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With a rucksack stuffed full, a thirst for adventure and no time limit, I set off northwards all on my own in September 2012. I was headed for Norway, where I have been working as a volunteer since December. Let me go back to the beginning. I met a local in Bergen who recommended an island on the west coast. “That,” he said, “is where you’ll discover the real Norway.” And so it was that I spent the whole of November on Gåsvær, which has five inhabitants. Quite by chance, they were looking for a volunteer on the main island at the same time, so I seized the opportunity.
I signed up, along with a Spanish guy called Eduardo, to work for the Frivillingsentral volunteer agency. What I like most about our project is the variety. There is the library, the school canteen, assisting in art lessons, setting up a second-hand shop with its own café, helping to organise a range of different cultural events and, last but not least, working on several islands. There are some children’s camps scheduled for the summer, including one arranged by the Red Cross. I also pay regular visits to a rather lonely lady who is in poor health. I have grown very fond of her. She has taught me countless baking recipes and loves to talk about old times. On the subject of teaching: every day is a learning experience. The simple fact that this isolated community of 800 people comprises 22 nationalities has boosted my general knowledge and led to lots of fascinating discussions about different cultures. On top of that, it is improving my social skills, since I am settling into a new environment and bringing my own personality to bear more strongly than ever while doing so. I am also learning a new language, and I have tried lots of traditional cuisine. Of course, I do feel lonely and homesick from time to time.
I will never forget the week when I joined a fishing boat in the Lofoten Islands for a first-hand experience of the famous cod-fishing industry, or the flickering green of the Northern Lights, a spectacle we enjoyed unexpectedly from our balcony one evening.
Here is how I sum up my Norway: indescribable natural colours, dark winter hours giving way to all the more light in summer, unforgettable encounters with friendly people, paddling kayaks around an island paradise and a rucksack that has become much heavier since I began my journey – now it is stuffed full of life experience.