norway post #5

rain in larvik. larvik, the town which gustav mahler said was “very nice”, the town where f. melius christiansen grew up and received his musical education, the town which has been a haven for artists and artisans for years and years, the town which supposedly has the best weather in norway. larvik, the town which just happened to have the abnormal rainfall for this time of year.

and so here i am, spending my last night in larvik attached to a computer recording my thoughts from the day. why? because the only other thing to do on a saturday night in larvik is go to the bars or go to the gentleman’s club, and i don’t feel like doing either.

the day started out very quietly. i woke up to the alarm clock i set, fixed the broken slat in my bed, got up and somewhat dressed, contemplated running in the rain, and went down to breakfast instead. after another fantastic norwegian breakfast, i came back upstairs, took a shower, got dressed (for real this time) and went downstairs to go on a short city tour of larvik.

we ended up at a beautiful memorial for the men and women who lost their lives at sea in world war I and world war II, and i took a number of pictures of the fjord that this memorial was built next to. i think that this was the exact moment that i fell in love with larvik. my love affair deepened as we drove back into town and our tour guide/sponsor told us about the apartments that developers are beginning to build for artists, and how they will afford a great view of the sea and the countryside. my love for larvik further deepened after walking into one of 3 wonderful grocery stores, and was culminated when i was told about the wonderful weather and the 30 kilometers of bicycle trails and foot paths that run along the coastline.

chances are that i will never live here. norway is an expensive country to live in, and obtaining norwegian citizenship in order to reap the benefits of the national healthcare/social security system is next to impossible. however, if it ever becomes a possibility and nicole agrees to it, i’m taking her, moving to larvik, and naming my children lars and helga.

ok. i’m going to call it a night and try to post these utilizing the 3 minutes of free wireless that i can get before i have to start paying for it. peace, and behave.

norway post #4

i’m sitting here on a rollaway bed in a hotel room in larvik, missing my girlfriend terribly, and half-watching “conspiracy theory” with norwegian subtitles in some dialect i’ve never seen before. there’s pretty much nothing to do unless you make something to do, and i’m in no mood to make my own fun, so here i am. no wonder f. melius christiansen left here to go to the united states.

now, some of you (including me) may be thinking “hotel? the choir was supposed to do homestays for the next couple of days!” well, you’re partially correct. we were, but something got screwed up with the housing. therefore, about a third of the choir is in host homes, another third is in a hotel/the hotel in larvik, and the rest are in a youth hostel just outside of town. i was in the third that got put up in the hotel, so now cole blume, george bagan, john grau and i are staying in what seems to be the bridal suite or some large, important room in the quality hotel grand farris in larvik, norway. fun.

aside from lots of really pretty scenery, the bus ride really wasn’t that interesting. i read a book, looked out the window, and listened to some choice tunes on my iPod, and everybody else on our bus either did something very similar or fell asleep. the scenery did give me a much greater appreciation as to why the norwegian immigrants to america were so reluctant to leave their homeland, however: it is absolutely beautiful here. there are trees everywhere, and the hillsides are just gorgeous. the only thing i’ve ever seen that even comes close is quite close to home, actually: if one goes to seven mile hill on the way to iola/scandinavia back home, one gets a view very similar to the norwegian hillsides. no wonder they called it little scandinavia.

i figured that seeing as i’m no longer in oslo, i should talk about something other than my experiences there. therefore, we shall now talk about something that is near and dear to grant’s heart: food.

my experiences with norwegian food have been ruled largely by frugality; the cheaper i can keep my meals, the better. for example, a group of 4-5 bandies (including lauren! yay!) and i went to a grocery store and split about 45 kroner worth of food. all in all, i paid about 10 kroner for dinner yesterday night. now, seeing as vegetarianism isn’t as rampant here as it is in america, finding things that i (and other vegetarians) can eat has been a bit difficult. my diet has consisted largely of dairy products – yogurt, cheese, and the like – fruit juice, fruit (when i feel like springing for it), and bread. tonight, we were treated to a meal of really good pizza (and they even made vegetarian pizza for us!), which was a nice change for those of us for whom $200-300 has to go a really long way. between food and museum admissions, i think i spent about $80 in oslo. anyway, between the requisite walking, the frugal gourmet, the pure, clean tap water, and the running i’ve done almost every morning, i think i’m starting to lose weight again. my love handles are shrinking, anyway, and this makes me happy. now if only nicole was here to appreciate it…

and on that happy note, it’s time to go to bed. peace, and behave.

