What are you thankful for?

This Thursday marked Thanksgiving in the US, and while nobody really seems to celebrate Thanksgiving outside of the US, I was determined not to miss out on one of my favorite holidays. I made a plan to make a huge Thanksgiving dinner for myself and all my close friends here in Norway. I had nearly 20 people to cook for, and only myself, Inka, and Austin had ever experienced a Thanksgiving before, so I was determined to make it the best Thanksgiving possible for my friends. I rode a bus to Sweden to buy meats for the dinner; I  got four 1.7 kilo turkey roasts, and a single five kilo ham. I bought about 12 kilos of potatoes to mash, about 30 dinner rolls, made two dozen deviled eggs, enough salad to fill 3 large bowls, gravy for everyone, a massive dish of cornbread, two large bowls of corn, a huge sheet of stuffing (used two large loafs of bread as the base), two tubs of ice cream, and a very large tray filled with crackers and cheese. I started making the food the night before, went to bed, and then woke up at 8 am to continue making food. I cooked all freaking day, making more food in a single day than I ever have before by far. It was extremely hard to get everything made in just my kitchen with the limited supplies I had, and at one point my rooms electrical grid couldn’t handle having all four burners on in addition to the oven and kept flipping the fuse for the oven and stove off, so I had to quickly borrow a friends stove and rush two of the pots over to his room. We only have a single small table with four chairs in our small kitchen, so I managed to get two more tables and 15 more chairs into the kitchen, but there was literally no room left in the kitchen once we got all the tables, chairs, and people packed into the room. It was one of the most hectic things I’ve ever had to organize, and i’m really proud of how it all turned out. All of the food turned out amazingly, and I will say that the turkey and the ham were flat out the best turkey and ham i’ve ever had in my life. All of my friends had a really good time and I even managed to make more food than all 20 of my friends could eat. Thanksgiving was a ton of work, but I would do it again every year for my friends here and i’m really glad that I put together an amazing Thanksgiving experience for them! So all in all my first time coordinating and making a Thanksgiving dinner turned out really well and i’m quite proud of the result! But, I do have some more important matters at hand. Monday marks my first final exam here in Norway, and I have three more this next week. I will be doing nothing but studying for the next week undoubtedly, and I haven’t been able to find as much motivation to study as I usually did in the US. Luckily I don’t need to get all A’s over here, otherwise I might be in trouble, so i’m confident that I will do what I need to do. After this next week however I have some free time before my last final exam on the 18th of December, and I might be doing something fun like another short cabin trip. I’m looking forward to the little time that I have left here in Norway and i’m dreading end of my stay!

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Snow in Trondheim

Well it’s finally started to snow here in Trondheim. Funnily enough it also started to snow in Iowa just a day later, but the Iowa snow is early whereas the snow here seems to be right on time. It’s snowed every day for the past three days now,and it has been the really nice snow. The type that is lazy, and slow falling, and seems to make the world slow down. Unfortunately it has come to the time of year here in Trondheim where I must focus on my exams. I have final exams from the 30th of November to the 18th of December, which is much nicer than having them all in one week like we do in Ames. However I am very nervous about some of my exams simply because all of my exams will represent 100% of my final grade in the classes. So there is a lot of pressure to perform well. One nice thing about exams here in Norway though is that they don’t bother to test you on your ability to take tests fast. In the US, many of my tests were designed to take all the time possible, especially in math classes. So often you have to rush through portions of the exams so that you can finish on time, which causes people to make mistakes and lowers the grades. While here in Norway they don’t have any more material on the tests, but they allow double the amount of time that US finals allow, which really helps to make the situations less stressful. The only thing that I really have to look forward to in the next week is Thanksgiving. Nobody in Norway celebrates Thanksgiving, but in the spirit of America I’m hosting a big thanksgiving dinner for all of my friends so they can experience the holiday! I plan on cooking all the traditional sorts of Thanksgiving meals and i’m even going to Sweden to purchase turkeys for the dinner. The only problem is that some ingredients are going to be hard to get over here and i’m really not sure ill be able to make everything that I want to (pumpkin pie is gonna be hard). So we will have to see how that ends up and hopefully I don’t turn out to be a terrible chef.

