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Winter’s end

My regular weekly bloggings sure have diminished…. It was apparently too ambitious for me to keep up with monthly entries lately. It’s not due to a lack of things to do – I’ve certainly been busy!

Here’s a brief update, the more fun things to be elaborated on: Carnival party, ISU activities like Tea @ 3 / Kiel boat trip / general assembly, more skiing, more parties, more swimming, flatmate departures, new friends, Paris, The Walking Dead, more dinners, Persian New Year, school work, and now I’m in the beginning of my Easter holiday. 

In good form, my wonderful house threw a sweet party celebrating Carnival. We were told later that it probably didn’t accurately reflect Carnival (as celebrated in Europe or Brazil), but we had a hell of a good time. ISU helped to sponsor it, so we got a ton of face paint to decorate the guests who came without costume and to accentuate those that were awesome and came in costume. Check out the chaos:

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I was hands-down the most decorated one there. And I’d reckon that I got to paint the most faces as well.

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Body art with a bite!

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We go all out for our parties, naturally.

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Brave soldiers making through the snowy fields to come to our celebration

 

It’s nearly impossible to spend time in Norway and not capitalize upon the snow and their national sport – cross country skiing. The good news is that I improve each time I go, which is fortunate because it sure would be difficult to suck more than my first day. My most recent skiing adventure was a large one! 17 of us attended, trekking to the big, nice cabin I went to once previously. There was a taco dinner, complete with the ‘After Death Hot Sauce’ that my mom mailed me – not one to be taken lightly but one that everyone tried. Needless to say, there weren’t enough beers available to quench the thirst of the Frenchies with mouths on fire! Though I’m still not particularly fast at skiing (as was exhibited by my being run over by another novice going faster than me on a downhill), I at least do a better job of not falling (like a professional, I didn’t fall going down some massively steep slopes). Always improving!

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Like a boss

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Watch out Norwegian olympians! We’re a force to be reckoned with!

 

ISU hasn’t been particularly active this semester yet, but we are at least now a full team! I am the queen among my men-folk. We are a board of 6 now with the other members being male and being diverse in their countries of origin – USA, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Botswana, and Nigeria. A couple of weeks ago we hosted a free boat trip to Kiel, Germany from Oslo. The boats are sometimes free during low tourist times to encourage people to go on them and buy liters upon liters of alcohol and tons of food. Maybe dozens of cartons of cigarettes too. Mission accomplished! The trip had a rough start with a strange and unknown rule where people under 23 weren’t able to go unless with their parents (WTF, right?), but it improved rapidly. A magic show which contained no magic but one that can be summarized as a disillusioned adult cast of the tv show Glee singing and dancing in gaudy costumes who most likely drink heavily behind stage. I have not laughed so hard in such a long time. It was just so outrageous! The songs were terrible, they had absurd dance routines that most likely ripped off Glee by doing wheelchair dance routines in mermaid outfits. God damn, it was hilarious. Later, naturally, there was socializing, drinking, and dancing followed by my friends’ misfit adventures. My favorite was my flatmate Brian’s unintentionally charming skills for three aggressive gay men on board. Intervention was necessary for several hours. Kiel itself was nothing special, just an industrial port city that we docked in for about three hours. Obviously, the fun was on the boat.

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We did spend enough time in Kiel to enjoy a round of beers, weiners, and schnitzel

On one of my very favorite trips so far during my time in Europe, Brian, Cori, and I went to Paris to visit our former flatmate Sarah before she left for an internship in New Delhi. We stayed in her brother’s swanky and small central Parisian flat and wandered the streets for a couple of days. There is an overwhelming amount of famous monuments and destinations with the city’s lengthy history. Like I said, we mostly walked around enjoying each other’s company while gluttonously enjoying a fairly constant stream of coffee, croissants, cheese, saucison, and wine. I had the most divine quiche in the world there…. Mmmm. The famous landmarks that we actually visited were the Notre Dame de Paris and the Eiffel Tower. The weather was so beautiful that we could not bear to head underground for a tour of the catacombs, though that was the only thing we unanimously decided we wanted to see. I have never appreciated sunny skies and warm weather so much in my life. 

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Photos mailed from Sarah – Cori and I sleeping thanks to good teamwork in the fantastic French weather and scenery, Sarah and Brian hanging out on the Eiffel Tower lawn, Skoggies dominating France.

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Skoggies on holiday! At the Notre Dame – Kristin, Brian, Sarah, and Cori

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One of many bridges where loves permanently affix their locked hearts (or, just locks) and throw away the key

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Oh hi, just sitting at a little Parisian cafe, listening to Dixie blues across the street

 

Speaking of beautiful France, I was intending on going to Lyon for an exchange semester next fall but do to some strange turn of events, I am not. I’ve decided this yesterday, officially. Instead, I will be doing a two-semester masters thesis and I am on the hunt for what and where! It is a bit bittersweet to not be able to get a better grasp on the French language while living there for a few months and it is borderline tragic to not get to indulge in the cheeses, meats, coffees, wines, and scenery. But, I will undoubtedly be going somewhere equally as awesome. I’m trying to get involved in a potential project in Brazil, but my professors are being a bit difficult to track down right now. I think it’s a good assumption that you can plan on coming and visiting me in a warm, sunny country next year if you plan to travel! My time in Norway is limited!!!! I cancelled my housing contract for the end of May, and from there on out I will be relatively homeless. Either I’ll find some work here or I’ll be doing an epic backpacking trip for the summer. 

The most recent celebration to be thrown at my house was celebrating Nowrouz, or the Persian New Year. Wednesday, March 20th marked the new year and we had a great potluck dinner on Friday this past week, followed by a great party at another friend’s house. I forgot to take pictures of this! Just picture lots of food and lots of dancing 🙂 I do love helping people celebrate holidays from their home countries!

On that note, I am sure I have exhausted my audience. That, and a good summary of the rest of my time has been ‘good living’. I’ve been much more focused on school work, I’ve been quite diligent in trying to find work and get my thesis ideas more sound, and I’ve been living cleaner with less food and less drinking. My friends do a great job of enriching my life and maybe I’m starting to get a bit nostalgic about my experiences as time winds down. I have about two more months left in this house and then the Skoggies will disband and we will all be set off to new adventures. But in the mean time, spring is coming!!!! Not only does that mean temperatures reaching above freezing, but it means that soon the days will contain 20 hours and there will be no sleep for a season of fun!

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

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Snow, school, and skiing

Hello again,

I know you have been asking yourself, “What has Kristin been up to?”. It has been yet another busy few weeks. School is back in session, I have been a dog sitter, and a skiing fool. 

The semester is off to a grand start. I took a month long January block class called “Gender and Development” which was interesting, but brief. Such a drastic difference from last semester, when class dragged on FOREVER and I was stuck in the classroom for 5 hours a day or so. The normal semester has begun now, and I am enrolled in four classes – an online sustainable agriculture and development course, ecology and management of natural resources in the tropics, political ecology, and health / environment and development. The last is the one I am least excited about, since it is much more humanitarian and health based rather than related to agroecology. I’m not convinced that I want to be in the course quite yet, but the nice thing about Norway is that tuition is free! So it doesn’t have many repercussions if I drop it. At this point, my homework load is very low, so I have had ample time to socialize and try to coordinate events with ISU.

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Fundin the Champ!

Sunday was my last day of nearly constant time with an adorable (and needy) dog named Fundin. We had more than a month together and though he was incredibly difficult at the beginning, he calmed down and grew on me at the end. We had many, many snowy and icy walks around town and became quite popular on campus. Fundin almost got evicted from our house when the housing people figured out that he was living here. The maintenance men were quite upset (he did destroy the front door a bit, so it’s understandable) and were adamant that they would call the police to take him away if we didn’t get rid of him, but then a very sweet lady came down to check on Fundin’s well-being and won her over. He got to stay 🙂

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to go on a couple of cross country ski trips. It was my first time on those skis, and it’s not exactly the same as downhill skiing. Mostly, the lesson I learned was that it is necessary to have more than 2 hours of sleep after a birthday bash before setting out. Who knew that zombies could ski? The first day of my first ski trip was very, very difficult for me. A group of 4  friends and myself set out to a cabin in the woods with backpacks of warm gear and French food and Fundin. Roughly 10 km and 4 hours later (I really, really slowed us down), we arrived at the cabin. I was exhausted. I was pretty miserable while out skiing, but I had no choice but to suck it up and persevere. Complaining did not make the distance any shorter. 

