Photos do not fit the text AT ALL in this post
Peace caught me unexpectedly in a small town of Whitley Bay in the North East of England. I was lying on the bed listening to wind outside the window and suddenly felt this clear state of mind, transparent and revealing as if I had taken ketanov after several hours of severe pain. Whitley Bay lays in forty minutes driving from Newcastle and I have never heard about this place before. It was that part of my work that I love: finding myself in a places where I would never ever go under other circumstances. To be honest, I didn’t want to go to this project. Visa application process was humiliating and expensive, timing short, research proposal for master thesis begged to spend more time with him and, generally, I was full of winter uncosiness and indecisiveness and just wanted to spend more time in my beloved Sweden. But I had to go. Duties, you know.
We planned this youth exchange well a year before. “We” are Diana, Alagie, Tommy, Mohammed and me. To say “friends” would be too much, but we were connected with that kind of moments when you share happiness from the well done job and beauty of the social reality that you created together. Beside or because of that, many of my god-presense moments in past years were also connected with this guys. So, yeah, I wanted to see them.
The air smelled spring and sea. Huge tides, bigger than I have ever seen, came back and forth several times a day leaving flat sandy beach for happy ad-looking dogs and their owners. We lived on the Whitley Road that came right down to the sea, and one could always see St. Mary’s Lighthouse between two rows of red-bricked houses when coming back from the shop. Wind ran clouds over the sky, but the sun kept shining and this “dress-and-converse” mood made me even more alike my kids. I enjoyed wind waving my hair and was proud of not wearing hat just like long time ago in childhood. Silly.
Now, three years later after I met Alagie, I realised that he became one of those “significant adults” that, if you are lucky, you meet in your adolescence and who define your way in a way. I met him much later, when I was 24, and since then it was our third youth exchange where we take our teenage students to grasp a bit of other cultures and to have fun. Even thought my role in this cooperation was to push, coordinate, remind and check, I think he has always treated me as a senior participant, trying not to interfere my leadership attempts and catching when I was felling. This is how it was this time as well. Program went smoothly, teens were felling in love and ordering late night pizza, Alagie let us go sleep earlier every night keeping himself an eye on room parties – “I don’t need anyone pregnant here! But you can” – pointed he on me. In theory I could, of course, why not. But I should have done it earlier, perhaps. Once you hit the road, it’s already difficult to stop. I surprisingly found myself to be more interested in collecting miles than in reading mamma’s blogs.
The evening before we had a leaders meeting in a hotel bar. Green velour coaches were burned with cigarette ash here an there, and smelled a bit like kitchen. But there was a real fire-place under a huge flat TV-screen. After the meeting Alagie stayed to play pool with two drunk, but real English lads. Real English lads, both in and outside of the bar were cute and polite, offered help, hold the door and even called me “miss” once. Hello, Sweden!
Our hotel was small, somehow old-fashioned and reminded me of the “Shining” movie with its net of corridors and victorian wallpapers. But we had our towels changed and tea set refilled every day, and there were wooden shelves in the wardrobe and a warm floor in the bathroom. Together with eggs Benedikt for breakfast it was enough to make a girl from Easterm Europe happy.
On a Sunday market in Tynemouth I got lost while looking on different sweet trash. One guy was selling big tiles with vintage prints of Whitley Bay views. I love that kind of stuff! But my budget and healthy mind didn’t allow me to pay ten pounds for one tile. I sigh and put it back on the table. “I should be more practical, right?” asked I Alagie. His cigarette smelled cherry tobacco and he seemed to be a bit bored. The last project evening, right before kids’ goodbye party began, Alagie gave me something square and heavy wrapped into a newspaper. “There is a velcro loop there. Just put it on the wall, press well and don’t move for 24 hours”, he said.