Archive for the ‘Trystan in Norway’ Category

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Trystan: Stavanger, friends, beauty

June 17, 2010

After a few short days of hanging out with my parents in Bergen, it was time for one last road trip. Bags were packed, food was made, cars were collected, and everyone put on their Fun Caps™.

Stavanger’s a decent drive from Bergen, something like 4–5 hours, including ferries. The ferries, by the way, are killer. For our whole trip, with two cars, we spent almost as much on ferries as we did on cars (kr 1.800). It’s a nice drive, though, and the ferries actually break up what little monotony there is. Driving in Norway is like aiming a freight train up a bee’s ass: it’s hard to get a straight shot, and all it takes is one wrong move for game over.

test 019 We got to see the city of Stavanger for a couple hours when the sun was going down. Although we barely glimpsed the surface, the main shopping area was very cool, cute, and clever.

Maybe an hour out of the city we pulled off onto a little side-road-of-a-side-road. After some initial consternation, we agreed on it and found a soft camping spot, where grass covered the rocks so thickly it was like walking on hay. There we were – camping on the beach with a fire, food and drink, and the best company one could ask for. The place was beautiful, too. Watching the sun set—and then start rising just a few hours later—over a mountainous lake with wine and friends is superb.

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DSC_6662We packed it up early, and got back on the road to Kjerag. The drive there is beautiful, as it is everywhere. At the end it gets very hairy—hard hairpins constantly,  and only one lane wide the whole way (you have to pull over and/or back up if you want to let someone pass!). We also saw a bunch of goats just chillin’ in the road, which was fun.

We knew Kjerag would be a tough climb. We knew that. But I didn’t realize just how exhausting it’d really be. The views, at every single point, were beyond breathtaking. Even little things, like drinking right from a stream, are so cool

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DSC_0065There was still a lot of snow up on top of Kjerag. It’s strange to think that it was the middle of June, and here we were trudging through snow – again. But, finally we made it! It was tiresome and overwhelming(ly beautiful), but we made it! At the top of Kjerag is Kjeragbolten—the Kjerag boulder. It’s wedged between two sheer rock edges of a huge rift, and has been for who-knows-how-long. That means that directly beneath is an 984-meter plummet into the fjord (that’s 2/3 of a mile!). For those of you who know me, I’m not a huge fan of heights. Furthermore, I’m a clutz. Majorly. So, you say, a wise, clumsy person afraid of heights would not venture out on a round boulder with no footholds dangling 1000m above the sea. Fortunately, I am no sage. Mother, stop reading. Everyone else, behold:

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Neža  and Sam got out there too, which was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring myself to stand up on it, unlike Florian, who apparently has bigger cajones than the boulder itself. Mike couldn’t bring himself to do it, but he tried his damn best – impressive nonetheless.

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We rested on top and meandered our way back. Tired is an understatement. Five hours of hiking on only 4–5 hours of sleep really takes its toll. But back into the car we clambered, heading towards test 102Preikestolen, looking for our next camping place. We got, um, lost. And by lost I mean, we all realized more simultaneously that nothing looked familiar, and it turns out we were +/- 3 hours out of the way.

We made it back up towards Preikestolen, and found what can only be described as the most unbelievably perfect camping spot… ever. On the beach, in an inlet, surrounded by trees and water, with the sun setting over the sea. Not a soul in sight.

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camp2 day

The sun was well up by the time we went to bed, but after a few hours of sleep, we were ready to tackle Preikestolen. Preikestolen is completely unimaginable. From the side it’s beautiful, and from on top it’s terrifying and stunning. We had much better weather for Preikestolen, and the colors of the fjord were really something to take it. Photos just can’t do it justice. But it can help give a perspective of the sheer size of this monstrosity.

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Trystan: Time

May 12, 2010

As I write this, I have 14 hours of exams staring me down. (First off, isn’t that insane!? 14 hours of exams for 3 classes – jeez!). I’ve been studying Norwegian for a good portion of the day, and need to continue. I really hope to take more classes when I get home. I know it’s not “practical,” but I really like the language—this coming from someone who sucks at learning them. That’s not to say I’ve had the same experience as some others studying abroad. I didn’t stay with a host family, nor did I even live with Norwegians. Though I can read and speak at a basic level, conversations with proper Norwegians are still firmly out of my grasp. The speaking is one thing; the dialect is another beast entirely. Conversations I instinctively know I should know are incoherent to me. Bit frustrating, but ah well.

