Monday, August 6, 2012

Home is Where the Heart is

This morning I woke up a little before 7.
I came downstairs and fed my cat.

For breakfast I cooked an egg.
Realizing I was running late, I rushed to grab my rock climbing shoes, harness and my day pack with my lunch inside. I'm helping to run a climbing camp for 10, 11 and 12 year old kids this week.
When I got home my parents and I ate grilled chicken and corn. After dinner my parents went kayaking and I clicked on the television to watch the Olympics.
Summer is in full swing here. The hot days melt into the humid nights as the last few fireflies twinkle in my back yard. The occasional thunderstorm rolls down the valley and leaves the heavy air feeling fresh, if only for half an hour.
My point of telling you about this astonishingly average scene is that: I'm home.
Not home in Hegra anymore but home-home.
In Vermont.
And I've finally been able to settle into my new routine (or maybe it is my old routine?).
So much happened in my last months in Norway. I was struggling to keep up with my blog... and I was obviously not doing a very good job with it. I got about half way through a post about russetid and the 17th of May (which is Norway's national holiday) and decided to just give up. I told myself when I got back to the USA I would finish that post, and write a lot more. I have so much to write about.
I spent my time with my family and friends instead of tip-tapping away on my keyboard. I apologize to those of you that enjoyed my (nearly) steady blog posts this past year but it was really the best choice I could have made. As the clock ticked down I fully submerged myself in my Norwegian life. I went on so many adventures and made so many memories that I will hold for the rest of my life.
I will try to finish the half-done post about May and make an attempt at other posts, just to wrap up my year. But the thing is, this year will never be over for me. I don't mean I will live in the past for the rest of my life or anything but this year will never stop affecting me.
My new family and friends, all the memories I've made and everything I learned about myself and about the world. It will all stick with me forever.
Norway changed me and I'm glad I got to share it with everyone.
I promise I'm not done yet...
As long as you will read it, I will write it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catching Up!

The weekend after my amazing Up With People experience I went with my family to a city about an hour or two over the border in Sweden called Östersund.
When I say my family, I mean my whole family: Mamma, Pappa, Kristian, Christine and their two kids, Thea, Reidar, Johan, Maren, Ragnhild and I.
10 of us left pretty early (Maren and Johan drove over later) and stopped at some stores before we got to the city. Ragnhild and I bought Cheez ballz, which are the BEST snack food in the history of the world.

We agreed that later on we would have a cheez ballz party in our room.

After driving for a long time we finally got to Östersund!

We unpacked the cars at the hotel and the 10 of us all rolled into the lobby with all of our bags.
It was the wrong hotel.
We loaded back up and drove to the correct hotel.
In the hotel and already having a blast :)
Once we were there Mamma and Christine went off to the spa for the day. The rest of us went shopping for a little bit. It was a lot of fun to just wander around with the kids. We ate a little and then found a fun street to wait for Mamma and Christine.

When Mamma and Christine were back everyone was pretty tired so we went back to the hotel to rest for a while. Ragnhild and I were hungry so we went to the store and got some Ben and Jerry's ice cream. We ate the whole pint together and we were stuffed. Only a few minutes after we were finished somebody came and called us to dinner.
We went to a really cool Chinese restaurant but I was so full that I didn't actually order any food. Ragnhild got some chicken but didn't eat all of it, so I had a bit of that.