norway post #3

it’s raining, and a bit chilly, but i’m wearing shorts anyway as an act of rebellion. it’s summer, damn it, so i’m going to dress like it’s summer. it also helps that i’m compensating by wearing my fleece, and i’ll be spending the vast majority of the day indoors or on a bus. i figure that if i’m cold for the next hour or so, i’ll just suck it up and let my body deal with it.

today is our last in oslo. we checked out of the hotel this morning, loaded our suitcases and things onto the bus, and were set free to roam the city until 3:45, when we’re supposed to return to the hotel and board the buses which will take us to larvik and our first homestays.

someone found a coffee shop on the plaza next to the rådhuset (city hall) that offers free wi-fi, so i have decided to spend some time here checking email and things like that. ironically, the only email account i can’t check is my st. olaf one, because IIT has scheduled server downtime for the 3rd of june. it’s supposed to start after 12:00pm CDT, but i have a feeling that the email server crashed overnight and the system administrators don’t know about it yet or they just decided to let the sucker hang.

as you can see, i wrote a lot in the previous two blog posts. i’ve been spending a few hours each night recording my thoughts and what i did each day both so that the readers of this humble blog can see it, and so that i can go back to them later and better recall my experiences here in norway. hopefully i’ll remember to do that before i go senile.

i’m also going to post some practical things (such as the location of this coffee shop, good ways to save money while traveling in norway, why icelandair rocks my socks off) in the compendium so that if/when i ever come back here, i can just go there and avoid a number of the mistakes i made the first time.

also, if you’re interested in seeing any of the pictures i’ve taken, i’m going to be uploading them to shutterfly

alright. i’m going to post this and then try to find a downloadable trial of microsoft visual studio .SUCK ^H^H^H^H^H .NET so that i can get acquainted with it before i have to teach kids how to program in it. peace, and behave.

norway post #2

another day, another day’s writings. today, we took a city tour via bus and covered a large amount of ground. we went to the scenic overlook where edvard munch (pronounced munk) painted his famous painting “the scream”. we also went to the vigelandspark and walked through the wonderfully beautiful sculpture gardens, right before going to the viking ship museum to see three original ships used by the vikings for various ceremonies and burials.

after that, we came back to the hotel, where i sat around for a while and packed up some of my things in expectation of tomorrow’s departure for larvik. at three o’clock, i met lauren and a group of bandies as they were coming up to my hotel (the bandies and orchies are in a different hotel from the la-las), and we went to the library to check our email at the free terminals. on the way back to the hotels, we found a grocery store, and bought ourselves dinner for 6, and split the cost between us; for a dinner of bread, cheese, and a little bit of nutella for dessert, it ended up being about 10 kroner per person. not at all bad, considering that a sandwich costs somewhere around 30 to 50 kroner in a restaurant or delicatessen.

time for some more observations about oslo, and perhaps the culture of norway. norway has a huge immigrant/refugee population. one can see this just walking through what is called grønnland (which to my understanding is quickly becoming the immigrant section of oslo), and also in the large number of chinese, japanese, and indian restaurants. however, it seems like the only place one sees a person of non-norwegian descent is either in these shops, in grønnland, or working a service job (waiting/bussing tables, housekeeping, etc.). it’s very much like the united states in that regard; it’s like they’re here to do the work nobody else wants to do. i hope this isn’t the signs of a move toward american-like culture; as much as i love america, there are plenty of things that i do not like about our culture and our consumerism.

well, tomorrow is the last day we spend in oslo; we move on to larvik and our first homestay tomorrow night. hopefully, i can get up in time to go running, put my suitcase on the bus, and then go to a cafe to post this and upload some pictures. until then, peace, and behave.

