Archive for April, 2010

Miss you

The consequence of being interwoven into the fabric of a place is that it can be hard to extricate yourself from it when the time comes.  Along with the excitement, anticipation, and delight about traveling to Norway, there’s also an underlying bittersweet quality to departure — just a minor note, but still there.  Of course, it’s difficult to leave loved ones, pets, gardens, and projects-in-progess.  But for me it’s also hard simply to leave this time and place.  Northern Michigan, home, is beautiful all year long, but the month of May is somethin’ else.  I’ve been breathing deeply these days, trying to saturate every cell with that incredibly fresh breeze coming in off Little Traverse Bay.  The clarity of the air, and the sense that everything is just about to burst into lush springtime, is profound.  The maple leaves are the size of squirrel’s ears.  The tulips in my backyard haven’t opened yet.  The chickadees and cardinals are still staking out their territories.  When we get back, it will be full-on summertime.  We’ll have missed that transition.
So, see you in 2011:
Spring peepers and American toads
Chimney Swifts’ arrival
morel mushrooms
wild asparagus
cherry blossoms
spring paddling on the Carp or the Pigeon
warbler migration
planting spinach and peas, beans and lettuce
Mother’s Day
(Post by Cindy Mom)

Packing list

My packing list in order of importance…
1. Passport
2. Motion sickness remedies (wrist bands and ginger – safe for pregnant women but not necessarily effective)
3. CD with group presentation
4. Uniform – blue jacket, white blouse, grey pants, red jacket
5. Underwear
6. Comfortable shoes
7. Gifts for hosts and my family (this takes half the suitcase)
8. Camera
9. All other necessities which seem important but probably could be replaced/lived without for a month

(Post by Tara Kram)

Last minute preparations

Well it’s officially countdown week and the nerves are starting to set in.  Even though I have most of what I need, I still feel like my “To Do” list is never-ending.  I feel very rushed and that there just never is enough time!  Although I have been attending the prepatory meetings from the beginning, I was attending as an alternate candidate.  I just found out I was going Mid-March so I didn’t have the full 6 months or so to process this trip.  Not to say I am complaining in the least – but I still feel a little overwhelmed and I know my other teammates are as well (and they had a lot more time than me to prepare!).  So I just have a few more gifts to acquire for my hosts, just a little more shopping to do for some odds and ends and waiting for some items I ordered to arrive.  I have purchased my first professional-grade digital SLR camera solely for this trip.  No, not something I could necessarily afford right now but something I felt was a necessity!  I MUST capture all the beautiful sights and I would much rather do so with the creative freedom an SLR camera provides than just on my point-and-shoot alone.  Also, one of our hosts has graciously set me up with a professional photographer and I feel it’s necessary to have the equipment.  Packing it all is another story. 

 I have decided to invest in a laptop backpack so I can take my computer with ease, but also use it to hold all my magazines, books, iPod and whatever else entertainment I will take for the 8hr flight overseas, not to mention the layovers.  I think the backpack will be a great carry-on!  I decided to purchase brand new toiletries so I can pack those now and not worry about it after I shower the day I depart, etc.  My list keeps on getting longer.  Last night I had a notepad next to my bed because I was literally thinking of new things to add every other second.  Things I need to buy, things I must remember to pack, bills I need to pay (or arrange to have paid while I am gone, etc., etc., etc.)!  Sleep has been few and far between as I am also finishing final school projects this week and trying to get things in order at work for the replacement that is covering for me in May – who also doesn’t have much knowledge of any computer applications that we use daily.  It’s taking a lot of focus on my part.  I am also trying to cram in as much Norwegian as humanly possible – even though they speak English very fluently, I want to be able to thank them for their hospitality, etc in Norwegian as courtesy.  I just purchased my English-Norwegian dictionary and also picked up a book on customs, which I think will be very handy from what I skimmed so far. 

I feel so blessed to be going on this trip and it’s still very surreal to me.  Even though I am jumping, screaming and doing cartwheels on the inside, when I speak about it to others I probably seem very calm and composed.  Maybe I am being modest and don’t want to gloat.  It’s been pretty cool telling people about Rotary and the purpose of this trip as 95% of the people I talk to have never heard of the Rotary.  I hope this will get them more intrigued.  I think it will take landing in the airport and being greeted by our first gracious hosts before I realize “Yep, I’m in Norway!”  But I thank God for bringing me this opportunity, making it feasible too both with getting the time off of work and being able to afford it, I thank the Rotary for having such an amazing exchange program, I thank my teammates for being so efficient in getting everything prepared and helping a frazzled me get everything I need, and for our wonderful hosts who have taken the time to put together very detailed programs for each and every one us and for opening up their homes.  This will truly be life changing! 

(post by Anjanette Merriweather)

What is GSE and why are we going to Norway?

Our trip to Norway is part of an exchange program sponsored and organized by Rotary International.  This cultural and vocational exchange program is called Group Study Exchange, or GSE.  Teams of professionals between the ages of 25 to 40, along with a team leader, are selected to represent their home Rotary district.  Our district is 6290, which covers west Michigan from Grand Rapids north to Sault Ste Marie, and then parts of northern Ontario from the Sault all the way up to Wawa.  District 6290 is rare (or unique?) in that we are an international district representing two countries. We have been teamed up with Rotary District 2290 from southern Norway.  During this GSE program, our two teams will visit each other’s districts.  


