Tag Archives: Spain

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Europe – Five countries, Three weeks – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Travel. Travel a lot.

Before living in the United States, I had the idea of a certain reality that merely involved my culture. It meant driving a car for a couple of hours to experience a completely different climate, music and infrastructure. It meant enjoying delicious foods, without necessarily trying new things. It meant not worrying about how to greet people. It meant being in my comfort zone.

Little did I know how far from reality I was.

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Living in an interconnected world as we do today means more than living all your life in your comfort zone. Reality requires stepping out from there. And that’s what I did. It is not new for anyone to know that Duluth, Minnesota might be a little bit different from Bogota, Colombia. Yet, I wanted more. I wanted to see more. I wanted to truly experience my surroundings. The travel bug had hit me. This is why I decided to travel solo.

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Something I had never done before, in a place I had never been before, with people I did not know at all. I booked my trip to Europe without thinking much about it, just pushed by the desire of experiencing something different. It was only until the moment I stepped out of the plane that I truly realized I was actually going by myself to the other side of the world for the first time.

I was able to step in in five different countries, which meant experiencing five different cultures in just three weeks. If something is true is that three weeks are not enough time. Cultures are infinite and constantly evolving. This is what makes it so hard to truly get to know a certain culture, as time will always be limited. I tried to make the most out of my time in Europe. London, Paris, Barcelona, Sitges, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens. Every city, every landscape, every single second had its own magic. It is impossible to say I did not experience any sort of culture shock. I was, indeed, homesick.

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London is a magnificent city. I was not expecting much about this city, so I was gratefully surprised by it. Its architecture and urban organization are impressive. I tried to bike around the city one day, and almost got hit multiple times because I was used to driving on the right side of the road. Even though there were multiple differences, I was able to recognize the historic connection between the United Kingdom and the United States. From the most simple thing, the language; going through their food, their costumes and their organization: I was able to see the roots of the culture I have been exposed to in the last couple of years.

As a kid, I always dreamed about going to Paris. I remember watching movies, reading books, and listening songs about the charms of Paris. Paris is internationally portrayed as the romantic city. This was not my first impression, not at all. I got to Paris on a grey, rainy Thursday. As the bus was driving around the city, I remember thinking: is this it? Here, I was able to realize once again that media is always changing reality. It is very easy to forget this. Nonetheless, being able to explore this city was a dream come true. I tried foods I never thought I would, such as frog legs and snails. The music, the environment, the architecture and all the gastronomy made it an unforgettable experience. I was able to visit Versailles, which opened my eyes to the historic part of our world. Being able to see how people lived hundreds of years ago was a marvelous experience, and made me realize how important it is for humanity to understand where we come from; which ultimately explains why we act the way we do nowadays. On the other side, visiting the catacombs was eye-opening. There is so much to learn, so much to understand.

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Barcelona. Just the city’s name makes you feel its magic. Barcelona was a very interesting experience due to multiple reasons. First off, even though it is located in Spain, their main language is Catalan. This made me feel weird when speaking Spanish, as I knew native people did not like it. Barcelona’s atmosphere is indescribable. I fell in love with the city’s weather, people, architecture, gastronomy, landscapes and music. For the couple of days I was able to be there, I was amazed by every single detail. Paella, sangria and gelato made long days of walking definitely worth it.

Germany is one of the most (if not the most) organized countries I know. Everything is practical and planned accordingly to the needs of the people. From visiting Munich and Frankfurt, I was able to see the huge German culture around beer. Yes, I knew about some of it before getting there. Yet, I had no clue of how important it actually is. Beer is probably the cheapest and most bought good in the market. The thing about this, is that it is high quality beer. By this time of the trip, I was already homesick. I had too much to digest in such few days, I was certainly overwhelmed by everything. Not only this. I wasn’t able to communicate in Germany. I had never felt this way in my whole life. Even in France, I was able to communicate with my basic French skills. It was a different story in Germany, as I felt truly frustrated by not being able to ask for a bottle of water. However, I was gratefully amazed about German lifestyle.

