Greetings from Belgium

Belgia, Ranska - 22.6.2018 16:27

Where the beer is strong and the chocolate is dark. There were bras hanging from the window. In black, yellow, and red. We are in Belgium! It’s the football World Cup, and you can see it on the streets. Lots of houses have put something with the country’s colors out on display.

We are staying here with Deb’s parents. Enjoying the good life of not having to worry about cooking or cleaning. So far the time here has been filled with many administrative tasks in the bank and seeing the doctor and dentist. It’s becoming the ultimate health check. Firstly, because Switzerland health care has been too expensive, and secondly because we are going to live in the wild starting from September. Yes, we have just signed the contract with Medair to work in the Democratic Republic of Congo! It’s very exciting and we are looking forward to the mission.

I was able to visit Brussels for the first time when we met there with my friend Joonas who is working in the Finnish Embassy for the summer. I really like the city, its old buildings, historical and beautiful monuments and lively streets. Of course, great beer everywhere as well. I’ve taken a challenge to try as many different beers here as I can. But I think I have to come again, since there are more than 3,000 of them.

We went to Atomium, which is a landmark in the area. It was built for the ’58 World Expo that was held in Brussels. It’s an impressive structure, and must have felt like something from the future when it was built. 40 Million people came to visit it in the World Expo.

Belgium was a significant battle ground in the First World War. We learned more about it in the World War museum in Ypres, which was destroyed but then rebuilt after the war. Just to be bombed again in the Second World War. That’s hard to understand. How come people allow such destruction and suffering, especially so soon after the First World War, which would not have been forgotten about by then. We watched the remembrance ceremony in Ypres, held by the British every day at 8pm. I was surprised by the amount of people, there were busloads of them. We also visited another memoire in a park, where they have built a touching monument for the 600,000 people who died in the area. On our way to Dunkirk we also stopped at a remarkable cemetery at Tyne, where 12,000 soldiers were buried. I was impressed and happy to see that those killed in the war are being honored in such a way. I don’t really know if we have something similar in Finland regarding our war with Russia.. museums and monuments, I mean. My experience and understanding of the war became more concrete after this visit, and it will be interesting to visit the Second World War museum in Pearl Harbor!

We still have more than a week here before we head out to Thailand. We are going to meet with more friends, try more beers, watch more football, and even visit Paris, which will be the first visit for me in the French capital! Right now, I’m looking forward to going to the movies tonight, and throwing a wedding party tomorrow for the friends and family from Belgium who were not able to attend our wedding in Switzerland!

Welcome lunch in Leuven with Marieta and Jeff Be welcome to BrusselsAtomium Looking for MagritteGood! The famous monument of Brussels - Manneken PissFor equality Dans la grande placeHandsome guy. Joonas looks good too ;) Artisanal beers in Delirium Cafe with Joonas Lunch in Ypres  Memorial for the 600,000 killed in Belgium during WWI Bluff perspectives One evening in Ypres Mmm... mussels, they were so fresh, so delicious! Trying out the Ypres rally podium Memorial for those in Tyne  World War II, Dunkirk Just like in the movie England was still too far a swim

Greetings from the North

Norja, Suomi - 17.6.2018 12:14

Our time in the North has been very memorable; we have met with lovely people and seen beautiful scenery. Our batteries have been recharged in the midnight sun – it’s incredible how awake you feel when it’s always bright outside!

Let me tell a couple of stories of our travels above the Arctic Circle after we left Seinäjoki, where we met with the big family from my mum’s side. By the way, it seems like updating the blog is remaining my responsibility, while my wife is editing our video material. You can find the link and password to a nice video of our Scandinavia tour at the end of this post.

So, after a 6 hours train ride from Seinäjoki to Rovaniemi, which Deb used for editing videos, we arrived and, as usual, my grandpa was there to meet us at the train station. It was a joyful reunion, and even though Deb doesn’t speak Finnish and my grandparents don’t speak English they get well along, communicating by expressions and gestures. It’s always a relaxing time when we go to our grandparents. They take such good care making sure we put on at least a couple of kgs before we leave! My grandma had made the delicious cloudberry cake she usually makes when we visit. We told them about our wedding and showed pictures and videos of it. As they couldn’t come to Switzerland, we also showed them videos of our life over there so they could see the environment we have been living in.

