A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8: Hiking Tromsøya

Including sports as you've never seen them before...

Morning!

It’s the weekend, and everyone’s relaxing. For me, this means I get a vacation from my long-winded blogging ways! Today & tomorrow’s entries are going to be mostly picture-driven – and as you’ll see, that’s not going to be a bad thing.

FAREWELL

Saturday morning came far too early for all three of us. While I shut my eyes tight and tried to catch a few more winks, Mom and Dad made their final baggage check. The taxi arrived, and I said goodbye to the last family I’ll see for four months. I was overwhelmed by emotion – though it was primarily a burning desire to go back to bed. All kidding aside, I’m very glad they both came up for a vacation – it was special to share part of this journey with them.

THE MARKET

After sleeping in until nearly noon (which is unheard of in my world), I headed to UiT for the International Student Secondhand Market. More than just a garage sale, it was like Sheps on Hot Wing Friday – everything’s up for grabs, first-come first-served, and if the big guy gets ahead of you in line, you may wind up with little more than scraps.

(especially if he’s also loading up plates to take back to his room.)

Imagine, if you will, fifty students told that everything in sight is theirs for the taking – as long as someone doesn’t take it first.

That’s right – STAMPEDE!!!

When the clock struck two, the mob pounced. It was worse than the mall on December 24th. However, I planned out my route in advance, and wound up with the following:

  • desk lamp
  • full utensil set
  • pot
  • pan
  • spatula
  • office supplies
  • extension cord
  • pillow

Did I mention it was all free? Pretty neat, eh? There was a donation box for Amnesty International, and even though they didn’t issue charitable donation receipts, I dropped in a little thank-you for the well-priced merchandise.

We headed up to the Café Bodega for more waffles and tea – I swear, those things can cause chemical dependency.

THE FIRST HIKE

Resolving to not waste the entire day, I and three of the other international students decided to attempt the hike across the island. Tromsøya is mostly populated about the edges, and there is quite a bit of wilderness in the middle. The city maintains a walking / cross-country skiing path along the whole length of the island, and this provides a very pleasant and direct path for any sort of man-powered transport.

After half our party decided they’d rather sleep, Linnea (the Finn) and I set out from my dormitory (Elverhøy in the south-centre of the island) to hers (Ørndalen on the north end of the island). As the crow flies, it’s just over six kilometers – not too long, and not too short. We set out to learn more about the island and to take some great pictures. However, my little Canon Powershot was quickly outclassed by her Nikon Digital SLR, with tripod, a massive zoom lens, and a little tray of flash powder.

(okay, I made that one up – but it would have been pretty cool.)

Hopefully, you enjoy my pictures – I’ll try to get the better ones later!

BEAUTIFUL TROMSØYA

Our first stop was at Prestvannet Lake, a small but scenic body of water on top of the island:

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A short walk from my residence, I found out later that I’ll be seeing it a lot – but you’ll have to wait until Monday’s account for that story. There’s also something about being on a lake on an island that’s pretty cool – kind of like when you get two mirrors together…

Next, there was this absolutely beautiful stand of spruce in an otherwise mixed forest that completely struck me as something you’d find at Clear Lake:

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I hope I managed to capture it, but trust me, it would have been very difficult to realize that I was not near Wasagaming, MB (the rest of the island is more of a mixed forest).

THE GREAT NORWEGIAN SPORTS PARK

We’d seen signs for some sort of sports park up ahead. We came into a clearing and I was immediately distracted by the mountains. Again. You’d think by now I’d be adjusted… but still no.

However, when my sights came back to ground level:

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I jumped for joy.

No, actually. I did. Feet left the ground and everything. It wasn’t pretty, and it sure as hell wasn’t high, but it was a jump.

And of course we stepped inside:

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You know, the polar bear is a tough winter animal – I wonder why I haven’t see them as hockey mascots more often.

Oh, and while looking up and seeing thousands of screaming fans is the Canadian dream, this view isn’t so bad either:

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We continued on through the sports park and came upon this amazing sight:

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Once again, wow. I would be completely useless at any outdoor sport here – I’d just stand there staring…

WINDING DOWN

Our hike then took a turn further away from the city. We passed the University ski jump (terrifyingly high - but I still wanna do it) and a few more small, peaceful lakes with campfire smoke in the air.