I’ve started planning out my summer travels. Leaving is definitely going to be very bittersweet. I’m scared as hell, but I can’t wait to be “out there” travelling around for 2 months. I’m going to miss Norway, a lot. I’m absolutely going to miss everyone in Fantoft more than I can even put in words. These people have become part of my life in ways that I will not and cannot forget. I don’t want to get too sentimental just yet. We’ve still got a whole month left! Finals, shminals: there’s plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. And I’m going to see most of them in their hometowns / areas this summer. But already I’m starting to feel it. It’s going to be a long, difficult process—one which I’ve never had to deal with before and will most likely not experience again. This kind of long-distance, long-term, conceivably permanent separation? It’s staggering to think about. But it’s also incredibly humbling and gratifying. How was I lucky enough to run into all these people, at these particular times in our lives? It seems to good to be true. I’m starting to get that strange dream sensation that I had when I first came here. Is this real? Am I really in Norway right now? Can this actually be my life?

Funny how that comes full circle. Maybe it’s an automatic reaction to loss or change, I don’t know.

At any rate, this is the best dream I’ve ever had. Please don’t pinch me just yet.

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Trystan: different attitudes

May 5, 2010

There’s something about Norwegian society that’s different. There are obvious things, like the reserved nature of people, or the fairly clear sense of societal money. But I think these are reflections of something else, something deeper.

Sometimes people can come off as dickish, but to be fair, that’s true in any society. Generally, I feel it’s about equal most of the time. Though when they drink, I’ve noticed Norwegians (the handful I’ve interacted with) tend to turn a little hot-headed. So perhaps the inward-looking nature of people is sometimes a bit repressing. But their societal values are, in my opinion, leaps and bounds more sophisticated.

I’ve personally felt this way for quite some time, but the last while I’ve been thinking about it more. We (finally!) got into the topic of welfare states, and how different countries run them (good, bad, and otherwise). Just today I ran across this article about the newest (and second largest) Norwegian prison. Please, I urge you to read it. It’s very much a reflection, I think, of their mindset. Yes, there are situations that facilitate this; yes, they have a comparatively low crime rate; yes, it would be impossible to retroactively convert every single prison. But the mindset could exist elsewhere.

The basic core, I think, is the belief that nobody is inherently lesser than anyone else. This fuels everything that is socially constructed here. Here, the term “welfare state” doesn’t have a negative connotation like it does in the US—they’re proud of it! And it means more than just “money for poor (and presumably lazy) people” like it tends to in the US. Yes, there is some of that. But it focuses more on other key pillars. The majority of spending is NOT “targeted” for the poor, meaning it’s available to whoever needs it. Benefits tend to be SERVICE-BASED, rather than cash-based (i.e., worker retraining programs, guaranteed and free child care, universal health care, and so on). But it’s about helping people in their time of need.

The same is true with this prison system. It’s not about “beating the bad” out of someone, but about correcting their attitudes with kindness. Does that make sense? You know how sometimes if you tell a little kid, “NO!” they do it even more, whereas if you remove the “forbidden fruit” element, it’s not nearly so attractive? I think that’s what it comes down to. So why, for example, couldn’t this mindset be implemented in more institutions around the world? Not everywhere, and not for all purposes, but more frequently. I think the US has a fiercely individualistic streak. This is damn good, and it’s certainly done us very well, but I think sometimes that is taken to an extreme. I’m not saying an individualistic attitude is bad—what I’m saying is when you take it far enough to view yourself as superior to other humans, then you run into social trouble. Of course everyone has their talents, and of course some people don’t necessarily pull their fair share, but they shouldn’t be viewed as lesser people. All this does is fuel social tension.

Yes okay, now you can scream about taxes, unfair redistribution, etc etc etc. It’s true there’s a higher fiscal penalty for that way of life. But, like college, it’s an investment in the future. I certainly don’t want to be paying as much as I am for college (especially when most of the rest of the world pays little in comparison), but I know it’s for the best. If my taxes went up 10%, and someone else got to eat and feed their children because of it, I’m pretty damn sure I could live with it. If I was rich, and my taxes went up maybe 25% and dozens and dozens of families could eat. Well, I guess I don’t see the problem. Money isn’t the be-all, end-all of happiness. It has diminishing returns once you get past the level of ± comfort.

This is how I want to treat others, and how I’d hope to be treated if I were in need (the Golden Rule and all that). It’s an egalitarian mindset.

This is the lifestyle I want to believe in.

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Trystan: Påskeuken (part 2)

April 27, 2010

Trondheim was an interesting city. As the third largest in Norway, I somehow expected it to be similar to Bergen. I’m slowly learning that Bergen is a pretty unique exception. To be honest, at first I didn’t care so much for Trondheim. It’s kinda flat, mountains barely noticeable off in the distance, similar size and feel to many medium sized cities. So, basically: Anytown, USA.

