Chapter 8

Dag iedereen en welkom op mijn blog!

Vrijdag, 9 september

In de ochtend gef ik de workshop “De Smaak van het bos”. Tijdens deze workshop, plukken we wilde kruiden en koken ermee. Brandnetelsoep is echt populair!

Na de workshop moest ik heel snel naar het treinstation in Tielen fietsen om de trein nnar Herentals te nemen. Spijtig genoeg, regende het veel toen ik aan het fiersen was. Het verraste mij het meest dat het warm en zonnig was in Herentals! Ik leek op een natte kip toen ik naar de les kwam :-) Maar gelukkig was ik op tijd!

Na de les moest ik terug naar De Hoge Rielen. Op vrijdag werk ik meestal tot 21.00 bij het onthaal.

Wat een drukke dag!

Zaterdag, 10 september

Vandaag was ik bewig met de huis-houdelijke taken. In de voormiddag, ruimde ik op, poetste het huis en deen de was. De zon scheen en ik kon de de was buiten ophangen. Ik heb een hekel aan boodschappen doen, omdat het te veel tijd en geld vraagt. Maar een leven zonder vervelende dingen bestaat niet ;-)

Wanneer mijn huisgenoot weg is, heb ik geen zin om in de keuken te blijven. Ik vind het leuker om voor iemand te koken! Zodra Veroncia terug in Belgie komt, maakt ik iets heerlijk!

Zondag, 11 september

Het was een leuke dag! Ik heb uitendelijk mijn mentor getroffen. Ik keek er naar uit, want we hadden elkaar al een tijdje niet gezien. Een paar dagen geleden, studeerde ze me eem sms en stelde voor om naar Antwerpen te gaan. Het was een “Open-Monumentendag” in Antwerpen, dus konden we elke plaats gratis bezoeken. Tof! Ik was onder de indruk van de Erfgoedbibliotheek: de Nottebohmzaal is echt schitterend! Daarna bezochten we enkele onstellingen van lokale kunstenaars. Ik ben echt blij dat we zo goed obereenkomen. Over kunst praten bij het lekkere weer – wat hebben we nog meer nodig? :-)


Chapter 7

Onze zomervakantie was vol met werk! :-)

We zijn de hele zomer met “De Zomer op De Hoge Rielen” bezig gewest. Elke woensdag hadden we verschillende evenementen, zoals “stille disco”, muziek concerten, graffitiworkshops, openluchtcinema…

We hadden veel bezoekers! Bij voorbeeld, meer dan zeshonderd mensen hebben zich voor de stille disco ingeschreven! Ze hadden veel plezier met de muziek en ze dansten graag.

We hadden ook een pop-up bar en soms waren ze ook de barmannen/barvrouwen ;-) Hier zien jullie Sondos en Veronica!

Voor de openluchtcinema hadden we enkele Vlaamse kortfilms. De films waren van alle genres en voor alle leeftijden.

Tijdens de graffiti workshop hebben onze gasten hun eigen afbeeldingen gemaakt.

We gebruiken die nu voor een kunstontstelling. Hier zien jullie Veronica aan het lezen (of aan het slapen)… ;-)

Het was onze Zommer op de Hoge Rielen!

Tot straks! :-)

Chapter 6

Hallo onze vrienden! :) 

It’s the summertime now, and you all are more than welcome to visit De Hoge Rielen to enjoy the spirit!

“Zomer op de Hoge Rielen” is a set of diverse cultural activities, carried out at the domain in July-August. We, the volunteers, are doing our bests and actively partake in preparation, holding and promoting thereof. 

Come and check it out every Wednesday :) 

#Pop-up bar 

If you ever tried the “Klimbos”, you must remember building 37 – “Zonnebril” – a pretty average warehouse of red bricks, full of materials for different workshops. However, now it’s a pop-up summer bar, designed exclusively for De Hoge Reielen by our excellent Valentina and decorated with love by all of us.

#Stille Bosdisco

How do you know that the summer vibes have actually reached you? You wanna dance (for no obvious reason ;)

That is why we started our summer marathon with the silent disco in the forest. I had never heard about this concept before, so it was a pleasant surprise) I liked the idea of how we could enjoy the music and the party itself right in the forest while not disturbing the animals who live there and other people who stay in the domain. 


The next Wednesday an awesome duet came to De Hoge Rielen with an intimate acoustic concert. Live performances, in general, have their own magic, but in the forest, it was something even better! 

