New discoveries in Israel

At the end of 2014 / beginning of 2015 I visited Israel for the third time and both discovered new places with the help of my friends and re-discovered known places on my own. Please enjoy the pictures and the stories they tell.

 

Pics from Allone Yizaq Nature Reserve near Binyamina. It’s a 31-acre nature reserve which is rich in various flowers expecially in summer.

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My friend Michael enabled me to finally visit the Bahá’í gardens with the shrine where the remains of founder of the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh in the Bahá’í Faith have been buried. I got to know the Bahá’í Faith in India when I visited the Lotus Temple, and I later also visited the Houses of Worship in Uganda and Germany. (Funnily there is also one in Panamá but the time I was there I didn’t know about it.)

The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion originating in 19th-century Persia which emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. Its founder and its adherents have been heavily persecuted. You cannot be born as a Bahá’í but anyone can become one.

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Apart from enjoying the beautiful garden of my friends and meeting their cat again, I also went to Jerusalem to enjoy the old city again which I always love to visit. I found out that by now, the tram which was still being built the last time I visited is now finished and operating. And of course I came across temptations such as halvah. ;)

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Last, but not least, Michael took me to Rosh Hanikra, a white chalk cliff face which opens up into spectacular grottos near the Lebanese border. This time there was a storm so it was even more spectacular. ;)

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Todah rabah to Michael for taking me to these and other wonderful places!!! It was lovely to meet your family again!!

Thanks also to Lena for having me (shortly ;)) and to Gil-Ad for driving me to the airport! It was wonderful to meet little Aviv! And as every time, I have at least made the resolution not to get lost in Tel Aviv *next* time! :)

Japan, France and the Gulabi Gang

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An alternative to Bollywood – Fandry is a movie with a social message

I have to catch up on quite a few stories and decided to try and combine them in one post!

I spent 10 days in Japan in May and it was a very short, but intense impression of the country. I am eternally grateful to Hiroe and Mitsuo that they helped me in so many ways. I will never forget those days in Delhi when it was 48 degrees and Hiroe shared her Japanese green tea from her fridge with me. And I will never forget my first night at the hotel in Kyoto when suddenly two familiar faces appeared in front of my door – that of Mitsuo, who had come all the way from Germany, and that of Yoko, who had become my friend in Sweden and had come all the way by train from Shizuoka only to meet me . Of course, I will also never forget maccha, mochi and yatsuhashi!! I remember Hiroe saying on Kishima Island, where we were served the most amazing Natural Agriculture lunch I have ever eaten in my life, that she never thought I could eat that much…! (*^▽^*) Well, I did miss lassi, but as I had come from India and was returning there, I didn’t have to wait long until I could have that again, either… In Japan I took part in the “Grand Sampai” in Misono, the headquarters of “Shumei”, which takes place there every year and has a programme with the Sampai itself, visits to the Miho museum and the “kominka” (traditional Japanese house) in the Shumei farm village, visits to Tokyo or Kishima Island (where Natural Agriculture has been practised since 1962), a performance of the Shumei Taiko (traditional Japanese drumming) ensemble, an Ancesor ceremony and a New Members Gathering (in which I finally took part after two years;)). On our “free day”, Hiroe and Mitsuo showed me around in Kyoto and we visited Kiyomizu-dera temple, had a rickshaw tour in its area and visited the Arashiyama bamboo forest.

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Yoko & I happily reunited!

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Hiroe and I on the way to Miho Museum

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Another happy reunion! I & Norikazu in the Shumei farm village where he has been working since he came back from Germany

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With Alan Sensei and Mitsuo in the “kominka” (traditional Japanese house)

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Our amazing lunch at the Shumei farm village – miso soup, salad and tempura

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Alan Sensei and I on beautiful Kishima Island

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In Japan the “menu” usually is displayed in the windows of restaurants!

