Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

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Miles: Påskeferie (Easter travels)

April 30, 2011

Påske (Easter) is quite the event in Norway. Tradition demands that you either read a crime novel or watch episodes of Crime TV every night. (They show them on the national public TV channel.) Stores close from Thursday through Monday. Bus routes shift. And, of course, you travel.

So I did.

My friend Aisha and I spent the week in West Norway. It was incredible and really nothing that I’d expected. Our first few days were spent in Bergen, staying with Ayla and Will (Aisha’s friends). I lucked out, because Will grew up in Duluth, and because he’s both fluent in Norwegian and Midwest, he was a great resource when conversation got too intense for me to follow. Bergen is a beautiful city and I would definitely consider spending more time there on my next Norwegian adventure. (If I say it definitively, that means it’ll totally come true, right???) Bergen highlight: climbing up to Fløyen and staring down into the city center and off at the mountains and water.

Our next stop was Nedstrand, a tiny town right in a fjord, to stay with Hans Olav and his family. He and Aisha went to folkeskole together and I’ve been on a skiing adventure with him before. His family was incredibly nice, and cooked amazing food. It felt great to just relax in a home and be taken care of. Here was were I was introduced to the påskekrim — we spent our evenings watching British crime TV with Norwegian subtitles.

After Nedstrand, our trip became a little more strange. Our next destination was Stavanger, but mostly so we could climb Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). Because of Easter and the weird transportation schedules, we had no real way to get to and from the rock in one day, so we booked a night at the cabin near the rock. Climbing up and staring right down into a fjord was amazing, and I definitely am discovering/nurturing/indulging my new(ish) found love of nature and hiking. Most of the trail was essentially a scramble up a series of stones — challenge and oh so rewarding at the top. After our hike we got a fairly fancy dinner at the cabin restaurant and then promptly fell asleep.

We were not supposed to spend a night in Stavanger. We were also not supposed to miss our bus the next morning. …Oops. When we learned that the next bus wasn’t until the next day (in that moment, I hated påske) we got a room at a hotel and spent the day exploring Stavanger. Stavanger high and lowlight: The oil museum. We didn’t go in, but we did explore the Geo Playground — a playground made entirely of recycled oil drilling equipment. It was a great idea, and a cool concept for recycling, but I felt funny about the oil industry very purposefully maintaining such a positive relationship with the community. It almost seemed too intentional. Oil and Norway is way more complex than I understand yet.

So after our accidental night in the nicest hotel I’ll be staying in for a while, we took a 9 hour bus back to Oslo. All in all, it was a damn good påske week.

Things I have learned:

NORWAY REALLY WAS MEANT FOR SMALLER CITIES. Bergen and Stavanger just kept making me think Wow, that’s so Norwegian!  in a way that Oslo doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love Oslo to death, but I think Norway really really does thrive in smaller cities. Norwegians like their space. Sometimes they seem to prefer having mountains for neighbors. It’s fascinating to live in the biggest city in this country and know that it would be considered a small/medium city by US standards. It’s also fascinating to feel drawn towards the smaller cities in Norway. Maybe I’m just having the pastoral dreams of an urban-raised kid, but maybe the beauty of Norway really is hidden in the small towns along the coasts.

STUDYING ABROAD WILL INEVITABLY MAKE YOU ASK YOURSELF BIG SCARY QUESTIONS WITH NO ANSWERS. My friend Ben and I sat on my porch eating a delicious vegetable feast and drinking beer and talking about life. We both, during our semester abroad, have found ourselves questioning our lives in big monumental ways. The way he describes it “I think I’ve thought through everything from birth to now this semester”. I wonder about things. I suddenly feel so open to do anything, so anxious to be everywhere. My world just got a lot bigger, and that’s so exciting and so terrifying. Sometimes I have to remind myself to just get a kaffe and a bolle and enjoy the ride.

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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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Kathryn: Semana Santa

April 16, 2010

Since over 90% of Ecuador is Catholic, Semana Santa or Holy Week has many festivities and customs observed by virtually the whole country. As with any holiday here in Ecuador, there is a special food associated with Easter. It is called Fanesca, and it is a very hearty soup made with as many beans and grains as can be found, salt cod, milk, onions, peanuts, and lots of other delicious ingredients, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, plantains, red pepper, and parsley. It is only made once a year during holy week, and I have already eaten three different, equally delicious, versions.

