Hello from Hel

IMG_3740The Polish Substation of the Weather Stations project is situated at the far end of the Hel Peninsula on the coast of the Baltic Sea. The Substation’s team are students of the Zespół Szkół Ogólnokształcących im. Obrońców Helu (General Education School Complex in Hel).

Participants of the project go to school at one of Poland’s most frequented summer resorts. In the town of Hel there are many tourist attractions, such as a cycling route that runs all the way through the Hel Peninsula, lovely beaches, an observatory pier from which one can view the flora of the dunes, remnants of the bunkers and casemates of the Hel Fortified Area, the Seal Sanctuary, where Poland’s population of the grey seal is being restored, run by the Hel Marine Station of the University of Gdańsk, Hel’s Seaport, the beaches, the Museum of Fishery and many others.

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In the summer, every day several thousand visitors want to experience Hel’s tourist attractions. Is it a blessing or a curse? Certainly obliterated during the summer holiday season is the charm of Hel, a place which at other times invites peaceful recreation.

The participants of the project say: “Thanks to the Weather Stations project, in which we have been involved for more than a year now, we are getting to know more and more about our peninsula. Early in March we watched birds near the seaport and the peninsula’s tip. With Mikołaj, an ornithologist from the Marine Station, we went on an excursion equipped with binoculars. We learnt about the lives of cormorants, mallards and long-tailed ducks, and the names of the several species of gull living in the seaport: the herring gull, the black-headed gull, the Caspian gull, and the common gull. Thanks to the trip we now know that long-tailed ducks frequently fall victim to what is known as bycatch, trapped in the nets cast for fish. We were also fortunate to encounter rare specimens: robin and snow bunting.”

photoAnd what is the everyday life of the school like? Throughout the school year there are many events, such as school fairs, drama productions, visits from interesting people, and more. The students develop athletically and artistically. They have staged several times the play The Story of the Blue Planet, whose author, Andri Magnason, visited the nearby city of Gdańsk.blekitnaplaneta

The students staged a guest performance of the play for children at Gdański Archipelag Kultury.

Beside Weather Stations there are also other educational projects going on at school, e.g. meetings with the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre. Whenever possible, there are excursions for students, from which they return to Hel inspired.
The school’s involvement in the project brings to Hel writers also engaged in Weather Stations. They run workshops for the youth and pose questions about the future of our planet. Recently Hel was visited by Xiaolu Guo from London.

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My reading place

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The old hammock in my garden was a favourite place to read until the pumpkins took over. I would spend lazy summer afternoons there with my nose in a book and a cat on my lap, lying In the shade cast over the fence by the enormous eucalypts next door.

Then, in only a few days over summer, pumpkin vines snaked across the path, curled around the posts and climbed over the musty canvas to steal my relaxing spot. Flowers emerged and during the next few weeks a handful of small yellow nuggets bulged into enormous orangy-red fruits. They smell earthy and a bit woody and I can’t wait to eat them.

– Sue / Footscray City College Substation

The mighty Yarra

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For most of my adult life I’ve lived near the Yarra and the river pulls at my heart. In my uni days, I lived upstream near Warrandyte and spent a couple of lazy summers swimming and rafting on lilos in the river’s murky flow. Nowadays I live closer to the city with my family but still within walking distance of the river, and I walk there often. Down there, the constant buzz from the freeway seems to fade into the calm powerful pull of the water. During the long drought a few years ago, the water level fell drastically and the adjacent wetlands dried out. The bed of the lagoon cracked into a million dry pieces and the birds and other creatures sought refuge elsewhere. Everything felt dry and dead. When the rain finally came, the river overflowed its banks and flooded the walking path and surrounding bushland and all the living things woke up. Nature drowned the freeway noise. The loudest sounds were the rapid rush of water, croaking frogs, and kookaburras laughing with mirth from the trees.

– Sue / Footscray City College Substation

Turtle

Green-Sea-Turtle-500x333The slight purr of the motor drums in my ears, as i look out into the harsh, yet peaceful waves crashing against the fast boat. Dipping in and out of the rough sea, the cool breeze beats against my face. On the way to the pure forest green island, i admired the few clouds covering random parts of the ocean blue sky. Few birds glided through the clouds, as i squinted my eyes at the bright sun, like a gold nugget floating in the sky. Exiting the boat into the crystal waters i started kicking and lightly splashed in the crisp, but warm sea water. 100’s of magnificent and beautiful types of fish darted in and out of their unique coral homes. Inbetween my strokes through the water, a deep, greeny-brown shell swam by lapping through the water just under me as i recognised a 70 year old, Turtle. The Turtle was poking it’s head out of the water as i had risen up to glance out of the salty sea, as the Turtle was popping out of the surface every now and then for a fresh breath of air.

– Olivia / Footscray City College Substation

I love my library

To immerse in a sea of paper, a sea of people, a sea of knowledge. It’s a place of quiet and a place of learning. Thousands of stories have been seen, heard and read here. Thousands of heroes, villains and damsels in distress. We breathe the air they breathe, we can live the life they lived. To find a book untouched, to revive it’s dusty halls, to hear the voice of people long past. To improve your mind and sharpen your wit. To hear of places previously unknown, to learn of the stars above and our land below. I love my local libraries, their books and their knowledge. Every day I spend there I know is a day unwasted.

– Spencer / Footscray City College Substation

The beach

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Ever since I can remember, my family or friends and I have gone to the beach at any chance we get. For a week in the summer with all my aunties, uncle and cousins or sometimes just for a weekend. The beach means a lot to me. I don’t know what I would do if it were to suddenly disappear. With everyone living their busy lives being on holidays surfing the waves and soaking up the sun it’s a time when we can all relax and enjoy each other’s company. There is nothing you have to urgently do, nothing you have to worry about just swim through the water.

