After almost 22 hours in the bus, from France to Croatia, I arrived in Otocac, the closest city to Kuterevo village. The first person I met was Ivan, arriving in his little red car and speaking to me in Croatian. I can’t say that I understood anything, but his words sounded good: language was not necessary to share.
By seeing him, I already knew that I will live something unique.
We stopped many times, and on the way, I drank my first rakija (no no, it was not 10 am…..). Maybe better to relax me before meet my new team !
Arrival in Kuterevo
When I arrived in Kuterevo, the sun was present, and I could appreciate the beautiful landscape all around the place. First, I met a part of the group: Rose, a dutch girl; Hana, Czech girl; Michele, an Italian guy and Lukas, our Lithuanian workcamp’s boss. They looked nice and I already felt well with them.
After a presentation of our house, I met the eight bears and all the other animals, discovered the compost toilets (and the cold showers). A good lunch and it was time to work! We had to collect the grass that will be fed to the bears and made big piles of it: three hours there, physical work started.
Then, we met the others volunteers from Kuterevo, who are staying a longer time. We enjoyed a beer with all of them. At the end of my first day, I felt comfortable and was in a hurry to live the rest of this wonderful experience…
What we did
Pick the grass was not our only work… The second day, on Tuesday, we started to renovate an enclosure for the bears. Program: dig the ground and collect rocks. Hard work whit the hot sun but there is a good atmosphere among the team. Two French people arrived on the afternoon: Laura and Guillaume. The group was almost complete, we still missed Arsim, an Albanian guy who finally arrived Thursday night.
The days after, our mission was to put up a wall. We made concrete, most of the time with a machine and (when the machine didn’t want to work anymore) by hands. But concrete is not as easy as what we can expected… sometimes too dry, sometimes too liquid: at the end, Guillaume almost found the good recipe!
Unfortunately, we had to stop a lot of times because of the rain. Concrete would not hold well with it. We finally managed to finish the wall.
Workcamp is not only a “work camp”. It’s also the opportunity to meet people and to learn how to live in community.
- The volunteer needs some rules, so we have eight rules to learn. Actually, one is really hard to respect: not to pet the animals… with something like three cats (more or less), four dogs, ducks and chicken everywhere, that’s not an easy one!
- Make a schedule: who will cook ? Who will wash the dishes ? Who will find an activity for tonight? Necessary if you want a good understanding between people.
- Learn different languages : each person write the translation of some words in his own language, and at the end of the workcamp, we make a little contest
- Have fun : play (children’s) games, make a fire, play guitar and sing, go to the only restaurant in the village (who was actually really good, and plenty of drink), try rakija (and more than try for some of us), hike to Kopija, find some bear footprints and maybe wolf shit….. Make a contest with bears’ stories and win a little bear statue (having said that, I am the lucky one who won the bear, and I am really happy of it).
- Learn about Kuterevo’s culture: go to meet a man who make an instrument called tamboritsa, watch a documentary about the refugee, listen Ivan and Lukas’ stories…
- Visit the region: go to Plitvitcka, admirate the amazing waterfalls and lakes of the national park.
That is just an unfinished list. Our days were pretty full and we can say that we didn’t miss activities.
After one full week, people began to leave. The first was Hanna: she left on Wednesday. Then, it was the French couple. At that time, I felt already nostalgic… Our team has five volunteers and we could fell the end coming. For our last day, we made a totem with all our names (the most beautiful one ). We also organized a presentation of our work on powerpoint and then, we shared our last dinner all together, with the Postaja team.
I’ve met some very nice people there, lived magic moments with the nature. It was so short. I wish I could come another time and enjoy a rakija in front of a bear. For all of that, I would like to thank Ivan and Helena! Also, thanks to Lukas for everything. It was an incredible time with all of you!
Camille, from France
Another workcamp, “Land for the bears 2” will take place in Kuterevo from the 25th of June until the 8th of July. More information on the camp and how to apply at this link.