Generosity

Today I am on my way back to Minnesota and then on to Augustana in Sioux Falls. I couldn’t be more excited to see everyone and share my experiences from the summer.

I spent the past week in Paris and London and it has been a whirlwind of travel and people. I feel so fortunate to have become friends with individuals around the world at the International Summer School and to have been able to visit them in their home countries. One thing I have learned on my trek through (a portion of) Europe is how hospitable and open people are. Kayla and I met Naby in Paris to eat dinner and drink wine along the canal while sitting and talking about everything from societal and political issues to our hopes for the future. Parisians are nothing like the stereotype we hear. They are so kind and willing to help out a stranger, you just have to be willing to ask for help. In London we met Sahel for Shawarma and spent our time sightseeing. We even went bouldering in a renovated castle. Yes, a castle. In Oslo we were unexpectedly welcomed into the home of an acquaintance who kindly allowed me to store my luggage at her apartment. Instead of camping in the rain we got to sleep in real beds.

Karma has been on my side and it is why I feel the need to share my experiences and encourage others to go and wander the world. For someone who plans out everything, this trip has been anything but planned. That is why it was so amazing. In education we talk a lot about the Circle of Courage. As teachers we can help our students excel inside and outside the classroom by providing a sense of Belonging, helping students achieve Mastery, helping students gain Independence, and encouraging students to be Generous. My summer has allowed me to find a place with people where I feel that I Belong, Master the ups and downs of travel (and survive Ryan Air flights), become extremely Independent, and now I hope to become half as Generous as the people who have welcomed me into their lives since June.

Generosity comes in all forms, whether it be monetary or the sharing of thoughts and ideas. Simple things like giving the rest of my change to a woman in Paris or sharing leftover groceries with a man in Oslo are the moments we should look for. Yes, I’m a poor college student, and I’ve often said college is one of the most egocentric things we do, but those small moments of generosity are what make someone’s day. People generously shared their thoughts and ideas with me this summer not only at the University of Oslo, but in Italy, France, and London. Travel can be difficult and frustrating at times, but small acts of kindness like the man asking if we were lost and needed help in Paris or talking to travelers who shared their life stories over dinner are what made my trip so special. I hope to bring this type of generosity back to Augustana and continue sharing it after graduation.

This serves as my last blog post for the summer, but I hope to continue blogging as I travel to Haridwar, India to volunteer at the Sri Ram Ashram Orphanage in January. Thank you for all of your support!

Peace,
Aimée

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The Louvre

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Crowds of people at the Eiffel Tower

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Dinner with Naby next to the canal in Paris

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The Castle climbing gym in London

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Lunch with Sahel

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Churchill!

Italian For Beginners

My time in Italy has been absolutely amazing. I’ve met so many amazing people! Today we are headed to Paris to experience some great art and meet some Parisian friends.

Overcoming language barriers has been an interesting experience while in Italy. I am continually impressed by people who are working to improve their English speaking skills. We met a man from Russia in a hostel and he told us that he had not taken an English class in ten years. We managed to have an hour long conversation with him about his travels in Italy and life in Russia. We’ve had to make a lot of flailing hand gestures to try to communicate with people, but we’ve also learned the importance of paying attention and really listening during a conversation. It is easy to space out and not truly listen to someone, but here, it’s imperative to pay attention the entire time.

Our time in Venice and Milan was great, but Bergamo, which is just outside of Milan is the real Italy. We are right next to the Alps with vineyards everywhere and some amazing sights and people. Coming to Bergamo was an impulse decision and it couldn’t have worked out better. Our hosts at the Bed and Breakfast are so kind and willing to show us around. We even stumbled upon a huge town celebration. It is much more fun to take the path less traveled.

Today I was struck by the way people perceive Americans. A few Italian folks asked us why we love war so much because we are from America. This generalization is difficult to hear, but something we should all think about. Why are we constantly at war? I was born into a country that has been at war since I was 6 years old, yet we know very little about what we are fighting for. My studies this summer have shown me the importance of searching for good sources of information, but also helping others to see that generalizations do not accurately reflect an entire culture or nation. Although I tried to explain that not all Americans support the war, it was very difficult to do through the language barrier. I have become much more aware of the things I say while abroad because I am acting as an unofficial ambassador for my country. A generalization could be made from one word I say in a casual conversation to someone on the street in Bergamo, Italy. Food for thought…literally seeing as this occurred while we were having dinner.

