Newly arrived home from Hungary where we had our first real Rainbow experience. A is sleeping peacefully in our bed while I am writing this and I am biting my lip wondering how to best explain my feelings and thoughts about this experience. I have a lot of thoughts about it. I am scared that I may have put my daughter through too much with this experience and at the same time I am wondering if perhaps it was a good learning experience in the sense that it was both interesting, joyful and truly exhausting. I am wondering if it isn’t very very difficult to find the right balance between enough inputs and too many inputs. In any case, the idea of Rainbow Gatherings still very much appeals to me. And A has announced she would very much like to attend another one. I suppose it does offer a view of a truly different way of living. And I like to be able to show her different ways of living/travelling/meeting other people. Staying at home is also very nice, we both very much like it; it is convenient and comfortable and very reassuring. But I think it is important to get outside your comfort zone once in a while. Still, there is a time for everything and perhaps I didn’t choose the right time. I can never be sure about that. If you count a small gathering in Finland three years ago this was not our first Rainbow. But, in a way, it was our first real one. Since the one in Finland was so small it almost wasn’t a gathering and since there was a house very close by where everyone could go whenever they wanted to it doesn’t really count as a Rainbow Gathering. First I am going to talk a little bit about our journey to get there. We do not have a car, so when we go anywhere it is usually by train. We do fly too even though I feel very ambivalent about it because of the impact on the environment. Well. Our journey begun here in little Denmark, where we live. I might as well expose that now. We were going to meet up with my sister and her partner in Vienna, Austria. We first traveled to Vienna by train where we were to spend the night at my sister’s partner’s place. We had to get the train to Hamburg, Germany, and then change there to an all-night train to Vienna. We took the train in the afternoon and got to Padborg, which is a border town between Denmark and Germany. Here we had to get the bus to Hamburg because someone had been hit by the train in Germany. The thought that someone had been hit by the train was unnerving and I avoided talking too much about it with A even though she was very eager to know exactly what had happened and why we had to take the bus instead of the train. We waited for a long time in Padborg along with a bunch of other people who did not manage to get on the first bus to Hamburg. A was inspired to draw while she waited because she was watching an Australian family where one of the children was drawing in a sketch book. We got on the bus eventually and barely made our night train in Hamburg. We shared a cabin with a very friendly Austrian man, whom A was chatting happily with and who told me about some of the good places in Austria to go camping. In Vienna my sister and her partner picked us up. Both A and I were very tired. We went to the apartment and stayed there almost the whole day except for a small trip to the store where we bought supplies for the trip to Hungary. At the apartment A was playing a nintendo game that she liked. We don’t have any video games at home so she really enjoyed getting to play. I sat and played with her for a while and we both found it amusing. Since we were both tired we went to bed early and A fell asleep while I was reading to her. The next day we got in the car to drive to Hungary. A was excited to go. And so was I. I was looking forward to experiencing a big gathering with many people and, hopefully, many children. The gathering was quite different from what I had originally imagined though. I better say that since I have never been to a big gathering I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But having been told about the gatherings from my sister and having read about them I knew that they are about celebrating love, light and compassion. There are a lot of different people attending and usually there are many children and a lot of wonderful things to do if you like being outside. I had told A that there would probably be a lot of children and, since it was the world gathering, there would be a lot of English speaking children. A speaks English very well even though it is not her mother tongue. And there would perhaps be a kind of outdoor playground. Since I had heard that there was one at a previous gathering in Greece last year. A asked me a lot of questions about it. I knew she was probably imagining things with that twist of fairytale and playful wonder that she usually does and I tried to explain how we were going into the wild; the playground wouldn’t be like the ones she was used to. Perhaps there wouldn’t be any. We couldn’t know until we got there. The gathering was overwhelming for both of us. The first night we didn’t reach the site until nightfall and so we put up the tent near where we parked the car. I sat with A, while my sister and her partner put up the tent. A got warm while I was rubbing her back and we got some food she could eat. She was very tired and quickly fell asleep. The next morning we went to the actual place where the gathering was. We had to walk quite far and I carried A on my back most of the way. I started to have doubts about going; was this really enjoyable for A? Would she really like it there? Would she notice how overwhelmed I was by the whole thing? But I also knew that I tend to be quick to make decisions if I feel uncertain. And we just traveled all that way to get there. So now we needed to really BE THERE. We went to the childrens area at first. Here was a small fireplace and a kitchen where people sat around talking. Most people spoke German as did all the children who were