A Travellerspoint blog

Day 13: High Mom!

It’s a reference to altitude, don’t worry.

I sat down to write today’s blog, and unfortunately for you, not too much of interest happened today. But luckily, I have pictures to distract you!

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I’m not sure if I’ve shown you this mountain before, but it’s called Tromsdalstinden. It’s a big deal around here – stretching up to over 1200 metres, it’s visible from anywhere on the island and is considered sacred by the modern Sami peoples. I’d like to draw your attention to the snow on the top, snow that wasn’t there last week - scary, eh. Winter may not be so far off after all…

THURSDAY AT SCHOOL

Don’t worry, I’m not going to update you on every single class I take – just thought I’d let you know that I had a real two-hour lecture today and that we’ve got our first assignment. (I should really start that at some point…) In other words, the vacation is ending and school is beginning - but seeing as how the classes are SO COOL!, I’m pretty okay with that.

Oh, and another positive: I finally found a bank willing to cash my scholarship cheque! I may still be a second-class citizen, but at least I can afford to live here again.

I headed to the sciences building after school for a little field trip (more on that later). I just want to remark again that every physics / math / chem / comp sci student I’ve met has been spectacular at making me feel welcome – I’ve got a few great examples from the weekend, but you’ll have to wait for the weekend’s posts… if all goes as planned, they’ll be up at the same time as this one (wish me luck!)

HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY

That’s right, it’s cable car day!

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The godfathers (student volunteers) were given the right to take their godchildren up the cable cars for free throughout Welcome Week. And so, of course, I took full advantage of this. We went up:

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and up:

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and finally made it to the top!

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In the picture I showed you of Tromsdalstinden, you can see the shoulders of another mountain to the front-right. This is Storsteinen, the same mountain the cable car takes. At over 400 metres, you get a pretty good view of the entire town:

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…okay, you caught me. I don’t actually own a wide-angle lens. That and the snow may have tipped you off that I didn’t take the picture above.

But I really wanted to show you the whole island at once – you’re welcome.

With my little Canon PowerShot, I was able to capture the University half of the island:

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It’s quite pleasing how much of Tromsøya is still undeveloped – nature pervades the entire island and the city planners have taken great care to not disrupt the landscape too much.

(as Mom and Dad both know, that basically means that there doesn’t exist a straight road on the entire island. Or right-angle corners. Or any sort of logical street layout whatsoever.)

I also got a good shot of the city centre half of the island (my dormitory is in this picture):

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Oh, and a word of advice to anyone who ventures up the cable car: pay the NOK 10 for the sightseeing telescope. It was exceptionally strong, and really gave me an appreciation of the excellent recon you can do from heights with a good pair of binoculars. For example, we got a great shot of the Norwegian naval vessel seen in the above picture.

Amazingly enough, we could also hear a concert in the city centre – and not just noise, but well enough to pick out the cool notes of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. It was pretty cool.

After we finished gazing at the view, we started to explore the plateau we’d been carried to. One of the cool areas we stumbled across was full of loose rock, which a few industrious hikers had reassembled into a familiar Canadian shape:

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Like I’ve said before, everywhere I look, there’s a little piece of home. It’s awesome.

The rest of the night was pretty simple; supper, laundry, and a quick jaunt to Super Thursdays with the Germans at their favourite pub. After a thoroughly enjoyable walk home (I should really start doing that more in Saskatoon), I settled in for the weekend!

MORE RANDOM THOUGHTS

In what may become a running feature, we have more thoughts on nothing at all!

  • Usually, I have to transfer buses on my way to University every morning. But if the wind changes, and the sun slips behind a cloud, the legendary Bus 36 may appear out of the morning mist...

    I’m actually not kidding on this one – they’ve got a bizarre route that only runs about 5 times each day, but when it does, it is the perfect fit – heads directly from my residence to the front gates of the Sciences building. Sometimes, dreams really do come true…

  • I’ve had many conversations about Canada in my two weeks over here, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. Even when the conversation turns to some of our less glorious exploits (Native policies over the years for example – seems to crop up in many of the Indigenous Studies courses), I don’t find myself getting upset. Every country has its high and low points, and I enjoy discussing affairs in Canada and around the world with my new friends.