All in all, Italy was great and I hope to come back in the future, especially to Bergamo. I can see why so many great artists became inspired while in Italy, it’s gorgeous. I can’t wait to get into the studio and paint!

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Venice

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The Duomo in Milan

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I found this while climbing the stairs to the top of the Duomo Cathedral :)

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Parade in Bergamo!

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Street performer in the Upper Town (Bergamo) and reactions from the crowd :)

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View from the castle in Bergamo (when Venice ruled the area)

When In Rome…

Although I miss Norway, I’m happy to be off wandering in different parts of Europe (I’m also happy about the cheaper food…and wine). Trolltunga in Odda, Norway was a gorgeous bike/hike/climb and reunion with some great folks from Augustana. I’ve also experienced some of the nicest hospitality in Europe. Either it’s good luck from the 1 kroner coin I picked up at the metro stop, or genuinely nice people. I’d like to think both.

Kayla and I spent the last three days in Rome experiencing its rich history. Just picture art major Aimée running around Rome spewing out facts from art history class (THANK YOU DR. TWA)! Having a basic knowledge of the sites I visited made the experience that much more special. The Colosseum was incredible, and the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica were gorgeous. I think the best part of my experience so far has been going off the beaten path and away from the crazy tourist sites to relax and take in the atmosphere. I successfully completed my first AirBnB experience with a wonderful host just outside of the Roma city center and I met an incredible couple from Holland who shared their travel experiences in Africa and Europe…Dialogue :) I’ve also made use of Steinar’s advice to continually ask questions, even they seem like dumb questions.

Our first experiences in Italy have also given me time to appreciate and reflect on my life back home. I’ve learned the importance of enjoying the moment and not worrying…hakuna matata. I should probably listen to my tattoo more often. It is such a privilege as a poor college student to have the opportunity and time to travel around Europe. I’m so thankful for the support my friends, family, and job. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my parents who took all over the United States when I was younger. Seeing how time consuming it is to navigate with two people, I can only imagine the difficulty my parents faced trying to herd me and my sister around. I’ve never been away from home for so long so this has been an good exercise in trusting that everything will work out when I get back. Finally, I’ve learned to be a bit more outgoing (not a ton, but better than my usual introvert self). Striking up conversation with random people while waiting in line for the bathroom or waiting for a tour at the Vatican to begin is a priceless experience.

I’m excited to begin the next leg of our journey in Milan and Venice, Ciao!

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Getting ready for Trolltunga!

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Norway has the best ice cream.

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The Colosseum!!!!!!!

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Pantheon. :)

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Oh my gosh!!

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St. Peter’s Basilica!

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Best Gelato Ever.9

The End and The Beginning

Apologies for the delayed post, our last week at ISS was incredibly busy! As much as I love staying in contact with everyone back home, I’ve learned just how important it is to be really be with the people you are surrounded by.

6,000 words and two 15 minute presentations later, I completed both my film class and Peace Scholars seminar. It will take some time to really sit down and reflect on my education here in Oslo, I’m still moving, as Steinar would say.

It is extremely difficult to reach the end of an incredible experience. I’ve made so many close friends here in Oslo, but I know we will meet again. This is only the beginning! For me, August is the beginning in many ways. I’m beginning a trip through Europe with my best friend and meeting some friends along the way. I’m beginning my senior year at Augustana. And I’m beginning my future, wherever it takes me.

This summer I’ve learned to take chances and to say, “what luck,” as Sandra Looney always says. I never fully grasped the meaning of her saying until this summer as I learned to just let things be and enjoy the happy accidents along the way. I spent the last two days in Oslo with no plans and nowhere to stay except the great outdoors. I ended up camping with some amazing friends (Kayla, Chase, Naby, an Erica) and spent time exploring Oslo and relaxing. It was one of the most enjoyable camping experiences I’ve had, especially waking up to a storm. :)

I’m now in Bergen with Kayla and Thad and tomorrow we are heading to Odda to embark on one of the best hikes, Trolltunga. This trip has been full of many happy accidents (except for being stung by a bee, that wasn’t a happy moment). I am continually impressed by the kindness of complete strangers, and we haven’t even left Norway! I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to travel Europe. As Americans we sometimes forget just how lucky we are to have the opportunity to travel in a world where everyone can speak our language and teach us about their culture. My challenge for my adventure in Europe is to dig deeper than the tourist sites, to ask questions, and to immerse myself in the culture.

