I’ve been here since April 17, and I can already tell you that my life has changed for the better.
I’m living in a camp/”commune” like setup. I have been living in a room with a mosquito net above my bed, have been taking cold bucket showers, and have been eating a low-protein, high-carb diet (opposite from home given that I’m a celiac).
This experience has been humbling, and to say that is an understatement.
I am currently teaching English at a local orphanage. The children are so grateful to have us there, teaching them and playing with them of course. I have always wanted to adopt children, and my time here has shown me that I’m meant to do this one day.
I will be volunteering until May 13, and I am beyond thankful that I have made this decision. I will aim to not take things for granted when I come home on May 21. I want to live like the villagers here: having less and making the most out of life (always having smiles on their faces)!
I have been struggling these past few months, post-graduation. I had been through the ringer with job applications, interviews, and other miscellaneous drama that needs no further explanation. Rather than sulking and doing the same things day in and day out, I decided spur-of-the-moment to volunteer abroad.
I have been living in a “commune-like” setting in a village in northern Thailand. This experience is very much different than home: cold bucket showers, mosquito bites like no other, and copious amounts of sweat.
When you think of Thailand, you think of beaches and tourist destinations, right? But take a moment to consider the poorer side of the nation; I have been teaching in an orphanage and playing with young village children, who barely know English at all. Thailand is more than tourism: it has personality and it truly is “the land of smiles.”
Thank you to all of my friends and family who supported, and continue to support, me through these major life decisions!
Message of the day: always be grateful for what you have. There are others who have less than you, but may be more likely to give more because of it!
It has been MONTHS since I last wrote about my Norwegian adventure! I haven’t stopped reflecting on my time in Norway with such incredible hosts. I stayed with Kjell, who was my mom’s foreign exchange student in high school. I hadn’t met him prior to staying with him, and it was great to hear about his time in America with my mom, uncle, and grandparents! I was also touched to meet his wife and children; they are truly a second family to me.
One of my favorite, and perhaps most memorable parts, of my two weeks in Norway were the boat rides Kjell took me on. We were able to see his many summer homes and have great conversations along the way.
Above is Kjell’s parent’s home. The red shed is where I would be asked to help him gut the fish we caught in the North Sea, little would I know!
I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday; Kjell was taking me through the neighborhood on one of the family’s fishing boats. He was showing me all of his favorite fishing spots, while sharing childhood memories. I felt so close to him and I felt like I reliving his fondest memories.
We eventually stepped out of our fishing boat and hiked a little bit. He showed me his favorite spots where he, his siblings, and neighbors would play; Kjell even showed me the only spot where small flowers could grow along the sea!
After some light hiking, Kjell and I had to cut the fish we caught in the North Sea (Kjell: 5, me: 2). I didn’t have it in me to cut the fish, so I kept his mom company as Kjell prepared the fish for cooking.
I remember feeling guilty for “taking the life of two fish,” but Kjell cracked a joke that made me feel so much more at ease! He said, “Well, think about this, you’re feeding my sweet mother. Without you, she wouldn’t have dinner tonight!” It made me laugh more than I probably should’ve! And that was the best seafood I’ve ever had 🙂
Truth be told, I have been avoiding this post for a long time. Norway was the second-to-last country I visited while abroad, and I have been home for a little more than two months now. Things haven’t been the same upon my return; this post solidifies the idea of my big adventure being over. I finally gained the courage to write about my time in Norway because I have to face reality. Although the best chapter of my life is now closed, I know more opportunities will come! I miss Europe, traveling, and my life abroad, but this drives my determination to find a job overseas even more!
I left Kalmar, Sweden extremely saddened; I was leaving not only the best part of my life behind, but also several new friends from around the globe! However, with that said, I knew that my two-week stay in Norway would be a great transition into my normal life back in Michigan.
