A Travellerspoint blog

Week 10: Halfway!

I know, I'm just as shocked as you are...

Good day!

Wow, I can't believe it - my time in Norway is officially halfway over! It feels like just last week that the plane touched down - must be relativity kicking in...

Rather than apologize for what’s going to be a short weekly update, I’m excited to tell you that I’ve been busy doing things that I love – and even busier getting ready for a truly memorable experience ahead. But I’ll tell you that one when I come to it in a few weeks – on to the week that was!

A RANDOM TANGENT...

Even though Newton’s laws are covered early and often in science courses, it’s easy to forget their near-infinite range of applications. For example, Newton’s Third Law tells us that for each action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Seems logical, eh? Well, this week I learned that that when satellites perform slingshot maneuvers about planets to gain speed, Newton III tells us that the planet must lose a little energy – in other words, it orbits the sun just a little closer. And it got me thinking: maybe this is why we’re experiencing global warming – we’ve launched so many little probes that the Earth’s falling towards the sun. Or.. maybe not.

And to prove that I’m not the only one nerdy enough to think of such things, here’s a shameless padding of my blog using an xkcd comic!

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Random thought stemming from the random tangent: Apparently, Galileo and Copernicus had it all wrong – from an astronomical point of view, it’s much easier to consider an earth-centric universe (albeit one within which we are still rotating). I've rather enjoyed the fact that for all intents and purposes, we consider the Sun to rotate about the Earth. Maybe next week we'll consider a flat earth for mapping simplicity?

SYMBIOSIS

Earlier this week, Jamie sent me the post-Thanksgiving message:

“Please come eat pie. I dont want to throw it away!”

You better believe I rose to the challenge. Saved that pie from a fate worse than my stomach, I did. And, after a week of leftover trading like crazy, we finally sat down Friday and cooked a meal together:

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I don’t know about you, but that looks tasty to me.

My biology is shaky at best, but I believe the above is termed “mutualistic” symbiosis - both of us benefited from the food sharing. However, the picture below demonstrates more of a "parasitic" symbiosis:

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(Personally, I think parasitic is a bit of a strong word - at the very least, it seems to me that piano music is more pleasant than a Saskatchewan horsefly.)

Many thanks to Ida and Alina, who were kind enough to lend me their piano for the week - it’s been a welcome addition to my room!

NORSKKURS

A few notes from my Norwegian class for your amusement:

  • The Norwegian word for briefcase translates literally as “stress-suitcase”. I like it.

  • Apparently I’ve done too many lab experiments: Odd, who has been a standout Norwegian instructor, defined a word for us as “accurate or precise”. Instantly the hair on the back of my neck stood up – those are not equivalent definitions! (for the non-geek squad, precision refers to the repeatability of a measurement, while accuracy refers to its correctness. For example, a poorly-labeled ruler could give you the same wrong measurement each time – this is precision without accuracy.) However, I managed to hold back my comments until I could share them with the engineering students later. I think that was maturity kicking in, but I assure you it's only temporary.

  • This one I’m not so sure about, but I think that under certain circumstances, Norwegian has a word that can be translated as both “hit” and “meet”. (I scrawled down a note to myself: “Nice to hit you!” – I believe this was the reason, but no promises.)

  • Oh, and you’re going to like this: the Norwegian word for “fog” is “tåke" – pronounced “toke”. I immediately glanced at the new kid in class (a girl named Cedar from BC) and both of us broke into a huge grin. You just can’t make stuff like that up.

SALSA!

On Wednesday evening Loes (the Dutch student from Yonas a few weeks ago) and Leslie (a Norwegian from the dodgeball team wayyy back…) took me to Compagniet for my first taste of Latin dance. And… it went about as well as you’d expect. But I had quite a bit of fun, and actually managed to pull off a halfway decent Bachata. Don’t even ask about the Salsa though…

Dramatic peak of the evening:
A critical choice. With grave consequences.

“Kvinder” or “Mænd”?

You might think this is terrible, but I’ve never bothered to learn the words for "Men" and "Women" – there’s always been pictures. So I took a deep breath and gambled on the one that resembled the word “Man”.

Lucky English and Norwegian are both Germanic languages, eh?

THE SCHOOL OF ANDENES

This week in Satellites and Rockets marked the first of two with Professor Hoppe – you may recall from my earlier post that he’s a research physicist with the Norwegian Military. I couldn’t quite get a picture of his lecture, but it looked something like this:

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I’m not exaggerating. For twelve hours (yes, twelve hours!) over three days the professor and his students sat around the table and dialogued. We questioned, we debated, we discovered, and we learned. We put forward hypotheses, we drew on the chalk board, we even got to play with a lighted globe. The time positively flew by.

And on Thursday, we cooked together in the little kitchen of the old observatory, and ate and talked as equals. Professor Hoppe himself likened the whole week to to the Greeks sitting under the olive tree around Socrates tracing knowledge in the sand.

This is how learning should be.

SOME THINGS JUST DON'T TRANSLATE...

After an awesome Friday night at Ørndalen and Helle Driv (with live bands!), Alex, Raimo and I followed up our taco lunch on Thursday with a plasma-physics-and-burger day on Saturday. The burgers were great, the company was better, and we even managed to get some homework done.

The reason I bring this up: Raimo finally translated a few of Alex’s German sayings to me. You ready for this? When Alex is excited, he says “Alter Schwede!” or “Alter Falter!”. Literally, these translate as “Old Swede!” or “Old butterfly!”

Oh, did I laugh…

THE POLAR NIGHT COMETH

I received the following e-mail this week:

Dear students,

This is an invitation to a meeting that will provide you with information about:

* Winter climate and clothing
* What is wise to buy and where can you get it
* Good study routines in the dark season
* Nutrition and vitamins in the dark season

Advisors from the Student Counselling Centre will be present at the meeting, and we will bring samples of clothes and equipment + different vitamins for you to see and taste. There will also be time for questions.

How’s that for cheery? I understand they mean well, but I can't see this being altogether reassuring for anyone dreading the darkness.

(On a related note, I can now see the ocean from my room – it’s a wonder what bare branches do for sightlines!)

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

I have one last story to share with you – it happened a little while back, but I’m now able to share it without spoiling a surprise.

I put together a little parcel for Jess, and was quite nervous about sending it across the ocean. However, the postmistress noticed the rather unusual array of items I was sending (I think the stuffed Ebola virus rather threw her for a loop) and asked me kindly if this was a gift I was sending. When I told her it was, she grinned and put away the roll of 50 kroner stamps she’d been holding. And took out the big book.

We proceeded to cover that entire package with every single stamp we could – added up to 263 using 6's, 8's, 10's, 12's, 14's, and 15's. There had to be upwards of 30 stamps by the time we were done. It was quite a sight.

(and being the wise-ass that I am, I made sure to add an extra note – “Dear Jess – hope there’s enough postage!”)

~

Thought you’d enjoy another great story of my gracious Norwegian hosts going out of their way to make my time in their country as good as it can be. It's been a great ten weeks, and if the second half is half as good as the first, it'll more than I would have ever dreamed. See you next week!

(and yes Dad, there are pictures of actual human beings coming soon).

Posted by adamvigs 14:30 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

Week 9: Paddling and Physicing

You know, these titles are getting harder and harder to think of...

Wow. What a couple of weeks.