    (don't worry, the perception of Canada abroad is quite good – I’m just using this as a counterexample to my main point below.)

    However, there is one discussion I’ve had a few times that has worried me a fair bit. To put it bluntly, the perception of ice hockey in Europe is abysmal. Whenever I speak with a non-player or casual shinny player, the conversation immediately turns to the topic of hockey fights and their supposedly crucial role in the North American game. My friends are consistently shocked to hear that not only have I never fought, I’ve only been in a handful of games that have featured fighting.

    I’m not trying to debate the role of the fight in the game, but I just want the record to show two things:

    (1) The predominant visual that non-hockey fans associate with the sport is that of fighting, be it on sports show blooper reel or viral videos on the Internet;

    (rather the same way that we only see bullfighting on our sports shows when someone gets gored or hauled up by their pants)

    (2) Non-fans are consistently surprised and pleased with the speed, skill, and athleticism of hockey WHEN THEY ACTUALLY GET TO SEE IT.

    I hope you don't mind my little rant, but it's just something that's really surpised me, especially in Norway (while they're not at the top of the world hockey podium, most every town has a rink and the population is quite knowledgable about the sport).

Signing off from Tromsø,
Adam

Posted by adamvigs 00:10 Archived in Norway Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Day 12: Plas-huh?

Okay, it’s a lame joke – but in my defense, it’s pretty freakin’ late.

I’ve got a special treat for you at the end of this blog – but first, the short account of my first day at the Auroral Observatory!

MORNING AT NORD LYS OBS.

I awoke to a rather spectacular sight: Snow! Granted, it was only on the mountaintops (we only got rain… lame) but this was still snow in August. Strangely enough, nobody else (besides my roommate) seemed excited about this. For some of the international students who had already broken out their parkas, it may have been an ominous warning of things to come. Or maybe they just missed the majestic dark peaks.

After a quick breakfast, I headed off to the Institute of Physics and Technology! Advantages to my new class location:

  • I get to sleep in,
  • The shortest route to school just so happens to be the ultra-scenic Tromsø Ski Trail, highlighted by a full circumference and a half of Prestvannet Lake (I missed my exit and had to swing around again… Yes, I’m joking. Did I mention it’s late?)

I gladly shouldered the morning rain (which comes nearly every day) on my way to my first “star” class: Introduction to Plasma Physics.

While the title is technically true, don’t make the mistake that I did and associate “Introduction” with “Beginner’s”. The lecture was intense, and I realized that I was going to have to draw on a good portion of my past training to keep up. For the P/EPs in the audience: he mentioned Phase Space (recall PHYS 371) and told us we would need to be extremely familiar with it. For the non-P/EPs in the audience: this was a class in which the vast majority of students were consistently lost. And I’m talking Darkest Africa lost here (remember the Porky Pig cartoon? The one with the dodo? Okay, maybe it's just me).

Just when I was wondering what I had gotten myself into, the professor announced a lecture break. It was then that I learned that even though some of my lecture lectures last for three hours, we get fifteen minute breaks on the hour. Sweet!

AFTERNOON/EVENING

After the back half of the lecture (made me feel a bit less lost than the first half), I headed home for a quick lunch. After that, it was off to school for the Information Fair! (for me, those are like Christmas. I’m not kidding, you even get free stuff at them. Fish jerky for example. It was absolutely revolting and caused me to gag repeatedly, but it was free. Can’t argue with that.)

After ridding myself of the fish jerky and marveling at the efficient bookstore in Tromsø (during textbook season, the U of S Bookstore has longer lines than any bar I’ve seen), I headed downtown to check into football prices. The local club TIL plays Athletic Bilbao next week, and I’m trying to coordinate tickets for a few of us. Once again, if anything pans out, you’ll here about it right here.

