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.

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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

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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-Until next time, Sam

A fresh blog and a messy picture

Tada! New Year, new blog!

My intention with this little impromptu overhaul was simply to make my site more easily navigated. I was constantly getting frustrated by the lack of an archive and bio panel, like the one now to the side, as well the inability to see visibly how posts are organized. I was getting confused and it’s my blog! I know all the little ins and outs and how to find things, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for others to find archives, recent posts and even a simple search bar. I hope this update has made it easier!

The other reason was because I wanted a cleaner, more professional look. I was getting a little tired of the yellow graphic at the top of the page and this theme allows me to have the focus on content and not unnecessary clutter.

It’s still not perfect, but I’m liking it at the moment. I hope you do too! This blog is always changing and evolving as I learn how to use the site better and figure out what I want it to look like. Thanks for bearing with me!

Lastly, a quick note about the photo I’ve chosen as the header. For the longest time, I’ve had a shot there of myself sitting on a wall in Lausanne, Switzerland looking out over the water and the mountains. I LOVE that picture, I really do. That day is such a sweet memory and it reminds me to keep looking forward to new adventures. With my new theme however, I could’t get it to fit quite right and I took it as a sign to try something new. After an annoyingly long time, I finally chose this one.

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It’s from a train trip Amen and I took in Interlaken. Again, a wonderful adventure and fond memory. But that’s not why I chose the picture. I picked it because it’s far from perfect. There are wires everywhere disrupting the view. Amen was calling for me to hurry up and the train was actually in motion when I snapped it. It was cloudy and there are several safety signs making an appearance; not exactly photography gold. Let’s be real, it’s not a great shot. But there’s something about it that screams adventure to me. It’s real. It’s motion and blue sky and messy composition.

It’s adventure. Sam’s Grand Adventure. A name chosen because it sounded regal and, in my humble opinion, rather epic. Grand adventures don’t have to be sailing seas in high winds and climbing mountains with good friends (although that does sound exciting). Grand adventures are long and have many ups and downs. They are chasing trains and finding dusty books in old stores. They are laughing over tea until you have tears in your eyes and worrying about what you want to be when you grow up. Life, life is a grand adventure. And that picture up there, is just one example of how messily perfect grand adventures can be.

I hope you like the new layout. I really wasn’t intending this post to be more than a few words but then again, sometimes words seem to spill out of my fingertips like they have a mind of their own. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Lord of the Rings and have my brain all tangled up in what it must be like to set out on an epic adventure.

Until next time,

-Sam

15 things I learned in 2015

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2015 is winding down and it’s certainly been one of the biggest years of my life so far. I graduated high school, spent another amazing summer working on Beausoleil Island, moved to a new city and started university. Suffice to say, I learned some things over the last 12 months. Here’s 15 of them!

1. Things change. Things will always change. Life evolves and you have to learn to be content in every season and every opportunity you get given, even if that means closing the door on a good time in life.

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2. I am more capable than I knew. If you ever want to push the limits of your capabilities, go be a camp counsellor for a summer. You will learn more about problem solving, relationships and thinking on your feet than ever before. From canoe trips gone wrong and first aid situations that went right to defusing cabin conflict and telling bed time stories, working at camp this summer taught me that I am capable of more than I ever would have thought.

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3. Grades matter, but not as much as effort. In university I had to learn pretty quickly that good grades weren’t going to come as easily as they did in high school. But I also realized that knowing I had put everything I had into my work made me prouder than getting an A. Effort and work ethic mean a lot more than a number.IMG_20151114_163238

4. There are likeminded people everywhere. I promise. You might think you won’t find anyone who shares your sense of humour or your love of Doctor Who but I swear, if you’re willing to be social, you will find people to talk to.

5. T.V. is a waste of free time. Go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, have a nap, read a book, workout, bake cookies, draw, whatever. The less free time I had, the less tolerance I had for watching T.V. I realized that there were so many things I’d rather be doing than staring mindlessly at a screen. (Note: movie nights are always an exception…especially Disney movie nights)

6. University is hard. I swear, it feels like no one ever told me that before I went. It was all about how fun it is, how exciting it is, a new adventure etc. But holy heck, the workload is cray! It definitely takes getting used to and really good time management skills. Get a calendar. Use it. Don’t write a paper at 5am the day it is due.

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7. University is also fun. Despite the papers, midterms and long nights in the library, university IS an adventure. Living in residence and having friends around all the time is a blast. Exploring a new city is exciting. Freedom is awesome. And learning is actually amazingly interesting when you’re passionate about the subject.