I visited Norway for two main reasons: 1. It has always been my “dream country” and 2. While my mom was in high school, her family hosted a Norwegian exchange student! His name is Kjell and I was FINALLY able to meet him and his (entire) family! It was such an incredible experience to meet a family I have been connected to through my mom’s stories, letters back and forth, and a montage of photos and Christmas cards over the years.
When Kjell and his daughter, Martine picked me up from the airport, I instantly felt at home. I remember walking with my heavy backpack down this long flight of stairs to pick up my luggage, and as I looked down I could see them waving up at me with Norwegian flags (was it THAT obvious I was an American?)! My heart was full in that moment.
Kjell and his family live on the beautiful island of Askøy, which is about a half-hour (not even) from Bergen. It was a surreal feeling to drive Kjell’s boat to Bergen and several other small islands in the area.
When I travel, I often find parallels between cities I have been to. Oddly, I found similarities between the countryside of Southern France and the route to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. I cannot compare Bergen to anywhere else; it is truly one of a kind…just like my time in this beautiful country.
The first few days of my new adventure consisted of visiting mainly Bergen, and you know, the typical tourist-y stuff. Although I try to avoid cliche attractions and events, there are exceptions. I had to visit Bergen’s famous fish market and visit the highest point of the city! The market didn’t smell the greatest, but the taste of the fresh fish from the North Sea made up for it.
With Martine and Kjell, I was able to take the Ulriken cable car to the top of Mount Ulriken. Because of all the islands and mountains in this part of Norway, the Ulriken wasn’t the only cable car/ski lift I traveled on.
The city of Bergen itself has a rich viking history, something Kjell takes much pride in. During my first visit to Bergen, Norwegian royalty were near Parliament and university buildings. Kjell is a police officer in Bergen and Askøy, so he was hoping we would have a better chance of seeing the royalty if he was talking with his friends and coworkers! It was a good strategy, but unfortunately I didn’t meet a prince or anyone close.
I would have to say that my favorite thing about Bergen (aside from the food and people) are the Bryggen that greet you as you ride into the city by ferry or boat. Inside the wooden buildings, there is a famous nightclub and also a traditional Christmas shop. I live near Frankenmuth, Michigan (a faux-German town with a world-famous Christmas shop), and I was impressed with the Julehuset in Bergen!
My boat rides with Kjell were some of my most cherished memories of my time in Norway; I was able to learn more about Norway, his family, and even my own family through Kjell’s stories.
I will be sure to share more stories and photos in other blog posts! This is only a mere sample of my Norwegian adventure.
Öland: where stereotypical Swedish stugas and breathtaking views come to life! Öland is a large island off the coast of Kalmar, Sweden where I was studying overseas. I nicknamed it “the Mackinac Island of Sweden,” but Michigan’s island is much smaller!
Three of my closest friends and I decided to spend the weekend relaxing, playing cards, having BBQs and making s’mores here; we mixed our American ways with traditional Swedish life.
The stuga was barn-colored red and was much bigger on the inside than it appeared on the outside! There were five bedrooms in this tiny place, but somehow it still felt spacious. The only thing that didn’t feel so spacious was the ceiling in the kitchen area; it must have only been four or five inches taller than me. Now I know how players in the NBA feel on the daily.
The outdoor patio was by far my favorite part of the Airbnb. I loved how cozy, comfortable, and “summery” it felt. It was like this square of no stress about school, no drama, and lots of laughter. The four of us all have mixed feelings about heading home in June, so the weekend getaway was just what we all needed.
The ONLY bad part of our location wasn’t that it was on a main road or that the bike ride took forever (that’s what makes for the best stories)! It was the bugs that found their way into our home away from home. Bees and wasps kept swarming into our kitchen, as did two huge beetles! I have never seen beetles quite that large in my entire life, and I live in Michigan (where the summer bugs are enormous).
Nevertheless, the creepy crawlers didn’t hold us back from having a relaxing weekend. We all needed some R and R, and I would highly recommend visiting Öland someday!