The heat has really been turned up in my classes (even as the thermometer plunges in Tromsø) – without sparing you the details, let’s just say that I haven’t stopped.

And I’m loving it.

Hopefully you enjoy the next few posts!

DOES GOD PLAY DICE?

Without warning, my Tuesday Numerical Analysis lecture on differential equations evolved into a deep philosophical discussion. In Professor Mjølhus’ words:

“Life is an IBVP.”

For those of you who’ve cleverly chosen not to subject yourself to differential equations, IBVP stands for Initial Boundary Value Problem. It consists of two parts:

1) an equation relating multiple physical quantities to each other - for example, it could describe the relationship between heat, time, and position along a metal bar (and thus the evolution of that heat for all times and positions);

2) a certain number of initial and boundary conditions (e.g. the bar is initially at uniform temperature, one end is in boiling water, and the other end is insulated).

Thus, in theory, if one was able to mathematically determine an equation that related all known parameters of the universe together, and was able to determine the exact starting point, we could predict the exact evolution of the universe (within the limits of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, of course – I’d explain that too, but I think I’m starting to get carried away. Please let me know if you want a primer).

Needless to say, though, I’m actually a little glad that it’s impossible to determine this equation – what fun would life be otherwise?

(oh, and the title of this section refers to a quote by Einstein regarding the uncertainty of the Universe – he rather believed in the deterministic point of view.)

KAYAK!

I tore myself away from my studies Wednesday night to embark on that great Northern tradition of kayaking! I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear this, but UiT has a student group for that too – and they have a prime boathouse location right on the water:

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As scuba diving has taught me, preparation is always important, especially when it comes to trying to enjoy the Arctic waters without becoming intimately acquainted with them. I and my fellow kayakers took great pains to seal up all our hatches:

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and I managed to grab one quick shot of the great view across the strait:

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Unfortunately for the folks back home, by the time we set paddle to water it was too dark for quality pictures on automatic camera settings (I couldn’t exactly configure my shutter speed while sitting in the open ocean – it was dicey enough removing my camera from my waterproof pocket). Here’s the best that I got:

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However, I can tell you that we kayaked all the way from the boathouse at Giærverbutka to the beautiful southern beach of Telegrafbutka (about an 8 km round trip) and I managed to gain some pretty good control over the kayak (as evidenced by a perfectly-executed sub-pier passage – the rudder really is a nice touch).

Even photos couldn't capture the breathtaking sight of the city lights twinned in the glassy bay, the joy of a quick stroke slicing silently through the water, and above all, the overwhelming sensation of effortless floating, space seeming just within reach as the stars danced overhead - some things, you just have to be there for. It was calm, peaceful, and a great means for relaxation.

And, after a daring mid-water kayak-to-kayak camera transfer, I was even able to appear in a few pictures:

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I can tell you one thing for certain: this won’t be the last time you see me in a kayak.

ON DIALECTS

While we were on the kayak trip, I had a great chance to visit with Anders (in the first picture in the red), who cleared up for me once and for all the situation of the infamous Norwegian “dialects”.

Basically, there are two official forms of written Norwegian: Bokmål (book language) and Nynorsk (new Norwegian). As far as I can tell, they are mutually intelligible, but differ in spelling, grammar, and word usage. In other words, it’s a bit more extreme than say, Canadian and British English, but not quite so far as to declare them each their own language.

(and if any Norwegians are reading this, and I’m mistaken, please correct me. Thanks!)

Now, here’s the interesting part: Almost nobody speaks these languages. Rather, they each speak their own dialect, which in most cases differs GREATLY from either of the two written forms. And the best part for a foreigner like me? These languages that everyone speaks are never written down, except maybe in casual emails or text messages between friends.

And trust me, when I say dialect, I’m not talking about Texas vs. Newfoundland. These dialects are so distinct that people from different parts of the country can have difficulty understanding each other! Thus why everyone knows the official written languages.

(To be honest with you, I wanted to write that down so I would remember it – hope you enjoyed it! As a reward, click this link to see my blog in a way you’ve never seen it before (the way that Chris Zrymiak expects me to speak when I get home). Note that you’ll have to locate the button that says [Dialectize!] near the middle of the page. Good luck!)

FIELD TRIP!

Friday morning I gladly fought my way through the foot of snow on the ground, and for good reason – we were scheduled for a field trip in Satellites and Rockets!

(because of the trip I finally remembered to bring my camera to class – good news for all involved, except maybe my subjects...)

The second meeting room in the old Auroral Observatory is in the basement. There’s a comfortable lecture table (presided over by Professor La Hoz):

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And some exceptionally sink-worthy suede couches (these should be mandatory in every classroom):

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(that was Alex in the former and Vit in the latter). Oh, and remember what I said about my photo subjects? Raimo proved a little more than surprised:

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Don’t worry, the intimidation wasn’t enough to make me put the camera away.

The five of us crammed into the Department of Physics car – I managed to snag shotgun and was enjoying our tour of Circus Tromsø (that’s what the locals call the first day after snow, when nobody has snow tires and sliding cars clog every hill) when I exclaimed out loud:

“Whoa, is my butt getting warm?!?”

Seat warmers. Wow. Maybe Santa Claus mods imports?

After a short half-hour drive to the other side of Tromsdalstinden (the big mountain), we arrived at the nerdiest place I’ve been to yet: EISCAT.

EISCAT

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What is EISCAT, you ask? In a name, it’s the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association. If that doesn’t tell you much (it wasn’t very illuminating for me either) maybe this will help me explain:

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Yup, it’s an antenna. However, the 800x600 picture you see is a gross understatement. This antenna, you see, is literally the size of a football field. Let me say that again: The Roughriders could play on this thing (or equivalently, Paul McCallum could not kick a field goal the length of this thing). It’s twice the size of most hockey rinks. It’s that big.

(if you go back (wayy back) to the picture of my Notre Dame duffel on top of Tromsdalstinden, you can see EISCAT. And that’s from over a kilometre away. Pretty cool, eh?)

I suppose that’s why it can see a falling coin at 300 kilometres (once again for scaling, that’s from Regina to Saskatoon).

Rather than watch for incoming debris, though, this VHF antenna and its UHF partner keep tabs on the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere in the hopes of aiding us in understanding the complex Sun-Earth relationship and the impact of said relationship on our day-to-day lives. Well, at least that’s their cover story – they could very well be discussing Earth’s terms of capitulation with extraterrestrial life (true story: this facility has been used to beam messages to planets with potential for life – I believe it was a Doritos commercial).

In fact, EISCAT is a world-renowned facility; researchers come to Tromsø from all points to perform research using the radar. Many of my professors from the U of S has been to the famous EISCAT Hilton (I don’t believe that it’s part of the official chain) and it’s been quite a pleasant surprise that so many of the Tromsø physicists know my EP professors from Saskatoon.

But back to the tour…

After a thorough introductory lecture by Prof. La Hoz (it so happened that he was the director of EISCAT in his early days in Norway, so he had plenty of knowledge to share) we headed to the kitchen for that great Norwegian tradition of waffles!

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Once we had our fill (and then some), the tour began!

