Friday, October 19, 2012

Farwell and Takk (We've Come to Norway, part 7)

We leave for the airport in a little over three hours. We just finished packing.

Today we shop'd, museum'd, and dinner party'd. Then, we sky bar'd - see photo below.

(I apologize for turning nouns into verbs and for turning verbs into misspelled verbs. I am tired.)

Norway is awesome. We love all of our new friends and will be forever grateful for this experience.

See you all stateside.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Northest (We've Come to Norway, part 6)

We have a treat for you today: panoramas and a video. What?! I know. The panoramas show up kind of wonky here, but if you click on them, it should be better.

This morning, we awoke in Harstad. It was beautiful.

We ate a lovely hotel breakfast (as usual) and hit the road. It was also cold. There was window-scraping involved.

We drove and drove.

We made one stop in the small town of Setermoen to visit Soltun, a home for soldiers. It is a cozy home that provides free lodging for soldiers and inexpensive food. They even hold Bible studies on the weekends and have a pool table and ping pong. The Norwegian military is mostly stationed in the North, which puts many of the soldiers far away from their families. It was really heart-warming to see a place of such hospitality available for far-from-home 19 and 20 year-olds, coping with learning to be in the military and probably being very cold.

Finally, we arrived in Tromso, where we walked around until we found a place to eat.

After lunch, we visited with some Bible school students for a few hours. They were very hospitable and we made good use of their chocolate/coffee/milk/espresso machine. By the way, they have these everywhere here. America should take a hint and start making me more americanos at the push of a button.

At around 7:30, we took our leave and boarded a flight back to Oslo, where we checked into our new hotel room, which is on the 30th floor. Woah.

Alaina and I realized today that we were above the Arctic Circle and will likely never travel farther north than we were today. Neat.

Now it is 2:01am and I'm going to sleep. Have a good evening, America.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dried Fish Snack (We've Come to Norway, part 5)

We took a lot of photos today, so I'm going to let them do the talking.

We woke around 6:00am this morning and headed to the North (of Norway). This trip involved planes, cars, and ferries.

Photos from the plane(s):

You can't really see in this photo, but the fuzzy, little, white dots on this rock island are buildings!

Photos from the car:

An original viking house! Pretty cool.

We stopped in a fishing village in search of seafood, but everyone had gone fishin'. Heh.

We moved on and found a restaurant in another town. It, like a lot of restaurants we've seen here, has outdoor seating despite the cold - each seat comes with a blanket. :)

Hans Kristian also bought us some dried fish snack.

We took a break from the car to ride a ferry.

The Hanses on the ferry.

I don't remember what these ferry snacks were called, but they were made from cinnamon, sugar, and some delicious potato bread. Ahh, tradition.

Old guy on a ferry wearing a Billabong hat.

Finally, we arrived at our hotel and our room with a view.

After 10 minutes at the hotel, we skedaddled off to a tween meeting at a prayer house. They were super adorable and happy to speak English with us. They even made us cake and we played mafia. It turns out that youth groups play mafia all over there world.

After the meeting, we got some food, drank some tea, and turned in for the night. 

Thanks, Norway, for being so beautiful today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kaviar is Caviar (We've Come to Norway, part 4)

It is 11:45pm here and we are supposed to meet someone with all of our luggage around the corner at 6:45am tomorrow after breakfast. Ahh!

So, what we did today from 9:00 to 3:00 was sit in a room at Det teologiske Menighetsfakultet (if your tried to pronounce that, welcome to our last four days) with 25-30 other people - some were academics working on youth ministry projects and some were practitioners of youth ministry in Norwegian churches and organizations. We heard four research papers presented and discussed them. Don't be misled when I say "we." I heard, but, as I am neither an academic nor a practitioner, I kept my thoughts to myself. Even so, it was an interesting day filled with a whole lot of coffee. (I've had more black coffee and americanos here than in the rest of my life combined.)

This is what we had for lunch. It was a piece of bread topped with a kind of mayonaise, and kind of mayonaise-y cold slaw, tiny shrimp, lettuce, cucumber, lemon, dill, locks, ham, roast beef, pickle, tomato, red pepper, red onion, grapes, and maybe coriander. Delicious and nutso.

 Here are Alaina and Hans Kristian (He's the reason we're here, by the way. Thanks, Hans!)

After the seminar, Alaina found a grocery store online and we walked there. It was interesting. Foreign grocery stores are always interesting, but even moreso when you don't know the language. There was a line of products that said Kaviar, we weren't sure what they were because some were pink and we thought that caviar was black. We found out later that they were, in fact, tubes of caviar. We've seen them at our hotel breakfast, too, so I guess it's a popular item. Lots of things come in tubes here. 

