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I just hit my one month in Greenland and I can’t believe how fast time is flying by. A part of me feels like I just arrived, yet another part feels like I’ve been here for months. I’ve already fallen in love with this amazing country. It hit me the moment I stepped off the airplane that I’m finally in Greenland. After waiting for eight agonizing months, my exchange has finally started. I have had many culture shock moments since I’ve arrived. The people are so friendly here to strangers, very different from America, the food is amazing even though half the time I don’t know what I’m eating, and the nature here is out of this world. Oh yeah, and the climate difference is very noticeable. Just the other day I had to walk in 50 mph winds while it was raining and only about 35 degrees (2 celsius); not my favorite kind of weather. Looking out my bedroom window I have the view of Store Malene, a mountain that I have not yet climbed, and also a nice view of icebergs cruising across the ocean. This past month has been amazing! I still feel like I’m living in a dream and I don’t want to wake up anytime soon.
Unfortunately I don't have one of those horrible travel stories to tell. The worst for me was a three hour delayed flight in Minneapolis but I’ll take it after hearing the stories that some people had to go through getting to their host countries. I met up with Noah, another exchange student to Greenland at the Keflavik airport in Iceland where we flew from there to Greenland. The flight to Greenland was one I’ll never forget. The view leaving Iceland was beautiful. During the flight Noah and I talked about our summer and about how excited we are to be in Greenland for the next year. After about an hour of outside just being ocean, we started to see some icebergs here and there. It's weird to see that it’s a common thing to have icebergs floating past your backyard. Soon enough we started flying over Greenland. The view was absolutely incredible; seeing the mountains covered in snow blew my mind since it was only the beginning of August. The pilots of the plane were nice enough to let passengers go to the cockpit and check out the view. Looking out there makes you realize how big the world actually is. I haven't been out of the country for over fifteen years, and just 2000 miles away was a country where there's snow all year. After another hour we landed in Nuuk where the view just kept getting better.
Walking out of plane is where I got my first wake-up call. Staring right in front of me was what I thought was a giant mountain. Coming from Florida, you can only imagine how big just that one difference was. It was about 45 degrees (7 celsius) and cloudy. I was shivering the entire walk into the airport. Noah and I met up with our Youth Exchange officer, Niels and he drove us around Nuuk. Traveling for 25 hours with little sleep and not eating too much food the past day really got to me. As we were driving I was about to fall asleep but kept myself awake to see where I’m going to be living for the next year. I loved every second of the drive, everything was so different from Florida. I knew from there that I was going to have a completely different experience than what I’m used to. I got dropped off at my house where I would be staying for a few days while my first host family was still on vacation. The dinner that night was hard to sit through because all I wanted to do was sleep, but I survived. We had bread, meat and cheese which was very good. I got to bed at 9pm and slept until 10; much needed sleep.
The next day my host mom, host sister and I went around Nuuk. The more I explored, the more I fell in love with the city. The rest of the day I spent relaxing and spending time with my host family. That night Noah texted me about climbing Lille Malene and asked if I wanted to come. Being an exchange student, I had to say yes. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Noah spent most of the summer hiking through Norway so he was used to high elevation. Me, the girl coming from Florida had no idea what a mountain actually was. The first 10 minutes I was chugging along thinking “oh this is not bad, it's going to be easy!” I was so wrong!! The next hour and a half was pretty much Noah having no problem, and me having to stop every five minutes to catch my breath and let my legs have a break. My whole body was in much pain. When we reached the top of the mountain, all the struggles I endured were worth it. All the fog that was once there burned off, giving us a view o f the whole city and more. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment. We could see all of Nuuk, Store Malene, Sermitsiaq, and the mountain ranges in the distance. The hike down the mountain was harder than going up. After countless amounts of me falling we made it down. Noah had the brilliant idea of jumping into a nearby lake to cool off. After everything I said yes to that day it wouldn’t hurt saying one more. We made our way to the lake where there were only a few other people across pitching up tents. Noah jumped in first saying that it wasn’t too cold. After a few minutes of thinking I jumped in. Right as I was about to hit the water, I realized how bad it was actually going to be. I swam as fast as I could to the edge; my body was so cold I couldn’t feel anything. We laid out in the sun to try to get warm and then after took the bus to see the school we would be attending. There we met with the principal and one of the counselors. The main building of the school is fairly new and modern, but not as big as PVHS. About 400 kids go to this school; that's smaller than my entire grade in Florida. Everyone was really nice to us and showed us around the main building. After touring the school we went home to get ready tomorrow.
The next day was my first day of school. I was nervous about the language and not knowing anyone except for Noah. For the first day Noah and I were put into the same class. Since Noah lived in Norway for a few years, he spoke Norwegian and understood a little Danish. For the day he was my translator, and thank god he was there or I would have been so lost. My first day wasn’t bad. Everyone was super nice and asked questions about what living in America was like. The interesting part of that day was my ride back home. I took the bus but didn’t know when to get off. I got off at the wrong stop by mistake; my house was at the top of a hill and I got off at the bottom. All I knew was that to get home I had to go up. Halfway through my walk it started to rain, making the whole situation even better. After about 45 minutes of taking random roads and getting even more lost I finally made it back. I never made that mistake again. Over the first month in school I’ve made a f ew really close friends. Here and pretty much all of Europe you stay with the same group of people all day and all throughout high school. Our class is very close with each other and we all get along which is really nice. School is hard to understand but I get a few words here and there which I am calling progress. I usually just sit in my class and try/fail to understand what they might be talking about.
After a few days of staying with my temporary family, my first host family got back from vacation and I moved in with them. It was hard to say goodbye since I didn’t get to stay with them for a while but I was excited to meet my first host family and to not be living out of my suitcases. My host family is so nice and kind, I already feel like apart of their family. The family is quite busy during the week but we do stuff together on the weekends. I can already tell it's going to be hard to move families in the winter.
I've only been here for one month and I’ve done and experienced so much. I’ve hiked up mountains, been sailing by icebergs, drank straight from lakes and rivers, jumped into freezing lakes, been fishing, tried foods that never in a million years I would think about trying, made lifelong friendships, tried to walk in a 50mph wind storm, went hunting, and much more. I’ve tried musk ox, reindeer, dried seal, fish eggs and other various seafood, mussels, delicious desserts, and pigs liver. Most of the stuff I tried I liked, but some I wouldn’t have again. Nuuk is slowly becoming my home and I’m so happy that I took the opportunity to go on exchange!
I’d like to thank Rotary for all they’ve done for me and all the other outbounds. You’ll hear everyone saying how without them this wouldn’t be possible, but it’s true. If it wasn't for all the work and time they put into this, 8000 teenagers from all around the globe wouldn’t have the opportunity to live in a completely different country for a whole year. Thank you to Jeff and Paula, my district counselors, thanks to Cyndi my country coordinator, thanks to my Rotary Club back home, my family for allowing me to do this in the first place and for supporting me and loving me, my friends for being there for me, and everyone else who is with me for this journey. I love and appreciate every single one of you and thank you for all your love and support! If my first month has gone this well, I can’t wait to see what the next nine months have in store.
Posted on Tue, September 13, 2016
by Terri Wescott