You Guat’a be kidding me

Hey there my friends! How is everyone?

So many drafts saved, so few posts published! The saga continues with the tension of this internet space, as I discover more and more about who God has created me to be, think about how to express my thoughts, figure out what I want to share here and ponder what, if any, my influence is through writing. It’s a fun journey but one that sometimes means not much actually makes its way past a draft!! To make up for it, here’s a reallllly long one with lots of pretty pictures!

Anyyyyyway. If you follow me on social media or know me in real life, you probably know that I went on a little adventure last month to a place I’d never been before – Guatemala! Wahoo! This was my first time in Latin America as a “backpacker” (LOL) since previously I’ve visited with my family but stayed mostly on the resorts, hanging out on the beaches. This was a very different experience! I also got to travel with one of my best friends and we had just the most fun time. Fair warning, this post may just be a jumble of photos and little stories!

Last year I decided to stop talking and writing so much about desiring adventure and travel and just friggin’ do it. I went to Iceland by myself and it was a really freeing and wonderful experience that I think helped me grow a lot as a person. It’s that “shut up and go” attitude that I’ve tried to carry over into my everyday life since then, from spontaneous weekend trips to Montreal, to canoeing in new places, to trying out a new hobby, to “adventuring” in my own city to find new places to study and explore.

That said, there is something very unique about international travel that I simply love. I love the process of going from one place to another, the fact that I can sit down in this mental tube and a few hours later be someplace totally different. I love, love, love the process of planning and dreaming, only to find myself totally winging it when I get there.  I love meeting people I don’t interact with in my everyday life whether that means locals or other backpackers. I love the tension and being kept on my toes and having everything just be a little out of my hands. I love trying to practice new languages (I got out a little easy this time because Nick’s Spanish is a lot better than mine and he bailed me out a bit hehe!)

Not to mention, the world is crazy beautiful.

Suffice to say, Iceland lit a fire under my feet and had me checking flight prices all winter and spring. After a while, I realized that my cheapest option was probably going to be Guatemala. So I started telling all my friends that I was going and that they were invited. Some people showed interest, a couple seriously. Eventually my dear friend Nick agreed to come along and we booked flights. Over the next couple months we laughed often about the fact that we were ACTUALLY going to go.

IMG_3728
Friend!! He put up with me being bossy and sick and bad at Spanish for a whole week! What a guy!!

So here’s 10 things I learned over reading week in Guatemala:

  1. You can be as careful as you like, but you still might get sick. Nick and I were pretty careful about where and what we ate and drank because we had heard that lots of people get sick while in Guatemala (and developing countries in general) but OF COURSE, the day we were supposed to go hiking, we both ended up really sick with some kind of brutal stomach bug or food poisoning. It had us out for the count for a full day/day and a half and didn’t fully go away until more than a week after we’d been home. I actually got it worse a second time after we were home and had to take antibiotics. All that to say a) you can’t control these things and b) you can’t be bitter about it and let it ruin your whole trip. I did warn Nick on day 1 that if anything bad could happen, it would surely happen to me/us. Y’all know the deal #samproblems

 

 

IMG_3744
A real-life view of what travel sometimes looks like #dying

2. Travelling with a friend is very different than travelling alone. Not better or worse, just different. When I went to Iceland, I loved that I was totally in control of my own time and that I was only responsible for myself. Travelling with Nick, I suddenly was aware that all my decisions had to work for another person too! There was some tension with that because I had planned most of our trip and felt responsible for whether or not Nick had fun. At the same time, he is an adult and can take of himself. So it was interesting to figure out how to balance those things and how to travel together and how to let each other do their own thing but also be together most of the time. At the end of our trip we had a really good talk about communication and sharing planning responsibilities and how to learn from this trip for future adventures together!

Also, I noticed that I am more chill of a traveller than maybe I realized? I don’t really stress and stay pretty calm in situations that could become concerning and even though I knew that about myself, it was interesting to…notice I guess, what others find stressful about travel. Nick noticed things that I didn’t even think to be concerned about and it was good for both of us to balance each other out in that way because it forced me to consider things more carefully and question my assumptions and I encouraged him to relax a bit. On the flip side (this is going to sound very contradictory), I think I am still a pretty cautious traveller. Like I said, it’s a balance. I don’t act rashly but I also don’t worry once I have made a decision.

Overall, it was super nice to have someone with me along the way, especially since Nick is one of my best friends and he and I haven’t gotten much one on one time since moving out of residence in first year so our time together was really precious to me!

