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From Just Another Tourist In Bergen

Post by Cindy Mom

(Written while on a fjord tour in Bergen on May 30th.)
The contrast of experience is absolutely stunning.  No homecooked food, no inside scoop, no special pass, no keys to locked doors, no one to answer all my questions, no one to tell me the Norwegian names for things.  On this fjord tour boat, I feel like I should be sitting inside, visiting with the captain.  Instead, I’m out on the deck with a bunch of strangers, and we’re all getting in each others’ ways – unlike the graceful group awareness I felt with “my team.” We’re snapping photos of the scenery to which we have no relationship or understanding, and very little information.  I haven’t said more than three words to anyone in hours.  We’re all in our little bubbles, and together we share the larger bubble of our tourist boat.  Although the weather’s perfect and the scenery is fine and the ride is lovely, there’s a certain lack of depth to the experience.

I’m glad I took a couple of extra days after the GSE program, so that I could have some time and space to think, and maybe begin to process what has happened over the last month. Group Study Exchange: there is no comparison to any other experience I’ve ever had in my life. The thing I can’t get out of my head, that continues to bring tears to my eyes, is the thankfulness I feel for having met all the dear hosts, guides, and vocational contacts who took care of us during our stay in Norway. We were welcomed into the homes and lives of these wonderful people.  They rearranged their schedules to spend time with us. We saw their communities and favorite places that they hold sacred.  We spent time with their spouses, kids and grandkids, siblings, and extended families. We met their neighbors and friends.  We cuddled with their pets, looked at their bookshelves, learned about their hobbies and interests (and yes, obsessions, too.) We saw the insides of their refrigerators and under their sinks.  We got to know each other well as we cooked together, did laundry, ran errands, went to the grocery store or the auto shop or picked the kids up from school.  We stayed up late, talking, singing, telling stories, dancing, and yes, sometimes alcohol was involved. We shared our experiences of stressful work situations, injuries and illnesses, worries about aging parents, joys of birthdays and celebrations, and grief (some very fresh, and some not so recent but still terribly painful) over friends and family members who’ve been lost.  Memories of these new friends will be vivid and powerful for years and years.  I just hope some of our Norwegian friends will come visit us in Michigan and Ontario, so we can return some of the splendid hospitality and warmth that they showed us.

Tusen takk, dear friends, and all the Rotary Clubs who made this trip possible.


Home sweet home

Post by Tara Kram

After a long day(s) of travelling, we arrived home safe and sound.  We boarded the bus in Lyngdal at 3:45am sharp and were at the airport by 5:30am.  Thanks to the early Norwegian sunrise, it made travelling a bit easier, but the night was definitely short.  Krista, Anjanette, and I boarded our plane first to Amsterdam and Jodi and Diane followed soon thereafter on their flight to Oslo.  Cindy was flying out around 11:00am for her 3 day trip in Bergen.

All was smooth for the US group (Krista, Tara, and Anjanette) until our connection in Chicago.  Krista and I were supposed to leave for Grand Rapids at 4:30pm but learned at 2:30pm that our flight had been cancelled due to mechanical problems.  We were on stand-by for the 6:30pm flight to Grand Rapids, but so were 28 other people so we weren’t able to get on the flight.  Finally, at 9:45pm we boarded a plane for Muskegon and arrived at 11:45pm.  Unfortunately, our luggage did not arrive and today (Sunday) at 7:00pm Michigan time, it is still yet to be found.  😦  Needless to say, after 27 hours of travel and only 2 hours of sleep the night before, we were more than exhausted and likely not speaking coherently anymore.  Home was a welcomed refuge and bed never felt so good. 

Thankfully, our travels for the month in Norway were much smoother than this run-around.  Thank you Rotary Clubs for making it an amazing trip!  We miss you already!

Post by Tara Kram

Unforgettable experience

Post by Diane Marshall

Our six member female International G.S.E. team from District 6290 has had a truly exceptional, unforgettable experience in Norway. The Rotarians from District 2290 have been exceptional in extending their generosity to each and every member. Our cultural experiences have been rich—boating in fiords, climbing lighthouses, sampling coveted cloudberries, trekking through mountains, savoring fresh shrimps, devouring brown cheese, sipping aquavit, participating in the National Day celebrations, marveling at the intricate embroidery on bunads, visiting summer homes, attempting reindeer and moose meat, and of course feasting on salmon, cod, herring, mackerel, shrimp, whale and halibut.

Our vocational exposures have confirmed that we encounter similar challenges and successes. Exchanges of methodologies and practices were most appreciated. Our greatest joys came sharing times with our hosts—whether hiking through the forests, investigating an ancient city, or best of all sharing a traditional meal together. These caring Norwegian Rotarians truly opened their hearts and their homes, thereby assuring that each of us would experience the finest of their country. We will always have a spot in our hearts for these marvelous Norwegian families.

As I have mentioned in an earlier text, District 6290 can be extremely proud of its G.S.E. Norway team. Each of these young female professionals was an excellent ambassador for her club, her District, and her country. It has indeed been a sincere pleasure and a great privilege being the team leader of such an excellent, enthusiastic team!

Cindy, Jody, Anjanette, Tara, Diane, Krista

Post by Diane Marshall

Excerpts from Store Torungen

Post by Cindy Mom (reflecting back on last week)

Sunset light on granite islands
Strandnellik blooms purple against red rock.