NOTHING LIKE THE SMELL OF OZONE IN THE MORNING

Unfortunately, there’s no way I can remember everything we saw or what it does; that would assume that I understood how everything worked as Prof. La Hoz explained it. However, I can show you some impressive pieces of machinery that were spectacular on their sheer size, like this capacitor bank:

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this, er, radiation source (I think):

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this waveguide (same principle as a fiber optic cable, only this one’s about a metre across – Prof. La Hoz believes it’s the biggest in the world):

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and this fan:

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(Alex hamming it up for the camera as always). Luckily for me, there were plenty of locks on the dangerous things:

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Oh, and I couldn’t get a picture of the ionospheric heater, but I thought it was worth mentioning that this facility is actually capable of heating the atmosphere 300 km up to such a degree that they can produce artificial aurora. From what I understand, it uses a similar process to your microwave (radiation of certain wavelengths excites specific molecules), but I could be grossly mistaken. Please don’t hold it against me.

After one final picture with the UHF radar (again, this thing was about four stories tall – insane)

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and a quick shot of the single coolest car I’ve seen yet (check out that brand name!)

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we piled back into the Department car and headed home.

Epilogue: I found out later that evening that EISCAT was also a big part of one of my friend’s schooling. Ray Pask, graduate of Engineering Physics, actually performed his design project on the EISCAT system. I still don’t understand what it was that he did, but he was stoked to hear that I’d been to this place he’d researched inside out. It really was a great choice for a field trip.

THANKSGIVING!

On Friday night, Jamie kindly offered to cook a proper Thanksgiving meal for some of the Canadians and our friends in Tromsø. The concept of Thanksgiving is definitely new to the Europeans, and they’ve been more than eager to share in any Canadian culture we can share.

Jamie’s been done lectures for a while, and apparently she really likes to cook, because she made an impeccable spread. There was caramelized roast pork, homemade scalloped potatoes and creamed corn, pasta salad, fresh bread, and one of the best apple pies I’ve had – not the least because it talked to me:

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In other words, she did Canada proud.

(psst - it says Happy Thanksgiving!)

Funny story about the pork: we’d tried to get turkey, but not only were they impossible to be found, nobody could understand why we would want one. After talking to some Norwegians, we learned that this far north, turkey is a seasonal meat at best. I guess it just wasn’t our season…

And don’t worry, I grabbed a dish towel and did my best to help where I could. I also had to be a little clever and keep a kettle going at all times for wash water – Johannes’ flat had lukewarm water at best, and there were a few massive pans to tackle.

Oh, and I forgot to mention – the party had a dress theme of “bad taste”. Lacking brightly coloured clothes, I did the next best thing: I wore mine inside out. You may laugh, but having pockets on the outside of one’s jeans is very liberating… hopefully I’ll be able to get more pictures of the party soon!

TYING UP THE LOOSE WEEKENDS

  • Saturday and Sunday were spent with my nose deep in my Satellites and Rockets book; if nothing else, I learned that designing satellites is tough. Really tough. For example, the shock imparted by the impact of light particles when Hubble comes out of eclipse are enough to start Hubble oscillating uncontrollably. (And if you thought it was strange that I’m talking about light particles because you think light is a wave – you’re right.)

  • Entertainingly enough, I had my own Archimedes-esque Eureka moment on Saturday – I was playing with my hand-held shower head when I instantly understood the “garden-hose effect” that causes the solar wind (emitted from a rotating sun) to assume the shape of an Archimedean spiral. It was pretty cool.

  • On Sunday, I got plenty of Thanskgiving wishes from the Vignerons in Medicine Hat and the Zrymiaks all over – thanks again to everyone for thinking of me!

  • Also on Sunday, the Morning Request hour on Regina's 620 CKRM got a rather unusual phone call - I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as Mom and Dad (and Aunt Lori) did!

(p.s. just hit play - I know it looks like a video, but trust me on this one, it's definitely a sound file).

Needless to say, that was one of the coolest phone calls I've made yet.

I think it's time to sign off (early class tomorrow) but I have one final thought to share with you: if anyone wants to know how a gyroscope works, I learned that this week inside and out. Just thought I’d let you know.

Cheers!

Posted by adamvigs 13:38 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

Week 8: Senja’s Great!

Don't worry, I won't rhyme the title each week - sometimes, it just works.

Is it blogging time already? To be completely honest with you, there’s only one story for this week – but I promise, it’s a good one. Off we go!

SNØ!

Monday morning we awoke to a beautiful dusting on the mountaintops:

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And don't forget, this is on my walk to school every morning.

Oh, without giving the whole show away, let’s just say you should enjoy these pictures juxtaposing autumn and winter – there won’t be many more of them coming along…

(but on the plus side, I was lucky enough to spot the first Aurora of the year on Monday night – nothing spectacular, but sighting it so early is certainly a good sign for things to come!)

SCIENCE FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE

Continuing my semi-regular updates on my professors, here’s a quick installment on Prof. Hoppe, one of two for Rockets and Satellites:

Prof. Hoppe is not a full-time professor; rather, he works for Forsvarets Forskningsinstitutt – as far as I can tell, it’s the research arm of the Norwegian military (though any clarification is greatly appreciated). You can find a short article on one of his projects here (translated from Norwegian by Google – but not too shabby). However, I’d like to share with you a quote of his from another article:

Why do we have to know the Energy and Charge of Particles in Saturn’s Magnetosphere?

To be frank, we probably do not need to know. This is basic science. Basic science is similar to beautiful art as in the Sistine Chapel or beautiful music or a beautiful theatre play: It is not really necessary, but it contributes significantly to mankind’s culture and to our way of living.

I share this because it’s a question I’ve been posed before, and I rather liked the answer. If you’ve got time, the article itself is a very interesting read about the Cassini probe. AND it was written in English, so it’s a bit less choppy than the previous article. Hope you enjoyed!

(I’ll tell you more about him after our intensive 12hrs of lecture next week, don’t worry).

LETTERS FROM HOME!

Monday evening I absentmindedly checked my mailbox and was surprised to see that I had a parcel note!

The next morning, I fought my way through the blizzard (oh, did I forget to mention it was snowing on Tuesday?) down to the local post office and picked up something, large, square, and rattling.

From Provost AB. Home of A Lori and U Kevin.

Grinning like mad, I biked as quickly as I could up the 100 metre (vertical) hill back to my dorm and tore the wrapping apart to find:

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Logic quickly set in and told me that it couldn’t possibly be a case of beer (the parcel was only two inches thick) but what a great idea for wrapping, eh? I assure you, it’ll be put to good use.

I lovingly pulled the Molson family cardboard aside to reveal:

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What a great care package. I’d been on the phone with A Lori and U Kevin over the Labour Day weekend, and had mentioned that KD was nowhere to be found in Norway.

This is awesome. We Canadians are already planning our feast. Thanks so much!

KLOKKA?

Tuesday’s Norwegian started with our professor pointing at the clock and posing us the question “Hva er klokka?”

At which point Marie looked at me in horror and told me that we were in for some “gymnastics of the mind.”

And boy was she right.

Okay, for starters, if a Norwegian says “halv fire”, which translates directly as “half four”, they’re actually talking about 3:30.

If that isn’t bad enough, they use “halv ____” as a reference point. Thus, 3:20 becomes “ti på halv fire” and 3:40 becomes “ti over halv fire”. In other words, we start talking about four o’clock when it’s only twenty after three.

And finally, the Norwegians are clever enough to use 24-hour time, but only speak of the 12-hour clock. Thus, if we’re speaking in the afternoon, we say “ti på halv fire” and write kl. 15.20.

