July 2019
ESC-diary in retrospect, month no. 11 πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ή

Usually, I go straight into the diary part, but I think that July requires some introduction, some context. The first half of the month was 100% filled with the World Gymnaestrada 2019 (and a teeny tiny bit of sleep) and the second half was filled with traveling and being away; the biggest possible contrast in one month. Before I go into the World Gymnaestrada and the week before it started, I’ll show you some photos to give you an impression of what it looks like, later on there are also two videos to make it a little bit more tangible. However, I do not think that any pictures or videos can transmit the feeling that is tied to that week; it is something you have to experience in person.

All credits for the Gymnaestrada-photos below, as well as the photo above here, go to Fototeam DIGITAL Wolfurt. They did a great job capturing all the beautiful people and moments.

The World Gymnaestrada was my ESC-project where I worked for as a volunteer for a year. What the World Gymnaestrada is? A week-long gymnastics festival with in our case 69 participating countries and 18.160 participants. A non-competitive week of performing, colour, cultural exchange, meeting new people, sleeping in schools, parties and amazing shows. If you want to know more about my work and the project, here’s an article in which I wrote a lot about that.

– 1st to 6th of july, monday to saturday – 
The week before. We prepared the accreditations for all the countries, for all the 18.000 people that were coming. I numbered 4000 seats in the former ice stadium, with all the corresponding problems. We prepared the ticket boxes, taught the students how to work with the system. On Wednesday the first countries started to arrive on Thursday it got truly crazy. I spent from eight in the morning until eleven at night in the accreditation office. Three of ‘my’ countries – the ones I helped in the months before – arrived by then: Qatar, Mexico and Australia. Saturday was the highlight of all the craziness: we didn’t have any security at the office yet and there were countless people walking in, who had no business there, and it was SO busy. Not even time for those ten seconds to breathe in and out, or to eat. 

– 7th of july, sunday – 
This is were the madness really started. Not only was this the beginning of morning meetings at 6:00 (where I arrived soaking wet because it all of a sudden started pouring rain), this was also the day where we had to cancel the opening ceremony. Imagine the consequences of this: confusion among participants, annoyed people who bought tickets, deciding to reschedule this performance for Wednesday, actually having to do all the rescheduling (so much respect for the colleagues who had to deal with this the whole night and then be at the 6:00 o’clock meeting the next morning), informing everyone, rescheduling all other things too like catering, ticketing, travel schedules… Like I said, madness.

– 8th of july, monday – 
More madness. It was super busy at the box offices, just so many people wanted to buy tickets or had questions about the rescheduling. Then also many countries had accreditation issues and had to have something adjusted. My colleague and I tried really hard to get it all done, but it was nearly impossible. However, at 18:00 we closed everything, because we had tickets for the Swiss evening. We decided that no matter how busy it was, we had to go and see shows in the evening, because we worked hard to make it all happen and it would be sad if we couldn’t see anything. A great advantage of my job: getting free VIP tickets to the shows I wanted to see, plus being able to bringing my friends with me, so they could also experience some of it all. It was very amazing. After the show, one of ‘my countries’ came to me to tell me it was great to work with me and that I was so helpful. How I needed that, it really put a smile on my face. 

– 9th of july, tuesday – 
Milestone of Tuesday: I made it to lunch. Like, I actually left the accreditation office and went to the catering area to eat proper food. Some less nice things happened during the day – let’s just say lack of sleep doesn’t bring the best out in everyone – but I don’t want to go into that more. I want to focus on the positive things: getting to see the group performance of Malta, seeing the Nordic evening and the German evening.

– 10th of july, wednesday – 
The opening ceremony on Wednesday, not exactly what you’d expect on day four the Gymnaestrada, but it was amazing for me. One of the countries had a problem with the tickets, which was my responsibility, but at the ceremony we realized it was a miscommunication on their side. This meant that out of the 25.000 tickets I printed and sorted out, I didn’t make any mistakes – proud! Then the opening ceremony, more than impressive to see all 18.000 participants march in, to hear the overwhelmingly positive feedback afterwards and to celebrate with my colleagues and some of the federations. 