For four weeks, team members will experience the host country’s culture and institutions, observe how our vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas. In addition to helping participants gain a broadened cultural perspective, the program seeks to further international understanding, goodwill, and peace.

For each team member, the Foundation provides a round-trip airline ticket between the home and host countries. Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging, and group travel within their district.  Each team member is responsible for all personal and incidental expenses incurred before, during, and after the study tour, including any personal travel arranged after the exchange.  Before the trip, GSE team members are required to participate in orientation sessions and group meetings, and obtain the necessary documents for traveling. During the trip, we will speak at Rotary gatherings in our host district, and we’re required to remain with the group throughout the study tour except when individual activities are planned.  We’re expected to maintain standards of behavior that will reflect positively on Rotary and our home countries.  When we return home, we’ll prepare and submit final reports of the tour as required by the sponsor district and The Rotary Foundation.  We’ll also speak about our GSE experience to Rotary clubs and other groups.

Rotary describes the program like this: “GSE is not a vacation!”  It has a “rigorous nature” and “is both physically and mentally demanding.”  In a typical four-week tour, applicants participate in five full days of vocational visits, 15 to 20 club presentations, 10 to 15 formal visits and social events, two to three days at the district conference, three to four hours per day of cultural and site tours, and three to four hours per day of free time with host families.

(Post by Cindy Mom)

Suitcase Capitulation

Resistance was futile.  This morning, I finally gave in and up-sized my suitcase.  (Team, you were right.)  If this was a regular vacation/travel trip, if it was going to be “just me,” the 21″ expando-case would have worked.  But a Group Study Exchange is not a regular travel experience.  In addition to the usual raingear, sandals, swimsuit, wool hat, winter coat, binoculars, bird book, and water bottle, there’s a bunch of GSE-specific stuff to pack. Wool uniform jacket, white shirts, and grey pants. Business cards and team brochures. District 6290 pins to exchange. Banners from the Petoskey Club, to be given to clubs in Norway. Our team gifts for our host families. And (why didn’t I think of lighter, less bulky optional gifts?) Petoskey stones, twenty Michigan postcards to use as thank you notes, three pounds of dried cherries, and two pounds of maple candy.  So, I traded in the 21″ suitcase for a 25″ one.  I think those extra four inches will do the trick!
Still haven’t decided about whether I should bring my ukulele…
Post by Cindy Mom, 4/26/10

Our itinerary (as we know so far)


May 2 – Arrive in Sandefjord, go to Sande
May 3 – Sande.  Day trip to Oslo.
May 4 – Sande.  Vocational day.  Club visit in evening.
May 5 – Sande. Social program in evening.
May 6 – Depart Sande at 1pm, go to Stokke.  Stokke Rotary Club meeting at 5:30pm.
May 7 – Stokke. Sightseeing.
May 8 – Stokke. Daytrip to Sweden.
May 9 – Stokke. Morning rest (church), afternoon boat trip, evening social program.
May 10 – Stokke. Vocational day.
May 11 – Stokke. Vocational day.  Evening social program.
May 12 – Depart Stokke at 1pm, go to Hotel Vic in Porsgrunn.  Dinner with Jan-Henrik.
May 13 – Hotel Vic, Porsgrunn. Boat trip to Jomfruland.
May 14 – Hotel Vic, Porsgrunn. Vocational visits.
May 15 – Hotel Vic, Porsgrunn. Free day in Porsgrunn.
May 16 – Hotel Vic, Porsgrunn. Minibus tour to inland fjords and mountains in Telemark.  Stop at Jan-Henrik’s cottage.
May 17 – Hotel Vic, Porsgrunn. Children’s Parade.  Coffee & cake at a school.
May 18 – Depart Porsgrunn, go to Nedenes/Arendal.
May 19 – Nedenes/Arendal
May 20 – Nedenes/Arendal
May 21 – Nedenes/Arendal
May 22 – Lyngdal?
May 23 – Lyngdal?
May 24 – Lyngdal?
May 25 – Lyngdal?
May 26 – Lyngdal?
May 27 – Lyngdal?
May 28 – Lyngdal?
May 29 – Depart from Kristiansand

Our Norwegian Hosts-To-Be

Bits of information and photos have been trickling in from Norway over the last couple of months.  The shape of our trip has been gradually illuminated by these messages from our hosts-to-be.  It will be great fun to meet these people in person!
One of the places I will be staying (when we are in the Arendal/Nedenes area) is an island with a lighthouse: Store Torungen.  My host there, Knut Mørland, sent me this photo of the island.  Knut says, “I have been away to Germany to visit on of Europa’s lagest marine nationale parks, the “Vattenland”. We are planning the same outside my Lighthouse. I will tell you more when you arrive. When I was away, the cat has got 3 kittens, and the Mother sheep has got the first lamb of the season. Birds are nesting and the “Grey Goose” has laid eggs. You will be in Arendal area from the 18th. – the 21th. Of May. I hope you will enjoy staying out on the lighthouse with me for that time. It takes less than 10 min. by speedboat to reach Arendal. We will within the program have time to visit some of the areas that you have pointed out earlier.”
(Post by Cindy Mom)