Damn, eh.

Despite my lack of gymnastic flexibility, I was still limber enough to successfully teach Marie the subtle differences in the pronounciation of “cheep sheep ship”. So even if she arrives early at the harbour (the French use 24-hour time in conversation as well), she will be able to indicate that her preferred mode of transport is NOT via the inexpensive lamb. Always a bonus, that.

ON THE USEFULNESS OF VIDEOGAMES

One final note from school last week:

In Sattelites and Rockets, we were discussing the importance of selecting and maintaining proper satellite orientation while in orbit (makes sense, as Hubble’s only an effective telescope if you can keep it pointed at what you’re looking at). As Professor La Hoz’s prefers the Socratic method, he posed us the question: “What are the names of the three rotations a body in flight can make?”

I had a quick flashback to Spitfires descending out of the heavens onto the Junkers below (with apologies to my German classmates) and immediately answered:

“Pitch, yaw, and roll.”

Thank you, Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator.

THE MAIN EVENT

Alright, I suppose it’s time I finally told you about the big adventure for the week. This weekend marked the annual SUT (diving club) trip to the island of Senja! The trip plan had us diving for times in three days while we spent Friday and Saturday nights in a fishing cottage.

Thus, most of this week was spent packing / scrambling to get things in order. Learning a few lessons from my previous dives, I procured a weatherproof jacket and wool clothing from Vidar (the snow may be a good indicator that it’s no longer summer here), and vowed not to forget any of my diving equipment (I’d been a touch forgetful on my last two dives, and was determined not to let that happen again).

After making my list and checking it far more than twice, I set out on the long walk down to the dive shop, marveling at the clear blue skies. We would be blessed with excellent weather all weekend, which was superb timing by the Weatherman Upstairs.

At the dive shop, we packed up our vans (containing every piece of equipment I could ever need) and departed for our adventure!

ROAD TRIP!

Senja is the next major island along the coast south of Kvaløya, and is well-known among Norwegians for the beauty of its landscape. As the crow flies, our destination was a mere 60 km away from Tromsø. However, Norwegian roads are noted for rather ignoring the crow:

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Total distance: 222 km. At a maximum speed of 80 km/h.

And yet, I barely noticed the time – partially because the landscape was absolutely stunning (jagged moonlight peaks reflected in glassy mountain lakes – can’t ask for much more than that), but mostly because Magnus (our treasurer) and Mikko (from Finland) were such good company. Asle and Luca (from Italy) chimed in their two cents from the front seat whenever they had a chance.

Above all, I remembered how much I love the open road. It’s funny, but sometimes, I just miss driving… across the prairies, down into the valleys, up the last hill to the lake, in the frozen world under the stars, with John Petrucci echoing in my ears…

Sorry, I was lost in thought there for a bit. But back to the story!

MEFJORDVÆR

After pulling into a roadside kiosk for last-minute supplies (my flashlight needed new batteries, so I spent $20 on four Cs… it was painful, but not nearly as bad as trying to night dive without a torch), we arrived at our destination at about 10:00 pm. We unloaded our luggage into the beautiful little fishing cottages and our equipment into the fish-cleaning shack (which didn’t smell nearly as bad as one might expect).

By the time we finished, it was about half-past ten and exceptionally dark. But we came all this way for one reason: to dive!

DIVE ONE: MEFJORDVÆR

BUDDY: Asle
TIME IN: 11:30 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 35 min
DEPTH: 10 m

NOTES:

  • The dive took place RIGHT outside of the hotel in the local harbour; we dressed in the fish-cleaning shack, waddled over to the ultra-convenient stairs down the water’s edge, and easily slid into the water from the platform below. Conveniently enough, the platform was under about a foot of water, which made entering / exiting exceptionally easy – shallow enough to stand in but deep enough to swim onto.
  • We dove out heading for the harbour breakwater. To be honest, I had no idea it was there; all I could see was a flashing green light. Needless to say, I had quite a bit of faith in Asle’s skills with a compass.
  • Our dive towards the breakwater was across open sand, with plenty of big crabs and schools of young cod.
  • Once we made it to the breakwater, we swam alongside it for about fifteen minutes – plenty of sea fans,
    starfish, and life along this man-made obstacle (interesting to dive along for sure – makes me wonder what the Pier at Clear Lake would be like…).
  • This dive was also my first time seeing other night divers – it’s pretty otherworldly to see ghostly lights appear out of the deep blue and watch as shapes materialize far closer than you’d expect, only for them to vanish like ships in the night.

After a relaxing swim back to the dock, we undressed, toweled off, poured a few drinks (the “fishing cottages” were furnished with a complete set of snifters – we were truly roughing it) and headed off to sleep at ~2:30 AM. It had been a great start to the weekend.

SATURDAY SHEDS A LITTLE LIGHT

I woke up just before 8 AM and silently cursed my inability to sleep in. However, any thoughts of going back to sleep quickly vanished when I looked outside my window:

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Hmm. Apparently, the town we’d arrived in by night was actually paradise by day. How about that, eh.

I’m going to spare you most of the hundreds of photos (literally) I took of the gorgeous open-ocean-harbour-surrounded-by-mountains that is Mefjordvær, and simply present you with the view looking towards the west of the town:

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the east of the town:

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And finally, our fishing cottage/hotel smack in the middle of everything:

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This picture was taken atop the breakwater; you can see the little platform we dove off on the right-hand side of the pier - oh, did I forget to mention our cottages were on a pier?

In front of the four-peaked hotel was the fishing hut with our equipment inside (Elin smiling for us in this picture):

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and by the door, we set up the all-important compressor (fearless leader Gerhard attending while Asle looks on):

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Oh, and I thought you’d like to see our mode of transportation. We have Little Red Riding Hood with her 25 horsepower Johnson outboard:

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And SUT’s very own Toyota van, appropriately named the Wolf:

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Nope, I didn’t make these names up. Luckily for us, the Wolf had new tires, and so the snow/ice/slush presented no problem for our club's skilled drivers.

THE “FISHING COTTAGE”

For some reason, when I see the words “fishing cottage”, I was expecting something Spartan but functional. However, I would classify our accommodations more along the lines of vacation resort destination:

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The last picture was of my roommate Magnus – he was the only other one cool enough to snag a loft bed.

And you know how to identify coolness? By the brand name of one’s jeans, of course:

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I really hope I’m not the only one who thinks this is funny – otherwise, it would seem that I’m just a creep who takes pictures of boys’ clothing. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

DIVE TWO: MEFJORDBOTN

After tearing my eyes away from the scenery and closing my jaw (did I mention it had also snowed the night before, adding a soft layer of white to the naturally jagged peaks?), I sorted my equipment out and jumped in the car for dive #2, at the base of the Mefjord.

Once again, the location was exceptional:

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And trust me on this one, the underwater world was every bit as good as this one.

