Are we surprised? Nope, definitely not.

So, funny story. University loans suck all of the life and joy out of you and turn you into a “responsible adult” whether you are ready to become one or not. I may have grossly underestimated the amount of money I would start repaying once this November rolled around, which means that I am not financially prepared for the rest of the time I was supposed to spend here in India (another four months).

I know what you are all thinking- This would happen to you. And you are totally right, this would happen to me!

So what is the solution? I am going back to the US next week to start applying for jobs while I still have enough money to cover a first month’s rent and security deposit. This is my decision, no one else’s. It is time for me to be a big girl, face the facts, and know that if I really want something (such as making a career out of theatre) it is not going to come easily; I am going to have to make some tough decisions.

But, that all being said, I am ok with going back, and I need to stress that for me to be able to say this is HUGE. The last time I returned home (summer 2011) I was so upset about having to go back that I could barely handle it. I glared at the Americans around me waiting to board our plane. As I finished writing the last page of my travel journal, I wrote, “I am about to board the plane. Minnesota lies on the other side. Most anti-climactic ending ever.” I kid you not, that is actually what I had written. (I probably was not in the most stable frame of mind.)

This time, though, I feel different. Being in India has made me want to go back to the US, which for me is pretty incredible. If any country can make me feel this way I need to grab it and run because it has been a long time since I have felt like this. Actually, it may be the first time in my entire life that I am yearning to return to the “familiar”. I am eager to once again be a part of a society that both understands me and I can understand. At times while I’ve been here, I have imagined myself running off the plane upon return to the US, arms wide open, yelling, “MY PEOPLE!”

I am not saying all this to make you think that I have not appreciated my time in India. Because I have appreciated it. So, so much. I feel so lucky every time I not only get to live in, but also experience a culture that is not my own. Here at Asia Plateau I have met amazing people with some of the most incredible life stories I have ever heard. I have learned much from them, and I have also learned that though I myself still have a lot to learn, I also have a lot to offer.

What really influenced my decision was thinking back to the first day that each one of us interns arrived here at AP. We each said that we wanted to use this time to find out what is the next step in our life. While thinking over my options this past week, I realized that I would not be able to take a next step once my time here was done if I did not have at least some financial stability. So, after a week of mulling my options over and over and practically beating them to death (and one person saying, “You’ve already made your decision. You need to swallow your pride and do it.”) I have decided to leave early. And again yes, I am ok with this.

Now that I have said all of this (if you are still reading, THANK YOU for pushing yourself through all that boring, mushy-ness), I have so much left that I have yet to tell you! Like I always do while traveling, I have been jotting down things that I need to blog about. Most of these little quips are ridiculous and unimportant and so I hold onto them for a long time before I finally work them into a post. For example, titles:

Here in India, people never use the name of someone who is much older than them. If someone is old enough to be your parent, it would be very rude of you to call them by name. These titles change depending on whether one is speaking Hindi, English or one of the regional dialects, but here at the centre we refer to those much older than us as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’. This was incredibly confusing for me when I first arrived. Even when you are referring to a person without them being physically present, you still throw in a ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’ after their name. For example: Leena aunty, Suresh uncle, Manisha aunty, Ravi uncle, etc. The other interns did not have a problem catching on to this because they all have similar rules in their cultures, but it still feels very awkward for me. Leena finally told me it was ok to only call her by her name because ‘aunty’ sounded so forced and uncomfortable coming from me. Although these titles make me feel like I am 12, they were quite useful during my first few weeks when I could not remember or pronounce any Indian names.

Another thing I have neglected to share with you: the Indian nod! Instead of nodding their head up and down to signify ‘yes’, Indians bob it from side to side. Almost like they are trying to shake water out of their ears. It looks ridiculous (to me) and I promised myself that I would not pick up this habit.

