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)

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