Until Rome………

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Den 22 Juli

“The most important thing we can do to stand up against radicalization and violent extremism is to maintain and build on the foremost qualities of our society. The trust we have in each other in Norway is our greatest strength.” – Erna Solberg, Norwegian Prime Minister

Today marks the third anniversary of the terror attacks in Oslo that took the lives of 77 innocent people. We had our last meeting with Steinar and Einar, the head of ISS, and ruminated on the effects of the terror attacks and escalating violence around the world, particularly in Israel and Palestine. Einar said that the man who committed these acts of terror in Oslo wanted to put an end to dialogue. These words have stayed with me throughout the day. At times it is difficult to be optimistic when facing seemingly unsolvable problems, but we also realize the grave consequences of giving up.

We are our own worst enemies when we divide on extreme ends of the political spectrum. When thinking about peace studies, I believe we often focus on what is going wrong in the rest of the world without taking equal time to assess the situation at home. Members of our own communities resort to violence to have their voices heard. How do we discuss the pressing issues at home without individuals feeling the need to resort to acts of violence?

As I began to reflect on my summer here, I realize how thankful I am for the relationships I have formed. Our relationships have formed bridges across nations and countries. Dialogue cannot stand alone as a bridge to peace, but without it we cannot find a common ground to build the foundation of trust.

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The Amazing Race Comes to Oslo

What do Peace Scholars do in their free time? Get creative and make city wide scavenger hunts, that’s what. We considered Survivor on one of the islands, but decided that could escalate quickly.

It was a week long process, but on Saturday we finally had our Amazing Race. Andrew, the game creator and host, made all of the clues from our suggestions throughout the week. We even had a budget…that’s how serious this was. Some of our group was out on excursions, so our four teams of two had to do. Aseel and I decided to start the game running more for effect than with the intention of running the whole game. Brad and Eleni (Team Augsburg) took us seriously and ran all over the city. Needless to say they won.

A few highlights from our Amazing Race:

- On the metro I started asking two Norwegian women where we should go because we were “new” to the city. One woman told us to go to the toilet in the Opera House. Of course we did. In case you were wondering, the bathrooms look like large icebergs.
– Aseel and I sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on top of the Opera House. Everyone stared at us.
– I planked on the statue of FDR.
– We filmed our Steve Irwin inspired video at Ensjø station. Aseel pretended to be a frog (she didn’t want to be a crocodile) and we played leap frog while people got on and off the metro. The Norwegians looked very concerned…

Team Augsburg won hands down. Annie and Amy came in second, Katie and Maddie third, and Aseel and I last. We took things at a more leisurely pace. All in all it was a successful afternoon!

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Memory and Our Future Through Peace Education

My second post for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Blog…

As I have been conducting my research on peace education in Israel and Palestine, I am continually struck by the question of memory or history as a force in opposition to successful peace. Theories may lay out a set framework for how peace education can succeed, but what truly matters are the facts on the ground. This only confirms how difficult peace and reconciliation are, especially in a situation where the conflict evolves day to day.

When we go to school we bring along our biases and ideologies that our parents and communities reinforce. Many times our experiences in class only reiterate these biases and ideologies, further distancing us from “the Other.” In conflict situations, especially intractable conflicts, these views may be in direct opposition to the thought of reconciliation and the peace process. I’ve understood competing histories, such as those in Israel and Palestine, as deeply-rooted, conflicting memories. In his Nobel Lecture on December 11, 1986, Elie Wiesel stresses the importance of memory in building peace. Wiesel states, “Without memory, our existence would be barren and opaque, like a prison cell into which no light penetrates; like a tomb which rejects the living. Memory saved the Besht, and if anything can, it is memory that will save humanity. For me, hope without memory is like memory without hope.” Wiesel’s words from almost thirty years ago impact us today, just as memory from over 2000 years ago seems like yesterday to many in Israel and Palestine. In a situation of such animosity, is it possible to come together to form a collective memory without disrespect to each other’s pasts? Our past experiences are crucial in the formation of our future, but in the formation of a collective future how do we reconcile these differences?

