Friday, May 21, 2010

The Final Week in Norge - National Days and lots of Goodbyes...

Hello Dear Friends,

This entry marks the last week of Kjerstin and my stay in Norway. It is a very bittersweet week, as we look forward to heading home to see all of you and yet have grown very fond of our host country and new friends. I am sure the transition will be very strange, but for now let's recap the activities of the past week.

Monday: Syttende Mai

Norwegian National Day was celebrated on Monday, (May 17th - translates to Syttende Mai in Norwegian). We had tons of fun participating in the holiday and observing the traditions of this day. In the morning we went to a Syttende Mai breakfast, complete with champagne, traditional norwegian breakfast fare (including salmon), and ice cream (not all at once of course). At the breakfast there was a live stream of the Syttende Mai festivities in Oslo, which includes a huge parade, dancing Guards, and the royal family.

In Lillehammer there are many parades that happen during the 17th. The most popular to attend is the children's parade, where all of the children in the city walk through the streets in their traditional norwegian costumes with their flags waving. Amongst the children there are also small marching bands and ensembles with members young and old. It is all very patriotic!

In the afternoon I also attended the "Russ" Parade. The Russ are the recent high school graduates of the year. For the month of May they wear these overalls (yes, every day....and they are not even allowed to wash them!) and participate in a month of parties and strange challenges. The overalls come in red, black, blue and green, depending on their area of intended study. On Syttende Mai they have their own parade where they walk through the streets getting shot with silly string and water guns, while acting out a theme. They usually walk behind the "Russ Vans" for protection from the small children that seek to attack them :) Russ are also required to have a card that children collect from them. These cards usually have a photograph of the Russ, their intended studies, and a quote (usually of an innapropriate nature). It is a very strange concept for Americans like us to understand, but it was definitely a fun parade to watch!

The rest of the day we walked around, ate an ice cream cone (Syttende Mai tradition), listened to Norwegian performers doing rap and rock songs, and took in the beautiful attire of all of the Norwegians. On Syttende Mai, you either wear your bunad (a traditional costume that comes from your family's ancestry) or dress your finest (a lot of men wear 3 piece suits instead of bunads). I think we saw about 40 different types of bunads while walking around! They are incredibly beautiful pieces of clothing and I really wish I was Norwegian, so I could have one!

Tuesday: Dinner at Steinar's
On our last week, we were fortunate in that many of our lecturers and friends wanted to wish us goodbye through a final meeting. Steinar, our lecturer at the Nansen Academy, invited us to his home on Tuesday night for a bbq of sorts. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we sat on his deck, sipped wine, and wolfed down some tasty burgers and brats from the grill. It was a truly lovely evening.

Wednesday: Maihaugen and Dessert with Anne and Oddger

We had visited Maihaugen before, but it was rather cold and snowy the last time, so Uwe wanted us to experience it in better whether. Plus, this time we were able to have Birger as our tour guide and go through the museum. It was certainly a great afternoon. The weather was sunny and warm and the open air museum was very picturesque. The inside of the museum was also interesting, as it followed Norwegian history all the way from the ice age to the present. We were short on time in the museum, but we did stop for the World War II film, which was very good. Afterwards it was also very interesting to listen to Birger's stories from WW II since he was a young boy in Norway at the time.

Our pastor friends invited us for a "farvel fest" (farwell party) at their home. Once again, the weather cooperated and we were able to sit on their veranda while we ate homemade apple crisp and two tasty types of cake, one vanilla and the other chocolate-strawberry. It was heavenly! And the company was not bad either. It is always a joy to be with their family and this evening was no exception. We had a great conversation with Anne and Oddger and at the end received entertainment in a few musical selections performed by their three children, Astrid, Maria, and Magnus (he even did some Michael Jackson moves...which I have to say are even better when performed by a 6 year old Norwegian boy). At the end we had a lot of hugs and goodbyes! It was hard to back to the bus stop, away from their lovely home.

That evening, we also had a pre-party and a night out with the international students as a goodbye party. It was a great night, but it was very sad to say goodbye to all of the new international friends that we had made.

Thursday: PACKING! and Dinner at Per's

It was a lot of work to get ready to leave on Friday morning! Because our apartments will be used by Norwegians over the summer, we had to move everything owned by Luther/Concordia into Uwe's flat for storage. We also had to clean the apartment top to bottom, not to mention finish our packing.

