Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cabins and Perogies

Looks like I haven’t posted in a while, not because I don’t have much to write about but because believe it or not I have been busy!

Friday my roommate and I invited 3 girls from Ghana over for dinner.  We made delicious carrot patties with salad and baked potatoes.  We were soooo full afterward but had to suck it up because for dessert we were invited to some Russian girls’ home for Russian pancakes.  They were similar to crepes with lots of toppings, mmmm.  This is a traditional way to celebrate the beginning of Lent, in Russia.

Saturday we invited everyone over to celebrate a Norwegian friend’s birthday.  For some reason it quickly turned into a Russian themed evening where we tried some Russian treats including raw fish (like sardines but larger) and some marshmallow cookies.  They also brought some non-alcoholic drinks; one was made of wheat and is a perfect summer beverage (I thought it kind of tasted like bread soaked in vinegar) and the other was a green soda, which tasted good.  Then we had some Russian shots, which were interesting: a cucumber was cut into a shot glass size then filled with vodka, tomato juice and salt.
Cucumber shot; healthy drink!  You can see the "eppelsin juice" container in the back. 
You would think that "epple" means Apple but nope, its Orange juice...
this still confuses me every time.
Then I spent until Tuesday in a rented cabin a 40-minute bus ride out of the city.  It was a great way to relax from a long weekend and the view was magnificent.  It is located on a fjord overlooking beautiful mountains.  I went with two Danes and a German.  We spent the time chatting, cooking and relaxing.  We had had lots of snow prior to then so there was about a foot on the roof.  The cabin is not used often so when we got there we got the fireplace going right away.  After a few hours when the place was nice and cozy, the heat must have dislodged the snow from the roof because it came crashing down.  It was incredibly loud and it took a while to figure out what the noise was!  It was only a foot or so of snow but it made me realize how scary avalanches would be.  We thought the snow was done falling until the middle of the night when it happened again and woke us up; my heart was beating so loudly!

Before leaving we signed the cabin’s guestbook but only after looking through it myself to read past comments.  One of them was from a couple that had previously visited my school, UNBC in Canada as visiting professors.  They are from New Zealand and do a lot of travelling, but regardless, it was unbelievable not only that they travelled to the same small random northern Norwegian town as me, but stayed in the same small cabin (of which there are many to choose from).  Speaking of small worlds, my German friend from here and I have a mutual friend that I had gone to school with in Canada.  Somehow, of the 7 billion people in this world, and the 500 friends I have on facebook, these 2 friends of mine, who live on other sides of the world from each other, are friends.  Mindblowing.

This is the view from the cabin.
For those of you who have ever lived with me, you know that I love perogies.  I usually buy them frozen and eat them with boiled veggies… super easy.  Turns out perogies are very popular in Canada but not many other places.  No one here (except the Polish girl) has ever heard of them.  Anyways, this morning I woke up with the biggest craving for perogies so after class I headed to the store to buy some ingredients.  For those of you who have ever seen me attempt to cook, you know more often then not, my cooking doesn’t turn out so well.  The recipe I was following said it would take an hour but two hours later I had 2 dozen successful (enough) perogies to share with my roomies for dinner.
The icicles have been interesting lately.  Some are formed when it is very windy out so they are shaped almost horizontally from rooftops.

I have a break from school at the end of March to mid-June.  I have been thinking about where I want to travel in Europe since I got here.  There is a super cheap airline that makes flying to any country from Oslo extremely affordable so any where in Europe is really an option; especially since any other country is guaranteed to be far less expensive then Norway.  I have finally decided on spending time in Ireland, Scotland (maybe) and England (London).  I have a good friend to stay with in London and some other people to visit in the UK.  Also, being from Canada I figure visiting England is almost necessary.  3 Canadians I know from high school will be in London at the same time I plan on being there so it will be great!  Also, March 23-25 my University is paying for a snowboard trip to Sweden!  I am loving Norway!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Some of the International students after ski/snowboarding