I rather took to it after a while, however. It’s quaint but modern, open and still together. I also got to see a bit of NTNU (the other school I was considering). I love Bergen, don’t get me wrong, but that campus is spectacular. UiB is like the Al Qaeda of universities—it’s hidden in and around the neighborhood, you’re just never quite sure where it actually is. I much prefer a proper campus, I think.

Chris took us to his hangout at Samfundet, a student organization sort of above and within the University. It was really cool, I just wish I could’ve seen it when it was busier.

We didn’t do as much in Trondheim. But it’s a great city to just walk around in, and explore. Plus, when you’re there with friends, it doesn’t matter much what you actually do. We did, however, see the Northern Lights! Granted my tripod-less point and shoot didn’t capture it the best, but you can see them still.

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Wookie, Selena, and Kasia resting on a bench at the harbor

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Neat lady feeding the pigeons and gulls

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Rowers on the river

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Harbor view

As always, more on Flickr!


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Trystan: Påskeuken (Easterweek/Spring Break)

April 19, 2010

I’m really sick of the obnoxious, clunky way that WordPress makes me deal with photos. From now on I think I’m going to just link to my Flickr page. If it’s too annoying, I can switch back. But seriously. For a fairly modern website, their photo manipulation is awful. FLICKR: Here

I didn’t go anywhere tropical or with a beach. I didn’t spend a solid week drunk. Norwegian spring breaks are very different than ours back home. Typically Norwegians spent their Easter “up north” (I feel right at home, coming from MN/WI!) in their cabins, relaxing and skiing. The main point is to get close to Nature.

I left for Tynset, a little town with 5,000 people. The train ride from Bergen to Oslo is considered one of the most beautiful rides in the world, and it was certainly something to behold. At one point I saw snow-covered desolation (think Planet Hoth—they actually filmed it here) and mountains for miles.

After arriving in Tynset 13 hours later, sleep was incredibly welcoming. The next day Kasia and I went to visit her aunt. They (unexpectedly) lent us their cross-country skis! So we drove half an hour to a valley of sorts. It was kind of foggy and snowing when we arrived, but the random minutes of sunshine in the middle of the forest, surrounded by fog and snow, provided some of the most surreal beauty I’ve ever seen. It was like a dream, honestly.

Thursday we went downhill skiing. Well, let me clarify. The rest of our group went downhill skiing. I essentially paid 750 Swedish kroner ($105) for an hour of skiing and 14 stitches. Yours truly managed to make it down only THREE runs before injuring myself. I fell (for quite possibly the 10th time—these slopes were wicked) and slammed my ski into my right leg. It hurt, but I didn’t think anything of it. By the time I got down I could feel some weird wetness on my leg. Apparently I was bleeding a bit, but I didn’t think it could be so bad since my leg wasn’t hurting.

I went into the bathroom to wipe it up and contin–OH MY GOD MY LEG IS WIDE OPEN WHAT THE HELL OH THAT’S A LOT OF BLOOD I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD. Turns out the ski sliced into me pretty good, but my body auto-numbed it (thanks, Nature!) so I didn’t think I was hurt. I slowly walked out to Kasia and mumbled something to the effect of, “Someone, look at this, go find, not good, blood, this is really bad, damnit I suck at skiing, emergency…” 14 stitches later the doc apologetically said I would have to pay something—to the tune of 150 SEK (about $14). I almost laughed.

“Seriously?” I said.

He responded, “Yeah, since you’re not a Swedish citizen, you’ll have to pay, sorry. I just need your name, birthday, and city of birth.”

“So… an hour of your time (a plastic surgeon), 3 subdermal stitches, 11 surface ones… and all I need is 150 SEK and my birthday? Do you want my insurance card or anything”

“HAHA, no. This isn’t America, don’t worry. Remember, no exercise, etc…”

I love Scandinavia.

Unfortunately I didn’t follow his advice of “No walking! Just keep your leg up and rest.” I was on vacation! And I’m young and invincible, damnit! So the next day I went horseback riding.

I got a feisty guy who hardly listened to me. (Just look at him in the Flickr pictures. He looks like a little hellion, doesn’t he?). I got him partially under control and we walked and trotted around near the barn and down into the little resort area. We met Chris—son of the owner and Kasia’s friend from way back when—and made plans to hang out later in the evening.

