A Flashback of Summer – „Atgaja“. By LEU student Andrius Židovainis

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A flashback of summer – „Atgaja“

Loud and eyesight blurring winter is slowly crawling her way into our lives. Personally, winter is a season of constant battle with my inner self: „Me: It‘s been too long since you have been out with your friends. Also me: But… it‘s too cold outside…“ It might seem ridiculous, but I long summer so much, that I spent few minutes under a spotlight, just so that I could feel as if I was looking into the sun. After a while, when all the lightbulbs burn out, I turn to my greatest weapon – memories of „Atgaja“. It’s the most heartwarming place, where I developed as an individual and found my future calling. It’s a place that I call home and I tend to visit those memories, as people say: “It’s good to be home”.

Thus, I will begin unveiling this being that to you, my dear reader, is still a mystery. „Atgaja“ is a creativity encouraging, children and youth, summer camp, but it‘s no ordinary summer camp. Every summer there are 9 shifts with different themes, goals and each and everyone lasting ten days. The most amazing and important part of this summer camp, that the program is created not just by camp counselors but children themselves have all the authority to create or alter the program in any shape, way or form.

There are 5 main virtues we are imparting to the children. First, being nationality – we focus our activities around Lithuanian social figures (authors, social activists, scientists, etc.), folklore (dances, songs, fairy-tales) and history. Second, would be family. We do not talk much about it, because it’s a hard feeling or virtue to explain. For ten days, three counselors become parents and those three get 21 of their children. They become their sons and daughters and the children become brothers and sisters. We share our food, we share same rooms, we experience everything together – we are a family. Third – personality development – every single one of us are unique personalities. We believe that everyone is a flourishing and nurturing personality in the right environment and “Atgaja” is “the” environment. Forth is creativity. As I mentioned earlier, children have total creative freedom – counselors only provide the material – the children do the rest. And lastly, education. We believe, that spending ten memorable days is as important as coming back home knowing a little bit more about the world.

Frankly, if someone asked me what “Atgaja” is to me, I would be puzzled. It’s way more than these 5 virtues that I have mentioned and I couldn’t really explain how many are actually there. “Atgaja” became the place where I grew up as a Lithuania loving, folklore singing, family cherishing, individuality developed, creativity spewing, educated person and it’s only a tip of it.

To me though, the most important part of “Atgaja” is that I realized that I want to be a teacher. An epiphany struck me last year, that I want to be a teacher. Me… of all people. I couldn’t believe myself. While I was imparting all those virtues to children I understood that not only did I make them as my own, but I learned a world from the children themselves. I realized that some of them are a lot smarter than me and that I have educated myself in order to provide them with more information. I felt the need to nurture their personality and education. Chills are running up and down – it was a great moment in my life. And even today, every new thing I learn, would it be a new song, an interesting article, a great book, I am thinking of ways how to explain or portray the new information that I’ve gained.

Thus, my article is coming to an end, leaving you with a message. Your story wouldn’t be same if you decide to travel to this mythical land called “Atgaja”. It would be better. Much better. Experiencing it with your own two hands, mind and a smile, is the only way to find out. It is impossible to put that rejuvenating, nurturing and warm feeling into words that is “Atgaja”. I hope that you will get to experience it for yourself and if you do, I promise you – you will have a time of your lifetime.

P.S. if you want to go as a counselor, I suggest to like the “Lietuvos Atgaja” Facebook page and look for more information or contact jaunimas.vaikams@gmail.com.

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