I think one of the places people should definitely visit is Greece. Greece was the birth of our civilization in multiple ways. Philosophers, mathematicians, astronomers and doctors were basically born there. Accordingly, I decided to extend my trip to visit Santorini and Athens. When I landed in Santorini, I was shocked. I was shocked with everything around me. Of course, again, I was expecting to see all that media shows to the world. It was not like that. Santorini is an island composed by different little towns. What I had seen in pictures was just one town, called Oia. In order to get to Oia, people need to take public buses, which go packed and sweaty all the way to Oia. Undeniably, it is one of the prettiest and breathtaking landscapes I have ever seen. Like a children’s tale scene, I was in the middle of little white and blue arched houses, with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me. It was impactful to see the way in which early civilizations used their resources to build cities in the middle of nowhere. After that calm and peace, I was able to experience the agitation and chaos of a city such as Athens. Greece’s economy is very volatile right now, which means the political environment is going in the same direction. While I was in Athens, I was able to experience a live student protest. Things that are easy to see back in Colombia happening all over the world was very imposing to my eye.

Five countries in three weeks. That’s all it took to shake my reality one more time. That’s all I needed to reconnect with myself at different levels, to get to know myself at different stages and to truly understand that there is so much out there to learn from. Life was never meant to be lived in one single place.

Ana Maria serves as assistant editor for The North Star Reports.

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Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

English: The Globalized Language – by Molly Enich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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[Farewell sign in Montenegro translated to English]

This past May, my family and I traveled the Mediterranean on a cruise for three weeks. We explored six countries, including Greece, Montenegro, Spain, Gibraltar, Italy, and France. We would hop off the ship and find ourselves immersed in a completely different culture, language, and place than we were the previous day. Through exploring so many cities and cultures in just three weeks, I started to notice the differences amongst multiple countries and compare them to American culture.

What I seemed to pick up and make note of was the language being spoken. My family and I could be eating lunch at a small café in Montenegro, and the waiters would be speaking English. It was so surprising that no matter where we were, no matter how big or small the city was, everyone spoke some English. I was never handed a menu that didn’t have English translations under the nation’s official language. Through my whole three-week vacation, I never encountered a time when I couldn’t see or hear English. Sometimes, I didn’t even feel like I was out of the US because English seemed to be everywhere I looked.

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[A sign in a Greek park that was translated to English]

I especially noticed that English seemed to be the common language for tourists in Greece. The Greek language has few characters that resemble letters found in English or European languages. Therefore, all road signs and monument markings were translated to English. What was shocking is that they weren’t translated to Italian or another language within close proximity to Greece. It was all in English.

English is also commonly spoken in Greece. While walking down the street in Athens, I heard a Chinese woman ask a local for directions in English. This really opened my eyes and allowed me to see how many people in this world are bilingual or even greater. Tour guides we had in the Vatican spoke a minimum of three languages, and locals would switch from speaking Italian to English mid sentence. While in Europe, I felt as if my three years of high school Spanish were simply inadequate and pretty much embarrassing. Looking at most countries in the world, they are taught multiple languages from a young age, while in America, the majority of us just know a few Spanish, French, or German words from high school classes. The rest of the world seems to know that Americans can’t speak many other languages so we were often talked about right in front of our faces without having a clue what was said. In one case, we were standing in an elevator and two German women were snickering and talking about mine and my sister’s outfit. The only way we could tell they were talking about us was because they were foreword enough to point at us and stare while laughing. It was really embarrassing that we had no idea what they were saying and that they could talk freely about us while we didn’t have a clue.

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[Even though McDonald’s is an American restaurant, I still expected the menu to be written in the local language instead of English]

In some ways, I felt inferior on my vacation to Europe. I couldn’t understand what people were saying as they walked by, and the only thing I could say is “hello” or “thank you” in the local language. It was strange to me that even though I was a tourist coming to their homeland to experience their culture and language, locals had to conform to the English language and American culture. I felt that if I could speak the local language, I would be respected. I believe that locals would think much more highly of tourists if they took the time to learn about the local culture instead of them having to change to fit the lifestyle of tourists.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Molly Enich, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

Spain, Catalonia, North and South — The North Star Reports – by Nick Lozinski. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Spain, Catalonia, North and South — The North Star Reports – by Nick Lozinski. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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[Photo 1: Roman ruins in the Spanish city Merida that was the regional capitol during the time of Roman rule.]