BUDDIES: Asle & Øyunn
TIME IN: 12:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 45 min
DEPTH: 25 m

NOTES:

  • After a few night dives, I really enjoyed the sunlight and clarity that diving at noon gives – we must have had over 50 feet of shockingly clear visibility.
  • This was the first of our wall dives – we literally dove along the mountain cliff as it plunged into the water.
  • Probably the most life yet – there were large schools of young sei everywere. And they weren’t even the least bit scared.
  • Once again, it was great fun to run into other divers mid-dive – Malin (along with her partner Camilla) definitely enjoys her diving (refers to non-divers as “those without gills and webbed toes”) and is never afraid to be, er, expressive underwater. We’re talking dancing here.
  • Thanks to a pair of tips from Asle and Gerhard, I was able to have greater control over my buoyancy than I’ve had in a drysuit to date. (for Mom and Dad’s benefit: I used the rear discharge on my BC so I could maintain a preferable horizontal position, and I made sure to adjust my weight belt such that I was able to lie perfectly still in the water without tumbling or spinning.) It was great fun to have full control over every dimension, let me tell you.

VACATION AFTERNOON

After the dive and a surprisingly frosty cool-down (shivering in the bright sun didn’t exactly reassure me for the diving that night), we piled back into the Wolf and made our way to our cottages.

I was fairly famished at this point, and so I broke out the first box of gold:

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Yes, Aunt Lori, those are hot dogs. I even bought ketchup.

And oh man, was it good. The Norwegians thought I was a little strange to get so excited over noodles, but that didn’t dampen my spirits one bit.

I followed this up by a walk on the breakwater (looked over a bit of Norwegian, but mostly just soaked in the fjordness) and a kick-ass nap. Life is good today.

DIVE THREE: MID-MEFJORD

In the evening, five of us (Asle, Magnus, Mikko, Gerhard, and myself) packed up the Wolf and headed to a site about halfway between Mefjordvær and Mefjordbotn. The fading light wasn’t great for photos, but I did snap one to show you the slippery slope to the water:

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Needless to say, sliding along the snowy slope followed by the scramble over wet/frozen boulders was less than fun. Especially with ~50 lbs of lead, tank, and scuba gear. And the slight surge throwing us onto the rocks wasn’t much of a help either.

But as always, emerging was worth the struggle.

BUDDY: Mikko
TIME IN: 6:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 50 min
DEPTH: 20 m

NOTES:

  • Initially we dove over a kelp forest (in Mikko’s Finnish, slamminari); not much to see in the dark, alas – all the life was hidden below.
  • Afterwards, we entered a boulder field with sandy bottom, and managed to see plenty of crabs, cod, and mola mola (as well as a ton of starfish – but they’re everywhere).

  • Highlight #1: After some frantic signaling by Mikko (“What in the world does he mean by covering his flashlight – oh, he wants me to cover mine. Duh”) I was treated to one of the coolest sights of my life:

    Bioluminescent plankton.

    In every direction.

    Glowing.

    Wow.

    Imagine little fiber-optic pinpricks of light on every surface imaginable, and you may have a hint of an idea of what this was like. But it was so much cooler than that.

  • Highlight #2: And if that wasn’t enough, we surfaced under the stars and a full moon over the mountains. I was swimming in my back in a Norwegian fjord under a starry sky. Did I mention life is good today?

SATURDAY NIGHT’S ALRIGHT!

After scrambling back up the rocks (veeerry slowly – appreciated my flashlights then), we shed our layers and Gerhard cracked the beer he’d carried with him:

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What can I say, the Arctic is an exceptionally effective beer cooler.

Thanks to my Norwegian prowess, I was able to decode my first full sentence (I overheard Luca asking one of the girls if “I kveld vi spiser sammen?” which means “We eat together this evening?”). Thus, I was on the ball for the big meal of the night: Fårikål.

Fårikål, the national dish of Norway (even has its own holiday) and literally translates as “mutton in cabbage”, and consists simply of mutton, cabbage, black pepper, and flour boiled together and served with potatoes. It was hot, it was filling, and far tastier than the Norwegians were expecting me to find it.

After the feast, we settled in for a great night of beer and bullshooting. I finally turned in sometime in the morning. Life is good today.

PACKING

Sunday morning was spent cleaning up from Saturday night; the cleanup went pretty well, but we moved one of the rugs and discovered a little structural flaw:

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I’m not in Civil Engineering, but that can’t be good. And I don’t know if you can tell in the picture, but the floor actually slants in a different direction on either side of the crack. I guess the rugs were there for a reason, eh.

Luckily, the view out our kitchen window more than made up for any little crack:

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Like I said, this “fisherman’s cottage” ranks up there with any vacation home I’ve ever been to. And I mean that.

The Wolf stuffed to the gills, we headed out onto the open road.

(I just reread that last piece of imagery - hmm. Amphibious wolves. Well, I suppose they'd fit in nicely with a scuba club.)

I’ve never actually taken a picture of the highway before, so I thought I’d snap one for you:

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As you can see, there’s no line down the middle, but only two dotted ones on either end. This is a one-lane-and-a-half road; two cars can squeeze by each other, but not without slowing down. They’re very common in Norway (think grid road courtesy). However, the larger highways have the standard yellow-road-down-the-middle (which, by the way, is a Canadian invention – how about that, eh).

We took the scenic route home across the heart of Senja, allowing me time for a quick nap and an interesting conversation with Øyunn about her time on Svalbard. If I ever get up there, I’ll tell you all about it.

Oh, and the scenic route was pretty good too:

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And there’s no picture that can capture this, but one tunnel we took literally took us from autumn to winter – it was pretty cool.

DIVE FOUR: BJØRGE

After stopping in Finnesnes for supplies (which reminded me quite strongly of mountain towns in BC), we made our way to our final divesite, located almost due south of Finnesnes on the mainland.

The site was again a beautiful cliff in a sheltered little bay:

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so we set up the van and started unpacking.

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BUDDY: Mikko
TIME IN: 3:00 PM
BOTTOM TIME: 50 min
DEPTH: 20 m

NOTES:

  • Floating in space alongside the cliff with only blue above and below was simply spectacular – if you ever get a chance to dive alongside a cliff in an icy-blue Norwegian fjord, I highly recommend it. It was like floating in space…
  • There was also tons of life clinging to the wall - we were able to get very up-close and personal with the underwater plants and animals, including a few vicious starfish (as evidenced by the slew of mussel shells around them. There were also a ton of brown fish with stripes, but I’m not sure what they were…
  • I’m glad Beth wasn’t here, because we saw a MASSIVE jellyfish – at least one metre across, with tentacles. It was unearthly, but so cool!

FAREWELL!

In closing, I thought you’d appreciate a few random pictures from the dive:

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And finally, my farewell picture from the Senja trip:

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(In case you can’t tell, I’m wearing nearly every piece of clothing I brought on the trip – but I was warm.)

Overall, the trip was a true highlight of my time in Norway so far. Thank you for reading this far, I hope you enjoyed my tale. Take care, and see you next week!

Posted by adamvigs 14:21 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Week 7: Full-contact with Autumn

(and I didn't edit this one, so be kind)

It’s Thursday morning and I’m sitting in my Numerical Simulations tutorial distracting myself on my laptop. For reasons which I’m electing to keep veiled (for now), I’m not going to be able to update my blog this weekend. So, welcome to the SPEED ROUND! (a quick-and-dirty post to free up time for non-technology pursuits). Enjoy!

STORIES FROM SCHOOL

  • I found it quite interesting that human tolerance to g-forces is extremely direction-dependent. We can handle upwards of 15 g (15 times the acceleration of gravity) in the forward direction (or as it’s more humourously known, eyeballs-in). However, we can only handle about 5 g in the upward direction, and even less (2 or 3 g) downwards. Thus, there’s a reason that we launch astronauts on their backs and not sitting in a chair.

