Population: As many Germans as we can convince.
23.11.2009 - 29.11.2009
That’s right: Grey Cup week! Last weekend, the green-blooded students at UiT listened with glee as our very own Riders punched their ticket to Calgary and a date with the Montreal Alouettes for the championship of the Canadian Football League. For the not-so-CFL-savvy, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have had a long history with three treasured championships – though every game is followed religiously, those years when we make it to the Grey Cup are particularly memorable.
The entire week was highlighted by the anticipation of the big game. We worked out spectator, travel, and sleeping arrangements (non-trivial when the game kicks off at 1 AM), scrounged for all things green (flags, shirts, underwear, bandannas) and doubled our section by soliciting a few of the Germans (“Football?” “Well… let’s go with that.”).
But I’m getting ahead of myself - there were a other few adventures this week...
MOONLIGHT ON THE PRIEST-WATER
Monday nigh-er, afternoon, I was pleased to note that the moon had finally returned! One of the nifty things about the polar night (which I believe we were formally in at this point) is that the moon also behaves erratically. Specifically, it adopts a two-week appearance cycle instead of the dawn-dusk standard at lower latitudes. It was certainly unique to watch the moon remain in the sky while it waxed to full then waned away.
However, my abilities to take moon-pictures are fairly limited, so you’ll have to be content with these instead:
After a thorough search, Raimo finally found himself a pair of skates that suited him. We took to Prestvannet in full force Monday night. He surprised us both with a decent bit of skill and was able to keep pace with the Canadian nicely. This was to be my last skate on the clean Prestvannet, and it was the best yet – the ice was slate-smooth, with that particular feel that only comes with natural ice. Raimo and I had a blast reaching our top speeds with acres of room to spare, and it was a welcome change from the studying that was quickly becoming the norm.
FAREWELL TO NOBS
(The Northern Lights Observatory – Nordlysobservatoriet – NOBS – …nevermind)
As November wound down, so too did our lectures. It was bittersweet – it seemed to me only yesterday that I had begun these classes that had been a great joy and an excellent source of knowledge.
I may not have mentioned this yet, but three of my four upcoming finals were to be oral exams. I learned this is far more normal in Europe, particularly for small classes – however, this didn’t change the fact that I hadn’t the foggiest how an oral examination in Physics would proceed. (Answer: quite pleasantly if you know what you are doing, an hour of academic torture if not.)
Time would show that the exam took the simple form of a room, two professors, a student, and a chalkboard. By asking the student to demonstrate both theoretical knowledge and calculations/derivations on the board, the examiners could quickly (and in my opinion, accurately) gauge the student’s competency. Having sat three of these exams, I’m now of the opinion that they address many of the flaws of a written exam – but I don’t see myself influencing the U of S policy anytime soon.
Oh, and on that exam note: One of my tests was scheduled for the Monday morning AFTER Grey Cup (that was scheduled to run from 1 AM – 4 AM). With full knowledge that Plasma Physics would require all of my wits, I requested something unthinkable at the U of S: an exam time switch. Prof Garcia was more than willing to slot me in on Tuesday, but it wasn’t until I began to tell my friends about Grey Cup that it fully hit me:
With full university co-operation, I moved a final for the Riders.
In contrast, my former dormitory in Saskatoon issued noise complaints on that glorious night in November 2007.
Riderville North for the win.
PARTING PROFESSOR GIFTS
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had my parents send over eight proper chalkbrushes as thank-you gifts for my Norwegian professors. They were delighted to receive them (Odd-Egil of my Norskkurs was a bit delayed on his reaction, having been sidelined with a bad back for the last month of classes). Professor Brekke was particularly touched, as he remembered the brushes from his time in the United States. His smile grew even wider when I produced two of his entry-level science books on the aurora and asked for his autograph.
And much to my surprise a few days later, Professor Brekke tracked me down in the hallway and presented me with another signed copy of his books – this one a book of poetry and paintings of the aurora. With a heartfelt dedication in the front.
Without question one of my favourite pieces of Tromsø memorabilia. Thanks Professor!
A FEW MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS
- By this time in November the walk down to downtown had become more than a little treacherous (I still remember the look on Tomek’s face as he teetered down the icy slope and swore at the Canadian sure-footedness). Seeking a shorter trip on Sunday mornings, I learned that Mass was held at the Carmelite convent just a few blocks away (on the way down to Åsgårdveien student residence / the scuba shop). The chapel had a fairly unique layout – as the nuns were cloistered, the church was very clearly split into a public main area with a private wing. But the most vivid memory of all? The singing. Absolutely divine, gives me a peaceful smile just to remember it.
- On Thursday the American contingent at UiT kindly invited me to their Thanksgiving meal! A proper turkey and cranberry affair, it was a wonderful chance to catch up with Nina and a few of the more mature students in Tromsø (many of the Americans were Masters’ students: i.e. they were a lot better cooks than most of us and didn’t waste nearly so much money at Driv). A definite highlight was a tube of good old-fashioned American salami – proper coldcuts in Norway being rather scarce.
- From the Julebord (this note moreso for my memory’s sake): I kept myself and the Norwegian science students entertained with Great Western poker dice and a wine-lasso with the table-beads – much to the delight of Eva the Med Student (delight only became apparent in after I gave her wine back – decided note of suspicion before that).
THE WEEKEND’S HERE!
Friday was a great day.