We met him and two of his friends around 10. We all went to our apartment and started forspill. (Literal translation: foreplay; actual translation: pre-party. Weird, I know.) The Tynset bar—the only one, in fact—was packed with villagers. Some of them had all their gear on and had obviously just walked in from a day full of skiing. Loud, local Norwegian music, dancing, and drinking ensued. We walked to Chris’s for nattspill (night play, after-party) afterward. Unfortunately, we had to be up at 10 for the three hour drive to Trondheim.

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Trystan: Scandinavian music

March 21, 2010

Something’s afoot here. I’m sure you’ve experienced it before—the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenonbut it doesn’t make it any less surprising when it happens.

I listen to a lot of music. I’m almost always listening, in fact. What I’m generally not aware of is where the artist is from. Some folks can hear the name of a band and BAM, “Oh yeah, they’re from Michigan” or what-have-you. I’m not that guy.

But there’s a handful of bands that I’ve been listening to lately that have suddenly, to me at least, been from Scandinavia. I knew José González was, but that’s about it. I also recently found out The Knife (José covered “Heartbeats”) is also from Sweden—and, in another coincidence—that the lead singer (Karin Dreijer Andersson) is the singer of Fever Ray. I’d just started listening to Fever Ray a month or so ago, and this circle of logical doom blew my mind.

Before I came to Norway, I heard Sondre Lerche on 89.3 The Current and really, really liked him. Turns out he’s from Bergen! Kings of Convenience are also from Bergen. Here’s another: Did you know Röyksopp (I imagine most people will recognize one of these two) is from Tromsø?

A week or two ago I started listening to The Tallest Man On Earth. I’ve been digging him quite a bit, so I did some good ol’ fashioned googlin’ (do you still capitalize that, or has it drifted into common slang by now?). He’s from Sweden! Annie is another artist I came across randomly a few weeks ago. SHE’S FROM BERGEN, TOO. By now I’m starting to get a little aggravated that this is so common, so I end up on Wikipedia (let’s face it, most internet browsing ends up with you stuck for hours digging through Wikipedia). I found this: Bergen Wave. There’s a whole term for this!

I’m not making this up. I didn’t specifically trawl the internet for Scandinavian / Norwegian music. There are a handful of sites that I randomly download music from. The internet is a big place. What are the odds of running across this many Scandinavian artists so recently? At any rate, I’ve realized that Bergen is a huge music scene—I really need to start getting to more shows. I knew it was pretty happenin’ before (I mean, they’ve already had, what, 3 music festivals?), but now it’s getting crazy.

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Trystan: dører i norge

March 17, 2010

I feel it’s time to dedicate an entire post to the doors in Norway (that’s what the title means!).

You see, doors here are weird. I’ve been here almost three months, and unless I’m familiar with the building, I still inevitably struggle with getting in and out of it. It’s insane. Maybe I’m used to it—or maybe it’s more consistent than I ever realized—but back home, I’ll be damned if I [can’t figure out / accidentally slam into / give up and find another way in] a door more than once a year. On the other hand, if I’ve never been in a building here, it’s pretty likely you can find me looking like a complete dolt trying to open its doors.

I mean, there are only so many ways a door can open, and only so many ways which make sense for a door to open. Norwegian architects seem to have handily dismissed these laws of physics and common sense and replaced them with what appears to be an easy way to make foreigners look dumb. You would think the nation that invented the cheese slicer would have an appreciation for convenience and ease.

How many ways do I open thee? Let me count the ways:

    1. Just push (these are exceptionally rare)
    2. Hit unlock button (which may be located anywhere from 10cm away from       the door to, apparently, the other side of Sweden). Now open it.
    3. Twist the unlock knob clockwise and push
    4. Twist unlock knob counterclockwise  (there’s no rhyme or                              reason! Evidently it’s whichever direction you don’t try first)
    5. Just pull (again, about as common as unicorns and Tom Cruise’s sanity)
    6. 7. 8. Prepare for button scavenger hunt or angrily twist anything in sight.        Then pull.
    9. Swipe student ID
    10. Swipe student ID, then type in the PIN code you’ve managed to forget
    11. Try all of the above, give up. Wait for Norwegian student to go by and             open the door with a look that says, “You suck at life.”

It’s also worth mentioning that only around half the doors are marked whether to push or pull them (after, of course, you’ve completed the secret combination and spun around twice while patting your head). It’s not obvious, either. Single doors often have the vertical handle which I’ve come to associated with “pull” but apparently means “guess” in Norway. Double doors sometimes have that typical slat that covers the seam – except you aren’t quite sure which door the slat belongs to (it’s a bit like the tunnel between Ferguson and Anderson Halls on the West Bank—that shit’s confusing the first time).

Norway: “We’ve got some of the best education, health care, welfare, environmental, and social systems in the world. But damn if we know anything about making sensible doors!”

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