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Spain for a month and live with a family. I stayed in a small town called Montijo in the western region of Extremadura, about twenty minutes from the Portuguese border. While there I was immersed in Spanish culture, from their seafood heavy diet to the daily siesta. Another prominent characteristic of Spain is the presence of varying regional cultures throughout the country. This has caused problems both historically and recently.

There has been and continues to be contention between the North and the South of Spain. Montijo is in the Southern part, home of flamenco and bullfighting. In the South, they are proud of their Spanish heritage and Spain as a country. In the North, most notably the region of Catalonia, they identify as Catalan instead of Spanish. They have a separate language and way of life. Since Catalonia’s integration into the Spanish kingdom in the 15th century, they’ve had a rocky relationship with the rest of Spain. During the 20th century, under the rule of Francisco Franco, the Catalan language was outlawed and the Catalan people, who fought against Franco during the civil war, faced persecution at the hands of the dictator. After his death, Spain became a democracy and Catalonia began to rebuild their regional identity. Their relationship with the central government of Spain, however, has remained tense.

One of the most noticeable cases of regional rivalry is in Spanish football (soccer) clubs. The largest rivalry is between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Real Madrid is based in the capital city and is seen to represent Spanish nationalists. FC Barcelona is based in the largest city in Catalonia and is supported by Catalans. The rivalry between the the teams is one of the largest rivalries in sports. Each year millions of Spaniards and people around the globe look forward to when these two teams face off during the season, referred to as El Clasico. Many people see the teams as representatives of the regions they come from and are a source of regional pride when they are performing well.

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[Photo 2: A city square of a medieval city in the south of Spain.]

Recently, the region of Catalonia held a parliamentary election, which resulted in a win for a pro-Catalan independence party. This has led to speculation as to whether or not the Catalonia region will seek independence from Spain and to what extent the national government would be willing to work with them. One of their main reasons for wanting to leave is economic. Catalonia is economically more prosperous than the rest of Spain and many Catalans feel as if they don’t receive as much as they pay in. Paradoxically, one of the main reasons to remain with Spain for Catalonia is also economic. Being part of Spain, Catalonia uses the Euro. If they were to become their own country, they would need to be recognized by the EU to be able to use the Euro. If they leave without the central government of Spain being on board, it’s within reason to believe the EU would not recognize them as a country. This would lead to them needing to adopt a new currency, having immediate negative effects on their economy as the currency regulates itself.

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[Photo 3: Santiago Bernabeu which is the stadium that Real Madrid plays in.]

While in Spain, the topic of contention between the North and the South came up quite frequently. There was even a successful Spanish rom-com I watched one of my first nights there about a couple overcoming their differences as a Sevillano (southern Spain) and a Basque (northern Spain) to end up together. The family I stayed with was also quite vocal about their distaste for the North. Often times they claimed that northern Spain is not real Spain, since they have a different language and different customs. This feeling is not a unique feature of the family I was staying with, but rather quite common throughout the region. Whether or not the Catalans decide to leave Spain, Catalonia will always be a region with a unique and distinct culture and history.

Nick Lozinski is a student at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Home Life in Toledo, Spain — The North Star Reports – by Charles Bray. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

Home Life in Toledo, Spain — The North Star Reports – by Charles Bray. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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[Photo: 106 degrees Fahrenheit: just a slightly above-average temperature in the heart of Spain]

Typical Spanish home life is not so different from what most of us are familiar with; many Spaniards nowadays follow the nuclear family model, keep cats and dogs as pets, and eat a diet composed of the same basic elements that we find on our own plates. But as I realized over the summer I spent living in Toledo and travelling to many other parts of Spain, there are certain distinctions that take some getting used to.