  • My textbook made a point of mentioning that giddiness is a common side effect of returning to Earth after spaceflight. One has to wonder if that’s a symptom or simply a sigh of relief at actually making it back to terra firma…

  • On Wednesday in Cosmic Geophysics we had another great lecture from Prof. Esser on the sun. She was kind enough to print off handouts of the data we were analyzing. I was to see that a good number of the plots, theorems, and were from scholarly journal articles by “Esser et al.”. Needless to say, I did my best to pay attention for this lecture; I even struggled through the agony of a torn contact and a throbbing, watering eye to stay in class. (I think it may have thrown my professor off a bit to see one of her students in tears – don’t worry, I explained to her afterwards).

HIGHLIGHTS FROM HOME

  • It really is getting to my favourite part of autumn: the mornings are crisp, the skies (when they cooperate) are clear, and there’s a hint of wood smoke in the air (wood stoves are common here, Norway being blessed with rather more forest than Saskatchewan). It reminds me every day how cool it is that I get to be on an island surrounded by mountains above the Arctic Circle.

  • I managed to give a Norwegian directions this week! This was great on two counts: (1) I knew enough about the town to give decent directions, and (2) I understood enough Norwegian to know what I was being asked! I wasn’t able to form my answer in Norwegian, but still I was pretty proud of myself.

  • I also learned something: Sometimes, when you can’t move your laptop to your bed, the solution isn’t to buy a longer cord cord. Sometimes, it’s as simple as moving your bed to your laptop.

    Food for thought, that.

UNDERWATER RUGBY!

While my club team back in Canada was busy this week winning the provincial championship (GO ROGUES!), I took my game to depths unheard of: the strange beast that is Underwater Rugby.

Think full-contact underwater basketball with a mask, fins, snorkel, and you’re pretty close. The baskets are at the bottom of the pool, and the ball is about the size of a handball and negatively buoyant (it sinks). The game is played by six a side (I think); two goalies take turns breathing and guarding the goal, while the other four attack / defend as required.

You’re wondering how I enjoyed it? Well, I definitely got a baptism by fire; we jumped right into a full scrimmage. The first thing I noticed was how quiet the game was – the underwater world is an almost surreal place in that way (as any diver will tell you), and I found it almost unnerving to play a sport so far removed from the clatter of helmet on shoulder pad, the crack of a slapshot (or in non-underwater rugby, a bone breaking – only joking), or the joyous sound of a sharp skate biting its way through the first corner of fresh ice.

However, don’t think that quiet and serene are even close to the same thing. This sport is crazy! The third dimension completely transforms the way you approach the game; there are many more ways to get around someone (and many more ways you can get attacked – I found I was particularly blind to attacks from behind and above).

And get this: you can actually hold someone underwater – but only as long as they have the ball. When you drop the ball, you get to breathe. Luckily, sportsmanship prevails, but I still find it interesting that it’s a perfectly legal strategy.

I inhaled more than my fair share of water and learned how far I have to go in the holding-your-breath department (it completely changes any sport when you have to fight just to stay in the play), but by the end I was starting to get a feel for the rhythm of the game and was actually contributing as a team player – I was particularly proud of an assist I made when I heard one of my teammates “calling for the pass” by punching his fist into his open palm.

Oh, and it was one hell of a workout – and it was rather more enjoyable than sweating on a treadmill or pumping a machine. I might have to try it again sometime.

I wasn't able to get any pictures, but here's a VIDEO LINK TO UW RUGBY DEMO - enjoy!

(and yes, I called Mom to wish her a happy birthday. So my Aunties don’t have to worry about that either.)

MY NAME IS YONAS…

On Thursday evening, I had an intense craving for an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet and quickly convinced as many of my friends as I could that it was high time for a smorg (at $17 a plate with pop included, it was a pretty amazing deal by Norwegian standards).

And so on Friday, we headed to the famous Yonas, locally known as the best pizzeria in Tromsø. It had a really neat design theme: it looked like someone’s house:

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Due to my love of books and trinkets (which I should have taken pictures of – there was a really cool sextant), we sat in the living room. Dad’s been harassing me to put more pictures of people online, so here’s a quick one of the group (sans me, of course):

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In the above, we have Linnea (Finland), Grace (UK), and Loes (Holland). Josh (Dryden) was a victim of bad timing – he missed us THAT much (for you Get Smart fans out there). Which is too bad, because he would have gotten his money’s worth out of the buffet just as I did.

And oh, what a buffet. Once again for Dad (who considers it a cardinal sin to put anything weird on a pizza), here’s a sampling of Norwegian toppings:

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I’d like to draw your attention to the front-left. That is the specialty of Yonas, the Taco pizza; it has ground beef, fresh cabbage (i.e. put on AFTER the pizza has been cooked) and mustard sauce.

Tasted pretty much how it sounds. And believe it or not, it tasted good. Just goes to show what a little desperation above the Arctic Circle can do for culinary experimentation.

FOLKEKONGEN

We lucked out on Friday for a short time, with some beautiful weather; the harbour was stunning:

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as was the statuary:

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This one deserves a story, but it’s nearly midnight, so I’ll be quick.

Olav V (father of the current king) was called the People’s King; a widower when he ascended the throne, he gave his life to his country, and his people loved him for it.

This statue commemorates one of Olav’s visits to Tromsø. He was addressing the crowd (which was being held at a respectable distance) when a young girl burst from the ranks and ran towards the king with a bouquet of flowers. The police were upset with this “breach of protocol”, but the king was genuinely touched by the gesture and asked that it be commemorated. Neat story, eh?

I’ve got one more (and forgive me if I’ve told this one before):
The year was 1973, and the world was in the midst of an energy crisis. In response, the Norwegian government elected to ban driving on certain weekends. King Olav was an avid sportsman (a gold medalist at the 1928 Summer Olympics) and was never one to miss a ski on the weekend. Legally, he was not bound by the driving ban; what’s a king to do?

Use public transit, of course:

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As far as I can tell, this picture is one that every Norwegian knows well. The older man in a ski suit? Yup, that’s the king. On the Oslo Metro. Leading by example.

I’ve said this before, but I’m genuinely impressed with the Norwegian royal family. Maybe marital issues aren’t the only way for royal families to make the news after all…

TRIPLE THREAT

Saturday evening came, and I was faced with a dilemma: I’d been invited to three parties, but hadn’t fully converted my Transmogrifier into a Duplicator. (Alas that scientific progress has yet to go “Boink”.)

So, in true stubborn fashion, I went to all three. And actually managed to pull it off.

After an enjoyable social with Oksana and Mikhail (they live across the hall and their apartment was filled with balloons which had a nasty habit of exploding without warning – certainly livened up Oksana’s birthday festivities), I reluctantly pulled myself away from the appetizers and headed to my Buddy Marte’s birthday party. Two of the highlights of a great evening spent with Norwegians:

  • Whenever I mention that I’m Canadian, two things inevitably come up: South Park and Rush. I’m going to forgo commenting on the former, but I’ve been really pleased that at least one Canadian band has made such an impact worldwide. (Canadian country, not so much…)

  • Direct quote from a Norwegian in the midst of our hockey discussion: “I’ve heard that, the Detroit Red Wings, they’re like the Real Madrid of ice hockey.”

