Welcome to the experience of a 12 month EVS’r at Ängsbacka. Here I will share my learnings, challenges and what has been most special about the time I spent in a very strange and extraordinary course centre in Sweden.
Arriving at Ängsbacka
Having little to no idea of what to expect and after 12 hours in transit on bus, aeroplane and train, I was finally about to take my first steps into the Ängsbacka yellow house. What I did not foresee, was stepping into a room full of young and beautiful people who were all hugging and cuddling each other. After having a nice meal, chatting a little with the locals it was soon time to get some rest and be fresh for the morning ahead to meet the ‘EVS gang’. This consisted of the coordinator Liina, a very friendly looking Estonian woman, medium height with dreadlocks, nicely dressed, and a caring but organised kind of look on her face. My fellow EVSr’s: Miky from Romania, Sophia from Germany, Sunniva from Norway, Marie from Estonia, Julie from Holland and Solomon from England like myself.
One of the first things I learnt about Ängsbacka, was that there are many different kinds of ‘time’ there that do not exist outside of the premises. For example:
1. Time Extension: I was soon to find out that one day in Ängsbacka would feel like three, one week like two (in the outside world) and three months in, I felt like I had lived in Ängsbacka for at least half a year. The high stimulation of change and the constant occurring events and situations that come when you live in an ever-changing, all changing community give the illusion that many days have passed simply because you cannot believe so many things have happened in just 24 hours. What does this mean? You can do an awful lot in a short space of time and also you have just acquired the new super power of extended time.
2. Fika Time: quickly I was introduced to Fika, Sweden and most importantly Ängsbacka most sacred practice of the day. It occurs twice a day, firstly at 11am between breakfast and lunch, and secondly at 4pm, between lunch and dinner. It is a time to take a break, drink something hot, eat some fruit, crackers, tahini and peanut butter and have a friendly chit-chat with your fellow volunteers. This is also the only time of day at Ängsbacka where you may feel that time slips away, and, before you know it, you might be 15 minutes late for your next meeting.
3. EVS Time: unlike all the other volunteers at Ängsbacka, EVS get a monthly meeting time to reflect on the past month; what was learnt, what went well, what was challenging, and to share wishes and longings for the month ahead. It is a beautiful and helpful time to see where you are at, where you would like to go, and to see how you can manifest this together with Ängsbacka. For me, it has been a fundamental support during my stay and a great way for the coordinators (Liina and Paul – later to be nicknamed mamma and pappa bear for their super supporting nature) to see how the EVSr’s are, and give us any additional assistance if needed.
4. Conjoined time: After a few weeks at Ängsbacka it happened to me that someone asked me: ‘what did you do last weekend?’ to which I suddenly realised my response was: ‘I have no idea when last weekend ended and this week started’. I couldn’t tell my days apart any longer and before I knew it, telling someone about my previous weekend was unidentifiable. ‘When did I do what on what day?’ I thought, ‘ I still can’t believe so much has happened in the past 24 hours’. This is why ‘EVS Time’ was so vital to my Ängsbacka experience, to give me a sense of time and what I was doing with it. Luckily, the ‘Extended Time’ meant that usually I had done an awful lot.
During my time in the centre I had some dreams I wanted to manifest and so I came to find out that there are mainly two ways you can do this at Ängsbacka which are by Giving and Receiving.
Manifesting Giving dreams: Being an EVS at Ängsbacka you get to run your own projects and focus on what is important to you. Is there something you would like to try which you have never done before? Perhaps cooking for large groups of people, decorating huge halls, holding workshops, playing music or performing, garden work, working with children, marketing, construction or site work? My dream was to hold yoga workshops for large groups of people at festivals. I got to start small by holding yoga classes for the volunteers on the weekly program, and, as my time went on and I became more confident, I started holding workshops for the volunteer camps of Festivals and later workshops at festivals. Dream manifestation complete!
Manifesting Receiving Dreams: Since Ängsbacka is a course and festival centre, there are literally hundreds of hundreds of workshops and courses you can take part in. There is something new for everyone and so many things to learn that will support your dreams or help you identify new ones. In my time there, I literally cannot count how many helpful and inspiring workshops I went to since it was such an abundance. Receiving these beautiful gifts in turn helped me to manifest the things I wanted to do in my time and also helped me realize the things I didn’t want to do. For example many workshops were held on yoga in all different forms, the whole year round which inspired my teachings and gave me new ideas for exploring my personal practice and growth.
The Forest Dream Project
One dream to manifest for our EVS group was to build the first tiny house of the Forest Dream project (Angsbacka’s new eco village). After the teams research, organisation and local community approval, in September 2017 we started to build.
