After sleeping and watching movies for several hours on a transatlantic Air France Flight, the cultural shock when landing in Sao Paulo was rather strong for me, a 28-year-old Finnish guy. The anxiousness, when not finding part of the luggage to be re-checked-in for the domestic flight, would be perfectly justified in my home country, but here in Brazil it was mostly met with confusion and calming friendly expressions. And this was merely the beginning. My travelling partner Charlotte and I had quite the adventure ahead of us, although unlike her, I had never been to Latin America before.
Upon arrival at the venue for the Training Course, Eco Village Indaiá the following morning, we were met by old and soon to be new friends. Everyone was filled to the brim with excitement and happiness – ourselves included. By this point I had already come to realize that not only are the plants and animals of this place vastly different, but that the society and mentality of the people are very different too.
This setting made a few questions pop up in my mind. How can we really work together on the topic of social economy with so different societies? The social needs are clearly very different from the Finnish ones, not to mention the legislation and power structures. However, the strongest thought was perhaps one tied to the stereotypically Finnish view of self-worth and conscience; why am I allowed to travel to this paradise on Earth, and is it even necessary? The thought of the emissions from the flights alone made me feel somewhat guilty.
A few days in I realized that my scepticism was unfounded. The societies from which our partners came looked so different on the outside and seemed to struggle with so different issues, but were actually a lot more alike once I caught a glimpse beneath the surface. The different problems usually stemmed from poverty, inequality, poor education as well as unsustainable values, both social and environmental. One could say we all suffered from the same disease, but the symptoms varied greatly.
My guilty feelings about travelling here also vanished as the days went on. The main point of the Training Course was to educate ourselves in the use of the non-formal education methods created in previous projects, something that I at first secretly thought might have been excessive. We had already worked with the methods in our previous mobility in Sassello, in Italy, after which I already felt really comfortable with them. As it turned out the Training Course was absolutely necessary. Not only did I learn a lot of new things within the methods used before, I also learned some completely new methods, about facilitating them, and my understanding of non-formal education deepened as well. I also understood that I wasn’t the only participant who felt this way. Many of the participants enthusiastically expressed excitement over their new insights in social economy and non-formal education from time to time.
Returning to Finland and trying to adapt to the everyday life again was truly a challenge after the Training Course in Ilhéus. The emotional roller coaster of going from a sceptic with feelings of guilt to realizing the importance of our work and really feeling we are in the process of making a difference in the world truly was an empowering, yet disruptingly life-changing, experience. A sensation strengthened by reuniting with old friends, making new ones, and saying goodbye in what seems like just a moment after our hellos.
Saga Finland r.f.