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Japanese toilets have many options… ;)

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My best sushi ever:)

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My favourite sweet from Kyoto in two different forms – soft and hard. It is called yatsuhashi and usually made of rice flour, sugar and cinnamon:)

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A lunch in Japan can simply consist of three different kinds of rice :)

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Too many choices! The Natural Agriculture menu of Miho Museum..

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A must have in Japan – maccha (which is also prepared in tea ceremonies) latte with Japanese sweets such as mochi or green tea based sweets

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Our sporty rickshaw man – in fact the rickshaw was invented in Japan

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Two women dressed as “maikos”, the prestage of geishas

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Lighting incense in Kiyomizu-dera temple

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Walking through Arashiyama bamboo forest

Now that I have started working for Shumei in Steinfurth, about which I already wrote a post two or three years ago (how incredibly much has happened in my life since then!), I decided to report on one specific occasion, my visit to France with Mitsuo. It was my first time to France and again a short trip (two thirds of which we spent driving), but worthwhile in many regards. Benoît Périé had met his Taiwanese wife Shiu-Hsia in Indonesia where they both were working and returned to his home area in France with her, where he started an organic (biodynamic) vinyard ten years ago. They heard of Shumei through their friends in Taiwan and started using the methods of Natural Agriculture last year. We helped them with the harvest and learnt a lot of interesting things about winemaking. Hiro, the head of the Shumei centre in Paris was also there, and sometimes we had pretty long translation chains – for example from Taiwanese to French to Japanese to German. :)

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Shiu-Hsia and Benoît Périé

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.. and their Natural Agriculture vineyard near Marcillac-Vallon

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Stamping the grapes the traditional way

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Soon these bottles will have a Shumei label as well

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Best to be enjoyed with the local speciality, “Soleil de Marcillac”

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The harvesting team – Hiro from Shumei Paris centre, Xuquiang, an intern as a Chinese student from Toulouse, Shiu-Hsia and Benoît with dog Bouchon, their friends Shu Ling und Rich Chen from Taiwan, I and Mitsuo

My tasks here in Steinfurth are very diverse and the people I work with could not be kinder. They even give me thanks every day for helping them. :) Apart from helping with the deliveries and the weekly offer list, replying to emails, visiting projects such as the one in France or giving talks about Natural Agriculture as I did in Vienna, creating contacts, helping with translations and “PR”, I am also free to make my own suggestions, and, for example, made our farm a wwoofing member recently or keep advertising our “wild herb excursions” on Couchsurfing, which has attracted very interested people so far. I always like meeting new people and I also enjoyed the visits of our short-term interns very much. Since shortly, Ryo has joined us as an intern from Japan for three months and he is a great enrichment. His mother had an accident when she was pregnant but thanks to doctors and prayers she survided and could give birth to Ryo. Also, I am very glad that since last time I was here, Naoko has joined our team as Toshihito’s wife. She is a very kind and intelligent person and very supportive of Toshi, who is doing a great job representing Mitsuo while he is travelling. And of course, Mitsuo’s and Keiko’s children have grown, but are not any less cute than I remember them.

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The Steinfurth gang – with Ryo (making faces ;)), David and Toshi

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Preparing the vegetable boxes for our “customers”

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Weighing celery

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Naoko and Toshi packing vegetables for our customers in Berlin, where Shumei also have an office and a café

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Takashi from Shumei Berlin centre, our short-term interns Marius and (back), Toshi and Naoko (front) and I

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Cute little Aoi being very focussed on her piece of cake…

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Akiko and I in Vienna. She had come from London where she is doing an internship at the Shumei office. She is my age and wonderfully mature and beautiful person both outside and inside.