We finally arrived at Ørndalen, and I was surprised at the quick feeling of envy welling up in me. Not only is the view absolutely spectacular:

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but they all live in little vacation-type houses of beautiful hardwood floors and furniture. It was like a vacation home – seeing as how three Canadians, Linnea, and a few of my other friends liver there, I think I might have to visit more often.

It was well after suppertime, so I hitched a ride back home, fried up the leftovers from when I had good cooks, and crashed into bed. The next day I knew was going to be a long one.

Posted by adamvigs 10:39 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

Day 7: First thoughts on Canada and Norway

We're not so different, you and I...

Friday dawned bright and sunny, good news for our scheduled day out on the town. As promised, here’s a picture of the mountains you can see from my room (courtesy of Mom and Dad):

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I’m sure that at some point, I’ll get used to the mountains and tire of taking pictures of them incessantly – however, that day was not today.

PARALLELS

We started the morning off with a Lecture on Norwegian Culture. It actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting; in fact, I was rather entertained. I’d been suspecting for a while that Norway and Canada weren’t nearly as different as one might think. I’m going to present you with a few statements that the presenter made about Norway, and allow you to draw your own conclusions:

  • “We’re not Swedes or Danes or anything else…”
  • “We’re very proud of our geography…”
  • “We don’t all live in little villages…”
  • “Other countries think we have no culture / not civilized…”
  • “We’re a young country, and our government has worked hard to establish a cultural identity…”
  • “We are the home of the most important sport in the world…”
  • “We have a minority of indigenous peoples who are an integral part of our country, and we’re overcoming a troubled past of assimilation…”
  • “Everyone has a country house they ESCAPE to, to reimmerse themselves in the hardships of nature…”
  • “We are a peacemaking country…”
  • “We are the land of snow and ice…”

Hmm. I don’t know about you, but a lot of that seems to ring a bell.

TOURING

After a more yawn-inducing information sessions and a snack break (reason number 18 that a murse would be handy: I could have stowed a few bunches of grapes in there like all the girls did. Not that I want a handbag, just noting the advantages), we headed onto the bus for a guided tour of the island.

I learned two things on this bus trip:

Number one, pictures almost never turn out well out of a bus window. Remember that: it will save you a lot of pain later. You will get much more out of the trip if you sit back and enjoy the ride.

The picture of the public library was an exception to that rule:

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Neat building, eh? And they have free wireless and great movies to borrow as well as the standard books, magazines, and newspapers.

Second, and most importantly, I finally met a student in space physics!! His name’s Alex, he’s from Austria, and he’s in at least half of my classes! I was beginning to worry that I was going to be alone; he seems like a great guy and he lives within a few blocks of me, so I’ll have someone to get notes from.

After the bus tour, we set out for a walking tour of downtown. I did a double-take when we walked past the pleasure harbour:

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(I wasn’t able to frame the photograph well to draw your attention properly, so I’ll go ahead and point out that the ship in the middle was christened Saskatoon. You’re welcome.)

It would seem that there's a little piece of home everywhere I go. After marveling at the boat for a little while longer, I took a picture of the beautiful inner harbour of Tromsø:

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The yellow house in the middle is Driv, the university discotheque. Remember that, it will come up again later.

YOU DAMN CANADIANS ARE EVERYWHERE!

Myself and two friends split off from the main tour group when we arrived at the Police Station – as a non-EU citizen, I needed to check in within 7 days of my arrival in Norway. Afterwards, we caught a bus to the University Museum, doing our best to catch up to the tour group and the next round of free snacks that awaited us.

En route, we had the fortune to run into a Canadian ex-pat who had married a Norwegian and had made her home in Tromsø for the past decade. She was ecstatic to meet a Canadian student, and told me excitedly of her arrival in Tromsø and her first year here.

After helping with our bus stop and pointing us towards the museum, she bade us farewell and insisted that I call her if I needed anything at all while I was on her island. As she receded, my Finnish friend made the comment that titles this section.

I took it as a compliment.

Oh, and for the record, Andrea was the third Canadian I’ve met from Ontario. You’re thinking Toronto, Ottawa, maybe Kitchener-Waterloo or Windsor?

Not even close.

Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Fort Frances. If only the McKays from Dryden were here to see this.

PICNIC!

After a refreshingly short museum trip (highlights: an exhibit on the Northern Lights and a huge fossilized fish), we headed down to the water’s edge for a picnic with the other international students. And of course, this means more pictures!

