Sweden: Shambala Gatherings – A Commune life
As we all know, Scandinavian countries are very expensive to travel to, so we decided to work for our food and lodging. It is a better way to manage our budget as well, as a great way to meet people and learn their culture and customs. We looked in to the Sweden woofing website and found few places which we liked. We sent our profiles and inquired about their availabilities and got an acceptance from Shambala gathering in Skinnskatteberg, a small village a hundred km away from Stockholm.
We came to Sweden from Norway by traveling by bus for 7 hours. Unfortunately, it was 10 minutes late when we came to Vasteras around 7pm and we missed the bus from there to the village, Skinnskatteberg. The other bus is around 9pm and it would take around 2 hours to reach the village. We did not know what to do and no one was helping us; not even the bus drivers. There was a railway station close to the bus station and we went inside and looked for some information. We found an electronic timetable and a regular chain shop where two women were busy with their customers. We asked them how we could get to Skinnskatteberg. She looked at her data and found out that there was a train from there to Koping station and we could take a bus from there. Also we informed the place that we would be there around 10 pm by using her phone. We bought tickets and took the train around 7:45pm and got down at Koping.
The bus came around 9 pm and we were very happy and got on the bus. An old woman was the driver and she did not respond to our smile and the question which we asked her. However, we knew this was the bus and we seated ourselves and enjoyed the travel by looking out at the lake and sunlight after 9 pm. It was very beautiful and I took some pictures as per usual. After some time, one passenger got on to the bus. Since we were late we wanted to inform the place where we were going. We would reach there around 10 pm and by then it would be dark and we did not want to get lost in the dark. Without hesitation, we asked the other passenger, the only passenger, using our hands to communicate, whether we could use his phone. He gave us his phone and we called the place but no one answered. We could not do anything. When the bus arrived at our stop, surprisingly the lady driver asked us to get down. We said bye to her with a smile, but she did not respond to it, once again. We got down and still we can see the sun light and found the sign “Borntorpet” to go to the place. On the way, we saw a car coming towards us and we thought they were coming to pick us up. The car stopped and a man got down from the car and introduced himself as Ola, with a beautiful smile and helped us get into the car. He was from Germany. When we were in the Shambala gathering, the place was silent and the lake was too. As they promised, they kept aside some soup and bread for us to eat for dinner. The bread is something new and we had never seen anything like it.
Johan Svanborg, Alessia Green and Carin Carbonnier introduced themselves and welcomed us with joy. It was a pleasant moment and went to the dormitory, where we saw all the beds were full with volunteers, except for two. It was around 11pm and we had only two upper beds in different places and managed to get up and slept very fast.
Early the next morning, when we went to breakfast, everyone came to us and introduced themselves. Melissa Núñez Brown who runs the place with Johan, his partner Jean-Casimir Morreau, Harry West-Taylor, Katie Lund and Catherine Kinsella from London, England Luca Pierabella from Italy, Estefania Morales, Ana Casanovas Bermejo, Mariadel Ba from Spain, Elad Rabinovich from Israel, Ioana Bacanu from Romenia but living in Sweden and Spain and another person from Netherland. We stayed for two weeks in this place. By the time we were there, there was a group of 50 participants, doing some kind of yoga training. Our job is to prepare food and keep the place clean. Carin is the volunteer coordinator and she is very good at her job. It doesn’t matter what our backgrounds are, every day we have to help in the kitchen, clean bathrooms, toilets, halls and bedrooms in rotation. Each time everyone had to work with the different group or alone. There is a time table and we have to look for our responsibilities for the day and week and have to work for a minimum of 4 hours – maximum 5 hours per day. People who cooked do not need to wash the dishes. If we have worked for 6 days, then we are off on the 7th and do not need to do any work. Just eat and rest or we can do our own thing. They have a small garden and we have to do the weeding. They used waste-food as fertilizer. We practiced organic farming and recycled everything without wasting it.
Harry is in charge of the kitchen and he is very creative with his cooking and also well at managing the kitchen efficiently. Especially in revamping left over dishes, so as to not waste any of the food. They don’t keep any cooked food for more than three days. He also encourages others to cook their own traditional foods, in creative ways. One day, every week there would be a sharing activity and when a participant is sharing his/her experience, others had to listen to them without passing any judgement or arguing. It was a great experience and felt like living in a commune. It is a lesson for how to live and establish a commune life than just talking about it.
Most of the participants swim in the lake, whenever they have time, at least more than three times a day. Ola, from Germany, swims even at midnight and Kate, from London, always swims for a long time. We also swim, but don’t stay too far from the shore. When we were swimming in nude, it felt like we were free birds. It was a beautiful experience. They have many bikes for us to use. It is little different to the bikes we are used to; the brakes are a part of the pedal, but we managed to ride them around town. Sometimes we walk around in the forest.
Some of the volunteers in the dormitory began complaining about the snoring, and how they were finding it hard to sleep. As two of the many volunteers who do snore, we decided to camp out for our last two days and we are grateful that we did. We got to enjoy a beautiful lake view with the sunrise.
In the last week, we had a new group and they were doing meditation without talking. It was a very difficult meditation and some volunteers of the other volunteers, were not used to it and did not know how to response. However, everyone supported each other and helped the group do their work. Since we were all were silent for one week, I wanted to give them a gift, by facilitating an acting meditation with laughing. Most of them enjoyed it.
We met Johnny Gunpowder, who was visiting a friend, and offered us a ride to Stockholm in his car. He is a very interesting person. He is originally from Sweden and lived in the U.S for some time. He loves to travel and had mentioned that he has visited Sri Lanka and India quite a few times, each time staying in a small facilities with minimum accommodations.
When we left the place we felt like we were leaving our home.
Thank you everyone. It was a wonderful experience and learning.
I am an internationalist.
We are in a small village in Sweden, working for our food and lodging at a yoga retreat center.
When I was weeding in the garden, a thought came to my mind…
Do I have to work just for time pass or
Should I be enjoying this as I do in “my home” garden with love and care.
Which is my home?
When I touch the soil in the garden, it felt like the same soil like in “my garden” in Canada.
Then another thought came to my mind,
It is the same soil as Sri Lanka where I was born and played for 25 years.
It is the same soil in Germany where I was working like this, in a small village.
Everywhere the soil is the same, but the landscape and weather are different
Even though the landscape is divided by sea and ocean, underneath, the soil is connected.
Only on the surface there are different names for this soil.
If I feel the same wherever I work in this world,
Then I could call myself an internationalist…
In the meantime,
Insult my language,
Discriminates me based on my skin colour,
Does not respect or respond to my gesture such as a smile,
Then I will be a (Tamil) nationalist…
Being a nationalist is also internationalist
Because without being a nationalist, one cannot be an inter-“nationalist”
thank you Nish for your Editing.