The first set brought the music from all over the world to our delight, while the second one plunged us into a jazz atmosphere. 

The next stop will be the Movie night! Don’t miss it :)

Check out your Instagram page for more pictures ans reels! Every like of yours will make us happier :)

Chapter 5

Hallo iederen!
Thank you for being back on our blog! This is my next chapter :)

# A week to remember in Halle

Together with other ESC volunteers, we arrived in “Destelheide” in Halle for our intense on-arrival training. 

As a desperate introvert, I was quite nervous and not particularly excited about the idea of spending a whole week with people I never met and knew nothing about. However, already at the Halle train station, good vibes came into place as soon as we met our trainers – Joke and Pieter-Jan. 

The week of interactive team building, group challenges and practical sessions about the life of a volunteer in Belgium went incredibly fast! But, of course, the best part of it was the People – vibrant, enthusiastic, open-minded, talented, creative, funny, so diverse and so united at the same time. All of us had his/her own reasons to become an ESC volunteer: some wanted to try volunteering before starting university life, some needed a break from work, and some were eager to figure out their missions in life… Whatever the reasons were behind our decisions, they were right and remain valid

In the middle of teambuilding :)
Our on-arrival group

# Project day in Leuven

The brightest moment of the on-arrival week was the so-called “project day”. We were divided into small groups and received a task, which literally sounded “Go somewhere & Do something” 8) But with my three teammates, I’ve got a lucky ticket) 

Quite soon we came up with an idea to investigate a bit the Belgian perspective of living abroad for a while – as a student, as a volunteer, as a worker – you name it. Partially, it was motivated by the question we are asked here a lot: “So… Why did you choose Belgium? … And how do you find it?”

As we had just one project day, we went to the city of students – Leuven (you’ll find the monument of Erasmus there!) and interviewed locals about their international and intercultural experiences. Despite the limited time, we had a chance not only to record a nice short movie but also to enjoy this stunning city!

Green streets of Leuven
Modern art

# Lost in Gent 

Together with Veronica and Aljosha, we went for a day trip to Gent – a city full of life and beauty! Credits – to Veronica, who was our guide there :)

Love is in the air :)

As a P.S. for this chapter, I will leave you with this – our bright table, which combines the colours of our national flags and symbolises our unity. The table has already become the local attraction! Check it out at the domain :)


Tot het volgende hoofdstuk!

My first month at de Hoge Rielen 3/?

Hello there!

I can’t believe it’s already been a whole month since I got here, but here we are. Now it’s really starting to feel like a home.

Since the last post, aside from the usual workshops, I’ve also done some new ones, like survival. It’s such a fun workshop in which the kids are taught how to rely on their senses and trust their instincts in the wilderness and how to collect dry wood and make some fire, which proved to be an interesting and useful.

The experience here wouldn’t had been complete if I didn’t travel with some of my roommates. And we had a lot of trips since the last blog post.

One day we decided to go a town in the Netherlands close to the border – Baarle Nassau. We decided to go by electric bikes and apart from some problems with the bikes, we made it. The town is very small and divided in a unique way. We were constantly crossing to Belgium and back the Netherlands which was a bit confusing but really interesting.

Since we we’re biking the whole day, we jokingly called it a “leg day” because the following day was an “arm day” because we rowed that day to Herentals. It was a teambuilding/field trip day and we first rowed small canoes down the river. We split in pairs and even though it was a new experience and took a lot of effort, especially at the beginning, it was fun. It just took us a while to get there. But one of the best parts of the day was when we, the volunteers, exchanged positive messages for each other. It left us in a good mood. And the biggest surprise was finding sweets from Serbia in one of the stores.

Geese of Gent
Photo: Veronica

And the latest trip was to Gent, which turned out to be okay. To me, the town seemed smaller than Brugge, but it is actually much larger. I think it just comes down to those narrow streets. But the town itself is very beautiful and luckily, we had a nice weather there. There are so many interesting streets and buildings and one of the most colorful ones is the one with graffitis. A lot of people were having photoshoots there. Oh, and we’ve also seen some cute and weird geese.

I still can’t believe that it has been a whole month already but I am so grateful for other volunteers I have in my life now, because I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people.

Chapter 4

Hallo onze vrienden! :) 

# Experiencing Klimbos 

Among our volunteers, I turned out to be the last one to try Klimbos by myself. Later is better than never ;)  All credits – to Veronica, the voice of inspiration and support! 

