Written by Valts Rozentāls

This is my second year coming to Bögöz in Székelyföld (Székely Land). Some say you cannot visit the same place twice. It is true, the very idea changed my perspective about the place even before leaving. This year we got the same Orga team as last year – everybody knows what to do and how to get it done. Fifteen kids will be traveling with us to Bögöz, three of them visited Bögöz in previous years – twelve are coming for the first time.

Bögöz must wait – we missed our take-off slot as the plane personnel had to re-seat 1/3 of the plane, almost everybody from our group. It seems that they tried to fix trim and mixed the youth and adults. This event put us on the next available slot 45min after original take-off time. If that wasn’t enough – landing slot was also on hold because of bad weather over Romania. This even set us off for about two hours. The flight itself and also the landing were calm. We arrived at Sibiu Airport around 14:50 local time, it was hot – rainy summer day type of hot. Some puddles on the ground implied that there was rain not so long ago, but now the heat was back. Rain turned out to be our companion for that evening and the following day also. The bus ride was as swift as it goes on these roads and in no time, we arrived in Bögöz.

First – some information about ground rules and water shortage here. Even if we were a little bit upset about the rainy weather, the locals were waiting for it since spring. Rain was not a common occurrence here this year and it depleted the ground water reserves. This would also mean to keep our showering times at the minimum.

The kids of Bögöz were also here so we wanted to jump right into having some fun as the clouds got darker and darker with each passing minute. Shootout was a good choice; the kids could be mixed throughout the line and start to get to know each other. We could manage but a few games and it started to pour down on us. The long-awaited relief. But it was okay – it was dinner time anyway. Irenke had cooked and it was delicious and nutritious as always. Amazingly she can accommodate all our needs – be it vegetarian or some intolerances.

Meanwhile the rain had stopped, and we could go outside again to play some more. The ground was wet, so we decided to play 5on5 with passes only. Four teams, everybody plays with everybody, teams mixed – kids from Munich together with kids from Bögöz. Basketball does bring them together, both had to use every bit of imagination they had to communicate and play together.

Only thing left was the feedback round to reflect what we have already seen, experienced and define personal expectations for the week ahead. Just like last year, the first one was slow, and the youth didn’t trust to fully commit themselves to express themselves. No worries, though, it would get better every day.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

First full day in Bögöz. We start off with an early practice before breakfast. Today it should be hotter and not as much rain as yesterday, so we want to take advantage of the cool morning air. Everybody is still a bit sleepy, but that changes once we are done with the warmup. One cannot escape the power of blood flow. Practice consists of some games to keep the fun going and basic drills to develop foot work, ball handling and layup finishes. Now everybody is hungry, and we can enjoy well-earned breakfast.

Right after, we have some free time and prepare to go explore the village. Our local guides are Orsi and Vanessa. They showed us their school and preschool, places where they spend time together, the local church, a stadium. This will come in handy on Friday for the scavenger hunt. Coming from Munich, this really is a small place, and it has its own feeling and charm. Things that we take for granted in Munich, are seen differently in Bögöz. What we consider basic infrastructure is a commodity here. Water shortage due to draught, lack of or old drainage systems, lack of streetlights, broken or non-existent roads, the train going to each direction just three times a day. A stark difference. It really shows how big of an influence a good infrastructure can have on one’s life. But the people are also more friendly and ready to help. They are curious to know what brought us here, are talkative, want to present their way of life. Life is also more simple and slower, though – one must work very hard for it, literally.

We end our walk by having lunch together. A quick side note for our readers – youth prepare most of the breakfast and lunch for themselves and others. It’s always five people having to do the service. Anyhow, now it’s time for some fun and team building.

We mix the teams together. Bögöz and Munich kids must find a way to communicate together and win the games and overcome challenges to get points. It’s all about little fun games with the purpose to think outside the box and work together. Who can come up faster with a good strategy on the spot? Energy is high and everyone does their best to contribute to their team’s success. In the end, there is a winner, but the real win is actually the experience gained and the friendships made.

