Let the Butterflies Be

When I think of past summers I remember chasing butterflies. I remember catching them. I reget that now. However, no one ever taught me the consequenses of catching a butterfly. No one ever told me that it would shorten their lifespan. Not until I  volunteered in a butterfly sanctuary in Australia, April – May 2016.

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One of my favorites, a Common Eggfly. Sometimes there’s something extraordinary about the ordinary.

Like fish, butterflies have scales. They need them for their color and to flap their wings. Usually they’ll shed them slowly throughout life. When you touch them you interfere, and more scales than the butterfly is supposed to lose come off – this is the powder you can feel on your fingers. The butterfly might look fine, but you stole valuable time form its life.

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A butterfly at the end of her days. There’s soon to be one less butterfly to care for the ecosystem and be an indicator of biodiversity.

We shouldn’t encourage kids to catch them. We shouldn’t catch them ourselves. They have to digest themselves to change from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I think they’ve been through enough. Let the butterflies be.

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Fly little one, fly. Live the month you’re supposed to.

My Shark Encounter

I went fishing the other day, which to me means that I picked up a fishing rod, found water and hoped for the best. I don’t have any knowledge of hooks or techniques so when I fish it’s all about patience (and admitedly, a little bit of “oh, oh, I’ve got one!! I’ve got one! Must be bi-… oh… Seaweed…”)

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A cold morning in June, Hidra, Norway

Standing there, waiting, I watched the sea. No fish for me. Out of the blue, I remembered. I promised you guys a Great Barrier Reef post when I received the pictures. It’s been a while since I left Australia, but here goes anyway:

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Ready for another adventure!

I snorkled in the Great Barrier Reef for hours. Time just swam past, together with a surprisingly fast sea turtle. The Reef has a surreal amount of pink, orange and other colors we don’t usually associate with the sea. It’s hard to believe that the Reef is dying, that it used to be even more spectacular.

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Sadly, pictures don’t do the Reef justice…

Even though the turtle was great, the corals were beautiful, the highlight of the excursion was my shark encounter(s). I suddenly spotted a Reef Shark. A rash decision later, I swam after it. I followed it around and over corals, through narrow passages, and I enjoyed myself immensely. Until I rounded a corner and met his father.

Please excuse the quality – I was very surprised!

Thankfully, the Grey Nurse Shark didn’t think too much of me – anyone without fins wouldn’t be good enough for his son, and took a u-turn. By the time I dared to breathe again, the Reef Shark was gone. He’ll forever be the one that got away.

Retrospect: 9 Hopes for Australia

A little bit over a month ago I wrote the post 9 Hopes for Australia. Now that I am back in Norway it’s time to take a look at how it turned out.

1. Take a kangaroo selfie – I had some trouble, but yup!

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Remember I mistook a wallaby for a roo? Oh how much I still had to learn at that point.

2. Hold a koala

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Not the most fun creature, but so soft I could have held him for hours.

3. Have a good time at my volunteer project – Would have been hard not to!

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I haven’t written that much about it, but from time to time my work took me to a Butterfly Sanctuary. You should have seen my face when I learned that butterflies have scales. 

4. Make new international friends – I’ve been told I can come back any time and have a place to stay.

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Oh, and these birds will have a special place in my heart. They kept interfering with my work, but I really didn’t mind.

5. Dive in the Great Barrier Reef – Snorkling counts, right?

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Great Barrier Reef from above! Yes, I know it’s the same photo as in my previous post, but I’m still waiting for the pictures from the GoPro my friend had. I’ll do a post about it when I receive them!

6. Successfully escape a dangerous spider

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Look carefully, to the right of our guide’s hand. Just how long are those legs?

7. Don’t be killed be a venomous snake – Never met a venomous one, thankfully.

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How cute isn’t this python? Treating me like a tree!

8. Don’t be eaten by a crocodile – Accomplished!

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9. Get off the island alive – I’m home, but for everyone that get’s this Lost reference – we all know I’ll have to go back.

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Australia was all I wished it would be. Australia was more. 

Let’s talk Australian!

One of the first things I do when I visit another country is to listen to the language(s). If I am in an English speaking country I often play around with their accent after spending time around or with the locals (monkey see, monkey do). It helps me immerse myself in the culture and is good fun.

