Last week we organized an amazing event in the cultural center in the refugee camp. After dancing and singing to Palestinian songs, playing a lot of Palestinian games and trying to pronounce Arabic – we wanted to turn the tables and organize an event for the community where we shared our stories. We organized a European evening, where we invited residents in the camp to take part in various activities, learn about us and our backgrounds and spend time together for one evening. All in all – we think it was a success, and definitely something new for everyone!
We now present the different activities.
Map of Europe and the flags
The section was dedicated to getting familiar with the geographical scope of Europe as a continent as well as the flags. In the first activity, participants got the list of the countries in Europe and printed flags of those countries. They had to matched the flags with the right country. They did pretty well and soon it was clear that some flags are very known, while others not so much. What made some confusion is also the fact, that some flags are quite similar (for example there was a confusion among Slovenian, Slovakian and Serbian flag). It was interesting that mostly guys took part in this activity and it seems they know the flags because of sport events where flags are always presented.
The other activity was about placing the names of countries on the right spot on the map. We drew the map of Europe, only presenting the silhouette of it, without showing the borders of the countries. Participants got small papers with the names of the country to place. This exercise proved to be quite difficult, especially in the areas of Europe, where there are a lot of different counties in the small geographical area (for example South-East Europe ).
What can be said about this activity is that when we tested it ourselves before we realized we are not really good at the flags ourselves (Palestinian boys were a lot better) and that we struggled to agree which countries are actually part of Europe – geography is pretty constructed.
Food plays an important role in every culture and we wanted to bring this aspect to the event as well. We believe the culinary of Europe is very diverse, so we went with what we know best and what we know how to prepare. The idea was to prepare a simple dessert and to make enough for all participants to get a chance to taste it.
What Ida prepared a lot in her childhood was a simple chocolate-cake, the label at this event said “mutakakku”, which is Finnish for mud cake, as it looks like mud. This desert is probably not very traditional but it is found in every cafe in Finland and Sweden, and children can make it themselves. The recipe consists mostly of butter and sugar, and a lot of it, which makes the cake very sweet and very amazing. Also at this event, the chocolate cake disappeared in minutes, almost as fast as it was to prepare it.
A slovenian traditional dessert is jabolčni Štrudelj – apples in a role of pastry. We prepared this for ours and realised it is probably not the most simple choice, but once we started we had to finish. At some point, our host family even jumped in to help us with preparations, and of course enlightening us with their suggestions and instructions, how they think jabolčni Štrudelj should be made. One of the comments was that there should be way more sugar in it, because Palestinian love sugar and they literally put kilos and kilos of sugar in most of the desserts. Guests at the event all said they liked it, although honestly, we think they were a little bit disappointed cause for their taste it wasn’t sweet enough. And because “jabolčni Štrudelj” it’s not the easiest thing to pronounce, they just called it “Hubes u Tufaha” which means bread and apples.
So in conclusion- we spent hours preparing bread and apples. =D
At the event we also wanted to include some crafts – it’s creative and something to bring home as a souvenir. When we talked about what “European crafts” could be, we realised we both did friendship bracelets when we were young. For some time, this was really a thing among children, maybe mostly among girls, and it was an easy leisure activity that we were doing in school, at home: just for fun or when we were bored.
We wanted to present this idea to the community and we also thought the message of friendship is something we want to spread.
We bought different colours of yarn and before the event, we checked if we still remember the technique, so we created more than 15 bracelets in different colours, combinations and with different techniques.
The participants loved this activity. They were intrigued by our examples we provided and they wanted to do the same. Many women were familiar with the technique and they jumped right into making them, implementing some of their own techniques and helping children to learn as well. This activity was nice because it connected people across ages, genders and language!
The most popular combination of colours used was black, green, white and red, which are the colours of the Palestinian flag.
As we live in a house where the Palestinian or Egyptian music is always blasting on full volume, we wanted this event to have “European” music in the background. Choosing a playlist was difficult, but we wanted to include classics like the Beatles and Queen, some songs that we listen to in our different countries as well as currently super famous pop songs by European artists. The playlist was hence a mix of everything, and through this we also managed to show how huge and diverse the music scene is in Europe; all in all we had music sang in around 10 different languages and in many different styles. Many people were surprised that some of the most famous songs are from European artists. For other songs, it was mostly the two of us dancing and singing along.
A picture says more than a thousand words, and this is why we wanted to share our own backgrounds through a power-point with pictures and short explanations. This power-point was rolling in the background throughout the evening, and included pictures of nature from Slovenia and Finland, maps to show what Europe is made up of and pictures from our own lives. Naturally, there was a lot of pictures of snow, landscapes and animals. People learnt that Tea can ski, which is pretty much what everyone does in the alp countries. The hat Ida got for her high school graduation proved to be very confusing, because it looks like some weird combination of a sailors hat and a chefs hat.Language corner
A big part of our stay here has been influenced by the Arabic language, it limits what things we can do at work, it surrounds us in our home and on the street, and it is in Arabic we buy bread and ice-cream. However, after two months here we really do not speak it, and often get comments about how slowly we are learning. With a language corner we wanted to remind the community about the fact that we ourselves speak English as a foreign language and have different language backgrounds that also make it difficult for us to learn Arabic, because maybe there are sounds that we have never heard before, yet pronounced. The feedback here was that Finnish is a lot easier to pronounce than Slovenian, but that the words are too long. The Palestinian pronunciation of Swedish words was fluent! In general this table was a lot of fun, with people trying to pronounce words in these random languages, and we shared a lot of laughter. Learning new languages can be challenging!Exhibition
One of the things people here always ask us if how we see Palestine and the camp, and if this perception has changed. We have provided many answers to this in the blog, and we decided to visualize the content of the blog in exhibition format. We printed a lot of quotes and pictures and prepared an exhibition: “70 days in Palestine”. It was amazing! This exhibition really gave new people an insight to how we experience our time here, and opened up for discussions.