In my last entry I wrote a list of where I have lived, and in the comment section, Sandra of A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With ... Too Much Luggage asked: "But now the nosy question: can you say which placed you loved the most?!"
No, I really can't! I love them all, but they of course mean different things to me. Norway is my home, where I am from, where my family is, so of course it is very important to me. I also I am a big fan of many of the things Norwegians take for granted but many other people don't have: Easy access to nature, both sea, forests, and mountains; social safety nets for our residents; less focus on cars and more on healthy living...
Panama is very special to me. When I was 17 I left Norway to go spend a year in Panama as an exchange student and it really changed my life. I lived with a family and at that age one is young enough to really absorb life in a different culture. I learnd so much about myself, about the world, about poverty... I still love Latin America and my choice of studies and career were directly influenced by my time in Panama. And I had so so so much fun! Going to school with 3,000 kids where everyone knew who I was; going to the beach; learning to dance; learning a new language by total immersion... Here is a beautiful video with Ruben Blades' song Patria that he wrote for the handover of the Panama Canal on December 31, 1999. It has some great shots of Panama plus it is a beautiful song.
Italy. You just can't go wrong with Italy! My first trip to Italy was when I was 13 and traveled with a friend's family to Firenze and the Tuscan countryside. I had a great time but of course I wouldn't know that I would be obsessed with the country later on! When I was 19 I took my second trip, this time with three friends, and I was sold. (What's kind of funny is that I talked my friends into going to Italy after meeting an Italian family on the island of Tenerife...) I went back a year later on a Lion's Club Youth Exchange, and then again in 2001 and 2003. Later in 2003 I went to Bologna to do the first year of my Master'd degree. It was something I had wanted to do for a long time and it actually was just as great as I had hoped. I lived with three Italian girls but went to school with people from all over. Fun fun fun! It was so great to get to spend such a long time in Italy and really live there. I loved the rhytm of Bologna and tried to explore the city to the fullest. I also loved being able to travel easily to Venice and other cities. One of my favorite things in Italy is simply to ride the train and listen to the most beautiful langauge in the world.
The US has been great to me. College in Athens, GA, was great fun and I enjoyed it 100%. But I have to say that Washington, DC, is even better. I really felt at home there from Day One and I was/am very happy there (currently I live in Baltimore but I hope to go back!) It is a very international city and for an international politics junkie like myself it is just perfect. What is interesting is that there seems to be two circles, the domestic politics one and the international one - and there is not that much crossover. Since I belonged to the latter, I didn't have to worry too much about domestic US politics and I was probably the better for it! (Plus those of us who live in the actual DC feel that the annoying hill staffers and the like live in Northern Virigina anyway.) DC has great neighbourhoods filled with beautiful townhouses, the Mall with all the monuments, theatre, movies, good food... I just like it!
Nicaragua might be were I left the biggest piece of my heart. I volunteered with a children's organization there for the summers of 2002 and 2003, and I have been back once or twice every year since then. I am the godmother of a little girl there and knowing her has been the best thing I have ever experienced. I even got to take her to the US for several months for surgery and therapy. She is the best kid ever! I love the country as well, and I physically hurt if things are not going well. For instance, HIV/AIDS is still not as widespread as it is in some neighbouring countries - but I am sure it won't stay that way. It just kills me that we could try to stop it now, but that enough is not being done. I love you, Nicaragua.