The vulnerability both Israelis and Palestinians feel in reaction to past atrocities unto each other and other nations shows us the need for peace education to strengthen internal and external relations, but also why peace has been so difficult. My research and experience thus far in Norway has pointed toward the need for dialogue and grassroots efforts to begin this conversation with “the Other.” Past attempts at peace have proven that trust and understanding are difficult to filter down into all aspects of society if only top tier officials are involved in dialogue with “the Other.” Education, as a foundational element to every society, gives us space to think critically and objectively when given the right tools and guidance. As educators we have a duty to aid younger generations in facilitating reconciliation to build a culture of peace. Instead of waiting for the conditions theory states will be most successful, we need to dive in and act now. Memory demands that we act, but also that we have hope to create our future together.

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“Nobel Field” at the Nobel Peace Center

Wednesdays Are Typically the Hottest Day in Norway

Well this “fact,” courtesy of Andrew, has proven to be true while in Norway, and this past Wednesday was the beginning of our long weekend at ISS. Thursdays are also the least likely day for Norwegians to go out. Sadly that was true and the highlight of the night was eating fries at McDonalds.

Although some of us didn’t travel anywhere on our break, we had an amazing time exploring Oslo and camping. It’s incredible how you can be in the city in one minute and in the wilderness the next. You can camp almost anywhere so we decided to take a Wednesday night excursion to Skogen (1 hour from Blindern). Andrew, Amy, Maddie, and I packed up a little tent, our sleeping bags, and sandwiches and set off for our adventure in nature. We found wild strawberries, a gorgeous lake at sunset, a boat, and some cute hiking trails. After setting up camp next to the lake we spent hours talking, exploring, swimming, and paddling around on the boat. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to break!

I’ve put on my tourist hat and started visiting lots of museums and exploring the East side of Oslo. So far I’ve gone to the National Gallery, the Astrup Fearnley Museet, the Opera House, the Munch Museum, the Akershus Fortress, and wandered around Grønland and Grünerløkka. Seeing “The Scream” was incredible, I’ve been a total art and history geek for the past few days. I’ve also managed to spend lots of time at the beach. We even sang Kum-Bah-Yah in the fjord while swimming so that’s checked off the to-do list. This weekend has also helped me to meet more students at ISS. It is so interesting to hear their stories and learn about their homes. These students have such insight into the various events occurring around the world and I’ve enjoyed hearing their perspectives. I’ve also gotten some great travel advice!

I recently spent some time at Bjølsen Bakeri doing research and chatting with friends. The coffee here is 25 kroner with free refills. If you know anything about the cost of (good) coffee in Norway, you would know this is the best thing a tired college student could find. Although, I did get made fun of for asking for iced coffee…us silly Americans. I’m starting to find some great material in my research on Peace Education in Societies in Intractable Conflicts. One of the biggest obstacles I see for the success of a peace education program in an ongoing conflict are the competing historical narratives that instill the “us” and “them” mentality. My focus is on Israel and Palestine where the facts on the ground change daily and actions are justified through past histories. How can we come together to form a joint history that is accepted by all? Is it possible to begin peace education without a common history? These are questions I continue to struggle with. At the same time, I am researching the power of nationalism in war films as seen in Hollywood and Scandinavian cinema. It has been wonderful to see the parallels between my film class and peace seminar. I knew absolutely nothing about film before arriving here and I now understand the conventions of film in a different light.

So far this Monday has proven to be unusually sunny, good thing since we watched Trolljegeren (Trollhunter) in class. Trolls don’t like sun so we were safe, whew. If you’re looking for some authentic Norwegian fun (besides reading my blog) watch Trollhunter.

Camping fun…

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<3 Cezanne

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The Opera House

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Astrup Fearnley Museet

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Munch :)

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FJORD

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Akershus Fortress…Overlooking the fjord keeping Oslo safe from the Swedes. There’s also some treasure. Fun fact: During the Nordic Seven-year War Lord Christiern Munk ordered the people of Oslo to burn their houses so the Swedes couldn’t find shelter. They got twelve years free of taxation in return.

