So, if you want to read more about what happens on the East Coast of Australia, click on the link below!
Another one of them roadtrips
Isaac took a week off work at the end of November and went with me on a roadtrip around New South Wales to visit friends and family. It sounds a bit lame to say "we had a great time", but we did. Even the 7-hour drives were enjoyable, mainly because we listened to Thrive and Jeremy Camp on repeat, talked about everything under the sun (and things that are not), took scenic routes (even if they were detours) and stopped at random places of beauty.
I really loved being out there, so thankful that Niki invited us out. My first time eating freshly caught yabbies (at least Australian) and seeing a mob (I've just learned that they're called mobs or troops - doesn't troop sound very grand?) of kangaroos leaping alongside the car.
A short stop at Robertson's pie shop gave us energy to tackle the Macquarie Pass, a windy road that in certain corners gives a friendly suggestion that you should slow down to 15 km/h. Almost killed the poor car we drove.
Despite having to constantly refill the oil in the car (we went through 4 litres during the trip altogether), it was really enjoyable and it was great to be able to explore a bit of Isaac's state. I'm getting really fond of New South Wales.
I've rewritten this update so many times it's ridiculous. This time I won't leave the laptop until it is finished.
Townsville has been great. It has been tiring, frustrating, challenging and absolutely amazing. When I finished uni, I hoped I never had to do that much school work again, but I should have known better... I've learned a lot about myself, about others and about leadership. It feels like I've grown more in the last few months than I previously did the last few years of my life. Being married helps to grow you as well. It really has been awesome.
I still can't give you any details, simply because no contracts have been signed, no applications have been made, which means that things can still change.
But, for those of you that can't wait and don't care about the details; here is the rough plan. Me and Isaac are coming home, as planned, on Christmas. We'll come straight from Tamworth's summer to Swedish winter. (Doesn't that sound marvelous? It actually does, I miss the snow.) If all goes well, we'll have a teeny-tiny apartment to move in to and spend 6 months in. Please come visit. Please don't come all at once. Then we'll shoot off again in June, back to Townsville to spend another 2 years in Australia. After that, I don't know. But we really love Sweden. Both of us.
Some adventure stories will hopefully follow soon. I just felt like this information dump probably was enough for now.
Mr. Miller and the Great Commission
We've had Darrow Miller come over to talk to us on the Leadership School, a guy that mainly lectures on worldview. I've heard people mention worldview before, but didn't care that much about it. At uni, someone told us that it's often very difficult to work with villagers in developing countries because they have such a different worldview compared to ours. Now I think I understand a bit better what they meant.
This mindset is not exclusive to developing countries, not at all. It tends to be more common there though, and it's one of the reasons why many of them are still stuck in poverty, no matter how much support goes to them. Many nations and people think of life as something that just happens to you. Some even say "well, if it happens it's because God wants it, so there's nothing I can do about it". Well, the God I follow isn't like that. You can't change everything in life - but you can change some of it.
If you look at life as something that just happens to you, then it doesn't matter what you do. If your life sucks, it will always suck - if that's your worldview. I've heard stories at uni from people who have tried to change the fisheries in poor villages to make their life better, but the only answer they get is "the government doesn't care about us anyway, our neighboring villages destroys everything anyway, so why would we do anything about our situation? It will never change." And that's the problem. If you believe nothing will ever change, why try?
I want to believe that nothing's impossible. I want to inspire people to believe that life can change for the better. I want people to look at their life proudly and say "yes, I really could change my circumstances to the better, no matter what other's said about me". I don't want poverty and corruption to be bigger than God and the creativity of a human mind.
And in case you somewhere read in to this that I hate other cultures and that they're all stupid, you probably have to read it again. Cause that's not what I'm saying. I want to challenge your way of thinking, the way that you solve problems and remind you that we all have the power to inspire others and change the world around us. Poverty is often not an impossible problem, it's a mindset.
LTS - Decisions
Yeah, that’s right. We’re back in Townsville, Australia again. And we’re in YWAM again. For those of you that didn’t read this last time I was away, I’ll just quickly explain what I’m are doing here.
YWAM (Youth With A Mission – or Youth Without Any Money as some people call it) is a Christian mission organisation that you’ll find all over the world. Last time I was here, I did their basic level training school, a DTS. I absolutely loved it and hoped I’d be able to come back one day. Which I now have, since a week back.