I spent five weeks Down Under. Four of those I spent volunteering with animals, helping the locals. Now I knew I would hear “Mate” and possibly “G’day”, what I wasn’t expecting was “Brekky” (breakfast) and “toastie” (toast) and for them to basically abbreviate everything. Take a look at this video to see what I’m talking about:

When I learned English I was taught to enunciate the words; that even though the Americans say the “innernet” it is supposed to be the “Internet”. And of course, I had to say the whole word – no brekky for me. However, as I have finished school, playing aorund with differnt accents is something I enjoy a lot, I think I will always talk more “correct” than most people that I meet, but it’s fun trying not to. Imitating Australias ended up with me saying stuff like:

“Good on ya!”, “Alrighty”, “Heaps”, “Far out!”, “How ya going?” and “hey?”.

I found that there are two rules one can almost always follow:

1. Change letters at the end of words: “After” and “dinner” – “Aftah” and “dinnah”

2. Skip letter at the end of words: “What? “and “Trying” – “Wha?” and “Tryin”

Do you guys like to listen to locals and try to imitate them? Do you have some favorite words or phrases? Tell me in the comments below! If you don’t then mine is “No worries, mate!”

8 Fun Facts about Australia

Australia is a fascinating country. Big and beautiful, sandy and sunny, but seldom in the news. I learned a lot about it when I visited, maybe more than an average Australian knows. How many of you reading this can name the Australian Prime Minister? Without googling it. Here’s some facts everyone should know – if so only because they are fun.

  1. Their first police force was made up of well-behaved convicts.
  2. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on earth.

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This is how the reef looks from above the surface.

3. In 1967 they lost and never found Prime Minister Harald Holt.

4. It’s home to the top ten deadliest snakes.

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Thankfully, this isn’t one of them.

5. Australia is the only Western country that doesn’t have a Bill of Rights.

6. Australia has 170 million inhabitants – 150 million being sheep.

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They are just as friendly as their two-legged friends.

7. The city of Melbourne used to be called Batmanina.

8. The Selfie is an Australian invention

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He was too busy trying to figure out if I had food to smile for this picture.

P.S. This post was inspired by the first chapter of Down Under by Bill Bryson – a must read for anyone planing to go to Australia. Oh, and I googled it, and the prime minister’s name is Malcolm Turnbull.

Up Over, but Down Under

I bet you thought I was done with Australia, didn’t you? However, it takes more than a week and a constitution day for me to be done with an adventure. I might have returned to Norway physically, but mentally I’m still partially there; at the other side of the world.

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I’ll be going back. It might take me years, but I will go back Down Under.

I wake up too early in the morning these days – the jet lag still wearing off. It’s strange how quickly I have adapted to being back home. It’s almost like I was never gone. But I was. I was gone for five weeks. Five weeks of work, fun, and of an adventure I think I will always remember.

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If all else fails, I’ll remember the first time I looked into this Frogmouth’s red, red eyes.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering if I am different from before I left. Looking in the mirror I still look the same (except for the tan of course). On my last biggest adventure yet, when I went to Africa, I felt like the changes took place so deep inside of me that only I knew they happened – like the roots of a tree grow without anyone but the tree knowing it.

Did Australia change me? Perhaps it’s too early to tell. If it didn’t? Maybe it was not about me changing myself, but about me changing something for someone else. If there is a list of truths about traveling then this one would make it on mine: When I meet the world, the world also meets me.

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Maybe I only changed something for a koala, but that would be enough for me.

So long, Australia

When you read this I will be in the air. I’ll probably have forgotten that you will read this, and am immersed in the third comedy of the 23-hour flight. So I want to take this opportunity, here at the airport, to tell you that I once again had to say goodbye.

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Goodbyes don’t get easier. It’s a lie people tell you to make you worry less about it. I’m leaving Sydney soon and have had an amazing time in Australia. I’ve spent my last days on a farm two hours outside of the main city, with an Australian family I had never met before. A friend of my family recently reconnected with a friend she hadn’t talked to in 23 years (Facebook is actually good for something), and when that friend was told about me, she invited me to stay with her family. A little bit nervous, but mostly excited, I figured so what if I couldn’t get a refund on my hotel, and hopped on a train.

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The family was unbelievably welcoming. Can you imagine taking in a stranger, on the word of a friend you haven’t spoken to in 23 years? They taught me how to milk a cow and let me bottle feed their lamb (Two firsts for me!!). They took me in as if they had known me for years, and yesterday evening, watching Eurovision I found myself thinking how strange it was – that I could feel so at home in a house I’ve only been for two days. I realized that it was because here, at the other side of the world, I had found a family that in so many ways reminded me of my own. Their father gives them silly nicknames, they go crazy while playing games, and they argue until they laugh.

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I’ll have to leave soon now. So goodbye Australia. Goodbye my friends and fellow wildlife volunteers in Cairns. Goodbye busy and beautiful Sydney, and the wonderful family that took me in. Goodbye, goodbye. I have to say it many times, because when I get on that plane I won’t say it. I will turn my head and watch the city disappear and whisper “So long, mate, I’ll be back.”