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With Shumei member Dang from Berlin, where he has a Vietnamese restaurant, which I am hoping to visit soon. He sent me Jackfruit chips after his return!!! :)

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One last step back in time – at the European Anniversary in London with members from Italy and Turkey, Joe Sensei and Tamao Sensei

Lastly, I wanted to share my impressions of the Independent Indian film festival in Frankfurt. I was able to watch two of the movies offered, “Fandry” and “Gulabi Gang”. Both movies address social issues of Indian culture with which I have become familiar during the my own visits there – the restricting effects of the cast system for “lower cast” people and the sufferings of women in a patriarchic and corrupt society. You can find the trailers of the movies here (Fandry) and here (Gulabi Gang). The gap between the traditional lifestyle on the countryside and the efforts to imitate the “West” in cities is probably bigger in India than anywhere else. Unfortunately, some people seem to forget that progressive thinking has nothing to do with one’s lifestyle and that treating women respectfully would be a much bigger progress than building more and more shopping malls.

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The “Gulabi Gang”, a group of Indian women activists from Uttar Pradesh and active across North India

“Liebster Award” – “Favourite Blog Award”

Sundar

 

English version below

 

Meine Freundin Carolin hat mich liebenswürdiger Weise für den “Liebsten Award” nominiert – das bedeutet, dass ich nun ihre Fragen beantworten, neue Blogs nominieren und mir Fragen für die Nominierten ausdenken “muss”.

 

Dies sind meine Antworten auf Carolins Fragen:

1. Was motiviert dich, zu bloggen?

Meine Erfahrungen zu teilen, meine Freunde auf dem Laufenden zu halten und Menschen oder Projekte bekannt zu machen, die ich unterstützen möchte

2. Wofür lohnt es sich, echte Strapazen auf sich zu nehmen?

Anderen Menschen helfen, die Welt zu einem besseren Ort zu machen

3. Warum bist du besonders?

Vielleicht weil ich nie glaube die endgültige Wahrheit gefunden zu haben?

4. Welche Blumen magst du am liebsten?

Jasmin, sie ist so klein aber riecht so gut

5. Womit belohnst du dich für eine besondere Leistung oder einen besonderen Erfolg?

Der Weg ist das Ziel ;)

6. Was hast du zuletzt gelernt?

Dass alles Māyā ist. Und dass es wichtig ist nicht darüber nachzudenken, was andere denken. Es ist schwierig genug unsere eigenen Gedanken zu erkennen.

7. Welche gescheite Frage würdest du hier gerne lesen und was ist deine Antwort darauf?

Hmm da bin ich nicht sicher. Vielleicht sind die wichtigsten Fragen die, die wir nicht beantworten können.

8. Was darf auch im minimalsten Minimalgepäck bei dir nicht fehlen?

Ha ha, so etwas wie ein “Minimalgepäck” kenne ich nicht – aber der Lippenbalsam ist immer dabei

9. Für eine bessere Welt: wofür engagierst du dich oder würdest du dich engagieren?

Für ein besseres weltweites Lebensmittelsystem und für Kleinfarmer

10. Was tust du, wie bist du, wie wirkst du, wenn du in deiner vollen Kraft strahlst?

Ich denke dann bin ich sehr friedlich und zentriert.

 

Diese Blogs möchte ich gerne nominieren:

Julia Lakämper – http://julia-lakaemper.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/

Alessandro Haas – http://alessandrohaas.de/

Christopher Bradburn – http://a-quiet-reflection.blogspot.se/

Angela Victoria Lizarralde – http://www.amothersjourney.co/

 

Das sind meine Fragen an die Nominierten:

1) Was ist das Wichtigste, was du beim Reisen gelernt hast?

2) Wie entscheidest du, ob du deinem Instinkt oder deinem Vestand folgst?

3) Was hältst du für die Grundlage menschlicher Konflikte?

4) Was ist dein Lieblingsgeruch?

5) Was hältst du für den besten Weg, ein Ziel zu erreichen?

6) Was machst du am liebsten, wenn du alleine bist?

7) Was magst du an dir selbst?

8) Was würdest du gerne an dir ändern/verbessern?

9) Was macht einen Freund / eine Freundin für dich aus?

10) Was ist die letzte Freundlichkeit, die du persönlich (mit)erlebt hast?