I don’t know why, but that was the funniest thing I heard all night. Oh, did I laugh.

After wishing Marte a great birthday, I headed down to Drive for party #3. It was a fair night, and the walk down the main street (Storgata – “Big Street” – I think) was great fun. It’s amazing how vibrant the nightlife is in a town of only 60,000 – there has to be at least 30 pubs, and they’re almost all on the same street.

I followed the Batsignal – er, large spotlight to Driv, and reflected again on (a) how beautiful the harbourfront location is, and (b) how long it would take my Canadian friends (no names mentioned, of course) to push each other in. Seriously, there’s a bar, ten metres of wharf, and the water. For my friends who gladly shove each other in snowbanks… it wouldn’t take long.

I ran into my physics buddies at Driv, and enjoyed once again the Helle Driv (all five floors were open, four different parties going on). And to my delight, the middle floor actually played something that resembled country music: I got to two-step in Norway! (props to Loes, who proved a quick learner).

And to top the night off, I tried the famous Norwegian nightlife food: the kebab. A pita with lettuce, sauce, and “meat”, it sells in little roadside stands for NOK 70 (about twelve bucks) and is sworn by as the only true cure for the munchies.

Honestly? It was good, but for 70 krowns... I’ll just buy 5 Burger King hamburgers, thanks.

(note that I wouldn’t actually buy 5 hamburgers. At least, not willingly.)

WRAP-UP

I think it’s bedtime – I hope you enjoyed a quick look at my week, and I look forward to updating you on my next set of adventures.

Parting thoughts: I am truly proud to be a Canadian traveling abroad. People are genuinely interested in Canada, and often shock me with their knowledge of my country. I’ve been pleased to clear up a few myths aboot our country, but at the end of the day, I’m quite certain that, for as much whining and complaining as we do inside our borders, Canada has a pretty good handle on the whole being-a-country business.

Oh, and a few drunk (and not so drunk) Norwegians attempted to serenade me with our national anthem on Saturday night. I’ll give them major credit, they did at least as good a job on ours as they did on theirs (words seemed to elude them somewhat) and they really seemed to love the beginning: “OOOO CAAAANAAAADAAAAAAAA!”

I was touched.

See you next week!

Posted by adamvigs 02:48 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Week 6: Fishing, Frigates, and Football;

and not always in that order.

Welcome to Sunny Tromsø!

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Yup, that’s how beautiful this town is.

…or rather, how beautiful it was in August. When we had sun.

Don’t worry, the polar night didn’t sneak up on us by surprise. It’s not nearly that crafty. Nope, we’re simply in the middle of an extended rainy season. At the time of this writing, it’s been raining / cloudy steady for the last two weeks, with maybe one whole day with sun. Bit of an adjustment for a boy from one of the sunniest parts of Canada

I’m not too worried though, I’ve got a decent umbrella and a blantant disregard for personal exposure to the elements (yup, I’m still wearing shorts on occasion). When I see the animals begin to line up two-by-two, then I’ll panic.

(NOTE: the above pictures are actually from the hike Linnea and I took on 15 Aug. And if you’re wondering about the superb quality? That’s because she took them.)

UNDER THE WEATHER

Speaking of exposure to the elements, my little foray into the Arctic waters on Sunday found me a touch under the weather Monday morning. (For those of my fans who missed last week’s installment, my scuba drysuit leaked like a sieve.)

However, a night of warm tea, Lipton’s chicken noodle (packed lovingly by Mom from Canada), and some casual Satellites and Rockets homework did wonders for me, and I was back in the game on Tuesday.

Oh, and I attempted a BLT with Norwegian “bacon” to lift my spirits while sick. If any of my fellow Canadian ex-pats are thinking about making one… don’t. It’s just not the same. (when I get back for my first Sheps brunch where the bacon trough runneth over… hoo boy, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.)

THE GHOST OF PHYSICS PAST

Wednesday’s Plasma class brought some great news and some not-so-great news. Our professor announced that the next few weeks would be spent studying kinetic theory (a gas theory that attempts to explain pressure, temperature, etc. as resulting from the motions of the individual gas molecules). Without getting into details, let’s just say that I haven’t had a great time with kinetic theory; it and I are rather at odds on the whole theory-versus-applied aspect of mixing engineering and physics.

On the plus side, we’ll be starting fluid dynamics after that, a subject in which I’m woefully unlearned but have always been interested in. So at least I’ve got something to look forward to.

LEARNING GOES BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

Needing a break, I borrowed a guitar and a music book from the musician that lives down the hall (thanks again Eva!). I was working through some of the songs and really enjoying myself when I ran across something rather unexpected: an H chord.

Hmm. Last time I checked, the musical notes went from A to G and then back to A. Interesting.

By trial and error, I deduced that H for the Norwegians is what I would call a B. They also have a B, but they’ve moved it to what we call B♭. In other words, their scale (not including sharps and flats) goes like this:

A B H C D E F G

This, I don’t understand. If anyone can explain why, please do. Thanks!

EFFIKASY

My reputation as an English speaker precedes me: one of my Norwegian friends called me on Tuesday for pronunciation help with the word “efficacy”. After pondering for a minute, I managed to remember the proper sound. (It’s tricky for Norwegians, because the letter “c” is rarely used in their language; they simply use “k” or “s” as appropriate. Makes sense.)

I was quite pleased to help my friend out, but as I was about to hang up, she told me to wait and handed the phone to her friend.

Who handed it to her next friend. And so on.

I wound up speaking over the phone with at least a half-dozen Norwegians (all of which I’d never met), teaching each of them the proper pronunciation (over more than a few tries) and laughing the whole time.

And the best part: my professors do the same thing. Not even kidding. Because I have this nasty habit of asking questions in class, all of my instructors know I’m from Canada and am blessed with English as a first language. They will interrupt themselves mid-lecture to confirm with me that their word choice or pronunciation is correct; even my Norwegian professor on Thursday nights will consult me, as I’m busy butchering his language.

To quote the Irish Rovers, my English prowess has been “most efficacious in ev’ry case”. Not too shabby.

FISHING!

Wednesday was no less rainy than any of the other days this week, but by gosh the Men had some free time and they were going to go procure some Meat!

And so it came to pass that Alex, Raimo, Pierre-Marie and I set out for the nearby island of Håkøya with our rods and reels to harvest the bounty of the North Atlantic. We set up our operation on a beautiful little bridge connecting the island to Kvaløya:

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and proceeded to take on the Arctic! Pierre-Marie was the first to cast:

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while Raimo was soon to follow:

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Alex and I, being without fishing gear, were forced to find other sources of entertainment. Aside: note the jacket Alex is wearing – at our cabin, my parents have a sleeping bag of the exact same material. Needless to say, he was warm.

And of course, we were thrilled to pull in our lines and discover…

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Hmm. Well, I suppose we can eat the mussel… tough to split four ways though, they’re slippery little buggers.

A (big, heavy, rusty) PIECE OF HISTORY

After resigning ourselves to the fact that the fish were not biting today (through no fault of the fishermen, mind you), we piled into Raimo’s Opel and toured around Håkøya. I was daydreaming out the window to the soothing tunes of the Arrogant Worms (have to expose the boys to Canadian culture somehow) when I jerked awake and excitedly requested an immediate roadside stop.

The reason: one large roadside monument.