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From left to right: me, French Sarah, French Nicolas, Norwegian Orjan. Not pictured: the famous French Arnaud.

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Looking fresh on Day 2

Fortunately, 12 hours of sleep later, I had a great next day! Our route back to the car was much flatter so I felt comfortable being attached to the dog on skis. He sure likes pulling, and he sure is fast! The trip back took only about an hour. Granted, the route was shorter, but we were speedy. Next weekend, more friends and I intend on going back to the same cabin for more fun!

Last weekend was another ski weekend, just in a different location and with different friends. I got invited last minute by my new friend Luis when another person on the invite list fell and bruised some ribs. Again, it was a trek to a cabin in combination with more skiing during the day. When we arrived at the trailhead the first night, it was totally dark and I was quite nervous about skiing attached to the dog and not knowing what the trail was like. But…. it worked out well in the end since there was no downhill parts and Fundin made the skiing uphill immensely easier. I wasn’t the slightest bit winded at the top. The cabin was nice and even had a sauna, which was utilized in combination with some jumping in the snow in our skivvies. Refreshing!

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Cabin on the mountain top! Guests included me, 2 Italians, 2 Norwegians, 1 German, 1 Spanish, and 1 Russian. Quite the diverse crowd.

For this trip, we spent two nights in the cabin. During the daytime on Saturday, we went skiing at this spectacularly beautiful plateau near the cabin. The weather was perfect, I had the dog engine pulling me, and I had a great time. 

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Only -15C outside. Brisk and crisp!

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Snow + husky = pure happiness

The downside to the trip was literally the down part. Since the cabin was perched at the top of a mountain, it required someone to be attached to the dog going down the slope. Fundin wasn’t too comfortable being tied to anyone except his new mama, so I was the lucky one to take him down on our last day. I was rather nervous since the hill was reasonably steep and I don’t have what one might call “good braking skills”. I assumed I would fall a lot (which I did), so I went last. This meant that I needed to fall more often since anytime I’d start moving, Fundin would start going faster and then we’d catch up to the other rapidly and then I’d need to crash to stop. After about a half dozen good tumbles, I decided to pass the others. At that point, I ingeniously decided to just go as fast as possible and not worry about braking and just embrace it. Those curves are mighty tricky though! I stayed upright for a while but then had a MEGA wipeout! I think I slid about 10 meters before coming to a stop, skis going in every direction, and me faceplanting into the snow. It took quite a while before I managed to get untangled and standing up again……

Anyhow, another successful trip! And then the dog’s owner returned, and now I have no responsibilities anymore! I spent my first day of freedom inside my house, skipping class too. It was necessary. It won’t be a habit.

Another great new part of my routine is swimming! It continues with Coach Kristin providing tips for my friends on proper stroke technique, and probably a bit too much socializing…. One can’t work too hard 😉

This weekend brings another (hopefully) legendary party at my house. We are hosting Carnival. It provides another opportunity to dress in costume, and the Skoggies will not disappoint! There will be pictures for the next blog. In the mean time, enjoy some nature photos from Ås!

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Beautiful sunset after the snow!

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My super fun new flatmates, Gore and Cristina

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In the forest near the toxic lake by Skoggarden

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Skoggården! Trolls, mice, and sometimes dogs live here.

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The legendary Fundin!

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Not even photoshopped 🙂

Thanks for reading, y’all! 

Hello 2013!

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while. Sorry about that. Don’t think of me as less reliable due to my infrequent postings in the last couple of months. I promise that I have good reason for it. Want to hear about my most recent adventures? Sure, otherwise why the heck would you be reading this? Let us begin:

I left off last at the conclusion of my fall semester. In the week following that, I helped to coordinate some farewell dinners for ISU and my flatmates. The two Latvians left Skoggården. My favorite thing about these girls was how serious and funny they were. Study, study, study, dry humor joke, study, say “Oy yoy yoy”, and chastise me for not wearing a scarf or hat outdoors. They were hilarious and they will be missed. Of course there are many other students who left and I will miss them, but it is much more sad for those I saw everyday. Fortunately, I now have a decent excuse to visit Latvia, I wear hats and a scarf outdoors, and we have two new and very fun Spanish flatmates in their place. The good times will continue at Skoggården!

Of course, I couldn’t spend all of my time waiting around Ås until the next semester began. I was off to Spain! I flew into Malaga on the Mediterranean coast in the southern part of Spain. Despite the temperature being a meager 18C (60ish F), I was still sweating my butt

off there. Coming from the land of ice and snow and temperatures in the -10C (10F) range, it was like a mega heat wave. I walked around the city and tried to get my bearings. I was only moderately successful but I must say that I rather like being lost. My Spanish skills were subpar, so I chose to be more observant and less talkative for those first few days in Spain. I was confused, but I sure was happy. I stayed in hostels for most of the time, thought about beach camping, and couch surfed for a couple of nights. I took a small tent and had high hopes of making it to Cabo de Gata National Park, but I didn’t quite make it due to my poor navigation skills and inadequate water supply. Even though I didn’t see what was supposedly one of the most amazing parks in Europe (or at least Spain), I was content that I was warm and happy inside.

Walk along the Mediterranean towards Cabo de Gata

Walk along the Mediterranean towards Cabo de Gata

Malaga!

Malaga!

One of the most shocking things about southern Spain is its VAST amount of greenhouses. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of square kilometers dedicated to plastic buildings packed in together, growing most of the fresh produce for Europe. There wouldn’t hardly have been space for a blade of grass to grow in some of the densest areas. I couldn’t help but think about 1) the water demands in such an arid area, 2) the effect on local and native flora and fauna, 3) and why the hell do we demand food when it is not in season and not grown closer to home? My agroecology studies have had an effect on my food production perceptions.

After my tour along the coast of Andalucia, I made my way to the iconic city of Granada. I found my way to a hostel, checked in, chatted up the other backpackers, and headed out for the night. The best thing about Granada? (honestly, this is a hard contest) Cervesa y tapas. Order a beer for one or two euros and get a free tapa! Woo hoo! Order three beers or so and be happily fed for the night. Or day. Really, whenever. Man, I love Granada.

Que bueno!

Que bueno!

One other very cool thing about Granada is its history. It was a long standing stronghold for Moorish settlement and control in Europe, so it’s architecture and art has a distinct Muslim flare to it. The quintessential destination of the city is a large fortress called the Alhambra. It has sections of it dating back to the 1300s. There is a network of buildings and gardens showing the impact of various periods of history in their style, which I found to be very cool. One of the things that I missed was my inability to read about each place I visited since English translations weren’t commonplace. I love learning about the history, so I will just have to pick up some Spanish books elsewhere and catch up. This trip was not my last to Spain.

Alhambra as viewed from San Nicolas Mirador

Alhambra as viewed from San Nicolas Mirador

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Famous lion fountain

Famous lion fountain

Check out how incredibly ornate everything was!

Check out how incredibly ornate everything was!

Inside the palace

Inside the palace

Part of the fortress looking up the hill towards gypsy caves

Part of the fortress looking up the hill towards gypsy caves

Example of architecture from Renaissance period in the Alhambra

Example of architecture from Renaissance period in the Alhambra

During my stay in Granada, I did an immense amount of walking. Up and down hills, through gorgeous narrow streets, to stunning miradors (lookouts), and at times through crowds of people. I originally intended on staying in a friend’s vacant flat while I was in Granada, but i was unable to get a hold of anyone with keys for the majority of the time. Eventually, I got there, and it was smack in the middle of the artistic neighborhood of Albaicin. This neighborhood is notorious for its white buildings, cobblestone streets, narrow passages, and vistas of the Alhambra. Great location! But, first thing first – my stay as a couch surfer.

Gypsies playing for the tourists

Gypsies playing for the tourists

The Catholic cemetery was intense. Not planning on being there for the zombie apocalypse....

The Catholic cemetery was intense. Not planning on being there for the zombie apocalypse….

A climate warm enough for mandarins? Madness!

A climate warm enough for mandarins? Madness!

