a spring with delicious water nearby and a river where we went a few times for a swim. Above all the most important were people who came to the work camp and to the festival itself. Once again I made amazing friends who I will surely see in the future once again.

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