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I suppose that the scenery is a little different than Saskatchewan – but only just a little bit.

DINNER & DRIV

I made my way back home, and had a simple dinner of schnitzel, potatoes, and Tromsø-grown turnips (small and intense). I was pretty beat from the day’s travels, but as it was Mom and Dad’s last night in Tromsø, we all headed down to the water’s edge for a last visit to town. They excitedly took me to their greatest find: a grocery store deli which sold seafood takeout for cheap cheap! (even by Canadian standards).

After a few more pictures around the waterfront, I headed to driv, the student club, for the party to be held that night. I enjoyed a discounted beer (at NOK 35, it weighed in at $6.25 CAD a pint – expensive, but acceptable), and despite the fact that there was nothing resembling country music on the speakers, I managed to teach a Danish girl how to two-step. After a rather enjoyable evening, I checked the bus schedules and realized I was in for a long wait. Since it was rather chilly, I elected to attempt the walk home – and yes, it was uphill the whole way (according to Google Earth, I climbed some thirty stories – not bad, eh). Exhausted, I flopped into bed for a short but restful sleep. It was the weekend!

Posted by adamvigs 14:31 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

Day 6: Orientation-tation-tation…

Because that’s how long it felt.

Good morning again!

I let myself have a little fun last night (more on that later) so I wound up skipping a blog post. However, that means you now get two posts for the price of one!

THURSDAY AT SCHOOL

After a rather spectacular breakfast of eggs and toast (Dad’s specialty: hold the bread over the hot element of the stove), I headed to school for day two of orientation. The schedule for the day had us separated into groups and herded about the campus for such things as bus cards, rent deposit, class registration, and the like. Overall, it looked to be a rather productive morning, with very little time spent sleeping in the auditorium.

Unfortunately (and rather predictably) the rigorously-planned morning quickly fell apart. The stations were taking longer than expected, and the morning quickly devolved into a chaotic mess. Luckily, I managed to sneak in to most of the lines at low points, and I made it out of the morning having accomplished the entire list - including the all-important scholarship check pickup!

LUNCH!

Once again, I wound up arriving for lunch a little late (due to my somewhat obsessive intent to complete the list) and found myself with few options for tables. I settled in at an uneaten sandwich and introduced myself to my neighbours. As with the French at the previous day’s dinner, I had surrounded myself with students who had a country and a language in common. After shaking off this little bit of déjà vu, I began to chat with my Russian tablemates.

Trust me, you’re going to like this part.

I took a small stab in the dark and mentioned that I had a rather strong Ukrainian tradition in my family. The Slavic peoples aren’t overly well represented at Tromsø, so I was immediately the centre of attention. And I gave it my all. They looked at me in disbelief as I told them of my Zrymiak family traditions (along with the proper names for the food) and of the strong Ukrainian community on the prairies; they were amazed to learn of classes in Ukrainian and of our festivals of food, dance, and song (apparently, Ruslana IS a big deal – they were very impressed that she went all the way to Dauphin this year). I recalled every single word of Ukrainian I learned two long years ago at the U of S, and by the end of my little spiel they were all chatting of the insanity that these traditions should still exist in Canada, so far away in time and space from those who left long ago.

I guess that’s what’s meant by intercultural learning, eh.

And icing on the cake: it turned out that the Russian student at my right was studying linguistics. I joked that thanks to Engineering, I could read Greek fluently. She called my bluff, stating that there was no way that I could spell her name in Greek as well as in Russian (i.e. Cyrillic). Checking the nametag, I rattled off:

alpha nu nu alpha
pi omega pi omega phi alpha

(I got stuck on the “v” in popova, so I had to use a “f” sound – I don’t think that the Ancient Greek alphabet had a letter for “v”)

Oh, the ways in which an Engineering Physics degree can come in handy.

THE TWO TOURS

After this rather enjoyable little lunch, I headed out for the campus tour in the afternoon. We even made it to the sports centre, where I sadly learned they had converted the squash courts to a cardio room (sigh… don’t people know they can run outside?). My mood changed when we arrived at the student-run Café Bodega, where the waffles are hot, the proprietors are loud, and the languages are many. I relished my first waffle and ordered one to go for Mom and Dad. The cook winked at me, handed me my waffle on two perfectly good plates and told me, “As far as the cafeteria knows, these plates are already lost.”

Waffles, free tea, and two new plates. Wow.