"This is for YOU Pam", said by a kind Moroccan business man who insisted on giving me a gift for my mom :)

“This is for YOU Pam”, said by a kind Moroccan business man who insisted on giving me a gift for my mom 🙂

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Moroccan Street

Moroccan Street

For those of you who aren’t familiar with couch surfing, it’s a wonderful network of volunteers who are willing to let travelers stay at their homes for free. I got in contact last minute with an older man from a small town about 40 minutes north of Granada. After a bus ride, I arrived and he was the nicest man in the world. There were two other people staying in his quaint home along with me. One was a Swedish girl (I tried practicing my Norwegian with her since the languages are very similar) and the other was her ex-junkie boyfriend from Spain. Needless to say, it was an intense experience. We all stayed up until the sun almost came up talking, playing music, discussing politics, eating fabulous food, and drinking local homemade wine. The ex-junkie provided a strong opinion on everything, and I felt like he was most likely in the manic cycle of a bipolar disorder. Fortunately, everyone was kind and harmless, so all was good.

The next day I ventured back into Granada, walked around Albaicin some more, and got very lost. I stayed another night at the couch surfing host’s home. It was a very relaxing location right on the edge of town and next to sprawling olive orchards ready to be picked. My host’s name was Tom and he is an American expat from New Jersey who has been in Spain for 20 years. He is an avid musician and completely embodies the Spanish attitude. Tom was a fabulous host. He pointed out a good trail through the olives for me to reach a nearby ridge with a breathtaking view of the Sierra Nevadas just beyond. Another activity that I indulged myself in was sunbathing at Tom’s empty pool. After a good hike, a cold glass of mountain water, and picking up a good book – the only thing left to complete a perfect stay at chateau de Tom was taking in some extra vitamin D. Norway has deprived me of this.

The fabulous Tom!

The fabulous Tom!

Sunset from Tom's place

Sunset from Tom’s place

Hike to the Buddha

Hike to the Buddha

Legend has it that there is treasure under this natural formation

Legend has it that there is treasure under this natural formation

Anyways – sorry about some skipping around in my story telling. I don’t usually go back through and edit, but I can tell as I type that things are a little bit convoluted. Stay with me 🙂

My last days in Granada were spent in my friend’s vacant flat which I eventually got some keys to. I had exhausted myself, so I spent a lot of time inside reading. I’d pop out occasionally to get some more delicious tapas y cervesa, but I’d more or less stick close by. I did get to use some moderately decent Spanish when I went out looking for cheap climbing supplies for a friend and when talking to a bar bouncer, but normally I was rather quiet. There were Americans and Australians everywhere though, so it wouldn’t be too hard to find someone who knew some English if need be. The only time when I genuinely needed help was when I locked myself inside this flat on the day of my departure from Spain. Yes, you read that right – locked inside. It turns out that when you need a key to unlock the sliding bolt from the inside of the main building door and you left the keys behind a locked door to the flat – you’re screwed. No one else was home, I didn’t have a mobile phone, and I was completely stuck. I went to the third floor, which was a terrace, and examined my options. Option 1: jump from the roof to a nearby balcony. Initially, this didn’t seem too bad, except the distance required to jump was much greater than I expected initially. Forgo option 1. Option 2: climb over the railing and into a second floor window. Seems good, eh? Well, that was my conclusion. Noooooo other choices. So, over I went. There was a small foothold (a poorly attached TV satellite dish not intended for human weigh bearing), but I needed to keep a grip on the railings lest I plummet maybe 10 meters down to a concrete patio. The moment of truth came when my toes were about a centimeter or two away from touching the sill of the window with both of my hands attached to the railing. I had to let go, and fortunately it all worked out okay. My feet touched, but I still had nothing more to grab onto with my hands. Adrenaline and decent balance enabled me to somehow get my center of balance positioned well enough to make it inside (hallelujah!). Breaking and entering in Spain? Done.

After my daredevil moves, I missed the bus I needed to get to the airport in time, which resulted in me sprinting to the (closed) check-in gate, sneak through security without a visa check, run like a moron to the wrong terminal (obtaining and then cancelling an EU exit visa stamp), and making it to my gate 10 minutes after it was supposed to close but people were still amazingly boarding. I have never been so happy. Without the appropriate stamp checking my visa, they didn’t want to let me on the plane, but after pleading with the workers there, I managed to get on. What a trip!

Back in Norway, Christmas was much less exciting, comparatively. It was just me plus one other person in my house, the Aussie Brian. For a couple of days, he had a friend visiting and she was awesome. My newest generalization about Australians is that they are all hilarious. We all toured Oslo some and relaxed a lot. On Christmas Eve, I skyped with my family again – this time I got passed around and chatted to individually. That was much easier than everyone trying to talk to me in a mass group. I tried to not be too bummed about not being with family, since it seemed like they were all having a good time. I was kindly invited to a Norwegian household for dinner on Christmas Eve and we ate to excess, sang carols, told jokes, played a trivia game, and did a white elephant swap. Those Norwegians are so nice 🙂 I had helped to organize a Christmas Day potluck, which helped to soften the away-from-family blues. Around 10 or 15 people showed up for the dinner. It was an interesting experience this holiday season – I never really felt like it was Christmas. I’m not the biggest fan of the commercialization of the holiday, but usually it’s at least there. For me, not much this year. Oh well.

Moving on…. this is a long blog post. Who’s still there? Feel free to leave comments at the end of this if you wish. Next on the list of winter break travels: Tromsø. Two things I was looking forward to: northern lights and experiencing the lack of light above the Arctic circle. I went with Brian, our friend Linn, Linn’s best friend, and Linn’s boyfriend. The company was great, the accommodations were interesting, and the darkness was overwhelming. For most of the time, Brian and I stayed in a flat that was supposed to be a friend of a friend’s (but ended up being one more in the chain). When we first showed up, the keys wouldn’t open the door we were told to enter. So, after trying all the doors in the hallway, we found one that did open. No one was there, so we went in and stayed. The entire time, I thought we were just squatting in someone else’s place and they’d come home anytime. But, at the end of it all, we figured out it was precisely where we were supposed to be. There was just some miscommunication in the middle. We watched lots of Tom Cruise flicks – there was literally a different one on everytime the TV got turned on. Who knew Norwegians like him so much? We tried to minimize our time in this flat since it was so far from where everyone else was staying and not too cozy, so it was quite funny that there was this TC pattern.

In Tromsø, we walked around the cute Old Town. Lots of shops, lots of bars, lots of restaurants and coffee shops. Everything was expensive. But…. it’s Norway. It’s expected. I had a lot of coffee, a few beers priced at the equivalent of $10 to $18, and saw the polar aquarium and the seal show. I continued reading my book ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel’ about how different societies developed at different times and how this impacted world history. Cool, right? It’s good – I recommend it.

For two days around New Years, we rented a car and a cabin on an island a couple of hours away from Tromsø in hopes to see some northern lights. The forecast for activity wasn’t particularly good, but the location was amazing. For it being so far north, I would have expected temperatures to be frigid, but they stayed around -5C (20ish F). This allowed for great day hikes (short day hikes – the sun never rose above the horizon and so there were only about 3 or 4 hours of light like that at sunset). On New Years day, Brian, Linn’s friend Marina, and I hiked to the top of a fjord. My pics aren’t so spectacular, but hopefully I can snag some from either Brian or Marina for this blog. It was absolutely breathtaking. Orange sky, snowy islands, and an endless Arctic sea. The trip down was much more rapid than the one up thanks to our sleds that we took with. Sledding on ice, dodging rocks, and avoiding sudden dropoffs in the steep terrain was rather terrifying for me. But…. I couldn’t be the pansy who didn’t participate, especially after my other stunt in Spain. I survived, and it was awesome.

Little did we know that we were belly first on a massive pile of fishy bird poop. Ew!

Little did we know that we were belly first on a massive pile of fishy bird poop. Ew!

I liked this guy but he'd bite off my arm if he got the chance

I liked this guy but he’d bite off my arm if he got the chance

Trosmo - the Paris of the North

Trosmo – the Paris of the North

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One half of a shipwreck

One half of a shipwreck

The next day, we took a hike around a mountain and found a massive shipwreck! It wasn’t new, but it was impressive. The boat had been ripped in half and flung about 20 meters uphill on the coast. The water must have been extreme in order to get that boat in that position and condition. We walked around, climbed through, and took pictures of it all. At this point in time, I really began feeling the lack of light and I was feeling a bit miserable and depressed, but I was trying to keep it together for the trip. It was hard to not be somber with only 3 hours of kind of light.