 

So gibst du den Award weiter:

1. Verlinke die Person, die dich nominiert hat auf deinem Blog.
2. Beantworte meine 10 Fragen.
3. Wähle Blogs aus, die du nominieren möchtest.
4. Teile den jeweiligen Bloggern mit, dass du sie nominiert hast.
5. Formuliere Fragen, die du den Nominierten stellst.

 

 

English version

 

My blog has kindly been nominated by my friend Carolin for the “Favourite Blog Award”, which means that I now have to reply to her questions, nominate new blogs and think of questions for their creators.

These are my replies to Carolin´s questions:

1) What is your motivation to blog?

Sharing my experiences and keeping in touch with my friends, sometimes also making people or projects more known which I want to support

2) What is it worth taking on strains for?

Helping other people in trying to make the world a better place

3) Why are you special?

Maybe because I never settle on any final truth?

4) Which are your favourite flowers?

Jasmine – it´s so small but has such an amazing smell

5) How do you reward yourself for a special achievement or a special success?

The journey is the reward ;)

6) What have you learnt last?

That everything is Māyā. And that it is important not to think about what others think. It is difficult enough to become aware of our own thoughts.

7) Which smart question would you like to read here and what is your reply to it?

Hmm not sure about that. Maybe the most important questions are those which we cannot answer.

8) Which item must not be missed even in the smallest minimum luggage?

Ha ha, I don´t know anything such as “minimum luggage”. But I am known to always carry lip balm with me. ;)

9) What do you commit yourself to or would you commit yourself to for a better world?

Improving the worldwide food system and the lives of small farmers

10) What do you do, what are you like, how do you appear when you radiate your full strength?

I think then I am very peaceful and centered.

 

I would like to nominate:

 

Julia Lakämper – http://julia-lakaemper.healthcoach.integrativenutrition.com/

Alessandro Haas – http://alessandrohaas.de/

Christopher Bradburn – http://a-quiet-reflection.blogspot.se/

Angela Victoria Lizarralde – http://www.amothersjourney.co/

 

My questions to the bloggers:

1) What are the most important things you have learnt from travelling?

2)  How do you decide whether to follow your instinct or your reason?

3) What do you think is at the basis of human conflicts?

4) What is your favourite smell?

5) What do you think is the best way to achieve a goal?

6) What do you enjoy doing when you are alone?

7) What do you like about yourself?

8) What would you like to improve about yourself?

9) What makes a friend a real friend to you?

10) Which act of kindness is the latest one you have witnessed personally?

 

 

This is how you can pass on the award:

1. Put a link of your nominator in your blog

2. Answer my 10 questions

3. Choose blogs which you´d like to nominate

4. Inform the bloggers that you nominated them

5. Formulate questions to the nominees

 

Have fun! :)

My visit to Natures Gram

Joy

It was three years ago that I met Vishal at the Navdanya Earth University near Dehradun. At that time, he had come to inform himself about organic farming as he was planning to set up an organic “from farms to homes” business in Mumbai (Thane). This time, I finally got the chance to visit his business and to learn more about it.

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The trains in Mumbai are still as crowded as I remembered them

Vishal had several experiences which made him aware of the impacts of conventional farming. When he met a farmer in a hospital who had become severely sick from the use of pesticides, this was the “final straw” for him – he quit his previous job and dedicated himself fully to his dream of helping small farmers to make a living from organic farming and at the same time ensuring that consumers will get products non-hazardous to their health as well.

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Thane in the monsoon season

So far, he has set up an office for his business, forged collaboration with three farmers groups à 15 farmers in three different regions and he is regularly delivering their products to 40 customers and occasionally to another 40 customers. He currently knows of further 40 customers who are interested and plans to start delivering to them as soon as there will be 10 customers per region. He has registered his business on “Just Dial” and has got a number of positive references and word-of-mouth recommendations. Due to his “trust-based” scheme, he has been able to offer the products at reasonable prices to consumers while still giving fair profits to the farmers. Through his work, he has been greatly supporting the usage and saving of indigenous seeds and helped farmers to become independent from external inputs. He has also regularly been attending farmers markets and set up a trial retail store, with the plan to open a real store at the office location within the next three months to come.