(Side note- I have a tendency to accidentally pick up regional signs and phrases whenever I travel somewhere new. After studying in Spain, I made a “psh” sound whenever I was upset or unimpressed, something my mom and her sisters still do because they think it is hilarious. After both times I spent in Italy, I would mutter “mamma mia” whenever I was annoyed. Even after leaving Sweden last summer, I felt compelled to smile and laugh ALL THE TIME… the original Minnesota nice.)

I was 100% against the Indian nod until I realized a most wonderful thing about it. To me, the nod does not mean anything, it just looks hilarious, but to everyone else it means ‘yes’. Once I realized this, I turned the Indian nod into my own personal secret passive-aggressive answer. Someone asks me to do something that I do not want to do but I have to do? Indian nod. Someone says something that I find stupid? Indian nod. Someone asks me if I like eating dal everyday? Indian nod.

Now here is where the problem comes in: I got so used to using the Indian nod that I started using it in place of the normal nod. Now whenever anyone asks me anything (or even when they don’t ask me something!) I bob my head from side to side and look like a lunatic. I can already imagine my mom and her sisters making me fun of me for this one…

-Corrin

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And um, yeah

I know, I know. It’s been awhile. I was dreading having to wrack my brain for what has happened since my last post until I came across the most magical land of documented memories today! This pristine memory-bank is my mom’s and my Whatsapp history. (Whatsapp is an app for your phone which allows you to text internationally FO’ FREE because it works with the wifi.) I suppose “discovered” is not exactly the best word (I of course already knew that Whatsapp keeps all of your old conversations), but today I was reading back through my chat history and realized that everything that has happened to me that I have forgotten to write about, I have ALREADY told to my mom! And it’s usually infinitely better than what I write here!

For example, while trying to explain Swedish Midsommer’s to my mother last June, Jackie and I came up with:

“ Drunk lunch. Singing. Dancing in the rain. Meatballs. Running into the ocean. Beach. Joint shower. Nap and rally.  Bonfire. Naked people.”

See? That description is SO much better than what I wrote up for my Midsommer’s post! How had I not thought of this sooner?

So for this post I thought I would try something new and let you in on a few of the chaotic, disorganized and very random conversations that my mom and I have had in the past few weeks. Also, I’m feeling lazy and this is the best way out of having to actually write an entire post.

(NOTE: You will probably never see one of these with the conversations I have with my dad because 1) he doesn’t really get the whole texting thing and 2) our conversations usually come out of me panicking over failed visas and overly expensive plane tickets and then him trying to calm me down while swooping in like Superman and saving the day. Very valid conversations, but too stressful for me to ever want to recall.)

_______________________________________

Mom: Are you sure the fruit is washed before it gets cut?

Corrin: Definitely washed. We have a good kitchen. And they’re all young and smile at me and call me “madam” because I’m blonde.

Mom:  Madam? How does that make you feel?

Corrin: I am working my way up to requesting the kitchen for more papaya and always having plain white rice at every meal. Rocking the Goldilocks curls. Did I tell you that some random guy asked to take a picture with me when we hiked up to the plateau a few weeks ago? As long as there are no begging children around, it’s nice being blonde.

Mom: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

Corrin: Exactly. Even when it’s too humid to effectively use a hairdryer.

Mom: In India you could make a living inserting yourself in photo ops for a fee.

Corrin: It’s hilarious seeing the old people with orangish henna-dyed hair. There’s at least one every batch of participants who looks like a circus clown.

_______________________________________

Corrin: There was fennel in the cake I just ate. Puke.

Mom: What the…???

Corrin: Yeah. It was awful.

_______________________________________

Corrin: I am terrified of getting my new shoes dirty #backpackersproblems

Mom:  What do I do with the stuff after the ‘#’?

Corrin: It’s a twitter thing…

_______________________________________

Corrin: I’m making a chocolate buttermilk cake on Sunday for Abba’s birthday.

Mom: Do you have all of the ingredients?

Corrin: Well there’s a shit-ton of buttermilk, so probably.

Mom: Excuse me? Why?

Corrin: Because they drink a lot of it and it’s gross.

Mom: Why do they drink buttermilk??? Are you sure it is dairy milk?

