The Thing About the Norwegian King

“It is not always easy to determine where we are from. What we call home is where our heart is, and that cannot always be placed within country boarders.” – Harald V, King of Norway.

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Our King and Queen. Obviously not my own photo.

A couple of days ago the Norwegian King held a speech. The Norwegian media has been going on about it every day since. In short it’s about us accepting who “us” is becoming, and already has become. It’s about Norwegians being a people made up of, yes; people from all regions of Norway, but also people from Afghanistan, Poland, Sweden and so on. It’s about Norwegians being one.

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On 17th of May, Norway’s Constitution Day, all Norwegians celebrate.

From time to time I question why Norway is still a monarchy. I question the monarch’s importance and if we really need one. However, this is not one of those times. Our monarch is an important symbol, and when Norway needs to unite, whether it be in grief or in celebration, we turn to the Castle. When Norway was hit by a terrorist attack in 2011 we put flowers in front of, not the parliament, not the hospitals, but the castle. Always the Castle.

You can (hopefully) see the speech here: (I don’t think it’ll show up in the usual email)

 

The Buddyweek

I have told you about our crazy tradition when graduating High School. Now I’m going to introduce you to what it’s like to start university and college.

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Our buddies wear yellow!

Every student in their first year is a part of what we call “fadderuken” – buddyweek. Formally its purpose is to let the new get to know each other with the help of older students – the buddys. To some extent it succeeds, but it also involves a whole lot of partying and drinking. For those who don’t drink this can be challenging.

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Making a K for the bar named Kronbar.

I think the buddies did a good job including everyone this year. Sure, there’s been a whole lot of parties, but they also took us around the city doing different tasks, we had a sports day, introduction to the different student organizations, and we had a barbecue (yey!). I have gotten to know a few people, not well, but what matters now is that it all becomes easier with familiar faces in a crowd of strangers.

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# Playing cannonball like our lives depended on it!

The Happy Food Festival

There’s one festival I go to every summer. In norwegian it’s called “Gladmat” which directly translates to HappyFood. It’s a festival held in my own city, Stavanger, and there’s food from all over the world. From Norwegian to Ethiopian to Indian.

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Omnomnom. Yum ❤

I think food is a great way of experiencing different cultures. If you want to experience Norway, one of the things you would have to try is our fish. We are very proud of it, and before we found oil it was basically how we made a living.

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Not my picture, but it shows the atmosphere perfectly.

Gladmat is a festival for everyone, all ages, and good food brings people together. I don’t think you’ll ever get more smiles from Norwegians of Stavanger, than on Gladmat. Happy eating folks!

 

Why PokemonGo?

I have found my true calling: I’m going to be a Pokemon trainer. It’s hard work, and definitely time consuming, but it’s time to Catch Them All!

PokemonGo hasn’t been released in Norway yet, but, um… Well, I’ve got it. Like everyone else. I downloaded it recently, and since then it’s all I’ve been doing. Now I finally understand why people keep walking into streetlights. I barely survived my first hunt – those cyclists really need to watch where they’re going, us trainers have more important things to do.

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That feeling when you catch your first pokemon!

Why is PokemonGo so great? Aside from the obvious fact that it’s Pokemon? Firstly: it opens up a whole new world. Imagine Harry Potter Go! Secondly: People are going out again! Sure, they’re all glued to their phones, but one of these days the creators are going to make it possible for us to play together (so we can battle, no doubt). We’re all going to meet new, slightly crazy, people!

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Cubone!! Scary-looking, this one, but gotta catch ’em all!

Last, but not least, the game takes the edge off exploring; as long as people have pokemon they’re not scared of going new places or getting lost. Pokemon trainers are adventurers! So why PokemonGo? I ask you why PokemonNot!

Let the Butterflies Be

When I think of past summers I remember chasing butterflies. I remember catching them. I reget that now. However, no one ever taught me the consequenses of catching a butterfly. No one ever told me that it would shorten their lifespan. Not until I  volunteered in a butterfly sanctuary in Australia, April – May 2016.

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One of my favorites, a Common Eggfly. Sometimes there’s something extraordinary about the ordinary.

Like fish, butterflies have scales. They need them for their color and to flap their wings. Usually they’ll shed them slowly throughout life. When you touch them you interfere, and more scales than the butterfly is supposed to lose come off – this is the powder you can feel on your fingers. The butterfly might look fine, but you stole valuable time form its life.

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A butterfly at the end of her days. There’s soon to be one less butterfly to care for the ecosystem and be an indicator of biodiversity.

We shouldn’t encourage kids to catch them. We shouldn’t catch them ourselves. They have to digest themselves to change from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I think they’ve been through enough. Let the butterflies be.

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Fly little one, fly. Live the month you’re supposed to.

A Norwegian’s view on Brexit

I had to wait with this post; to take it all in. I never really believed they would go through with it. However, Brexit is a fact; dividing the UK as effectively as it seperates it from the EU. Some believe that they’ll finally be free, while others feel like they have just been robbed of their future. The end of the UK’s membership in the EU promises change.

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The main reason outsiders are against Brexit is the worry of an unstable Europe. Everyone is stressed out about today’s amount of refugees, the terrorist attacks that seem to happen more and more often, and the increased support for right wing populism worldwide. We know something has to be done, but can’t find a solution. We’re scared that while we ponder this, new terrible events will take place.

On the 22 of July, 2011, the far-right terrorist Anders B. Breivik killed 77 people for their political views. He placed a bomb in the government district of Oslo, and then went to a summer camp for politically active youth and started shooting. Before we knew who he was, there was a lot of finger pointing. No one expected it to be an ethnical Norwegian. One who looked like us. Talked like us. One of us. Inception isn’t just a movie; dangerous ideas are spreading, and the idea that it is us against them is the most poisonous of them.

