The End

•June 8, 2010 • 1 Comment

The time has come for me to leave Norway.  I have mixed feelings today, as I pack the last few details in my luggage.  I am sad to leave behind the good friends that I have made here, and I will certainly miss the great outdoors, but I am ready to come home.

The last week has been spent traveling around southern Norway with Aaron and my paternal grandparents.  It was great that they managed to squeeze in a visit while I was still here.  I enjoyed showing them some of my favorite sights, and I think they enjoyed the time as well.  The architecture of Røros, the impressive ski jump in Lillehammer, the walled fortress of Gamlebyen Fredrikstad, and the great museums in Oslo were just some of the highlights of our trip.

Yesterday, Grandma and Grandpa left Norway and continued traveling east.  Today, Aaron and I travel home together.  I’m looking forward to being with family again and good friends that I have missed.  I’m also looking forward to having Starbucks, a clothes dryer, napkins at meal times, and English muffins again.  🙂

Farewell, Norway.  I will be back someday!


Two Weeks of Backpacking

•June 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

Aaron and I have spent the past two weeks backpacking through the wilds of Norway.  Being away from civilization for that long is the cause of this recent silent period on my blog!

Our first foray was to the west coast of Norway, where we hiked the length of Lysefjorden.  This fjord has some impressive, one-of-a-kind sights, and since we were visiting this place on foot, we had the privilege of discovering lesser-known-but-just-as-incredible places as well.  We began our trek at Preikestolen.  The hike up there was quite arduous, especially with our heavy packs.  This view at top though was incredible.  1000 meters above the fjord, with a sheer drop off the edge of the view point, the view down the entire length of the fjord was amazing!

At the top of Preikestolen, with the sun shining!

Look at that sheer drop!

Oooh, see how small the ferry is WAAAAY down there.

Aaron and I continued our hike inland.  We followed a DNT “trail” that was really rough and more of a passable route over stone and boulders than a real trail!  The further along we traveled, the better the trail did get.  We spent a couple nights camping in the woods, but one night we reached a DNT cabin at an abandoned farm sight.  This little place was truly a piece of paradise.  The cabin was rustic and charming.  It sat in a grassy meadow alongside a beautiful mountain stream (where we took a quick dip!) with high mountains rising up on both sides.  The night we stayed here also happened to be my birthday, and Aaron surprised me with a Mountain House blueberry cheesecake for dessert!

The paradise we found in the rugged wilderness.

This lovely stream ran through the meadow with our cabin. After getting hot and dusty from hiking, Aaron and I both braved the frigid waters for a quick dip!

After four days of hiking, we arrived in the hamlet of Lysebotn and the innermost point of the fjord.  We made camp in this town, and took a day hike to Kerag the next day.  It was 6 km of walking up a road with hairpin switchbacks and a spiral tunnel to gain a lot of elevation, then we continued on 6 more km of strenuous hiking to reach Kerag.  This high cliff above the fjord had incredible views.  We could see all the places along the fjord we had been to previously.  There were massive waterfalls plunging over the edge, and Kerag bolt (the boulder suspended between two cliffs) was impressive to see.  It was quite blustery on top and snow started falling soon after we arrived, so neither of us was too interested in walking out on the boulder.  It was cool enough just to be up there and see the views!

At Kerag, with waterfalls in the background, just moments before it began snowing.

This friendly little guy, a Norwegian fjord horse, followed us a ways down the road.

Aaron and I took the ferry out of Lysefjorden and enjoyed the view of seeing the sights from the perspective of the water.  This week was quite amazing, with so many incredible sights to see.  It was quite strenuous, and we certainly got enough exercise.  We covered at least 80 km on foot that week!

Our second week of adventures took us to the islands of Lofoten, above the arctic circle.  This unique archipelago is different from any other place I’ve seen.  Colorful, quaint fishing villages hug the coastlines, and pointed, rugged mountains rise straight up out of the water.  The terrain is majestic and beautiful, and Aaron and I both enjoyed our five days here.

Incredible scenery along the coast of Lofoten.

What a view to have while eating your lunch of fresh bread and reindeer salami!

I love Reine!!!

Could you imagine having this view from the window of your fishing hut?

We hiked up to a mountain cabin that we used as our base camp.  From here, we went out each day to explore the coastline and lovely villages.  We were very near to the towns of Reine, Å, and Moskenes.  I think Reine must be the most beautiful town I have ever seen!  The setting just makes it a fairytail village.

Our cabin was awesome.  It was a two hour hike up from the coast and sat at 400m elevation.  Even at the end of May, there were snowfields covering the ground, and the two large lakes near us were still covered over with ice and snow.  This little cabin, named “Munkebu”, had been built by local volunteers in 1991.  Because of its remote location, all building materials and supplies were helicoptered into this sight!  This place was snug and cozy, and we enjoyed lots of card games, crackling wood fires, and hot meals in this little cabin.  We did leave just in time, right as a gusty snow storm enveloped the mountain tops!

