On the 15th of August we boarded towards Thessaloniki, the first stop of our trip, with our suitcases full of enthusiasm and eagerness.
At a first glance, Thessaloniki seems very far from any other renowned European city, but it stands out because of its ruins, churches and coffee shops you can find all around. It was a surprise when we discovered that the majority of people barely spoke any English, but still they were willing to help us.
The first two days we enjoyed the city, the food and the coffee. At the end of the last day we headed to the meeting point. We were excited and nervous at the idea of meeting the people with whom we’d be living this experience for 10 days. It was the first training for both of us and we didn’t know what we would find. At Thessaloniki’s train station we met the 30 young people who were going to participate in the training “COFFEE: Colorful Fighters For European Empowerment”. They came from different countries and together we headed off to Palaios Panteleimonas.
That first night we arrived to the hotel, where we spent the rest of the 10 days, and we were met by an even bigger surprise when we saw the immense view it provided. The combination of a sharp blue sky and with a landscape that offered both woods and sea became a constant company, both by day and by night.
And don’t get us started with the food, the hospitality and the way in which that small family welcomed 30 people for so many days. Plenty of typical and homemade food made by “Miss Poppy” delighted us throughout the training.
The training curse focused on empowering young people regarding LGBT+ issues through non formal education in order to adopt active attitudes and positions in society.
The group of participants was very miscellaneous, which allowed us to make it even richer. In addition, we were lucky because the 5 trainers were very experienced on the subject and proposed us many different activities.
The first day was dedicated to know each other and create an atmosphere of comradeship, looking beyond borders and different points of view. Once the project ended, we can say that we achieved that efficiently, since we all became friends and saying goodbye was very emotional and intense.
The following three days were focused on theoretical issues, such as being LGBT+ and human rights, queer expression, media and religion, where each country could present and explain the various policies that apply to said matters. The issues were addressed mainly in relation with the abuse and homophobia suffered by many people and, most of all, in relation with every human being’s right to express themselves in different ways, without being repressed or oppressed for it.
On day four we went to Meteora and Trikala, where we enjoyed a view similar to the one you have in Montserrat, the only difference that each mountain was crowned with a small monastery.
Days five and six were basically dedicated to action and empowerment. The activity that stands out the most during those intense days was the theatre of the oppressed, where we carried out various shows of invisible theatre at the beach. At the same time, the participants could develop various workshops regarding the issues at hand in order to introduce new points of view and bring new knowledge.
The last two days revolved around the various proposals that we could bring and manage both at local and international level, seeing which ideas we could develop and how doing it, in order to change the abusive and repressive situation in which the LGBT+ community lives daily. At the same time we discovered the opportunities offered by the Erasmus+ program and how much one can grow through non-formal education, travelling and meeting people from all over the world.
Lastly, we have to mention how, despite being exhausted, throughout the nights we continued the cultural exchange, showing movies and videos and dancing.
When we left, the both of us had different expectations and objectives than what we found. We could reflect on the situation on the LGBT+ collective in Europe and on what we can do, on a personal level, in order to fight against the discrimination and injustice they suffer every day.
We came to the conclusion that “gender” is a word created by society and culture, and this is why we should widen the policy framework in order to let in those identities that do not fit into the male/female binarism and make room for diversity, in all its forms and colours
Geraldine y Zuleica