En jij? Heb je het al geprobeerd? 

Ik heb de groene, de blauwe en de rode lus gedaan. Het was een leuke challenge en ik wil nu de zwarte lus! From the position of an assistant (who mostly stays on the ground), some exercises look innocently easy. They, however, are tricky ;)  Nevertheless, I managed to complete three lines without being stuck or rescued! What I appreciate the most about Klimbos, is that it’s less about your initial physics, but more about your problem-solving and creative skills. An extra benefit is a nice boost to your self-confidence once you are done with an exercise that seemed to be impossible in the beginning. 

# Discovering “De wereld van de bijen”

This is the space to share with the youngest and the cutest participants, who are curious about the bees! In a fun and interactive way, children discover how bees organise their daily life and work, why they are so important and, perhaps, what we as human beings can learn from them. A nice bonus at the end is tasting delicious honey made by our local bees with love!

# Teambuilding on kayaks  

The first part of our teambuilding Monday was our way from “Ark van Noë” to Herentals on kayaks, which became another experience to add to my list :)  While trying to keep the boats as straight as possible and in the middle of Kleine Nete (we did our best!), we did make some unplanned stops in random bushes and scared a couple of ducks’ families ;) But it did not stop us on our way to a lovely Herentals. 

# The soothing charm of Herentals 

Herentals is a city, which we visit four times a week for the Dutch classes. However, that day we had a chance to see it with new eyes. Herentals has a long history and is righteously proud of its gothic Sint-Waldetrudiskerk, stylish Lakenhal and Begijnhof, as well as still standing Bovenpoort and Zandpoort.

# My first bike marathon (thank you, Patrik, for inspiration!)

It started as my usual cycling route, but imperceptibly transformed into a reason to be a little bit proud of ;-) 

# Afterrain 

As a P.S. for this chapter, I’ll leave you with this:

Tot het volgende hoofdstuk!

Second week 2/?

Goededag! Hello there, again!

Just like the first week, the second week here was eventful. I’ve tried klimbos for the first time, which I’ve wanted to try ever since I’d learned about that word because the word sounded so funny to me. So I just went with the group and it was scary (mostly the ziplines) but also so fun and I’m glad that I did it. That seems to be the theme of the year: the things sounding scary but then turning out to be super fun. So during klimbos I’ve done three tracks: green, blue and red. The last one took a while, but I did it.

[screenshot: Kato]

The day after this experience, I had my klimbos assistant training. First the theoretical part, which seemed like a lot, but then later the practical part showed me that it is not that hard. And also one kid got stuck on one challenge, so I helped him – on the first day of my training and I felt really useful.

We had two birthdays in the span of a week: first mine and then Sondos’.

My 27th birthday was on the day of the assistant training so I made dinner for everyone. It’s a local dish called krompirača (krompir= potato) and it’s made with potatoes, rice and meat. I was a bit anxious to make it because I never made it for anyone apart from my family, but it turned out alright and the girls liked it.

The rest of the week was also fun. Just four days later it was Sondos’ birthday and we went to a bar for a couple of drinks. I’ve also had some other workshops. For some I had no idea what are they going to be about or how are they going to work, like the biotope study and cooking in the forest, but in turned out to be super fun and educational.

I’ve been here for over two weeks now and I’ve started to get accustomed to this project and it’s beginning to look like a home.

First things first 1/?

Hey, I’m Aljoša and I’m currently on my first long-term project. I come from Serbia, a small country in the Balkans and this is also my first time in the Western Europe. Just during the first week or so, I got to experience a lot of firsts for me.  So exciting, right?

The most important thing was my first plane trip. The flight itself wasn’t that long, just two hours, but the stress and the other forms of transport to the airport and from the airport took much longer so the whole trip was about 16 hours. Nevertheless, I really liked the whole experience and the stress and the fears were gone five minutes since the plane took off. I used my favorite show and the music from it to keep myself relaxed, distracted and focused on something familiar and it did the trick. The time flew by (pun intended) and the flight felt like it was just 10 minutes long, It just felt like a very big bus was transporting me to another location.

The second thing was riding a bike which I haven’t done in 20 years or so. The people say that you can never forget how to ride and bike, but I was skeptical of that. For the first few days, I needed the three-wheeled bike just to remember how to pedal and that worked for me. Then I started to practice for a couple of days with Veronica and to hers but also my own surprise, I was soon able to ride it. Now I can say that I know how to ride a bike.