3. “Dangerous” is a relative term and a little common sense can go a long way. Speaking of stress or fear or danger and using common sense, I think it’s worth noting that I never felt unsafe in Guatemala. Before we went, several people voiced concern for us because statistically, Guat has high levels of crime. However that is mostly gang related and concentrated in the capital where we did not stay.  There was one situation in a taxi where Nick thought we were potentially in danger but that was more due to a miscommunication in Spanish than anything else and everything ended up being ok. One other time, we were told a particular hike was unsafe unless in larger groups due to reports of tourists being mugged which, just that stipulation made me a little nervous. But honestly, we never felt like we were in particularly dangerous place. On our part, we took some precautions like not wandering around at night or flaunting expensive things around. In general we found Guatemalans to be very welcoming people who were open to sharing their culture (although sometimes they were pushy sales people lol)

4. A week isn’t long enough to appreciate the complexity of a countries history, politics and culture. Honestly, I have little to say about this except to say that I regret not learning more about Guatemala’s history before I went, that I really loved how present and prevalent the Indigenous culture still was and that I am constantly amazed by my own ignorance to other countries’ political climates, even though I am studying international development.  I have so much to learn.

IMG_4815

5. On that note, I’m still learning how studying development shapes my world view. I felt uncomfortable by how many people assumed my trip to Guatemala was to volunteer or do some kind of development work. Aside from the fact that I am still working through how I feel about “voluntourism”, the comments also felt a little accusative, as if my chosen field of study disallows me from travelling in the developing world for my own enjoyment. Yet, in a strange way, it does. Because of my education, I see things differently. I found myself hyper aware of my privilege as a visitor, painfully aware of my relative wealth. Although I am all for tourism because it is a source of income for many people, it’s impossible to visit Guatemala and not see the inequalities, the lack of drinkable water, the poverty.

Yet, as a student of development, I was ALSO really interested in the efforts I saw being made towards empowerment – Indigenous owned coffee companies, a newly opened restaurant that was part of a women’s co-op and vocational school, Spanish schools that teach the language through politics and education on colonial history. I could see small projects and changes happening. On my end, I am constantly learning and travel is just a small part of that. Even though this was a vacation and not an experiential learning opportunity, my education has changed the lens with which I travel and it continues to challenge the way I think and look at the world.

P.s. Like I said I have a lot of mixed feelings but a definition of voluntourism I would feel comfortable with would definitely involve way more awareness and knowledge of Guat than I had and would require longer term investment than one week – but that’s for another blog post.

6. Try to speak the local language. Just try a little. In Guatemala, you kind of had to know at least some Spanish. Although, in the villages, Spanish was actually the second language for many people who spoke one of 20+ Indigenous languages as a mother tongue! Although my speaking isn’t all that great, my comprehension in Spanish is ok and because of that, I got to barter and chat and hear bits of people’s stories – my favourite was talking to our taxi driver about swimming, a favourite activity we both shared. P.s. shout out to Nick for his Spanish skills saving me when I floundered 2 out of 3 times.

IMG_4744.JPG

7. Backpacker culture is different in different parts of the world. Previously when I’ve stayed in hostels I have found it easy to make friends and fit into the backpacker culture. In Guatemala I found it more difficult to “fit in”. Many people I spoke to had very different perceptions than I do of what traveling looks like, what it’s purpose is and why one should do it. Although I love talking to people with different points of view, I found the backpacking culture in Guat to be a little toooooo “go with the flow” for me. Not that being flexible is bad but everyone I talked to seemed to be traveling indefinitely, with no plans and no purpose, to the point where some of them were rather rude about the fact that Nick and I were in school – because in their mind, school couldn’t possibly be about anything other than conforming to societal expectations. Along with this, I found many of them didn’t seem to understand that their ability to travel in this manner is not a way of fighting back against the capitalist societal norms but actually a result of their Western privilege – hanging out at a hostel for months on end means you are wealthy enough to travel and CHOOSE an alternative to the corporate world. I don’t mean this as a judgement or to paint all Central American backpackers in a bad light because obviously there are many types of people who travel for various reasons, it was just an overall attitude difference than what I have seen other places. That said, Nick and I did of course meet some really interesting people, from a new friend from Colombia to a group Irish girls on their grad trip to a really cool German couple and an older woman on a spiritual journey. Travel always, always, always opens my mind to the diversity of people.