First, I tidied up my Satt/Rock lecture in the comfortable Old Observatory Basement, my last lecture at UiT. As wonderful as an experience as the classes were, it’s always liberating to finish off a semester and I had quite the bounce in my step as I made my way back around the frozen Prestvannet to my dormitory.
Secondly, I had a beautiful little package waiting for me in my mailbox. Carefully wrapped and hand-lettered was a CD from Mr. Sean Boots, a gentleman and scholar from the Great White North. Among his many talents, Sean is a gifted and dedicated solo pianist, and the CD contained his latest set of recordings. The timing was perfect, as Sean’s music is among my favourite for studying, and his letter truly brought a ray of sunshine into the polar night.
(and Sean, if you still receive these posts on your phone, Salud from Mexico!)
Finally, after running my errands in town (running indeed - I miss the days when I did all my errands on foot), I went out to Stakkevollan (a comfortable set of dormitories on the north end of the island) to finally visit Raimo at his abode. I can’t quite recall why it was we went out there, but I do recall we had a great time. Also, I was entranced by a program on NRK (the national Norwegian television broadcaster) called Bergenbanen (The Bergen Rail). It was simply the view out the front of a locomotive as it traveled the rail line from Bergen to Oslo, “minutt for minutt”. Much like a roaring Yule log and Christmas carols, it was a pleasure to lose oneself in the scenery slipping by. Such a pity the rail lines don’t extend all the way to Tromsø.
The funny thing about a 1AM kickoff is that there is a full day to fill beforehand. For example:
…one can always take advantage of the fleeting “dawn” at midday by strapping on the blades. Loes and I joined a number of Tromsø locals:
as we once again took in the joy of the outdoor skate. Alas, a little blanket of snow did its best to slow us down, but we still managed to make the most of the few hours of light we had available to us.
(I don’t have many pictures of the rosy skies of noon during Mørketid (the dark time), but these should give you an idea of the beautiful colours we were treated to.)
Oh, and Loes was positively thrilled that her mother had sent her ice skates all the way from Holland:
Personally, they looked like they were lacking major ankle support to me, but she seemed much more at ease on them than with the plastic rentals she had at the oval a few weeks previous.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE NOBS
After hitting the books for my upcoming Plasma exam (blessedly NOT the following morning), I headed down to Jørgen’s flat near the bridge for a long-expected party. Tonight was the night that we had set to trap Vidar. What trap, you ask? Well, Vidar was proud to be the only student on Physics who had not seen Star Wars. Ever. Not even once. In Jørgen’s own words, it had even become a “thing” for Vidar, and it was time for us to act.
So, under the pretense of sharing some “hwis-kay” with the Canadian (for the record, it was a fine Scotch) and some Rock Band (also a lot of fun), we managed to get Vidar sitting down on the couch for a movie. Full credit to John Williams for that spectacular French Horn-led fanfare – the look on Vidar’s face was priceless. With only a little grumbling, we settled into the masterpiece that is Episode IV.
In addition to the cinematic spectacle, this was the perfect opportunity for Vidar to teach me a new word. He called Jørgen a quisling, a traitor of the most profound level. I may have already mentioned this tidbit, but Quisling was the puppet leader of Nazi-occupied Norway, betraying many of his countrymen in the process. He was swiftly dealt with after the war (by firing squad, I believe) – it was my sincere hope that Vidar did not have a similar plan in store for the two of us.
(And, as a gift that keeps on giving: in an episode of Corner Gas, one of my favourite Canadian TV shows and one filmed just miles from my hometown, one character (Wanda) calls another (Brent) a quisling, cementing the cleverness of that show.)
GREEN IS THE COLOUR, FOOTBALL IS THE GAME!
After watching the Death Star explode into wee littlie pieces, I caught the last bus to Julianna’s place at Stakkevollan for the biggest game the Riders had played all year. Along with the girls from the U of S (Julianna, Amanda, and Jamie):
we also rounded up a trio of German supporters. Sybille was looking sharp with my treasured Rider flag and a pom-pom improvised from the colour-coded garbage bags:
while Chris took on an expression much more fitting to the hour:
and Marc Stuppi rounding out our German contingent.
After negotiating the laptop into a position where all six of us could see it, we settled in for an exciting and nerve-wracking Grey Cup between the Als and our Riders. We laughed, we cried, we yawned:
we even made the last of my Kraft Dinner as our halftime snack (Marc the master chef):
but as the game neared its close (at approx. 4 AM local time), all eyes were glued to the laptop.
The game was a barn-burner, and as the clock wound down, our Riders were clinging to a slim lead. It hurts me still to write this, but a last-minute penalty proved to be the difference maker as Duval made good on a second field goal attempt to give the Alouettes the victory.
And, as Rider Nation was holding its head in disbelief, the five of us who did NOT live at Julianna’s apartment were debating just how to get home. The buses didn’t start running for a few hours yet, and Julianna’s couch was only so big. Politely declining the floor that Chris and Marc took, I hiked my way over to Raimo’s (at four in the morning!) and collapsed mercifully onto his kindly offered living room couch.
Oh, and just for the record, Raimo’s university-provided flat (the same price as my sparsely-populated counterpart) was more than comfortable:
Thus it was that the week, which began with so much expectation, ended in the bleak hours of a Norwegian morning, the Grey Cup slipping out of the Riders’ grasp for another year. It is said that through any adversity, the sun still rises tomorrow – alas for the Polar Night. But, after a good sleep and a hot breakfast, I cheered up and turned my eyes to the next challenge – exam season.