During the long nights, we ate lots, drank lots, hot tubbed (only at the cabin), watched a spectacular private fireworks show (they caught part of their lawn on fire but obviously didn’t care despite the epic size), read, talked, and drank coffee. My belly had a few holes in it from the acidity of coffee by the end of the trip. We saw some faint northern lights for two nights. The night that it was best, we took a car ride out of the small town to the northern most point of the island that was driveable. We walked out a ways, laid out some blankets, drank warm tea, and waited. One person in our party had a camera with a 30 second shutter speed which caught much more vibrant pictures of the lights than the human eye detected, but it was still very cool nonetheless. I can only imagine how stunning extremely active lights are. I hope to see them someday! But, as I learned, there is no way that I could survive life in Tromsø. No amount of antidepressant and fish oil in the world could make me happy during an extended stay there. Don’t think I didn’t have a good time though – it was a great trip! I am happy to have spent such a fun holiday with this crowd of people.

And now…. back to life in Ås. I slept a lot, got out of the funk, and became dog sitter Kristin. One of my friends went on a field course to Tanzania for the month and I am watching one of her two huskies. His name is Fundin, and he is a handful. Things he hates: being inside, being alone, and sitting still. Things he loves: intense multi-hour runs, cats, and being petted. But not by everyone. He’s very timid, especially around new people. My favorite things about him: he’s pretty cute. Least favorite things: the exercise required to make him happy, pacing, and the fact that he can get out of any sort of cage or locked room in desperate attempts to reach the outdoors when I’m in class. It’s impressive. For instance – in a wire cage, in a locked room, with chairs lodged in between the door and a door frame to thwart escape attempts. This, he still gets out of. But, I’m forced to go outside in the cold, which I know is good for me, and I find that people are much more talkative to me when I have an adorable dog attached to me. It is my newest pickup scheme. It seems to be working best for attracting women, which isn’t exactly what I was hoping for. But, I’m happy to have a rest and talk to whomever during my pulled races around campus and town.

I am in a January block class called Gender and Development. It is very interesting and class lasted for a meager two weeks. Now I have a week to write a 8 to 10 page paper. It’s a short class, and then it is back into a normal semester. I’m not fully sure what classes I will be taking, so I will keep you updated. I’m sure this semester will be full of information and more socializing! I hope to find work, and I’ve sent out several applications lately. Sometimes I have to be responsible…. ugh!

I have two more weeks with Fundin, and hopefully I will not lose him anymore. I’ve started swimming again and I love it. In exchange for the lift to the pool in a nearby town, I’m providing coaching tips for my friend. Coach Kristin – it’s my newest title. I am happy to have a faint chlorine odor again and I love putting that swim cap on. Life is good. It’s part of my new cleaner living lifestyle and ‘Moderation January’. In my house, we’ve turned it into a mini-theater. I rented a projector, we situated our sofas in rows, and we crank the speaker volume for a broad array of movie selections. It’s a great way to spend a cold winter evening.

Cheers to those of you who made it to the end! Thanks for hanging in there! Happy 2013 everyone!!!!!!

Welcome back

Hello! It’s been a while from my last post and I am extremely happy to say that I am no longer swimming in school work. Let me fill you in on what has happened.

I have had a TON of homework. It’s also been pointed out that I say ton a lot. And it was particularly hilarious when used to say that there are TONS of fat people in my homestate. Anyways, back on topic….. Homework! I had three big papers and one oral presentation since my last post. Two of the papers were done in my group and they were very time consuming. I have never had so much group work and I was very happy to be done. I enjoyed most of my group mates immensely, but it was a huge relief to finish. My third paper was the final term paper for my class. I had to write about my learning process and how I felt about it. I also had to connect it to the big group project that I did. Ugh. So much reflection. More reflection was done in my oral presentation, which was more or less just a synopsis of my 30-page learner document with a question session afterwards with my professors. For the presentation, I forgot my pictures that I drew and so I ran back home to retrieve them and ran back, unfortunately resulting in my having to give the presentation dripping sweat. I was happy that no classmates or friends had come to witness the awkwardness and my professors found it entertaining. Lesson learned – remember stuff! And now…. I HAVE FREEDOM!!!

Other things that have occurred since my last Nov 4 post: US elections (the world is happy about them). I hosted 5 Belgians at my house (they were on a long road trip and very grateful to have an indoor place to sleep instead of the frigid Norwegian wilderness. plus they had tasty beer and left behind their road trip mascot – a teddy bear). I learned how to dress appropriately for Norwegian weather (surprisingly, it doesn’t include short shorts and flip flops. awesomely, it included free pizza and a free spoonful of fish oil to boost my vitamin D levels – that stuff tastes like shit). I went to Sweden for cheap grocery shopping (i have never felt more glorious than when we successfully managed to fit all the food in the car). I watched a rugby match in Oslo at a pub (and more or less successfully acted as copilot when GPS failed plus got to talk to some people with fun accents – South African, Irish, British of many varieties). I began semi-regular Tea at Three dates with my friend Ronja (a great reprieve from studying). I played pool with my German friend Christina (neither of us are particularly good….). I went to a Mexican’s for dinner and drank way too much (hungover until the next day’s evening fun. damn you vodka!). Went to a West Coast Swing party at the local train station (still hungover, as stated. Entertaining nonetheless despite my lack of enthusiasm, quick moving, and coordination). Helped my international buddy celebrate his birthday with hot cocoa and buns (i won’t disclose his age here so, but i think he’s lying to most people about it….). Got to be a part of an AWESOME class with guest speaker Hans Herren (won the world food prize in 1995, is very smart, i got to be one of four in a ‘fish bowl’ discussion with him – ie, i got to talk to him a lot which i was very nervous about before but very glad about in the end). Hosted Thanksgiving at my house (about 60 people attended the potluck dinner bringing amazing foods, i successfully cooked my first turkeys – 2 of them, i played american football with a few enthusiastic internationals, i got to skype with a significant portion of my family, and i partied and danced all night). I went to a Christmas music performance done at the local church by the school’s choirs (most songs were the same as i am familiar with, just in norwegian). Had many class celebrations (one pizza party for one of my professor’s departures, nearly weekly knitting / food / wine / music gatherings at my house – one had 5 great guitarists jamming out with an array of supporting instruments which is one of the coolest memories so far of norway). Went to a potluck at my French friend Meline’s place (i’ve decided potlucks are by far the best way to do dinner in such an expensive and cultural country). Had dinner at my friend Bianca’s house out in the boonies (the bike ride at night was full of unseen potholes and many, many layers of clothes). Went bowling with the international students (i kicked ass, of course). Survived the dreary, misty weather (only to experience super cold weather once the clouds disappeared). Watched episodes 3 to 8 of The Walking Dead with my friend Joakim on a classroom projector with loud sound (god, i love that show. i’m prepared for the zombie apocalypse). And of course, I celebrated the conclusion of my fall semester with nice beer (a vinminopolet – the government regulated alcohol store for anything with a quantity of alcohol greater than 4.6% – opened in my town making this much easier to do) and more parties for the weekend. I have been helping out friends with editing papers, finishing work for ISU business, and relaxing ever since. Life is good.

So what, you might ask, will I be doing with my new found free time? Like I said, I’m helping friends out here and wrapping up some loose ends. Tomorrow I will help host a farewell dinner on behalf of ISU for students who are leaving the school for their home countries. I bought and carried (with the help of the ISU wallet and Miss Meline’s muscles) 20 bottles of wine from the vinminopolet from town to my house (about a 20 minute walk) for the party. On Thursday, I leave for a wonderful solo vacation to Spain. I fly into Malaga and I plan on relaxing and maybe camping next to the Mediterranean Sea, checking out Granada, maybe going to Morocco, maybe doing some hiking, drinking some tasty sangria, eating tapas, practicing my horrible Spanish, and absorbing the Spanish culture for 8 days. I’ll return to Norway for the week of Christmas and then depart for another trip to Tromsø which is above the Arctic circle and hopefully will allow for some spectacular northern lights viewing.

Here, enjoy some pictures!

Sunset from my room!

Sunset from my room!

Sooo much food
Sooo much food

Brian, Sarah, and our Swiss chafeur Chris

Brian, Sarah, and our Swiss chafeur Chris

It's Twilight weather

It’s Twilight weather

Cards from my mom and the family dog :)

Cards from my mom and the family dog 🙂

Crazy Norwegians put turkeys in BOXES???!
Crazy Norwegians put turkeys in BOXES???!

