THE PATH TO THE ‘OTHER’- WROPENUP and the Duanam Theater in Marseilles

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I think that we have stopped living in a box filled with stereotypes, since what we have discovered when we got there turned out to be something entirely different to what we have already known. One could say that we have changed the way we perceive the world around us.
This trip showed us how the energy and strength of young people can connect and create something good. This belief was strengthened by working alongside other young people. Now we know that we can overcome our fear of the unknown and give back to others.
Below, you can find an account of the student exchange that took place within the framework of Erasmus project+ ‘Transcending fear- the path to the other’. This project was a result of collaboration between WrOpenUp and the Duanama Theater from Marseilles. Like most things that we have done, also this account is a result of collaboration- it was written by the participants of the theater workshops. Oliwia Tomczyk listened to the account of the events. Mateusz Harkot edited the below text.
Our group comprising of eight participants had a chance to take part in the theater workshop that took place in August in Marseilles. Other participants taking part in the project were nationals of France, Spain and Algeria. The aim of the project- which used activities that weren’t solely related to theater- was to familiarize the students with phenomena related to xenophobia, stereotypes as well as similarities and differences between cultures. It was also a great chance to build new relationships with our peers living hundreds and sometimes even thousands of kilometers away.
The 24-hour journey was a perfect opportunity to get to know each other while doing exercises related to intercultural competence. We could barely wait to get to our destination. As we were leaving the coach we were hit by the wave of hot air that we then had to cope with for the next ten days. Our welcome, organized by all of the other teams that were already present in Marseille, was equally warm.
After checking into our rooms, which we shared with participants from other countries, which in turn allowed us to get to know each other and make friends much quicker, all we could think about was dinner. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as we were very hungry after the long journey. Tortilla that was served to us was entirely different from the tortilla we have known so far. It turned out to be absolutely delicious however we noted it as the first cultural difference we have come across on our trip.
After dinner came time for integration. Every participant had to find a creative way to introduce himself. This exercise gave us a lot of joy. Contrary to our concerns we felt very at ease among the newly met colleagues.
Each of the following days started with a French style breakfast. C’est tres bien! At first all of our workshop related classes were taking place on the lower levels of the building. We were making use of a small scene located in the dining room.  There, we had our intercultural classes but we also meditated, did some physical exercises as well as exercises devoted to developing our creativity. Among other things, we have created colorful notebooks that we then used to write down our observations and feelings we had in regards to the workshop.
Every day after classes we explored the town of Marseilles. Since the classes were taking up most of our time we were only able to see some of the sights, however, we were happy about our schedule because it didn’t allow us to be idle. It turned out that we are a hardworking bunch which is not typical for people our age. After completing all of the scheduled daily tasks we were able to explore the town center as well as main tourist attractions of Marseilles such as the famous port, Notre Dame de la Grande cathedral, Ferris wheel and the artistic neighborhood of Mistral. We used every opportunity to spend at least a moment on the beach, near the beautiful blue water calling out to us on a hot day.
After a few days we moved our classes to the Toursky Theater where we started the intense acting and intercultural awareness exercises. We touched upon subjects such as stereotypes, xenophobia, prejudice as well as bad language and ways to coexist in a peaceful manner. We learned to laugh at ourselves while watching skits created by other participants of the project, the skits depicted stereotypes typically associated with other nationalities. At the end of our classes we made a summary which is also professionally known as ‘evaluation’. The evaluation consisted of discussion about what we have learned so far, what issues were touched upon on that day and what could be added to each subject we have already discussed. Our thoughts were written down on a sheet of paper and then read out loud at the end of the project as well as hung up in the theater for all participants to see and remember about.
After each day of workshops, we have not only explored the sights and spent time on the beach but we have also took part in communal ice breaker activities, meditation and massage sessions that were intended to energize our muscles, transmit good energy and clean our chakras.
 During the second week of our stay in Marseilles we moved again, this time to the bigger theater called La Cite. We started joking that we became too professional for a smaller theater space. The new space, which was also the place where we were going to perform on the last night of the project, was the place where we started to put together our performance and where eventually we gave it its final shape. We really enjoyed the theater itself especially because of the very comfortable benches, were we rested and even took short naps, and because of the free Wi-Fi which we were gladly using.
In the evenings we were visiting a local restaurant, the owners of which have a goal of changing the eating habits of the residents of Marseille by serving healthy, ecological food. It turned out that they were the people who prepared all of our meals. There, we took part in cultural soirees- first each group prepared their national dish for other groups to try, next we had to present our national songs, dances and typical national clothing. To acquaint our colleagues with Polish tastes we decided to prepare żurek as well as bread with smalec (a type of lard) and gherkins. We have showed them disco polo, two folk dances: karkowiak and polonez.  During our presentation we used national costumes that we brought all the way from Poland. We also had a chance of getting to know traditional Spanish, French and Algerian tastes. We learned how to dance flamenco and we also got to learn the enigmatic lyrics to ‘Macarena’ which we were curious about ever since we were small kids. ‘Language’ was the theme of the second soiree. This time we learned how to count in Spanish, French and Arabic, along with some basic phrases in each of these languages and the longest words present in their vocabulary.