Corrin: Yeah and they put green veggie things and spices in it and it’s awful.

Mom: WHAT. What is that supposed to be?

Corrin: The internet says chaas.

Mom:  Ew

Corrin: Totally

_______________________________________

Corrin: The power was just out for three hours. Apparently this is ‘normal’ for a Thursday.

Mom: That’s weird… but funny and quaint.

_______________________________________

Corrin: Just saw a wild peacock! I was the only one excited about it. Everyone else thought I was crazy yelling at them across the grounds and pointing to it. It wasn’t even male. It was a brown, ugly female and I was still excited!

Mom:  Maybe it’s like when we see wild turkeys here.

Corrin: Yeah, except we don’t eat them… Though at this point I may be willing to give it a try.

Mom: omg

Corrin: I know, right??

Mom: and um, yeah…

_______________________________________

Corrin: I just plucked three months’ worth of growth from my eyebrows. Apparently traveler-me believes it’s cool to be a caveman.

_______________________________________

Mom: Claire just wrote a paper on a Taylor Swift song. AND she has recently decided that she likes to primarily listen to country music.

Corrin: Disown her. She’s not worth it.

Mom: So funny…

Corrin: You know I’m right.

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Yeh kya hai?

All hail the bucket bath: India’s gift to every girl who reached their teenage years when the bend-and-snap technique was introduced to the world. (All of you who do not understand that reference are either male or too old, so just don’t even try.) Here is how a bucket bath works:

Step 1: Fill one large bucket halfway full with hot water

Step 2: Continue filling bucket to the top with cold water (IMPORTANT, do not skip this step if you do not want first degree burns)

Step 3: Using smaller cup or ladle, fill and then toss water over your body

Step 4: Soap up, shampoo, etc.

Step 5: Refill bucket since the water from the first filling will more than likely be used up by this point

Step 6: Look at legs, consider shaving, look at bucket, think about how difficult that process would be, tell yourself that hairy legs are not that bad

Step 7: Use conditioner

Step 8: Dump remaining contents of bucket over your head as slowly as possible, remembering to keep your mouth shut tight to avoid any possible water-borne viruses

Sometimes the hot water does not work. Thankfully, Jihye usually bathes first so I know to skip bathing that day when she shrieks every time I hear a slosh of water hit the floor.

I am very serious about keeping your mouth shut while in the shower. And for those of you chuckling right now, I would like you to just TRY to do it the next time you take a shower. You need to be very conscious of keeping your mouth closed. I accidently opened my mouth for one second during my first shower in India. I realized it right away and immediately freaked out, spitting everywhere and then running around panting with my tongue hanging out. It would have been very comedic if I had not been convinced that a water virus was going to take hold of my stomach and give me violent diarrhea right in that instant. I was fine, but I was not completely overreacting (ok, I did overreact a little) because one of Sam’s friends went to India and told her, “I ate street food and then 15 minutes later I literally shit my pants.” She had to be hospitalized for three days. I am taking no chances.

This no-tap-water rule also applies to brushing your teeth. I had a very archaic idea of India before I came, thinking I would have to boil my own drinking water every morning. IofC captures rainwater which is then filtered and run to drinking water taps throughout the buildings. The Indians and even my Korean roommate use the tap water to brush their teeth, but I am terrified that my pampered American immune system is much too weak to handle it. I fill up my water bottle from the drinking water tap and instead use a small amount of that to brush my teeth.

I have not been spending much time outside, even though the centre is located on a beautiful 73 acre piece of land. This is not even due to the amount of rain we have received. I really do not mind being wet (or sweaty or dirty, they all come with traveling). This is instead due to one animal that can be found here: snakes. I usually consider myself a pretty brave person, I think you have to be in order to travel alone, but snakes are one thing that will send me running whenever anyone even mentions them. I was unfortunate enough to sit next to a few members of our Grampari team (rural development, watershed management, organic farming, etc) a few nights ago during dinner while they were discussing the snakes they have run into on the grounds. Cobras, pythons, you name it; they’re all here. Joshi even said that he once almost stepped on a cobra INSIDE THE OFFICE. It was sleeping under his chair and he did not even notice it until he sat down. Because everyone at the table was exchanging these stories and laughing, it took them a while to notice my terrified face and realize that the gasps escaping from my mouth were not my attempt at joking along with them.