– Angie / Footscray City College Substation

The Grampians

Walking out of the house and into the sun all I could see was dirt, clear blue sky, ants, rabbits and kangaroos. As I look around the ground I see a group of ants gathering together to go into their home, while looking up into the sky all I smell was pure fresh air. The clouds were moving around slowly like a turtle race, the feeling of the wind pushing against me was like having a shower. While looking far away I can see two kangaroos looking straight at me as I make a move from my position they two did the same thing.

– Javier / Footscray City College Substation

Edible weeds

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Along the river we went like your ancestors had done. We examined the weeds and reeds closely deciding what was safe and edible and sometimes referring to our expert Patrick. A salad was prepared using all the approved plants as well as some olive oil as dressing and some garlic for extra flavour. The exercise we performed by gathering the plants, weeds and herbs was called foraging. Most of the plants had a salty or bitter flavour and other flavours resembled broccoli and rocket. The salad contained 12 different herbs, plants and weeds at all had their own unique and contrasting flavours.

– Mac / Footscray City College Substation

Foraging reflection

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We stepped past the wrappers, through the swarm of abandoned plastic bags. The ground littered with the remnants of oil-soaked meals. We found what is underneath the plastic coating, what has been sprayed with countless poisons. They keep resurfacing, they have always been here. Here before the flashing red and yellow lights of fast food. Here before the endless aisles, the rows of processed, packaged food. These are the plants that have fed for thousands of years, which have been pulled from the ground by generations. Tasting of bitterness and green, these are the foods of the earth.

 

– Maxine / Footscray City College Substation

Frozen Freedom by Rita Paz

1st Year

The cold breeze hit my face leaving my lips frosted. No matter how much lip balm you put on your lips crack. But I didn’t care because I knew that if I could reach the top, the journey would start. I had that heavy breathing provoked by nerves and the little voices in my head were louder than my own. I had one hand holding on and the other one making sure everything was zipped and ready to run. As we reached the top I saw everything and felt… as if nothing mattered right there. I felt just like a bird when it starts flying, with freedom as a price for that one thing that requires practice. The tall man in the distance approached me as my family left me. I was completely amazed by the masterpiece one calls nature. I knew pretty much how to talk Spanish so communication was not my problem but the fear of falling was. I then stabbed the snow underneath me with my stick to push myself forward. I remember the feeling of starting over, like a fish when out of water doesn’t know what to do or even how.

After 2 hours I knew how to not fall and although I could only slide down the beginners way I was already tasting my little freedom. But my biggest fear was yet to come- however tomorrow was going to be a fresh start I thought. And that’s when I discovered the best type of tired someone could imagine because when you lay down in your bed your feet felt as if they were still sliding down the mountains, melting snow and crushing ice. This is what I would call post-freedom syndrome – when your body craves more for that one moment when your courage has won.

The next day I was on the slopes ready to face it. There was a weird thing that pulls you up the slope. ‘So you place the metal stick in-between your legs, fitting a round shaped lid that goes on your bottom ‘ I thought just to confirm. Of course no one told me that I had to pretend like I wasn’t sitting down because otherwise the little pushchair wouldn’t stay and you just fall on the ground. So I went ahead and sat down and fell. My biggest worry was that I was going to be run over by the other starters. So, with no capability to stand up, my feet just slid different ways (and since I couldn’t do the splits) I just lay there waiting for help.

2nd Year

I was ready to put in test all my previously learned skills. Or at least the idea of not falling again. I knew that the beautiful view was different this time, not only because we were going to a different place but because I had been told it had changed. But I had to see it for myself. But once I reached the top I could see nothing different, so why were people telling me such things? From what I’d learnt it was global warming that was causing the snow and ice to melt. But when I got there I thought that no such thing was happening… There was no evidence. ‘How come this snow hasn’t melted?’ I thought. But at that moment everything else was so overwhelming that that one thing vanished from my mind. A few days had passed and all I could see was snow and ice, and more snow and ice.

But this was until I had a lesson and we took a different route this time- not only because I was improving (well, at least I believed so) but also my teacher was getting slightly bored of the same route for 2 hours per day. So I was a bit nervous but this time we took the chair lift- fancier than the fake chair, I must say, for advanced students. We were skiing down the slope and it was so foggy that the only thing I had to guide me was my teacher’s Spanish voice. ‘iVamonos!’ he would scream ( for those of you don’t know Spanish that means let’s go!). The ride was tranquil and I was so proud of myself that I decided that since my lesson was over, I was going with my family up that track again. And so I did until we got to the final part where the fog decided to lift suddenly. This brutally changed the happy family moment. I was terrified. ‘No, no, no, no!’ I screamed in my mum’s face. I decided that going down was going to be impossible. I sat down and just refused. My mum tried to convince me and even in desperation- frighten me with that one stick. I was literally sitting down in the middle of the track, crying and wishing I did not exist. Let’s just say that I was there for about one hour. And then my mum realised I was not going to get up and have an epiphany so she gave up and went to seek for help. While in the process of calming down I decided to not look down and avoid thinking about my ice diaper (by the way so incredibly painful). I looked to my sides. And I could see the type of slushy ice covering the outsides of the track. I thought ‘Well it actually looks like the ice is melting.’ After 5 minutes I was carried down by a special ice motorcycle. And I thought the incident the year before had been the most embarrassing moment of my life. I was wrong. Why was it high season? There were too many witnesses there. On our way back home I was incredibly silent because of those two words ‘Global Warming’.

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I was 11 back there, now I am 15 and realise how this issue is getting worse every second. And for our sake I really do hope that working together we’ll put an end to our self-destruction. The small things matter, let’s save the planet together. And maybe who knows when I am older with my kids I will be able to take them through the same ski tracks but not the same experiences.