We were all happy to be receiving a tasty meal at the home of Per and his wife. Per is a coordinator at HiL and one of the people who made the Scan Baltic Semester happen. He and his wife were extremely gracious hosts, serving up a tasty array of warm homemade buns, meats, cheeses, and other toppings along with fruit as our final Lillehammer dinner. Thankfully, Lillehammer chose to ignore the forecast of rain and provided another night of great weather for our dinner. We talked not only about our semesters but about flowers, trees, dogs (they had a very sweet chocolate lab by the name of Milla), and culture. Birger was also in attendance and it was very nice to have one more meal with him as well.

I am writing this on the eve of our departure from Lillehammer. There has been some uncertainty about flights because of the Icelandic volcanic ash, but we are hoping that we will be spared. At this point, we have all started to come to terms with the end of our semester abroad and are very excited to get home to all of the things we have been missing.

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Norway for a long while. But I bet you Kjerstin and I will be returning before too long. This has become a sort of home now and that is not easily forgotten!

My camera is unfortunately broken, so I will count on Kjerstin to provide some photos from our final days in Lillehammer, so look forward to those.

But other than that, I want to thank you all for keeping up with our adventure and I am sure that we are very excited to see you all in the states very soon!

Ha det bra og Tusen Takk!

Shelby (and Kjerstin)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fishing Trip: Pictures

Here are some pictures from our fishing trip... Hope you enjoy!
-KJO (and SLC)
We had to wake up to this view outside Gullstein feriested every morning... yeah, it was rough.
Dried cod: Birger made us try some of this. It was interesting. Let's just say I'm glad I'm not a Viking...
Here's a cod
Julia, Shelby, and Lauren
Ready to go fishin'! (l to r: Abby, Stephanie, Shelby, Kjerstin)
Fishing in the lovely weather (snow and hail). PS That's the fishing contraption I was talking about; some are made of wood, others, like the one pictured, are plastic.
Hello, Mr. Crab! We set out crab traps and caught some crabs (this one's missing his front legs, and he was too small so we threw him back), and we also caught....
Pretty starfish!
I made a new friend.
Shelby and the mountain
Kjerstin and Shelby: fisherwomen!
Norwegian scenery
Beautiful day
Ja, vi elsker dette landet... and you can see why.
The Geitbåt Museum in Halsa
A geitbåt being built (notice the curving neck of the bow?)
Our tour guide, Jon, showing us some joints used in log cabins in the area
Getting ready to go rowing
Picture break. Team 1: Reagan, Kjerstin, Mitch, Abby (Stephanie took the picture)
Heave, ho! Team 2: Andrew, Bryn, Julia, Shelby, Lauren
If it's in black and white is it easier to imagine it being 100+ years ago? That's an old boat.
Hiking up the mountain near Gullstein; time goes by so quick when you have views like this
Shelby and Kjerstin, the happy hikers :)

The Gullstein cabin--we got to look around inside, and it was really nice
The trail was a little muddy, but the view was spectacular
Hiking; we went through different types of terrain and flora
Fishing out on the Flink -- the water was so blue! A perfect day.
A young sei fish (from the cod family) we caught a lot of these
Red cabins/houses + mountains + fjord = typical Norwegian scene
The Admiral (Birger) and I (he let me wear his hat!)
Group shot from aboard the Flink (l to r: Mitch, Kjerstin, Lauren, Shelby, Andrew) Such a fun time!

Fishing Trip, Part Deux

Hei hei folkens!

So, instead of my usual play-by-play of events for this blog, I decided to switch it up and go to list format.

A List of Favorite/Most Memorable Experiences from Our Fishing Trip, May 3-7

-SNOW. That’s what we woke up to the first morning, and we got to go fishing with it too. That was a first: fishing on the open water in a boat with snow falling. The wet snow and tiny hail weren’t too miserable because it wasn’t especially cold and there was no wind. The weather wasn’t the best in the beginning of the trip (snow, hail, rain…), but the last few days were absolutely gorgeous.

-Gullstein feriested. This is the name of the guest house that we stayed in, and we were happy to find it homey and cozy and rustic. It had lots of character and, according to Birger, a friendly ghost named “Thomas” that we were supposed to greet each morning. The beds were comfortable and warm, and the house had everything we needed, so it was perfect for our stay. The housekeeper/owner even put a delicious cake and slab of smoked salmon in the fridge to welcome us! Nice Norwegian hospitality, don’t ya know.

