2020 in review and 2021 onward
2020 seemed to start like any other year. We had planned out our events for the first three months and were looking to fill open board positions. A new year had started and we were ready to roll!
We kicked off January with a Walk in the Herning Deer Park. There we met some newcomers as well as some old-timers. It was a chilly walk with hopeful wishes for 2020.
After the Pub Quiz at Fox and Hounds, January ended with a sold out Cook and Talk. For those who haven't been to a Cook and Talk yet, it is an awesome event: three chefs from different countries lead their teams to cook a dish, normally something traditional from their home country, and then each team presents their culinary art and we devour it together. Some also help out with cleaning at the end, which is much appreciated. The one in January actually had a potato theme, but purely by coincidence.
International Society runs as volunteer organization driven by a few people with initiative (called board members). Apart from the formality of having some official positions (Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary) we had historically run things in an informal way. I was chairman and led the search for new board members. So I was pretty happy to have Bryan and Plamena join the existing team: Corinne, Ulla, Krasi, Olga and I in February. I was moving to Vejle and was happy to see there are plenty of people that will continue the work.
In February we kept hearing about some virus spreading from China and we were not sure what to make of it. At the Cook and Talk in Herning some participants pushed for more washing of hands and to be a bit more careful with hygiene. How bad could it be, we thought? Still, we carried out the evening with no casualties and with lots of tasty food. :)
Right after this event ends, the COVID situation started getting serious and government restrictions became a reality. We decided quickly to cancel our upcoming events. We did not predict the restrictions would last so long so we were not as fast to create online events. We also had two of our Board Members decide to take a break. We eventually held a few events online seeing that this pesky virus was not going away anytime soon. Our online hygge was less than successful but the online quiz had more participants and was quite fun. We tested the participants on their knowledge of the virus, how to protect ourselves, and how well they could identify celebrities wearing masks.
In the summer, restrictions relaxed, the sun was shining and we could finally do some face to face events.
Our barbecue in Brande was a total success seeing a lot of faces both old and new, we even hit the 50 person limit for sign-ups. It felt that people really wanted to just meet in person after the prolonged lockdown.
We also held PubQuiz(zes) in Herning a few times, one of which was organized entirely by us upstairs in Fox and Hounds.
We also had a very hygge BBQ in Herning near the Løvbakke Naturcenter.
The American Paint Horse and Western Riding Experience was something new we wanted to try. We had a very successful event with the help of Dora (who has now joined as a board member) as the main organizer.
July and August were a bit worrying as one of our board members Ulla, told us she is quitting due to health issues. Ulla was a pillar for us and for the community in Brande. I do not know how I first met her. I got to know her by working together and travelling together. I formed a deep respect and admiration for what she was doing for the community and society overall. August moved so quickly that and it's hard for me to remember how it all went chronologically. I think it was end of July or the first week of August I met her in person and that ended up being the last time I saw her. The next week I wanted to give her a visit with the other board members and she was not home anymore being moved to the hospital. She was such an organized person until the end. Just a few days before she passed away she gave me instructions on how to book the school for our next Cook and Talk in Brande. "Be strong" were my last words to her and it was such a cliche... We will miss her deeply.
At the end of September we held a Cook and Talk in Herning. With some organizational hick-ups in the background, having issues with getting access to any of the kitchens in Herning but we managed. There was a bit of fear of infection lurking around for some participants but it all went safely and we had a beautiful evening together.
We also had a Start up talk in Brande with some guest speakers talking about the possibilities of starting up your own business in Denmark, as well as the advantages and pitfalls of every option. At least for me it was quite useful and gave me some thought.
Also in September, another board member stepped-down, so we were down to 3 in the board and decided to start advertising to fill the open board positions. The search was successful and in early October Pete, Barbara, Dina and Dora joined to give new perspectives and fresh energy to the board. Bryan was chosen as the new chairman, Pete as treasurer and Barbara as secretary. With the new board members joining we are working on some restructuring and also refreshing our collaboration with Kommune, more on these topics in upcoming posts.
October was also the last month we held in person events for the year. A Thursday Hygge in Herning, one of our regular events where we have fun playing board and card games, and a wine tasting with a delicious dinner at Wine n Fun in Brande. Both events were a lot of fun.
As autumn progressed into winter the restrictions became more strict and we decided against holding face to face events. Instead we went online again and held a superhero pub quiz, a game evening playing Among Us and an online Secret Santa to close out the year.
For everyone who came along for a walk, joined the Cook and Talks, the online quizzes, or any of our other events we would like to thank you for being part of International Society.
2020 was a weird year in many aspects. International Society works to connect people and create a community to ease social integration of internationals living in Herning and Ikast & Brande areas. We were really put to a test this year to switching from a face to face approach to an online one. We adapted, though in hindsight not as fast as we would've liked to. It is not so easy to introduce new people online in groups where the others already know each other. Most importantly, we are happy to report that NO ONE was infected during our events.
With Bryan and the others coming on board, we re-assessed, re-organized and re-thought our relationships with our members, municipality and other actors in the community. It was a year of change and loss.
2021 comes with lessons learned, refreshed team and a good outlook for new events, new ideas, and new ways to involve our members. We will use this blog to keep you informed about what's going on with International Society. so stay tuned and I hope to see you all safe in 2021.