The cold is seeping in, and we are closing our borders in an attempt to keep it out – forgetting that sticking together keeps us warm. Tension is rising and we’re eyeing each other with suspicion, making mistakes humanity should know not to by now. Brexit is marking change, and while we wait for the outcome, hoping for the best – we need to keep our eyes open.

Florence Smells like Flowers

We need to talk about Florence. It is known as the city of flowers, but I never imagined that it would actually smell like them too. But, as I sat at the second floor of a hop on, hop off bus, I struggled to hide my heavy breathing, scared that someone would mistake my attempt to take in all the scents of having trouble with my lungs. It would really be too bad if they had shipped me to the hospital, although judging by the rest of the city, it might just have turned out to be the most beautiful hospital I’ve ever been to.

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Beauty

I like to believe that I’m somewhat interested in art. Somewhat. I did successfully spend hours at the national gallery in Oslo, Norway, and I do like to draw. However, when I was faced with Florence all I could do was to admit that art is fine for a little while, but eventually my mind will wander to places I have long forgotten by now. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a great painting just as much as the next person would, but visiting the galleries in  Florence, I got this feeling that most of the works went way over my head.

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The only one I recognized was The Birth of Venus…

In addition many of them were surprisingly, at least to me, violent and macabre, and it honestly doesn’t take much before I’ve had enough of that. Perhaps I’m just not sophisticated (or hipster) enough to really appreciate the Renaissance artists. I’m more into other types of art – dance, drama, and, if paintings are to be involved, I believe I prefer the Romanticism (think landscapes).

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I stumbled upon a rehersal for an opra, which made me realize that I really want to attend one.

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. It’s preserved so well that, when looking at it, it seems from another time. As many of the settlements are indeed ancient, this makes sense. The sidewalks are made for one person (forever alone), and there are palaces, cathedrals and gardens popping up everywhere. When I say the latter I mean the kind of gardens that have been around since the 16th century and that you can get lost in if you’re not careful.

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The palace at the beginning of the gardens was once home to the Medicis- an insanely rich family from the 14th to the 17th century.

What makes all of this even more amazing is that the city still seems oddly up to date. It has somehow managed to incorporate new structures and modern opinions with its heritage-listed buildings and timeless art. Truly a city worth spending time in.

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The City of Fashion

Milan. Milano. The world’s fashion capital and the moral capital of Italy. I had one day to check out what the rave is all about. Walking around, the Italians of Milan seemed to me to be very Italian – dark haired, relaxed, friendly and with a hint of dramatic. The citizens of Milan weren’t better or worse dressed than Italians elsewhere (in my opinion they’re all pretty well dressed). Perhaps I’m just not in the loop of where the fashonistas hang out these days.

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If you can’t find people, find food. Lasagne

On my way to one of the most popular tourist attractions of Milan, the Duomo cathedral, I spotted a lot of street artists. In Norway we generally have few of them, so I stopped and looked at nearly everyone. They create a certain atmosphere, and in lack of a better word I’ll call it energetic. It makes people smile, which I just love.

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Magic…?

Being the fifth largest Christian church in the world, it’s no wonder my first impression of the Duomo Cathedral was that it is massive. Rising to 108 meters and with more statues than any other church, it demanded my attention even from far away. As I came closer I took in it’s gothic style and realized the outside is so detailed that I could have looked at it for hours and still not have seen everything. Naturally I wanted to go to the top. I wanted to go inside too, but the queue was longer than endless. We’re talking hours, so that just wasn’t happening.

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Which was too bad, because if the outside looks like this, imagine the inside!

All in all, Milan has made a great first impression on me. I wish I had had more time to explore and get a feel for the city. However, as I am currently on my way to Florence, all I can do is say “Arrivederci, Milano!”

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The view from the top of the Duomo Cathedral.

Norwegians’ Obsession with Cabins

I imagine it must seem strange to foreigners, this need Norwegians have to go to a remote place in the woods or the mountains. A place where they apparently just play board games, ski or take long walks, depending on the season. Why not do this at home; avoiding the long drive? From one Norwegian to all of you, I’ll try to explain.

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As if nature doesn’t explain it alone.

Ever since I came back from Australia it feels like I have been stuck. It was the last of the two great adventures I had planned for my gap year, and I have had a hard time letting go of it. I know I’m soon going to Italy with my family for summer vacation, but it’s not the same. So, calling up a friend, I suggested doing something very Norwegian, going to a cabin – away from my usual surroundings, away from the noise and expectations, to a place where we could be alone together.

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Well, maybe not completely alone…

Norwegian cabins are usually pretty straight forward. They’re made of wood, are small, have no Wifi, and smell of the outdoors and the mandatory fireplace. Some have running water, but most don’t. The electricity is used for the lights and the old stove – not to charge your computer or Ipad, because you didn’t bring them and neither did anyone else. Of course, many update their cabins to become better than their houses, but for me that ruins it.

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Because what would a trip to the cabin be without this? It might look like a toilet, but when you lift the lid it’s actually just a hole. If you haven’t tried one, you won’t know about the wind that comes up from under. It makes your bathroom visits exceptionally fast during winter.

Cabins. There’s something about the silence. There’s something about the lack of human interference. There’s something about less electronics and more eye contact. At cabins Norwegians spend time with the people they care about (or maybe just themselves), while actually being there. Too often time is consumed by all the things that one “has” to do, but that really could wait.

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My friend enjoying the moment.