there when we came. A and I sat down by the fireplace and talked about things we saw. A asked what language the people were speaking. A young mother offered me a cup of coffee and I happily accepted. A asked for water and she got some while we still sat, quietly, watching everything that was going on. A resembles me a lot when it comes to new settings; we both like to observe for a while before we interact. When we had been there for a while A wanted to leave and we went to where my sister and her partner had picked a spot for putting up the tents. Later that day we went back to the children’s kitchen and met a tame blackbird. That was probably one of the highs of that entire gathering. A was absolutely delighted to have the bird sitting on her arm. We had some chapattis and the German woman who had offered me coffee said A could try and feed the bird. I was watching happily while A, gently and slowly, tried to show the bird the food she was offering him. But he wasn’t interested in eating. We went back to the tent that night, happy and fulfilled about being at the gathering. Nevertheless. some of the children I had seen that day did not look like they were feeling well. They looked rather neglected, unhappy, distressed. And some mothers seemed indifferent to their child’s distress. They looked themselves exhausted, unhappy or quite truly indifferent. Mechanical even. I couldn’t get those images out of mind that evening as I was reading to A before we went to sleep. I had thought the Rainbows were a place of compassion and love, kindness and support. But if that wasn’t offered to the children there, what was the point? Still, I told myself we had only just arrived and I should give us some time for settling in. A was happy about having met a tame wild bird and she was not complaining about being there so I wanted to give her time to settle in and I was also wondering if maybe it was only me who felt overwhelmed. But deep down I knew it was not just me. At the gathering A tried to interact with several of the German speaking children but none of them were interested in talking to her. She was not discouraged though. She was keen on exploring and I let her walk around for a bit on her own too, watching from a distance. Then A finally met a girl who also spoke English. She was delighted. The girl was six years old like A is. Initially the girls seemed to play well together but I sensed that something was off when I walked around with them as they played. The other girl seemed very self-assertive and in some instances a bit aggressive. A later told me she had seen the girl’s mother be “not very nice” to the girl. And that explained some of the things I had observed. During the next couple of days we made a trip to the nearest town to get supplies etc. A enjoyed going into town. She did not like the compost toilets at the gathering so she was really pleased to be able to use a real toilet. We were at a mall where there was a very small playground for toddlers, but A also climbed around there a little. In the end she sat at the slide looking at an advertising picture for a long time. It had three girls on it, arms wrapped around each other and big happy smiles. A said: “Mom, I like that picture. It makes me happy inside to look at it.” I told her I could see why. A while after she said: “I wish I could be their friend too.” It was obvious she was missing her friends back home. Thus, five days later, a Rainbow experience richer, and somewhat disillusioned we headed home. Our trip home was okay. We camped by a lake in Austria after having been stuck in traffic in Budapest for several hours. A enjoyed playing with the slimy green seaweed and burying her feet in the muddy lakebed. In Vienna we had to stay at a hostel. We cuddled up close in the same bunk bed and A quickly fell asleep. I lay awake thinking about all the things we had experienced. The next day we got on the night train to Hamburg and from there back to Denmark. That was our trip. This post ended up a bit differently than I had anticipated since it became a sort of summary of our trip. I actually wanted to say something about the Rainbow Gathering, so here goes: I like the idea of Rainbow Gatherings. I like celebrating love, light, happiness and life. Being grateful for being alive and being able to experience our world and nature. The gathering was a world gathering so I had thought there would be more people from around the world. And perhaps they came after we left. On a grander scale, the gathering took place in Hungary, inside the European Union, which naturally leaves out a lot of people since the EU is not easy to get to for everyone. On a more personal level, I had thought the families who went to the gatherings would all be comitted to non-violent communication and showing warmth and compassion towards their children, but what I saw was something different. This left me disillusioned and unsure about how to feel about the gatherings. On the other hand, the gatherings are for open for everyone. They are a place where you have the chance to experience and get inspired by other people. Everyone there is free to be inspired by what they want to be inspired by and leave the rest be. And so the gathering gave us a new experience and, certainly, inspiration we can use and which we will use in a way that suits us best. Our surrounding society offers a lot of things we can choose not to be inspired by and that we choose not to be inspired by and the same goes for the gatherings. I see aggression and frustration being taken out on children almost everywhere I go. It is disillusioning and saddening and I had not expected to see it at a Rainbow Gathering and maybe that makes me naive. It is not to say that we did not meet warm and friendly people there. We did meet some wonderful people and we take with us the memory of those truly rainbow souls and cherish those memories. That was long and probably somewhat messy. Apologies for that.