By Margota Pukitis
Amber Aged Care is a residential facility in Paradise, where people from the Baltic countries, who are unable to live in their own homes, can come to this facility, where the care provided here is culturally appropriate to their accustomed lifestyle. The activities and lifestyle co-ordinator Sooz Goodes, ensures that in some of her activities there is a Baltic component that is common to these people. Of course, there are people from other mainly European backgrounds such as Dutch, Polish ,German, Italian and some Ozzies as well. This is truly a multicultural facility and that is also reflected in the staff and care workers employed here.
Every year in early autumn on a Sunday afternoon Sooz organises the Baltic Olympics. All the residents who wish to participate and are not from a Baltic country become honorary Estonians, Latvians or Lithuanians. The community members from these countries come and also are expected to participate in the organised events. At the end of the day all events and activities get a score and the country with the highest score gets the cup which then is taken to their community hall to be displayed for a couple of months before returning it to the facility in readiness for the next competition.
The week before the competition the residents undergo daily training so that they are also at their peak of physical fitness. Their events begin almost straight after lunch and they throw quoits, throw balls in a bucket and this year, they had to throw a short rope over a ladder. While this is going on there are volunteers at hand and family members encouraging the participants. By now members of the 3 communities begin to arrive, dressed in the colours of their flag. This year is a very important year of this competition because the Estonians have won the cup for three years in a row and both the Lithuanians and Latvians are determined to get the cup into their hall. The Estonians are equally determined not to relinquish their hard fought for trophy. It is really a very good example of how well all the nationalities take part and the communication between the residents and their community members is most heart warming.
One Lithuanian resident arrived at the event in her full national costume, including, head gear and the long strand of amber beads. Her outfit in no way hampered her performance which scored her team many points, and she was so proud to be the representative of her country.
It was now time for the opening ceremony, and all the people assembled behind their leaders and flag bearers Estonians first followed by the Latvian and Lithuanian communities. All 3 Anthems were played after which everyone marched to the playing field. It was time for the communities to take part and do their best. Included in the event is a quiz and sometimes people call out the wrong information hoping that someone will believe them and write it down, thus ensuring that the other team will not score the point.
The egg and spoon race was quite a challenge as well as the carrying of beans from one end of the track to the other. After about the third event people were becoming aware that the Estonians were in a bit of trouble as the Latvians appeared to be ahead in points. Everyone was fired up for the last and most demanding event, jelly eating with hands behind the back. Everyone who participates gets a point but the outright winner gets 15 points!!! After Sooz blew the starting horn a big roar exploded from the Estonians as the plate of one participant was empty, and I had not managed one mouthful of jelly as my nose kept getting in the way. We think that the Estonians deliberately starved this young lad so that he was so hungry he gulped it down in a millisecond.
The afternoon was coming to an end but we still had to have some afternoon tea and the raffle had to be drawn. One thing the Latvians are very good at and that is winning the raffle prizes. Last year and this year the Latvians won the raffle. Margota Pukitis Chairman of the Board announced the winner of the 2014 Baltic Olympics, they were the undefeatable Estonians, they won by one point, only one point. It was the jelly eater!!
The trophy was presented to the Estonians, ribbon to Latvia and Lithuania, medals given to all participants and a garland made from oak leaves was put on the head of the captain of the winning team.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. This multicultural community event was so much fun and friendships made that even after the events were completed people stayed on, chatting and laughing about the afternoon. A big thank you to Sooz and her team of volunteers and the Amber Aged Care staff for this fun afternoon.