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8. You can learn a lot from sucking at things. I’m not a fan of being bad at things. It stresses me out. For example, I hating driving at first because I sucked but, unfortunately, that is how you learn. The worse you are, the more room there is for improvement… but only if you’re willing to stick it out. This year I did a lot of things I wasn’t so great at; economics, driving, Arabic, using public transit, dodgeball etc. Guess what? It was hard, an I got better.

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First place in Res Dodgeball…and I swear, I actually helped.

9. Family is more important than I’d realized. It wasn’t until I moved away that I truly appreciated my parents. I missed my sister more than I expected and seeing everyone at Christmas was amazing. Although, they will also drive you nuts within a week of being home, guaranteed.

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Reunited with my not-so-little sister

10. Advil is expensive. So is toothpaste. And cereal. And shampoo. And socks. And deodorant. I never really grasped the value of money until this year when I had to buy things that had always just been there. Life costs money!!!

11. Snail mail is literally one of my greatest pleasures in life. I don’t care if that is a stupid life lesson, I learned this year just how much it means to me when someone takes the time to write me a letter. It’s a fun surprise when you get it, it means and lot and it is seriously just so FUN! Why did we ever stop sending mail?

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Camp friends make good pen pals

12. Nature gives me energy and revives my soul. Going from spending the entire summer outside and on a national park to living downtown in the capital city was quite an…adjustment. I’ve always loved the outdoors but this year I realized how much trees and lakes and stars make me feel alive haha. Not to mention, nothing beats long talks under the stars. This summer I lay on a dock and watched a meteor shower and talked about life until 3 am. Those are the kind of moments you don’t forget. In Ottawa, walking by the canal and seeking out parks quickly became a priority.

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13. Taking time to destress and do things you love is important. Little things that you enjoy are important for mental wellbeing and avoiding burnout. I like knitting, writing, catching up with friends, going for a walk or swimming lengths when I need to clear my head. Even when I’m crazy busy, making time to destress and do Sam things is important.

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14. Community is vital. For the first time in my life this year, I found myself in a place where I didn’t know a soul. I thrive off of relationships with others. In Barrie, I had an amazing group of friends, an amazing church and two families that loved me. Then I spent the summer at camp living with a whole bunch of my favourite humans . Suddenly I was in Ottawa, not knowing anyone. Thankfully, LeBlanc is the best (lebest) residence in the entire world and I quickly found a close community in the 3rd floor. Shoutout, heyyyy guys! I learned this year how valuable community is. Having people you can laugh with, trust and be comfortable around is what makes life fun.

15. Trust God. So many changes this year, it’s been kind of a whirlwind. There have defiantly been times when I questioned if I made the right choices. Thankfully, I’ve had the faith to continually put my decisions in God’s hands because I’ve learned that when I do, things always turn out better than I could have imagined. My God is faithful, and I am blessed beyond measure. When I don’t know what to do, trusting God is the answer to every problem because with Him, I don’t fear the future.

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Well, that’s definitely not everything but it’s what I can think of at the moment. It’s been a good year, definitely one that will be looked back upon as a turning point and a learning curve.

2016, I look forward to welcoming you in. I’m ready to give this next year my best shot and, I’m sure, rack up some more ridiculous stories.

Bring it on, New Years.

-Sam

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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.

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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 🙂

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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

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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.

 

 

 

Where’s The Pause Button??

Zermatt 191 Do you ever just wish you had a remote that you could use to fast forward or rewind or pause time? That’s what I’ve been feeling lately. Somehow, I feel like the last ten weeks have absolutely flown by and I can hardly believe that I only have…hang on I’ll check…5 days, 9 hours and 6 minutes left until I will be at the airport and heading back to Canada, back to my own bed, and my puppies and my family and my friends and everything I’ve missed. As excited as I am to see everyone, on the other hand I am kind of tempted to hide out in the mountains so I don’t have to leave (I’m channelling Elsa, I won’t goooo, I won’t goooo hehehe) tumblr_inline_mz93wv1FgP1qz65iu As my exchange is starting to come to an end, it’s becoming very bittersweet. I’ve come to love this country and the language and my host family and I am going to miss it soooo much! Yet I also feel like I’m ready to go home. If I was here for longer I’m sure I would love it and be fine but I’m so excited to get back to life, especially because I have so much to look forward to in the next little while! Overflow is a week and a half after I get home, I’m stoked to see my friends in FAME at the end of the month, I’ll have tons of homework to catch up on and then I’m be spending my first summer as staff at one of my favourite places on earth, Kitchi! Which, I made sure to rock my Kitchi sweater in the mountains! So even though one adventure is coming to a close I have lots to still look forward to!

