The first time I came to El Corte was New Year '98/'99. Seeing as I lived in a Tango desert down in South West England, I had never heard of EC, so had no expectations ( although I had an inkling of a warning through the meaningful glint in Biljana's eyes when she recommended the place to me ).
I was Tango hooked and otherwise badly in need of a total experience, so I rang and rang and rang Eric to find out if there was a last minute vacancy. And one week before the event there suddenly was a space. Hurray!
From arriving at EC, I share a lot of the experiences described in the other stories (including desperately waiting for the loo, after the new loos were installed at a later visit!!!:-)) The very personal and warm welcome that you people extend right from the minute I walk in makes me feel at home immediately.
On the dance floor, it was a different story though. I was a novice and I had come on my own, so I knew NOBODY. After some hours of trepidation, I realised I had the choice between spending New Year sitting on the toilet and crying ( thus truly blocking it! ), or suspending judgment on myself and feeling sorry for myself until when I come back home and meanwhile throw myself into the dancing. This tactic worked, and I keep recommending it to other novices I meet at El Corte :-)
Every time I come, I go through the same feelings, although every time it's less frightening. And yes, El Corte is home from home, and yes, every time it is very hard to leave - part of me stays behind.... But also every time I return back home, I take some of the Nijmegen spirit to my Tango community here, which has grown to a sizable Oasis by now. We are happy to receive visitors, especially through the Nijmegen connection! Sometimes I get a very real sense of all these connections
spanning the globe, lines of friendship crossing many borders.
This is very hands-on peace work, so badly needed in a world full of fighting and disconnection. Thank you, Eric and the rest of the team.