-Card games. When the weather was less than pleasant or the sun had gone down (not until about 10:30 pm or so) we played cards. Lots of cards. Uwe taught hearts to those of us who didn’t know how to play, and Birger taught us “farmers’ bridge” (which is known to one of our American friends as “bid,” if you’re familiar with that). I had forgotten how much fun playing cards is. I even almost beat Birger at his own game (lost by only six points!)

-Sexist fish. The fish were being choosy, apparently… not a single female on the trip caught a fish! And I refuse to blame it on our technique; we were using the same techniques as the guys who caught fish. Andrew was the champion fisherman of the week, but even though we congratulated him, we envied him behind his back for his nice fishing pole with the pretty blue fish lure on the end.

We tried our hand at using fishing lines attached to wooden handle things… I’ll put a picture up so you know what I’m talking about. There were three shiny or gummy lures attached to the end with a weight. The technique we were taught was to drop those to the bottom (we knew we were there when the line became slack) and then pull them up a meter or so, tug on the line, pull in a few more meters of line, tug, let back out, repeat. Mitch, Uwe, and Birger all caught fish this way, but the rest of us couldn’t quite master the technique, I guess. (Or the fish were being sexist, as previously stated.) Shelby did catch the Norwegian coast a few times, and something nibbled off my worm and clam bait. So I would say we weren’t completely unsuccessful! And we had an absolute blast and learned a thing or two about fishing. Speaking of learning things…

-Learning how to fillet fish! Okay, so Shelby already knew. But it was my first time, and I can proudly check that off my bucket list now. My fillets weren’t half bad, either! Good icky fun, cleaning fish. The noisy, anticipatory seagulls thought it was fun, too. They got to eat all the guts and fish heads. Yum. Speaking of fish,

-Learning how to make Bergensk fiskesuppe (a variety of fish soup from Bergen) with Birger. Shelby and I got a fun, private cooking lesson with the entertaining and knowledgeable Birger. I can’t tell you the recipe (not because “then I’d have to kill you,” but because I don’t remember…) but there was cod, salmon, shrimp, onions, and carrots, all in a creamy sauce. It was decadent. Birger has the “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” and “how does that taste to you?” method of cooking, which is one of the best ways to cook, in my opinion. Birger also made us his famous bacalau one night, which comes from Portugal but is a well-known dish in parts of Norway, too.

-Campfires and grilling. We got to grill hamburgers and hotdogs and make s’mores over the fire. Delicious outdoor fun. Sitting by the campfire after when the sun was setting was nice, and from where we were sitting we had a beautiful view of the water and the mountain.

-Geitbåtmuseet (The Goat-boat Museum) in Halsa. We drove and took a ferry to the Geitbåtmuseum where we were shown around by Jon, a friend of Birger’s. “Why is it called a “goat-boat?” you say? Well, it’s not because the boats were used to transport goats (although they do have plenty of those in Norway). The “goat-boat” gets its name from the shape of the bow of the boat, which curves upward like the neck of a goat. This type of boat is native to the area we were in, Nordmøre. In the museum, there were around 30 wooden boats, some of which dated back to the 1800s.

The museum is not just filled with antique boats; in the next building over, the Husasnotra, there is a full-fledged workshop that was really interesting. We had the opportunity to see goat-boats, log cabins, and shingles being built and formed. Jon showed a huge stack of wooden shingles (they last for a really long time and are really expensive) that were going to be used to build a church in Oslo. We also saw a geitbåt and log cabin being built. Jon showed us examples of many of the joints used in building that are native to the area. The workshop has an apprentice program, too, so much of the knowledge of traditional building methods are being kept alive or revived.

While at the museum, we had the amazing opportunity to try our hand at:

-Rowing antique wooden boats. It wasn’t windy enough to put the sails up, so we rowed instead. There were four people who sat two-by-two and each had an oar, and one person who sat in the stern as a skipper to point us in the right direction or a bailer for when water came in the boat. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water, and we got some good exercise. It was also a fun bonding experience; by the end we definitely had the timing down and were “heave”-ing and “hoe”-ing in unison. The wooden boats aren’t kept in the water (they last longer that way) so after we were done rowing we had to lift them up the incline out of the water and over to the museum and shed where they belong. More teamwork—those boats are heavy!

