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In the heart of the Caucasus: an Erasmus+ exchange in the mountains of Georgia

The sun was peeking timidly over the Caucasus Mountains as we embarked on a once in a lifetime adventure. Valdeorras Vive embarked on an exciting youth exchange in Georgia entitled Youth, Sports & Bonfire.

Imagine finding yourself in a remote corner of Europe, surrounded by young people from Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine, all united by a shared passion: exploring nature, sport and a spirit of adventure. This is precisely what we experienced on this Erasmus+ exchange.

Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, welcomed us with its unique blend of history and modernity. Walking through its cobbled streets and colourful buildings, we immersed ourselves in its rich history, influenced by Persian, Russian and Ottoman empires. The fusion of historical architecture and vibrant contemporary artistic expressions left us fascinated.

But it was the people of Georgia that made this adventure come alive, especially our friends from the host association Alternative Education Academy, a group of scouts and non-formal education enthusiasts who have been bringing international opportunities to their country for more than ten years. A big thank you to Archil, Gvantsa and Kopa, as well as Sasha from the Estonian association Ethos MTÜ, because they gave everything to make us feel at home.

During this week of learning we spent most of the time in outdoor activities. Through a lot of different dynamics and games we learned manual things such as how to light a fire properly, how to do first aid, how to tie different knots or how to build our own shelter with just a few tools. As in every youth exchange, the mix of cultures made the experience a much more interesting collage, with traditional games from each country or the already classic intercultural evenings.

One of the first experiences that immersed us in Georgian culture was the Tamada tradition. In a cross-cultural evening filled with laughter and Georgian wine, we found ourselves sitting in a circle, sharing stories and toasting to friendship. The Tamada, or "banquet master", became our guide through this toasting ceremony.

Another spectacular highlight of our adventure was the hike to the Jvari monastery. Surrounded by the majesty of the mountains of the Kazbegi region, we ascended to this ancient place of worship. When we reached the top, the panoramic view took our breath away.

Georgia, a country that has seen its share of challenges throughout history, taught us a valuable lesson. In a world where barriers seem to multiply, education is a beacon of hope.

And we cannot write these lines without a special mention for the Ukrainian team, six young women from the city of Sumy who accompanied us in this exchange as they face the shadow of the Russian invasion in their country. We believe that these opportunities are a palette of colours on a canvas that threatens to darken, a statement of resistance, an affirmation that the search for knowledge and friendship does not stop in the face of hate speech.

So it was that, in the middle of the Georgian mountains, among friends from different cultures and at a time of global uncertainty, we found a firm anchor in the importance of experiences like this.

See you soon, Sakartvelo!

Lucas Docampo


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