-Corrin

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What’s up, Goldilocks?

I just finished my last peanut butter cup that I brought with me. I may start crying.

If I thought living in Sweden during the rainiest June on record was hard, it cannot even compare to Panchgani, India during monsoon season. Apparently the rains started two weeks late this summer so that means they have continued into September. The sun finally came out yesterday, the first time since we arrived 13 days ago, and the entire Asia Plateau staff ran outside during teatime, shedding our sweaters and shawls. One would think we were living in Minnesota during winter by the way we bundle up.

Not only has it been cold, it has also been extremely humid. As I climbed into bed the first night I thought my sheets had been put on my bed still wet, until I realized it only felt so because of the humidity. My new hairstyle is the Shirley Temple: natural ringlets that bounce against my neck as I walk thanks to the ever-present mist surrounding the center.

For those of you who are wondering what I am doing here, I am participating in IofC internship #2. I was an intern at Caux in 2011 and returned this past July to work as a coordinator. During my time as an intern at Caux, I talked a few others who had done the internship here in India. It has always been a dream of mine to go to India. The culture is fascinating, the colors are beautiful, the sights are captivating, and the landscape is incredible. Even with this desire, I felt that I needed a reason to make the trip; that I did not only want to go as a tourist. This internship seemed like the answer, especially because it was so much longer than the one in Switzerland.

So here I am, on a mountain in western India for four months. If you asked me exactly what my duties are here I would not be able to tell you. We work a lot with the conferences going on but we also have a lot of free time. There are also quite a few less of us. There are currently five interns, including myself. Of the other four, two are Indian girls, one is a girl from South Korea, and the last is a boy from Afghanistan. I knew this interns program was much smaller than the one at Caux before I came here, but that does not make me miss having a larger group any less. I loved the feeling of community within my Caux interns group. Here we are merged into the already existing AP community, which is fine, but definitely different.

We hosted a group of MBA students over the past four days. Last week we had a group of government officer trainers. Groups like these will continue to spend time here over the next few months with a few family and youth conferences thrown into the mix.

Last weekend, Jihye (Korean) and I went with Nupur to spend a night with Nupur’s family in Pune. Nupur described Pune to me as a small city, which I would never have seen it as with its population of over six million. We used public transportation to get there, which was an experience all in its own. The bus was dirty, crowded and had a faint smell of vomit. The driver overcharged Jihye and then did not give her and Nupur their receipts. We did not even notice the problem with this until he made his rounds an hour later, asking to see everyone’s tickets. Nupur explained to the driver that they had not received a receipt and he blew up. We held our ground, saying that they had paid, knowing that he may be trying to either oversell the bus or make them pay for a second ticket. No one sitting nearby stood up for us, but after a few minutes of arguing the driver finally printed off a new ticket and left us alone.

I have been very lucky in my travels this summer, spending most of the time in places where I blend in. I had almost forgotten what it is like to be gawked at. I have been here almost two weeks and have yet to come across another blonde. I sat next to the window during our bus ride and had my first experiences of being blatantly stared at. Once, as we pulled up to a toll station, a man standing inside started waving and smiling when he saw me. He continued as he pointed me out to his friends who all turned to stare.