Classmates, with whom I spent the majority of my time

Classmates, with whom I spent the majority of my time

 

More classmates....

More classmates….

And more classmates.....

And more classmates…..

End product of our day with Hans Herren

End product of our day with Hans Herren

Glorious, glorious turkeys

Glorious, glorious turkeys

International buddies! Peter, Agathe

International buddies! Peter, Agathe

I was missing American pancakes

I was missing American pancakes

One of VERY few sunny days in November

One of VERY few sunny days in November

Oslo Fjord
Oslo Fjord

Norsk Folkmuseum Christmas market

Norsk Folkmuseum Christmas market

 

Sadly, I received no horse drawn carriage rides

Sadly, I received no horse drawn carriage rides

Stave church - very famous buildings in Norway

Stave church – very famous buildings in Norway

Hitting the jackpot with peanut butter from my wonderful friend Bianca! Though she is Norwegian, her mother is Dutch and Dutch people love their PB.

Hitting the jackpot with peanut butter from my wonderful friend Bianca! Though she is Norwegian, her mother is Dutch and Dutch people love their PB.

Ah..... it was just like being in the States. Ball jokes and all.

Ah….. it was just like being in the States. Ball jokes and all.

Tower Building on campus at night

Tower Building on campus at night

Agroecology fun - knitting, guitars, and a temporary addition of violin

Agroecology fun – knitting, guitars, and a temporary addition of violin

Rough night

Rough night

Fooooood!

Fooooood!

 

Hiatus

Hey all,

For my family and friends who expect weekly updates, I feel obligated to inform you that I have too much school work right now to be able to post a good blog. So, at least until next week, possibly in two weeks, I won’t have anything new up. 

Sorry! I hope to survive my papers and exam 🙂

Halloween

Hey everybody! How was your week? Did you have a fun Halloween? Who got to give out tricks? And who received some treats? I had a great week. Some of it was covered already in my last blog, but I will tell you about the new fun and good things.

First of all, I love Halloween. And I was so pleased that some of my friends were organizing a giant costume party and have been working on it for the past several weeks. These guys managed to convince almost everyone on their floor of the student housing to participate, so there were three (of the four available) flats open for parties in addition to the central common space. Each flat has six residents, so it was plenty of space. The decorations were surprisingly well done and included things like an electric chair (sans electricity), a coffin, mummy, and of course – spider webs. With the candy and costumes out, I made my arrival:

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Who loves my costume? I do! Perfect! Just call me Helga. I was out pillaging and plundering villages all night. Here are some other photos (courtesy of my Facebook friends) from the night:

Pretty good, right? I liked the Halloween here because unlike in the US, the girls were not all dressed in tiny, slutty outfits. Only my flatmate Brian:

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Ouh la la!

By now, you know how the parties go – lots of dancing and little sleep. The next morning I had to get up to return to Drammen for our second presentation. This allowed me a meager three hours of sleep, but despite this, I was still alert for the meeting. Being in the car was another story. Fortunately, I didn’t have to navigate downtown Oslo during rush hour and stupid people and stupid drivers (myself included, let’s be honest) this time! And – I didn’t have police officers following me while I was driving without a license due to it being lost in the snow outside of my groups cabin. Who said I’m not responsible? 🙂 I feel obligated to reassure my parents that I found my license and that I incurred no traffic violations during my time driving a rental car in Norway. Win!

For our second presentation, we met with a group of about 10 people who had signed up to listen to us. We fed them lunch, introduced ourselves, talked about our project and then worked on ideas for making the organic food system within the region dominant. The whole presentation lasted about three hours and I was extremely happy with how well my group presented and how interactive the participants were. It was so much better than I imagined! The woman that was our main stakeholder for the project gave us all aprons with the organic food certification logo Debio and a Norwegian cookbook that is in English. Of course I have been wearing the apron daily now and have even made some bread from the book! I’m so domestic these days!

After our presentation, we had a relaxing car ride back to our homes. Here’s my awesome group! I am so happy to be working with them all at this point in the semester!:

Look at how big our smiles are!
From left to right: Benjamin (Kenyan / Norwegian), Camille (French), Cris (Spanish), me (American), and Kristine (Norwegian)

It was very nice to be done with the most nerve-wracking part of the project and I was so satisfied that I slept soundly beginning at 20:00 and didn’t stir until 09:00 the next day! No class on Friday, just relaxation and no concerns about case studies.

Friday was very mellow – I tried getting my bicycle fixed but only succeeded for about half of it. My friend Arnaud tried helping me have functioning brakes again (currently downhill rides are quite fun….), but alas we were unsuccessful with our limited tools and parts. Fortunately, I was able to fix my bike tire! Now it holds air! Yay! I was fed some tasty French food involving duck, sausage, and wine and then refused to let Arnaud help me fix the tire. I was then told that I am most likely too independent for French men to like. I guess all of my seductive French phrases will be useless! Curses! Regardless, I was pleased with my handiwork and happily pedaled away. That evening was spent preparing my version of ratatouille and reading a book for fun – Fast Food Nation. I’m moderately embarrassed that I have never read it, being an agroecology student.

Saturday was full of homework. My motivation was low. I was not effective. But – happily, my fellow flatmate, classmate, and American returned home from her case study visit to Tolga. There was life in the house again! We prepared a semi-Iranian meal for our dear flatmate Haleh and my other Iranian friend Yasamin which was delicious! I love food.

That evening, I went to Halloween party part 2. It was a different group of people from the normal parties that I attend and it was a very welcomed difference. Most of the people there were either Norwegians or graduate or PhD students, I think. Some were the working joes of Norway. I sadly did not get a picture of this moment, but I rode my bicycle to the party with my giant floor length fur coat and with the viking hat and axe. I KNOW that I looked ridiculous. I had such a great time talking and dancing (always with the dancing!) with these people that I didn’t make it back home until 05:30. I then talked to my sister for a bit, so I had another short night. Party till the sun comes up. My new life motto, I think. It should be much easier to achieve in the summertime here in Norway. There isn’t much sunlight here at this point, and with less everyday.

Today has been very lazy too – I haven’t even left my house. The homework that I procrastinated from yesterday was accomplished today. I need to reassure my family members that I do school related activities here sometimes…….

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See? So studious

Final comments: This week I’ve been fortunate to be able to get to talk to several people who I haven’t spoken to in a long while. My brother upgraded his technologies and we finally got to video chat for the first time since I left. My parents have both dropped me lines or video chatted. And my best friend Leigh resurfaced in the world from a long vacation seeing her family! I have also received a few very wonderful emails from former coworkers and old friends that sincerely brighten my days. Thanks for all of your support and random messages! Keep them coming! ❤

Drammen Part II

God dag! (Good day)

How are you all? Have any of you had very wonderful life experiences recently? Do you need to discuss some life issue? Because counselor Kristin still has open office hours. I’m here for you all. I will respond with something serious and something ridiculous, i promise.

My most time consuming activity this past week has been preparing for my group presentations in Drammen. We have worked for many hours almost every day and I feel like my brain can no longer think about Drammen. As the phrase goes, it’s like beating a dead horse (I recently learned that at least a few international students are reading my blog to pick up some new English words and phrases, so I’ll sprinkle several in each time hopefully). But, the end is nearing! 

Today was our first presentation to our key farmer and his wife in our region project. I started my day early with lofty expectations of not being late for the once an hour train. Unfortunately, after chatting with my dear flatmate Brian, I realized I only had 15 minutes to get to the trains station located 30 minutes away. I hauled ass and realized I would never make it on time. But then a bus showed up! And I eventually found enough change to ride it! And made it to the train as it was literally pulling up! Holy cow that was close. My group would have been very upset with me had I missed it. It was a stressful way to start the day, but it became better from there. The farmer and his wife are both extremely nice and extremely intelligent. They have an organic farm growing different varieties of grain and teach holistic lifestyle classes, such as personal development and yoga. My group presented our classwork and future visioning ideas to them – several of which they liked, some they did not. But they were very encouraging and all of my nervousness about it was just my inner crazy showing. 