Life at grandparents is simple and stressless. My grandpa had lost a tooth so he took his teeth for repair. However, time flew by as he was singing songs to us, without his upper teeth, that he forgot to pick up his teeth from the dentist before they closed. But he just laughed about it and said that “well, I think I will just eat porridge for breakfast tomorrow!”. He’s so funny. They had moved to a new apartment, which was really nice and just around the corner from Eetu and Paula, friends I met while studying in Helsinki. They had since moved to study and work in Rovaniemi, together with their Lapland dog, Milli. We went to visit them and spent a nice evening catching up, eating pizza, and playing board games! It was really nice seeing them again!

Although Rovaniemi is already at the Arctic Circle you can still drive much further north. So we did. Deb’s friend, Lise, from Mercy Ships lives in Hammerfest, so my grandpa offered us his car to drive and visit her in the northernmost town, which was still 650km further north from Rovaniemi. As we didn’t have so much time before going back to Helsinki, and we wanted to still spend more time with my grandparents, we could only spend one night in Hammerfest. But we did it anyway, 9hrs of driving there on Tuesday, and 9hrs of driving back on Wednesday. The good thing is that the sun doesn’t set for couple of months so it’s bright all the time, which makes driving that much less tiring and less dangerous. Those roads in Lapland are great, empty, wide open and straight! The only danger there are reindeer, and the police if they catch you enjoying the empty roads a bit too much. However, we didn’t experience problems with either of them. Hammerfest is the last ice free port on the coast, so they have built a big gas production facility over there. Apparently there are hundreds of kilometers of pipes from the station going to the gas sources in the arctic sea. And the vessel transporting the gas to its destinations is worth millions. We saw the station and the ship, as we hiked up some of the mountains in Hammerfest.

It’s a very barren environment, so far up north that there are no trees growing. So that makes you think it’s cold. A couple of weeks ago it was +25, and when we visited it was a solid +4 degrees. The weather up there is unpredictable; we saw sun, rain, hail, snow, and rainbows all in one hour. It’s quite a harsh environment, but it’s pretty as well. It’s so remote! They have a small airport but it’s not uncommon that flights are cancelled due to difficult weather conditions. Sometimes the only way to escape the island is by boat, as the roads can be blocked by avalanche. Lise has been living there for a couple of years, working in the hospital. Besides the people working at Statoil, the others are mainly the hospital staff, in the town of 10k habitants. If you take into account the number of reindeer living on the island, I think the population may be doubled.

My dare in Hammerfest was to swim in the sea, the ice cold sea. I’ve never seen sea water so clear. It’s not that I was too hot because of the sunshine, but it was just one of those things on the bucket list, ice bucket list.. I did it just in the beginning of our way back to Rovaniemi, so I was definitely awake for the drive! It wasn’t really swimming, it was more like panicking in the water. Also, as my grandpa said, the beaches up there are not so good. So it was basically just a rocky shore and I tried not to hurt myself while dipping into the freezing salt water. My watch showed the water to be +8 degrees, but it still didn’t feel warmer than the air that was a stable +4.

The drive back to Rovaniemi was beautiful. On our way to Hammerfest we drove through Ivalo and saw the big lake Inari. We arrived to the sea sooner and those views were nice, but I still preferred our way back on the west side through Alta and Enontekiö. The scenery changed a lot, we went through plains with no trees, along beautiful rivers, and then reached the tree line but still stayed high up from where we could see the forests and river down in the valley. Then drove in the valley next to beautiful mountain lakes and through narrow gorges. The forest became thicker but remained still very low, as the growth season in the north is short. Gradually the forest became taller and more variable, as we reached the border of Finland again.