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A Farmers Market which Vishal had organised

Vishal is planning to expand his delivery range within his district (Thane), where he hopes to reach 2000 consumers within the next two years to come. He also plans to expand to surrounding districts, where he already has potential customers but is still waiting for their numbers to increase so as to optimize the geographical space. He is also planning to set up region-specific centres all over India in order to support the idea of local food. A long-term plan is to create his own brand so as to be able to sell his products in other people’s shops all over India. Finally, he would like to set up a Learning & Development Centre at his own farm in Ambernath within the next six months where he would like to establish a seed bank and offer workshops in organic farming.

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Some of the products which will be offered in the store

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Including honeys from different regions of India

Having followed Vishal´s work for three years by now, I have perceived him as a highly motivated, passionate person and I am sure that he has both the desire and the skills to realise his vision. Knowing a lot of Indian organisations by now, I can also say that his degree of reliability and integrity is unique by Indian standards. :) As an Agroecologist, his vision could not be more consistent with what I think our future food system should look like. Vishal’s motivation is not profit-oriented and his interest is 100 % to improve the socio-economic situation of farmers and health of both farmers and consumers. I really wish that he will get all the support needed! The most important things which are required right now are human resources and funds.

If you have questions to Vishal or would like to support him please add Naturesgram on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/naturesgram) or write to vishal@naturesgram.com. Thank you very much / Bahot Dhanyavad! :)

Gracias, Dhanyavad, Спасибо !

It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog entry. I have spent more than four months in India now and the last few weeks I have been staying in “Aurovalley Ashram”, which I had got to know during my first India visit.

I have made very good friends here, especially Valentina from Russia and Angela from Colombia. Valentina is one of the strongest ladies I know and also cheerful, honest and very helpful. Also she has the most beautiful blue eyes I have come across in a lady. Angela has got very beautiful eyes as well and she is so sincere and at peace with herself that it is just a pleasure to be in her company. I am very grateful to these friends that they have helped me a lot and at the same time provided me with examples of the kind of person I want to be and can be. I have been thinking a lot about how lucky I have been in my life so far, and how lucky I am right here and now, just to be healthy, still be young, feel no pain, have water and food.

Today I took a walk to Raiwala, the nearby town, with Angela again and this time we stopped at a fabric shop and bought some fabrics and brought them to a tailor whom I already knew. He asked me what style of dress I would like him to make and took my measures and said he can make the clothes until the 14th of July. I said unfortunately I am about to leave, can he also do it until tomorrow? “Tomorrow?” Typical Indian humble smile and headshake. Ok then, tomorrow.

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Ganga

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Rishikesh

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Youngest Ashramite

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Village surroundings

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With Diana, best yoga teacher

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Cyfarchion o Gymru!

A bit more than one year ago I was confronted with the decision between two courses of studies – one was Agro-ecology and the other one was forestry related. I had always had an interest for forestry and I had found it sad that it was not covered at all in agriculture related courses. I was specifically interested in tropical and agro-forestry though and the course would not have covered that. Besides, Agro-ecology was closer to my heart than anything, as was Sweden, so I could not have opted against it – which I have never once regretted! :)

However, when I got to know that we are free to choose any courses at any university in our last term, I remembered my interest in agro-forestry and found out that the only university in Europe which offers this subject as a master course happens to take part in the “Erasmus” exchange agreement as well – so, I applied for a scholarship and now here I am, pursuing the second course of studies which probably no-one has ever heard of. ;) What makes my “self-assembled” study path even more “unique” is the fact that there has actually been a misunderstanding, as the university normally only accepts “Erasmus mundus” students. So, I may be the first and last exchange student taking part in the agro-forestry programme. It is also lucky that as an exchange student, I can choose whichever courses I like, so I have chosen my modules with a lot of consideration and added a “Conservation Biology” module to two Agro-forestry ones, which has been extremely interesting and a lot of fun not least due to our highly motivating teacher. :) And last, but not least, I found a way to pursue two things I’d been hoping to be able to pursue here – my Hindi skills as well as my swimming ambitions. I found a girl from India who just finished the Agro-forestry programme and has been more than happy to give me Hindi lessons, and in that way, I made a great new friend too! As for swimming, I found out about a “university swimming club” (one of at least ten million university clubs I could possibly join – the choice is impressive!) which enables students to use the public swimming pool for free twice a week.