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There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing

This past weekend we got to sing some hiking songs as we traveled up to Joutunheimen for our reindeer safari and 7 hour hike. The reindeer were pretty neat, and what do you know, Lars was our reindeer expert and guide! It was great to have a break from the busy city life in Oslo, social media, and homework. I enjoyed having time to enjoy the scenery and get to know my fellow hikers. I’m sorry I didn’t take many pictures, you’ll have to come see this gorgeous place for yourself.

On Saturday we took the plunge, literally, into 38 degree emerald green glacier water at 10pm while it was raining. It was great, you should try it sometime. We joked about this as a metaphor for our summer, but in a way we are jumping into the unknown. Our research will take us in many different directions, and our lives after this summer are undetermined as many of us enter our senior years and decide what direction we want to go after graduation.

The “forecast” for our hike on Sunday predicted thunder and lightning with rain all day so unfortunately we didn’t get to climb up the famous Besseggen Ridge trail. I’ll save that for my next trip to Norway, Peace Scholar reunion? We hiked on the Bukkelægeret trail along the side of lake Gjende and across some waterfalls. Although it was raining, it was probably the most fun I’ve had here so far. Our group worked well as a team, building rock bridges to cross the waterfalls and helping each other up the difficult rocky slopes. I also took the trip as a challenge to see just how waterproof my hiking boots were. In case you were wondering, Keens are waterproof until you are submerged in ankle deep water jumping across a waterfall.

Today my professor asked what we all did this weekend and for those of us that went on the hiking excursion she said we got the real Norwegian experience. In Norway there is no such thing as a forecast because the weather can go from 70 degrees and sunny to pouring rain within an hour. The key is to always be prepared. I think this is true, but this weekend taught me to just enjoy the moment, no matter how much rain. Also, don’t hike with your rain-jacket hood on, you won’t see as much.

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Send in Jan Egeland

Send in Jan Egeland the United Nations superhero man! But really, ISS sent in Jan Egeland so we could learn from his peaceful ways (more like we hopped on the metro to meet him, but ISS sending him in sounds cooler). Steinar told us this would be the summer of our lives and meeting Jan Egeland was certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

This afternoon we wandered over to the Norwegian Refugee Council offices in downtown Oslo where Jan works and he provided us with a brief overview of the work he is doing. What impressed me most about our visit with Jan were the statistics he presented. Currently there are 51.2 million refugees in the world. Thinking about that number is daunting. The NRC has approximately 4200 volunteers working around the world to aid in shelter, education, water and sanitation, food security, and counseling and legal assistance. This past year they were able to aid a little over 4.5 million refugees and their impact increases each year. It’s incredible the amount of good people can do in such dire situations.

Something I’ve been hearing a lot while here in Norway is the debate over immigration and refugees seeking asylum. This debate is just as heated, if not more, in the United States. The tragic terrorist attack in Oslo on July 22, 2011 is one example of this debate being taken to an extreme. Many individuals view immigrant and refugee populations as “free-loaders,” something I feel is a massive generalization and stereotype. How can we jump to such conclusions about fellow human beings? This mindset only deepens the wounds from discrimination and fear that many refugees bear, not to mention further instilling mistrust and the feeling of “otherness.” I asked Jan his views on the debate and although he doesn’t anticipate Europe becoming more liberal in allowing larger numbers of refugees to seek safety in their countries, he does have hope for helping refugees locally. Therefore we need to continue to provide aid both at home and abroad while we work to move conflicts away from physical violence.

Today has been one of the most inspiring days on our trip so far, and Jan Egeland’s motivation is impressive. He definitely drinks protein shakes to keep up all that positive energy and drive to make a difference. We shouldn’t get discouraged though, because peacemaking takes time and practice. I guess you could drink a protein shake if you wanted to, but no guarantees you’ll turn into a peace making machine instantly. If there is one thing I’ve learned so far on my journey in Norway it is that peace is complicated stuff. No brainer, I know, but an incredible amount of logistics, analytics, and field work go into the process. Peace involves perseverance, organization, dialogue, and an action-oriented way of life. Back home in Sioux Falls we have a large refugee community where each of us can make a difference. Take the time to ask good questions and listen as you move through each day. Need some motivation? Send in Jan Egeland. http://youtu.be/Yn-oemgzlEU

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