In the second half of September 2014, in a land where the soft warm winds of autumn make the palm trees warble and humid air is filled with the strong smell of olives, summer seems to never really end. Even the daylight stretch far into the evening, splashing red and purple on the western sky.
Right at this very moment, hundreds of youngsters who gather here each year still swarm around the campus of Ceulaj, although the learning programs they’re part of have halted for today. You can see them talking, checking their mobile phone in the areas where there is wifi signal, carrying papers, pencils, projectors or chairs to prepare the learning rooms for the next day. Some of them wish they could gather once more for a vivid dance on the songs of Ubanda, who had a concert yesterday. They don’t know yet that the local band of strings and drums and voices secretly plans another one, the day after tomorrow.
Other people take the long walk through the olive plantations to the nearest village, to get some booze and waste the night away. Will quite a few still have activities that are part of their trainings right now, developing theatre plays, doing games or having a talk about what happened till now and what must happen next in order to have the right impact with the Erasmus+ training programs that they built.
This place is like a huge welcoming nest, where young people undoubtedly feel at home. The kind of home that accepts you just as you are and creates the best context for you to you integrate, find friends, have fun, learn stuff, develop, know thyself.
In this wonderful place, I also lost some old parts of myself and found new ones. Though… this wasn’t really the reason for my presence there. I was in Mollina (Spain) as a supporting member of the EEEYFU team, that held the 10 days “Creative Wave” Erasmus+ project. The whole training course was crafted in the form of a program on how to promote organisations, where participants would learn about forum theatre, dynamic team building activities for groups, camera handling and video editing, storytelling and sketch nothing.
That is the part where I came in and held the Dare to sketch note! workshop. It’s been one of the first editions, so I was still searching for the right way to develop my method and the exercises that were part of it.
From this perspective, I must admit: I was very lucky. The context and the environment relaxed the participants deeply enough to help them connect to an inner place inside themselves where playfulness and the lack of judgements shook hand. This enabled them to so easily break free from the fear of not being perfect when drawing. Which is the, for certain, the biggest enemy when it comes to adopting sketch noting as a lifestyle. These people literally sat down and drew all day, with quite an appetite for using the tools, trying out all sorts of stuff and putting in all their energy. Beautiful ideas came out.
It is clear now, for me, that this relaxed state is a rare and ideal situation. Most of the companies that contract me would never send their teams on such a program, for various reasons. The teams I usually work with only have a couple of hours, hardly a full day, for such a workshop. And that’s usually happening, most probably, during a pretty busy day, quite a tiering week, or – even worse – at the end of it!
So yes, in this ideal context, people have been working full heartedly and they also acquired the beginner’s skills very quickly. It has been one of the best sketch noting workshops I’ve ever had. And one that helped me understand one thing for the future: if you don’t have your own Ceulaj, with the palm trees and olive taste floating in the air, try to give your team at least a day off before or after such a training. Miracles can happen!