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Dreams do come true ❤

Man-made or Nature?

Sydney is alive. It reminds me of New York: Skyscrapers, multiculturalism and a constant bustle. Therefore it was nice to take a daytrip to the mountains a few hours away. I meant to recharge my batteries, but nature can be just as overwhelming as a pulsing city.

I went from this:

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Someone out there has this skyline as a tattoo; no doubt.

To this:

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The Blue Mountains – Here before us, here after us.

Both of these pictures take my breath away. Man-made or nature, the world can really be a beautiful place.

Sydney – A Cold Welcome

My first impression of Sydney was that the city needs more streetlights. Tired from traveling, sad for leaving my fellow wildlife volunteers in Cairns, all I could do was stare out of the window as the airport shuttle took me where I was going. Which apparently was a bit further away from where everyone else was going. The driver dropped me off last, so I had time to notice the pedestrians walking quickly down the streets. No one in Cairns ever walked fast.

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The end of one adventure usually means the start of another one.

Thankfully, it felt great to be on my own. As I closed the door to my hotel room behind me, I sighed of relief. Alone, finally. No one to consider when making decisions but myself. Eat, sleep whenever. Of course I kicked off my shoes and threw myself on the bed – laughing. Some sleep would fix everything. It so often does.

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Home, sweet home. Bed, sweet bed.

The bed is my favorite object of my new room. In fact, it is where I am half sitting right now. The TV is on mute, awaiting MasterChef Australia to begin. It has been a long day. A good day. My hotel is located in Potts Point, and I decided to walk from there to the chinese friendship garden. That could have taken approximately 40 minutes (according to google maps), but I left 10:15 am and arrived 15:01 pm. Now where did those hours go? Well let’s just say that walking by the harbor takes longer than I thought.

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I just want to sit here forever.

It was a nice walk though. I stopped for ice cream. I stopped for enjoying the sun on a lookout point. I stopped for trying to take selfies with the Opera house (trying, because parts of the touchscreen no longer work, so I can’t turn the camera. I physically have to turn the phone to take a picture of myself – taking selfies like… Before selfies!)

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Could have been worse, right?

Finally I arrived at my destination and enjoyed an hour in the garden. It was strange; so out of place. I could see the skyscrapers in the background. Hear the cars. However, as I sat down next to the waterfall, I felt at peace. I felt the chilling wind and smiled. “The locals I befriended in Cairns were right. It is colder here. You’re in Sydney. You’re in Sydney.” I told myself.

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I’m probably one of the few that first realized I was in Sydney in the Chinese friendship garden.

The Guest Who Never Left

It’s strange; staying in a hostel for a long period of time. I have been here for almost four weeks, and now that I’m soon to leave for Sydney, I have truely settled in. I know how to fix the Wifi, the staff by their first names and for how long they will serve pancakes. People come and go, and I tell them hello and goodbye.

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My breakfast these days.

Me and the other wildlife volunteers occupy four of the six beds in our room. Until now we have had a Canadian, an Australian, a girl from the Netherlands, one from Hong Kong and right now we have one German and one from Belgium. I have talked to them all, known their names, their greatest adventures, but as I’m sitting here, in the top bunk closest to the window, I can’t remember anymore. They all came and went so fast, like a big wave that is important in the moment it is about to hit, but forgotten when the next one comes into sight.

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A swim anyone? It’s 34 degrees.

It’s funny, room 113 is the only room in the entire hostel where six (nearly) strangers eat dinner together. It’s a routine for us now, it would be too expensive to go out to eat every night, so the us volunteers make dinner together. Occasionally we invite  the people currently staying with us to join. The Chinese woman’s last night we made Tikka Masala, and so the rest of the guests turned their heads as one Norwegian, four Danish, and one Chinese pushed two tables together and enjoyed Indian food. And cake afterwards, because what is a goodbye without cake?

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Simple ingredients put together to make good memories.

As I’m starting to mentally prepare myself for moving on from Cairns, to Sydney, I’m both glad and sad. I will miss my new friends, the animals, and the way it is socially acceptable to talk to anyone – at any time. Like that elderly lady at lunch, the one that has lived out in the bush for several years because she became allergic to a chemical we use in most of our products. Like the two Korean girls coming back from a tour, that said I have nice skin. Like the guy at the vending machine, whom I shared my pringles with after explaining that it has been broken for two weeks. I don’t think I will remember these people in a couple of years, but I will remember how they made me feel, and when everything is said and done, that is what matters.

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Cairns ❤