I do have to make this blog entry short (compared to what I’d wish to write, I mean ;)), but at least I wanted to finally give some impressions of Wales and post some pictures of the beautiful surroundings before it gets winter – the first thing which struck me when I came here was the amazing beauty of the landscape (the village where I’m living is very close the the Snowdonia National Park)! I also noticed many differences from Sweden – Wales is actually a rather poor country, and it also has issues with social exclusion and discrimination against minorities. Indeed, I have also noticed quite a different atmosphere at the university here, where hierarchy and formality seem to matter much more than in Sweden. (This is not as much the case in my department though.) People are generally much more individual (I am always amazed at what different types of people I come across every day on the bus) and at the same time more simple than in Sweden, which is something I like here. They are also more talkative and noisy, and much more “local”. People getting off the bus say “thank you” to the driver and many shopkeepers have called me “darling” so far, which I find pretty weird and amusing. Generally, I have experienced a lot of kindness!

Buildings are much older and things generally much more old-fashioned than in Sweden. A possibly related aspect is the love for second hand stuff – I have never seen as many second hand and charity shops in one place before. In a funny way, the British seem to share the love for nature with the Swedish, but at the same time, it happens in a very different way. Somehow people here love conservation (especially of birds ;)), but it’s more like a hobby than a general attitude. Also volunteering is very popular here, which is funny again because money is at the same time a big issue for many people.

North Wales and especially the area of Gwynedd where I am living has the largest proportion of Welsh speakers within Wales. The cultural identity is also taken very seriously and can even take on nationalistic scales (there also seems to be a traditional animosity towards England and the English). This is kind of confusing, because I can totally comprehend the delight in maintaining a culture which is a minority, but I cannot bring this together with hostility. Obviously I would not even know about this or hardly notice it if I hadn’t been told about it, which doesn’t make it less true for people who have lived here for a long time.

When it comes to food, I’ve been having difficulties to find “healthy” food in normal supermarkets – I have had to go to the “health shop” in order to find products without at least 20 different kinds of additives, and I have still not found anything which I would call “bread”. ;) (I did bake my own bread a few times but it turns out a bit weird due to the gas oven…) Another challenge is the left-hand traffic – I have lived here for several months now and still keep looking to the left before crossing the street, only to be almost run over by a car coming from the right… I did wonder why I never had this problem in India or Uganda and came to the conclusion that it must be because no-one acts accordingly to any traffic rules there anyway, so that I am much more attentive in general. (Btw, in Sweden I learnt that the changeover from left-hand traffic to right-hand traffic took place over one night in 1967.) It even makes a difference as a pedestrian – whenever someone is walking towards me, I have to think twice before I move to the left. :)

I am living in a village called “Rachub” which is about 20 minutes by bus from Bangor. I had got to know my landlady (and “flatmate” :)), Jan, through a Couchsurfing friend (who happens to be the creator of the online encyclopedia “omniglot” – people here like languages!) and could not have been more lucky – she knows everything about the area and is being extremely helpful. She is registered disabled and has been fighting for both her rights and the rights of other minorities since long (unfortunately she still experiences unfair treatment until today as well). She is also better at recycling than anyone else I know! Our third housemate is Philipp from China, who came here for the second time to pursue a master course in English. For a few days we even had the company of Simone, who came to visit me from Germany! I will leave the remaining stories to the pictures… Hwyl fawr! :)

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The village where I am living

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… and the street – have fun pronouncing :P

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British phone boxes must not be missing, even in the village :)

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And again I came to a place with lots of sheep :)

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A typical village pub

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And a typical pub sign

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There are cows here, too!