Tonight, for a change of pace, I decided on a quiet night in my dorm room. I turned on the cool musical stylings of Sean Boots, fired up the Skype and checked in at home and in the Spectrum office (while they were being paid, no less.. tsk tsk), and worked on my emails and blog. Pleased with how the day had gone (and more resolved than ever to take on these intense courses at full steam), I tucked in for a good night’s sleep.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

As I’ve been writing my, I’ve remembered a handful of somewhat entertaining anecdotes. They didn’t happen today – in fact, some of them don’t have a date associated with them at all. However, I thought it would be neat to share them with you, just to give you a taste of my life up here. So here they are – enjoy!

  • As I’ve been here, I’ve learned that the North American English accent is consistently the easiest for foreigners to understand (they curse the British dialects and the absolutely insane amount of unique words that Australians can use). However, I was quite taken aback when one of my Norwegian friends told me he wished that I, “talk more like a Canadian.” Confused, I asked him what he meant, and he replied, “you know, words like ‘aboot’ and such.” At which point I called him a hoser and told him to take off, eh. Unfortunately, Bob and Doug are only stereotypes inside Canada – more’s the pity.

  • Speaking of language, the Norwegians have an interesting perspective on their own. We have been told by our Norwegian professors (I am not making this up) that “really, there’s not much point in learning Norwegian – I mean, we’re the only ones who speak it”. Furthermore, the people I’ve met are not the least bit put off when you speak English to them, and accommodate foreigners without any sign of contempt whatsoever. It’s amazing how they manage to preserve their language (and a part of their heritage) without compromising their ability to be capable businessmen and excellent hosts. And they don’t even have to bother with a measuring tape to decide which language is written larger on the sign out front. Astounding.

  • A few of the European males I’ve met have been somewhat… effeminate. Now, I’m not trying to make a statement about European males as a whole, but I do have one funny, funny story to share with you. We were touring the city centre and Jamie (for those of you just tuning in, this Jamie is a girl) pulls a little bottle of jasmine hand lotion out of her purse. Instantly, one of our male compadres (who shall remain nameless) was full of curiousity: “What is that? Ooh, it smells good. Can I have some? Where would you buy this?” Upon seeing my look of horror, his face fell. “This is for girls, yes? Then I probably shouldn’t, else you’ll make fun. But it is so nice!”

    Like I said, not all Europeans. Just this one. And according to the Great Don Cherry (as you're recall, the 7th Greatest Canadian), the NHLers with face shields.

  • At the grocery store, you can buy beers individually. And I mean any beer. Even if it’s part of a plastic / cardboard sixpack (I don’t think I’ve seen twelves). You just rip it out and buy one, two, three, however many you want. Seeing as how there’s no price break for multiples, it’s pretty convenient, but I’m sure SLGA would not be overly keen on implementing such a system.

  • Current fashion styles: thick black glasses, pants tucked into socks, and socks & sandals. I’m halfway there!

    Oh, and when I say thick black glasses, I mean like the Apollo 13 engineers wore. It’s scary.

  • Every business (not the stores, thank God) in this town shuts down at three o’clock in the afternoon. And I mean lights-out, door locked. No banks, no university staff, nothing. It definitely takes getting used to – though the workday on their end must be pretty sweet.

I hope you enjoyed that random foray into my mind – take care, and I’ll post soon! (but maybe after the weekend – it looks like a good one)

Posted by adamvigs 11:58 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 11: First day of classes

My first attempt at Norwegian Immersion.

Remember before when I said that school was starting? Well, after that last week of orientation that felt more like a vacation, I have to revise my earlier statement.

NOW school starts.

But first, I have errands to run.

SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN?

I first dropped in to the police station to have my student visa authorized (they superglued this cool certificate into my passport – I’d show you a picture, but even I know that’s a bad thing to put on the internet).

After that, I headed to the bank to open a bank account, only to be told that I needed a Norwegian SIN number to do so. So I visited the town registry, and found out that I don’t qualify for a SIN number. Damn.

You know, there’s nothing like registry at the police station and refusals at the bank AND town office to really make you feel welcome. But don’t worry, I’m already working around it. If nothing else, this trip should teach me adaptability. Case in point: the completely different campus that lay ahead.

BACK TO THE REAL WORLD

After finishing a few more errands downtown, I headed to the University to eat my lunch, check out main-student Orientation, and relax before my first class in Numerical Simulations.