I had my Tourism class Wednesday morning (see Jody… I had class, but guess what we learned about? You’ll never guess.  We learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs… I have learned about that in every single University class I have ever taken!).  Anyways, afterward we headed out to the local ski hill for some riding.  I taught a Bulgarian buy and Ghanaian girls to snowboard and they were quite good at the end!  It was fun, I got to do one run by myself which was fun because the hill was small enough to have lights so you can ride at night which isn’t possible in the mountain resorts back home.  At the very end I traded my snowboard with a guy from Ghana in exchange for his skis and I did 2 short runs.  I hadn’t skied since I was 15 but I did pretty well regardless.  Maybe Ill try to take it up again since it is less expensive and more accessible here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Today was international food day where all (24?) international students cooked specialty foods from their home countries.  Everything was so tasty!  There were baked goods from Poland, plantain chips and tuna turn overs from Ghana, potato salad from Germany, blueberry pie from Finland, dumplings and crab salad from Russia, some sort of salad from Bulgaria etc…  Some people spent hours preparing their meals but luckily I went for some yummy, easy to make poutine!  Brendan grated 2 big blocks of cheese and I took care of the rest, which yielded two big trays.  By the time it got to the school it was all cold, so instead of eating it by picking at fries I cut it up into squares but it was still good and was one of the first meals to go.  There was over 100 Norwegians that showed up to taste our yummy food and the Russians kept saying that “poutine” sounds to much like “Putin”. We also all got official ISU (international students union) sweaters so we all looked super stylish.

When the food was more or less done, some of us somehow ended up outside and had a snowball fight, it was fun!  We were right outside the school on the boardwalk right by the ocean which overlooks some gorgeous mountains, the view is still surreal!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Feb 20

I spent Friday at a Russian’s house to celebrate a birthday.  We played some weird Russian party games and had a blast!

Saturday, I made pancakes (somewhat more successful then the last time) for some people that came over for brunch.  Later that evening was my first shift at Ludo, the student bar on campus.  I started at 9:30pm and got everything set up with the 2 other bartenders.  We spent the next few hours snacking and keeping ourselves entertained because no one showed up until midnight but then it was non stop until 4am.  I had never formally served drinks before but I quickly learned how to make several different drinks, shots and to pour foamless beer.  The most difficult part was figuring out which of the many buttons to push on the screen to charge people for their drink.  It was actually a lot of fun and it was no problem that I didn’t speak much Norwegian.  Although I am not getting paid for this, I get a significant reduction on drinks as well as getting into their concerts for free; I only have shifts every 3 weeks so it’s a pretty sweet gig.

I got home late after working at the bar and was up by 10am the next day to hit up the snowboard hill about 20 minutes outside of town.  The idea was for me to teach some people how to snowboard and finally have a fun day in this new snow.  When we got there, we were told that it was to windy at the top of the hill and the resort had to be closed for the rest of the day.  Oh well, I hope to try again next weekend.

Today, was my last Norwegian language and culture class.  I must say that I know the basics and some very simple phrases. Kathrine brought in some dried codfish (Norsk delicacy) and some beer to wash it down with; it was a nice treat.  Tonight for dinner I made some falafel and veggies for my roomies, mmmm.

Tomorrow is the International Food presentation day so I am making poutine.  I just went to the groceries and bought 5 big bags of frozen fries, packets of gravy and 2 huge blocks of cheese… needless to say I got a strange look from the cashier who clearly doesn’t know what poutine is.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fun in the snow!

I have been skiing 4 of the past 5 days and also plan on going for the full day, tomorrow.  I have had so much fun every time, going further each day!  Tomorrow we will bring some hot dogs to make in a fire in the little huts along the track.  I even bought some new Swix ski pants, which will be perfect and not make me to warm.  I also bought a headband to wear while skiing because tuques have been making me to warm.  Now that I have invested $$ into this sport, I have to stay dedicated!  I will take advantage of the snow while it is here, the only thing is that I can rent skiis for 7 days and then have to wait 3 days before I can rent them again so that they are available for other students, so Ill have to find something else to do during those days.
This morning, I went to the tourist info center and learned that there are several cabins that we can rent along the trails to stay in over night.  They each have cozy fireplaces so it is definitely in my plans to spend some time there on weekends!