I met Mom and Dad at the university bus stop, and we enjoyed the waffle served hot from my new plates. We then took a quick tour around the school. Even better, we remembered the camera!

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This is the commons of the Universitet i Tromsø – it’s a bit larger than Regina’s, but not nearly so big as Saskatoon’s. However, they do have a rather large number of off-campus buildings.

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This is the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences – the closest thing Tromsø has to Engineering. In other words, this is my new home!

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The coolest building by far was the Fisheries college – they’ve got a river running through their atrium:

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and the entrance is a-piers quite unique:

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(speaking of which, a moat might just keep the Agros out too… interesting)

And what would a Norwegian university be without a few ski jumps?

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NOTE: THESE ARE WAY HIGHER THAN THEY LOOK

And finally, we have the Observatory:

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A rather attractive building, though useless for at least 4 months of the year due to the sun. Ah well, we’re going to get night soon enough.

After Mom and Dad had their fill of the university, we headed downtown to continue our quest for the cheap fish place.

DINNER PLANS?

A half-dozen menus later, the quest was put on hold and we decided instead to have a quick beer at a pub. So naturally, we went to the train station:

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This pub is called the Tromsø Jernbane Stasjon, which quite literally means Tromsø Train Station. Unfortunately, the train tracks end some 300 km away. So naturally, the locals turned to alcohol to ease the pain of never having a train at their station.

The décor was nice enough (yes, that’s a real train seat I’m sitting in) and the prices were typical of a Tromsø bar. But I’ll let you see for yourself:

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For the record, the exchange between NOK and CAD hovers around 5:1. So if you double each price and move the decimal place (80 becomes 160 becomes 16), you get an idea of the approximate prices.

In other words, a Long Island Iced Tea will set you back a cool $19 CAD. Makes the ones at the Rider games seem like a gift, eh.

Astronomical prices accepted, we each enjoyed a drink. Mom had a glass of Akkavit, Dad had a locally-brewed beer (northernmost brewery in the world) and I had a Hennessy cognac. Strangely enough, it’s an extremely popular drink among the local university students – I supposed if you’re going to pay so much for basic alcohol (e.g. NOK 76 for a vodka shot) it’s not too much to pay another ten NOK and have something worth drinking.

The evening passed by rather quickly – thanks to a quick trip to the University computer store, I had the obscure Windows fix I needed to hook up to the dorm network. The evening flew by as email accounts were checked, news read, and blogs were updated. After an enjoyable dinner of macaroni, we headed to bed.

Posted by adamvigs 00:27 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

Day 5: First Day of School

It's only a matter of time before they realize what a hopeless geek I am.

It’s go time.

For all you avid readers out there, this is a sad day indeed. Gone are the carefree days of sightseeing, picture taking, restaurant eating, and general touristy travels. Today, I begin my academic life – classes at the U of Tromsø (UiT, for short) in the following subjects:

  • Introduction to Plasma Physics
  • Numerical Simulations
  • Introduction to Satellite and Rockets Techniques and Space Instrumentation

and one of:

  • Cosmic Geophysics
  • Sustainable Energy

Pretty cool, eh? But on to today’s account!

TO SCHOOL!

After a sleep through a night when it never really got dark (deep twilight, but not dark), I woke up cursing the alarm. It felt like school already. I showered (very nice bathroom – I’ll throw a picture up sometime) and chowed down on the breakfast of champions - peanut butter, a banana, a bun, and a pølske (hot dog) – and not necessarily in that order. I packed up my things and headed out to take on my first day of school!

On my way out of the dormitory, I held the door for the girl behind me like a good gentlemen. Her quick thank-you-I’m-Jamie showed no trace of an accent. Thinking quickly, I asked if she was headed to the international student orientation. Her yes led naturally into the question of what country she was from.

Turns out she was Canadian.

Turns out she was from Swift Current.

Turns out she goes to the U of S and lives six blocks from me in Saskatoon.

Small world, eh?

No really, I mean it. We’re not talking small world as in oh-I-had-no-idea-your-family-had-a-cabin-at-this-lake. Think about this for a second. I’m thousands of kilometers and eight time zones away from home, on a tiny island above the Arctic Circle in a town that 99 percent of the people in my life were completely unaware of, and the FIRST STUDENT I MEET ON THE FIRST DAY LIVES AT 11TH AND WIGGINS.

You just can’t make this stuff up. Believe me, I’ve tried. And it’s often a much more enjoyable story than the truth. But the travel blog is too sacred for that.