Campus was much different on Tuesday than Monday. No longer were we just 250, primarily speaking English but fluent in more languages than I’ve heard in my life. Now we were eight thousand (one-eighth the population of the city) and the language of the world was Norwegian. For the first time, I felt a little out of place. Come to think of it, it’s a total credit to the International Office and the Tromsø population as a whole that it took eleven days for that to happen – everyone’s gone out of their way to make us feel welcome, right down to the stockboy who helped me decode the supermarket bread selection.

I headed upstairs to the student residence office to ask them a few questions about my dorm. I’m not sure about the rest of Norway, but Tromsø has the whole take-a-number system down to an electronic art. At this point in the day, I’d accumulated chits from:

  • SpareBank
  • DNB NOR (bank)
  • Postebank
  • Population Registry
  • Student Housing
  • Student Financing

Whether it stems from a need for organization or simply an aversion to standing in line, the whole system is highly appreciated from my end. Plus, I was able to give the student residence counter nearly any number she happened to call out. Useful, that.

FLAMETHROWER!!!

Got your attention? It got mine too – they were using them to control the weeds popping up through the sidewalk. I can only imagine the chaos that’d result if Notre Dame adopted the same technique.

Especially during the summer when the local kids are working.

For example, they had this one girl working for them this summer, a townie in Grade 11 – well, let’s just say there wouldn’t be any weeds left. Or anything else for that matter.

THE (GOD)FADDERS

I found my way into the NatSci cafeteria, and settled in for lunch. While I was eating, one of the Math students came over to grab his bag and introduced himself. His friends soon arrived, and I found myself becoming quickly acquainted with the elusive social target that is the Norwegian student. You may think that’s a strange thing to say, but the special manner in which the international students are treated can make it difficult indeed to meet proper Norwegians.

As it turned out, the two friends of the Math student were participating in the Fadder 2009 program. They were acting as “godfathers” to incoming first-year students, who were then their “fadderbarn”, or godchildren. As to their choice of terminology: they claimed it was inspired by the church tradition, but I believe they rather enjoyed the Mafioso overtones.

Even though I’m in most of the same classes as the Fadders, I was still a first-year, and they convinced me to join their otherwise Norwegian group. We bullshooted for a while, then I headed down to class with one of the fadders.

AN OFFER I COULDN'T REFUSE

After a routine I’m the prof/here’s my contact info/here’s the textbook intro lecture, I headed home to grab a quick meal. (turns out my fish was just as good as leftovers too).

At the arranged time, I headed down to the student bar driv (I’m not an alcoholic, I promise – they have a lot going on there) for the fadder-fadderbarn meet and greet. I met up with my fadders and we collected as many of our group (all in Physics) as we ran into. Once again, I felt a little like a fish out of water – but I was getting used to it and found myself more comfortable in the Norwegian surroundings.

After about an hour at the discotheque, the fadders decided that they weren’t able to properly meet or greet their fadderbarn, and our group set out for a “little place we know”.

What followed was an highly enjoyable evening, full of great laughs, good advice, questions about Physics and Tromsø from me, questions about Canada from the other side, and above all, relatively cheap beer. I was floored at how willing the table was to revert to English to include me in the conversation, and my fadders (Jørgen and Vidar) were quick to translate anything for my eager ears.

And to thank them, I did my best to learn as much Norwegian as I could. I went through most of the menu with one of the other upper-years – as always, it’s much easier (especially with names) when I can read the language as opposed to just hearing it. Now, I can even ask for the bathroom in two ways: the polite way and the funny way. Hopefully I remember which is which.

Vidar kindly offered to walk with me up the hill, and we set out, chatting rapidly as we went. I said farewell to him when we made it to his street. As I walked away, I marveled at the fact that I had just spent an entire evening out on the town with an entire group of Norwegian students. It would seem that I might just have found my way into the local social life – at least, what social life a Space Engineer can have. In short, it was a great way to end my first school day.

Posted by adamvigs 15:14 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

Day 10: Orientation Kaput!

Wait, what, ten days already?

Good news: Orientation is almost over, so no more boring information sessions! (meaning you don’t have to hear about them).