Tomorrow (Saturday) will be my first shift working in the student pub as a bartender.  Sunday, I will head out to the local ski hill for some snowboarding, I think Ill be teaching some girls from Ghana to ride.  I love all this fun in the snow!

Monday, February 13, 2012

XC skiing

It finally snowed for the first time since I have been here and was just enough to do some skiing.  This morning I set out with Rebecca (Danish roomie) to rent some skiis from the student association.  They have many XC skiis, down hill skiis, snowboards and camping equipment for students to rent for a deposit that we get back.  We went to “Folkenparken” (people-park), which is a 20-minute walk from where I live.  It is a huge gorgeous municipal park with small lakes and several trails for skiing and walking.  It is also near the Harstad Skiklubb where there is a huge Olympic sized ski jump and close to the horse race track.  This was really the first time I spent in the outdoors since I have been here and it really made me feel like I was home in Canada; we had a fantastic day!  We were outside skiing around a lake trail for about 2.5 + hours.  The view was fantastic with mountains all around; at one point we could even see the ocean!
Before coming to Norway I had a limited view of what the country and its people were like; the one generalization I had was that Norwegians are a people of winter sports, especially cross country skiing.   In Edmonton, I worked at a camping store and during the winters worked primarily in the ski shop, selling and maintaining XC skiis.  Prior to that, I worked at a winter camp in Quebec teaching children to XC ski and most recently I did some skiing when I was living in PG.  There was something about skiing today, in Norway, the birthplace of skiing that was surreal and more thrilling then skiing has been for me before.  I really think that Ill be filling up my free time with XC skiing from now one because it is fantastic exercise, a great excuse to spend time outside, it is free and best of all, I feel great doing it!  However, I know that tomorrow will be a painful day because today I used muscles that I hadn't used since last winter but it will have been well worth it!  I have a free day tomorrow, so who knows, maybe Ill hit up the trails again!
Anyways, it was a fantastic day that ended with a delicious and well-deserved cup of hot chocolate.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What I have learned so far

Just my own personal observations...

-Grocery stores, and most any other stores, are not open on Sundays.  I found this out on a Sunday when I was in desperate need of food.

-Electrical convertors and adapters are tricky, and don’t always work when they are supposed to.

-Russians love their vodka… and chase it down by chewing on a pickle

-in Norway, it is just as much up to the girl then up to the guy to pick up at a bar.  Norwegians are known, in general, to be a bit guarded but once you get to know them they are tons of fun!

-Scandinavians love coffee.  But usually without cream, milk or sugar.

-Norwegians love love love frozen pizzas.  According to a recent national survey, it is now the most popular dish in Norway.

-Norway is a rich oil country which translates to everything being crazy expensive.  This is not a joke: many Norwegians drive to Sweden to save money on groceries; it is actually worth the long drive and gas money.

-You can buy beer and cider at grocery stores… but not after 6pm

-Most useful thing to be able to say, “Jeg snakker litt norsk” (I speak only a little bit of Norwegian).  Although sometimes it isn’t even necessary to say this since a dumb look works too.  I say “takk” (thank you) a lot.  I’ve also learned some bad words since that seems to always be the first thing learned in another language.  Also, Northern Norwegians are known for swearing A LOT more then southern speakers.

-Norwegians love going out.  Pre drinking parties start at 8, head to the first bar at 12 then to an after party or “nachspeil” at around 3-4 for some food then you can be in bed by 5am.

-When you meet up with someone, instead of a generic “how are you doing” where no one really expects a genuine answer, Norwegians will say something like “thank you for last time (we saw one another)”.

-Just because part of Norway is above the Arctic Circle, it does not mean that there is the much-imagined Arctic weather of -40C temperatures and constant blizzards.  Instead, it can rain in January, be +8C in Feb and have little to no snowfall in a month of winter.

