Saturday, August 25, 2012

My American Summer

As the days till my departure flash by as if through the window of a shikansen, bullet train, I thought I would share what I have been up to this summer. The summer after one graduates from high school is special time, often seen as the one last hurrah with school friends before everyone heads off their own separate ways. This summer was indeed special, usually for me summer is an idle time where not much action occurs but this summer was an exception. My summer was jampacked, starting off with my family's annual trip to 'the County' to celebrate Midsommar. Since my family is Swedish, in the American sense of the word meaning the predominate part of my ancestors came from Sweden, we celebrate a few Swedish holidays from St. Lucia's day to Midsommar. For Midsommar, we travel up to the Northern corner of our state to the town of New Sweden for their festivities. This year before we went all the 6 hours up to New Sweden we stayed with some friends on our way up for a couple days at their beautiful cabin on East Grand Lake. It was wonderful to slow down from the hectic school year and ebb some of the frenzy of graduation.
Maine is known as Vacationland for good reason!

Midsommar is a Swedish holiday celebrating the solstisc/midsummer. Complete with our flower adorned hair we watched people decorate the majastang, maypole, the 'little swedish dancers' perform their dances such as Danse al ering, and then joined in dancing around the majstag ourselves. This year there was a band and dance group that came all the way from Ourst, Sweden to dance and perform which was awesome. Usually my mom calls the Swedish dances but this year she didn't have to since the real swedes were here to do that.

Right after Midsommar I went to DC for YES Abroad's Pre-Departure Orientation which I detailed in the previous post. It was so great to be with all the YES Abroad Scholars. :) Then after I returned home, I started working at a summer camp set beautifully on a lake. Working there was really fun and I enjoyed meeting and getting to know the other counselors but it was hard since it was an overnight camp and I knew there was so much I needed to do to get ready to go to Ghana. I knew I would be away for a year and I wasn't expecting to start my away time so soon. After the summer camp, some of my family from Virginia came up. It was great to spend time with them around Maine, from our house to the cottage they rented on a lake to the Clam festival that has become a tradition to attend together. I love being around my relatives and especially love playing board games with them.
One of the best things I did this summer was go up to my friend, Sammie D., camp up on the most beautiful lake I have ever been on: Lake Webb. I even got to waterski again which is one of my favorite things to do even though I have only done it when I am at Sammie D's camp.


On the 4th of August, I went to my first concert. It was the Gentlemen of the Road's first stopover which happened to be right in Portland, ME on the Eastern Prom! It was the most spectacular thing ever to see my favorite band, Mumford & Sons live. And best of all, we got there so early we were in the front!

The next week was taken up by my church's Vacation Bible School which we call Summerfest. My mom runs it every year so I have been volunteering each year since I was too old to attend it myself. It was great to spend a week volunteering, spending time teaching children, and being around the people I have grown up with in my church.

After Summerfest ended on Friday, we packed our bags and headed out on a family road trip to visit our family in Chicago. It was extremely exciting to do so since we hadn't visited them for 4 years and the last 2 visits had been for my grandparents' funerals so we hadn't visited for an happy occasion in many, many years. My aunt and uncle had both bought property this past year so it was really exciting to see their new abodes. We stayed with my aunt in her new house in a beautiful suburb that had an amazing Polish bakery which Melody & I went to during a morning run-Great idea, right? We jampacked our visit with so many exciting, amazing things. We went to "Little India" and had a delicious Southern Indian meal at a restaurant and then walked around for a couple of hours, soaking in the atomosphere of this part of the city and I even bought an awesome Indian top.
"Little India"-Chicago, Illinois
 The next day we wandered around the city that my dad grew up in: Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago. We started at the art institute where my grandmother used to paint and followed Lake Michigan up to Northwestern University. We then visited my uncle's apartment building he bought and is renovating, and then headed to a Korean spa called King Spa.
The Art Institute in Evanston which my Grandma painted at
My Dad and his sister, my aunt, Laurie in front of the Art Institute 
Lake Michigan with the Chicago Skyline in the Background
My Family <3
The next day we had a kayaked the Chicago River for 3 hours! Who knew you could even kayak on the Chicago River?  We then had dinner with some of my dad's best friends including the guy who I stayed with in Japan. It was really nice to see him and his two daughters again.

The next day, we visited Lincoln Park Zoo in the morning and had an amazing lunch of Falfel, which is probably my new favorite food. We then headed to downtown which I was so excited for since I had never seen Millieum Park. It is exteremely amazing! There is an aMAZing ampetheather there and most importantly that is the location of the Cloud Gate or as the locals call it, the bean. It is soo cool! We then walked down the Magnificant Mile and boy, it really is magnificant!

Sadly, the next day we had to embark on the two day journey back home. On our way home we took a different route, this one skirting Lake Erie. We were hoping to find a place to get to the water and sure enough we did! It was splendid! I had never seen Lake Erie before and it kinda looks like the ocean!

The next day we took a detour to see Niagara Falls! And we also visited a family friend in Vermont.
We arrived home at 2 in the morning and had to get up early to drive the to UMO, the University of Maine (Orono), for the Mitchell Scholar Brunch. It was so exciting to see Senator George Mitchell in person and meet the other Mitchell Scholars. Three other of the Mitchell Scholars had happened to be in my "town" at Girls State and it was really exciting to see them all again.

The next day my cousins arrived from Virginia. The next day we visited Maine's most famous lighthouse, the Portland Head Light, and then that night I had my going away party. It was so strange to say goodbye. 
The next day we headed to the beach. I ended the day by having a lobster. Thursday, I turned 18. I'm now officially an adult which means I can vote in the next election-even though it will be through an absentee ballot I am so excited to do so. I started my day in the best way possible; with breakfast and coffee with my dad at the village store just like old times. When I was young, my dad and I would have the Saturday routine of going out to eat for breakfast, going to the library, and the dump which actually is a redemption center but I grew up calling it the dump and I cannot shake that habit. 
My cousins left yesterday morning, forcing another goodbye and now I am writing this post. I have 10 days left before I leave. Time to get packing!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I just found out my host family! I will be in Kumasi, the "Garden City"!!! All of a sudden going to Ghana has become so tangibly real. I have applied for my visa, I have my plane tickets, and now I have a family. In two days less than a month, I will be leaving the USA for ten months to live with my host family of 5 which comprises of a mom, dad, 2 sisters, & 1 brother. Two of my host siblings are in their late 20's and the other one is around my sister's age. I am so excited to meet them and am extremely grateful that they are allowing me to become part of their family. :)

My Schedule:
Leaving the Good ol' 207: September 5th
Gateway Orientation: September 5th & 6th in NYC, New York
Leaving the USA for 10 months: September 6th
Flight: From NYC to London to Accra :)
Arriving in Ghana: September 7th

Kumasi is the second biggest city in Ghana and while Accra is the capital, Kumasi is the center of the Ashanti culture and home to the Asantehene, the King of the Ashanti. Kumasi is home to the largest market in Western Africa.