Small talk comes quite easily when you’re a Canadian speaking to another Canadian in a foreign country, so we had no problem passing the five-minute walk to the bus stop and the ensuing fifteen minute wait. At the stop, we met the other international student from our dorm, a corking Brit named Tom.

(p.s. Even though I'm going to be taking the bus every day to school, I STILL think UPASS is a SOCIALIST CROCK.)

UNIVERSITET I TROMSØ

After a quick bus transfer, we arrived at the university. Bluntly refusing to follow the flock of international students like sheep, I struck out a course for parts unknown with Tom and Jamie in tow. Luckily for them, I quickly caved and consulted a map, then meekly followed the path the sheep had taken. Undeterred, I firmly believe my trailblazing will save the day – wait and see.

Today was day one of orientation. Luckily for you, I’m going to relay neither the incredible amount of boring information I absorbed today, nor the numbing experience of standing in line after line. You’re welcome.

Instead, I’ll give you a few quick highlights (no pictures today folks, so it’s imagination time!):

Interesting characters I met along the way:

  • A Swedish-speaking Finn named Linnea with flawless English and a decent handle on Norwegian; very good source on all things Scandinavia;
  • A well-spoken Belgian named Pieter who introduced me in the otherwise-lame group session – he had the gift of bullshooting and enjoyed spinning tales about all the space classes I was planning to take;
  • A handful of French students who excitedly saw my Canadian identity and Walloon (Franco-Belgian) last name and immediately proceed to jabber away in rapid French. Let’s just say my Saskatchewan Core French didn’t hold up too well;
  • And finally, another U of S student named Amanda, a Quebecois named Lisa-Marie and a Northern Ontarian (Ontarioan? Ontarioster?) named Josh - those damn Canucks are everywhere, eh.

Luckily for me, mastery of English is a must for all international students here – I’ve been pleased (and a little bit guilty) about at everyon'es willingness to speak to me in English (saves me from the wrong buses & foods). I have signed up for a Norwegian beginner’s class, if only to have one or two more ways to introduce myself and thank someone. My single Ukrainian class at the U of S has already come in handy twice here as I’ve chatted with a few of the Russian exchange students (thanks Aunt Nettie!).

There was also a rather creepy Frenchman (think Crispin Glover) who insisted on kissing everyone – he was certainly an interesting character, but I rather avoided meeting him along the way.

ORIENTATION

To start the day, we were greeted by a traditional Sami singer who performed a yoik for us. It’s a traditional song not unlike those that the Natives in Canada sing, though it seemed to have more of a lilt to it. A much-appreciated cultural touch that woke everyone up right off the bat.

Unfortunately, we were put right back to sleep by the University Chancellor, who set a lovely tone for a morning full of incredibly boring welcomes and regulations. Sigh.

One quick note: there were about 280 international students from 57 countries and 6 continents! I had no idea there were so many – definitely didn’t bring enough maple candies for the whole class.

Oh, and they made us each stand up, announce our name, major, and home country – because humans can always remember 280 different names. Thank God for nametags.

After a free but rather unsatisfying lunch, we all filed back into the auditorium for another round of seminars. I watched with some amusement as the Residence coordinator was torn apart by students who were not allotted a bed, but a sofa (I would be rather upset as well). However, I quickly drifted off during the student counseling centre and bus system lectures (having already decoded the system, for the most part) and fired up my laptop on the free wireless. Ah, life was good.

EVENING IN TROMSØ - PIZZA!

As the program finally wound to a halt, I bid adieu to my new friends and set out for the city centre, where I was to meet Mom and Dad at the library. Unfortunately, a world without cell phones makes meetings a little more tricky – we were waiting for each other a floor apart for over an hour. Luckily we were all being productive: Dad napped, Mom read, and I wrote, so none of us was unhappy with the delay.

Dad having had the whole day to scout out bargains, we walked to Dolly Dimples, an all-you-can-eat pizza place for NOK 99 (about eighteen bucks CAD – a very good price). Eating our fill and then some (the taco pizza with real taco shells was especially tasty), we headed back home for a quiet night.

THE INFORMATION ROADBLOCK

My one great success that day at school had been the activation of my UiT online account. However, Dad and I, Jamie and I, and Tom and I spent over two hours trying to connect to the residence network. Even with four heads, three computers, two operating systems, and one rather expensive call to Canada (not by me, thankfully), we couldn’t beat the system.