For the last couple of days in Lapland we went with my grandparents to their cottage, which is quite remote, in the woods, by a lake. That’s a place where you can hear no sound. It’s quite amazing to be so deep in nature. There we stayed one night, watched the World Cup, piled some wood outside to dry for the next season and filled the shed with firewood for this season, helped my grandparents to put the jetty on the water for swimming, warmed up the sauna and went swimming. Then the next day it was time to say goodbye to my grandparents, as we flew back to Helsinki.

As we arrived in Helsinki, we went to my sister’s place to help her build a sofa bed she had bought. (making good use of her brother being in town..) She made dinner for us so it was a fair trade, hehe! The next day we met with my friends Kalle, Ida, Joonas, and Pauliina at Kippis Festival in Helsinki. It was a beautiful sunny day to enjoy live music, artisanal beers and burgers, and great seeing good friends! From the festival we went to Shotti Baari to play some shot roulette, a game that sounded so fun I had to try it and take others with me to this small and shady bar. We raised the bar, quite literally, and went next to the terrace on top of Torni, from where you have nice views over Helsinki in the sun set. I got to try the world’s best gin, Napue, from Finland. It looked very arctic with ice cubes, rosemary, and cranberries. On the terrace I happened to meet my friend Petri, whom I’ve known the longest, for over 20 years now! So it was a happy coincidence. That whole evening was a very nice ending for our time in Finland.

From this link you can watch the video of our tour in Scandinavia.

Password: 1205

Now, the time has come to move on to the next destination, Belgium, here we come!

 

Our wheels to Rovaniemi With Ukki Cloudberry cake Visiting Eetu, Paula and Milli On the road 18hrs in two days  Norway, baby! With Lise in Hammerfest View of Hammerfest Apero Polar bear beware!Last kiss? Cold cold cold!I am Thor! Back to Finland Ukki can still chop wood in his old days, but we helped him pile them. Nice little activities at the cottage. Wood for the winter With Mummi and Ukki Karelia stew Standing on the successfully installed jetty on the lake  The old poet Our next destination! See you again! My sister's apartment got new furniture! Summer princess At Kippis Festival with Ida, Kalle and Joonas Good times in Helsinki Shot roulette Found this Teddy Bear on top of Helsinki Quality drinks See you next time in Congo?

Meeting friends and family in Finland

Suomi - 10.6.2018 15:23

Since coming back from Sweden we have been actively meeting my friends and family in Finland. It’s been really good connecting with all of them!

We’ve also carried with us our polaroid camera and wedding guestbook and filled it with pictures and stories of the friends and family we’ve been meeting during the trip, a nice memory!

I’m so proud of my wife as she’s met every day with new people. And yesterday we met with the cousins, uncles and aunts from my mother’s side, 42 all in all, at a cottage we had rented by a lake in Western Finland, “Pohjanmaa” to celebrate my sister’s graduation and our wedding. Most of them didn’t speak English but we talked to all of them, and had sauna together. We also swam in the lake which was pretty chilly, but I’m so proud of Papi since she stayed the longest in the lake and sauna with me, and we did many times the normal sauna as well as the smoke sauna, with “vihta” that is a bunch of birch branches we use to “gently” beat ourselves with in the sauna, creating a nice aroma and it’s good for the body too! We ate traditional Finnish foods such as salmon soup and rye bread, and after the sauna we had different sausages cooked in the barbecue. We did some singing as well and my relatives were very impressed seeing me dancing as we showed some videos and photos from our wedding in Switzerland.

It was good spending time with family, as we see each other with such big group only once in 10 years or so. A lot had happened since I last saw them. Many had got married, they had kids, bought a house.. It was like getting to know them again. We spent Friday with my cousins Laura and Tuomas and their family at their house, watching videos of “Finnish prom” that Laura had attended, discussing and eating good food. There is too much good food on this trip, I’m gaining weight! But that’s because we can’t buy souvenirs as our luggage is full.. so we enjoy good food instead. We discovered how my aunt and uncle had met each other and it was thanks to this Finnish country side custom “rinki”. It means driving rounds around the town again and again, sometimes parking for a bit, maybe popping loud music, and the goal is to see if there happen to be any friends around in town or some interesting people to get to know to. So they were both on the rinki, “chasing” each other, and finally stopped their cars next to each other and started chatting. That’s how it started.