I have been very fixated on my nervousness about these presentations. For some of you readers, it may come as a surprise that despite how much I can talk, I get super nervous in front of groups or presenting my ideas. And then I forget all the words in my head and start sounding like a gigantic moron, which only makes everything worse. This is how I imagine myself in these situations:

Classy, right? 

Since now I’ve conquered one of my presentations for the week, I am more confident for the next one on Thursday. And now I can tell you about the rest of my last week.

I’ve had two salsa lessons. I played volleyball twice. As it turns out, I am not quite tough enough to play volleyball consistently yet. Maybe I’m lacking some iron in my daily food regimen? What do you think?

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Don’t worry Mom and Dad, I don’t have an abusive boyfriend here!

In addition to my sporting, I got to eat some delicious French foods. Some of my friends made tartiflette on Thursday which is a fabulous cheesy, potato-y dish. And then I got to indulge in some phenomenal chocolate cake. My mind is being rapidly made up about where I need to study next fall – France! Woo hoo!

In class for the week, we had one great class-led discussion about our expectations for our upcoming case study visits. One of the questions asked was how we were planning on managing our anxiety about public speaking. My suggestions were to avoid coffee (which I love) because I turn into a walking disaster with more than one cup, imagine my audience in their underwear (I then learned that Americans from Florida are taught to think of their audience naked – much more risque!), and realize that all meetings no matter how good or horrible will eventually come to an end. 

On Friday, my house hosted a giant Skoggie party. Short for our house name, Skoggården, which means forest farm when translated directly. Yes, we have a Skoggie gang. Yes, we are AWESOME! Have I mentioned that I love my housemates? Prior to the party starting, I got to skype with my mom and Brian and Sarah joined in on the conversation. My mom is awesome! And everyone here loves Pammy 🙂 Especially when I tell them that I receive mail from both Pamela Pedersen and Pamela Anderson. US postal workers rock. But, I digress. My mom told me the most glorious story of how my dad is morphing into much more of a redneck. He recently bought a little, not powerful hand gun, then built a target out of several layers of cardboard, hung it up next to the TV and now practices target shooting from his recliner while watching TV. Apparently the dog doesn’t like it much. Also, the dog doesn’t like talking to me much on skype. I’m very disappointed in him.

Later, we started with a pizza dinner with many French including one friend of Sarah’s who was visiting and was super nice. Then, drinking and dancing! I was very surprised by the success of the party – there were maybe 40 or 50 people who braved the cold to walk over – and it lasted until about 5.30 in the morning. Here are some random highlights:

– I’ve started a hug competition and the winning one of the night was with my upstairs neighbor. Svine got extra style points for his slow motion running hug.
– We have fire lovers in the international crowd! I found out that one of my group mates Cris will be moving into my house next semester and she juggles fire. As does her boyfriend who will also be moving in. This will nicely compliment the already existing firebreather in our ranks. Maybe we will all just start a circus!
– Someone brought a delicious chocolate and raspberry cream pie, which got devoured. 

Saturday proved to be a very tired day. Despite going to bed around 5.30, I still managed to spontaneously wake up around 8.30. And then the cleaning process began. It’s amazing how many glasses and plates get used for a proper party! I had most of the kitchen cleaned up before anyone else stirred in my house but then received some good help for the rest of the work. Several hours later, I attempted to watch some stand up comedy show but failed horribly. My brain with inadequate sleep = retarded. I only stayed awake because of my curiosity about an UKA event called the 3000m Øl race. 

This race is absurd for several reasons. In summary, it is a glorified binge drinking foot race at 16.00 in the afternoon. Participants have to run 3000 meters and chug a beer at every 500 meters. That equals six by the end for those of you who are not mathematicians. And it’s on university campus, which is all the more reason why it is bizarre to me. I watched the first 15 minutes or so and then decided that I didn’t need to see the end where everyone starts getting sick. I believe first place won a pack of beer. Check out race!:

ImageAfter this, I could no longer force myself to stay awake and I crawled into my warm bed for a nice four hour nap. During my few remaining conscious hours that day I watched the first two episodes of The Walking Dead (my favorite show and one of very few that I watch). OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS AWESOME. Zombies. Drama. Graphic violence. Intensity. I love that show. 🙂

Sunday was a mellow day full of wonderful music. I attended a free Latin American music concert at the train station in town that was trying to raise awareness and support for the plight of the indigenous people of South America. It was a very welcomed change of pace from my normal activities here in Norway. Very few things come for free and very few things happen during daytime hours other than class and grocery shopping. Later in the day was another free concert, this one was big band style complete with talented singers. I feel inspired to play my old clarinet and sing again. Well, I sing all the time in my house, but that’s a different story. Sunday was great day! Us Skoggies may start hosting mini-concert series at our house if we can gather up enough interest.

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Me and fellow Skoggie and American Cori at the Latin music show

 

To recap, my week has been full of good fun and good friends. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – it’s extremely nice that people are getting to know each other well enough and trust each other enough to divulge more than superficial life details. Having that connection makes a big difference to me. My friends here are my saving grace. No matter who gets down or how much we get down, the support system is pretty decent. At least in my opinion. We can always manage to have fun! Even when it’s dark at 17.00! 

On a weather related note, the sun finally began to shine after 10 days without. Look at how beautiful campus was!:

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And then it snowed!:

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You can’t really see it, but it’s there!
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Taken at our key farmers’ place. Beautiful, right?

And right now we are hanging out at our lovely cabin in Hokksund:

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Grandma Kristine helping my feet warm under the covers.

Thanks for reading about me! And for those Americans out there, go vote!

School, school, school

I have been reminded this week that I am in Norway to go to school… During the past week or two, classwork has really picked up and I have been spending a good amount of my free time either working on homework or group work or thinking up ways to procrastinate doing either. Next week I go back to Drammen with my group to present our findings and ideas to the people we met with in September and I feel nervous and under prepared. Hence my vast amount of time spent on working. Blogging has proven to be a useful way to procrastinate the homework process, but sadly my week didn’t involve any camping, northern lights, or scenic vistas. 

Some of the social highlights of my week were the International Food Festival, birthday parties, and wine and cheese night. The International Food Festival was hosted by the International Student Union and was a part of a month-long celebration called UKA that is occurring in my town. UKA is huge! There are concerts, cultural activities, and crazy Norwegian contests during all of October. Here’s some of the highlighted artists:

Taio Cruz
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_SI2EDM6Lo

TImbuktu
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvgzUqmaSWg

Röyksopp
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLpkXtM-VI8

And here are some of the highlighted activities:

Of course, the International Food Festival (Internasjonal Matfestival)
A Grandiosa pizza eating competition
3000m Øl (3000m running event where you have to chug a beer at each 500m)
Wine and whiskey courses
Stand-up comedy

Sadly, the only thing that I have attended thus far is the food festival, and I helped to organize it. ISU was able to get 30 teams (our goal) to participate in preparing food! Yay! These teams were given a 500 kroner budget (about $80 or so) to prepare as much food as possible (we were planning for around 600 guests) that is relevant to their countries. I cooked on the Caribbean team with my friends Akil and Petar. Akil was the only Caribbean native, but our food was still great! We made curry chicken, coconut beans and rice, and cabbage and carrots. My lesson from this was that a lot of oil and reggae music is required to cook good Caribbean food. And I got to wear an awesome Rastafarian hat, courtesy of Akil. Even though I feel like I have a lot of hair, I decided that I have nowhere near enough to fill out that hat.

The festival was a competition. Sadly, my crew didn’t win. I had been talking a lot of smack with my French friends about how I was going to win, but alas, no. The French group was huge! And made all kinds of foods ranging from delicious cheese fondue, breads, entrees, and desserts. The best thing about these guys was that they wore adorable French chef hats. So cute. So French. All of their hard work landed them in third place! Congrats!

Oui oui!

With a very enthusiastic acceptance of their second place victory: China!

How awesome are these?? Nice work, China

Lastly, a picture from the winning team, Indonesia! Nice work girls!:

I am not sure about the final head count of guests, but all of this delicious free food drew an enormous crowd. It was chaos! 

With that GIANT activity out of the way, I could relax and enjoy a few of my friends birthday parties. One was for Cori, my American flatmate. In good Skoggie tradition (well, Latvian originally, but we have adopted it as a favorite house tradition), she was hoisted 24 times and fed a delicious meal that ended with ample desserts, brownies included. There has been an increasing trend in music and singing in our house and that is where the evening went. I like it! The next day, Thursday, was two other international students birthdays. Does it seem like I’m always attending birthday parties? It sure feels like it to me! But, I’m always glad to wish them happiness and wisdom! I’m sure that some of us don’t feel so wise after a night of dancing and drinking, but I played DW (designated walker) for my posse so the only thing hurting the next day were my feet. 