Bad news (for you at least): Real classes are starting soon, and they don’t exactly appreciate cameras in-class, so these updates are going to be a text affair. I promise, I’ll use all sort of elegant design elements like they taught us in Speak ‘n Spell (a mandatory communications course for U of S Engineers – despite the nickname, it’s actually fairly useful).

MORNING: WORST. REFERENCE. EVER.

Feeling like a certain copyrighted orange cat as I dragged myself to school Monday morning, I was surprised to see that attendance was being recorded at the door. Apparently they weren’t kidding about the Obligatory Nature of the Use of Sources course.

The hour and a half that followed was painful even for me, and I’ve only written a handful of research papers in my three years of Engineering. The presenter went through every singly elementary detail of sourcing and bibliographies. Her presentation was peppered with quizzes such as the following:

“The title of this work is underlined. Can anyone tell me what that means?”

I’m anything but an expert on world education, but I rather think that university students (some of whom have their Master’s degree) can pick out the title of a book when they see it. The students around me from Law and Humanities were especially unimpressed that they had to sit through such a lecture. We weren’t exactly keen on being dragged to school in the early hours of a Monday for a completely useless course. At one point, the presenter mentioned, “if you ever consult anyone else’s work in any type of home assignment, you MUST document it.”

I quickly thought of a question not unlike the following one:

“When I perform a derivative, will I have to credit Leibniz or Newton?
Personally, I prefer Leibniz’s notation, but Newton’s can be much tidier in classical mechanics.”

However, I elected to politely ask whether we would have to reference our textbooks on all Physics / Math assignments. The presenter was rather stunned with the challenge of a natural science question; it would seem that field of study doesn’t cross her path too often. She finally admitted that she had no idea and that I should discuss it with my professors.

I think I'll be fine.

HIGHLIGHTS

All doom and gloom aside, there was one bright point out of the lecture: our presenter was the head of the library, and encouraged us to use the free copying and printing whenever we needed us.

I’m still reeling from that one. I can’t even think about the amount of paper the U of S would go through if they stopped charging students. The inappropriate photocopies of body parts alone would require half the trees in Southern Saskatchewan.

Similarly, I was entertained by the phrase “Are you an information homebird?” I chuckled at this title (on the flyer for home library access), as I have at a few of the more interesting comments from the international students (one of the Germans asked a Canadian to “wear him” – it took a good five minutes before we worked out that he meant “carry”). However, I’m all too aware of how my Norwegian must sound to the locals, so I’ve been trying to take these as precautions; similarly, I’ve been careful not to rely too heavily on my phrasebook after watching a certain Monty Python sketch: DIRTY HUNGARIAN PHRASEBOOK

NOTE: I am not responsible for any of the content on YouTube - laugh at your own risk.

FYSIKKS!

After our final group session (where I got to draw Akershus in crayon!), we finally headed off to the Natural Sciences building to meet our faculty coordinators. When we arrived, our coordinator had some unexpected news for us.

Apparently, we couldn’t go on a walking tour of the Physics department.

Why, you ask? Well, the reason is simply this: Physics isn’t in the natural sciences building. It isn’t even on campus. No, the Institute of Physics and Technology is located at the Auroral Observatory, a beautiful little building tucked away by Prestvannet Lake on top of the island.

In other words, we had our own little campus. Which just happens to be an easy (and scenic) walk from my house.

This place just keeps getting better.

As we toured the building, I was pleased with the similarities to the EP program back home. Here, too, were small classes, friendly first-name-basis professors, and a great learning environment. I was just shy of beaming when we left for the day – these guys meant business, and it appeared that I’d made a great exchange choice.

DRIV???

We headed for lunch to the student club driv, the very same bar that Dad and Mom wrote off as “a dump with falling-apart couches”. Imagine my surprise when we arrived at the third floor and found ourselves in a candlelit dining room with white tablecloths and shining silverware.

After one last feast courtesy of the University (the meatballs – wow!) and a short information session (caught up with the SCUBA club – if it pans out, you’ll hear more), the official International Student program ended. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and I’ll try my best to make the rest of my time as entertaining as this last week was.