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But more sheep ;)

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One of my favourite pics from a walk

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When waiting for the bus an umbrella can come handy ;)

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Everything here is bilingual, even the markings on the roads

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Jan & me

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Philipp & me

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And the fourth flatmate :) “Pusskin”, the neighbour’s cat (her real name is “Misty”, but I prefer Jan’s version :))

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Main entrance to the Main Arts Building of the university

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The Main Arts Building

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Student accomodations in Upper Bangor

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Cute recycling boxes :)

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I like the colours of doors here!

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Upper Bangor

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The street towards Lower Bangor

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University buildings in Lower Bangor

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Too many options ;)

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The Main Arts Building seen from Lower Bangor
Below a construction site which is meant to become an arts and innovation centre

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An inner yard of the Main Arts Building

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“Police” sounds funny in Welsh :)

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The cathedral of Bangor – which allows the town to be called a “city” ;)

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Hmm, a difficult choice to make! ;)

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The cathedral – close-up

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The clock tower – one of many things which remind me of India here :)

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I have never seen a country with as many second hand / charity shops before

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Lidl find their way everywhere ;)

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Nice cartoon!

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Introduction event for new students

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View towards the sea from Upper Bangor
(by courtesy of Simone)

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The library in Upper Bangor

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This Welsh band backed an introduction event…

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… and we were taught traditional Welsh dances :)

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“Welsh cakes” are traditional here

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Less traditional, but even more popular: Ready meals, as far as the eye can reach…

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Hooray, I found my favourite ice-cream! ;)

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This was the destination of the first field trip of our department

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Students from all over the world are admiring the views here

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We walked all the way to this waterfall

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And we were always lucky with the weather!

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Another field trip took us to a permaculture farm in Snowdonia National Park (see here: http://www.konsk.co.uk/)

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Views of Snowdonia National Park

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With the “Conservation Biology” module we visited the “Treborth Botanic Garden” several times, which was having a mushroom collection workshop one time

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He knows the story behind every single plant and tree in Treborth Botanic Garden :)

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We also had a small group exercise

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One of the two bridges which connect the main land with the island “Anglesey”

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The “Menai Strait” between the mainland and Anglesey
(well, the mainland is also an island, but never mind… ;) )

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One thing I have come to realise about Welsh is that it is longer than English ;)

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British humour…

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One of our video-link lectures – the lecturer was in Kenya that time, where the World Agroforestry Centre is headquartered

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I had the opportunity to take part in a trip to Liverpool

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In this museum I learnt that Liverpool had been the home port of the Titanic

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In front of a monument in St. John’s Gardens with other students who took part in the trip

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St. George’s Hall which contains concert halls

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My favourite section in the “World Museum” was the ethnology section :)

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The purple bins seem to be iconic in Liverpool

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The Chinatown in Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe

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Nearby you can find one of the two big cathedrals

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Even street names are written in Chinese here :)

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I kept wondering why the name “Speke” seemed to familiar, until I remembered that it was the name of the British officer who discovered Lake Victoria :)

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The Seaside

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Aaaaah, a Swedish flag! :,)

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As the hometown of the Beatles Liverpool has the only permanent Beatles exhibition in the world

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This is a view near to Conwy, a town not far from Bangor where I visited a food festival with two classmates

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Impressions from the Food Festival :)

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Different tastes of cheddar

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Here we enjoyed a free vegan lunch!

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Nathalie & me, Agroforestry classmates

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Claudia & me, Conservation classmates

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There was also an agricultural tent, here the Welsh mountain sheep

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Again a nice colour!