Our mountain resort cabin. Munkebu was a really special place.

The view from our cabin.

Just a few of the thousands (millions?) of dried cod that keeps these fishing villages alive.

At the end of our two weeks of exploring, we were quite tired, a little sun burnt, and ready for showers and clean clothes.  But the adventures and sights we saw were so worth it.  Aaron and I both had a blast with our rugged, wilderness adventures!  I am so thankful for this experience and the great buddy I had to share it with!  During our ride on the Hurtigruten back to the mainland (a 10pm to 2am trip!), we got our first and only sight of the midnight sun.

A serene finale to our incredible adventure.

17th of May

•May 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The 17th of May is Norway’s national holiday.  This is a huge celebration, and a little different than America’s Independence Day.  Here, everyone in the town dresses in their finest clothing- bunads, if folks are lucky enough to own one- and come out into the town for a parade and other festive activities.  I of course wore my bunad for this very special day, and Aaron and I both enjoyed the experience of seeing what a real 17th of May celebration looks like.  We walked through town and greeted many people that I know.  In the afternoon, I walked in the parade with my choir.  I’ve never seen so many people here in Ås.  I think the entire population of the town turned out for the parade!

It was really cool to see how Norwegians celebrate their independence day.  People dress in their finest and put on quite a celebration.  I don’t think that Americans could pull off a celebration quite like this.  But in Norway, with it’s heritage and history, this type of celebration is very fitting.  What a fun day it was!

Local Forrays

•May 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Aaron’s first few days here in Norway have been full of activity.  He’s been conscripted to lab work with me, but when we’re finished for the day, we get to head out on explorations of the local sights.

Thursday we decided to go see Drøbak, and we decided to walk there.  It was a two hour trip to get to this charming town of the fjord, but we made some neat discoveries along the way.  First, we found this great old, wooden ski jump.  Then we came upon several of the large burial mounds dating back to the Viking ages.

"No sledding allowed" reads the paint on the side.

These were BIG! And dated from ~1000 AD.

In Drøbak, we sat on the wharf to eat our picnic lunch of sandwiches with boiled eggs, cheese, and reindeer salami.  Then we explored the cool streets in the town before making the two hour trek back to my place.

The wharf is so colorful and fun!

Ice cream is for all seasons.

Friday we decided to go to Ski, but we used the local bus to get there.  We walked around the town center and the large shopping mall there.  We laughed and snickered at all the funny things we saw at the mall, like adult-sized one-piece zip-up sweat suits.  And a formal man’s suit that was bright red and striped with blue and white like the Norwegian flag.  We did buy some of my favorite cheese from The Blind Cow, a local dairy that makes excellent cheeses.  And there was a neat toy store that had a giant Lego tiger.  We took a picture of that for Evan. 🙂

Legos are toys for big kids too, right?

Saturday, we met up with a friend of mine who is an American girl here doing a high school exchange.  She’s graduating in a week or two, so she was wearing the Russ pants of the Norwegian seniors!  We hiked in the Kroer forest that’s just outside of Ås.

Saturday was quite rainy off and on, and we had talked about going camping in the woods overnight.  In the last minute, we decided to camp in spite of the rain.  We packed our sleeping bags, tarps, cook stove, rain gear, and food for dinner and lunch.  We headed in the direction of an cool little hut I had once seen in the woods.  I had only found this place once, and had not been able to find it since, but we headed out in search of it again.  After looking for a while, we came upon a nice camp spot and decided just to set up camp there.  As we fanned out in search of firewood, we found that hut I had originally been looking for, just a few hundred yards away!  The location of the hut wasn’t so great for overnighting though, so we stayed put at our original camp spot.

Setting up camp.

Secret, hard-to-find hut in the woods.

We got a nice little campfire started and roasted hot dogs and potato wraps (pølser & lømper) over the coals.  Then for dessert we had foil wrapped packages of apples with cinnamon and sugar.  It might just be us, but we think everything tastes better cooked over a campfire!

Right as we finished dinner, a thunderstorm rolled in, and we took shelter under our tarp.  It rained pretty hard all night long, and by morning our gear was beginning to get a bit damp.  We managed to stay dry and warm though.  Being outdoors overnight was so nice.  The songbirds in the forest created quite a symphony in between rain showers, and exploring the woods is always fun.

So, tomorrow is the 17th of May, Norway’s independence day.  There are quite big celebrations planned, so I’m excited to don my bunad and experience a REAL 17th of May!

Guess Who’s Here!

•May 13, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Aaron arrived yesterday!  He was a champ when it came to navigating the airports and connecting flights, and he arrived in Oslo yesterday.  I met him at the airport, and we had a great first afternoon and evening together.  Aaron came into the lab with me during the afternoon and got to see the work I do.  He also got the grand tour of the house I live in and met the other students who live here.  When we were walking through the house, his observation was, “It’s kinda like a club house.” LOL!