The atmosphere during both soirees was very friendly. After all of the fun we went back to the hotel to get some rest. On one of the last days we were given a little bit of free time which we of course decided to devote to sightseeing in the beautiful capital of Provence. We also did some shopping, we looked for souvenirs in the most remote streets of Marseilles which we have photographed to have as keepsake. While we were scouting for the souvenirs we saw some beautiful buildings. Than we went to the beach for the last time, we wanted to take in the murmur of the waves and the screams of seagulls.
Finally, the big day came along! The level of stress rose dangerously high and the air became dense. Despite the fear, sweat and tears we have managed to perform using all of what we have learned during our stay in France. The audience was left speechless seeing our creativity, interaction and involvement.
We will remember it very fondly despite few minor mistakes. We are left with good memories and a sense of satisfaction after getting a job done well and all of the hours that we have spent preparing for the performance. On the day before our departure you could see some sad faces appearing among the participants.
The last day was simultaneously very joyful and sad- when saying our goodbyes we were all crying buckets and giving each other big hugs. We were very happy that we had a chance to meet so many great people. At the same time we were very upset that we had to say goodbye. We became true friends in the 12 days that we have spent together. On the way back we talked a lot about all of the most important events we took part in and the memories we made. We were all quite upset but the moment we came back to Poland and saw our families our good moods came back instantly- we now could tell them all about our adventures in France and the great influence the project had on us. We will remember this trip for long time.
PIOTREK: What I remember the most are the French lessons we had with Monika and Sarah, how we braided the hair of all of the female Spanish participants, the jokes made by Staś and Danny in our room, making the strange drawings and the taste of melon at dinner. I loved the evening outings, for example when we went shopping and met those nice people. Foreigners turned out to be really nice. When I got ill one day they were coming over and asking how I felt and so on. I will never forget the smell of the see air, distinct smell of the underground and a very hot sauce (when we want out for a pizza). I loved word-play between the Spanish guys and funny arguments between Natalia and Abdu about who can speak quicker. I remember the far too long lunch breaks (we were taking naps). It will also be hard to forget running up and down the steps to collect various keys and the evenings when the girls from Spain visited our room (I must admit that I would get a little bit irritated when I wanted to go to bed and they were still in our room).
ZUZIA: The trip to Marseilles was organized by WrOpenUp to break certain barriers. My favorite memories that will stay with me for a long time are daily drawing sessions conducted in international groups. I worked with a great international group of boys: Yanis, Danii, Abdu. We became very close and it was hard to say goodbye at the end. I will miss talking in Polish with the boys and group challenges. It was very nice to hear from Monika that I have improved my presentation skills and that I am braver than I was when we started the workshops. I hope that the friendships we have made will continue to flourish in the years to come… ☺
STAŚ: I was surprised with how open and devoid of barriers the foreigners were. I will always have fond memories of learning Arabic with Algerians. I won’t forget Adam (from Algeria) laughing at me saying that my name in Arabic means sixteen. I will always remember the moments when we sang songs in Spanish with Yanis or the evenings when we explored the town. What l loved the most though, were the Souraii hits. This trip allowed me to build very close relationships with other participants of the workshops. It allowed me to learn new languages and gave me a lot of food for thought.
JUSTYNA: Our stay in Marseilles showed me how the energy and strength of young people can join them together and allow them to create something beautiful. A lot of what we have learned will stay with us forever. We met a lot of great people and those friendships will continue for a long time. This trip allowed us to perfect the languages that we have already known and learn some new ones. We dived into various cultures, learned a lot about each other and it seems almost abstract that we have managed to become friends in such a short time. In my opinion the participants from all countries created a group of equals who managed to build something beautiful thanks to their hard work. We wouldn’t get anywhere without our openness, tolerance and the ability to find common ground. Together we faced the challenge (of creating the final performance). I was sure that we will make it! I based my belief on the way we have cooperated along the way, on the fact that we were ready to overcome our fear of unknown and give back to others.
MATEUSZ: I was surprised with the ease with which we have managed to assimilate in this intercultural group. I was worried about the attitudes of the Muslim participants (Algerians), who seemed to be the most culturally removed from us. However, they turned out to be one of the most open people I have ever met, 100% ‘normal’ which was inconsistent with the stereotypes. I feel enriched by this project. I am happy that I had the chance to meet many great people and work on my French and English☺.

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