But, a few days before I’d learned how to bike, I decided to travel with some of my fellow volunteers. Our destination – Bruges. I know, the first week here and I’m already traveling to another part of Belgium. But that decision was a good one because we had so much fun there and we’ve seen a lot of things and I also got to try Belgian fries. Yummy 😊

Saša and Veronica

So, just during the first week I’ve had two days just for traveling. If somebody had told me a few weeks ago that I would travel to another part of the country that soon and that I would learn how to ride a bike, I wouldn’t had believed them.

A lot is happening. So, if I got all of those experiences just in the first ten days, I can’t wait to see what this project will bring me by the end of the year and how would I feel about myself and my skills.

I leave you with some photos from the things that I’d experienced.

Till the next time,


Chapter 3

Welkom terug, onze vrienden!

Ik ben blij to share with you how great these last two weeks were! 

# Scuba diving into workshops

Day by day, it’s getting warmer, sunnier, leafier, and more attractive for people to come to our oasis of green space for an unforgettable experience. 

If you happen to be around: 

  • you won’t get cold, because during the Survival workshop you’ll learn how to make a fire having only your enthusiasm and a couple of secret ingredients ;-) 
  • you won’t be hungry thanks to the amazing home/forest-made dishes from ‘Smaak van de boos
  • you won’t feel lonely since the Teambuilding‘ activities will easily sparkle even the ‘Frozen’.

Moreover, I’ve found another passion with the humble name ‘Werkproekt‘ :) Together with children (the most well-behaved kids I’ve ever met!), we work in different parts of our forest, taking care of its cleanliness. 

Meeting a family of Canadian geese was a nice unexpected bonus thereof!

# Getting lost in a medieval fairytale of Brugge

The magnificence of this city could hardly be explained with words. Leave the vanity of life and let the fairy spirit take you back to times when noble knights were protecting their castles, monks were making delicious beer in between their prayings, beautiful ladies were sending pigeons with love letters, and dragons were flying over the sharp roofs…

Million thanks to Veronika and Aliosha, together with whom this excellent walking tour became possible!

Back to school

Learning a foreign language is no doubt a great challenge. From my experience, Online Linguistic Support and Duolingo (or similar apps) can give you a decent background of understanding, however, nothing will substitute in-person communication.

Here I would like to express gratitude and send my virtual hugs to our teachers in HIK (language school in Herentals), who are patiently providing us with a breakthrough in the Dutch language.

# Catching air balloons, why not?

At DHR, I’ve gained a habit of making the evening cyclings through the whole territory of the forest. Usually, one can meet diers and squirrels there, but once in a while, we all should ‘look up’ ;-)

 Tot het volgende hoofdstuk!

Arriving to the Hoge Rielen

Hello fellow readers my name is Sondos I am half Palestinian and half Jordanian the best of both worlds! jk 

After two months in Belgium and this experience still feels surreal, I came from a work environment that has nothing to do with nature or adventure and suddenly I am in the middle of nature 24/7. that’s exactly what drew me to this experience I wanted something completely different of what I used to do and completely out of my comfort zone.

The first day I arrived our coordinator told me we do everything by bike here so this your bike key enjoy it! little she know i have never been on a bike, in my head I thought its fine I can just walk also little that i know this option would be good for a week but definitely not for year. in the first week everyone helped in teaching me how to ride a bike, first one of the staff gave me backfist with 3 wheels to practice on then another pushed me all the way through the forest and after two hours of intensive bike training lesson I started riding bike and I am loving it so much. 

In the past 2 months I was exposed to mostly all of the activities and chores around DHR, it was great that they gave us the chance to be part of all the department so we can actually have a preferences on what we like to do more, also this eliminated the chance of getting bored because every day is something different and every day you work with someone new. 

One of the greatest parts of this experience is living with people who to an  extend share the same interest and coming from different background and cultures, I believe this part can make or break your experience because you spend most of the time with the people you are living with, also I believe I am very blessed with the other volunteers, we cooked together, played games( poker to be specific), we traveled around Belgium, and we explored our town and the events happening there. I made them a Jordanian breakfast for easter morning and they end up having food coma.

in my next blog I will tell you about my adventure with spiders, getting lost in the trains and cool activities.