The difference that struck me immediately was the meal schedule. Breakfast is nothing alarming, eaten at whatever time one gets up to start the day. A little more uncomfortable for the average American is lunchtime, eaten at 2, 3, or even later. I learned to sustain myself with snacks until then, scrounging for leftovers in my family’s fridge and buying bocadillos or fresh fruit from a café or marketplace. Finally, dinner can be served anytime from 9 to past 11. For my family, the norm was to start mealtime preparations around 9:15 and hope to begin eating by 9:45. However strange this arrangement seems, it makes sense when one considers the Spanish practice of the siesta and the sweltering climate that makes it necessary; as outside temps soar in the afternoon, no one cares to do much of anything except sleep for one or two hours after lunch. When it reaches 108 degrees outside, you’d best be unconscious, trust me. As a result, dinner is eaten later when people—and their stomachs—are feeling a bit more active.

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[Photo: The sun beats down, and the streets empty. Is it three o’clock already?]

Another aspect of Spanish family life, which alarmed me at first, was the relationship I had with my host mom, and the general reduction of personal space. The average Spanish mother has few boundaries in her own household, as I quickly discovered after I came home one day to find my room cleaned and arranged for me. She had touched my things, and moved them all around! Outrage! But then again, in Toledo my room’s motherly touch was more of an expectation than any sort of violation. Privacy, and especially the thought of personal space, is not as highly regarded in the Spanish culture as it is in our own. This convention can be observed in casual conversation—a practice accompanied by plenty of touching of one’s conversation partner on the elbows, shoulders, or maybe even a few pokes in the chest when harsh words are exchanged—as well as salutations, which can include a side-peck on each cheek when saying hi or goodbye. Interacting with my family members in a comfortable home setting helped normalize this kind of close-quarters communication that I would deal with throughout my time in Spain.

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[Photo: Entertainment by a local traditional band was my first experience with the up-close-and-personal Spanish way of interacting. The band members were hardly shy, approaching students and handing them their robes and instruments to join in the music!]

Another part of living in a Spanish home that I saw first-hand was how close-knit my family was. Although the norm of one’s extended family inhabiting the same household has begun to fade as Spain has seen more and more international influence, time spent with family and friends remains an important focus of the Spanish lifestyle. I ate lunch and dinner almost exclusively at my house; even my host sister, at a very independent 24 years old, would rarely let other plans interfere with her attendance of family meals. At times I felt like I was intruding on the home of my host family, but I’ve come to realize that this impression was due to the fact that its members were so close, and so in-sync, that it was easy to feel like an outsider. Friends and family are of the utmost importance in Spain, and there, to not maintain close ties to loved ones is somewhat of a personal failure.

To a certain extent, any home outside of one’s own will seem a little strange. Moreover, moving in to a household in which even many basic assumptions differ can be an additional transition. It was no different in the case of my summer in Toledo, Spain, an experience that was surprising and intriguing in equal measure, and left me with a more complete picture of how Spaniards think and feel, interact, and live as a family.

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[Photo: Me, my host brother, and my host mother in Toledo, Spain.]

Charles Bray is a student at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Charles kept a travel blog at: http://www.chuckstrip.wordpress.com

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal’s online learning community and outreach program with undergraduate and K-12 classes around the world. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, Colombia, Norway, northeastern China, Nicaragua, Micronesia, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, El Salvador, England, Finland, Russia, Cyprus, and Haiti. We also publish student reviews of books, documentaries, and films, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers. We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Narvik, Norway – Immeasurable Hospitality — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

A special series. Narvik, Norway – Immeasurable Hospitality — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal

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[A shot of the view from Marit’s family cabin, the scenery here was almost surreal it was so beautiful. Pictured is her family’s bunkhouse.]

In 2008 I gained the older sister I lacked biologically by way of my family’s participation in a foreign exchange program. She came to us from a town in the North of Norway, and since leaving she has returned a handful of times to the U.S. to visit. I was able to make the jaunt to New York City to meet up with Marit, my Norwegian sister, and João, another beloved foreign exchange student from the past, for last Thanksgiving break, spending an amazing week catching up and enjoying the city and each other’s company. After 7 years of saying “Someday I’ll come visit YOU” I was finally able to fulfill my promise, venturing up to Narvik to spend my last week in Europe with Marit and her beautiful family.