After dinner Mamma and Pappa took the kids. Christine went to bed and the rest of us had a party in Ragnhild and my's room. After a while there we decided to go across the street to a bar. There were two rooms in back each with a different DJ and different type of music to dance to. Nobody really wanted to go dance with me so I made friends with a couple of Swedish girls and went back with them.  We had a blast and eventually Johan and Maren joined us.
The next day we went to a really big swimming pool! It was so cool. There were so many water slides and caves and hot tubs and diving boards. There was even part of the pool that had a rock wall coming out of it so you could climb up and if you fell, you would just go into the water. There was even a tunnel that took you to an outside pool. It was so cool (and cold).
There were these giant floating pieces of foam that you could lay on, so when I was outside in the cold, I lay on top of one and reenacted a scene from Titanic with one of the others.
"I'll never let you go, Jack"
We had a very good time.
For part of the drive home Kristoffer sat in the car between Ragnhild and I. I was absolutely exhausted so I fell asleep very quickly. Krostoffer, however, was not tired at all. Every time there was a little hill in the road he would shout (in Norwegian, obviously) "Is everybody ready for the hill??"
The other three would shout "Yeah!" but I was alseep. Every time he would try to get my attention.
He would tap my shoulder and say "Arry! Arry?" If I didn't wake up right away he would tap my face and say my name again.
I would wake up, confused. After a moment I would understand what was happening and say "Yeah!" and pass out again. Just about the time I would be asleep we would come to another hill.
This went on for quite a while. I felt a little bad but I was just so tired I couldn't keep my eyes open.
We stopped for coffee with the others and Kristoffer moved to the car with his parents and sister. I slept the rest of the way home.

So much has happened in my life here since that family weekend.

I have gone on a couple of hikes up to a little lean-to type thing near by my house.
The first time I hiked up with Mamma and Pappa we figured it would be dry and nice because all the snow has been gone from our house for a very long time.
I wore my sneakers.
Near the bottom of the trail there were tons of pretty flowers

This is where I live. My house is the one farthest away and all the way to the right. The white one to the left is
where my aunt and uncle live. They own the sheep that live in the big red barn. The two white ones in the
middle are Ragnhild's house (front) and my grandparents house (back).

Bonnie and Clyde picked their way over a bridge
that had been covered by a little rock slide.

Mamma and Pappa "Ut på tur"

There the higher we got the more we saw little patches of snow. Eventually we were walking up to our shins in cold, wet snow. I was less than thrilled.
Now, Norwegians have this really nice habit of leaving guest books all over the place and always signing them when they visit that spot. Cabins, lean-tos, camp sites, trails; you can find boxes in special places all over. Inside the box, wrapped in a plastic bag, you will find a small worn out, written in journal where you can sign your name and put the date.
Every time we do the hike we sign the book in the lean-to.
The next time I hiked up there I wore my rubber boots. We hiked a different way through the woods instead of along the path and up the road. At the bottom of a little cliff we found the remains of a moose. We think it must have fallen last fall or in the early winter. By the looks of the remains, its back got broken.
We kept on walking and wound up really deep in the woods, then in a really marshy area.
I'm pretty sure there are only four types of land in Norway: fjell, fjord, skog og myr.
Mountains, fjords, forests and marshes.
By the time we got up to the lean-to I had managed to get a hole in one of my boots and as a result of that the tramping through snow, marsh and puddles caused me to have one foot that was wet.
Now there is a Norwegian saying that I learned very early in my year here. It is "ut på tur, aldri sur" which means if you're out on a trip, you are never grumpy.
This time I wrote in the book: "Den person som sa 'ut på tur aldri sur' va sikkert itj på tur med blaute fota" Which translates to "The person that said 'out on a trip, never grumpy' was surely not on a hike with wet feet"

I went up there on another trip with Thea and Ragnhild.

Another thing that happened in the past few weeks was an international night hosted by my local AFS chapter. We all met at a school and gave presentations, did sketches, dances and looked at pictures, sharing our cultures, traditions and lives with each other and everyone's host family.