Last night was red wine night at my international buddy Peter’s house. I brought cheese to accompany the wine only to be reminded that no one that was there likes cheese very much. How tragic! And one of these people was even a French person! Blasphemy!!! The wine night was comprised of me, Peter, my Norwegian friend Bianca, and Peter’s flatmates. We talked, listened to a lot of 90s music, shared our favorite bands with each other, and enjoyed our wines. It was such a refreshing change of pace from the parties that I have been attending – there was no crazy dancing, no extremely drunk people, and it was a small party! I had such a good time that the party didn’t end until Peter was falling asleep in his chair at around 04.00. My bicycle ride home was much easier than the last time I hung out with Bianca, although functioning brakes on my bike would have made the journey home moderately safer……

Here’s a recap of some other weekly activities:

  • A bus trip to nearby Drøbak that was unnecessarily challenging – I should really look into routes, timetables, and destinations prior to boarding the bus…. Lesson learned!
  • Lots of group time – our primary task in class for the week was ‘visioning’. I see the value in it, and that it’s important to look into the future and be creative with goals, ideas, projects, etc. but there is only so much classroom professor led meditation that I can manage before I fall asleep. One of the assigned visioning sessions was thinking about our group project in 2022, ten years from now. Although it was not necessary to think of where we would be personally at that time, it made me think about it nonetheless. I will be 35 (what a scary thought!), and I have absolutely no idea what my life will be like then. Tomorrow is enough of a challenge to plan. But the more I think about it, the more I think I can be completely content living off the grid on a permaculture farm. 
  • I have been working towards finding work. My CV got a good overhaul. I also realized that somehow I got my last job (Patient Care Coordinator) without updating anything. I’m just that awesome 🙂 If anyone has good leads on good work here in Norway, pass on the info please. Along the same lines, if you know of good, relevant scholarships, also send those my way por favor!
  • I have gotten the good fortune of playing Counselor Kristin this week. Usually I might gripe about this a little bit, since as some of you may know, my empathy skills are not the best, but I’ve actually really been enjoying it. It’s nice to get to know people on a deeper level but simultaneously it’s hard to open up to people you barely know. I think this deeper connection to my friends has been something that I’ve been lacking. And it’s also newly apparent that if you provide an open door for people to open up, most will hesitantly but gladly start discussing their life concerns. Counselor Kristin is here for you!
  • Apples! Apples! Apples! Norway has so many apple trees that people don’t use. So it’s become my goal to try and eat all of them and hopefully save up enough to have a year’s supply of applesauce frozen at home. 
  • I’ve initiated a hug contest with one of my flatmates – extra points for more enthusiastic hugs. So far, I’m winning! My best hug so far was from fellow Skoggie, Sarah, with a leap and a complete leg wrap-around embrace. 50 points!
  • I’ve downloaded a Norwegian language book on my Kindle that has been very successful in inspiring me to practice Norwegian. Slowly but surely, I’m improving! This weekend my lesson from my Norwegian friends was in profanity. I’m very pleased with the things I learned. Also, during the use of my limited Norwegian and French, I have been told that I have an adorable accent. I never thought I’d hear this, and I’m extremely pleased. 

Overall, another successful week. Thank you, my dear friends, for making it fun, funny, and full of hugs. And for my family members  – there are lots of my friends’ families visiting now, you should consider coming too. Hint… hint…. 😉

Lofoten!

Hi all!

Welcome to another semi-weekly edition of my life. What was my adventure since my last post? Lofoten!!! Lofoten is one of the most notoriously beautiful places in Norway and one that many Norwegians haven’t visited. Win for the internationals! Here was my sunrise arriving in Lofoten:

Getting here required minimal planning on my part. Fortunately, I have a travel agent here by the name of Arnaud. You probably remember him from past adventures. All I had to do was book my plane ticket to Bodø and be prepared for the ride! There were a total of five of us who went on this journey – me, two of my flatmates – Brian and Sarah, and two French friends – Manon and Arnaud. We departed from Ås on Wednesday afternoon to catch a bus to the airport. Here is the crew:

We got to spend a wonderful night in a ferry station. We waited patiently with a bottle of tequila, sour cream and onion chips, and a deck of cards. There was only one other person who had to put up with our debauchery while we waited for our 03.00 boat. Want to see how ridiculous we were? Follow this link to my friends blog – there is a video of our night: http://erasmusnorge.blogspot.no/2012/10/lofoten.html. Our videographer was having a challenging time figuring out how to work the camera, so we were desperately trying to muffle our laughter for the poor guy trying to sleep. Eventually we all succumbed to sleepiness ourselves (but only after several rounds of presidents and assholes). Not surprisingly, sleeping on a floor in a brightly lit room was challenging for me. When our boat arrived, we all resumed sleeping. Well, for me, it was an attempt. I think I managed maybe two hours of sleep at the most – a spectacular way to begin a camping trip! Woo hoo!

As you saw earlier, our arrival (after a little seasickness) at sunrise was perfect. Here are some more pics, some borrowed from friends with better cameras:

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Looks like fun, right? IT WAS! AMAZING! (that was the word of the week – amazing!)

From here, we hike down the coastal highway to the town of Å. Pronounced “Oh”. It was about a four kilometer trek. The roads were quite vacant, as were the towns. Lofoten is a popular tourist destination in the summer time when there is sunlight 24 hours a day (yes, it’s above the Arctic circle) and apparently has a reasonable amount of tourism when winter sets in fully (Januaryish?), but in October, it is DEAD. Everything was closed – museums, restaurants, coffee houses, etc. Fortunately, I wasn’t going there to tour the towns. After leaving Å and receiving a lesson on the fish hanging structures (in the pictures, we are climbing on them and they are used to dry fish in the summer), we started our hike into the fjords. Our destination: Monkebu. Along the way, I encountered the most beautiful scenery and views that I have ever seen in my life! Look!

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Yes, I got tired. Can’t you see it on my face? I was definitely happy to reach our destination. Still, the work wasn’t done for the day – it was raining and I was cold but there were tents to set up! Despite us hiking to a DNT cabin (Norway has a spectacular network of cabins in the wilderness), it was closed due to bedbugs. We did know this before going, hence the tents. Between us five people, we had 2 two-person tents and a one-person tent. One of the bigger ones was borrowed and it proved to be unusable due to broken poles. So…. you guessed it, we were quite cozy. After a long battle with the tents and cold, we got warm food in our systems and I returned to being a semi-functional person long enough to climb in my sleeping bag and cuddle up to my neighbors. 

The next day was perfect weather. I was surprised to wake up to sunshine since the forecast called for light rain the majority of the week. What a great day for a hike! I prepared myself for the day ahead – a 6 km hike and we headed out. The terrain was slick (excellent for my coordination and yes I fell a lot, not at important moments though) but the sun was drying it. After about three hours, we made it to the top! Check it out:

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Who likes my awesome sweater? I found it in my basement. Now I’m officially Norwegian! That thing was amazingly warm for the trip. God bless wool. I thought that the scenery was spectacular on the way up to our campsite on the first day, but nothing compared to this. Supposedly, this peak provides one of the best views on the peninsula. I don’t doubt it at all. After a few scary parts to the hike (like the extremely steep and narrow ridge and some rock scrambling at the top), I conquered the beast. 

The hike down was fast and tough on knees. But, we made it back to camp in time for a great sunset that reminded me of the smoke from forest fires earlier this year in Colorado. Dinner was French and served around a campfire. We even made a makeshift drying rack! Then, our remaining liquor was consumed as bartender Kristin doled out the drinks. I think the next day most people regretted letting me pour their drinks. But, for the night, it was great. I got to show off my French that I have learned for a video by Sarah. One is “it is raining today”. The other is “take off your clothes”. I shouldn’t let my friends teach me French. Though I don’t doubt the usefulness, I think that it will be hard to have a conversation with a French person.