Just call me Heidi #booknerd
Just call me Heidi #booknerd

Buttttt it isn’t over just yet and I plan on enjoying every last second! And I had a wonderful week last week so I’ll fill you in on that! So last week was a week of vacation for Easter and on Monday we went to Zurmatt for a day/night which was totally awesome. We drove to the foot of the mountain and then took a train up to the village because cars are forbidden there which was kind of cool. We stayed in a really cute little hotel with a view of the mountains and went hiking and ate fondue and it was kind of my one little trip of super stereotypical Swizerland.

Eating fondue for the first time in the mountains
Eating fondue for the first time in the mountains

The Tuesday we took another train up to the very top of the mountain and then hiked most of the way down. Amen and I had a lot of fun taking pictures, rolling down the hill and trying to push each other in the snow! It was really surreal though. Like I was just wandering through the Swiss Alps on a Tuesday afternoon and on one side I could see the Matterhorn (AKA the Toblerone mountain) and the mountains on the other side were Italy. LIke how is this my life?? Honestly though, this trip has made me realize how badly I want to travel. Not just week long trips where you stay in a hotel and go on excursions with 100 other tourists. I want to take a backpack and go explore and speak to people in their native languages even if I look like a fool and get lost in cities I don’t know and make new friends and see the real world. I don’t know. Just a thought I remember having when we were hiking. It was sort of, “Wow, I need to see more of what this earth has to offer. This HAS to be just the beginning”

Wednesday we were back in Geneva and it was a beautiful, warm, sunny day! We ended up at this massive park with walking trails with a bunch of friends and crashing the picnic of some more friends and playing volleyball and cards all afternoon which was lovely. The only semi bad part about the day was that I almost got into trouble with the Transport police but used my Canadian charm and my bad French accent to talk my way out of it 😉 #crisisaverted

The park empty at the end of the day
The park empty at the end of the day

Thursday and Friday were pretty low-key and kind of rainy so we just hung around and didn’t do much. And then on Saturday I went out with my friend Grace, another Canadian exchange student and we just walked around and chatted, went on a terrifying carnival ride and basically caught up. It’s cool having other people like Grace and my friend Emma whom I’ve mentioned before who are going through the same exchange experience and can relate and understand all the weird ins and outs and ups and downs! Speaking of other exchange students, tomorrow, Thursday, Amen and I are going to be meeting up with two other pairs of exchange students tomorrow for two different events. Although I was back to school this week, tomorrow is a Swiss holiday (not exactly sure for what to be honest) and school is closed. In the morning Amen and I are planning on making fudge, in the afternoon meeting up with Sarah and Oriane  and in the evening with Olivia and Louisa to see a Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye spoken word poetry show. Which is not as lame as it sounds, I promise and I am super excited! If you’ve never heard of them, you should check out this video.

So, that’s about it. I also visited the Transport musuem in Luzern and had had to start saying goodbye to people here which sucks! Overall, I had a great vacation and am trying to make the most of my last Suisse week! Here are a few photos to leave you off with from my walk to today as I’ve started saying goodbye to my favourite places as well.

That’s all folks! Thanks again for checking out my blog. Also, pretty much totally unrelated, I’ve started thinking about some ideas for what to write about after my trip is all over and done because I’m really liking blogging and I think I’ve got some ideas so stay tuned 🙂

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.

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 “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

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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! 😉

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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.

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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

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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?

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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!

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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 🙂

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Museum of Natural History

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Central Park and Botanical Gardens 

 

Just An After School Trip To Narnia

Okay so maybe it’s not exactlllly Narnia, but today after school I went and had a look around the neighbourhood…turns out there’s a forest and gorgeous river at the end of the road! It was absolutely beautiful and it did feel like you were in some kind of fairytale or fantasy world…like Narnia! I’m not the greatest photographer and back home it’s not something I even really do but here, everywhere I go is just so breathtaking that I feel compelled to try my best to capture it! Hopefully you can at least get a sense of how amazing Switzerland is! Anyway, this is one of my new favourite places in Geneva 🙂ImageImageImage ImageImageImage Image ImageImageImage ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage ImageImage ImageImageImageImage