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Visiting the Land of Sami and Reindeers

Europe’s northernmost indigenous people

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

For most people, a trip to northern Norway, Finland, or Sweden means viewing the famous northern lights, but these Scandinavia countries have so much more on offer than just their spectacular light shows. They house Europe’s northernmost indigenous people and showcase snow-filled landscapes dotted with reindeer.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

The Sami people (formally known as Lapps or Laplanders) have dated back to as early as 98 A.D. They can still be today found inhabiting
the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. It is suggested that the term Lapp in Scandinavian languages refers to “a patch of cloth for mending” which could possibly be descriptive of the Sami’s traditional “gakti” clothing.

Traditionally these Sami people have pursued a variety of livelihoods, including coastal fishing (amongst the Norwegian Sea Sami) and reindeer herding (amongst the mountain Sami).

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Despite having been previously discriminated against by these European countries, the Sami people are the only individuals that today can legally herd reindeer due to their cultural lineage. Just over 2800 Samis are considered reindeer nomads for herding on a full-time basis.

Historically, reindeer provided the Sami with a means of transport, a source of food, and fur to keep warm from the bitterly cold weather of the Arctic. Today, it is their main source of income.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

To make up for past suppression, the authorities of Norway, Sweden, and Finland now make an effort to promote Sami culture and language. Many Sami artifacts can be found in local museums around these neighboring countries.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Day and evening tours to see the Sami are also on offer. Daytime trips provide you with scenic views of the wild mountains, while on the evening trips, you will be served a traditional hot Sami meal, enjoy Sami storytelling, view cultural artifacts, and take part in the traditional Sami song of junk. Later, go reindeer sledding under the northern lights.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Fun Facts about Reindeers:

 

#1 It’s hard to tell the sex of a reindeer

Unlike any other deer species, both the male and female reindeer have antlers. Males lose their antlers in winter or spring, but females shed theirs in the summer. Reindeer antlers grow back in a few months.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

#2 Santa’s reindeer could have been females.
Sorry to break this to you but as the fact above states – male reindeer shed their antlers in winter.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

#3 Reindeers are the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light.
Things like white fur and urine against white backgrounds show up in high contrast for a reindeer.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

#4 Reindeers are adapted to the cold weather
Their fur traps air providing them with excellent insulation. It also keeps them buoyant in the water while migrating across rivers and lakes.
Their noses warm the air they breathe before it enters their lungs keeping their mucous membranes moist.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Exploring the Sami Tents

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Sami tents, commonly known as Lavvu, are temporary dwellings used by the Sami people. It is designed similarly to a Native American tipi but is less vertical and more stable in high winds. It consists of three or more forked poles and several straight poles. The forked poles have a two-stem fork at the top end and are interlocked so that they form a tripod. Upon the assembly of the forked poles, the straight poles are laid in a circular fashion.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Inside the lavvu, there is a fireplace in the middle used for heating. The smoke escapes through the smoke hole in the top of the lavvu that is usually left open. Occasionally a rough blanket is wrapped around the smoke hole to make the opening smaller, but not to the point where smoke would be prevented from escaping. In order to prevent smoke from building up inside, proper air circulation is maintained by leaving an opening between the ground and the cover, or leaving the door slightly open. Keeping the fire hot enough to let the heated smoke rise through the smoke hole is necessary.

Traditionally, there was a smaller door in the back of the lavvu, opposite the front door, called the bear door. This was used for ceremonial purposes, such as removing the dead (not appropriately out of the front door) and similar functions.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

This is a Sami storeroom, that was built to return to as they moved from place to place herding reindeer. These storerooms were tucked away, safe, in remote locations.

 

 

Images and content by: Chantelle Flores

www.kzaravisual.com

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2016 – Roadworks and extreme weather conditions – A Metaphor for personal growth

31 December – The last day of 2016

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

A time of reflection

I am sitting in my office in complete solitude with sadness in my heart reflecting back on my past year of heartache.

I started off my year on a positive note in search of myself again, after 2015 left me battered and bruised. I booked a few plane tickets to Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, in my determination to make 2016 count.

As kids, we always want to grow up, but what other adults don’t tell you is how tough life gets the older you are. You endure and push through really tough and challenging years, and each new year you enter with renewed hope for the future. You grew as a person through every mountain you climbed over and through every storm you faced. You promised yourself that the lessons you have learned will not repeat themselves in the new year, and develop new goals and visions for your future. Happiness doesn’t have to be something that is short-lived. It doesn’t have to be something that in the blink of an eye it is all gone. It doesn’t have to be something that comes quickly and leaves just as quickly. Each year gets harder and harder to find that happiness.

