Two of our students on the Winter Break Programme have written the following account of the month’s activities:

The long-awaited break started as the majority of RCN students left for their holiday destinations. We were the ones who did not have the opportunity to go home during this break. The enthusiastic crew of 28 set off for Åsane Folkehøgskole, in Bergen. As our generous hosts, they invited us to attend their Christmas concert at the brand new Knarvik Church, which really gave us the Christmas feeling. Visits to the Hanseatic Museum and Bryggens Museum gave us insight into the life of merchants in 13th to 17th century Bergen and runic writing used in mediaeval times.

Our transport to Oslo was a train ride across the mountains. The snow coated trees sparkled under the sunlight – it was breathtaking! We were warmly welcomed to the capital by our temporary host families. We visited the SOS offices and learned about the various branches of the organization. It was an engaging experience which ended with a scrumptious lunch provided by the ever-smiling Vibeke and her team. We proceeded to the Red Cross Offices where we had the opportunity to  interact with the volunteers who are engaged with street mediation activities – it was informative and thought provoking.

On the second day the main focus were the museums at Bygdøy: the Viking Ships, Kon Tiki and the Folk Museum. It was amazing to see the intelligent craft behind all the ship models in the museum and to be exposed to the history behind these creations. At the folk museum we traveled back in time to the 1200s in ancient Norway. There was a re-enactment of how a typical Viking family would celebrate Christmas, along with the intriguing superstitions that came with the holiday.

The Nobel Peace Conference had been held in Oslo a few weeks earlier, and we seized the opportunity to visit the Nobel Peace Centre. Malala and Kailash can be seen as the voice for the voiceless with their emphasis on the need for children to be educated. Our group was also treated to a guided tour of the Astrup Fearnley Museum, with all its interesting exhibits. Happily, the sun was generous enough to appear for a few minutes whilst we had lunch before we headed off to the last stop of the day – Vigelandparken. We were lucky to have our own personal guide, Pär Boman (RCN ’02) who walked us through the sculptures depicting the circle of life, while giving us an insight to Gustav Vigeland’s thinking. This marked the end to our exploration of Oslo as we headed back to spend the last night with our host families. It was amazing how a few days being accepted and loved by a family gave us a soothing feeling of having a home away from home. We left them with tearful farewells.

Back in Flekke, Larry and his family hosted us for Christmas dinner and topped it off by surprising each one of us with a Christmas gift. After a few days of good food and well-earned rests we were on our way to the most awaited part of our break, what we called our “Winter Wonderland”. We were accompanied by Peter and Tonje who took care of us and taught us life lessons. The experience of skiing for the first time for many of us was exquisite. All of us had countless falls, but this was all part of the learning experience, and we would never trade this experience for anything. The Langeland adventure ended with the visit from the Red Cross team who took it upon themselves to shed light on safety precautions and survival tips for the winter season. They even demonstrated real life scenarios and how we had to act. We were all sad to leave this enchanting place and head back to school for the final lap of the holiday.

The last days were spent on campus with the exceptions of those who left for their local host families. Like always, our teachers Ashok and Madhulika ensured we had a smooth stay. The whole group of students would like to extend the biggest thanks to them alongside their daughters Malvika and Aditi who were with us the whole time and ensured we had the best experience away from home. Not forgetting all the people behind the scenes who made all this possible with a special mention to Arne and Larry. Special thanks also go to Barbara and Daniel Kwapong for all their contributions to our group and all the other staff members who made us super comfortable. It was a once in lifetime experience, the best holiday we could ask for.

Blessing Chirimbanie and Kole T. I. Lekhutle
on behalf of all the students on the Winter Break Programme 2014-2015