– 11th of july, thursday – 
For me this day was hard, the fifth one in a row where we were at the office at 6:00 o’clock, and leaving before 23:00 was never a real option. This day was more calm in the office, with the chaos of the opening ceremony behind us, and tiredness kicked in hard. I had time during the day to see ‘my’ Polish people perform and it was very nice. In the evening I saw the Portuguese evening and the PAGU (Pan-american) evening. A girl fell very hard during the performance and she had to be taken by the medical team, which was a shock to the whole audience, but luckily we heard she was going to be fine.

– 12th of july, friday – 
Such a calm day, everything was going smoothly, so it was calm in our accreditation office. We even had time to go for a longer lunch break and a walk around the halls and markets that we hadn’t even seen yet, because we never managed to leave the office. I had a participant yell at me at the office – he was very unpleasant and even accused me of being racist, which pissed me off a lot – but luckily my boss came to the rescue. I had no tickets for shows in the evening, so I decided to go home at 20:30 and get some much needed sleep.

– 13th of july, saturday – 
The last day of the World Gymnaestrada, a strange mix of sadness and relieve. Every morning at 8:00 we had morning meetings with the heads of the countries and this one was beyond touching. All of them brought gifts for us and thanked us and I felt so much warmth and appreciation there. Then, I had tickets to the FIG Gala – breathtakingly beautiful – and afterwards we went to the closing ceremony. The feedback of the countries was amazing, but something less nice happened – again I prefer not to go into detail – but it ruined the end a little bit. Where it should’ve been all happiness and pride, there was a bitter aftertaste to it.

– 14th to 19th of july, sunday to friday – 
I had the Sunday off work and holy shit, sleeping is nice. All I did was go for a walk and ice cream with a friend and other than that I tried to be calm and unwind somewhat. During the week we had, again, something unpleasant happen at work, but I decided to just not care anymore. We did it, survived the week and made it a great one, and that’s what counted most for me. The week was very relaxed, everything went from madness to nothing at all so suddenly. We started to have drinks in the afternoon in the office, just because we could, and took breaks from cleaning frequently to talk with everyone who happened to visit the office. On Friday we went for lunch with the office team all together and it was very nice. 

My boyfriend had arrived on Thursday evening, which made me so happy because I had missed him so much during this whole stressful period, and on Friday afternoon I had SUMMER HOLIDAYS! Three wonderful weeks of freedom!

– 20th of july, saturday – 
My boyfriend and I went to Lindau, to the lake, with a friend and had an ice cream while walking around. When our friend left, we went to Bregenz for a while, where we sat at the lake, just enjoying the views. It was so nice to have holidays and to disconnect for a while.

– 21st of july, sunday – 
It was time for the last free time activity organised by the coordinating organisation in Vorarlberg and we went on a trip to a cheese farm in the mountains. We went up with a cable car, then hiked for a while. It was a very grey, rainy day, but that made the views very amazing. We got to see the process of cheese-making and of course we also got to try the cheese!

– 23th of july, tuesday – 
It was our last evening in Dornbirn for a while – the next morning we’d leave to travel for two and a half weeks – so we decided to go to the best place of Dornbirn that has an amazing view over the city. We took some food, made a picnic and watched the sunset. Then we went for a walk while it was getting dark outside.

– 24th to 26th of july, wednesday to friday –Β 
Our first stop of the summer trip was Innsbruck, where we stayed with a friend. We spent time with her, we went to a bar, visited Rattenberg for a day and spent another day with a friend from Dornbirn who visited. I wrote about both Innsbruck and Rattenberg before, so you can read those articles if you like.

– 27th to 31st of july, saturday to wednesday –Β 
After Innsbruck, we spent a day in Sankt Gilgen, swimming in the lake. We continued our trip with a visit to a friend in Gallneukirchen, close to Linz, and then on the 30th we left in the evening for Vienna. Again, I wrote much more about these trips, so check it out below.

The next diary, the one of August, will be the last one already. It will conclude the summer trip with my boyfriend as well as my year in Austria… 😒

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