8. 20 is apparently still too young to be travelling. When I was 19 in Iceland I was “just a baby”. Apparently going to Guatemala at 20 still warrants “awww”s and disbelief that young people can take airplanes without adult supervision

IMG_3726

9. Splurge on some activities but don’t forget that just being present in a new environment is an amazing way to spend time. I absolutely adored going zip lining in a National Park and I am so glad we spent a day in Chichi at the largest market in Central America. But my favourite memory from our trip is when one morning we got up and went swimming in the volcanic lake. Here’s a little blurb I wrote in my journal that day:

“This morning when I got up, I looked out and saw nothing but trees. With only two walls and no electricity, our hostel room feels more like a secret club house than a bedroom. I got up and wandered down to the lake where the sky was clear and the tops of the volcanoes were visible, towering on the other side of the lake. Carefully picking my way along the boardwalk, I went to a quiet swimming place and jumped in, the clear, cold water enveloping me and then buoying me back up to the surface. As I turned back to shore,  I can hardly believe my eyes. Mountains reach up and up, covered in lush, dense jungle and spotted with coloured houses. Around the summits, fog swirls. Nick and I keep laughing because it honestly feels like we must be in a movie, it’s just so beautiful.”

The sheer joy of being a new place, seeing beauty I had never seen before, floating in blue water and laughing with my friend is a wonderful as any activity I could have planned. When travelling, make sure to take time to just be present in the place.

10. Travel always revives my sense of wonder and reminds me of God’s glory and creativity. Wow, wow, wow you guys. Guatemala is seriously incredible! And it just makes me want to see other places all the more. Seeing natural beauty and diversity always just makes me want to draw close to the Lord and praise Him for all He has created and blessed me with. One morning when I couldn’t sleep because I was sick, I went down and sat on a dock around 4am and sang worship songs as the sun rose up from behind the volcanos ringing the lake. It’s as beautiful as it sounds. Traveling around  and exploring Guatemala revived my child-like sense of wonder and made me grateful all over again for the world God created.

IMG_4610

SO that’s about all I’ve got for now I think. I guess I had quite a bit to say! I’m just so grateful for the opportunities I have to explore and live life to the fullest. Thanks as always for reading, for putting up with my ramblings and for following me along on this ever changing, ever challenging, ever exciting and ever grander adventure.

Until next time,

Sam

Skál and Bless

img_2350

Where to begin?

Well, I’ve been home from Iceland for just more than 24 hours and I’ve already figured out where I want to go next reading week and scoped out the cheapest flights, if that tells you anything. I’ve travelled before but this was the first time by myself and the first time in this way. Going on exchange in Switzerland, visiting family in Ireland and spending time at resorts in Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican are very different than staying in a hostel and travelling just for the pureness of it.

It truly was a whirlwind 5 days. Between hours spent on buses, planes and waiting around for the two former, I lost all of Sunday and most of Thursday to travel so in reality, I had just THREE days in Iceland. Call me crazy (and some did) for taking such a quick trip but it was exactly what I needed to wet my feet and get out of this city. Don’t worry Ottawa, I still love ya but the change of scenery and sense of adventure, independence and autonomy was so good for my restless soul.

A long time ago, just after coming home from my exchange I wrote a spoken word poem that I posted here, about the intense desire I felt to see more of the world, as well as about how I expected travel to shape and change me. I look back now on my exchange and I am so incredibly grateful of the afternoons I spent wandering around my adopted city (Geneva) and the road trips my lovely host family took me on; it allowed me to see so much of their mountainous country. It was then that I first learned a new language, that mountains became so dear to my heart and that I made friends because hey, they happened to be sitting next to me! My trip to Iceland brought all of these memories rushing back.

And the fact that I wrote “I want to get lost in unknown cities and find Sam in the process”  makes me laugh because I really did get lost in Reykjavik one day and rather than panic or get upset about having lost a good chunk of my day, I just went with the flow and had a perfectly “Sam” adventure. It ended with me standing knee deep in the North Atlantic Ocean in February, staring up in awe at Mount Esja, up close and personal.

I had also written about wanting to meet “people rushing about, strangers who were really just friends I hadn’t yet met” and that certainly came true on this trip, to an extent even I hadn’t expected. I noticed that there is something about being a solo traveler in particular that draws friends to you. I’m not sure if it’s because you’re less intimidating/more approachable, if they just don’t want you to be alone or what but I was constantly being invited to do things. That was a common theme in the hostel as well as on tours or even just in the streets. Every traveller I met was eager to meet other people, which was SO refreshing. In my everyday life, I find that we are all  so focused on our own busy lives that we rarely look up to see the strangers with whom we could have SUCH GREAT conversations, if only we made the time. As people have been asking me my favourite part of the trip, this actually has been sticking out, above even all the incredible natural wonders that Iceland had to offer and my own adventurous spirit being satisfied. I enjoyed meeting diverse and interesting people everywhere I went.  Some of them, I spoke to for just minutes and others hours. Some I am connected with on social media and others I will never hear from again. Some were “recurring characters” so to say  (those in my hostel room in particular), well others were part of only one scene like the teachers from New York that I met on my first day at 6am. These “characters” are what fill out an adventure. The beauty of a place is important yes, but those conversations had floating in the lagoon or chatting over drinks are what will stick with me the most I think.