LAST NIGHT OF FREEDOM

I headed home for the day and began to assemble my shopping list. I had to make sure to make it out of the store before 6 pm – we were having “ghetto beers” on the balcony later that night (Tom having dubbed our concrete slab building “the ghetto”).

Tonight marked the long-awaited first meal of North Atlantic seafood! Before I'd left, Mark Fredheim had told me what a treat I was in for (for the Hounds out there, he's Jenaca's dad - a West Coast fisherman). Mark was right - my fish (only about 30 hours old) was mouthwateringly tasty. And so very tender - it flaked apart at the slightest touch. I was extremely satisfied with the whole affair, even though I'm sure my cooking was far less than optimal (I really need to buy some more spices). I may have to go fishing again - it's far cheaper and tastier than buying fish frozen at the store, that's for sure.

After few relaxing half-litres with Tom, Jamie, and the Germans (and a few Norwegians), I settled in for the good night’s sleep I’d been missing. Tomorrow, school!

(I also tried out Skype’s phone service for the first time tonight - insanely cheap, I highly recommend it.)

Goodnight!

Posted by adamvigs 12:34 Archived in Norway Comments (2)

Day 9: Fjord!

No explanation required

There’s only one story for today: Grøtfjord.

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Today, the International Office at the university took us on a field trip! We crossed the island of Kvaløya (which protects Tromsøya from the open ocean) and made our way to Grøtfjord, a small inlet looking out over the North Atlantic:

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I’d love to show you the drive up: the piercingly blue glacial lakes, the waterfalls, the jagged cliffs, and the ice-capped summits of our mountain surroundings. However, I have not yet mastered the art of taking pictures from the bus, and so you’ll just have to take my word for it on this one. For the record, I enjoyed the ride immensely.

ARRIVAL

We pulled up to our destination and two hundred jaws dropped simultaneously. Somehow, the University had booked us an idyllic little picnic ground on the water’s edge with a beautiful natural-sand beach and a stream running through it:

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Nestled within our site was a traditional wood-burning Scandinavian hot tub and sauna:

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As well as a pair of all-weather shelters complete with wood-burning stoves for added warmth:

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they certainly came in handy as the night went on.

Oh, and did I mention the view from the beach?

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You know how there are some moments you just can’t capture on film? Well this was once of them. This place had it all – mountains, the ocean, the beach, the freshwater stream, the forest, and even a few small farms. Wow.

After we got over our initial awe of our surroundings (the landscape would continue to interrupt my train of thought throughout the day), the students split into groups. The first group were those who had signed up to go mountain-climbing; they would eventually wind up at the top of the mountain immediately north of the village:

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while the rest of us would take turns testing our luck at sea with the local fisherman:

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Needless to say, I was torn. Finally resolving that the mountains will always be there, I decided to take full advantage of the offer to set out with a genuine North Atlantic Fisherman.

FISHING!

As luck would have it, my delayed decision afforded me a rather amazing opportunity. Most of the boats had already left, each of them carrying five or six students chattering excitedly while the fisherman quietly wondered how quickly one of them would fall overboard. However, when I got to the launch there was only a few students left. After some shuffling, I wound up in a small fishing rowboat (with a 25-horse outboard) that belonged to a fisherman named Jan. The passengers for the day included me – and Jan. That was it.

I spent the next two hours floating on the Atlantic, enjoying the simple pleasure of jigging for cod (which may be illegal in Canada, come to think of it – if anyone can confirm / deny this, please do). Adding to the experience was the fact that I was all alone with the fisherman – rather than make conversation with my fellow students, I was able to get to know Jan. We talked about Canada and Norway, we talked about farming and fishing, work and school and family. He pointed out his house in the village to the south:

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and told me of his adrenaline pursuits: free diving (up to 75 metres!) and all the mountains he’d climbed as a youth, including all those around Grøtfjord. A few of them lay to the north-west of us:

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(note: there’s village in this picture too)

And the best part of the whole experience: I managed to catch my first three fish! Like a true fisherman, Jan filleted them right there on the boat, tossing the rest to the gulls (who had been following us the whole time… clever bastards, eh). And oddly enough, Jan apologized at the end of the trip because his boat like this one:

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was up the coast in Finnmark – little did he know that the small boat made the experience that much more incredible. All in all, I wound up with 3 fish, a personal guide, a boat, and an unforgettable two hours - definitely worth the price of admission.