Funnily, as we were walking around the town of Seinäjoki today, I heard a familiar voice saying “hey!”; I turned around and saw that two of my cousins were there, they were on the rinki. As there was no traffic, I went to talk to them on the road and we agreed to go for a coffee nearby. That was a nice break, just a relaxed hour before our train to Lapland, where we are on our way to meet my grandparents and friends for a few days.

Meeting with Jyri (previous housemate) and Raimo (priest/squashmate) at Naughty BRGR in Helsinki Meeting with Miikka (uni friend) and Iina  Flamed salmon glamping with Mika in Nuuksio   Staying at Laura and Tuomas’ house Family in Finland Family from mom’s side Sauna, olut ja vihtaFreeezing  Some gents we found on the Rinki!

Greetings from Sweden

Ruotsi - 5.6.2018 16:06

We had a really nice couple of days in Stockholm together with my cousin’s family. It was great to see their baby, Aurora, the first baby I’ve seen from my cousins’ children. She is so cute and full of life!

We walked around Stockholm and my cousin was our tour guide showing us the sights. Funny thing but I think our favorite visit was to Spotify where the husband of my cousin works. That was out of this world! I would never leave work, if I was single and working at Spotify! We were very impressed.

We also visited the Greenpeace office where my cousin works, and that was cool as well! Seems like the working hours are very flexible here in Sweden, and people don’t seem too stressed about work. It is here where they tried 6 hour working days and I think the results were good. Another thing we noticed was that all the public toilets we visited were “all gender” toilets. I heard that the military service is now mandatory for all genders as well. So, life seems very equal here.

Djurgården was nice and quiet, and had interesting boats we could visit. Södermalm was a very nice area too, and much less touristy than downtown or old town Stockholm. Also we found a really great restaurant called Hermans, that served a delicious veggie buffet!

Now we are off to flight no. 2 out of 18!

       

Greetings from Finland

Ruotsi, Suomi - 4.6.2018 09:30

Hello world!

We have been witnessing the Finnish summer that is incredible when it lasts for more than a Tuesday afternoon! We’ve had such good fresh food, hot sauna, refreshing swimming in the lake, and the world’s best strawberries. I might be biased, but still.

Last evening we took the boat to Sweden. Beautiful sailing through the archipelagos. Today we will meet my cousin in Stockholm!

      

The day when everything’s still ahead

Sveitsi - 1.6.2018 16:13

It is with great excitement we are starting our journey! We have been waiting for this day to arrive, and it’s finally here, the three months vacation is now! Feels very good, no stress no worries, just us :)

Switzerland is sending us off with great weather. We went to the lake this morning to enjoy this paradise for the last time for a while. It truly is beautiful! The lake, the mountains.. and the friends we have are very dear, we’ll miss all of that at some points I’m sure. But we’ll have new experiences and learnings as we go, and “add value” again in the next place wherever it is.

We are on our way to the Geneva airport, then off to Helsinki. It’s been unusually HOT in the northern part of Europe for quite a few weeks already. Mmm, maybe the strawberries are ripe already then! Looking forward to the loooong northern evenings!

We’ve been spending a lot of time at the self storage lately. Our stuff will be safe here for a while. 

 

Stop and Go!

Sveitsi - 30.5.2018 20:18

Hello World,

Not so long ago I made a change by switching from writing in Finnish to writing in English. Now I’m about to make another change, switching from writing about me to writing about us!

My wife and I got married here in Switzerland just a couple of weeks ago. It was surely the happiest day of my life! One to remember, really, just like we had hoped for it to be, and actually even better because of some great surprises. The day was intimate, sincere, full of emotions and laughter. The word to describe it all and the feelings would be “blessed”. We are so grateful. It was worth all the preparation and hard work, which is also part of the wonderful memory of the day.