That said, Iceland itself was beautiful. With such a short time frame I didn’t see as much of it as some others. And I missed seeing the Aurora Borealis booooooo. Still, that which I did see was breathtaking. On my second day, I took a bus tour out of the city and around the “Golden Circle”: three popular tourist sights that essentially give a good taste of what Iceland has to offer while being a relatively short drive from the capital. We saw a geyser called Strokkur, a waterfall called Gulfoss and visited the national park Pingvellir (a UNESCO world heritage site) where we walked between tectonic plates and saw the site of the first democratic parliament. My particular tour also included a stop at the so-called “Secret” Lagoon which may have been one of my favourite parts of my trip. Just picture hanging out in a giant natural hot tub beside steaming hot mud pits and a boiling geysir that are feeding directly into the pool. So friggin cool. One of the most interesting things about Iceland is the geothermal energy that runs through the country in plenty.

That said, I didn’t feel the intense connection and draw to Iceland the way I have with other places I’ve visited. I know a lot of people adore the country and many travellers return time and again; maybe I just didn’t have enough time to really appreciate it or maybe I spent too much time in the city and not enough out in nature but I don’t feel a desire to return anytime soon. Not to say I didn’t like it, honestly it’s difficult to explain. Just that I’m glad I’ve been but I wouldn’t rush to be back. And this might also sound strange but (sorry Mom and Dad), it kind of felt too safe. Someone I met put it really well: Reykjavik felt almost like a theme park. It was just so peaceful, everyone spoke English, the capital was small and easy to wander. Again, not to say I didn’t love my trip because I did but it was almost like being in this travel bubble where I had huge margins for error and nothing could go wrong. It definitely took away some of the adventurous feel. And I didn’t feel like I got to experience or see a different culture which for me is a huge and important aspect of travel. Definitely, I’ll go back someday if I get the chance and maybe road trip around, see more, but I’d choose to see somewhere new before going to Iceland again. I think I’ve seen enough of Europe for now though actually…I want to be really immersed in cultures very different than my own.

Overall, it was an amazing experience to travel alone, to meet new people and breathe fresh air in a different country. And like I mentioned, I’m already planning my next trip. Although this experience satisfied me for now, it also reinforced the desire to explore and see more. So skál (cheers) and bless (goodbye) to Iceland and to reading week, and another hello to Sam’s continuing, changing and growing grand adventure.

img_2174

-Until next time, Sam

I’m going to Iceland!!!

reykjavik-iceland-travel
Source 

I did it. I booked a plane ticket. I got my new passport on Friday and this morning I sat on my couch and bought a flight to Iceland. Next reading week, in February, I am going to visit Iceland for 5 days. Alone, much to my mother’s chagrin. AND I’M SO FREAKING EXCITED. So excited that I didn’t take the time to come up with a creative blog title hahah sorry folks. Think I’m crazy? Here’s why I’m doing it.

  1. There will never be a perfect time to travel. My near-future looks like school and co-op as far as I can see. I needed to make an opportunity for adventure where I had time. In my life, 5 days is all I have and that’s ok.
  2. Flights were cheap. Like super cheap. Like I can’t take any baggage other than my backpack or know which seat I am in until I get there because those are add-ons cheap. The airline I’m flying with is budget, no frills and that works for me.
  3. Because opportunities are everywhere and sometimes you have to pick one and make it happen. I crave adventure and movement. I can say “someday” all I want but I am not a traveller unless I GO. Not every adventure has to be long and extravagant.
  4. I want to see what it’s like to be a solo traveller. I’ve gone to Switzerland with an exchange program, Ireland with my family and Montreal with my friends but I’ve never gone somewhere by myself. I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted to do, to totally create and execute this adventure on my own. I want to learn how to rely on myself and be comfortable forging out on my own into this world. Iceland is rated the #1 safest country in the world and that makes it a perfect place for my first solo adventure.
  5. I need a break. I study, work and live in the same place and life is constant busyness, moving from one project to the next. Reading week in Ottawa means studying and procrastinating which is fine sometimes. But for me, self care doesn’t mean sitting in my room doing nothing. To feel truly rejuvenated I need to be doing, living, exploring. I’m not saying I can’t necessarily do that here but a trip is something for me to look forward to as a way to truly step away from everyday life and just be something other than a student.
  6. ICELAND, PEOPLE. The land of snow, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and geysers. Iceland is supposedly beautiful in winter! I want to spend time in every part of God’s creation and see all there is to see in this world, bit by bit. I want to see the Northern Lights and relax in a hot spring. I can’t wait to explore this Scandinavian island.
  7. Because I can. For real, I could probably come up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t go; namely, I am a university student and the typical college budget doesn’t exactly allow for international travel. But I also don’t spend countless dollars on drinking and going out like a typical college student. I get the grades needed to cover almost all my tuition with scholarships and I work in residence to cover most of my living costs. My parents also help me out a lot which I am so grateful for. I’d rather  work hard here so I can go there wherever there might be. Treat yo self 
  8. Life is short. They say that all the time but it’s true. Life doesn’t pause for school or work. Life weaves all aspects of itself into the years, days and hours that God gives me, however long that may be. I don’t want to grow up to be an adult that didn’t follow through on any of my dreams. I’m tired of saying “one day…” and flipping through Pinterest boards about travel. If I want travel, exploration and adventure to be part of my life, then now is the time. THIS IS life and I want to live it fully.
  9. Why not? Excuses don’t trump life experiences.

