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Archive for the ‘Portsmouth’ Category

So many things happened in the first week that this post will need to be split!

After some participants’ experiences, here comes finally the week manager’s voice.
In a few words: AWESOME participants, lovely weather (are we really in the UK?), truly beautiful places – my job could not be much more pleasant than that!
The tour is so intense that finding time to blog is maybe the hardest part…
Together we had a dive into British history, culture and society, visiting places, talking to people and reading newspapers, to then put all this information into practice in the right way when approaching – not only – students and encouraging them to take their stand on the upcoming elections.
Below some highlights and considerations from my perspective.

LONDON – the bright departure
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Participants got introduced to the project under the spring sun of a London meadow. Decoration of the bus and short London tour followed.
Czarek cheered our first moments with Y-Vote Cheburashka bungee jumping.

PORTSMOUTH – English non plus ultra
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The most English day of all!
As you already read before, the presence of the Queen of England marked our presence there. The Queen votes, so why wouldn’t you?
We also had typically English food (i.e. fish&chips), typically English culture (i.e. we visited Charles Dickens birthplace) and typically English weather (i.e. it was raining like hell).
However, the best part of the day was a young English participant we acquired and lost in the same day. We met Dominik in the hostel, where we were having our morning workshop session to get ready and kick the streets. I had a chat with him during my cigarette break (who said smoke brings always damage?) and he got very interested in what we were doing. His life looks quite different from ours: only 18 years old, he left the Lake district – where unemployment rate is very high – to search for a job in the richer south. In few hours he really became one of us, teaching us English slang, excited and surprised by us being all from different countries, astonished by our astonishment for seeing the English breakfast for the first time (we would see it many many other times the following days…). Then, the bad news: he couldn’t leave Portsmouth because he needs to make an interview every week in the same place, otherwise no unemployment subsidies. He just could not afford it.
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Passing through Southampton, we headed towards the heart of the Oxbridge.

OXFORD – guitars and balloons
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The Oxford stay has been particularly interesting and full with intense and different emotions.
We were enjoying a cosy bar in Cowley road, but unfortunately without the company of local students – our target group. My guitar, though, proved to be a real magnet for locals. Which brings us to a simple conclusion: English guys are definitely more interested in guitars then in girls. That’s how we ended up animating the whole bar, with people fighting who would take the guitar in their hands first. Such a musical nation!
With Oxford I have a special connection. Because it was my first time in England there, working as a babysitter, because my beloved professor sent me here, because my best friend studies there – because there’s something in the air. Bright minds have been growing here since centuries, within beautiful tradition and constant growth. Technologies are used but not abused.
There was a very special occasion during our stay there: the May Day celebration. The crowd gathers under Magdalene College Tower, where the choir sings at 6 o’ clock in the morning, in perfect silence. Traditional breakfast follows. Our valiant participants of course did not miss this gluttonous chance to perform massive street actions! Y Vote balloons were flying, Y Vote bands quickly becoming early morning trendsetters.
Oh, we got even interviewed by the local TV!
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We had furthermore a meeting with the Oxford hub representatives. Their openness towards Europe surprised us in a very positive way. Jake explained in this way the unpopularity of the EU: A vision is needed, something that will mobilize people, give them a reason why to pay attention to it. Until then popularity of the EU will stay low.
See below the balloon fight in the pub ‘the Turf’ (one of my absolute favourites), which completed our stay in the most marry way!

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It doesn’t happen very often that there is an AEGEE event in the UK as well as it doesn’t happen often that during one event you visit more than 3 cities. This event was therefore really special…

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It all began in London and short after meeting the group (which was great!) our first task was to prepare the bus – a lovely van and practically our home for next few days. We decorated it with all kinds of promotional material like posters and stickers so that it would be visible to people on the streets and show what we were doing. After some ice-braking games and getting to know each other and also the official mascot of this tour Cheburashka, we were ready to go. We started with a short sightseeing tour in the centre of London, enjoying amazing weather with clear blue skies and great guiding tour by Mario. Colourful posters on the van already made some success as people were staring at us, reading posters while waiting for the traffic light to turn green and probably wondering what this strange van full of energetic students with a crazy driver Miha could be… In the evening we headed towards Portsmouth, our first destination on this tour.