We didn’t stop there. Today was the “check-out” from our apartment. We have been packing and cleaning for the past three days, fortunately it was worth the back pain, since the apartment is in such a condition that we can leave without any penalties. As people usually do, we also go on a honeymoon after the wedding. Leaving the day after tomorrow, actually! The only thing is that we are gone for three months, and we won’t have an apartment during that time, so we will be a bit like vagabonds. So that’s why we needed to organize a lot of stuff for our departure, but it’s all done now and we’re just looking forward to taking off, and switching off!

Well, actually we will still be working on something; job hunting that is. There are some options in different organizations in different countries, and we are still figuring out what would be the right direction for us. Hopefully we’d know it sooner rather than later so we won’t have to worry about it during the trip.

So, the plan is to travel the first month in Europe visiting Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, and France. Then we head out to Thailand, Australia, US, Canada, and Iceland, before returning back to Europe. You can read about our whereabouts and howabouts here. I am excited to start writing the blog again, together with my wife this time!

Hopping around the Philippines

Filippiinit - 12.11.2017 14:38

We have just returned from a two-week holiday in the Philippines. Statistically speaking 15 days, 7 flights, 6 hotels, +30 degrees, 12 sunny days, 0 sick days! It was much needed and long awaited for, since we hadn’t had a rest longer than a week for 11 months. We started off with a relaxing stay on Sangat island near Coron in Palawan. Palawan is becoming a very popular tourist destination in the Philippines because of its clear waters, nice corals and beaches, and also nice resorts. There are plenty of islands around the area, and some compare the high rising limestone structures to Halong Bay in Vietnam. The area in general is quite expensive to stay at, easily $100 per night per person, and most people seem to go to El Nido.

We wanted to relax in privacy for a while, so we chose Sangat in Coron. It’s a beautiful island with only one resort on it, and we had our own private beach and a beach villa for five nights. The reception was great; as our boat arrived at the island, we were “welcomed to the paradise” and served fresh coconut drinks before taking us to our place, which was a few minutes walk away from the main resort: a boardwalk around a cliff. As we didn’t want to worry or plan about anything, it was great that we got served food multiple times a day; breakfast at 7:30, snack at 10:00, lunch at 13:00, snack at 16:00, and dinner at 19:30. So we ate, slept, and swam a lot.

It was an ECO-lodge, so we didn’t have air-conditioning, but fans and the sea breeze instead. Unfortunately we got some insect bites, which were itchy a bit, but the resort was clean and we didn’t see any cockroaches, which was Deb’s biggest fear. It was an adventurous experience. At nights we could hear the ocean roaring when the wind picked up, but in the morning we were waken up by the sunshine and listening to the gentle waves rolling to our beach.

Besides relaxing, we also enjoyed some activities like kayaking and snorkelling. We even tried scuba diving! That was something that I always wanted to try. At first I was a little bit surprised how difficult it felt to breathe underwater, as we were practicing to replace our mask and regulator underwater in case of an accident. After the training I felt at ease with the breathing. Deb was doing great all the way. Then we spent half an hour straight under water, diving. I’ve never been underwater that long, and I did start feeling a bit the need to get some fresh air! Also, we dove down to only 7.5 meters, but the pressure already started hurting my ears, and I felt a bit dizzy for a while still after the dive. Nevertheless we enjoyed the diving experience and it was incredible, like another dimension of life! Not many sounds underwater, and the concept of time feels different. Down there everything moves slowly or just stays put, at least that’s how it seems like. Nothing is motorized, no petrol engines. No technologies, just pure nature. We saw beautiful coral, also two cattle fish that can amazingly camouflage to their surroundings. It’s like a digital skin that they have, takes the form of the surroundings. Not only does it change colour, but it also changes shape, which is crazy! One of the fish was close to a spiky coral, so the fish skin also became spiky and white! That was impressive. And we also saw a school of clown fish, aka Nemo, who were living in their cute little coral forest.