Now I have to curb my excitement and get back to writing a paper. Just wanted to share my news…eeeek!

– Until next time, Sam

p.s. This reading week was truly lovely too. I went to a conference, my mom and sister visited, I got to catch up with friends and sleep and all that good and wonderful stuff.

Chatter…

The rush of adrenaline, the last minute talking yourself into it, the butterflies and the potential beauty of the unknown. 

Adventure

cropped-zermatt-202.jpg

I love exploring even if it means getting lost. I love changing scenery, new experiences and the pure fun of muddling through language barriers with new friends. I love unexpected rain and getting on the wrong bus. I love travel too, but that’s not really my point here.

My point is, I am not about living a mundane life. I cannot and will not be satisfied with ordinary. That’s not how God made me. I firmly believe that God gave me a soul that craves adventure and exploration. He gave me a burning curiosity, a relentlessly questioning mind and a desire to experience as much of this world as possible.

Example A: Next week I’m taking canoeing courses to become a certified canoe tripper which is a dream I’ve had for years. I’m going to learn how to paddle rapids, deal with emergencies in the wilderness and lead trips of people. It’s going to be so fun, so challenging and an adventure for sure!

Example B: I don’t have many requirements when it comes to dating but: he’s gotta love Jesus, it’s be nice if he was taller than me and he has to be okay with love seeking out the adventures in life. Because I plan on living this life pursuing God and pursuing the joy of new experiences. Therefore my future husband, whoever he is, is going to have to be cool with that. I plan on living in the mountains of Nepal for goodness sake! Good luck man, whoever you are :’) (yes this was a fairly random point, get over it ya’ll)

To go back to my original point, simply stated, I want to soak up all this world has to offer and try scary things. The comfort zone is not a place I’d like to be familiar with.

So yeah. I don’t really know what this post is about or if it has any point at all. I’m just late night dreaming about how cool our world is and how excited I am to explore it. I mean, I titled a blog about my life “Sam’s Grand Adventure”…can you tell yet that I like excitement and the extraordinary wonders of day to day life? Simply being alive everyday is an adventure in and of itself. No one has ever been Sam before and everyday is an unknown. How absurdly wonderful.

Seriously, I’m pumped! Life is cool, the world is incredible, humans amaze me, and God is good. God is good, always.

Psalm 37:4 says to Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” WOW. How lucky am I to have a God that creates such a magical world and then, because He loves me, fulfills my desire to explore it? Answer: Blessed beyond measure.

For real though, I’ve been pretty blessed so far and I can’t imagine all the things God has up His proverbial sleeve for my future. Ready to climb mountains, stomp in puddles, chat with a stranger in a book store, drink new flavours of tea, laugh until I cry, sit in silence beside a lake and walk through the stalls of a bustling market place.

Yep, I think that’s all I have to say for now. You may return to your regularly scheduled Facebook scrolling. #Sorrynotsorry for interruption. 😉

Until next time, Sam ❤

 

Nepal – Shaken not Shattered

images (1)

Anyone with access to media knows at least the bare minimum about what’s going on in Nepal right now. On April 25th, they experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which killed thousands, destroyed cities and damaged most of their heritage sites. Although aid is flowing in and the people seem, for the most part, to be in good spirits, it is going to be years before their infrastructure and economy recovers.

I have had a fascination and obsession with this mysterious and mountainous country for well over a year now. I’m not exactly sure what initially drew me to it, nor do I remember exactly when it started. But as I’m sure my friends can testify, I’ve talked about wanting to go there for quite a while now. No one really understood why, myself included. There was just something about this small country that fascinated me.

Maybe it’s because I have a thing for mountains and Nepal just seems like a country created for adventure. Or maybe it’s because they have an ancient and beautiful culture, language and temples and colours and smells that would be foreign to me. Then again, maybe I’m just stereotyping and being an ignorant white girl from Canada. But the people there seem to have joy in their smiles and a strong work ethic deep in their bones and I just fell in love with Nepal the more and more that I read about it. I thought about it often, read about it often, dreamt about it often.

