Between the workshops and at the end of every evening, all participants were allowed a certain amount of free time.
We had a beautiful lake in a park across the road from the hotel, and this was a great place for everyone to go swimming. The weather in Estonia was really hot, sometimes reaching 28-30 degrees! Groups of youngsters would take the free time to cool down and a quick swim would refresh everyone before the next workshop.
Another way free time was used was to finish projects eg kit building & antenna building, with the robot lovers going to the conference room to play with the programs.
Football was a big activity in Estonia with a lot of the lads and ladies taking part in mini matches, that began with a kick-about and ended up with European Final style competition, with pride to play for along with the humiliation of the lads, as the ladies were very competitive. Scouting became a big thing for the right players, with a fair referee also being sought (I hope they weren’t bribed eventually). It was great fun to see the determination, dodgy tackles and major laughter as the match progressed.
Some teams (depending on the timetable) would go to the station to operate, and others would go for a walk or run. Shopping in the local supermarket was also a must as people picked up supplies during the course of the week.
We also had the 18th birthday of one of the participants. We brought out a cake after dinner and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to him, with all teams also singing happy birthday in their own national tongue, which was amazing to hear.
But the best free time of all was the evenings when DJ Kris had the music blaring and the dancing began. Great fun was had as people socialised, chatted, danced and enjoyed themselves immensely. For those not wishing to stay in the disco room, the balcony of the hotel and also outside the main reception door were the other meeting places, you could always be guaranteed to find someone there to chat to and spend the evening laughing as different youngsters joined and left the conversations.
The theme song of YOTA 13 has to be “Yellow Submarine” which you would hear on any given evening, usually in one of the rooms where a group had gathered.
Quality time with the new friends you’ve made is the best thing you will experience in the week, there is nothing like it. This is evident when the end time came, and people had to say goodbye to the friends they made, but thankfully there are lots of ways to keep in touch (Facebook, YOTA webpage, Skype etc) so your new friends are never far away!
The bonds made were huge, and even now people wish they were back there.