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[Looking out from the interior of the family cabin. Ann-Irene and Knut-Erik have put so much work into this amazing getaway and it shows in the details.]

My flight was scheduled to depart 4 hours after my last final exam, poor planning on my part, but I was stranded in Barcelona’s El Prat airport for a number of hours due to heavy snow in Oslo, Norway. The airport staff began giving us updates both in Spanish and English and then as time dragged on the notifications were given only in Norwegian and I was forced to ask for clarification, unable to read the context from the faces of my fellow stranded peoples. Finally, we were able to board and leave for Oslo’s Gardermoen airport where I met Marit and waited for our next flight even further North to Narvik. I hadn’t eaten much at all that day, not intending to be stuck in El Prat for so long, and so upon my arrival Marit and I feasted on Lapskaus, a stew-type dish, and flat bread. In retrospect, this airport meal should have acted as forewarning to just how well I would be eating during my time in Norway.

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[Martin’s family has cabins up in Riksgränsen resort in Sweden, and I had the opportunity to snowboard even though I was incredibly out of shape/practice!]

One flight and bus ride later; we arrived in Narvik, hoofing it up the ice and snow-covered hill to Marit’s family home with our luggage. I still don’t know why I bothered trying to pack anything more than a backpack since realistically few things I had brought for Barcelona’s winter would serve me well in Narvik’s spring weather. Marit borrowed me everything I needed; long johns, wool socks in every thickness, hiking gear, jackets, and even a pair of boots loaned to me by her boyfriend’s mom (Thanks a million!!). The hospitality was unending. I almost felt uncomfortable accepting so much from her family my first time meeting them, but soon realized that they had already accepted me as one of the family, and my hesitation dissipated. We spent the week hiking, eating, exploring, visiting the nearby Riksgränsen ski area in Sweden, and eating more. Did I mention eating?

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[On one of the last days we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain in Narvik and hiked back down. The views were amazing.]

The meals I enjoyed in Norway deserve their own post, and I think I may dedicate some time this week to detail it all, but right now let me hit the specifics. Typically I eat like a bird, taking small portions if at all possible just so that I can guarantee no waste. The week I spent in Norway I had thirds of everything put in front of me. Everything. I don’t think my hunger grew in any way, the food was just so amazing and in the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t be eating this well for quite some time. After my third plate of dessert one night, Marit looked at me and just smiled, commenting on how she had never seen me eat so much, I retorted that I never eat this much. Something about the company I held, the amazing food they prepared, and all the coffee and wine that I could ingest had me mesmerized, left in a food-consuming trance that I couldn’t – and didn’t want to – break.

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[Snapping a quick picture with the reindeer! We may have them in our zoo, or even in the Fitger’s courtyard around Christmas time, but seeing so many in one spot in their natural habitat was pretty cool! (Fun fact, all the reindeer in this area are owned by the Sami people.)]

The time I spent with Marit and her loved ones was nearly indescribable. I can’t thank them enough for their overwhelming warmth and hospitality, opening up every corner of their lives to me and even going so far as to re-tell jokes in English after they flew over my head in Norwegian. As my time with everyone came to a close I naïvely believed that maybe this time saying goodbye wouldn’t be so hard: that after receiving so much kindness and generosity and feeling like the world had maybe shrunk just that much more, maybe I wouldn’t feel so far from my big sister this time. I learned at the security check, as we hugged one more time, that I had thought wrong. Even typing this all up a week later I’m flooded with emotion; gratitude, love, longing. But mostly gratitude. No matter how many languages I learn I won’t be able to say thank you enough. Takk.

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[From left to right: Knut-Erik, Marianne, Erik, Marie, Ann-Irene, Martin, Marit.]

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.

We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Filed under Katherine LaFleur, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang