Thursday, May 31, 2012

Travel Day(s)

We woke up at around 6, went to the main house for breakfast, said my goodbyes then Jan drove me to the Sogndal airport.  After having to throw away a tin of mackeral that I had tried to sneak through in my carry on luggage, my flight leaves bound for Oslo.  The view from the plane was phenomenal but the flight attendent was only speaking in Norwegian so I didnt understand why were were stopped at another small airport where I had to get out and get on another plane to continue on to Oslo.

Once in Oslo, I had 3 hours to wait for my plane to leave so I listened to some music and people watched.  The main airport in Oslo is an excellent place to look for attractive people, somehow the Norwegians there are so good looking!  Anyways, I finally went to check in and was told that I had to go online to apply for some short term visa because I was entering the states.  I thought this was the most ridiculous thing since I was really only going to be in New York for 3 hours in between flights.  So I log on, do some research and it turned out that because I am Canadian, I dont have to apply or pay for anything but this whole process took a long time and all because the guy at the counter didn't know what he was talking about.  After getting mad at him, he felt bad and upgraded my seats to First Class for both of my flights with Icelandair!

I didnt both bringing anything with me on the flights because Icelandair has an excellent entertainment system, everyone gets their own screen and there is lots of media to choose from.  One I got to Reykjavic, I ate some snacks I had brought and after a minor altrication with an American woman in the bathroom, I boarded the plane bound for New York City.  I sat next to a good looking New Yorker and watch the movie Titanic and Decsendents.  We got served first (love First Class!) and had tons of room, I could almost lie down to watch my TV  :)

One I get to New York I meet this friendly man headed for Germany and grabbed a coffee together because I had tons of time to kill. Then when I went to check in and had to wait an hour in line.  While waiting, I met a nice American girl who had been travelling in Europe and was heading home.  When I finally get to the counter, I am told that my flight to Montreal is cancelled!  After being told this after a day of travelling and of no sleep, I was almost about to cry and the woman at the counter was rude which didn't help matters.  They were able to reschedule me for a flight in the morning, which meant that my only option was to find a hotel to sleep in for the night.  My cell phone did not work since it was outside of Europe, the airport didn't have internet and I had no American change for a pay phone so that I could call home and tell my mom to let my grandma know that I wouldnt be arriving when I was supposed to.  As I was about to head out to the taxi stand I saw the American girl I had met before who had that same distressed look as me.  Turns out her flight was also cancelled and rescheduled until the morning.  We decided to split a taxi and share a hotel room to save some $$.  It was nice to have someone with me and when we got to the hotel we decided to order some NY pizza and watch Sex and the City since it was to late and we were to tired and out of the way to go out and explore real New York.  After about 30 hours of not sleeping I was looking forward to sleeping on the memory foam mattress in the hotel but that did not happen because this girl snored like an elephant the whole night.

Finally, morning comes and I catch a cab to another further airport to get on the plane and finally make it back to Canada.  My cab driver was really friendly and taught me a bit about New York.  I got to the airport an hour before I meant to because I hadn't set my watch properly with the time change but atleast I didnt set it an hour to late.  After waiting in a long line I get checked in and go to the gate.  We get loaded into the plane and then wait there for another hour before the plane leaves.

After all of this, I finally make it to Montreal!   I get my luggage and hop in a cab and make it to my Grandmas house expecting to see only her but who is waiting for me at the door?!  My brother!!  He had flown all the way here from Edmonton to see me before he heads to the Yukon for the summer for work.  I was so happy to see him because I thought I wasnt going to see him until Chrismas with the way his work and my school schedules work out.  So now the two of us are spending the next 6 days here visiting our Quebecois family.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

So... what is next?!

After my time with grandparents in Montreal, I arrive back to Edmonton June 5th.  I will spend the summer there working as a lifeguard at the Glendale golf and country club again, like I did last year.

I came to Norway to further my interest in Arctic studies.  Although this will forever be an interest, it is no longer my career focus.  I have instead applied and received conditional acceptance into Royal Road University's Bachelor of Commerce program with a major in Entrepreneurial Management.  This means, that given the completion of the conditions of entry (maintaining an A grade average and completing an online summer course in Financial Accounting with a final grade of 75%), I will be moving to Victoria in the fall.  This program will combine my 3rd and 4th year together into an intensive 12-month program, resulting in a full bachelor degree, which is bound to be more useful than my current BA in Northern Studies.

Although sad to leave Norway, I am looking forward to this new part of my life!

Last day in Norway

My last day in Norway!  I headed to the main house for breakfast and ended up staying for 4 hours chatting and meeting neighbours as they came by.  Afterward, I went with the Latvians and their Norwegian friend to the nearby lake for a boat ride in a rowboat.  We rowed across to the other side and lounged around there, soaking up the sun.

