Monday, June 18, 2012

Fjords! (6/15/2012)

12:00, 18/6/2012.  I am sitting in my dormitory in the Nansen Academy, where in a few hours I will begin the Peace Scholar program.

I woke to my 5:00am alarm and the shrieking of seagulls on Friday the 15th, threw on my clothes, brushed my teeth, and walked out the door to head to the train.  Moments after leaving the hostel, I was startled to realize my watch was missing, so I returned and found it on the floor of the hallway after a few minutes.  It made me realize just how much I depended on it, and I was annoyed that it had fallen off my wrist without my feeling it!  I made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare (a first.)  I slept on the first train from Stockholm to Karlstad, transferred trains, and slept and journaled on the train from Karlstad to Oslo.  It was very comfortable and uneventful.
    It was only a few minutes after arriving in Oslo around 12:30 that I was rudely introduced to the outrageously high prices.  I looked at the prices of meals in the train station restaurants, astounded at my findings: a Whopper, fries, and a drink for 85 kroner (over $14 USD); a sandwich for $10 USD, coffee for $5, a hot dog for about $9.  Luckily, I had some leftover bread and peanut butter in my bag, which I would try to conserve until this evening.  I found my bus station, and we departed for Sogndal at 2:40.
    The bus ride was incredibly long-- about seven hours with a dinner break-- but it flew by.  Except for the first leg of the journey out of Oslo, the scenery was magnificent.  I gawked at the fjords and lakes, mountains and valleys as we cruised along the winding mountain road, snapping as many pictures as I could.  I couldn’t help but believe that Hogwarts sat on just the other side of one of these beautiful valleys, on the shores of this stunningly blue, glassy water.  Besides enjoying the scenery, I was also able to use the free wi-fi on the bus and finish my pre-course readings for the Peace Scholar program. 
    During the dinner break, I sat and talked with a stocky, tan-skinned Norwegian man, who was moving home after living and working in the Canary Islands for nearly twenty years.  After dinner, I chatted with Torill, a middle-aged woman sitting across from me.  She advised me about what I might write about for my upcoming research project, and told me about Aang San Suu Kyi’s visit to Oslo that was taking place as we spoke, during which she would accept her Nobel Peace Prize after around twenty years under house arrest in Myanmar.
    Around 9:00, our bus drove onto a large ferry, which took us across the Sognefjord in fifteen minutes.  We reached the other side and drove through an incredibly long tunnel through the mountainside.  (I learned later that this tunnel is (or was) the longest in the world, at about 24.5 kilometers.)  Soon we reached Sogndal, where I met my host, Hans Svedal, a kind 35-year-old Norwegian with a long brown ponytail and a thin goatee.  He drove me around the little mountain town, which except for its magnificent surroundings was not much different than any tiny farm town in the States.  Then we drove for ten or fifteen minutes to his farm, a charming string of old houses, cabins, and a barn on a rocky mountainside overlooking a crystal clear mountain lake, snow-capped mountains behind.  It reminded me slightly of Christikon, a Lutheran Bible camp deep in the mountains of south-central Montana, although there was one key difference:  up the mountainside behind the house and barn were dozens of sheep and lambs, held in a large fenced-off area where they grazed.  It was one of the most wonderful places on Earth.
    Although it was after 11:00, the sky was still not dark.  Hans and I sat and ate open-faced sandwiches and talked for quite some time as the sun finally set.  We talked about music (he teaches music ed at a local university), soccer, politics, culture-- all of the things same things I’ve talked about with everyone I’ve met!  Later, we decided to watch some comedy sketches of Eddie Izzard, a hilarious transvestite stand-up comedian, and went to bed around 1:00.

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