It`s finally Christmas! That means it`s time for a blog post about my last few weeks loaded up with Christmas spirit – both, at home and at work!
The Swedish word "magisk" means magical and describes my December here in Sweden quite perfectly. But not only is Christmas in general the most magical time of the year, we also started a huge new project at Rapatac. We will work on it for the next years and it was introduced to the kids by letting them think about their magical places in Sandviken – that was actually the perfect timing because it fits the spirit of the season so well!
But let`s start at the beginning. After we spent our first Saturday of December in Östersund (I published an extra post about that), we needed the Sunday afterwards to get some rest at home and enjoy a cozy second advent with lots of sleep, food, and a little walk through Sweden`s beautiful nature.
The Monday afterwards work started again and I was really excited for the new week. Next to many meetings in which we always bring all our crazy ideas together and plan the days, weeks, and year ahead of us, we also had a lot of kids in the center to read, play, and just talk to, what still is the most important part of our work – building connections and relationships! Because the semester is over now, we also had a lot of special events and presentations of final products from the different courses. It is so amazing to see how much the kids have grown just in the last four months I have known them. I was really impressed by seeing what they have learned and achieved. Especially in our democracy class the kids did an amazing job sharing their final presentation about the topic equality among men and women and finishing up the semester one week later by taking part in a big discussion about human rights with the debate team from Rapatac-Gävle. Those evenings are always fun and most importantly a good way for the kids to show what they have learned and connect with the other Rapatac youth center.
Also, we prepared some smaller events, for example a talent show and a special end of semester music show in which all the children active in this area were able to present their new learned skills to their families and friends. Next to all the usual activities (in those we included the Christmas and the magic theme as well), we also started to talk to the kids about their special places in Sandviken and organized extra events to make it even more exciting. On Friday the 10th for example, we celebrate Lucia with a little Rapatac-event. The whole week we prepared for it by having spontaneous rehearsals to build a Lucia-Choir. It was quite a challenge but also so much fun and the party on Friday was definitely a success! Next to music, story reading and more, we had fika and just a really cozy and magical evening!
But as you can probably read, as fun as those weeks were, they were also quite full and exhausting. That is why we had some slower third and fourth advent weekends. Next to some cleaning, shopping and relaxing, we started watching the Harry Potter movies all together. That was really magical and brought us into the mood for Christmas even more! On the third advent I also hiked to Högbo (such a nice trail through amazing nature!) and met with some friends at the popular Högbo-Christmas-Market. It was a really big one (by Swedish standards) with lots of local products, delicious food, lights, and the Sandviken-Lucia-Choir that performed a few songs. It was a wonderful evening and the perfect ending to a christmassy weekend! Last weekend then was pretty similar. We did a lot of walks outside because the weather was nice and, as I mentioned many times now, the lights and nature here are just amazing. Also, we had a little Christmas-evening with food, building a gingerbread house, and Secret Santa together with the other volunteers from Gävle. It was the last time for all seven of us to come together and just talk and have a fun time before some of us fly home for Christmas, so it was really a lovely evening.
After all the Gävle and Sandviken stuff met last Friday for a Christmas dinner, we got to see everyone again on Monday for the last big meeting of the year. We did a lot of teambuilding and evaluation about last semester, what is quite important in order to make our work even better. The last few days then we had the Christmas week, what means the activity center was still opened but we didn`t have any regular activities. Instead of those the kids got to come, read, and afterwards do spontaneously some activities, games, or whatever they wanted to. Those days are also part of the year and in another way really important in order to get the kids to feel safe and welcomed in Rapatac – just like a second home. Behind the scenes of course we also had to do a lot of planning for next semester and prepared for our special Christmas event on the 23rd. From sponsors we got presents for the children, which we sorted and wrapped. On the day of the party then we had lots of music, fika, all the presents to give to the Rapatac-kids, and of course Santa Clause. It was a successful evening and an amazing, quite magical end of this year!
Now (24th of December), I`m sitting in the train on my way to the airport. Crazy, today it`s really Christmas eve and I´m, for the first time after four months in Sweden, on my way home for the holidays. I`m really excited, although I can`t quite realize all of it right now. The last four months with all those new experiences and opportunities where so special for me, for that I am really thankful!
Well, now I`m ready for a week full of relaxing, eating, and lots of quality time with my family. I wish all of you the same, Happy Holidays and a magical start in the new year! Merry Christmas!