Later after a swim in the nearby fjord and had dinner, we got driven up to the family's summer house.  It is this charming little cabin about an hour drive up the mountain from the main property.  To get there we sat in the forks/bucket of the tractor, such a cool experience.  The cabin itself over looked a giant lake and other mountains.  The dogs we were with had so much fun running around, the air was so fresh.  After having a few drinks there, we came back down to the main house.  The guys had to go take care of milking the cows and the woman of the house really wanted to take me for a drive.  We drove to some neighbouring towns, this woman seemed to know everyone and everything about them.  Then we drove up to giant cliff where the basejumpers jump off in that famous Norwegian tourism video.  Then she took me to check out an epic waterfall nearby.  Then I got back home, packed all my stuff and went to sleep.

This morning I woke up at 6 and am sitting at the airport in Sogndal.  I fly from here to Oslo.  Then from Oslo I fly to Reykjavic, then from Reykjavic I fly to New York where I catch a flight to Montreal.  In total, this will take about 30 hours in which I will take 4 plans to four different countries.  Then I get to my grandmas house in Montreal where I stay until June 5th.  My adventure is almost over!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sogndal, day 2

 This morning I woke up and headed over to the main house for a nice breakfast.  To get there I have to walk near a field of sheep and another of blossoming apple trees. The weather is still phenomenal, +26 degrees!  After breakfast I was shown the farm and got to cuddle a lamb that was only 2 weeks old; it was the cutest thing!  Then I helped feed the cows and they kept licking me with their loooong sandpaper-like tongues!

After lunch I met some neighbors, a young Latvian couple, who invited us over for coffee.  I played with their cute puggle dog named Charlie.  Then we rounded up the farmer's son and the 5 of us got into the car for a little road trip.  We drove around the mountains through some long tunnels, near green lakes and through lush forested highway.  It was really cool because it was HOT out and we were all wearing summer clothes even though there is still snow not far away on the mountains.  We got to our destination, a glacier called Jostedalsbreen in a national park.  The glacier itself was spectacular to look at but around it were water falls from the melting ice trickling down into the lake in front of the glacier.  Looking at it wasn't enough so we ignored the "do not enter" signs and climbed up to the foot of the glacier.  This involved us having to take off our shoes and trekking through the frigid water and on glacial snow, brrr.  Once we stopped being able to feel our poor feet, we trekked back to the car for some beers and cake.

We left the glacier and drove around to take in some more scenery.  There are many tunnels here in Norway.  It seems that when there is a mountain, they take some dynamite and blow through it whereas in Canada we build our highways on top of the mountains.  We drove through a little town and kept seeing bookcases filled with books.  The attraction of this town is just that, you can take any book you want for 10NOK and add your own to the collection.  Really cool, it was just strange seeing full book cases amongst an outdoor backdrop of mountains.

After dinner (fresh deer with cranberry sauce) we headed to a neighboring town for a house party.  I met lots of really cool Norwegians and tasted some freshly house made apple cider, mmm.  The house had a view of the fjord and mountains, perfect!

Saturday, May 26, 2012


I am spending my last three days in Norway, on a farm near Sogndal, Sogn og Fjordane.  After a lovely 5-hour ferry ride from Bergen, I was picked up by my friend, Jan who is working on this farm.  He and I met and spent a few weeks together in New Zealand in 2010. 
On the ferry
The surrounding area is phenomenal and the farm itself is lovely.  I am staying with a girl from Whales who has written her Masters thesis on Arctic climate change adaptation so we will have had lots to talk about.  For dinner that first night, we headed to the main house for a lovely dinner hosted by the farmer and his lovely wife.  They had guests from Oslo visiting so I met lots of interesting Norwegians including some lawyers, professor and a childrens doctor.  After dinner we had coffee and a Norwegian specialty cake (kransekake), which was perfect because it was the only food left on my list of Norsk food to try while Im here.

Bergen - Sogndal

Last night in Bergen and I am chilling with a guy from Syria and another from Algeria.  They communicate in their similar language, and the Syrian knows English and the Algerian knows French.  The three of us talking is a jumble of languages.  We are speaking different languages to one another, I am fortunate to know both French and English because otherwise we really couldnt have communicated nor could I have translate for the Indian girl who showed up later.

I am currently on the ferry headed from Bergen to Sogndal where I will meet up with a Slovakian friend, Jan, whom I met in New Zealand two years ago.  The ferry ride so far is stunning and fortunately enough, there is free Internet!  I was just on skype with my dad and was able to show him the view that I was seeing as we sailed through the jumble of fjords and islands... so cool!