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Conwy castle

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Views from the castle

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Aaaah, colours! :)) (Bangor)

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This is in Caernarfon, another town which I visited with Simone

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Bengali or Welsh dragon? :)

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The medieval wall of Caernarfon

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This bird had found a good observation point :)

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Simone & me at the harbour

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The harbour of Bangor at (more or less?) high tide

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Of course we had to visit the village with the longest name in the world :)

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The train station had to spend a bit more money on its sign ;)

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English is taken seriously here, even on the toilet :)

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And last, but not least: A token of British prudishness :D

Hej då Sverige! :,)

I have noticed that whenever I came back to Sweden after being away, I had an experience of kindness on the train from Copenhagen to Malmö… It felt like I was “welcomed back” to Sweden every time!

After living here for more than a year, I feel sad about leaving… There are so many things which I have come to love about Sweden. For one thing, it has the most beautiful summers of all countries I have ever been to. Maybe the long and hard winters are a prerequisite for that – it always feels like with the first sun rays of spring, the snow and ice melt away to reveal the perfectly freshly preserved nature with its crisp, deep blue waters, pristine and peaceful forests (so silent that you would even hear an ant moving ;)) and wide, open fields which are immersed in a sunlight inciding in a very special way… The fresh air makes you want to inhale deeply and the wideness of the landscape as well as the low population density give a sense of freedom. Maybe it is also this low population density which makes many people greet each other even if they don’t know each other personally. It’s something special to meet someone else in Sweden, after all. ;)

Another thing is the language – Sweden is the only country where I have met people who so genuinely love their own language that they even miss speaking it when they go abroad. :) And I can quite relate to that  – I also love speaking Swedish, it sounds so cheerful and melodious.

Then, there is the high degree of modernity and practicability. I have to admit that I got pretty quickly used to that. Whenever I visited other countries, I was amazed at how things can be so old-fashioned and complicated. ;) It may be dangerous to get used to such comfort, even though it doesn’t really feel like a sign of inertia to me – the Swedish like it light, so they have created their environment accordingly – and that not without efforts, for sure. Just as they like it clean, and thus observe their waste separation and recycling systems very conscientiously. With the right attitude we can find that making many small efforts every day can have a big effect. People also like making things look beautiful and would rather use a curly font than gaudy colours and bold letters on their advertising posters. I even like many aspects of the food habits here – the most common pastry is cinnamon rolls, the national drink is coffee instead of beer (I don’t drink either but coffee definitely smells better! – though nothing can beat chai, of course :)) and the most common street food is falafel – very suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. :)

Last, but not least, I like the people here. The lack of formality makes contacts feel genuine – there is no need to play-act, nor to feel very intimidated by “authoritarian” personalities – how would you, when they just greet you with “hej” on the street and you can pop in their office anytime to have a chat or a cup of coffee together? :) This doesn’t mean that people behave impolitely or disrespectfully with each other – the Swedish politeness is just of a very sincere kind. Maybe part of this is a lack of sarcasm or irony, which is an important part of some other cultures. The Swedish generally say what they mean, and mean what they say – very helpful for someone like me who has difficulties to think around ten corners. ;) Sweden is also one of the most cosmopolitan and therefore both open-minded and racially tolerant countries I know. (According to a study I read, there is a surprisingly wide variation within Europe in this regard…) Furthermore, the Swedish are very patient – I have stood in many queues here and never found anyone complain…

Maybe, after this “hymn of Sweden” I should mention that there have of course been exceptions to whatever I have written. How we perceive a country depends a lot on our own background, lifestyle, preferences and expectations. Also, I would probably not have written all this after five months of winter ;) – nor if it weren’t for my imminent leave-taking. Most of all, I would not have enjoyed any second of my time here as much if it hadn’t been for my friends (both Swedish and non-Swedish :) ). I am convinced that we can enjoy any place as long as we are surrounded by kind people – and I do think that it takes a bit more time in Sweden than in other countries to get to know people. But I have been lucky to meet some of the kindest people in the places I have been to in the period of time I have been there. It is the combinations of time and locations we experience in life which make every period of life unique, as they can never be repeated.