My first ICC (2014) in Riga, Latvia

ICC-Camp stands for International Camp On Communication And Computers. It is an annual event for young blind or partially sighted students from all over Europe and other countries outside Europe, such as Japan. For me, I can say that ICC has a huge influence on my entire life, eversince my first participation; and for all that, I can mostly blame and especially thank my father…

In late January 2014, I got an E-Mail from my father, who read about an international camp for blind and visually impaired people between 16 and 21 years that should take place in Riga, the capital of Latvia from August 3rd until August 12th. After a short look at their website, I wrote my father “Sure thing, I’m in!” and we requested the application form. A couple of days later, I was accepted for my first ever ICC-Camp, as well as my first trip abroad without my family!

On August 3rd, I got up at half past three in the morning and my parents drove me to Hamburg airport. Since there weren’t any more convenient flights to Riga, I first flew to Frankfurt am Main, where I also met the rest of the German delegation for the first time.

At the gate to my flight, I said good bye to my parents and the airport staff took over from there to assist me getting on board the plane. They usually board handicapped people on the plane before the rest of the passengers are granted to board which, in some cases, makes a lot of things easier. Once I was boarded, a stewardess came up to me to show me how to call them during the flight, where to find the life-vest and where the masks come out (of course, just in case of an emergency).

All the rest was – more or less – a piece of cake, as I already got used to traveling by train on my own; so what’s the difference? In both cases, somebody would pick me up at my final destination.

I was the first one who boarded the plane in Hamburg, and I was the last one on the plane in Frankfurt, waiting for the airport staff to pick me up which didn’t take long.

Although we were instructed by our national coordinator to meet up at the gate where our flight to Riga would depart from, the guy who picked me up obviously got the order to first bring me to a special lounge for handicapped travelers. Nonsense, in my opinion, but at least I got something to drink there to keep myself calm. A quarter of an hour later, somebody else picked me up to get me to the gate, where I finally met the rest of the delegation!

Unfortunately, it turned out that the flight was overbooked. Therefore, round about half the group had to stay in Frankfurt waiting for the next flight, whereas some of us were able to take the flight as planned.

When we arrived in Riga, some of the Latvian volunteers on ICC picked us up from the airport and we met the Swedish delegation on our way to the school where the camp took place.

After arrival, we got a tour around the school to get to know the most important places we’d probably visit more often, before they offered some lunch and time to go to the supermarket to get some groceries to keep ourselves happy.

After dinner, we were invited to join the traditional welcoming ceremony, where we got to know more about what we were up against for the next upcoming days. Finally, at 1o’clock in the morning, the rest of the German delegation finally arrived in Riga, so ICC could eventually begin!

Every individual on ICC will get a personal account on the website, as well as on the local ICC network you can log onto with any of the available computers. During the first day, we configured our accounts and checked if everything works the way it should. Once that was done, we created our personal workshop wishlist through the website. During the assembly meeting in the morning, the workshop leaders presented their workshops they offered and gave a short overview about them. The wishlist worked as follows: We could apply for 12 workshops we had to rate from 1 to 12, whereas 1 declared the workshop you really really wanted to attend, and 12 declared the workshop that you didn’t necessarily need to attend, only in worst case.

After lunch and a short break, the actual workshop phase began. First, however, we had to attend a compulsury/starter workshop, which took the afternoon of the first day plus the first workshop phase of the second day. The second compulsury workshop we had to attend, as far as I remember, either took the whole day during the second half of the camp or it was also split up just like the first starter workshop.

A usual day on ICC works as follows:

  • 07:30 to 08:30: Breakfast
  • 09:00 to 12:00: Assembly meeting and workshop phase (with a coffee break, usually after the first half of the time)
  • 12:00 to 14:00: Lunch break
  • 14:00 to 17:00: Workshop phase, same procedure as stated above
  • 17:00 to 18:00: Dinner time
  • 18:00 to 21:00: Leisure time activities (e.g. showdown, dancing, sightseeing, a tour to the beach, a rowing trip on the sea nearby, karaoke, etc.) that you are able to subscribe to.

The rest of the evening is free…

On August 7th (our excursion day), we traveled to a city called Ventspils. We toured the city – sometimes on foot, sometimes by bus – and we could either visit the nearby beach or go shopping. After that, before the excursion officially ended, we got a great dinner at a nice location nearby.

On August 11th, our last day before departure, we had a farewell-party in the evening. We were all divided into groups who had to prepare a presentation, a sketch or some music to play.

A Latvian group, in addition, introduced us to Latvian folk, as well as some dancing activities and games. The rest of the evening/night was partying, having a chat with some cool people, exchanging contact details, and just enjoying each other.

Ironically, we met the Swedish delegation as the first ever delegation we have met after arrival, and stayed together with them as one of the last people on the day of departure. However, the fun has to end someday… Therefore, sooner than we thought, we were picked up by bus heading to the airport, where we enjoyed the last few hours together with the German group, before we eventually split up after leaving the plane in Frankfurt again.

First, I was a little sad and depressed when I was back home, but ICC isn’t really over when the camp is over! I realised that when my Facebook exploded from friend requests and Pawel, the national coordinator of Poland whom I already knew longer before ICC, introduced a WhatsApp group for everyone involved in ICC2014 as well as a Facebook group, which I gladly joined!

Later, after a Skype group call with some ICC guys that we organized in the WhatsApp group, we decided to keep the group chat alive for future conversations with some more people added to the chat.

In comparison with other national trips for blind and partially sighted people I attended, the ICC-Camp topped it all! The people were cool, friendly and open to different kinds of people, situations and cultures.

Not only were we able to stay in touch on Facebook, WhatsApp or Skype; there were even public or private events organized where I met a lot of people from different nations again! But more on that later… I think this blog entry is going to be one of the longest entries I have ever posted!

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