Why become a volunteer?

In Denmark it is very common to go to Africa and do some voluntary work in your gab year (or to go to the Middle Eastern parts of Asia). I’ve always said that I would become a volunteer when I got old, and just travel while I was young. But in the recent years I’ve found out, how selfish it is to say like that. And after I did voluntary work myself, I found out how big of a gift doing voluntary work is.

I did voluntary work in a small village called Penestanan on Bali. I went there by myself and the organisation I was going to work for was Green Lion. For two months I was going to teach English half an hours drive outside of Penestanan. It was primarily children between the age of 4 and 12 I was teaching.

How I lived
I stayed with a local family in Penestanan. In Bali people live in so-called compounds with several ‘houses’ inside an area. The family lived in some of the houses and I live with some volunteers in the other houses. In Penestanan there were several compounds housing volunteers. All the meals were eaten at another location in Penestanan, and it was so nice to get together.

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Hannah and me with some of our lovely children

What I learned
I really don’t know where to start! I learned so much during the 2 months in Penestanan. So I’ll make a little list 😉

  1. I learned about the Balinese culture and the Balinese people. I gained so much respect for their way of living life – especially how much family means. Furthermore they’re always very helpful and happy, and even though the language barrier was big, they always tried to understand.
  2. To help other people is probably one of the greatest feelings in the world. I really appreciated the happiness we brought to the children by teaching them. The children were always so happy to see us, and the gratitude towards us from the parents, were so life-giving! Even though there were tough days where everything was difficult, it was a major gift in the end to actually see some progress with some of the children ❤
  3. I can do it! It was my first time traveling alone and to be honest I was so scared. But at the same time I was really looking forward to traveling around on Bali and to teach English. The trip made me later realize that I crossed so many barriers, and helped me gain a lot of faith in myself.

How was my daily life
On a normal day I would get up and go to breakfast in another part of Penestanan with my roomie Hannah. We taught together, so after breakfast we went to a house in the rice fields, where we prepare the lesson for the day. On the first day of the week we normally set at plan for the whole week. But it was very rare that we were actually able to follow it. Sometimes the schools were closed for no reason, and we weren’t told before head. On other times there were a lot of new children, and some of the old didn’t come. Some would come back weeks later, other wouldn’t. We always had to be prepared to teach on every single level of English, because we never really knew who would be in school on that specific day. After the preparation, we would eat lunch with some other volunteers. The Green Lion organization also had volunteers building kindergardens and doing environmental work. So at the meals we always talked to a lot of other volunteers, and it was so interesting to hear about their work. Then, after lunch, we got to our pick-up place and were driven to the village were the school was located. We were 4-7 volunteers at each school, and then two persons from the Green Lion. They were supposed to help us with translating to the children, but most of them didn’t speak English themself. So that often caused a lot of frustration.
After teaching for 3-4.5 hours we were picked up and brought back to Penestanan. We often had some hours to relax in the afternoon and the we had dinner with all the other volunteers in the evening.
Sometimes we went to a nearby city called Ubud to go out, and other times we just relaxed with movie nights and walks in the rice fields or trips to night markets.

In the weekends we went to swimming pools or on day or weekend trips around Bali 🙂

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View over the rice fields only a few minutes away from our compound

Would I do it again?
Ab-so-lutely and anytime!

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Jerusalem vs Tel Aviv

A few months ago I visited Israel and Palestine. I travelled with a group as a part of a journalistic course on a Danish school. We talked to a lot of interesting people and even though we were only there for one week, it felt like an eternity because we experience so many thought provoking and amazing things!

One of the things that really hit me when we were down there was the contrast between the religions, the people, the cities, the.. I could write forever about all the different contrasts. But I’ve chosen to tell you about two cities that shows a lot of the different contrasts – Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Before we left Denmark we were told that Jerusalem was a city characterized by the heavy, religious history that is connected to the city. Tel Aviv on the other hand was told to be “like any European capital. Imagine Barcelona but in the Middle East”. On one hand it was true, but on the other hand both cities had so much more to offer, than at least what I expected.