Friday, May 25, 2012


I have to say that Bergen is the most beautiful city I have ever visited.  Everywhere you look there is something beautiful wthether it is one of the 7 surrounding mountains, picturesque buildings or an old fisherman coming in from his latest catch.  The weather today was something like +26 degrees out and I regret not having brought any summer clothes.

This morning I walked around the big fish market and then around the quays to check out the big boats.  Later, I climbed up a mountain near the downtown called Fløyen.  There was a funicular option but I opted out and spent a good hour hiking up the mountain (320m) only to see a truely phenomenal view of the city and the surrounding mountains and fjords.  The view was unbeleivable and got even better as I hiked around further at the top (found 3 geocaches).  I think Ill regret not having worn sunscreen because I can feel a sunburn coming on but its all worth it.  This took a better part of the day so now I am sitting in a park watching people walk by and two pigeons fighting over an old sandwich, as I eat my salad and chocolate.  Tonight Ill check out a Jazz Festival which is a part of the Bergen International Festival.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bus and Bergen

This morning was my final goodbyes as Rebecca, Aya and Audun brought me to the bus stop.  Again, it hasnt sunk in that I will not be seeing these great people for a while.  As I write this, I am sitting on the bus that is going through some more gorgeous scenery and is lined with really cute houses and farms.  I am on this bus for 7 hours, headed to Bergen in western Norway.  I am sitting at the back next to the toilet and the intense heat is making this a very stinky ride  : (

This bus ride has absolutely phenomenal views.  It went from rolling hills covered in forests, to a 25km snow desert to a stretch of road with tons of powerful waterfalls streaming down the mountains into a large river which followed the road for a while.  This is the greatest stretch of road Ive ever driven on, I would easily pay $100 just to see this same drive again.  Everywhere I looked was stunning but I seemed to be the only person that noticed.  Everyone one else was reading books or on their phones where as I was wide-eyed staring out the windows.
I rolled into Bergen at 9pm and found my way to my hostel.  I got in and quickly had a shower.... 8 hours on a bus without air conditioning warrants a quick shower.  Then I met one of my roommates who is an American computer programmer from San Diego.  He was really great, we went for a nice walk and had a picnic near a water fountain.


After a 1.5 hour plane ride and a 3 hour bus ride we got to the region of Telemark in Southern Norway.  The scenery here is absolutely gorgeous and in an entirely different way then Northern Norway.  It seems like Canadian wilderness, lots of trees and similar vegetation to our boreal forests; the nature here reminds me of northern Ontario.  Audun picked us up and we head over to an old wooden church.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  I dont remember the specifics but it was built around the viking times and is one of the oldest of its kind in all of Norway.  After lunch and taking in some more scenery we drove to his farm near Seljord, Telemark.

I had never really spent time on a farm before aside from a few hours here and there picking fruit or veggies.  I wasnt really sure what to expect but was pleasantly suprised.  The farm itself is nestled in a valley and at the foot of a treed mountain.  His parents spoke decent english that they had learned and not really used since they were in school so the communication was a bit rough at times but they were such wonderful proud people.  We had told Audun that we wanted to be put to work on this farm to soak in a true Norsk farming experience.  We ended up cleaning cow "drit" (shit), feeding cows hay, pellets and old bread loaves.  We picked up eggs from the chickens, pet the horses and went on a tour of the farm and its equipment.  He gave us some old farm clothes so we looked like true farm girls despite the three of us being from the city.  Later that evening, we went for a walk around the property and ended up climbing a nice tall tree.

The weather in Telemark was so shocking compared to previously having been in Arctic Norway... the sun was shining bright and the weather was around +25 degrees out, in May!  I didnt bring much summer clothes so I was very hot but it got me ready for the summer.  The next morning we went for a nice hike up on their private mountain behind their house.  The nature smelled and felt like I was back in Canada and the view was phenomenal.  He told us how the used to heard goats and cows up the mountain which I had a hard time imagining because it was so steep.  After lunch, we were put to work again.  We had to cut down a bunch of bushes so that the cows had a place to graze we had axes, clippers, saws and an electric saw.  It was lots of work and it was HOT but it felt nice to work hard.  Dinner was pancakes with fried pork and jam, an interesting but tasty combination.  Dinner is at 4 then later on at around 9 it is time for supper which is bread with almost any topping or spread imaginable, which is the same as for breakfast.  I constantly felt hungry from all the work we were doing.

The cows had been in the stable all winter and were put out in the fields for the first time this year.  I thought they would be happy but after about an hour they wanted to go back inside the stable.  It takes a while to habituate them.  The calves have to be taught about the electric fences so they were brought out into a small "practice" pen with a small shock to learn not to go near the fence.  Then they are brought to a bigger "intermediate" course and finally they "graduate" to the big fields with the adults.  It was a really neat process to be a part of.  To ensure that they were herded to the proper place we stood along the path waving our hands if they go to close to us to encourage them to go the proper direction. 