Things we learned at the museum:

-Cod liver oil has many uses. Not only is it drank to keep one “frisk som en fisk” (healthy as a fish), but it is also used as the base for red ochre paint used on many buildings in Norway, including the workshop at the Geitbåtmuseum. In the olden days, Norwegians would use goatskins coated with cod liver oil for watertight raingear.

-Many nautical words come from Norwegian. “Starboard” comes from the Norwegian word styrbord or “steering-board,” and the word means the right side of the vessel because the rudder was on that side. “Port” is the left side because the boat would always come in to port on the side opposite the rudder.

-“Helm” comes from the Old Norse word hjalm. The helm is in two pieces- the tunge (tongue) which we call the tiller or handle you steer with, and the ror which we call the rudder.

-Visiting a nursing home. We had the opportunity to visit an alders- og sykehjem in Gullstein. The facility was very nice, and the head nurse, Elisabeth, gave us a tour and talked to us about the system in Norway. Because Norway is a welfare state, Norwegian citizens are protected “from cradle to grave.” The care that Norway gives the elderly (which some say is the mark of the wealth or quality of a country) was apparent in the nursing home; the staff appeared to be very friendly and caring with the residents, the rooms were all well-lit and tidy single rooms with a bathroom, and the food at the cafeteria was such a level of quality that it won a prize.

Elisabeth explained how important it was that the residents feel at home—the entrance to each room looked like the exterior of a house, complete with a red brick wall, large colorful door, lamp, and post box. There were also paintings outside each of the rooms portraying a recognizable place from around the area. While we were visiting, we had the chance to hear some of the residents sing songs including “Ja, vi elsker dette landet,” the national anthem of Norway. We had an impromptu little concert for them, too. It would have been nice to have more interaction with the residents, but the language barrier may have been a little tricky.

-Hiking up the mountain on a beautiful day. Birger led us down the road to where the trail started and off we went, up the mountain. The views were stunning, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The hiking wasn’t too strenuous and muddy only in a few places. We didn’t see any wildlife, except for some insects. It took an hour to our destination: the cabin. We ate our matpakkes and then went to check out the cabin. I was expecting a little dinky wooden building with bunks, but building I saw exceeded my expectations, to say the least. The cabin was big with beautiful wood floors and plenty of space. There was no electricity or running water, but there were oil lamps and a stove, and the “do” (outhouse) was about as nice as they come. The prices for staying overnight weren’t exactly cheap, but it would be a nice, cozy place to stay on a vacation.

-The Flink. Flink means “clever” in Norwegian, and the Flink was the shrimp trawler that our hosts owned. We had the opportunity to go out on the water aboard the vessel. And even though we didn’t trawl any shrimp, we did fish some fish. Well, some people fished some fish, and the rest of us (as already stated) just fished… without results. But it was a beautiful day, so we didn’t complain. And it was entertaining to watch those who were a little more flink at fishing reel some nice catches.

All in all, it was a spectacular week, and a nice vacation in beautiful surroundings.

Kyss og klem,

Kjerstin (and Shelby)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Your Virtual Tour of Bergen!

Hei Hei! Velkommen til Bergen :)
Or at least Shelby's amazing virtual tour of Bergen! Aren't you excited?

Here is the main shopping street, complete with a fountain, lots of stone benches, and of course, pigeons!
Another view of the fountain. There really a lot of great shops along this stretch, so if you are wanting to purchase clothing, books, or electronics...this is the place to be.

This is a view of the harbor and Bryggen (the pier) from the fish market area of Bergen. Our hostel (YMCA , which was very nice thanks for asking) was extremely close to the fish market area and very convenient.
Bergen Harbor
Bryggen is the most famous landmark in Bergen, consisting of a long row of old wooden houses left over from the Hanseatic (German) Traders that lived and worked in Bergen.

In Bergen, the weather is always changing, so don't be discouraged if the sun is not could change in a matter of minutes.

When in Bergen, it is important to follow the viking (or it is pronounced by Norwegians) codes, which are: Be Brave and Aggressive, Be Prepared. Be a Good Merchant, and Keep the Camp in Order. These are really rules for life, don't you think?

Here we have the Bergenhus Fortress, dating back to the 1240s. Unfortunately, one cannot go inside the fortress, Haakon's Hall, or Rosenkrantz Tower in early May.

Bergen is definitely a tourist town. Look how cute their man-holes are!

When visiting Bergen, make sure you walk around as much as possible when finding various attractions, as Bergen has beautiful side streets and colorful architecture (with more similarities to Western Europe than anywhere else that I have visited in Norway).