We bought a small jar of pickles, a small jar of jam, chocolate, cookies, ten slices of cheese, a small baguette, sugar snap peas, and carrots all for the small fee of 206.20 kroners or 36.38 dollars. That's grocery shopping in the most expensive city in the world, folks!

We carried our items back to the hotel and ate them while watching Gone Baby Gone, which is very intense, in case you were wondering.

At 7:45pm, one of our new friends Hans (a different Hans than pictured above) picked us up and brought us to what we didn't know was another dinner party with some of the same people plus a couple of Americans, so that was fun. We skipped dinner (full of pickles and whatnot), but ate ice cream and drank americanos. It was fun. We've been blessed by wonderful hosts here in Norway, which more than makes up for the expensive groceries.

Productivity & Pie (We've come to Norway, part 3)

Today, Alaina and I parted ways after breakfast (which ends at 10:00 and which we took at 9:55) because we each had some important business to attend to. Alaina went to have intellectual conversations about theology, history, and methodology, while I pounded the pavement, determined to make some connections with Oslo coworking spaces. 

Alaina took lots of notes. See below.

I took lots of notes too, but of a different sort. You see, I visited three coworking spaces with no map and no smart phone. (Whaa?!) What I had to do was look up each place I wanted to see, ask google maps for turn by turn directions, and then write those directions on little pieces of hotel notebook paper. See below.

Yikes. Did I mention that it was cold and rainy? It didn't matter. I had an umbrella and the determination to navigate this foreign city with no grid, streets that change names, and addresses that don't really make sense. And I did.

The first place I stopped was called MESH. It was pretty neat.

They were getting ready for a gigantic event, so a nice young man gave me a tour and then I retired to their coffee shop (yes) for a latte and some work. I ordered my latte and then tried to pay. In Norway, they use these funny little "chip and PIN" machines. I knew they were funny and little, but it wasn't until after I failed to use it properly, causing a line to form behind me, that I learned that none of my cards would be accepted by it because none of them had the "chip" of "chip and PIN."

Once this realization was made, I was embarrassed (she had already made my latte), so I just left the place and headed toward the next space, but not before snapping this photo of the outside of MESH with my phone. Red carpet!

I couldn't find the next place for a long time and thought of just going back to the hotel. Between this and my card being rejected from a second coffee shop, I was feeling very frustrated and in want of coffee. My day had become a bit of a mess.

Finally, I was able to sit outside of a restaurant and steal their guest WiFi. That was a turning point. I emailed my contact at the space and he met me outside. Their space was much more casual. It was a collection of very small companies. Their unique amenities included arcade games AND a chef-woman who's job it was to cook them lunch every day. I was given a tour, many introductions, coffee, and mineral water.

Feeling refreshed and finally caffeinated, I pressed on to my third location, 657 Oslo. Their space used to be an arts school, but they had transformed it into a very cool coworking space for creatives.

After more coffee and some very pleasant conversation with one of the space's employees, I hit the road for the last time, umbrella up, scarf wrapped twice around my neck.

I made it back to the hotel without getting even a little bit lost. This was pleasing because I had already had a whole lot of conversations with Norwegian strangers that included me pointing to my notes and muttering. I also saw about six H&Ms, but I didn't shop at all. That's how focused I was.

A couple of hours later, Alaina and I reunited and then attended a dinner party with about ten hospitable Norwegians, only a couple of whom I had met before. We had a grand old time. (Norwegian parties are much like American dinner parties.) Some of them were more excited about speaking English than others, but we couldn't complain because we don't know Norwegian at all.

This post was written as a part of a blogging game. The players are The Creative Collective and the topic is A Mess. See what the others are saying.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

We learned today. (We've come to Norway, part 2)

We had a harder time sleeping last night than we expected, being so tired and all. At the beginning, I think it was just your typical in-a-new-place-it's-hard-to-get-to-sleepies. Then, our bodies woke us up at a normalish (in America) time, which would have been about 2am here. In any case, we did sleep and then after waking and dressing we went to breakfast downstairs in the hotel (this was very yummy and interesting, but I have no photos, so maybe I'll tell you more about it tomorrow) and then were picked up by our hosts to attend a worship service.

This was our second Norwegian worship service - last night we attended a youth service and this morning was a for-everyone service. It was nice, and we're getting much better at pronouncing Norwegian words because of their praise songs. During the sermons, we get headphones so that we can listen to a translator.