After relaxing at Sangat island we took a plane further south to Cebu, and a two hour ferry ride to the city of Tagbilaran, on Bohol island. It was refreshing to stay in a modern hotel for a change and go to a restaurant in the city. We stayed two nights in Tagbilaran, but didn’t do much in the city itself. Instead, we rented a motorbike and drove around the island. Bohol is actually a big island, so we could only cover maybe a third of it. I love riding a bike and exploring! We first drove along the coast and then inland through a mahogany forest to a Tarsier sanctuary. Tarsier is an extremely cute and small monkey-like animal. Funny fact is that each of its eyes weighs more than its brain! They are around South-East Asia, but so small that it’s difficult to spot them in the trees. In the park we saw many, though.

We continued riding and reached the famous Chocolate Hills. There are hundreds of them around in Bohol, these funny little round hills. The history said the area used to be a seabed and that the chocolate hills are where coral was growing and piled up. We then crossed a mountain with our motorbike to get to the coast again. It took quite a bit longer than I thought since the road up and down was winding. It was fun to be out on the countryside, however, and the views from the mountain down to the coast and the sea were beautiful.

For the following three nights we stayed in Panglao, a small island just out of the main island of Bohol. There is even a bridge from Bohol to Panglao, that’s how close they are. Panglao was really nice, we stayed in a boutique hotel called Linaw Beach resort and restaurant. We loved it; the hotel was nice and quiet, with a very nice pool (infinity) and just next to the beach and the sea. Our room had a nice balcony and great views of the sea and the sunsets. On top of this all, the resort had one of the best restaurants on the island, so we were eating really good food! By the way, all the time during the trip we were eating a lot of local food, since it’s something Deborah has fond memories of growing up, and I liked experimenting. At Linaw I found my favourite dish, though, which is the fried Bangus fish, marinated in garlic, lemon and vinegar.

We remained active and explored Panglao with a motorbike, visiting a bee farm, where we had good food and ice cream, and bought some local organic products. We also visited a cave, and on the way there were drenched by an afternoon heavy rainfall. Fortunately, when we arrived at the cave, they had some stalls where we could buy dry clothes at affordable prices! All in all the weather was very good, we had only a couple of rainy days during our vacation. Temperature was always around +30 degrees. It’s not yet the high season, and in fact it was still raining for couple of weeks straight before we arrived. Even on our last days, there was a typhoon in the area. Typhoon season was supposed to be over, but I guess the weather patterns are changing a bit nowadays, and these things remain difficult to forecast.

Another thrilling experience was to rent a jet ski while we were in Panglao! I had been to a lot of beach holidays always wanting to try a jet ski, and now I finally did it! It was so much fun to play with! And Debs was doing all these thrills with me!

On our last day in Panglao we took a tour at 6am in the morning. The boat took us to watch the dolphins hunt for their breakfast, and we did see a lot of them jumping out of the water and riding the waves! After the dolphin safari we were taken to a small island for snorkelling with the sea turtles. So lucky, we saw three of them majestic creatures! It’s like birds flying, how they gently flap forward in the water. And we saw a lot of fish as well, big schools of them. Actually, I think the underwater life was even more impressive in Panglao than in Palawan, it was really good. Finally before returning to our hotel we were taken to the Virgin Island, which is basically an island in the sea with nothing on it, no trees at least! We went there at low tide, and the island was bigger, but we could see where the water level had been during high tide, and there is really not much space to sit around then! Our timing worked well; we were back from the tour by noon, took one last swim in the pool, had a good lunch and headed back to Tagbilaran, then to Cebu, through crazy traffic to the airport, but still managed to catch an earlier flight to get to Manila in the evening.

The last two days we spent with Deborah’s family in Manila. They had come even from five-hour drive away, and taken days off to be with us. We had a really good time with them eating, shopping and talking! I had been to Manila before, but now it was different since we were with people who know where to go to, and it was great to get to know her family and their way of life. They were so hospitable, friendly and funny. Even Deborah’s young cousins joined us. Together we went ice-skating and I had the privilege to be the teacher, since I was the most experienced. Since we booked this trip almost six months in advance, we kept from shopping, awaiting the opportunities in Manila. The two days in Manila we mostly spent in shopping malls, like real Pinoys, and stocked up with clothes and accessories. Deb’s auntie Liza also arranged a photo shoot for us with a professional photographer, and this included a make up artist and hair stylist as well, so that was our day as celebrities, we felt!