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A metaphor for personal change

In January, I had no idea that my trip to Scandinavia would become my personal metaphor for change and personal development. I embarked on my personal journey along a road filled with many twists and turns, extreme weather conditions that caused a sudden change in direction, road works along the way that ground my journey to a halt. This trip reminded me of one of my favorite sayings – If you don’t know where you are going – any road will take you there. It couldn’t ring more true now looking back. This metaphor was a constant to every trip that followed – A road trip to KZN and Mpumalanga, Morocco, the Drakensberg, and the Kruger National Park. Through these journeys, I grew as a person.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

16 days in Scandinavia was amazing. I challenged my own boundaries and did something that I thought I could never do. Rented a car, and traveled through extreme weather conditions. I had never driven on the right-hand side of the road before, or the right-hand side of the car, let alone in snow storms, often throughout the night chasing the northern lights. I did it because I believed I could. There were times in this journey when I lost my way, despite never having carried a map along with me. I knew where I wanted to go 90% of the time, and I knew that I would quickly find my way. Sometimes life is like that, we don’t get a map for this thing called life, but we travel on the journey in the hope that it will take us where we are meant to be. We let go of all the fear within us, and we just live and enjoy the ride as best as we know how.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

There were times, I lost control of my rental by quickly breaking during snow storms. I spun 360 degrees before my car came to a standstill. The feeling of the loss of control overwhelmed me. Life does that to you – it throws life-changing experiences at you that push you to a standstill – you lose control during those moments, and are forced to push through – not always in the best ways – but in ways that you know how. You don’t stand still for very long, you gain control of your car again, and keep traveling along your journey. Each time making you more and more cautious.

In Norway, I made the simple mistake of not checking the weather forecast – and it could have cost me my life.
I missed a 100m avalanche by 8 minutes driving through the mountains en route to Sommar√ły islands. I just made it through the road, before the snow came crashing down covering my route. It reminded me to be conscious of the decisions I make in my life, and to be careful who I let on this journey with me. Some people will drag through that avalanche.

I wasn’t able to make it back that way – the road stayed closed for 2 days. This is the strategy I develop when dealing with life problems. I go into solitude and my road will stay closed for as long as it takes for the snow to melt – for those wounds to heal – for me to heal from life’s betrayals. During this time, I undergo road works myself. Road works serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. Holes in the road are filled up from the core, smoothed, and covered with a layer of tar. All the tiny gaps that remain are patched up. The development of the road paves the way for the future and for all those to cross its path.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

As much as these roads are patched back up, any heavy truck that passes over it, can cause the road to crumble, reopening those wounds.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

2016 was a year of that for me. Life got me down 366 days this year. 2016 left me with no time to patch up those wounds.

The death occurred in abundance for me. I lost those dear to me, my “people”, my support structures, my rocks, my mentors. I am funeral hoped for the most part. Others in my life were my biggest critics and turned their backs on me when I needed it the most. Friends and family. I went through a year of drug rehab with someone close to me, after he tried to commit suicide with a drug overdose. I was emotionally abused in a relationship that I was lucky it was short-lived. I forgave my mother, only to have history repeat itself. My staff caused havoc in my business which resulted in my decision to continue as a one-man show. I moved 4 times this year. I landed up in the hospital twice, with a heart attack and stroke scare. Before I could turn 32, I suffered internal bleeding and severe bloating again for the 3rd time this year. My body can’t take all this stress. And I went through another breakup – this time with someone I really cared about. The instability and uncertainty of my ever-changing environment are unsettling.

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I put my faith in other people so unselfishly, wore my heart on my sleeve, and forgave time and time again to not be appreciated, to not receive love. If there was one gift I could have wished for this year is to feel the presence of love close to me. A kind of love that is so unconditional, that helps you grow.

So…

On this last day of 2016, I am doing roadwork on myself. Finding the strength within me to keep pushing forward into a new year with a renewed mindset along with those that have chosen to stay by my side. Despite all the “holes” that developed this year – there were a lot of people that I met along my journey, that have played their part in making me whole again. I am forever grateful.

It’s important for me to be okay, my career depends on it, and all my faithful fans depend on it. I depend on it.

Just a note

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Looking back I started my year with this beautiful waterfall, and ironically my last relationship ended recently with a waterfall in the Sabie area. He didn’t want to visit a waterfall, but I did. I wanted to go because it formed the foundation of my 2016, I traveled the world for these marvels. And would have liked to have ended it with just one more.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 

Who would have thought that something as simple as a waterfall turned a completely pleasant relationship into self-destruction?

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com

Symbolically water represents Life, Motion, Renewal, Blessing, Intuition, Reflection, Subconscious, Purification, and Transformation. Maybe water and all of its compound forms are a representation of where I am now in my life. Maybe I am being reminded of all the personal growth I achieved, and I am close to where I am supposed to be.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 

Similarly, snow has played a huge role in my life all year. Eastern cultures use the color of the snow-white to represent mourning and death. Deep and falling snow is particularly used to represent hardships or death. Melting snow can be used to symbolize a new beginning or the end of hardships.

Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 
 
 
Image by Chantelle Flores | www.kzaravisual.com
 
 

Nature has a funny way of teaching you more about yourself. I can only hope that this is the end of all these hardships. I am ready to receive those blessings.

So 2017, I don’t know where I am going, but I know in my heart that any road will get me there.

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