Unfortunately, that about took care of that night. I jotted down a few notes for the blog and headed to bed. Internet issues notwithstanding, it had been a very good day, and I was extremely pleased with my UiT experience so far.

I hope you enjoyed this pictureless wonder – take care, and hopefully I’ll update again tomorrow!

Oh, and I’ve got some pictures from Mom and Dad’s day in town doing their own touristing – if I remember, I’ll rope one of my parents in and get them to post / comment on their own day.

Posted by adamvigs 14:27 Archived in Norway Comments (1)

Day 4: To Tromsø!

We cross the Arctic Circle. Here, there be dragons.

CHECK-OUT

We woke up right on time Tuesday morning – showered up, ate a leisurely breakfast (superb once again), and checked out of our hotel. We then hopped on the perfect tram –I’d mastered my Oslo transit guide and had found us one to the front door of the train station itself, avoiding the debacle of hauling our luggage on foot. We arrived at the station, purchased our tickets with ten minutes to spare, and I set out on my quest for the eternal postcard. On the way, I snapped a picture of this pharmacy (for Mark and Sean):

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My search foiled by the rather short Norwegian workday, we boarded our commuter train, found seats this time (as opposed to our last adventure when we stood elbow-to-elbow) and settled in for an enjoyable journey to the airport.

A SLIGHT HICCUP

We were so pleased with our punctuality that we ignored the first Norwegian message over the loudspeaker, assuming an English translation would follow shortly. However, the next message was Norwegian too – and it was slightly more edgy than the first. After the loudspeaker crackled for the third time, people started to get off the train. Our stress level rising, we consulted a friendly Norwegian businessman with impeccable English. He informed us that there was a problem with the train, but that they were confident they could get it moving.

That was about five minutes after our scheduled departure. Thirty more minutes passed, each message of confidence in the train mechanic relayed by the businessman to our anxious ears. Finally, a full half-hour after we were first told that “Everything will be fine” the tune abruptly changed and we were informed that the train we were to catch was leaving at 8:15 – three minutes away, three platforms over.

Unfortunately, the Oslo train station does not have a quick way to jump platforms, so we had to go down the platform, up the long ramp, through the station, down the escalator, out the door, and back down the new platform. All of this with three bags apiece.

And we sprinted.

And we watched the doors closed on our outstretched hands – we touched them, we really did.

All of that waiting for a final doomed sprint for the finish – it was tough to know that we’d compromised our airport cushion time even though we’d done everything right (the old Asian couple actually crossed the platforms by running across the tracks, but we elected that the tunnel made this a rather poor decision – especially with luggage).

However, there was one silver lining to this story – actually, more of a silver bullet:

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That’s right, we got to take the Airport Express for free!! I’m not sure if it’s faster than a speeding bullet, but it sure as hell is one powerful locomotive – if you’re curious, just ask and I can post the movies of us in near-flight.

OSLO AIRPORT

After arriving at the airport in record time, we grabbed our luggage and headed up to the Departures hall. The picture didn’t quite show it, but it was really a beautiful terminal – glass and metal and lots of Norwegian hardwood.

After our little episode on the train, we were quite pleased to arrive safe and sound on our Scandinavian Airlines 737, and settled in for the exciting final leg of my voyage. We were just about cleared for takeoff when déjà vu reared its ugly head:

“Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you that the plane is not currently equipped with sufficient oxygen in the event of an emergency. There is no excuse for this mistake. Please board the buses outside and we will address this situation.”

Yup, it happened again. Two for two on transportation for the day. And it wasn’t even lunchtime yet.

We plodded out to the tarmac and jumped on the waiting buses, unsure of our destination (as Tromsø is some 1500 kilometers north of Oslo, we rather hoped we weren’t in for a road trip). To our collective relief, the busses dropped us off at a nearby SAS 737 which was already being prepared for flight. And for proof of this, see the casual smiles below:

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Stress gone, we left the buses and casually relaxed on the runway, waiting for the boarding queue to diminish.

Come to think of it, we were all just standing unattended. On the runway. These Norwegians really don’t seem to be too worried about security. Either that, or their security was just that good – possibly an Agent 13-esque disguise as a landing gear tire. (for those of you born after 1960, go watch an episode of Get Smart. And no, the crappy remake doesn’t count.)