Parodying how they get ready for Christmas in Norway

America, Japan, France

We're all different
We're all the same

America and Germany 

France and America

The weather in Hegra is getting better and better as every day goes by. I see signs of summer everywhere I look. Leaves are bursting out, grass is green, the sheep out in the fields and the sun is up before me each morning. Things that normally make me happy now have the opposite effect because they remind me every day of what is just around the bend...
But I won't think about that now.
There are a few very important things I left out of this blog post:
17th of May.
Trondheim with Jessica.
and Ellen's confirmation.
Russetid and 17th of May

Trondheim with Jessica
Ellen's Confirmation
I will write about all those next and I will also write about the very special visitor that is coming TOMORROW!
At 11:30 tomorrow I will go to the airport and welcome my mom here to Hegra.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

They're the Best Kind of Folks We Know!

Up With People.
Where do I start?
After my mother was an AFS exchange student in Norway for a year (yes, I am following in her foot steps), she traveled with a group called Up With People. They are a performing group made up of young adults from all over the world. They basically travel around and promote peace and understanding of other cultures. They do a lot of community service in the cities they visit all over the world.
Mom originally traveled with Cast A 79/80.

A few years after that Mom worked for Casts D, E and B in 84/85.
And that is where my story begins.
Up With People casts become families, so even as the years pass they stay in touch. My mom has been in contact with many former cast mates and I have met some of them and their families.
Now, for the first time in 15 years or something UWP came to Norway! I found out about the show a long time ago and really wanted to go but I was a little bit confused about dates and I thought it was during my Easter Break so I wouldn't be able to make the show. Three or four weeks ago Pappa and Annette (the woman who I did my work week with... read about it here! --> Drøbak, Oslo and Norefjell) surprised me with a plane ticket to Oslo and a ticket to the show!
Another surprise arrived Tuesday (April 10th) evening while Johan and I were cooking dinner... Meg! This was not the first time they have done that to me during my year! (Juletider, Bursdager og Meg)
We spent the evening together with my host grandparents. It was so cozy and I'm very glad I got the chance to introduce Meg to them. She adored them, just like I do.
Wednesday, April 11:
Wednesday morning, very early morning, Pappa drove us to the airport and Meg and I flew out.
We came close to missing our plane. The gate was closing as we were rushing through security, but we just made it.

There was a cat sitting in the seat behind me on the plane. I didn't realize it until we landed and it started meowing. I'm sure the bumpy landing was pretty terrifying for that little creature because we could hear it meowing as we were getting off the plane and while the owner was waiting to claim her bags. It was such an adorable cat though!
When we got into the Oslo airport we sat and ate a delicious sandwich together. I showed Meg the place in the airport where all of those terrified, excited and hope-filled teenagers had gathered and waited in August of last year on our very first day as exchange students in Norway.  After a little bit of food and a lot of nostalgia we took the train into the city. At the train station we found this poster and both thought it was brilliant.

It says "send me a text message" but we took it to mean "send Meg a text message".
I think it is impossible for the two of us to go anywhere without fully enjoying ourselves and laughing the whole time.
We took the trikk from the main station in Oslo... of course only after taking a few pictures.
My mom first met Meg on the train in Oslo... Two Vermont girls with a huge love for Norway. Meg was just starting her year in Norway and my mom was just ending hers. They took this picture together at the train station:

Since then a lot has happened and much has changed, including the name of the station, but that didn't stop Meg and I from recreating this picture!

What do you think? Like-mother, like-daughter?
Then we hopped a trikk to Annette's store. Walking the last block to the shop we came across this adorable mini-digger. We cracked up!

Walking into the store felt sort of like coming home for me (that is where I had spent my work week).

And I had sure missed my boss a whole lot!

Annette, Meg and I had a lovely tea break and then took a little walk.

After that Meg and I were set free to rediscover Oslo! We window shopped and wandered the streets.
Even the bikes wished us a good trip!
We ate Ben and Jerry's ice cream! (Of courseeee!)
Look mom! Something OTHER than Mint Chocolate Chunk (don't worry though... the MCC is down there, under the Phish Food).
Meg showed me where she stood when President Obama was on the balcony of a hotel in Oslo. We wandered around there for a while. I made some new friends (as always...)

Never just hand me a camera....

We went into a few stores and had some more fun photo shoots.