The following day I built a fire for everyone. I felt guilty for everyone else’s hangover. But, I was ready for the day! Sore from the hike, yes, but excited! Following breakfast and camp disassembling, we began the trek down. All of us were looking forward to our night in a Rorbuer cabin on the ocean. For one, we knew we would have beds and secondly – and most importantly – a SHOWER! Woo hoo!!! When we reached the main road, we began trying to hitchhike. This was very unsuccessful. We waited for about an hour and a half for either a driver or a bus to show. No luck on either even though the bus schedule said it should have come twice. Finally someone got us! Yay! 

Our cabin was extremely luxurious, especially in comparison to the wilderness. See?

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We even had a great meal made from food that Brian and Arnaud scored from the local grocery store trash. Ratatouille for all! We were all very content. 

The following day was the last for me, Sarah, and Brian. We had class to get to on Monday. So we set off on our adventure home. We hiked to Moskenes, got on the 18.00 boat to the mainland, ate a glorious and giant bacon cheeseburger in Bodø. Then, we attempted for a second night to sleep on the ferry station floor. I think I managed about another hour or two of sleep that night. One nice thing was that it was warm. Unfortunately, there were other loud people coming and going all night. Our trek to the airport at 05.00 was refreshingly brisk (maybe around 5C?). Going through security at the airport was a smelly adventure. Our shoes were extremely foul. This was the look on the guys face behind us in line:

But finally after our plane ride, bus trip, and short hike to campus, we were home! Yay! We all showered and booked it to class. What a crazy and wonderful trip. 

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Comparatively to this trip, my week has been very boring. I’ve had lots of homework and practical things to do. I had a hard time returning to a well-rested and perky Kristin. This seems to be the trend after trips. Fortunately, I have fun flatmates and friends! One of my friends did let me sample some of his homemade IPA, which was very pleasant. My group meetings for class went very well. I do feel burnt out on group work (everything I do is in groups – class, home, travel, clubs, etc), but I persevere. On Friday, my house hosted a going away party for my awesome professor, Chuck. Chuck is a professor from the University of Nebraska who told me about this program and he is one of the kindest people I’ve met. Almost our entire class showed up for a potluck for him. We are all sad that he is only staying for half of the semester, but he apparently has responsibilities in Nebraska….. Lame, I say. The night was full of great food, conversation, guitar playing, singing, dancing, and friends! The following day I made potato cakes and applesauce for a charity event in town. Sadly, the Norwegians didn’t like them. And since then, I’ve been extremely lazy. And it has been AWESOME. 

 

That, folks, is my story. A special shout out to my loved ones with birthdays this last week – Lindsay, my sister (27), Cathy/Ruoxi, friend (21), and Kailee, cousin (17). Happy birthdays! Here’s to another fulfilling year 🙂

Due to 1) my massive homework load from this last week and 2) the pact I made with my fellow cruisers going to Copenhagen, I have little fun things to publicly share. But, good news, this will be educational instead! I have found an answer to the most common question that I am asked while here in Norway. Why doesn’t the US use the metric system? Here, my friends, is the answer:

First of all, historically, many countries had their own colloquial units of measurements. France created the metric system in the 1700s. Of course! It starts with the French! 🙂 In the late 1700s, in the brand new United States, France supported US policies until they seemed to be getting too friendly with the British again and hostilities began. France snubbed the US from participating in metric lessons whereas dignitaries from other countries were able to join. Passive aggressive scientific tendencies. Fortunately, Americans proudly found that they had a system of measurements that was consistent enough, so the chose to keep it. But….. for nearly 120 years, it has recognized and accepted the metric system as the international standard. So, why? WHY America???

In 1975, there was a 10-year initiative to transition to the metric system, but the policy became voluntary instead and it’s obvious how successful voluntary programs are…. Hindering factors for the conversion have been cost (NASA reportedly said it would $370 million in order to convert drawings, designs, ect), American stubbornness and individualism, and of course the lack of required change. Don’t fix what ain’t broken. In scientific research and a small portion of industry, the metric system is used though, it’s just not commonly used elsewhere.

Conversions: 1km = 0.62 miles, 1 meter = 3.28 feet or 1.09 yards, 1 cm = 0.39 inches, 1 kilo = 2.2 pounds, changing from celsius to farenheit uses this formula: C x 9/5 + 32 = F

One other thing that is different for me here: in the US, dates are written in MM/DD/YYYY format, here it’s DD/MM/YYYY

America! F*ck yeah!

So now, would you like to know a summary of my last week or so?

I got in a dispute with my group mates. I am not good at confronting people about touchy subjects, but I felt it was needed. So…. nervously and meanly I proceeded. The good news is that we are a better group as a result of it! Yay! And my lesson learned? I need to work on my communication skills.

My house hosted a bonfire party in the forest next door last Wednesday. So many people came! There were probably around 60! There was even a guy from Vail, CO who was visiting that I spoke with and told him my story of why I hate Vail. Long story short, Vail-ites are unhelpful and extremely unpolite. Damn uppity yuppies. But, the party was super fun and people brought some instruments like guitars and some bongo drums. Afterwards, one of my flatmates was hellbent on bringing everyone back to our house for a dance party, but I think it was unsuccessful. At least it was for me because I went to bed.

For my weekend, I went on a GIANT cruise boat to Copenhagen. I spent a couple of hours hanging out in my favorite park in Oslo, Vigelands Sculpture Park with two of my flatmates. For a place that is full of naked statues, it is an incredibly peaceful place. Walking to the boat afterwards, my flatmate Brian realized he didn’t have his passport. It turns out, that cruises in Europe are not sticklers on having required documentation. Success! Everyone got on the boat! And, I think everyone even made it back!

Watch out Copenhagen!

I’ll put up some pictures of the tamer moments of the cruise. And I have a few from Copenhagen as well. I felt like I walked through Copenhagen like a zombie. I was sooooooo tired from a night of crazy people, drinking, and dancing. But, we managed to walk somewhere for me to get breakfast, Christiania, a tall church tower, a few iconic statues, and back to the boat. Barely. Christiania, for those who don’t know, is a little enclave within Copenhagen where the only rules that seem to apply are no pictures and no running. So, like I told my mom, when in Rome….? Partake! On the way walking back (very slowly), I stayed with my friend Haleh who was wearing feeling very much in pain from wearing high heels. We lost our group and unfortunately, neither of us were paying attention to where we came from, where we were, and where we needed to go. We were somewhere on the waters edge, but not within sight of our giant boat. So, after slowly walking more, I stopped and asked someone because we only had 30 minutes to make it back to our boat. We weren’t far away at all! Phew!

The third take on this was a success. Finally! American Laura, Bosnian Petar, and myself.

The Mermaid – with Haleh

I love this picture! Norwegian flatmate Freddy and me. He was very reluctant to smile for the camera 🙂

Me and SUPER NICE flatmate Sarah

 

Surviving the Copenhagen day

So windy on top of the tower!

Sunset on first night of cruise

The next evening on the boat was equally as crazy, despite all of our protesting livers. The boat returned to Oslo at around 9 in the morning, and I didn’t manage to scoop myself out of my bed until the last minute possible. I found everyone at the train station, and we all looked a little like death. I was so happy to return to my bed at home and sleep away the rest of the day! The boat ride was an awesome, awesome fun time and I highly recommend it to anyone.

This week, I had several projects due. So, there is no rest for the wicked! I had a big group project due on Tuesday, several academic papers to read and respond to, and my own paper to write for Friday. I hit the books and became best friends with my computer. During the week I got to hang out with some new friends from the cruise, celebrate an American’s birthday (there are so many birthdays this month!), and my international buddy Peter made me delicious Danish food. He seems to think that I’m the only other Danish person on this campus, and I choose to not correct his thinking when there is food involved 🙂 I sure do enjoy all of my great friends!

Maybe as a let down from my fun weekend, I have felt a little blue this week. I don’t know if it’s just from that, or in combination with gloomy weather or some other factor, but I have been having a tough time being my normal, bubbly self. I’ve been doing my damnedest to resolve this. Case in point – my room is quite clean and I’m about to attack the rest of the house today. Organization is always a good coping mechanism for me. And, I have gone to numerous social events, including a party last night where I got to do some great salsa / Brazilian-style dancing. Next week will be better! I promise all of you that my giant smile will reappear on my face! And my reason for this? I’m going to Lofoten!!!!! I have no classes, so I will be going on a mini-vacation with some friends to one of the most notoriously famous beautiful places in Norway.

Cheers, y’all!