Together with Isaac, I’m doing a 3-month school in leadership. Week one has just gone by and it’s pretty intense already. At the moment, we’re learning something that I really badly need, which is how you make decisions. Not a decision as in “should I have a burger or a salad for dinner?” but more as in “what is the best way to see my plan work out?”. I’ve always thought of plans as in “I want to do this, this and this, and then we’ll see what it leads to” but we’re learning to think more as in “what do you want to achieve?” and when you know what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it, then you can start thinking about how you want to achieve it. I’ve always done it backwards.
Last time I was here, the campus was further out of town, more in the suburbs. Now it’s moved in to the centre of Townsville, to an old TAFE (a type of school) building. It makes quite a big difference. There’s more people around, the beach is closer and there are more rooms than I can count on campus. It’s just... bigger.
Another difference is that I’m not actually living on campus, as I was last time. Instead, me and Isaac are living on the medical ship that belongs to YWAM. This is not the same ship that I went with to Papua New Guinea two years ago, but a newly acquired one. It’s a former cruise ship, and just like the new campus, ginormous compared to the old one. Isaac and I have our own cabin and everything.
Life could be worse. I’m back to one of my favourite places in the world, I’m learning skills that I know I’ll use for the rest of my life, I’m living on a ship in one of the most exciting places to be for a marine biologist, I get to go out for a ginger beer every now and then (a soft drink, not actual beer), I’m back with people I love. It rocks.
Life, universe and everything
In case you're wondering what I wrote about - read the earlier posts.
In case you're wondering how it went - I don't know yet, ask me in a month.
I actually wanted to write this more as a life update. For those of you that haven't got a clue of what's going on. Most of you that read this have though. So. Well. Lots of things.
The next five weeks I'm spending out here
I won't spend forever here though. It's gonna be five great weeks and then back to Stockholm again. To get married. Which is probably even more awesome. Because Isaac is awesome. And God is awesome. Life's awesome.
If we're staying in Sweden? I don't know. No one knows but God alone. Which is really very true in this case since one of us will always be away from home, whereever we go. But we have a starting point for the first 6 months. That starting point is here
We have tickets back to Sweden for Christmas. We'll most likely be on that plane home. Asking either of us for a life plan before then is quite pointless at the moment though. We're getting there. I'm superexcited about life in general. A bit scared. Extremely worried at times. Trying to figure out what the meaning of it all is. Remembering what it is. Smiling like crazy. Calculating if we have enough money to get to Townsville. Realising that we don't. Realising that we'll get there anyway. Realising God is trustworthy. Getting into stupid arguments. Writing stories in my head.
Yeah. We're getting there. One step at a time. But just so you know, that's the plan. Updates will hopefully follow more regularly.
Adventure is out there!
Oceans - Home again
Our last 10 days were spent on Mnemba, an exclusive luxury island with a stunning coral reef and sand like snow. There were rumors of turtles hatching during our time there, but they never did. Oh well, maybe some other time.
Cowfish are something else though, they're some of the most bizarre fish I've ever encountered, with their "horns" and "legs" protruding from their boxshaped body. They really do look like angry, miniature cows propelling themselves through the water masses. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it. So. Cute.
And of course, the best of all. I found Marlin and Dory out on their way looking for Nemo. Our poor assistant struggled to see what I found so interesting with a clownfish and a surgeonfish.
I don't know how to describe the beauty I have seen and how incredible it has been to travel to this part of the world and live there for two months. I will miss getting lost in the maze that is Stone Town, eating cinnamon gelato and diving down into the surreal underwater worlds.
Still, when people ask me where my favourite place in the world is, I always answer Sweden. This is not me trying to be all nationalistic or saying "home is always better"; it's just the truth. I've seen many place and nothing quite like here. When I wake up at home in darkness and look outside at the snow glistening like diamonds or to a dawn sprinkled with peach and apricot, then I get a glimpse of what Heaven will be like. There's nothing that compares to the barrenness of the North and the deep forests of the West. There is a certain kind of freedom in Sweden that I miss anywhere else I go.
But if you ask me where I'll end up - I have no idea. No idea whatsoever. Ask God. He knows better than me. I'm just tagging along the best I can.
Redline Racer - Automatic Transmission
Being together with Isaac, it's almost impossible to stay away from the topic of motorbikes for a longer period of time. And I know nothing about it. Absolutely nothing, zilch, nada. But while he was going on about the difference between four stroke and two stroke, the crazy spikes we Swedes have to put on our tyres to keep riding in winter and so on, I remembered something from when I was eleven.
Chumbe or That day that we caught sharks in our traps and my room got flooded
Working in Chumbe was one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences a marine biologist could have. The area has been protected for a long time, since it used to be a military area with no access allowed. Now the only fishing going on in the area was ours, and we were amazed by what we found in our traps and by snorkeling the reef. And yes, that fish we're holding is a unicorn fish. The name for obvious reasons.