Now back in Switzerland, feeling a bit sad to be honest, since it was so great, relaxing, warm, welcoming and kind, the experience in the Philippines, just wishing it could have been longer. We promised to go back sooner than before, which was seven years for Deborah. Her family misses her. For now, we are bringing back lots of positive energy and warmth with us from the Philippines.

Abu Dhabi and the Ferrari world Coron island Arrived in Busuanga airport Waiting for the transport to Sangat Island Sangat welcomed us with fresh and tasty coconuts The boardwalk to our beach villa Our private beach on Sangat island Our beach villa, which was more like a three story tree house Some underwater colours, although the iPhone camera through the aquapack doesn't really do justice to how beautiful the underwater world is.  Getting ready for scuba diving!   Communication with the main resort was with walkie-talkies: time for massage. The shower in our villa came from a cliff   Whenever I'm focused on something... One of our leisure time activities during the holiday. Debs became quite a pool shark    We paddled to the Robinson Cruseo beach  Hey I'm a Tarsier! Chocolate Hills of Bohol After we finished watching a movie, this group of people came to set up the church for the next morning service! What a cool church venue! Enjoying the cocktails at Linaw resort in Panglao The famous Pinoy desert, Halo-Halo We could see beautiful sunsets from our hotel room balcony Beeing friendly at Bohol bee farm Wohoo I always wanted to try a jetski! Amazing restaurant on Panglao island. Luna Rossa, must visit! Chilling at the pool Food for the table Virgin island Virgin island Meeting with Deb's family in Manila. What a great bunch! Hello, meet Noa! Shopping with Nat, Noa and Deb Nice views from Deb's auntie's office Debs getting ready for our photo shoot Gorgeous Ice skating with Nat! Life goals! Back to the Swiss Alps

Weekends like real Swiss people do

Sveitsi - 21.10.2017 16:50

The autumn has been beautiful and colorful. Every weekend for the past few weeks we’ve been thinking “now this will be the last nice weekend to go out to the mountains before winter”, but we’ve done that already three weekends in a row, which means we’ve been able to do some nice hikes and explore more of Switzerland! The temperature went down close to zero at one point, but now it’s warmer again and during the day the quicksilver rises up to 20 degrees Celsius.

First one of our autumn hikes was at the Aletsch glacier in canton Valais. Aletsch is the largest glacier at the Alps, with length of 23km and maximum thickness of 1km. Like many other glaciers, it’s retreating as the average temperature rises. We did a 5.5hrs hike around the area where the glacier ends and turns into a river, in a UNESCO world heritage forest area. It was beautiful walking in the canyon where the glacier was still some 50 years ago. The glacier had left clear marks as it had moved along the cliffs. We crossed the glacier river gorge by a long suspension bridge. After the bridge it was quite an intense climb of 650m up the mountain to the cable car down to the valley and ultimately to Brig, where we had left our car. It was a really beautiful hike, ancient glacier tracks, and the pine forest up the mountain was really old and beautiful! I’d like to go again, and next time to a higher point where we could better see the vastness of the glacier, which looks really impressive in pictures in the internet.

Our next weekend hike was going to Grindelwald in the Interlaken area in canton Bern, in relation to the previous weekend hike just on the other side of Jungfrau mountain. Many people had told us that Grindelwald is their favorite area in Switzerland, so we had to check it out! And it was really beautiful indeed. Located next to the beautiful turquoise lakes of Interlaken and Thun, surrounded by impressive mountains like the Eiger and Jungfrau, between the exposed rocky mountains and green pastures lying there a cute Swiss village with small farm lands, a post card view. There are many options for hiking in Grindelwald, and one can easily spend a few days doing nice hikes there. We did a 5hr hike towards Glecksteinhut, which is open from June to September to visitors. Apparently there is a family who live there in the summer and they serve food and drinks for hikers. The hut is at 2,317m altitude, and we didn’t have enough time and strength to make it all the way to the hut. We hiked to about 2,200m where we could see the Upper Grindelwald Glacier. On our way up we came across a few hikers who had to turn back because the route going through a waterfall was too icy and dangerous. Fortunately by the time we arrived to the waterfall the sunshine had melted all ice, so it was safe to go through, we just got a bit wet. On our way down we saw a small capricorn family. These animals are in their element on high and exposed cliffs like this. It’s amazing!