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The plaque says:

12 NOV 1944
The German battleship
TIRPITZ
was sunk near the isle of Håkøya

(This steel plate is from Tirpitz)

I’m a bit of a history buff, but I’ll try to make this story as brief as I can. Ahem…

THE TIRPITZ

To put it bluntly, the Tirpitz was THE largest warship the Germans built in the Second World War. You’ve heard of the Bismarck? Well, this was her sister ship – and she was a bit bigger yet. Dubbed by the Norwegians “The Lonely Queen of the North”, she spent the better part of the war in various Norwegian fjords as a constant presence in the North Sea.

I searched the internet, but can’t find a picture to make you believe how big she was, so I’ll show you one of what she was capable of doing:

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All told, the Tirpitz was 2½ Canadian football fields long, could travel at over 30 knots (that’s about 60 km/h), was capable of sailing anywhere in the world without refueling, and carried 2500 men.

Definitely something to be afraid of.

And the British were; even though the Tirpitz never engaged the Royal Navy openly, her mere presence in the Norwegian fjords threatened all Artic convoys between the Soviet Union and the other Allies, forcing the Royal Navy to tie up ships in escort that could be used elsewhere.

The British soon realized that action had to be taken, and began flying bomber sorties from Scotland to take on the Lonely Queen. The Tirpitz proved resilient and withstood a number of attacks, but was finally sunk by RAF bombers in November 1944.

…not a bad story, eh? Unfortunately, she was scrapped after the war, so there’s very little left of what was once a giant and magnificent wreck. But I still was there.

A GREAT FISH STORY INDEED

Our spirits undampened by our recent bout of bad luck, we headed to the north of Kvaløya to the tiny village of Futrikelv to test our luck once more. The location was beautiful:

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so we eagerly cast our lines and hoped for the best.

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And as it turned out, we managed to catch one…

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Don’t worry, we threw him back. After attempting to unravel a line tangle of Gordian proportions (my bad) and a loss of more metal fish than we managed to catch, we packed it in for the evening. All in all, though, it was still a great way to spend an afternoon.

LONG WEEKEND!

After missing out on the Labour Day festivities at home, I was excited to settle into my own version of the long weekend – a few of my professors were away at-conference, giving me an excellent bit of free time.

And boy, did I reeelaaax… it was just what the doctor ordered.

On Friday I celebrated my free time by making Rice Krispie squares! They turned out perfectly and were a great hit with all the Canadians and Americans, who were glad for a little piece of home. The Europeans, on the other hand were rather shocked that I was using marshmallows as a baking good. They were universally impressed with the result, however – I think I’m going to have to make them again.

Oh, and I finally solved the problem of where to put stirring utensils: I simply hung them over the pot using the extremely handy wire I ran across at the international student second-hand market:

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Why did I grab the wire, you ask? The same reason I have a knife in my pocket and a deck of cards in my backpack: I knew I would want it one day.

A GREAT BIG SURPRISE

Later that evening, I made my way to the University for an excellent party hosted by the International Students’ Union. They did their best to make everyone feel welcome; they offered free facepainting of national symbols, put flags all over the room, and played a variety of international music. I had pretty much tuned out the Europop and was deep in conversation with a few of the other students when–

AND EVERY DRINK IN THE PLACE WAS FULL THE NIGHT PAT MURPHY DIED!!

It literally made my night. I still can’t believe we got to hear the Great Big Sea at a Norwegian party. Well, I got to hear Great Big Sea – my friends rather heard me belting out every single word in pure joy. The important thing is, they heard the song. And I couldn’t have picked a better one.

SATURDAY

Saturday was a quiet day: I went shopping (almost half of my list was on sale – definitely makes things easier) and I picked up some made-in-Canada canned corn on the cob – we’ll see how that one turns out.

In the evening, Jamie, Tomek and I had a little group supper – Jamie made the lemon/garlic potatotes, Tomek covered the veggies, and I made some sweet chili Thai wings. Unhappy with the lack of zing, I added a touch of Franks Xtra Hot (lovingly packed from home by me) and proceeded to scorch the mouth of Tomek and his English palate while Jamie and I munched away happily. The Europeans just don't seem to do spicy - hopefully I don't lose my tolerance before I get home!

TROOM-SUH! TROOM-SUH!

On Sunday evening was the great highlight of the Buddy Tromsø program: The TIL game!

Tromsø IL are the local football team (yes, I’m talking about soccer, but I will refer to it as football throughout the article - habit, I suppose). I’d been looking forward to watching the Norwegian Premier League since, well, since I’d found out it existed. The Buddy Tromsø program graciously arranged for the international students to enjoy a regular-season match at a heavy discount. They only had one request: in exchange for the tickets, we were asked to wear the TIL colours of red and white to show our support.

Can I wear red and white?

Is the Pope Catholic?

I excitedly threw on my cherished ND harlequin-pattern rugby jersey, and headed out for the match! As with any good sports event, there was plenty of fanfare to start off:

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And we settled in to watch the game!

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Besides the wannabe athlete on the left, we have Marte (my Buddy Tromsø buddy) and her friend Michelle (whose father just happens to be Canadian, eh).

We had great seats; not only were we close to the pitch, we were right next to the local booster club. Football cheers are incredible; they are more songs than cheers, with lyrics ranging from the standard (“Go Go Troom-suh!”) to the sub-standard (“Your team is [censored]”) to the strange (“Troom-suh is such a beautiful city!”). It made the game that much more entertaining, and I was extremely thankful for the translation services of my Norwegian friends.

Alas for this Canadian hockey fan, there was only one goal scored the entire match (luckily for us, it was for the home side) and not altogether too many shots on net. Don’t get me wrong, it was still an exciting game, and I enjoyed watching the incredible footwork, ball-handling (especially the headers), and the skill of the players.

I also tried to take some pictures of the match-in-progress, but I could never figure out how to set the shutter speed on my parents' old camera. Luckily for me (and for my fans back home) Linnea and the Nikon came to the rescue once again – enjoy!

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I really do owe her a huge thank-you, I'm going to have some great memories of this trip thanks to one skilled photographer.

Oh, and I’m not trying to say anything about European footballers in general, but the fellow in the background was writhing on the ground in agony for about a minute and a half:

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…and then sprung up as soon as the ref headed over. Impressive recovery, eh?

And to top off an exciting game, we even got a group photo in with (some of) the team!

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Overall, it was spectacular way to end another great week in Norway.

TUSEN TAKK!

As strange as it sounds, the highlight of my football game (and possibly my week) was my purchase of a waffle hot dog (or in Norwegian, vaffel med pølse) from the TIL concession. What made it memorable was the singular kindness with which the old Norwegian babas working the concession treated me – they clued in that I was from Elsewhere, and were extremely pleased to serve a Canadian personally. They helped me decode the menu, and five pairs of eyes anxiously watched as I tried their delicacy, hoping that I would like it.

And to their genuine satsifaction, I smiled. It was delicious.

This little event lasted no more than two minutes, but it really made my day. On reflecting, I realized that I’ve been extremely well treated by all my Norwegian hosts, and for that I’m truly thankful. This experience has been made so much more by the kindness and understanding of professors, classmates, teammates, and the general townspeople – if any of them get around to reading this, know that this Canadian thanks you sincerely and truly.

Until next week, take care, and God Bless.

Posted by adamvigs 04:43 Archived in Norway Comments (3)

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