We were told that there was a chance to catch moray eels in our traps. At first, this just sounded exciting and fun, I’ve never seen a moray before and didn’t think we would actually get any. In total, we got three. I joked about getting sharks in our traps next time. We got two.
It was slightly surreal to pull up our trap and find two dazed nurse sharks and a 1.2 metre giant moray eel (the species is called giant moray, I don’t consider 1.2 as particularly giant) trashing about in the trap. Feelings went from “Wohooo! We’ve got something exciting in our traps! Oh wow – a moray! And sharks!” to “Oh crap, we have a moray in our trap. And two sharks. What now?”
I don’t know how much you guys know about nurse sharks and morays, but I can tell you that the sharks were our least concern in that case. Nurse sharks are completely harmless and the only problem with these two were that they were too fat and scared to easily get out of the opening, while at the same time avoiding the moray. Now the moray is something completely different. Imagine a snake dipped in lubricant, properly pissed off because it’s been stuck in your stupid trap all night, and then taken out of the water where it belongs. Not very pleasant. So to try to get that out of a small opening while it's trying to bite your head off and it's impossible to grab even with gloves because it’s too slippery. Quite an adventure.
Pictures of the nurse sharks aren’t very good. I tried to hold them, but they weren’t very happy and just squirmed around. The morays in the second picture aren’t the giant moray (the tail can be seen of that one in the shark picture), but two other ones that we caught later on. Apparently fishermen that get morays in their traps take them to shore and leave the moray to die on land, because there’s no way that they’re gonna try to get that thing out alive. Which is understandable, and makes us slightly proud that we managed.
The sunshine deceived us into thinking that the rainy season was over, which it clearly isn’t. At 3 a.m I woke up thinking that it was unusually quiet outside. No birds, no cats, no wind, nothing. Half an hour later when I woke up again from rain landing on my face, I fully understood the expression “the calm before the storm”. The wind slammed against my windows, forcing torrents of rain through the mosquito net and onto the floor. I got up and found most of my books and clothes soaked, with more rain continuing to gush in through the window, onto my bed, into my suitcase and creating a smaller lake on the floor. Alert as you are at 3.30 a.m., I didn’t think about closing the shutters to my windows (not that it would’ve made much of a difference anyway) but decided that the best thing was to try to get the water of the floor. So a bucket and towel in hand, I worked for about an hour against the storm. Exciting morning.
When we later got up to go out, the thunderstorm and wind had died down just enough for us to dare to take the one hour trip to Chumbe and rush back again.
Our boat guy felt like the following day (when it still rained quite heavily) would be an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to handle the boat. Since I was in my wetsuit, I didn’t mind. Difficult to steer for shore when you can’t see anything but rain and fog, though. But once again, we managed (with a fair bit of navigation skills from the boat guy, obviously). And when we came back home one afternoon, we found that the trees harboring the spiders had almost fallen onto the house. The landlord quickly decided to chop them all down and the trees took all the spiders with them. Spider Lane is now no more.
Pictures: Me, Hamis and Elisa
Chumbe Island - Birgus latro and the old hermit on the island
But we've also had a day of checking out Chumbe, our next site where we'll start working tomorrow morning. Chumbe is an island about an hour away from Stone Town and it's sort of a combination of a protected area with a resort. I've tried my best to capture the beauty of Chumbe, but I'm afraid I've failed completly. The underwater pictures I'll have to save for another day. I know I'll take a few hundred more during the following days there and I'll just put them all here at once for you guys. For now, you'll have to do with the above-water pictures.
Climbed the lighthouse too. There should be a lighthouse in my story, somewhere. It's on Chumbe.
No, I give up. There are no words for it.
Prison Island - Dustbunnies and Nemo's evil twins
Our first site was Prison Island, or Changuu Island as the locals know it by. It’s an island right outside of Stone Town, where peacocks call their lonely cries and mating tortoises can be heard like modern day dinosaurs. Most of our traps were empty, which was expected, but still slightly disappointing. While Elisa occupied herself exploring transect lines, I spent the time snorkeling and taking pictures of all sorts of interesting animals.
At one point, I got a little bit too excited over seeing a bright yellow butterfly fish, and accidently swam into – yes, swam – one of these sea urchins. Since some of their spines are about the size of my arm, I was quite thankful for the wetsuit. Still hurt, but didn’t leave any mark. Won’t do that again.
This was one of my absolute favourites at Prison Island, a tiny boxfish that managed to get caught in one of our traps. It’s so incredibly cute and really box-shaped (hence the name).