Three beams of light from Torungen Fyr
three pie-pieces of sky

For breakfast:
Bacon, eggs, toast & poetry with Sondre & Knut.

Fed the sheep.
Cuddled with kittens.
Climbed the lighthouse at sunset.

“Earl-eye up in the morning”
Awoken at 4:00 am by Oystercatchers,
At 5:30 am by the sheep with their bells,
At 7:00 am by geese with their goslings.

On Mærdo, eating sea cabbage,
taking a breath, taking some time.

The view from my window is mostly sea and sky, with a fringe of island rock, sheep, and gulls at the bottom of the frame. The half moon is reflecting in the open window glass.

Up at 5:00, relentless sun, streaks of blonde in my hair.

A quick thrust of the right hand, bending back the head to crush the neck bones.  That’s how I SHOULD have done it, but I was pretty wimpy about it.  “I thought you were a tough guy,” said Knut.
I fed the fish guts to the gulls.

Sondre’s poems: I need to learn Norwegian so I can understand them!

The Arendal Song is stuck in my head. Stuck in my head, stuck in my heart.

My first approach to Store Torungen

Sondre and Knut perform the (very catchy) Arendal Song.

Knut feeds the wild sheeps

Post by Cindy Mom

Friluftsliv – “free air life”

Post by Cindy Mom

“I must tell you, not all Norwegians are as crazy about this as I am,” said our host and guide (and president of the Lyngdal Rotary Club), Gaute Johannessen. While Krista and Diane were relaxing in Gaute and Tordis’s beautiful mountain cottage two days ago, Gaute guided Anjanette, Jody, Tara, and Cindy on an overnight hike into the mountains.  And yes, Gaute is crazy about the mountains.  They are his paradise. Gaute is also crazy about many other outdoor activities that can be done in the wilds of Norway. His seasons go something like this, though not necessarily in this order:
Fish, at the ocean
Fish, at the river
Fish, at the lake
Canoe, hike, and stay at mountain huts (hytte)
Go boating on the fjord
Pick cloudberries (in undisclosed locations)
Hunt rype (grouse)
Ice skate
Eat rakfisk and cloudberries

Gaute’s outdoor interests, passions, and activities can be summed up with one Norwegian word: friluftsliv. Literally translated, this means “free air life.” We don’t have a word for this way of life in English. It seems to be a purely Norwegian philosophy.  The four of us who got to go on a hike with this master of friluftsliv are so fortunate to have had him as our guide.  He didn’t waste too much time talking about friluftsliv, but instead took us to a ruggedly beautiful place, and shared his mountain paradise with us.  Thank you, Gaute, for introducing us to the Lakkenstova Hytte, Lille Øy Vann, kråkefot, rype, heipiplerke, bløtenatter, your homemade raspberry wine, and the barbeque hut.  Maybe someday you’ll tell us where to find the cloudberries. (But we won’t hold our breaths.)

Gaute, our fearless leader

Springtime in Ljosland, while the rhododendrons and cherry trees bloom back in town

Lakkenstova Hytte, a Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) cabin.

Happy Campers!

 Post by Cindy Mom

Climb every mountain… unless, of course, you can stay home and use the sauna instead.

Post by Krista Menacher

While the other girls were off having their mountain adventure, I remained behind at “base camp” and enjoyed a bit of luxury. Our cabin has a few more creature comforts than the DNT cottage my brave GSE teammates are staying in tonight.

love the grass roof!

After seeing the 4 hikers off (in the rain) Diane and I settled back in for a little quiet time. In the early afternoon we were taken for a ride and mini-hike in the next valley, where we were able to see some of the impressive hydroelectric dams help supply Norway with power. A little more reading and relaxing followed. Then on to dinner! Neighboring Rotarians invited us over for an authentic Korean feast. Full and happy we made the long hike back – two whole houses over.

Still more reading and relaxing followed, with a little music peppered in for good measure. Then I heard it calling my name… the sauna… it was time.

Within minutes, any remaining stress I possessed had melted away. The twinge in my shoulder from my long day hauling statues at the Vestfold Folk Museum was finally gone. Best of all, I was reminded of all the saunas back home in the Upper Peninsula where I grew up.

steamy little bit of heaven

I’m sure the other team members will come back tomorrow with wonderful tales of their adventures up on the mountain – but I won’t regret my time spent here at “base camp.”

Post by Krista Menacher

Goodbye Arendal

Post by Tara Kram

We are leaving Arendal this afternoon to head for Lyngdal.  We had wonderful weather for the past few days (70+ degrees!) so we have been able to enjoy the outdoors and even managed to get a little sunburned.  Our Arendal hosts gave us a great send off party last night out at Store Torungen Nature Preserve (island where there is a lighthouse).  We had an all you can eat shrimp buffet in the boat house – yum!  All agree that Arendal has felt like a vacation with the warm weather, beautiful views of the water, and relaxed pace.  Thank you Nedenes (Arendal) Rotary Club!!

We head for a cabin at Ljosland today and then to another cabin called Lakkenstova.  We will connect with our hosts in Lyngdal on Tuesdsay.  We may not have internet access until then, so we will fill you in our adventures in a few days!

Boat show in Arendal

Shrimp feast

View from the top of the lighthouse