The third glacier weekend was with Deborah’s parents at Zermatt! In my two years here in Switzerland I still hadn’t made it to Zermatt to see the famous Matterhorn mountain, appearing in the brand image of Toblerone chocolate. I didn’t expect much, I thought I had seen the mountain in so many posters and pictures, that I wouldn’t be impressed when I actually see it. I was so wrong; I was really impressed by the dramatic horn, that was visible from everywhere in the valley. And I really liked the village of Zermatt. There are no cars, just some small electric taxis, so it’s a quiet town, in the heart of beautiful mountains. The town is surrounded by high mountains all around, and as you get up, you see 40 peaks rising above 4,000m! There are many beautiful hikes around, you can do all by foot, but you also have many cable cars and mountain trains to assist you on your way, and as usually in Switzerland, restaurants are never far away even at the mountains! So, not necessary to bring a big backpack. We stayed one night in a hotel in Zermatt and it was really nice to see the town in the evening and in the morning as well, instead of doing just a day trip. There are also many shops, restaurants and spas available. It was the last weekend of the summer season, and the town will quiet down for a month or so, before winter season begins. We went to a really nice restaurant called Chez Vrony, which was open for the last day. It has an amazing terrace up at the mountains, basking in sun, looking at the Matterhorn, and they serve delicious meals. Highly recommended! We were blessed with amazing weather as well, so we could really enjoy the weekend, beautiful colors of the nature, fresh air, good food and company! I look forward to revisiting Zermatt, either for mountain biking or skiing!

Aletsch Glacier (Wikipedia) Aletsch Glacier (Wikipedia) In the footsteps of the Aletsch Glacier Aletsch UNESCO Me, Deb, Eiger Ice princess Icy path up the mountain Grindelwald Matterhorn Model Fondue after hiking, like the real Swiss people do! Cemetery for climbers at Zermatt. This grave is dedicated for all the unknown climbers.

Field trip to Lebanon

Libanon - 1.10.2017 20:57

I was able to do my first field visit working with Medair at the end of this summer. I was really excited to meet with my colleagues in Lebanon, both the local staff as well as the expats I work with daily, supporting the field team from Medair HQ. I spent a week in the country, visiting Beirut and Zahle, working with the staff in the office and visiting the beneficiaries in the informal refugee settlements. I was also fortunate to do some outdoors activities and sightseeing during the weekend with my colleagues, who introduced me to the flavors, beauty and hospitality of Lebanon.

The field trip was a great boost for me, and I’m happy it was helpful and motivating for the field team as well. I feel it’s so important to have more personal relationships with the people I work with, and now I can understand the life and work in the field better. I was really encouraged to see how dedicated all our staff are, their compassion for the individuals who have had to leave everything behind and flee their home countries in state of conflict. I’m proud of the high quality of aid our teams deliver in Lebanon to bring hope and make a difference in this world, serving those most vulnerable and hard to reach.

Flying in to Beirut I <3 Beirut Beirut is beautiful (and safe) in the evening too! We found this beautiful café on top of a mountain near Tannourin Beautiful stone formations at the mountains. Great for bouldering! Our climbing crew representing different NGOs Beautiful rock for climbing, really got me into the sport again! Visiting vineyards in the Bekaa valley Wine barrels stored in underground caves where people used to take refuge I need to print this for HQ as well! Ensuring the shelter kits are distributed to the correct people Registering the distributions with thumb prints Shelter distributions to the families based on needs assesments I had the privilege to learn about distributions from our great distributions team