-Scandinavian languages: Norwegian and Danish are quite similar and they can interact easily enough (although both had regional dialects that can even make communication within the country difficult).  Norwegian is similar to Swedish, but each have 3 characters that are different from one another and the rest of the English language; however Swedish and Norwegian is not as similar as Norwegian is to Danish.  Finnish and Icelandic are very different from each other and other Scandinavian languages.  Finnish is more similar to Estonian and other Baltic languages.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

a little bit of Canada

I met a Canadian girl the other day who has been living here for 5 years and hasn’t until now, met another Canadian.  She was so excited to have Brendan (my Canadian room mate from Manitoba) and myself there that she invited us over for dinner. She and her Norwegian boyfriend made us a kind of Norwegian stew, which had both beef and bacon as well as veggies in it and was served over mashed potatoes, mmmm.

It was -14C only two days ago and today it is +6C!  Such a fast difference in climate and also Ill mention yet again that there is still very little snow!  I thought living above the Arctic circle would make for cold and snowy winters, but that is not the case.

Apparently being Canadian means that you can make pancakes.  I haven’t actually made them in years and even then I probably used pancake mix.  Anyways, tonight for dinner we made pancakes for a few people.  They turned out all right, but Ill have to make them a few more times to perfect them.  We used some maple syrup I bought in the airport before coming, mmmm!  Luckily I went for a long jog in the indoor soccer field beforehand so I could eat to my heart;s content!

Aside from pancakes and maple syrup, what are other Canadian foods?  Aside from poutine, wild game, beavers tails, butter tarts and Nanaimo bars I cant think of anything truly Canadian.  Most foods have been integrated into our culture through immigration and aren’t authentically Canadian; although maybe that is our identity as Canadians, to be a mixture of cultures, thoughts?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Waffles and Brown Cheese

Today for our Norwegian language and culture class, we went to Kathrin’s home for a traditional Norwegian afternoon snack; waffles with brunost cheese.  The waffles are better then the North American version of frozen eggos and thinner then yummy Belgian waffles.  They are typically served in the afternoon with coffee or tea.  They can be eaten with fruit, yoghurt or jam but are more traditionally served with Norwegian cheese called brunost.  This is a Scandinavian whey cheese, the taste is quite sweet and it is the same color as peanut butter.  It comes in a large brick and is sliced with a thin cheese slicer.  A Norwegian girl laughed when she saw how we had sliced because it didn’t look smooth; so she taught us the proper technique haha.  I could really get used to eating this as a snack because it is so yummy!

I changed my Facebook setting to the Norwegian language in hopes that it will help me learn to at least read and understand more words.

Some hockey, some ladies and some music

Friday I went ice-skating for the first time in several years.  It was the first real winter activity I have done since I have been here since there hasn’t been enough snow for XC skiing or decent enough snow for snowboarding.  I was with mostly Russians who assumed that since I am Canadian I should know how to skate like a pro and play hockey.  The skating I was okay at but I have never been coordinated enough for hockey.  We had lots of fun and it was my first time riding the city bus since I’ve been here.  Later that night was a “girls night” where all the international girls and even some Norwegians, got together.  

For the next three weeks, this city is supposed to be crawling with English and Dutch soldiers that are here for their “winter training” so that will be interesting.  I don’t know much about the armed forces here but I do know that Harstad is home to the (world’s or at least Norway’s) largest land based canon.  I will go check it out sometime in the spring.

I spent the day on a walking tour of the Ilios music festival.  There was about 80 people who walked together around town to check out 3 musicians in different venues.  The first two played some sort of trumpet instrument and the last one was a school group; all quite interesting.  Today was the coldest day since I have been there, about -11C but I know that there is a cold wave sweeping over Europe, and Norway isn’t affected as bad as in other parts of Europe.  After the music festival walk we went to warm up at a nice café called the Four Roses.  I had a delicious pesto and chicken sandwich.  I’ve noticed that there is pesto on nearly all menus in Norway; fine by me, I love basil pesto!  The sandwich was great, but it was the equivalent of $18, and it didn’t even have any sides!!

It is starting to be light out for most of the day.  It is light out at around 10am and it doesn’t get completely dark until about 3:30pm.  I saw the northern lights again this weekend; they weren’t as active as the week before, but they were still a gorgeous mix of green and some red.