norway post #1

greetings from sunny norway (literally). the sun sets about 10:30 at night here, and when it sets there is still the same amount of light as one would get around twilight. it’s truly very interesting, and surprising how well one sleeps despite this fact.

we had the day free today, and after sleeping for 13 hours, i got up and went for a run. after a hurried shower and a leisurely breakfast (i. love. norwegian. breakfast.), rylan and i walked around oslo to see what we could see and visit what we could visit. we went to the national gallery of art, saw the oslo city hall – for those of you who are unaware, the oslo city hall is where the nobel peace prize is awarded every year – and the waterfront, and walked through the norway WWII resistance museum. we then obtained phone cards and bought a little something for lunch before coming back to the hotel and getting on the bus for the konserthuset.

the concert itself was fantastic. we did a combined concert tonight, and all three ensembles were at their prime. the orchestra sounded especially fine, and both the orchestra and the choir had to do an encore because the audience wouldn’t stop applauding! the most incredible thing about tonight, however, was that the queen of norway was in the audience. and not in a box or in the balcony, either; she sat stage right of the center aisle, right in the middle of the house. she had a body guard on either side of her, of course, and there was a very obviously armed security person on either side of the floor, but she was still in the audience. a head of state, sitting in the audience with the common people. and that’s not the only thing: we all stood in the hallway after the concert, and instead of clearing the hallway (which we had to do for the president of the united states), she just walked right past us, thanked us for the marvelous concerts, wished us well on our tour, and shook mr. amundson’s hand. i stood 5 feet from the queen of norway. i’m still awestruck.

now, on to some general observations. because i haven’t seen much of norway yet, i shall talk to you in some length about oslo. oslo is the capital city of norway, and is definitely not the type of city one would imagine as being the seat of government for an entire nation. it is very compact, and very expensive (the most expensive city in the world, in fact), but at the same time very relaxed and very beautiful. there are trees and grass and large, expansive parks everywhere that are free and open to the public, including around the slottet (royal palace). in fact, one can quite plainly walk right up to within a few feet of the royal palace without encountering any blast barriers or fences or security checkpoints or anything. i cannot, however, say the same for the united states embassy; that entire building is surrounded with concrete blast barriers and 15-foot-high fences, and in order to enter it one must go through a special security booth which (i am told) includes being x-rayed, frisked, and having your bag searched. you don’t even need to go through passport control in the airport! it gives me hope for the rest of the world to see a country whose citizens don’t let themselves be ruled by fear.

another important thing: the water. the tap water is clean, clear, and good-tasting. no chlorination, no treatment whatsoever. i can fill my cup and take a drink, and the water tastes like it came out of my brita pitcher or a bottle. the same is true for the water at the harbor; there were no visible oil-slicks, and there was no stench of spilled fuel. another thing i noticed this morning was the air. i can also stand right outside the hotel and take a deep breath without coughing or feeling sick (although i did have some problems with a bit of diesel truck exhaust when i went for my run this morning). i couldn’t do that in new york or washington, and something i am leery about doing in minneapolis. from what i am told, norwegians are very, very protective of their natural resources and conscious of the effect they have on them. again, i’m glad to see that someone cares about how their actions will affect future generations.

in addition to being relaxed, oslo is also a fairly quiet city. there is the regular sound of the tram running past our hotel, but that is the loudest sound i have heard at night. on the whole, there’s about half the amount of traffic one would encounter in a U.S. city of the same size, and there is readily available public transportation, more than one would encounter in a U.S. city of the same size. oslo is less than a quarter of the size of new york, and it has a comparable public transit system.

one thing that isn’t cool is the concern those of us in the three flagship ensembles have for our personal belongings. oslo is a safe city in that one musn’t be afraid of being mugged or shot, but pickpocketing is a serious threat. one girl in the band had her purse taken today, and one must keep careful track of what one has on their person at all times.

anyway, that’s all i have for now. i’ll write more every day and post it every few days depending on whether or not i can find a cheap source of internet access. peace, and behave.