This is the Dome Church (Domkirken), the 12th century Cathedral of Bergen. If you look closely to the left of the large window, you will see a small sphere stuck into the wall. This is actually a cannonball that hit the church during World War II.

And here are some lovely tourists by the name of Julia and Stephanie who are enjoying a nice stroll through the historic streets of Bergen.

Now, before you scroll down.....No virtual tour is complete without some trivia!

Please join me in a joyful game of "Who's that famous Norwegian?"

Here is the hint: This Bergen native's piece evoking a troll's underground festivities is one of the most famous orchestral pieces in modern music.

If you guessed Edvard Grieg.....You are right!! Ding Ding Ding! (Aren't virtual tours fun?)

Okay, next one. This Norwegian violin player also has strong ties to the U.S., with a town named after he and his mother in Pennsylvania and a Mammoth cave he used to use as a concert hall?

Got it? can scroll down now...

That's right! It was Ole Bull! And there is a lovely fountain in his honor (with his statue) in downtown Bergen. It also has stepping stones that are very fun for tourists (and locals...according to my inside sources) to hop on.

Now everyone say "Awww!!!" at the cute little outdoor kindergarten walking by. These sights are very common in Norway, but I have to say that the pink hats and bright yellow vests made this troop that much more adorable!

If you need a moment of contemplation and rest, this lovely fountain in the Festplassen.

A great place to visit in Bergen is the FREE Cultural History and Natural History Museums. On your way there, you can stop and visit the St. Paul's Kirke.

At this time, the Natural History Museum is closed, but the Cultural Museum has much to offer, including exhibits on Vikings, Norwegian Theatre (pictured above), Knitting, and Religious Artwork.

Near these museums, you can also find Johannes Kirke.

But be careful when walking in the side streets...we don't want you to get bullied by a mischievous troll!
In Bergen, they have extremely tiny side streets called "Smauts" which demonstrate how old the architecture in this city really is.

Families and the young at heart will greatly enjoy the Bergen Aquarium! With cute penguins....

Ugly wolf-fish.....
And giant crocodiles! It is quite the place to visit!

At the aquarium they also have kindly staffers who lead things like the penguin guiding (shown above) and seal show. That little penguin behind the staffer is named "Pingrid Alexandra" after the crown princess, Ingrid.

While you are in Bergen, you could take in a this Black Metal musical, showing at Den Nationale Scene. In case you weren't aware, Norway (and especially Bergen) has a very large Black Metal "scene." However, I am being sarcastic about actually seeing the show because Black Metal is a little tough on the least in my opinion.

Ooh! It's time for another "Who's that famous Norwegian?" Hint: "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet" is his creation...

If you guessed Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who wrote the Norwegian National Anthem, you would be right!
And our last famous Norwegian is the second most performed Dramatist in the Western World (second only to Shakespeare).

Do you know? I hope so!!

Henrik Ibsen! Congratulations! I would give you a prize...but this is a virtual tour and virtual prizes aren't so fun. So let's just continue the tour, shall we?

If you run out of things to do outside, or the weather turns sour, you can always visit the Kino (the movie theatre). These lovely ladies bought some 3D goggles and saw Alice in Wonderland.

I would have included this man in our quiz, but that would have been too hard. His name is Johan Nordahl Grieg and he is a famous Norwegian novelist, dramatist, poet, and journalist. And yes, he is related to Grieg, although not extremely closely.

In the summertime the nights go on forever in Bergen, thanks to the midnight sun. After dinner, you can always take a sunny walk down Bryggen.

And you can watch the sun come down before heading off to bed.

However, the most important thing to do when in Bergen is to take the Fløibanen, the funicular that takes you up to a majestic view of the city. Please enjoy these photos and pretend that you really there taking in this is a virtual tour after all :)

See that black piano-shaped building down there? That is the Greig Hall (Greighallen), and yes, it is supposed to be shaped like a piano.

Look at that happy girl! See, don't you want to visit Bergen for real now?

All of these people did! You can expect to hear exclamations like "Oh, bonito!" (Translates to "Oh,Pretty" from Spanish as there are many Spanish tourists in Bergen in the summertime).

And maybe once you saw the beautiful view, you would like to walk down the mountain through the mossy woods back to the city.

But regardless of what you do in Bergen, I am certain that you would enjoy a real visit much more than a virtual one!

Thanks for joining me :)

Ha det bra,