Another tradition that I participated in this year was the siete visitas, in which I made pilgrimages to seven churches in the historic district to offer up prayers and petitions. I was able to go with my friend Margarita, whose family is part of Opus Dei. According to its website, “Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Its mission is to help people turn their work and daily activities into occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.”

On Good Friday, I went back to the Centro Histórico with my friend Jessie and her host family to watch the famous Procesión de Jesús del Gran Poder.  In this procession, people who want to do penance for extraordinary sins or evils they have committed don purple robes with pointy headpieces and march in the procession. The special name for them is “cucuruchos.” The procession also includes many people dressed as Jesus carrying massive and very heavy crosses, often walking barefoot and sometimes with crowns of thorns. Others walk the route wrapped in barbed wire or dragging heavy chains on their ankles.  Jessie and her family and I watched in a packed crowd, underneath umbrellas to shield us from the heat. Nonetheless, a woman next to us fainted, and we dutifully shouted for CRUZ ROJA (Red Cross)! I also narrowly avoided being pickpocketed by the old man innocently standing next to me, groping into my purse.

Holy Saturday I was able to go to the beautiful chapel in the women’s house of Opus Dei once again with Margarita for the Easter Vigil.  As is the Catholic custom in many parts of the world, the ceremony began with all the lights out.  The priest then lit a candle and shared the flame with someone; each of us held a small candle. As the flame spread to each person at the service, we began singing, and the priest reminded us that Christ is the light of life.

After Mass, Margarita and I went out for dessert at TGI Fridays. We then headed over to the men’s Opus Dei house where they have an annual skit night on Holy Saturday.  In one of the performances, four elected audience members repeated a short interchange having to do with selling/buying a “duck” in different accents mandated by the Master of Ceremonies. First they each had to perform the interaction like someone from “the coast,” for example. Then as a Chilean. Then as someone “posh.” Then as Professor so-and-so that everyone knew very well, etc. All very amusing. The party continued at one of our friend’s apartments with more refreshments, music, and conversation.

On Easter Sunday I cooked some typical American dishes for my host family.  I made a green bean casserole (french fried the onions myself), bacon, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, and scones with lemon glaze. I also skyped with my parents and siblings back home for quite a while.

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Tiana: living, loving, learning

April 15, 2010

Easter was quite a big day for Senegal: a celebration and feast, a national independence celebration, and a huge and highly anticipated wrestling match all packed into one 24-hour period. My Easter started off with mass at the local church…

I arrived there with Paul and my siblings about ten minutes before mass started, and was heartened to see people pouring through the doors.  I, personally, am not Catholic, but it is always encouraging to be in the fellowship of other believers in Christ!  I took my seat on a wooden bench next to my sister, Mama, and I imagine it was quite a sight to see for anyone seated behind us.  There I was, this tall, blonde toubab, and I was sitting in a section with all of the younger kids!  It was so strange, and ever so interesting, to see and hear an Easter service in French (and, intermittently, Wolof)!  Not to mention, all of the songs were accompanied by characteristically African tunes on keyboard and the now-familiar beats of a chorus of djembes.  The service ran quite long, just over two hours, but I didn’t mind.

Mass was followed by rest and a gigantic feast for lunch.  Rice, chicken, and loads of vegetables!  I then went to buy credit for my phone at a nearby shop so that I could call Matar, my cousin from Dakar, who was in town visiting family and friends.  It turns out that he was about a block away from the shop I was at, so we met up and caught up on all things new in Dakar and in Joal.  The family in Dakar is well, and I think Maman might be visiting Joal sometime next week.  In any case, it was great to see a familiar face that afternoon.

Another epic wrestling match, similar to the one described in a previous post, took place that evening and, just a fun little note, the wrestler from Joal, named Yekini, won the match!  Everyone went nuts!

Monday was a lazy day—no work, nothing to do but relax and write a couple of papers.  I ended up taking the short walk to the beach and spending about an hour there taking pictures and collecting shells in complete serenity.  There’s nothing like some alone time, especially when the only sound surrounding you is that of waves crashing onto the beach.