A book on a bench took this pic.

After dinner, Aaron and I took a long stroll through the university campus and town.  He enjoyed seeing the old buildings with fantastic architecture on the campus.  We had a fun time taking pictures of each other and setting up our cameras on timer mode to get photos of both of us.  The trees are just beginning to leaf out, and there are lots of daffodils and other spring bulbs in bloom, so it’s a fun season for taking photos.

We liked these pillars.

Meadow of woodland flowers!

Look at those great animals over the entrance. Definitely an agricultural school!

As we walked through the town, Aaron commented that “all the houses are either red or yellow or white.”  Yep, that pretty much sums it up.  Both of us are wondering what the reason for that is.  Low selection at the paint stores?  🙂  We both got a kick out of the Russ kids (highschool seniors celebrating their last month before graduation).  They all wear these funny red pants during the “Russetid”, and they drive around playing loud music in old buses that they’ve painted red.  And if kids aren’t “Russ”, then they’re often wearing really funny clothing, such as neon green jeans or rainbow striped hoodies.  It’s hilarious!

Aaron liked these houses, because they're VERY typical of Norway.

Aaron and I stopped in at the grocery store to buy a couple food items, since Thursday the 13th is Ascension Day, and EVERYTHING is closed in recognition of this holiday.  It’s an interesting cultural experience to have to plan ahead every time there’s a holiday, because everything shuts down on Sundays and holidays.  If you find yourself out of milk, too bad!  We bought reindeer salami and potato chips.  That ought to get us through til Friday. 😉

It’s Thursday morning now, and I woke Aaron up at 8:15.  He grumbled about “having to get up so early”, but this short time in Norway is no time to be sleeping the day away!  We started off with hot mochas, and now we’re working on breakfast.  We plan to head over to Drøbak today, my favorite local haunt.  Should be a fun outing.

May Blizzard Blues

•May 4, 2010 • 1 Comment

This is the sight keeping me company outside my window today:

Blizzards in May are abominable!

Cheery, isn’t it?

I am really fed up with this unending winter.  I used to think that my mood wasn’t affected by the weather, but that was before experiencing a 6-month-long winter in Norway.  I used to like snow too, for that matter.  But not in April, and absolutely NOT in May!

Things really aren’t so bad, though.  Saturday afternoon, I made delectable vanilla bean scones with my friend Lin, and we played several fun rounds of Farkle afterward.  I think Lin rigged the dice.  She managed to roll 5-of-a-kind TWO TIMES!  🙂  Sunday afternoon I picked this pretty bouquet of woodland flowers on my way back from Church fellowship.

These delicate beauties grow wild under the trees.

I’ve been working quite hard on my Hardanger project lately.  It takes so much time, but with BBC dramas like North & South and episodes of Man vs. Wild to keep me company, I’m starting to make good progress.  At this rate, I may actually finish it before Christmas!

Tar masse timer, men jeg har et par måneder igjen!

So, Aaron arrives in 8 days, and I have only two weeks of lab work left.  We’re both so excited about our upcoming hiking trips that we’ll go whether there’s snow or sun.  Let’s hope for option #2.

Selah Dinner

•May 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

My choir “Selah” had an end-of-the-year dinner together last night.  Several of us are leaving Norway at the end of the semester, so it was a bit of a goodbye for those who can’t be in the choir next year.  Henriette was our lovely host for the evening, and she held the dinner in her parents’ home.  The house dates back to 1912, and it’s decorated very tastefully.  I especially love the traditional Norwegian woodwork and painting.

A carved, wooden chandelier! Can I have one in my home someday?

I love these traditional colors

We had a potluck style dinner, with everyone bringing a little something.  There was everything from Chinese potstickers to Norwegian stewed peas.  It was really fun to see what kind of homemade goodies everyone brought.  I was very impressed by Arnstein’s homemade raisin buns.  Who would have known he was such an accomplished baker?  And Henriette’s spice cake, with the name of the choir written on it, was divine!

Meat cakes, sausages, lømper, lingonberries, stewed peas, potstickers, noodles, and spring rolls made for quite the international fare!

Mmmm... the best spice cake I've ever eaten!

One interesting drawback to being in a choir is that when you’re always singing in it, you never have the chance to step back and hear the music from the audience’s perspective.  I know that often I’m so focused on singing my part that I can’t hear how it’s coming together as a whole choir.  So, someone recorded the choir’s recent Easter performance and loaded the sound files onto the web.  We played a few of these over the course of the evening, and I think we were all pleasantly surprised by our little choir’s performance.  Nothing we’d be asked to perform in Carnegie Hall, mind you, but not too shabby either.  Here is the page with pictures and links to our songs: (“Dance and Sing” is my favorite!)

Selah Christian Student Choir

The dinner last night was such a nice finale to this great year with Selah.  I have made such wonderful friends, and I learned that singing in a choir was more fun than I expected it to be!  I will certainly miss Selah next year.