For the next action we split the groups. One group was training on the court, while the others were discovering traditional Szekler wood painting. They use it everywhere and originally it developed by painting on furniture. So, they are keeping the tradition alive and educating people about it. Our kids did the motives seen on ceilings of the local Bögöz church. The church itself was built around 1200s, but the motives are a bit younger than that.

Now follows the evening routine – dinner, shower and feedback on the day. We had planned to sleep outside, but there were two reasons we decided against it – recent sightings of bears lately and rain overnight in the weather forecast. The choice not to sleep outside turned out to be a good one as around 02:00 it was just pouring rain outside. Dodged this one.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

Enjoy the free time and breakfast. We have a long day ahead of us and we must stay flexible – there is a chance for rain, but we hope it won’t come true. Right after breakfast we have a game day planned in Székelyudvarhely against teams from Vendor. One game for boys and one for girls.

Boys went first. Game turned out quite good and both teams could take something out of it for them. The opponents from Vendor were not in full strength due to some players being on vacation, they were also one year younger. The Bögöz Team (together with Hellenen) won the game and took many great lessons from it. We worked on many basics such as spacing in five out formation, cutting and filling and pushing the ball forth on fast breaks. We saw some deficiencies and decided to work on them in following trainings.

The girls‘ game clearly went one way. We didn’t only bring more skill on field, but also a larger number – unfortunately Vendor girls only came with six players. Still, this was good for the Bögöz team building and development. The girls played together nicely and showed Bögöz girls how to work on their basics in a game.

After the game we went for a pizza not so far from the swimming pool. It had rained recently, and we were not sure if the weather was good enough for a trip to an open-air swimming pool. After lunch it turned out to be just fine and we went for a swim. Because of the weather changes there were only other four people there, so we got basically the whole place just for us. The water was colder than usual, but because of the hot air it was very refreshing and enjoyable. We got a quick shower of rain while in the pool, but we were happy that we were wet already. Fun times.

Next action was to go home by train, and we came up with the grand idea of putting up some techno-music and dance to it. The great thing about dancing in public is the freedom that comes along with ignoring all the stares and just having fun without a care in the world. If you are lucky enough – somebody might even join in. It’s also a good way to pass time as we must wait for the train. It might be on time, might be later, rarely – but people say it might even be earlier than supposed to. Bögöz is two stations away from Székelyudvarhely, the ride takes about twenty minutes. The most exciting thing though is the sight of passing by landscapes. Once that evening light hits the pastors on hills… it does become magical.

We end our day with a practice session and dinner. Feedback round had to be sacrificed for sleep as everyone was very tired of all the activities and excitement in the past days. We will just get it done in future.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

We took the learnings gained in yesterday’s games and tailored our morning practice around deficiencies we were seeing on the field. Defensive basics – footwork, proper individual positioning and 1on1 defense. We had to get more ball stops and deny easy drives to the basket. This went well, although we noticed that some variance in skill between the groups were hindering us to move on with the practice at the desired tempo. We finished on point as we still had to get the nutritious breakfast in and take part in two hours of a traditional Szekler dance lesson.

This year the instructor was a different one, it was a teacher from the school we would visit later today. As the originally planned person cancelled the evening before, it was nice of him to jump in and teach us the basic steps of this traditional dance. One could at once notice he was in the business to educate people. Very clear spoken and even used French to break some of the language barriers we had. Otherwise, it would be translated for us. He got us up to speed very fast, by splitting the whole dance in smaller parts for girls and boys and then bringing it together at the end. Not only that, as he did not have a music box with him, he was singing all the time! Spectacular demonstration of skill – singing loud in rhythm and dancing at the same time.

Free time in-between the events was used by youth to play some pickup games on the court outside or play some board/card games together with Bögöz kids. It’s always interesting to see how they communicate with each other and how mutual interest in playing games bring people together.