I worked with the resident Social Assistant, Demba, at the center on Wednesday.  He’s quite the busy guy with quite the charged job description: providing general social services, taking on social cases, distributing antiretroviral drugs to patients affected by HIV/AIDS, regulating scholarships given to orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS, organizing and executing activities in the community to educate and inform the population about HIV/AIDS, distributing donated food to pregnant women, patients, and families in need and the list goes on!  I had the opportunity to sit in on some counseling sessions and learned how to distribute the antiretroviral medications, then I headed to the pediatric center.

There wasn’t much to do, so I went and sat with Tata Ana, or Aunt Ana, who holds down the fort at the very front of the center, distributing consultation tickets when patients come.  Aunt Ana is an older woman, I would estimate between sixty-five and seventy years old, with one of the sweetest attitudes I have ever encountered.  She hadn’t been at work on Tuesday, and I soon found out why: sadly, her younger sister had passed away over the weekend and she had gone to Dakar for the services.  We had the opportunity to just talk for about an hour about everything and nothing.  She is the first person here in whom I feel I can really confide.  By the end of the discussion, she was telling me that I simply must visit her sometime at home because I am now her adopted daughter!

Later that evening, I decided something.  I need to work out more regularly.  Living here, I haven’t been able to eat very complete meals, not much fruit, not many vegetables, not much protein, and not many dairy products, so I knew that I’ve got to do something to maintain a decent level of health.  I’d played basketball with the kids at the middle school across the street a couple of times, but wanted to make it a habit.  So early Thursday morning, I woke up with the sun and headed to the outdoor court.  It was perfect.  The sun was rising just behind the palm trees behind the court, the air was fresh and cool, and I was totally alone.  I had forty minutes to run, shoot, and do drills to my heart’s content, and then was joined by Modou, a local guy  who came to train.  We rebounded for each other, shot some free throws, and then I headed home.

Waly and Korka, from my school in Dakar, visited on Thursday morning!  I was at work, and we had a chance to discuss a bit of what difficulties I was having, what I would like to see change, how everything in general was going, etc.  I was so happy to see them, and the day was starting off well.  Work on Thursday became tough. I wasn’t feeling very well again, as with any breath or bite of food I took, my chest hurt like crazy.  It was also busy.  Most notably, there was a young accident victim who was rushed to us and then evacuated to Thies and a young girl whose hemoglobin level was way to low because she had been eating only sand, thus requiring a transfusion.  It was a day full of observations and seeing the clinic personnel in action, and we were all exhausted by the end.  Ergo, I rested quite a bit that afternoon and woke up early Friday to hit the court again. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Veronica: Easter, the most bizarre day ever

April 4, 2010

Today is Easter. And in France, it is a very unconventional holiday indeed. My day started strangely. My host mom was gone when I woke up, someone picked her up because both of the cars were still at the house. I decided to go to my friend’s place for the day rather than being home all day alone. And that is when the strangeness really began.

Since it’s Easter, EVERYTHING is shut down in France. Obviously. But we went for a walk and did find a bakery stand near the train station that was open, and they had this chocolate cake called “pudding,” so I got it. And it was the strangest tasting thing ever. I can’t even describe it to you. It didn’t taste like pudding OR cake. It was really not good.

But after that, in the Place de la Comedie, was when things really went down. There was a brass marching type band playing in front of the opera house to a big crowd. The band members were dressed up with accessories I didn’t think they would sell in France. Curly, colored, clown-like wigs; boas; shiny and shaggy sheaths of material; pink shirts with a face hood; and hippie-like garb. Despite their odd appearance, they played really well and were entertaining on their own, but the real entertainment/amusement/ridiculousness was in the crowd. There was a drugged-out, dirty homeless man dancing and rolling around on the ground to the music. Little children were riding their tricycles and dancing in the center with their parents nowhere in sight. One boy was riding a bike that was way too big for him, and bouncing around on it. His brother was doing cartwheels and kicking people. One guy was dancing with the kids who had an afro on half of his head. One child kept trying to steal the band’s money. Dogs started fighting. One guy was dancing with his coat and then randomly had a guitar a minute later. A tram honked at the crowd. It rained only on the crowd for five minutes. Bikers kept riding through the crowd. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many French people acting out. They are very proper and keep to themselves. This was like French society cracking. I can’t even explain how weird this was to you. I wish I had videos I could show you.

Craziest Easter… No, craziest day ever. If every Easter is like this, I’m going to make sure to be here for them.

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