I did not feel uneasy in Pune even though I was constantly being watched, and I credit this to being with Nupur. She showed us around the city, explaining everything as we went. I do not know how we would have survived without her. I doubt I could have ever figured out how to use a rickshaw by myself. There were two times when my different appearances made me feel uncomfortable, both of these instances occurring with children. We were stopped at a red light while driving through Pune Saturday afternoon when a small girl came up to our car, begging for change. She had only spent a few moments at each of the cars ahead of us, but as she came to us and saw me in the back seat she walked to my window, started knocking and would not leave, even as Nupur’s mother and driver tried to shoo her away. The next day as we were waiting at the bus station for our bus back to Panchgani, I found myself surrounded by kids hanging onto my legs or tapping my arms, their hands outstretched. Nupur finally bent down by them and asked them why they weren’t in school and where their parents were. They told her their parents were sitting at home and then giggled as Nupur asked what made that fair. Both instances I felt as if I had a pit in my stomach as I told them I had nothing and then looked away. I do not know if that makes me a hypocrite or simply a traveler who is new to this culture.

We took a group photo with the student group that was here for the last conference. I glanced at one as we were passing them out today. There I was, right in the center, my hair shining like a golden halo under a spotlight. The photo prompted Siddharth to start calling me Goldilocks, and some of the others have started following suit.

-Corrin

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3 continents, 2 weeks, 1 case of jet lag

Sarah told me recently that if it were not for a few newly tagged photos on facebook she would be certain that I had been abducted. I apologize for the lack of activity, though you may have to get used to it because the internet here is not very reliable.

I think I should first clarify where I am, just to get that out of the way. I am at the IofC conference center near Panchgani, India. Before this I was working as one of the logistics coordinators for the IofC interns program in Caux, Switzerland (where I was an intern last summer).

My last week in Italy was a little frantic, as life on a farm usually is, but pleasant nonetheless. I spent my last full day in Rome visiting the Vatican. I had planned on doing this a year ago and, as some of you may remember, even made it through security before being stopped and refused entrance to the Basilica for wearing a sleeveless shirt. I was determined to not let the same happen to me this year. While waiting in line, I pulled on a pair of leggings under my dress, probably flashing the old Asian couple behind me in the process, and wrapped my upper half up in a large scarf. I barely skirted past the power-hungry security guard yelling, “Too short!” at every woman trying to enter by refusing to even acknowledge him and hiding among a group of pants-wearing Germans.

St. Peter’s Basilica is absolutely breathtaking. Nothing I write could describe how amazing it is. Stepping through the entrance I found myself in a world of marble. There were dozens of little chapels and hundreds of statues and a few really creepy embalmed bodies of past popes. Yes, I am serious and yes, they were really weird.

After visiting the Basilica, I went to the Vatican Museum with the sole purpose of seeing the Sistine Chapel. To achieve this goal, I had to run through the rest of the museum to get to the chapel at the very end of the route, pushing past a ridiculously large sea of tour groups and squeezing through hallways filled with an unnecessary amount of artwork.

Everyone I have talked to who has also visited the Sistine Chapel has told me how disappointed they were by it, which confuses me because I thought it was incredible. Every inch was covered in paintings, including curtains with intricate gold stitching painted around the base. I found a spot on a bench next an American family with two complaining teenage girls and spent the next half hour staring up at the ceiling, not moving until I started to feel my neck cramp up.

I left the farm the next day to travel to Caux where I would spend the next month. Rob, Millie and Jacqui had the poor luck of having to collect a very tired and crabby me from the train station at 1AM. They picked me up in a 15-passenger van, which was incapable of reversing. You could say this more or less set the tone for the next month. My time at Caux this summer can described at best as chaotic, though it did have some very memorable moments with incredible people.

One of the worst moments during my time in Switzerland was my trip to the Indian visa office in Bern. You are all aware of how much I suck at visas, and my bad visa luck struck once again. It took at most a total of 4 minutes for me to walk into the visa office, hand over my application and required documents, have the receptionist look at it and then call for the manager to come and tell me that I, as an American citizen, could not submit an application there.

(I would like to point out that the Indian visa is known to be one of the hardest to receive in the world because of how confusing the application process is. The manager told me I could not submit an application because I was not a Swiss resident, even though the Indian tourism website clearly states that a hopeful visitor MUST submit an application from the country they would be departing from, which for me would have been Switzerland.)

