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4th meeting in Jelgava, 27/09/ – 30/09/2022

Biodiversity meets music – Fourth meeting in Jelgava (Latvia)

Finally, a long-awaited day had come when students and teachers from the Erasmus+ project “Biodiversity meets music” visited our school – Germany (Stolberg), Italy (Monopoli), Greece (Kissamos) and Spain (Seville). Only the Norwegians, who could not come to us, were missing. But it all started before that…..

We started preparing for this week back in May. We got together to plan what to do and what activities to organize, so that our peers would be interesting and when we go home, we will remember the moments spent together in Latvia (Jelgava) for a long time.

After the summer holidays, when we returned to school, the planned ideas just had to be adjusted and started to be realized. Besides, just like students from other countries, we did our homework over the summer: the study Biodiversity at my backyard and Parks in my hometown. In the summer, herbs for teas found in Latvia were collected and dried to prepare sweet gifts for their young, as yet unknown friends.

The beginning of September was quite bustling at our school, as there was a lot of work to be done in anticipation of the guests. Teas should be packed, stickers on the packet should be glued together, and then everything in gift boxes should be arranged, Latvian bracelets should be made and many other little things that take away a huge amount of time. But we did not grieve about it, we did everything with pleasure and from the heart.

Day 1 – 27/09/22

On September 27, we welcomed our guests at the door of the school, dressed in Latvian national costumes, and treated our guests with truly Latvian things: real rye bread, goldsmith honey and milk. Each guest, in order to feel belonging to this place during this week, received a folk bracelet with Latvian ethnographic patterns made by us.

 We all met in the lecture hall to get to know each other, participating in several icebreaking games. However, before that, all the brevity was introduced to today’s program and, of course, still sticking to the national self-confidence, we believed that in order to understand why these folk elements are so important for a Latvian, how to put on a national costume is a matter of honor, a video was shown in which the Latvian people’s love for song and dance and the traditions of the Song and Dance Celebration were shown. When we watched the video, we realized we needed it…..the guests were really surprised….. And we were proud, especially the girls who were dressed in national costumes at the time.

The students of our school felt the roles of guides, introducing guests to our school. After that, our guests, the students of the music direction with their educators had arranged a charming concert. As the first guests entered through the doors of the concert hall, a performance by the brass band “Rota” was heard (conducted by our headmaster). This was followed by a speech by the school principal and a warm welcome greeting to our guests. The girls of our project were happy to get involved in the role of concert directors.

At the end of the concert, we went for lunch to the school’s dining hall and then went to the lecture hall, where we were supposed to share what had been done in the summer- what had been explored, what had been learned. Showing off your summer homework, so to speak.

When the day had already turned in the afternoon, we went for a short  walk around Jelgava. We all met on the islet of the castle, divided into mixed groups and accompanied by local guides (pupils of Jelgava Secondary School No. 4) we went to get to know Jelgava. The walk around the city ended with a joint dinner.

Day 2 – 28/09/22

On the second day of the meeting we went to Kemeri National Park. There we were greeted by employees of Kemeri National Park and employees of the Nature Foundation. We were welcome guests because we had signed up for clean-up day. Before we started to work, the guide told us about the territory of the National Park itself and its importance in the Latvian ecosystem.

Our work was to stop the spreading of curled roses in the territory of the seaside (Kemeri National Park). To everyone’s amused, that such an innocent and even lovely plant is very aggressive and invasive. It
spreads very rapidly with the root system and takes over the local flora. The curled rose was brought to the territory of Latvia in the 1950s, planting them in the seaside areas to strengthen the dune area. But at the moment, the guest is so engrossed in that it squeezes out those plants in its natural environment that need to grow there. And we armed ourselves with shovels and gloves, curled up to work because we are in favor of the fact that in nature everything must be in balance.
After a job well done, right there in the national park, the nature fund fed us delicious lunches. As we were at your fingertips from the sea, before we went to the capital, Riga, we stopped and enjoyed the stunning views of the Baltic Sea shore.

Arriving in Riga, the students went to play a game – find “animals”.  The groups explored the architecture of the old town, where many different animal elements can be found as a miracle, and a tiny bit of history was also explored. For dinner, we took our guests to Restaurant  Lido to
continue to enjoy the Latvian atmosphere and Latvian dishes.

Day 3 – 29/09/22

On the third day of the project, we went to the Jelgava floodplain meadows. There we were greeted by a guide Ervin who had already driven a herd of wild horses under his command from remote edges of the meadows close to the gate. Surprisingly, we were allowed to go in a paddock next to the horses. Before that, though, instructing that horses don’t like fast movements and certainly shouldn’t be in the back of the horse because they tend to kick!

In general, the horses were very safe and friendly, everyone could caress them if they wanted to cuddle, it is not worth mentioning the photo and video session at all. During the excursions, we learned a lot of interesting facts about these wild horses, how resistant they are to winter frost, about how foals are born. The guide introduced us to the world of wildlife and its laws.

Jelgava’s floodplain meadows are located right behind Jelgava palace, so we turned to Jelgava palace, which has been the Latvian Biosciences and Technology University since 1919.  Jelgava Castle is the greatest work of the early period of the most prominent Russian court architect F. B. Rastrelli and one of the most outstanding architectural monuments of Latvia, which has survived to this day.

After lunch, the guests were given free time, because in the evening there is a busy activity before the concert of musical performances prepared by the project participants began the evening of dances together with the Latvian folklore group “Dimzēns”.

As at every party, you need covered tables with food. But in order to get to the food, everyone had to work. Most of the guest students went to our students’ homes, where dinner was prepared with their parents for the dance evening. Teachers and visiting students who stayed at the school were also diligently cooking a variety of food in the school’s design and technologies classroom kitchen. Greek national sweets, Italian piadinas, Spanish omelet and, of course, meat patties
traditional for Latvians were created. When the cooking master classes were over and the dishes washed, the table was lied for diners: different types of pancakes, bread arrangement, Rosol, patties, and as a sweet surprise was Endy’s mom’s baked cake.

And so began a concert in which students from all member states performed with their own musical performances. After the concert, the doors of the halls opened and with loud and joyful music the folklore group Dimzens entered the hall. Yes, everyone watched the first performance sitting in their chairs and beating their wrists in rhythm. But after that, few sat. All with radiant faces and eyes full of joy, indulged in the Latvian dance step. Every once in a while, many of dancers dropped their jackets and sweaters and kept dancing. After a proper lust with Dimzēns, we enjoyed our own dinner and the party continued.

Day 4 – 30/09/22

On the closing day of our project meeting, we went to see one of the pearls of Latvian architecture – Rundāle Palace. Another architectural masterpiece of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, which currently pleases guests of the palace with its regular French-style garden and luxurious interiors of Duke Biron’s rooms.

After visiting the castle, we went to the Tērvete Nature Park, which is at the same time a nature and theme park, where the beauty of nature is intertwined with fairy-tale characters. The students performed various research tasks by walking the trails indicated on the route. At the end of the day and the project on the terrace of the museum`s café, where after walking through the forest, everyone was waiting for hot, on fire-cooked soup and other goodies. The representatives of the groups still had to make Jelgava Secondary School No. 4 puzzle and then it was time to receive certificates and commemorative gifts from the organizers of the Latvian (Jelgava) meeting.

Iveta Balode, Coordinator Jelgava, Lettland