For this evening we have planned to visit nearby village Galambfalva (the commune center Nagygalambfalva, previously one commune with Bögöz until break off in 2004) and present the game of Basketball to them and the work we are doing through it. Recently they had renovated a small gym at that school and are planning to build a proper sports gym with basketball court. They also have an outdoor basketball court in the school’s backyard. This could be an opportunity to grow the basketball community around the Bögöz and strengthen our roots. We had a meeting with the school principal, local coaches and everybody that was interested and showed up. We played some exhibition games to show how exciting our game is and to portray our love for it. Afterwards we presented ourselves and the project to the parents and everybody present. The principal of the school showed us the school – it is small, grades one to eight. Afterwards some more freestyle activities for youth and conversations for adults.

Two of our girls left earlier as they got an invitation to visit the home of one of the Bögöz girls they had made friends with. They would meet us later at the train station as they decided to stay together with the group and not spend the night. It was nice to see the friendships develop in the group and the mutual trust they put in each other.

For some reason the train schedule was not quite right. We did our best to arrive at the station on time, or at least what we thought was on time. We ended up waiting more than an hour for the train to take us home. Thankfully Irenke kept food warm until we arrived.

Written by Valts Rozentāls

We get up and prepare for the upcoming day – there is a girls team coming down from Szentgyörgy for a practice session and a game. The boys from Vendor would also visit again for a practice game. Fun time let’s go.

As we have about 30 kids taking part in the practice, we make it basic and fun so everyone can take a part. We start off with some warm-up for muscle activation and coordination, then add some dynamic stretching. Then we decided to split the kids in four groups and do different shooting contests, this is also a good preparation for the game afterwards.

The girls played first. Opponents had good technical skills but were taken out of the game early by the fierce and relentless game of the Hellenen and Bögöz girls. This just went to show once again that will and energy can separate the skill. We could see a nice development in the team play – much more passes, faster transition and altogether better spacing. As always, satisfying to see that players take the practice lessons and implement them into their game.

The same would go for the boys. Vendor boys came in the same roster as yesterday, but also, they had adapted and played better basketball, just like the Bögöz team. Better spacing, more passes, faster game and greater team spirit. Totally different from the game on Sunday.

Afterwards we still had some time left and decided to split the kids (those who wanted to play) into smaller groups and spent the rest of the time playing a 3×3 tournament. At this point we had had no rain for the past days, and it just kept getting hotter – shower time after the activities and the walk to the train.

Evening program was simple but exciting, dinner was planned outside, and we would setup a projector for a movie night. Irenke cooked one of her homemade, delicious stew-like dishes: potatoes with baked cheese for those who do not eat meat and with sausage for those who do. What she does in-between is a tasty mystery. If you are not a getting a second portion of it, something is wrong with your taste buds. Between us – everybody did.

The name of the film is “Isteni kéz” or “Hands of God” directed by László Barna and written by András Ifj. Petróczy and Ágnes Sós. The story revolves around Csángáló, the world-famous gypsy violinist of the Szászcsávás Band. He now lives in a small Transylvanian village and even if the glory days of the band are behind, they are still going around and playing on bigger stages. Though, he suffers from Parkinsons and can’t keep up with others, therefore the band leader Dumnezeu, with a broken heart, expels him from the band. There might be a solution with an operation for Csángáló, but for him the only help can come from God, therefore he refuses to go through with the surgery despite family and friends asking him to do the opposite. Instead, he puts his faith in his grandson Bálint to learn from him and continue the tradition of violin and music in his family.

This is kind of an independent film, and the director is traveling around to present his work. We thought he could not make it today, but at the end he managed to arrive for the last part of it. It was a great experience for the kids to meet somebody who had created a documentary masterpiece. This is another experience to see the film, meet the person who created it and even ask questions about the process and people in it.

After the film, some of the kids want to stay up a bit longer and enjoy the night sky. It’s so clear and full of stars, a rarity in a city polluted by light, but here in Bögöz…it’s just there for one to admire and sink into. There is a saying: “Do not forget to stop and smell the flowers.”; somebody said something like it about my remark – “But they are always there”, in Bögöz: “Just because it’s always there, doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate its beauty.”. Well, it rubbed off on all of us and that’s exactly what we did next day.