Portsmouth, a port city in south of England would have been quite a boring experience without few things that had happened during our stay there and made it special, somehow also our most British experience so far… After breakfast Thijs gave us introduction to what we were supposed to do during this UK tour. Obviously it was interesting as we got attention of a young English boy who was also staying at the hostel. After a short conversation with our tour leader Tena about who we are and what we were doing he got so excited that he decided to join us. So we got a new participant, Dominik who was even our target group (18 years old and first-time voter) and an excellent companion to get to know a little bit of English society. Very quickly we overcame the problem of understanding his strong accent from north of England as he started teaching us “useful” slang expressions and swear words. We also found out that English breakfast can be eaten at any time of the day, not just in the morning! We visited the historic dockyard of Portsmouth with the oldest surviving warship of England which is also the place where Nelson got killed. The weather was typically English – rainy of course and to our surprise we found out that the queen Elisabeth II was in Portsmouth and about to pass by! Of course we were all enthusiastic about that and not to miss the opportunity to see the English queen we immediately decided to wait a bit more, we blew some Y vote balloons and tried to resist the rain. The queen drove by, we waved her with our balloons and happy for this rare occasion left the port. The last destination was the birthplace of Charles Dickens, a nice traditional house full of personal things that still remind people today of that great author. To finish the day in style, we left Portsmouth with Beatles on the radio and drove towards Southampton.

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Having said goodbye to the Y Vote bus three days ago, finally I’m in a prosaic mood to write about my impressions of the UK.
Let’s start with the weather; immediately one of the foremost positive things of my stay in the UK. I would definitively argue for MORE beach holiday in the UK advertisement in the rest of the EU. It would help mutual understanding.
At first I was worried when I noticed I forgot my umbrella from Y Vote Groningen. But it was all nice and shiny weather in London, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Oxford. While in my home country the weather was shit.

What caught my eye was the EXCEPTIONALLY clean streets (even in London, one of the biggest cities in Europe, apparently not one of the most dirty), and in those streets: young mothers with young kids hand in hand in the busily trafficked streets of Soho, King’s Cross, Chelsea…
London is a MULTICULTURAL melting pot, filled with students and working citizens coming from all over the world. The ambience of all those people from different backgrounds and with puritan working spirit does not make the city less attractive for the sporty Brits, as you can see them jogging along the river Thames, sometimes with their dog on a leash.

I experienced a large part of the Y Vote conferences. During our campaign, for example at the Vienna Launching Conference, we talked about multicultural, globalized, societies in Europe, and the necessity of commonly shared VALUES in it. Well, now I have witnessed daily life in London, I got a better understanding of British Euroskepticism. I can well imagine that the British think of the so-called ‘European values’ that Sarkozy and Merkel talk about, as words with an empty shell. Why? I think because in London they ALREADY live in a (largely) multicultural society with exactly those values that belong in the 21st century.

And London is a city that was atrocited by the bombs of Al Qaeda terrorists in 2005! Back then, several bombs caused a bloody massacre. They hit innocent citizens who used public transport daily. In fact; our hostel was nearest to that metro station where one of the bombs exploded; King’s Cross St. Pancras. We took metros from that station at twice a day. Anyway, it is a remarkable city. It is like a metropole that undistracted goes ITS OWN WAY, regardless of terrorist attacks, or some wacky Europhiles on the continent that criticize the city for not being ‘European’.

The last days I spent in Oxford, the world-famous university city. And there, living is equally remarkable. Everything in Oxford seems BETTER arranged than in my hometown (and I live in the Netherlands, generally not regarded as a backward country in these respects). People you see on the British streets are more fashionable, the seats in the bus are softer, the grass in the gardens is kept tidier, the mailboxes are more charming, the men in suits chose their ties with more care… In short, it’s amazing! Ah, and the English girls – they look fabulously. Not at all what I expected.

A shame that the people here are so ignorant of European affairs. Because they greatly benefit from European integration, only they don’t seem to realize it. It is up to us to make them realize.

The Y Vote Wolf

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