After the service, we got coffee and waffles. Apparently, "church waffles" are common. We decided that this tradition should travel to the States as a healthy (maybe?) alternative to doughnuts.

After church waffles, we went to an outdoor/indoor Norwegian history museum called FOLKEMUSEUM. (Spoiler alert: there were none of Bob Dylan's old guitars.)

Inside, we learned a lot about clothing. Did you know that each district in Norway has its own costume that people still wear on special occasions? Fun fact. We also saw lots of beautifully made wooden things, like this piano.

Outside, it was slightly rainy and quite chilly, that's why I look like someone's grandmother in the old country.

We saw some very old things, like this church, built circa 1100 AD. It's in the style of the vikings, but they put a cross on it to make it Christian-like. It's made of wood and very impressive.

We also saw some less-old things, like the recreation of a Norwegian city only about 50-100 years old.

After all that learning, we were pretty hungry. Our hosts took us to this really lovely restaurant up on a hill that overlooked the city. We passed not one, but two gigantic ski jumps. Also, as if we somehow forgot that we were in Scandinavia, it started snowing. Being North Carolina residents, we were delighted. Inside, we ate Norwegian meatballs and game soup.

The taste of our post-dinner coffee still in our mouths, we braved the snow to catch the last open hour at the Munch Museum. 

Yes, that is me, standing in front of The Scream. Nice camera work, Kleinbeck.

Lots of learning under our belts, we rested in the hotel for a couple of hours before being picked up to  for a delicious Italian meal at a place called Eataly with five of our new Norwegian friends. Eataly. Get it? So clever.

Here we are at the end of our day and the thing that I've come away with most is that it's a shame that when people started creating things with their brains via modern technology, they began to make things with their hands less, like awesome viking churches.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

We've come to Norway

As a way of recording and remembering this, our trip to Norway in October of 2012, I will attempt to post here every day and include photos that Alaina has taken.

Yesterday, Friday, we arrived at RDU around 4:40pm to learn that our first flight (to Heathrow) had been delayed. Not a big deal. We both computered and ate some of the plane picnic Alaina had prepared until it was time to board around 7:30pm. Nothing remarkable happened on our first flight, apart from Alaina seeing Taken for the first time and both of us being reminded of two things 1) we should avoid being taken during our trip and 2) if we are taken, we should call Liam Neeson.

Oh, and this was a red eye flight. We spent about six hours traveling in the opposite direction of the sun, so by the time we arrived in London, it was after 8:00am there and we had only slept a couple of hours, maybe. Please take note of my exhausted (do not mistake it for pensive) expression here, and this was mid-latte.

(I also purchased a particular eyebrow pencil at Boots because I remember getting one when I was living in England in 2007 and I haven't found an as-good and reasonably-priced one in the States yet. I guess Americans don't have as great an appreciation for a strong brow.)

Our second flight was only a couple of hours - London to Oslo. Each of us slept a bit more, thought probably not a full hour. When we arrived in Oslo, it was after 1pm. At customs, the guard asked what I was doing in Norway and I shrugged and looked back at Alaina. I'm glad he chose to laugh at me instead of detain me for being suspicious.

Our lovely hosts greeted us and drove us to our hotel. We were supposed to stay in the city-center Radisson, but the plan was changed and instead, we're staying at a more quaint and local-feeling establishment. We are pleased. See photo.

After giving us some time to wash our faces and bundle up a bit more, our hosts took us to a little market that was happening in the city. There, we tried something like a pancake with jelly and sour cream. It was delicious.

 There were other sights to be seen as well, like meat and people and tracks for the public tram.

After the market, we had some more substantial food, drank some americanos, and then walked around a few lovely parks. One was home to several statues of naked humans engaging in a variety of activities. One of them, I suppose, looked cold, and so some concerned passerby donated a hat to the cause.

Another of the naken human statues was a very upset baby (the most famous of the naked human statues), but there was nothing to be done for him.

As for non-naked human statue-related entertainment, there was a large group of Norwegian youth dressed up like characters from Grease, carrying around a boom box (yes) playing the soundtrack, and singing along quite loudly in unison. Still not sure what that was about.

And, for balance, here is a photo of a park just being typical and beautiful.

Once our tour was finished, we spent a bit of time in our hotel room (I tried to nap, but was mostly afraid that I would not wake up for days. Remember, less than 3 hours of sleep and lots of walking in the cold.) before attending a youth worship service and then returning to our hotel, where we are now. 

Goodnight, until tomorrow, assuming I wake up for it.