I felt my heart drop as he handed back my visa application, apologized and pointed me towards the door. Two weeks later I was on a plane back to the US. I flew into Chicago so that I could once again apply for an Indian visa (third time’s the charm) and spent next three days staying with Tiffany and doing thoroughly American things such as eating Chipotle and drinking in excess. I then went back to Minnesota to replace most of the clothes I had been wearing for the past three months and replenish my peanut butter supply.

On August 30th I got back on an airplane and flew to Mumbai, India. I arrived, very disheveled, after over 24 hours of travel. It was after 11PM once I made it through customs, but the streets were still filled with people as my taxi wound its way through the chaos that is Mumbai. I spent the night at the IofC apartment in the city and was on a bus at 6:30AM the next morning, arriving in Panchgani that afternoon. The most terrifying part of said bus ride occurred when we reached the base of the mountain and the bus stopped so that the driver could pass out puke bags before we drove up the steep, winding roads. I had luckily taken enough bonine to knock out a small elephant so I arrived at the entrance to IofC in a non-nauseous but very drowsy state.

-Corrin

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I eat like a Spaniard but cook like an Italian

My legs are so covered in mosquito bite scabs that I cannot shave my legs for fear of them becoming a bloody mess. Current mosquito bite count: 42

Here is the great thing about living on an organic farm: the food is absolutely incredible. I walk into the field, pick a few tomatoes and peppers, cut them up, and bam, there’s lunch. We eat pasta with homemade tomato sauce, we bake bread and make cheese at least once a week, and there is always a bottle of Rubino wine nearby. But, there has been one little change since last year. The family has stopped eating meat on a regular basis. Except for a trout that was served to me whole (head, eyes, scales, tail and all), I have not eaten meat in two weeks. If you had told before I arrived that this was going to happen, I would have thought that was fine. Meat does not play a major part in my gastronomical life, anyways. I love fruits and vegetables. I can go through a pound of strawberries or grapes in one sitting. But, after a few days and without any meat products on our table, I started to crave it like crazy. Seriously, I would KILL for a hamburger right now. I have been daydreaming about the day trip I will take into Rome, not because of the sites I will be visiting, but because of the meat I will be ordering at some restaurant.

To make all this worse, I have decided that pigs are one of my least favorite animals on the planet. Simona and Michele decided since last summer that the animals should be able to roam around the farm. This is great and all, but the pigs get into EVERYTHING. They are the stupidest, stubbornness animals I have ever come across. Whenever I have to chase one out of the field, I find myself daydreaming about how wonderful it would be to turn it into bacon.

Another change since the last time I was here is the addition of Sirio to the family. Sirio was born in April and must be one of the happiest babies I have ever met. Compared to his brother, Serafino, who is a bigger drama queen than even my 13-year-old sister, Sirio is a perfect angel, always. And, even though he is only three and a half months old, he is tanner than I have become in all of my 21 years. When I was his age my mom had to slather me in an entire bottle of sunscreen every time I even walked near a window. I was constantly wearing hats with brims wide enough to cast a shadow over Rhode Island, which probably contributed to me being practically bald until I was two. Sirio, on the other hand, sits contently in his basinet in the sun, smiling at everyone who passes by, and only turning darker (not redder) with every passing day.

My time spent at the farm this summer has not felt quite as relaxing as last year’s. I credit this to being so anxious to get to Caux. Being here in July instead of June has proved to be very difficult thanks to the weather. I did not think about how much of difference there would be in temperature. By midafternoon, it is usually around 95 degrees and humid. I go to bed sweating every night and wake up sticking to the sheets every morning. Showers are rare here, which is fine, I do not have a problem with feeling dirty, but being hot constantly is exhausting. I often wonder why the Italians do not have a siesta like the Spanish. They definitely deserve one.