Getting ready for summer!
I got these.

What do you think... should I go back and buy it?
Eventually we bought some chicken from a store and went to sit in this very nice cafeteria area in a mall to eat. A woman came over to us and told us we couldn't sit there unless we had bought something from their café. I bought a coke from them and we were allowed to sit there.
Viking style!
After that we met up with Richard Andreas. On the way to meet them I made yet another friend:

Isn't he precious? 

Viking blood runs through my veins.
Meg went home with Annette while Andreas and I went to an UWP information meeting. We met a few of the cast members and clicked right away. They are all amazing people!
Everything they talked about is exactly what I want to do. They travel, they perform, they meet people, they help people....
They make a difference.
After that Andreas and I went home but the bus didn't leave for 40 minutes so we decided to go to a bar and have a beer together. The first place we went was a restaurant and they needed to see my passport to serve to me... conveniently I did not have it with me at the time... So we went to another place and asked if they would accept my Vermont ID. They said they accepted all forms of ID and I explained I just had to ask because some places don't accept my US ID. The bartender then said to me "Do you know why some places don't accept your ID?" and before I could answer he shouted "STUPIDITY!"
He was a pretty awesome dude.
When we finally got home Annette had bought Ben and Jerry's ice cream. They were hosting 3 girls from the cast: Irmeline from Sweden, Valentine from Belgium and Maddie from New Jersey! All three are awesome! It was very special for me to meet Maddie because she is the daughter of a woman named Jan.  My mom worked in Jan's cast for a half a year so mom, Jan, Maddie and I were all excited for Maddie and I to finally meet.  
We all ate ice cream and got to know each other. After talking for an hour or so I felt like I had known them for years! It got pretty late and we all had to go to bed. Meg and I got to "sleep in" until after 8:30 the next day. That was a lot of extra time compared to the others!

Thursday, April 12:
 We took the bus into Oslo around 9:30 or 10.
At 10:30 we went to Ben and Jerry's.

Best. Breakfast. EVER.

In front of the scoop shop there were workers planting flowers. We found their method quite amusing because they were kicking the trays around and would dig the holes with their boot heels. Watching young men plant flowers is a very amusing sight indeed.

After that we made our way to the Folketeateret a little before noon.

Found this window display on the way there.
I want.
Once we found the theater I met up with some of the kids I knew already and met so many more! It was great fun to hang out back stage with them. Maddie told me there was a boy from Vermont so I was on a quest to find him. We both freaked when we met... I mean, meeting another Vermonter randomly in Oslo? What are the chances? (Mom and Meg understand!) His name is Logan.

Logan and I :)
At noon I gave a presentation about AFS to most of the cast. 
I was so nervous!
Maddie lead me in front of the cast and wished me luck. 
I think the presentation went well... I kept it short and sweet. I introduced myself and told all the connections I have to this particular cast, which is a lot actually (more than just Maddie). Then I told a brief history of AFS and told them to recommend the program to anyone within the age restrictions (which is generally 15 to 18 but it depends on the country). 
I think people were interested in what I had to say...

And when I was finished:

I was privileged enough to hang out with the cast and got a chance to chat about a lot of different things.

Ben & Jerry's... Vermonters gotta represent!
Johan (Sweden), me and Logan (VT!),  Maddie (NJ)
They were all so awesome and easy to get along with! Just the type of people I want to be friends with!
I also got to explore back stage a little bit, just to see what it is like.

