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 Andrew Goldsmith Estonia Article

This summer I had the privilege of representing the Ringwood & Fordingbridge Lions Club, and my country, for the second time on the Lions Club International Youth Exchange Programme.  After last year’s adventures in Israel I decided to re-apply immediately for the programme to be in with the best chance of securing my preferred country.  Fortunately, in December, I received the news that I had been chosen to go to Estonia and, in March, the organisers over there e-mailed me with loads of information about the forthcoming trip!  

On arrival in Estonia in June, I was greeted at the airport by my host, Piibe.  She lives with her family in Estonia’s second-largest city, Tartu, and she showed me around some of the sights straight away!  During the remainder of my stay with the host family we visited many museums, churches, villages, parks, lakes, forests and a concert, giving me a huge insight into what life is like in Estonia.  We cooked traditional soup with meatballs, I watched a choir rehearsal (which was very interested for me being a choral singer myself), and I tasted some non-alcoholic beer which was very refreshing in the unusually hot weather we experienced during the stay.  Even though the host family live in a small flat they would not be a true Estonian family without their beloved sauna – and we spent a fair amount of time in there!

After my nine-day stay it was time to travel to the camp which was located in a very small village called Taagepera in southern Estonia.  Our residence for the next ten days was a youth-hostel-style building with shared dormitories for the campers and meals provided by the family who lived there.  The first thing we did was visit the castle in Taagepera, of which we climbed the many steps in the tower to witness the beautiful view of the surrounding area.  We also played an orienteering game to not only show us the village, but to give us a chance to introduce and learn about each other.  Represented at the camp were people from:  Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States, therefore we all got to learn about a huge range of cultures and experienced some of them in the campers’ country presentations through the media of dance, drama, food and Italian hand-gestures that should probably not be repeated when in Italy!  The rest of the camp comprised of a day at a Go-Ape-style adventure park with zip-wires, excursions to sights and cities of interest, canoeing to Latvia, learning traditional Baltic folk dance and giving our time to a group of orphan children by spending the day with them playing games, face-painting and swimming in the nearby lake (a very big part of the Estonian lifestyle during the summer months!)

When the time came to say goodbye it was extremely emotional for everybody because we had all developed huge friendships and the ten days that we spent together made it seem like we had known each other for years.  However, I was fortunate enough this summer to be travelling, first to The Netherlands where I met two of my fellow campers again who were able to give me a tour of Holland, then on to France where the French camper gave me a wonderful tour of her city!  I am still in contact with most of the people from camp and my host family which is so nice because we are already planning more reunions for the future.  I would like to, once again, thank the Lions Club for all they have done for me over the past two years and given me amazing opportunities to visit incredible places and make so many new friends from all over the world!


Andrew Goldsmith  

Andrew Goldsmith

Andrew Goldsmith

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