When we only had a couple of days left, I decided that it was time to live up to my reputation and get my dose of tropical infections. Wohoo! Now I have an ear infection, which is pretty easy to get here when you’re always in the water and it’s hot and humid on land (rainy season). So, now I’m ordered to stay out of the water for the next week. Fortunately, we only had the last few days on Prison Island left and now we have to wait for the next neap tide until we can go to the next site anyway. Spent my time on the boat learning all the fish (samaki) in Kiswahili instead, much to the amusement of our boat guy.
It's a trap! - Madema and spider webs
The other day we spent shopping for necessary things, such as buckets, ropes and weights and got caught in another torrent of rain. The narrow streets literally turned into rivers and what would’ve been a not too long walk, turned into a three hour trip! Every now and then, the rain would just come cascading down from the sky and we would all run in to the nearest shop and pretend to admire their beautiful clothes. Everyone else was doing the exact same thing though. Excellent opportunity to learn some Swahili. “Leo mvua” which means “Today it’s raining”. (The typical Swede, always talking about weather). I enjoyed wading through the knee-deep water, even though I didn’t really wanted to think about what was in the water and instead tried to be thankful that I didn’t have any open wounds on my legs this time (which I had in PNG).
Unfortunately and understandably, I didn’t bring my camera to the markets, so there are no pictures of school children running through the water and men slowly making their way to the mosque through the rivers that just kept coming.
Oh, and check another trap maker out. While we were building the madema, Elisa (my supervisor) noticed that the trees above out heads were covered in spider webs and spiders the size of… well I don’t really know what to compare them to. Smaller than my hand, but bigger than I would like them to be! Just as I was wondering what would happen if one of them fell down, we spotted one hanging on to our traps. I managed to take a picture of it before our human trap maker threw it out on the street.
“They can be dangerous, these spiders. This one? Oh… I don’t know.”
It’s gonna be fun living on Spider Lane for another seven weeks.
Zanzibar - spices and sand (and lots and lots of rain)
Zanzibar has a reputation for being a paradise island, and I understand why. Even if I’ve never had a desire to go here until now, the island has a tropical magic on its own. The fact that your taxi driver stops by a local fruit stand to get you a mango just because he feels like it, or that a tropical thunderstorm forces everyone under the nearest roof, even if it belongs to someone you don't know, adds to the feeling of being far away from Sweden.
At 5.30 a.m. the minarets wake devoted Muslims and call for the morning prayer, to the background noise of revving trucks unloading their fish at the market next doors. During the night we’re frequently woken up by sudden rain showers, drum-rolling off the tin roofs. I don’t mind the sounds at all, but either way, they add to my lack of sleep. So does the heat and humidity. Like Fanny commented when we stepped off the plane “It’s like walking into a fish tank”.
Most fish tanks are no way near as beautiful as what I’ve seen snorkeling here though. Triggerfish as colourful as a 5-year olds painting, lionfish on guard with its venomous wings spread out around itself and mooray eels writhing like snakes through the seagrass beds. It really is a bit of paradise, but from what I’ve heard, the entrance fee to paradise is already paid, while here your wallet will notice the cost.
This week I'll be spending buiding traps and preparing permits for my field work. It's gonna be pretty awesome and I'll try to write here whenever possible. Have an additional hundred something fish species to learn by heart as well...
Gentlemen, spring is upon us
But the annoyance of an unexpected snowfall (not really unexpected, it happens almost every year...) and the inconvenience of canceled bus routes still can't take away the beauty of snow. I haven't really had a proper winter this year. No skiing, iceskating (with one exception on a frozen lake in Mörby) and no snowball fights. My epic plan of learning how to snowboard didn't happen, for obvious reasons.
All my Swedish friends must hate me for writing this, cause at the end of March, snow is probably as unwelcome as smallpox.
It sucks, not having your expectations fulfilled. An early spring isn't realistic in Scandinavia. So I'll just take this as it is. After all, there's not many other things I find more beautiful than trees covered in snow and seeing the snowflakes sift slowly through the sky under a lamppost.
So, I won't complain. After all, I know why I live in Sweden. Because it's probably the most beautiful place in the world.
(And it helps that my mum came to pick me up and she made the car skid halfway across the road. Just for fun, you know. I think she has secret plans of joining the Swedish rally team.)
Bricks - "His hair was like feathers"
It's not my own story and it's not someone elses either. It's inspired by drawings from The Book Thief, by listening to Pink Floyd (The Wall) and by talking and listening to people. I've tried to not make the pictures good on purpose. I didn't wanna focus on that. I just wanted to make it as simple as possible.
It's just a story. Take it whichever way you want.