I want to be clear that I’m not oblivious to the fact that it is a developing nation. I know that much of the country lives in poverty and brokeness. But for me, that doesn’t and shouldn’t disqualify them as a nation of potential. I’m going to be studying International Development and Globalization in university next year (which I am SO excited about) and I am so passionate about seeing those small “third world” countries develop and grow and share with the world why they are so awesome. So Nepal, for me, was a place of both mystery and beauty in spite of their struggles. I felt drawn not just to the place but also to the faces of the people and wondered how long it would be before I could visit.

Fast forward to last month and my economics teacher assigned a project where a partner and I would have to choose a country currently on the United Nations list of Least Developed Countries, learn more about it and then come up with a theoretical plan on how they could improve their economy. Naturally, I convinced my partner that we should choose Nepal.

The next day, the earthquake happened.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that it felt like something had been ripped out of my chest. I was actually heartbroken. Why would something like this happen? And more importantly, why did I now have to sit in a classroom everyday and work on a website called “Solutions 4 Nepal” while the real country lay in ruins? This past month I have come very close to booking a ticket and just going, I would say about 6 times. I wanted nothing more than to help this country that had somehow found a special place in my heart.

Truth is, an 18-year-old girl from Canada showing up in a recent natural disaster zone with no experience working in developing countries and nothing but a heart to help and the first aid knowledge of a lifeguard would have been more of a hinderance than a help. No matter how good my intentions are, I am not equipped to help in country right now.

Maybe in a year from now, when most people have forgotten all about it, I will go. Nepal will be recovering from years to come and I don’t want to be just another person who forgets all about them after the earthquake stops being on the news everyday. I’m not trying to be self-righteous but that is what we all tend to do in situations like these. We are interested for a minute and then leave them to try to do the rest of the recovery alone.

For now, all I can do is pray. When I feel helpless, prayer is my only possible response. And I can ask you to do the same. Will you please intentionally pray for Nepal today? The Nepalese are so very proud and they don’t trust the first world and the help we offer. Pray that they would be open-minded. Pray for the people who have lost family. Pray for the aid workers, that they would have wisdom, humility and that they would go in willing to partner, not take over. Pray for revival. Pray for joy in this dark time. Pray for hope. Pray for opportunity to not just recover, but to grow. Pray that Nepal will come out of this stronger than ever before. Pray for the people above all, for jobs, for homes, for relationships and for safety. Pray that they would be ok, whatever that means.

If you want to learn more about the project my friend Rico and I did, you can check it out here (fair warning, the project isn’t due until next week so it’s a work in progress) If you want to donate to help with the rebuilding check out this link .

That’s all I have to say. Just wanted to share a bit about why the earthquake has bothered me so much. I’m still hoping to see Nepal one day, to explore, to experience the culture and meet the people. I have faith that I will see a beautiful country as I’d always hoped, a strong, proud and hopeful nation. I believe that Nepal, while shaken, is not shattered. The country lies in ruins but they will recover. This is not the end of Nepal’s story. I don’t know if part of God’s plan for this country includes me…but I hope it does. Either way, I think I will always have a soft spot for it.

images (3)

Shaken, not shattered. I have faith in you Nepal, you can do it. But please, trust us to help. We really do care.

– Sam

*all photos come from google

Late Night Thoughts and Thanks

One last Sunday afternoon roadtrip
One last Sunday afternoon roadtrip

To the teenage boy I saw full out singing along to the radio on the highway today, who smiled and waved and kept singing when he caught me staring, thank you. You made my day a little bit brighter. I think we all might be happier if we were that carefree. And you made me think of this video

Thanks to Amen for making me smile by trying to plan a surprise party that fell apart at the last minute. I know you felt terrible because you wanted my last free day to be great. It was anyway. You’re absolutely the sweetest and I can’t believe we have to say good-bye soon. You’ve made my exchange absolutely incredible.

Thanks to my host dad for saving the day and taking us for one last road trip and picnic today. You are always doing things for other people.

Thanks to my host mom for making packing just a little bit easier and not making me do it all alone. You’ve made me feel so at home these last few months

Best host family ever!
Best host family ever!

To my Marmee, thanks for getting my room ready for me to come home and just for being great, you’re the best. I can’t wait to hug you when I get home.

