Monday, June 18, 2012

A theatre in transit: Characters on the way to Lillehammer (6/17/2012)

13:06, 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.

    The 17th was a long day of travel, but filled with many interesting encounters.  I woke up for breakfast with Hans and Kari at 7:00 and headed into town, where I caught a 7:55 bus to Flåm.  On the bus, I chatted with a 26-year-old woman named Arle (Ar-luh), a passionate environmentalist, vegan, and knitter who worked for the county archives recording local musicians and publishing their music online.  She was going to visit a friend who worked at the microbrewery in Flåm.  We talked about environmentalism and vegetarianism in the States and Norway, the growing culture of microbreweries in the Europe and the States, traveling, etc.  She believed that in Norway there is a division between those who really care about conservation and environmental issues, and those who continue to consume more and more meat and other resources. 
    Arle and I hung out for as I waited for my train in Flåm, a tiny mountain overrun with middle-aged Japanese, Australian, and American tourists.  As we waited, I met a young woman from Ft. Collins, Colorado wearing Chacos and a puffy Patagonia coat.  She told me about her recent travels in Poland with her boyfriend, and her outdoor adventures in Norway, where she said the mountains were “more dramatic than in Colorado, although smaller.”  After buying some fresh bread and a banana at the grocery store and a little more waiting with Arle, I boarded my train for the scenic Flåm railway.
    The Flåm railway, the reason for the middle-aged tourists, is an hour-long ride of famously beautiful scenery.  After sitting and talking with an elderly man from rural eastern Montana, I stood in the space between train cars to avoid being bumped the middle-aged women taking pictures with iPhones as I photographed the majestic waterfalls and landscapes.  I was soon joined by Rhianna, a friendly thirty-year-old woman from Melbourne, Australia, who was completing her masters degree in Ecological Urban Development in Sweden.  She and her mother Rhonda were on a short mother-daughter vacation to Norway, and were on their way to Bergen where they would be lucky enough to see Aang San Suu Kyi give a short ten-minute address in the city square.  (For about ten minutes I considered changing plans last-minute and going to Bergen as well, but I realized that since my EuRail pass would be expired the next day, it would cost me $150 to reach Lillehammer in time on Monday.)  As I was scrambling to make my next train to Oslo, Rhonda kindly gave me a hot dog and a cup of coffee-- an incredible random act of kindness from people I’d just met!  I have been so astounded that nearly everyone I’ve met has been so kind, helpful, and gracious.  I’m confident that people are generally good.
    On the long train ride to Oslo, I mostly journaled quietly by myself.  During the last half-hour of the ride, an old man confronted me an said in broken English that “I was disturbing him.”  Apparently the nearly inaudible noise of my typing was bothersome from several seats away, or the Apple-shaped light on the back of my screen.  I kindly put my laptop away, figuring I could take a short break.  During that time, I talked with the man across from me, a middle-aged man from Denver who was traveling on business.  He told me about many places he has traveled, and I was surprised to learn that the infrastructure in Hong Kong, Singapore, and many other places in Asia is incredibly modern and clean, far surpassing the United States.  After speaking with him and many others, I have a much longer list of places that I hope to travel.
    I arrived in Oslo and immediately transferred on a train to Lillehammer.  Since the track was being repaired, all passengers exited the train after 40 minutes and took buses the rest of the way to Lillehammer.  I sat next to a young Swedish man who worked in Lillehammer, who proved to be a very interesting character.  I learned that Anders was forty-two years old (much older than I thought!), and had a wife and three kids living in central Sweden.  He worked in Lillehammer building prosthetic limbs for a week at a time, and then went home for a week at a time.  To top that off, Anders was an innovator: for the last fourteen years, he has been designing his own home, a house within a greenhouse, filled with grape vines and many other plants producing fruits and vegetables for the house.  The design also includes a system that reuses human waste to fertilize the plants.  His brilliant design makes it possible to reduce energy consumption and expenses for food and energy dramatically, while living amongst nature.  And it works: he spent five years building the design himself, even cutting his own wood.  In a few weeks, Anders will meet with his first client, who would like to build a similar house.  Within a few years, Anders hopes that his idea will take off-- and I hope so, too.  I made sure to get his contact info and website.
    We arrived at the Lillehammer train station, and I went inside to check in to the hostel located above the station.  There I met the final character of my solo adventure.  As I opened my room door, an elderly man leapt up from his bed, completely naked, and frantically pulled on his underwear as I turned away.  He was a old Australian guy, his nipples pierced, and his tan skin sharply contrasting his white beard and short white hair and long, bushy, gray mustache.  Ty and I greeted each other and laid on our beds, entering into a conversation that lasted for about three hours.  I learned that Ty was gay, and that he had sold over a million copies of his books on hiking in Australia, which have been printed in multiple languages.  We later talked about religion (of which he was very critical), politics, immigration in the US and Australia, travel, geography, slang words in the US and Aussie, and so forth, and went to bed around 11:30.  It was a day of many interesting characters and conversations, a proper ending to a great adventure.

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