And guess what? The mountains were still there the next day, ready to be hiked.

On our way back in, I snapped a quick picture of the small little village:
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I cannot overstate the raw beauty of this little hidden corner that we visited – if you ever make your way to Northern Norway, I recommend it as highly as any monument, castle, or palace you can think of. Including Akershus in Oslo.

After the highly successful fishing trip (made sweeter by the fact that a few people seemed to think it involved skill on my part), I was in a celebratory mood. And what better way to celebrate than to swim in the water you just fished.

Actually, swimming may not be the proper word. The water temperature was in the mid-single digits, so it was really more of a get-in get-out get-to-the-sauna affair. Jumping into that woodstove hot tub after the near-ice bath made every part of my body scream in relief. It was incredible.

After drying off, we tucked into a great barbeque supper cooked right there on the beach by the student volunteers. And after that, we all circled up for the main entertainment of the evening: the Cultural Presentations.

AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY MINUTES

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In a nutshell, students from each country were allotted five minutes in which to present something unique from home. It could be a song, dance, game, or anything else cultural you could present on a beach with no A/V system, no Powerpoint, and no mood lighting. In other words, you actually had to be creative

Our Canadian contingent in Tromsø consists of students from Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Whitehorse / Manitoba. We struggled to think of one tradition we could present as a group – there were so many aspects of Canada and so little time. Likewise, we had a hard time coming up with a song or dance that was common to us all – my prairie backround doesn’t exactly overlap with Mike’s Native traditions or Lisa-Marie’s life on the St. Lawrence.

However, like good Canadians, we found (what I thought) was a great solution. Lisa-Marie had brought a children’s puzzle of Canada, and that proved to be our starting point:

“Canada, you see, is kind of like a puzzle. There’s a lot of very different pieces, and they don’t always fit together.”

And we just ad-libbed it. Mike talked about his life in Whitehorse and his one-of-a-kind smoked-reindeer-hide baseball cap (you really have to see this thing – his grandmother made it all from scratch using only the inner brim from an old cap). Then the floor went to Lisa-Marie, who exhorted the Quebecois and the “home of maple seerup!”. And finally, the good old Saskatchewan contingent spoke of the prairies, and of the ROUGHRIDERS!!! (Jamie had her jersey on for game day, of course - kickoff was at 1 AM our time).

And to top it all off, we sang the song that we felt all of us could identify with – and it wasn’t even the anthem.

THAT OTHER NATIONAL ANTHEM

Using my hockey skates as a nice segue (aside: my skates have been to a beach and now have sand in them. Never saw that coming), I began a story:

“In our home country, we have a lot of contemporary musicians that play popular music you hear on the radio. However, we have one fellow who’s become famous for singing all about our country, and he’s been around longer than any of them. He’s been singing about our country for over fifty years and when he plays, he stomps the stage so hard that he wears a hole clean right through it.”

And then we (or rather I with some halfhearted backing) proceeded to belt out“The Hockey Song” to residents of fifty-odd countries.

On a beach in a Norwegian fjord.

I’ve said it before. You can’t make this stuff up.

WIND-UP AND HOMETIME

After the thunderous applause died down, we settled in to watch the rest of the presentations. The Polish demonstration of a traditional wedding game was particularly enjoyable. A blindfolded groom had to select his bride from the crowd based only on the shape of her knee, while the bride had to find her man based only on the shape of his nose. Luckily for the happy couple, they both passed the test.

By the time we worked our way through the countries, it was fairly late and we were glad for the warm busses home. Alex (my roommate) was kind enough to help me season my fish (don’t forget I got to keep the fillets!) and we prepared it for my meal the next day.

Once again, I collapsed into bed. And once again, it had been a great day. Maybe I should drop this whole school thing and just head to different International Student Oreintations.

Posted by adamvigs 11:11 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

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