1618651_10203374679513403_654110044_n

To my Daddy, I couldn’t find any recent pictures of us but I wanted to thank you for giving me diverse interests and adventures growing up. Because of you I enjoyed museums and train rides here more than the average kid haha. Oh and thanks for holding shopping bags for us girls 🙂

198844_161198733937608_600429_n

Mallory, my little sister, expect a running tackle hug when I get home. I’ve missed you more than anyone

My non-twin twin <3
My non-twin twin ❤

To my amazing friends who have keep me in touch with life back home and made sure I knew how much I was missed, seeing you all is one of the only things making leaving Switzerland less sad. To the other exchange students, it was amazing to always have someone to talk to who understood what I was experiencing. It was so much fun laughing and bonding over all our #exchangestudentproblems. And to the friends I’ve made here, you will never be forgotten. Thanks for not laughing at me when I couldn’t say what I wanted to say and making me feel welcome.

 

Thanks to the ladies in city centre giving out “free hugs”. You made a lot of people laugh and smile

010

And to God for making such an incredible, diverse world and letting me experience it. I handed this whole experience over to You back in August trusting that You would work it out and You did. Thank you for your faithfulness. Because of You I never felt lonely.

He is an amazing artist
He is an amazing artist

So many people in my life that I’m so grateful for, I’m lucky to be so blessed. Tonight I finished packing to go home and I was really sad but I decided to look at the good rather than the bad. I couldn’t sleep so I decided to write and this is what I ended up with.

 

 

 

I’m Not Dead And Neither Is Jesus

I’m back! Hellllo everyone! It’s been a while, I know and I’m sorry. I’ve been a horrible blogger lately and an even worse journal keeper…opps. I know that I’m hurting myself more than anyone else since I really want to remember as much of this trip as possible but it’s difficult between school, weekend adventures and all kinds of other fun stuff. Also, I just wanted to mention, Happy Easter! As you can see from the title, not only am I back, today so is Jesus! His return is  a billion times more amazing than mine and today I am grateful to have a Saviour who loves me as much as Jesus does. Hope you all had a great day with your families and whether you are religious or not, are grateful for the things you’ve been blessed with.

tumblr_mkch34bkf81s8o348o1_500

 “For you have been my hope O Lord, my confidence since my youth” – Psalm 71:5

That all being said, here’s what I’ve been up to! If this is random, choppy or weird I apologize. It’s late, I’m tired and trying to recall these things from a while back!

Two weekends ago I went to a chocolate festival on the Saturday and on the Sunday I visited a  town called Interlaken and took a train ride through the mountains! Also, I am obsessed with The Voice France and if Team Mika doesn’t win, I’m gonna be rattled. That is my every Saturday night. The train ride was seriously so cool and I got some of the best pictures this trip. Amen and I made an attempt at a vlog but it’s literally just me asking her “Et maintenent ou allons nous?” or “Ou sommes nous?” like 20 times, not interesting at all. So these photos will have to do! Overall, it was a fantastic day and I love mountains.

I’m going to tell you everything I do during the school because, to be honest, it’s really not all that interesting! I go to school, just like in Canada and in the afternoons, I work or play on the Internet or go for walks. One interesting thing though was that I went out for dinner this past week with my English class which was fun. I’ve got to say, they are probably the most interesting group of people I’ve met. Between 10 of us, I think there were 12 different languages that could be spoken by at least one person? And also just very nice, friendly, funny people so that was fun.

Last weekend I went to a party with Amen for one of her best friend’s birthday which was interesting to say the least…I think I’ll leave it at that. I also just hung out and read. I’ve finished the first Harry Potter and am well into the sixth….don’t ask why number six, I don’t know. Then on Sunday we went to a pretty little town in France and wandered around for a while. There was a castle and a beautiful lake so I loveeeed taking pictures there even though it was sort of cloudy and rainy. Here are a few (or as many as I can manage to whittle it down to hehe) of my favourites. The first few are actually from a walk I went on!

So that just about catches you up, I am now on vacation for a week for Easter which I am very excited about! Tomorrow we are going to Zermatt for one night which is like the most famous mountain in Switzerland which I’m excited about! We might go skiing or we might just explore, we’re going to play it by ear! Hopefully this super long post didn’t bore you. Oh and one more thing (plus a few more pictures) I went and got a closer look at the famous water jet so those are the pictures. On a bit of a side note, I’ve noticed my French is steadily improving which is awesommmme. It’s not as good as I wish it was but it’s coming more naturally now and I’m catching my own mistakes before other people correct me. I’m not sure if I can call myself fluent since my grammer is still terrible but I can communicate…it’s a work in progress. Au revoir for now!

I Found My New Favourite City

Montreux 303

Château Chillion

I think I’m jealous of my own life. Is that possible? I’m not sure exactly how to explain it but it’s like today was so wonderful that I’m jealous of my former self. I can’t go back and live today again so I’m jealous of myself today. I have no idea if that makes any sense at all but it’s not a bad feeling. You know you’re doing life the right way when you wish you could redo your day right? Looking through all these pictures makes me want to rewind!