Food

In Jerusalem we spent a lot of time in the Arabian parts. Even though there were Jewish settlements in some parts we felt like being in the middle of – oh well – the Middle East. Around every corner there was another shop selling fallaffels, shish kebab and delicious sweets. A smell of harsh tobacco drifted through the air as we walked the streets. And I promise – the food was so delicious. The falafel were so fluffy and full of taste, and the kebabs were filled with all kinds of good stuff. Cabbage, herbs and all kinds of delicious sauces. As a lover of everything spicy and hot, I fell head over heels in love with the food in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem also has some Jewish quarters and Israelian quarters. They also have some great restaurants, but they are more european. Except for the Jewish Orthodox areas. Here, everything is of course kosher.

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The most amazing falaffel in Jerusalem

In Tel Aviv it’s a bit different. It’s much more like being in a European capital. The restaurants and the prices at the restaurants are like any Northern part of Europe. Still, the food was really good, but just a bit boring. Some might find the a okay, but when I travel I would like to ‘taste’ in which part of the world I am because I think that food is such a big part of a country’s culture. But all of this does not do anything about the fact, that we had some pretty decent food in Tel Aviv.

Religion

In Jerusalem we saw the Western Wall. We heard the stories about the Western Wall. It was amazing but also very thought-provoking. After walking around in the Arabic parts of the city for a whole day, we saw the Jews in their characteristic dressing. They walking towards the wall from all over town. It was mesmerizing to watch. The following day we went to a part of Jerusalem, where only Orthodox Jews normally are. People told their children to close their eyes when passing us, and a lot even walked to the other side of the road – just to avoid walking past us. It was so weird to witness after being in the Arabic parts where everybody welcomed us no matter where we went. No matter where we went in Jerusalem we were reminded about religion in some way. Even in the Arabic parts were the Via Dolorosa cuts through.

In Tel Aviv it is the contrary. When you walk the streets you barely remember that you’re less than 100 kilometers away from one of the biggest religious conflicts in modern day history, if you ask me. It is like being in Barcelona. The streets, the shops, the restaurants, the nightclubs. You wouldn’t think this was a country given to a religious group. Because in Tel Aviv you have to look very deep to find religion. Of course there are still synagogs around the city, but nothing that you really notice.

Sexuality

Jerusalem is a religious city from the bone. The conflict in the city is partly because of religion. The people in the city has a very strong opinion about religion. Religion permeates everything and everybody. So your sexuality is not something you talk about or show. If you’re not straight, you most likely will not be living in Jerusalem out of fear. Even though Jerusalem has had its own Pride every year since 2002, an accident in 2005 scared a lot of LGBT people. An ultra Orthodox Jew stabbed multiple persons in the pride with a knife, and after 10 years in prison, he went to the Pride in Jerusalem again, and stabbed more people. Even though he has a life sentence know, the LGBT people in Jerusalem are very aware of the strong religious beliefs in the city.

In Tel Aviv it is the contrary. They have the biggest pride in the Middle East and Asia. And the city and city council is fully supporting it. It is a celebration all over town, and a lot of LGBT people from all over Israel is living in Tel Aviv because of the open mindset against LGBT people. It is something Tel Aviv is very proud of, and as an example of how the city shows it, they painted some of the streets and pathways the colors of the rainbow flag in the days before the pride.

Even though the two cities are so different, I really enjoyed being in both and one thing is sure: I’m going back to visit both in the future!

MoMa, my love

I love museums! Since I was a little girl my parents have always brought me to all kinds of museums. From small, local history museums to huge, well-known museums like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I must admit that sometimes I was a bit bored, but I still appreciated the visits, and still do. Today I’m so grateful they brought me! Everywhere I go in the world I always visit museums and gosh I love it. Of course some museums are better than others. It’s not only what’s in the museuems I find interesting – often the building in which the museum is located can be very beautiful or extraordinary itself. And example of a museum that got it all is MoMa!

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If you know a little bit about New York or museums (in general) you’ve heard about it. I visited MoMa for the first time last summer and it was so amazing. Even though I had the a horrible headache I enjoyed it so much! From the moment you see the building from the outside you just know that you’re in for something special. And when you get inside you wont get dissapointed I promise you! Furthermore the art is always changing and very modern – which I really like.

So the next time you go to New York, pay MoMa a visit. Even if you’ve been there before it’s always worth another.