Tulaasi, outbound to Sweden

The end is here. Tomorrow is my last day in my little Swedish city that will be the answer to maybe the most common question I will receive upon my return- "so, where exactly were for the last year?" Glad you asked.

I think I've always been slightly confused about where exactly "home" is, but living in Växjö has made me completely at a loss of words on the subject. If I was able to make this relatively unknown city in the middle of southern Sweden home for what is almost a year, who's to say it couldn't happen again in Turkey, or Japan, or maybe even Tanzania? Ok I know those are slightly bigger steps out from the states, but what I'm trying to say is I feel like I have that ability now. I think this experience has allowed me to set the foundation to an adulthood fueled by curiosity for the world and the confidence to pursue any dream I am crazy enough to think up. I'm more excited for what possibilities the future holds than I ever have been in my far too short 19 years, and it's all just getting started. My best friend from Florida arrived here in Sweden yesterday, and I'll be traveling with her and my older sister for three weeks before I head back to Florida. Then it's only 5 days before I move across the country back to Oregon, where I spent a large chunk of my childhood. It's a busy time, to say the least. And I'm sleep deprived beyond belief. So don't ask how I found the energy to write because I honestly have no clue. It's been around 5 months since my last journal, and I've been struggling to mold my thoughts into comprehensible strings of words ever since. 

Although I very much look forward to seeing my family and starting another chapter in life that will be full of new challenges and adventures, I would be lying if I didn't say I was nervous as all heck. How do you answer simple questions like "so how's it been?" or "did you have a good time?" without completely pouring your heart out about every intricacy you've learned about this vast yet incredibly small world? Because I could quite easily go on for hours on end about the happenings that have occurred in the past year. But attempting to communicate an experience like this isn't exactly something that can be put into words. Don't worry, I'm sure I'll try anyways. And then I'll remind myself that bringing up another reason why I miss Sweden every other sentence will get redundant really quickly. A lot can happen in a year. And that goes for everyone. Friends have found their life partners. Others have had babies. And youngest siblings across the country started the scary chapter of life that is driving, including my awesome sister Suby. Life hasn't stopped in the states to pick back up again when I return. Skylines have changed. A crazy election season has begun (which I still want to be convinced is a drawn out prank being played on the US). And I'm sure there will be many slang words I'll need explained to me. Society is different in very subtle ways and this transition going back will be nothing like what I have been through. But I am ready for it.

This year I've made life long friends from countries I have to use my fingers and some toes to count. I've had the amazing opportunity to visit Swedish Lapland, which most Swedes wish to some day visit - but that 20 hour train ride is understandably not feasible for most people, not to mention that Swedes usually prefer to escape the cold climate while on vacation. I've visited Paris with my amazing Swedish family that I adore and will miss dearly. I've had the opportunity to travel to Italy and stay with a great friend, James, who is on his Rotary exchange near Turin. Visiting James and his host family really gave me a whole new perspective as to some subtle changes that have happened in both of us, and definitely gave me the first glimpse of the tidal wave of reverse culture shock I'll endure so soon. It's unnerving and exciting, but the best part is that the people I knew when I left I will have the opportunity to get to know again with a whole new appreciation and understanding of companionship and humanity. And I could not be more thrilled. 

Thank you, Sweden, for teaching me everything I needed to learn this year in your unconventional, progressive, and innovative ways. You will be missed. But don't worry, I'll make sure to visit as soon as possible.

Love, Tulaasi