So today I went with my host parents (Amen had to stay home and study again *sad face*) to a town called Montreux. which is on the edge of Lake Geneva and faces a group of mountains. It’s absolutely breathtaking. I’ve passed it on my way to other places at least 3 times now, to and from Berne, to and from Zurich, to and from Sion. And every single time I’ve had the same thought; I have to go there before I leave. Today was finally that day and it was even better than I imagined. It’s the first place that I’ve been able to see myself living so clearly. All day I was thinking “I want to live here one day. I can see myself living here.” That and “Holy cow I’m blessed. Is this real life?” Haha, it’s an adorable little town and I loved it. Apparently it has an amazing jazz fest in the fall too. It’s probably one of my favourite places I’ve visited right up there with Dublin and Old Quebec City. One day, even if I don’t get to live there, I want to visit again 🙂

There’s also a famous château called Chillon right on the water that I went and walked around in with Laye. It’s amazingly well preserved and you actually feel like you’re in past. The best was the incredible views of the lake and the mountains you got when you climbed to the top of the tower! We also had a picnic lunch by the lake and then drove to the next town over, Vevey which (fun fact) is where Charlie Chaplin died! I know, I should let other people tell me they’re fun. If you didn’t get that reference, we can’t be friends sorry. Just kidding! 😉

Montreux 372

Me and my good friend Charlie

 

In Vevey we walked along the water front some more, visited the Food Musuem (yes, that is actually a thing) and competed in the fork contest. There is a giant fork in the lake and you had to take a picture with it…here’s mine.

Montreux 381

So anyway, that was my lovely day. I hope you all a had a lovely day too. I took a lot of pictures but I’ve figured out this fancy new way to display my pictures in a pretty gallery so I hope you enjoy them! If you click through, you can see the captions I’ve set for some them. Montreux and Vevey were both incredibly picturesque and worthy of having lots of pictures taken! There are also a few from yesterday when I went for a horseback ride at a farm and for a walk downtown to take typical touristy pics with the famous Geneva fountain! That’s all for now, school tomorrow which I don’t  think is something to be jealous of! But hey, make the most of everyday right? 🙂

Spring in Suisse

215

Normally, I would say spring is my least favourite season. I might even go as far as to say I hate it. But Canadian spring is not like it is here. In Canada, spring is wet and muddy and cold and gray. The snow melts and then we get more. And then you start to see grass and the next morning it’s covered in frost. We kind of skip over any kind of nice springtime and head straight to summer by the time the weather warms up. Spring here in Switzerland is the kind of spring Canadians dream of. It’s warm (most days at least) and sunny and you can see the regrowth everywhere. It’s fresh, it’s full of new life and it just makes you happy because everywhere you turn there are flowers blooming and trees budding and literally birds singing all the time. Walking to school is like walking through a rainbow, the blue sky, the green grass and trees and flowers in yellow, purple, pink, orange and white. Add in the mountains in the background and the old looking houses with iron gates and I feel like I’m in a fairytale. All. The. Time. Nope, actually scratch that, Heidi. I feel like I’m in Heidi. I’ve always associated mountains with that story. #BookwormProblems (By the way if you haven’t read Heidi, go read it. It’s by Johanna Spyri and it’s a classic, wonderful book)

Suffis to say, the weather has been amazing and I’ve spent countless hours reading out on the back porch (in French of course!) and going for long walks in the sunshine. Even this weekend when it rained I didn’t really mind because spring rain is a special kind of rain which much to Amen’s chagrin, I love! The sound of it hitting the ground and the roof, the warm earthy smell, the warm, humid air after it stops is just wonderful. And again, much to the shock of my host family I went for a walk, in the rain. I can’t explain exactly why  I love it but it’s like the earth is getting refreshed and I am too you know? I’m not sure if that even makes sense. Overall, what I’m trying to say is that I’m loving spring.

Image The view from the balcony

This weekend I went to the Geneva Museum of Natural History with Amen and the did a little bit of shopping on Saturday. On Sunday I went to the Botanical Gardens which were amazing. I only got to see part of them so I am definitely hoping to go back. I took so many pictures! Also today, I went for a run/power walk which I know will be a shock for everyone who knows how lazy I am. But seriously, with a view like this, how can you complain?

264 257 270

Believe or not, this is right in the middle of Geneva, the second largest city in the country. I discovered it completely by luck, walking straight out of a residential area into what appears to be the middle of nowhere!

068

So, to sum it all up, it’s been a good week. Here are some of my favourite pictures. I hope you’re having a lovely day, until next time my friends 🙂

034 038 045057 061050

Museum of Natural History

080 081 082 090 096 098 102 110 111 119 131 134 146 149 154 172 210 216 219 238 240

Central Park and Botanical Gardens