Or more correctly the others started to build while a few of us worked on renewing the second-hand windows and boards, documenting the process and focusing on other projects (partly due to my grave fear of heights) until it was time for the interior. Two months later, after a lot of work and improvisation, the main house was built. I had been on holiday for part of this so when I returned I was incredibly surprised with the incredible achievement my fellow team mates had completed. A beautifully decorated tiny house was standing before me, and luckily with the cold, it was then time to move inside. After some fun plastering which you can hear more about in my Miky’s blog post Paper Plaster Odyssey and inserting the wood stove, we moved onto making some furniture. Being the textile lover that I am I focused on making some bean bag pillows out of second-hand fabrics and some left over buckwheat we had in the loft. The others focused on designing more wooden structures such as the bed, the kitchen and the wardrobe and shelving. Finally, two months later, our little tiny house was complete and the beginning of Angsbacka’s Forest Dream was manifested.
A Colourful Experience
Overall, my time at Ängsbacka has been terribly colourful experience. Here is a little sum up of the seasons I went through:
Winter: Sweden and especially the location close to Molkom, is a winter wonderland. Everything is covered in a beautiful layer of snow, sparkling in the sunshine. The nearby lake is so frozen that you cannot only walk on it, but many locals also drive onto it, and if you like any winter sports such as skiing or ice skating then it’s definitely a good place to be. In February, the main mansion was a quiet place with roughly 20 volunteers and everyone cuddling around the fireplace all cozy and warm. Days were filled with experiencing the different work areas there were to experience and the weekends, with taking walks to the lake and having cozy hang outs in the cafe.
Spring: After a few months of being mainly inside and seeing a lot of darkness, spring was a very welcomed season. From one day to the next I found myself hanging around outside all the time, bathing in the sun, enjoying the new blooming flowers, the birds singing and the sound of friends having fun. This was the first time I realised really how big Ängsbacka is, which due to experiencing my first festival (the Yoga and Dance Easter festival) opened up new spaces to explore. Suddenly the place was filled with around 200 people, it was workshops eat your heart out and time to meet many new beautiful souls.
Summer: As an EVS in the summer I was working on the ‘site team’. This is the team responsible for building up the festival area outside (mainly putting up tents and moving things into them), setting up workshop areas for the coming festivals, monitoring the grounds (to check everyone is safe and feeling ok), general health and safety and the main ‘go to’ team if you need things moved around or you have an emergency. After getting all trained up in first aid and fire safety, piece by piece, festival by festival we transformed Ängsbacka into a space that was to host literally hundreds of people (in the No Mind festival approximately 900 of them). In terms of having a smorgasboard of workshops at my disposal, meeting many new wonderful souls and having an opportunity to hold yoga classes for large groups, it was ideal. In terms of getting a good amount of rest and keeping up my usual good, healthy routines it was a little more challenging. Unlike most of my fellow and very intelligent EVS group, I stayed through the whole summer, in Ängsbacka, without taking so much as a weekend break away. This is inadvisable, and can lead to sleep deprivation and feeling pretty worn out. Luckily, there is a beautiful forest just minutes away which came to my savure, and I also managed to get a session in with Grahi (a Zen Coach) to help calm my nerves.
Autumn: Just as the trees lose their leaves, Ängsbacka loses it’s tents and piece by piece, the place becomes again, as it once was, a calm and open green space. People slowly drop off and return to their previous lives or perhaps start new ones. An area you had been sharing with hundreds of people becomes free terraine for those who stay on and long-term volunteers (roughly 50 people). It is unrecognisable and a very large change in a short space of time. Angsbacka’s volume is turned down, the energy bubble becomes smaller and what was outside moves back into the main yellow house. For me, it was a time to get back into good habits and have cozy, creative times with friends by the fire. It was also the time that we started the infamous Forest Dream Project, experimented with eco technologies, learnt new skills and team building.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow: Back to the winter months and the glittery white snow covered the land again. As I walked towards the local lake (just five minutes away) my hair frosted and I enjoyed the cold air pass through my nostrils. The days were shorter and the Ängsbacka family got closer together again. The Ängsbacka EVS experience was coming to an end and it was a great time to hang out with close friends, watch movies and cuddle up as much as I could before my departure.
The main thing I will take away with me from Ängsbacka is the feeling of a home that I can always return to and very dear, lifelong friends. I’ve never made such close connections and overcome so many friendship obstacles as I have done in this place. The closeness and intimacy Ängsbacka offers is not common, and can lead to very beautiful relationships of all kinds. I will always be grateful to have experienced this wonderful place, and look forward to returning again, to visit my friends and come home.
Text by Nadine Melzer-Glatter