The next day we went into the town of Seljord for a hike.  It was an 838m climb which I thought would be easy as pie but I guess we were all out of shape because it was more difficult then expected and the excruciating heat did not help.  It was worth it when we got to the top and saw the view of other mountains, the town and the huge lake that is fabled to have a sea monster in it (only seen by tourists and old people); their own Lochness or Ogopogo!  After this we treated ourselves to icecream and headed to the lake to see if we could spot the sea worm.  Unfortunately, we could not spot it but we did find a geocache.  We then went home and made dinner and cake for his family who had been such great hosts.  I am so happy to have had the experience of being on this real Norwegian farm.  I got sent off with a jar of home made "prim" which is a spead I fell in love with since I first got to Norway.  It is made of their traditional Norsk brown cheese, "brunost" and has a bit of a caramelly taste, mmmm.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bye Bye Harstad

After an unbeleivable 5 months with some truely amazing people, my time in Harstad has come to an end.  This experience is no doubt at the top of my list of proud and exciting things I have accomplished and had the honour to live out in my life.  I am so happy to know that there are great people around the world and glad that I had the chance to meet the people I did and learn about their home countries from them. I have travelled before and loved all of the countries (20+ and counting) that I have visted but never have I felt the way I do now about Norway.  I always thought that Id visit a country once, then never return and instead see other new countries but I am happy to say that Norway has found a special place in my heart and I will without a doubt return someday.

My last night in Harstad was a good one.  We had planned to go make a bonfire and roast some marshmellows but it was to cold and rainy so we instead sat inside, watched a fire burning on YouTube and attempted to roast marshmellows on candles (not a good idea).  Alot of people showed up to say their goodbyes and we later went for a walk at my favourite spot near the ocean at Trondennes.  After the walk, people who hadnt made it to the outing kept popping by to say goodbye.  It was strange to say goodbye to these people who I have been with more or less every day for five months but it seemed surreal and 4 days later, it still hasnt sunk in.  I have done my best to convince these friends to come visit Canada someday.  I know that some of them will and I know that Ill never seem some of them again, either way, I am so thankful to have met these people.

The next morning I woke up at 3:30am to catch and early bus to the airport with my dear roommate Rebecca (Danish) and friend Aya (Russia) where we were going to stay with our friend Audun (Norwegian) on his family farm for a few days.  It was so early in the morning but still, so many people unexpectedly got up to say goodbye again, make us coffee or just stayed up all night to be able to say goodbye in the morning.  The two girls are coming back to Harstad after our time in Southern Norway, but for me, these were final goodbyes.  Franzi (German) and Remi (Norwegian) walked us all the way to the bus (good thing because I was carrying all of my belongings that I had accumulated since Janurary) and we waved goodbye to them from the bus.  It was strange that it was the last time for me to see these mountains that had awed me every day for 5 months.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Russ - stange Norsk tradition

In Norway, high school graduates participate in a tradition called "Russ".  Basically, everyone who is about to graduate has to participate in this 3 week long event.  They all wear a pair of pants; the color is dependent on their stream at school... most are red for academic; they are not supposed to take off these pants for the entire 3 weeks!  These three weeks are officially from the first of May (although some started earlier) until the Norwegian national day (May 17) and consist of mostly drinking and partying.  There is a list of about 100 tasks printed in the local news papers every year and the Russ students are supposed to complete as many as possible.  When they complete a task they are given an item, a knot (?) or just the pride of having accomplished this task.  I have been told that during the Russ period I am almost guaranteed to see at least one of them streaking (the ONLY time they are allowed to remove their pants) through a grocery store or downtown... I haven't seen it yet.  All the Russ students have "russekorte" which are mock business cards with their picture, contact info and some crude/funny joke/comment on it which they must give out when someone asks.
 Anyways, this is a very accepted tradition and it is expected that everyone participate.  I have been told from Norwegian friends that this is VERY fun to participate in but not fun to have happen around you.   oh... and the best part?  Right AFTER this 3 week period of drinking, wearing the same pants and not much sleep is when they all write their graduation exams!  Crazy Norwegians!

Im a comin' home

For those of you who have been asking me whether or not I actually study while Im here, no worries because that is what I have been doing this past week.  I had my first final exam on Thursday and it went well.  My last exam is on the 15th; afterward will be a collection of my celebrating the national holiday, kayaking, travelling to southern Norway to stay with a friend on his farm in Telmark, then another friend in Sogndal and then visit the city of Bergen.  May 29 will be my last day in Europe as I fly back to Canada but not home.  I will go to Montreal to visit my family there for a few days then I head back to Edmonton June 5th.  I am so not ready for this to be over but I am looking forward to the new chapter in my life  :)