Then, at 1 o'clock I was brought downstairs for my interview!!
That's right, I applied to travel with Up With People.
One of the cast members (Oscar) interviewed me. Afterwards, other cast members asked me how my interview went and I told them they would have to talk to Oscar but regardless of if it was a good interview or not I had a really good time talking to him and it was fun.
Right after the interview was over there was this open house for prospective cast members. Andreas, a few other girls and I got a back stage tour from one of the staff members named Annie. My mother traveled with her father and attended her parents wedding, so it was pretty cool to meet her. Her brother Paul is on the staff too but he was very busy so I never really got the chance to talk to him.
We saw all the costumes, the lights, tech equipment and then were allowed to sit in the audience to watch their rehearsal. It was pretty cool because we got to see some people practicing songs but when we watched the performance, it was different people that sang those songs.
After a while watching, I decided to go find Meg because we were planning to grab some dinner before the show started.
We went to the mall that we ate at the day before. We made it back in time for Meg to go to the alumni VIP reception.
I slipped backstage again and hung out with the cast until it was nearly show time. 
I was about to go downstairs when someone asked if I was going to green room. I had no clue what they were talking about so I said I wasn't sure. 
I guess the whole cast always gathers together before the show in a meeting that they call green room. I'm not sure what this cast normally does but my mom told me a little about what her casts would do. They would have skits or last minute notes before the show and it was their way to just gather together as a cast and compose themselves before the show.
...and just like that I got whisked away with the cast to green room. Someone talked for a little bit and then asked if there were any guests. A few people introduced their family members and then Logan raised his hand and introduced me. All of us guests had to go into the middle of the circle and they sang a little song to us, told us to enjoy the show and sent us down. 
I found Annette and Meg but we couldn't find Andreas anywhere. It turned out that somehow he had gotten a seat in the second row with his friends and we were all the way up in the balcony. We still had an amazing view.
The show was absolutely amazing! I can't even describe how special it was. It made me cry, it made me laugh, it had me dancing and singing along... It inspired me.
At intermission I snuck backstage to tell my newly made friends how awesome they were doing.
They sang part of this song and I found it particularly catchy. I have basically listened to it non-stop since then:

So catchy. 
After the show Meg snapped a picture of me and it is perfect because it was the exact moment that I knew my life had been totally changed forever.

 We went down into the front hall and I took pictures with the cast members in their nice dresses!

Maddie! :)

Three of the loveliest people I know, inside and out!

All of us stayed together in Drøbak
I also was fortunate enough to meet two more of my mother's castmates. They thought that I look a lot like my mom.
Ann-Christin-Cast A

Grethe- Worked as PR staff with my mom

I went backstage again after the show and hung out up there with the cast. Some were cleaning up the stage but most everyone was upstairs. I enjoyed the last precious time I had with them and I literally stayed there until they kicked us all out.
I went and found some of the cast members that I had grown particularly fond of to say one last goodbye. I thanked Brad, the admissions officer and told him I hoped we would stay in touch and that I would be traveling soon. 
After a few last hugs the Drøbak crew slowly worked out way to the street. I don't think any of us really wanted to go... Well, I know at least I didn't... It had been such an amazing day! 

After we took this picture we wandered out into the street and then parted ways. Meg and I went to the airport hotel because my flight was really early the next morning and the rest of the crew went back to  Drøbak.
It was very late by the time we got to the hotel but I wasn't tired at all. I was so hyped up that I couldn't sleep right away. I skyped with mom for a while and spent a bit of time on the computer before I attempted to go to bed.
Winding down after a life-changing day.
It was a very nice hotel room and the bed was super comfortable, however, I barely slept at all. I lay awake thinking of how my cast will be and what my cast will do and where my cast will go and who will be in my cast
I like the sound of that:
My cast.

The next morning I flew out very early and arrived home just in time to be picked up from the airport and driven to school. It was a little bit bummed to go to school because of my lack of sleep the night before but I was still flying so high from the whole life-changing-experience thing that it didn't matter all that much anyways.
I wish there were better words to describe what this whole experience meant to me... the people; the show; the meaning behind it all... but I really can't come up with the right way to explain it so I'll just leave this here and maybe it will do the job itself:

Siblings Already

Siblings Already
These are pictures that I found of my host brother on facebook compared to pictures of myself (from facebook). It looks like we're going to get along pretty well :D