We have quite a few baby animals running around the farm at the moment. Simona acquired an old incubator so we have baby chickens running (and pooping) all over the place. There are two piglets (which I dislike just as much as the big pigs), 3 black kittens, and a horde of baby bunnies. When I left last summer, there were between 15 and 20 bunnies. There are now over 40 with many more on the way because no one has the heart to eat them and Michele is much too attached to all his animals to even consider selling them. The best addition to the farm is two puppies that we acquired a week ago. I immediately adopted them as my own and they now follow me around everywhere. I have fallen head-over-heals in love with them and will probably throw a bigger tantrum than Serafino being given a bath when I have to say goodbye to them on Wednesday.

Ciao!

-Corrin

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From Stockholm to Rome with love

You guys, I think I have a little tan line where I have been wearing a hair binder on my wrist for the past month. This is huge!

Traveling alone is a necessary evil. You learn very quickly when you are in a city where no one else knows even your name. It can also be a little depressing to travel alone. There you are standing inside the Coliseum and all you want to do is turn to the person next to you and exclaim, “Isn’t this incredible?!” except the person next to you is a tiny Asian woman holding an umbrella above her head and wearing enough layers to clothe your entire family.

And then, surprisingly, some cities lend themselves to being excellent places for a solo traveler. Stockholm just happened to be one of these cities. The reason for this is that there really is not much to do in Stockholm. Let me rephrase that. There are many things to do in Stockholm (there are 84 museums, which is just a little excessive) but there is nothing that I had a burning desire to see. So I just walked. Everywhere.

I finally ditched the creepy train guy at the metro station and found my hostel. I somehow unknowingly scored a new hostel in the center of Gamla Stan, the oldest part of the city, which also holds the palace. It was only early evening when I finished checking in, and since it currently stays light in Sweden until 11PM, I decided to take a walk.

Stockholm is beautiful. I shouldn’t have been surprised, so is the rest of Scandinavia, but I think it must be the cleanest capital in all of Europe. Remember how I said that seeing the architecture in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo made me want to visit Stockholm? Well, it definitely did not fail to impress in person. I stayed to what seemed to be main streets because I decided I would not need a map if I did this. Which is stupid. We all know how easily I get lost. I did end up getting lost, but that’s not the point.

I was wandering through the shopping district when I came across a square filled with people, a jumbo screen and filming equipment. I realized when I saw everyone wearing either Italy or Spain jerseys that they were showing the Eurocup final game. I made my way through the crowd and found a place with a decent view of the screen, because as boring as I find watching soccer at home, it is fun to watch in a country where everyone else watches it. And, with Spain in the final and obviously bound to win, I had to show my Spanish national pride. As it grew closer to the game and the pregame commentary flashed onto the screen, I found myself in the crowd behind the announcer. To any of my Swedish friends who were watching the Eurocup national broadcast that night, I was in the crowd thinking of all of you at that moment.

During my few days spent in Stockholm, I spent most of that time walking around, taking in the beautiful city and enjoying a little time spent by myself. I went on a free walking tour, visited the gardens and a found a few of the places from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books (Yes, I’m a nerd. Shut up). I walked so much that I had to hobble around my hostel every night because my feet hurt so badly, but it was well worth it.

Tuesday night was night number two spent in an airport so far on this trip. I had an early flight from Stockholm to Rome and because I was flying Ryanair (shudder) it meant that I was flying out of one of the smaller airports an hour outside of the city. Upon arriving at the airport, I took my book and a blanket and spent most of the night trying to stay awake. I befriended a Turkish man who sat a table away from me and started chatting (as always happens with me). I told him about where I had been and where I was going and ended up offering him one of my sandwiches when he tried to buy food after the deli had closed. He said to me, “No wonder you have friends all over the world. You are very kind.” I guess growing up with Minnesota nice is not the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Arriving in Italy was such a shocking contrast to Sweden. Everything here seems rundown and dirty compared to Stockholm. It is my second time in Italy, so none of this came as a shock, and I instead felt amused as I made my way to the farm, taking in the landscape which is in a constant state of disarray. My trip to the farm was fairly uneventful compared to last year’s, and I arrived at the farm by early afternoon. Simona made me a plate of spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce, and it felt as if I had returned home.

-Corrin

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