DESTINATION: TROMSØ

After boarding in a relatively orderly fashion, we settled in for our actual flight. Compared to the events of the day so far, it was far too ordinary. I managed to snap a photo of the asymmetrical farms I mentioned earlier – I don’t even know how they keep their land separate every year, surveying and land titles must be a nightmare:

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Coincidentally, our second breakdown also resulted in our second upgrade; this 737 was far newer, with aerodynamic wingtips (they might be called winglets, but the name escapes me right now) and comfortable leather chairs:

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However, my heartbeat picked up when I realized we were descending to the island I was going to call my home for the next 4 months: Tromsøya.

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After pinching ourselves to make sure it was all real, Mom and Dad claimed baggage while I checked in at the welcome desk set up by the University of Tromsø (UiT). Apartment keys and welcome booklet in hand, we hailed a cab and headed to my new home: the dormitory know as Elverhøy.

MY DORM & MY HOME

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That’s right, there’s a Co-op right next to my residence – and by Norwegian standards, it’s very reasonable. The taxi pulled up the front door, dropped us off, and I fumbled the keys into the keyhole (one of them has two rows of teeth – very cool). We had arrived.

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In case you’re wondering, the nifty little ø can be accessed using ALT+0248 (capital ALT+0216). That way all your postcards can make it to me.

Speaking of which, and my mailing address is:

ADAM VIGNERON
GITTA JØNSSONS VEG 4 ROM 219
9012 TROMSØ NORWAY

Veg is “way”, Rom is “room”, the number comes after the street, and the postcode comes before the town. Crazy.

In a word, Elverhøy is institutional. Not too terribly different from Sheptytsky – same terrazzo stairs, same featureless hallways – but I’ll refrain from making too many comparisons until I get a feel for the place.

ROOMMATES?

In case I haven’t mentioned this before, my dormitory is a shared apartment. I have my own (lockable) 100-sq-ft bedroom, and share a smallish kitchen / dining room and a large bathroom with one other student. As always, it’s a total coin flip when you share your living quarters with a stranger – I hoped that my luck was with me on this one.

My stomach dropped when I entered the room. My one obsessive-compulsive fear about my roommate: a dirty kitchen. And sure enough, the sink was full of old dishes, pots, and pans. Sigh.

To add to this, the bathroom contained two distinct sets of men’s and women’s toiletries. As far as I could tell, this indicated an unofficial extra roommate or an extremely effeminate man / masculine woman. Either way, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.

However, my jaded outlook precipitated by our travel trials proved completely wrong. My roommate turned out to be an extremely polite and well-spoken young Russian from Murmansk by the name of Alex. 27, working on his second master’s degree and a two-year veteran of Tromsø, he apologized for the mess / his girlfriend’s clutter – she was moving to the south of Norway and needed somewhere to store things for the summer.

It gets better.

Not only did he clean the dishes, he also scrubbed down the bathroom (which wasn’t overly dirty to begin with) and offered me the use of any of his kitchenware until I can get my own at the garage sale on Saturday.

What a guy, eh. Guess I got lucky after all.

MY ROOM

The rest of the afternoon was spent unpacking my room – while we hadn’t brought anything overly large, three years at Sheps had taught me well. Soon, I had the place feeling very comfortable indeed:

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You can’t quite see it, but the view out the window has MOUNTAINS!! I’ll be sure to get a few shots before the Arctic night sets in.

Oh, and one of my parents’ brilliant ideas – we filled up our excess baggage weight with food. So I had a few pieces of home to keep with me for a little while yet:

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DOWNTOWN

Unpacking done, we headed down the hill towards the Tromsø city centre (my dorm is on the hills in the very centre of the island). Despite some absolutely horrendous navigation on my part, we managed to find the tourist information for maps and bus tickets, the bargain store for hangars, and the public library for free internet. However, it’s getting late and I’m going to have lots of time to go into plenty of detail about the town and the island that will be my home for the next four months.

For just a taste of culture:

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This is the local Catholic church – it’s seat of the world’s most northerly bishop, and was visited by Pope John Paul II himself – not bad for a city with only about 400 Catholics.

EVENING

After our day of traveling, we were very content to buy a few beers from the supermarket and turn in. We ate a rather tasty frozen lasagne from the Co-op, accompanied by sliced tomatoes. After a futile attempt to find internet, we turned in and I slept for my first day of school the next morning!

Posted by adamvigs 12:50 Archived in Norway Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

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