A Taste of Home

On Friday, the 20th of September, Bergen was invaded by Americans. And not by just any ol’ Yanks…My parents and family friends, the Sankos.

I rushed into town from work to meet them at their hotel and with perfect timing made it there RIGHT as their Flybussen was dropping them off. Of the entire week that they were here, I think this moment was my favorite. Just that pure joy of seeing my parents after so long and knowing that I would get to show them all of the things I love about Norway. It’s a good thing they brought their walking shoes, cause I had an itinerary that was not intended for the weak. I let them take a mini break, since they did just travel for 12+ hours…but then it was chop chop! Outside! The sun was out and so were we! First stop: Nordnesparken for a lovely walk and a beautiful sunset.

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The next day we made the trip up to Fløyen. As soon as we got on the Funicular, it started raining, of course. Thanks Obama. But after waiting just a few minutes at the top, the wind took away the clouds and rain leaving only the breathtaking view of Bergen. It was so much fun. I got to use the view as a 3D map to point out all of the places I have talked about and we even got to play with some trolls.

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The rest of the weekend was spent with some more typical Bergen sight-seeing: Bryggen, Bergenhus Festning, and of course! The sweater shops!

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My beautiful mother at the top of Rosenkrantz Tower

On Monday, we got out of Bergen to see what Norway has to offer outside of the city with an adventure to Flåm on the Flåmsbana. It was such a cool train ride with twists and turns and views of waterfalls, beautiful mountains, and those random houses that make you wonder, “Who actually lives there?” The way back was by boat down the largest fjord in Norway, Sognefjord. Again, pictures cannot do justice the beauty that we saw on this ferry back to Bergen. If ever you want a moment where you awe at nature with such ferocity that you leave a puddle of drool…plan a trip to Norway.

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Mom and Mrs. Sanko in Flåm nature

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On Tuesday, I let the kids go play on their own as I went to work. It was an interesting experience, going to work on my birthday…I think I’ll avoid it from now on. It was so wonderful though, to get to spend my special day with my parents and friends. I made us some rommegrot and Mrs. Sanko, my fellow chocolate lover, made sure I had brownies for my birthday cake as I was serenaded “Happy Birthday” outside my dorm building. The rest of the evening was spent doing my new favorite activity, walking in the Norwegian nature. Now my parents can picture my surroundings when I tell them I am going for a quick run around the lake, or park, or to see the Fantoft Stavekirke, and I think that is just so cool.

While everyday of the week was an adventure with my parents, Wednesday was a bit different. It was an adventure with food. We Americans got all dolled up and went to the harbor to wait for some guy in a boat. (If you’re Alexis Smith, you’ll understand this as being comparable to meeting the tour group by The Stairs outside of the Vatican…but Bergen is much smaller than Rome, so this was a lot easier.) This guy with the boat happened to be the owner of the restaurant we were going to and drove us, along with 15 employees of Norway’s ‘small’ oil company Statoil, to an island close by. This island is occupied by only this restaurant, Cornelius, and one residence.

As we ate some raw salmon, scallops (that were still moving), and oysters, we listened to the crazy story of how this man acquired such a swank place. It was a crazy story, and I’m not sure how much of it was true…also some of it was in Norwegian. I would try and relay it, but it’s one of those stories where only a certain person can tell it to give the full effect. I can tell you it includes a fish farm, death, betrayal, Seattle, and a rascal of a man. We ate a scrumptious three-course meal as the sun set behind the hills of Hordaland. Sigh.

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It really didn’t hit me that my parents were here until they left. I thought that their visit would be a nice ‘refresher’ and that it would dispel the hint of homesickness I had been feeling. Quite the opposite happened. Now that I have had that taste of home, I feel more homesick. I still love it here in Bergen and am looking forward to my next three months here and the adventures I will undoubtedly have, but I realized how much I really do miss the United States and those people I love that are there. Skype is great, but it can’t give you that hug that one only gets from their mama or that big bear hug a dad gives.

Something to remember: The world is so small. Check out what I found in a local antique shop. Maybe Illinois isn’t so far away after all.

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A New Start.

A new start.

This phrase instantly brings to mind Tobias Funke’s latest flub in the most recent season of Arrested Development. However, as I sit here in Café Aura near the city center of Bergen, scrolling through my friends’ graduation pictures, I realize that this phrase signifies so much more. As many of my peers graduated this past weekend (Go ‘Cats!), the phrase new start implies entering the so-called “real life.” Whether this entails a 9-5 career, endless job applications, TFA, grad school, or the ever ambiguous year-off-to-travel, it generally means the scary and intimidating unknown.

While I did not graduate this past weekend, I did enter my own great unknown. Here I am, living in the second largest city of Norway for the next six months. The past few days have been spent traveling around the city, attempting to get situated.

DSCN0831 DSCN0826 DSCN0841  With a trip to the great IKEA and several outings to the local grocery stores, I feel set. I even made myself a meal. The kitchen in my quaint dorm suite is quite a bit different than what I’m used to, so this was a small victory for me. I’d post pictures of this victory…but my level of cooking with my limited kitchen needs a bit more work. I didn’t know anyone upon coming here except for the few people I have been corresponding with in my program, IAESTE. They have made me feel extremely welcome and have helped me get to know the essentials of living in Bergen and even took me to the VilVite! It’s like Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry with an option to read and hear things in Norwegian! Everyone speaks in Norwegian, and as I sit here in this coffee shop, I can assure you that I do not understand a single thing. I have picked up on some important phrases, like how to say excuse me and thank you, but most everyone speaks English so this is not really a problem. I’m still working on learning anyhow, ‘cause what’s the point of moving somewhere new if you don’t want to learn?

Other observations thus far, in bullet points! My favorite!

  • People are very much into fitness here, and I write this knowing full well my Nutella jar is already half gone.
  • Bergen is really baby-friendly. A lot of strollers on the Bybanen (light rail). I can’t help thinking of Chicago, and what the Red-line would be like with that many strollers. I guess the ‘L’ is eLevated (see what I did there?), making it harder for parents to get their strollers up the stairs and onto the platform. Interesting to think about.
  • There’s Mexican food and restaurants here! My other favorite! In fact, it’s a tradition for people to make tacos on Friday nights for family dinner.

I have much more to share and even more to learn, but this will have to do for now. Stay tuned!