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Post Arctic Adventures

We finished up our trip to the Lofoten Islands and it was one of the best/worst trips since I’ve come here to Trondheim. Starting with the bad: We had five guys and we rented a tiny hybrid car, were all very big guys. I’m 6’8″, and all of the other guys were over 6′ except for Austin. So we did not fit well at all. About every hour and a half we had to stop the car to rotate positions because of how painful it was. Secondly, we started driving at 11:30 at night, and we arrived at the home we were renting through AirBnB at 10 ish the next night, driving for nearly 23 hours. But we did have 3 hours of down time while we waited for the ferry, during which we slept inside the waiting room on tables and chairs that we pushed together. Then we also had the 3.5 hour ferry ride, which was nice and we could relax. But overall it was the most brutal day of traveling i’ve ever experienced. Now on to the great things about the trip (which far outweigh the bads): On the up way up to Lofoten we crossed into the literal arctic. We stopped at the arctic circle center, where it quite literally looks like the arctic. We took pictures there, explored the area a little, had a snowball fight, and then did some handbrake turns in the empty parking2015-11-06 08.12.22 lot which was covered in ice. The scenery was also quite beautiful from Mo I Rana north so we had plenty to look at. Shortly after we left the Arctic Circle center I was driving
when we were forced to stop and wait for a herd of reindeer to cross the road, the reindeer were not very skittish around our car at all and allowed us to get very close before wandering away. After our ferry ride that dropped us and our car off in Reine, we drove straight to our home. But while we were driving it was absolutely pitch black out. You could not see a single thing unless there was a light shown on it and the Lofoten Islands don’t really have any streetlights. So we had absolutely no idea what we were driving around. the next morning we woke up to what I think was the most beautiful sunrise that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was amazing to wake up to. While we were driving around that day we were constantly blown away saying “We were driving through all this last night and we had absolutely no idea?? wow”. We decided to that we were going to the mountain Reinebringen to hike up to the top. This was the mountain where just a week earlier an American man from Michigan had fallen off and died, and after hiking it I can comfortably say I can see why. The mountain was incredibly steep with loosely packed dirt and rock, and in the beginning you are actually just scrambling up a steep sheet of rock with a stream flowing over it, so you better hope your shoes had good grip. Then at the top you actually had to climb over a pile of rocks that was about 5 meters tall mostly straight up, however it was very easy climbing, just very slick. But we all lived and we got lucky with some clear weather for some really good pictures and sights. We spent the rest of the time driving around the islands and sightseeing, it didn’t even matter where you went because every single road had amazing views and I was blown away by how dramatic, and impressive it all was. I absolutely loved the trip up to the Lofoten Islands and I wish that everyone had the chance to go there, but either way check out the Flickr linked on the side for some pics from the trip.

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Adventures in the Arctic

Tonight I’m leaving for a trip to the Lofoten Islands. We’re renting a car and driving straight through the night to Bodø, and then we will wait there for the ferry that will transport us to the islands. The islands are supposed to be extremely beautiful, so I am excited to get there and explore. But, just last week an American from Michigan died there after he fell off one of the mountains, so I’m probably not going to do anything too risky there. One aspect of this trip that I love, is that I am going above the arctic circle, which I think is extremely cool. When most people think about taking a vacation in November they think about warm places like Mexico or Florida, but my friends and I are going from a cold place to the literal Arctic. Even my parents question why I would want to go to these places since they are cold, but the beauty is something that you can never find in Iowa. Really the only thing that I miss about the Iowa geography is the openness of the land. But I’ve for the most part gotten over it since I’ve come to Norway and fell even more in love with the mountains than I already was. While Iowa really is a nice place to live, in terms of nature it has nothing on Norway.

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Krakow and Halloween

I just finished my trip to Krakow, and I had a great time. It was only my two friends Austin, Nicole, and I. We took a train into the city and chose to stay in an apartment along the Wista River through AirBnB. The city of Krakow is incredibly cool and has a lot of history. They have castles, we ate in a 14th century cellar, and across the street from where we were staying you could see bullet holes in the older buildings from WW2 when the USSR and Germany fought over the city. We took a hot air balloon ride over the city and got a really great view that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get because of the smog. But I think my favorite part of the trip was how cheap the food was. Coming from Norway where food is stupidly expensive and even a relatively normal meal at a restaurant will cost you the same as a weeks worth of groceries, to Krakow where they have the cheapest food I have ever seen in my life. I kept eating so much food there because suddenly I could afford it; and I loved it. Overall the Polish people were polite, but not overly nice, but they lacked the English proficiency that most other European cities  have. Still it was a really good time in Krakow even though we only spent 2 days there. Our flight back to Trondheim was supposed to be at 10 in the morning but shortly after we arrived at the gate they announced that our flight was delayed. Our flight ended up being delayed for 3.5 hours, but I still feel lucky because about half of the flights that morning ended up being canceled. Basically as soon as we got back into Trondheim it was time to prepare for Halloween. Halloween in norway is really only for the students so that we can all get dressed up in fun costumes and have a party! Although I was severely disappointed in Norwegian girls ability to dress for Halloween. Every third girl was wearing black clothes with a skull painted on to their face, and then another third were dressed up as cats in some way. But at least some of them managed to find other costumes, but only very few had anything that was creative. They guys were better at having creative costumes but skulls and black clothes was still way more popular than it should have been. But it really didn’t matter because I was with my friends and were all dressed banger for the night and we had heaps of fun at the party. Just for reference I was dressed just like Xena Warrior Princess, and it was an absolute hit with everyone.

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Catching up and planning ahead

While most of the time I’ve spent abroad has not been filled with schoolwork, this week was the exception. Even in Norway I definitely still have responsibilities. But oh well. I may have spent the last week in my room writing papers and doing math, but I know I have a lot to look forward to in the next couple weeks. First next Thursday I leave for a short trip to Krakow, Poland. I’m heading there with my friends Austin and Nicole, and while I’m not sure exactly what we are going to do there yet, I’m excited to travel more around Europe nonetheless! Then a week after the Poland trip, I am going to leave for a trip to Lofoten with my friends. The Lofoten Islands are a beautiful group of islands that sit above the Arctic Circle off the west coast of Norway. So I’ve got a lot that I need to get ready for in the next two weeks here so that I don’t miss anything while I’m gone! Also as a side note, I’ve been killing my sleep schedule recently so that I could stay up and watch the Kansas City Royals games back home, and now they’re going to the World Series baby!!! I am so excited for the games, I don’t care if it means that I don’t get to sleep to watch them!

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Trip to Amsterdam!

I just got back from a trip to Amsterdam where I was in the city from Wednesday to Saturday afternoon with four of my friends. We stayed in a hostel while there and during the nights we went to the Amsterdam Dance Event shows. Amsterdam is unlike any city I have ever been in before. First off it was crazy busy all around the city, making the city feel very alive. The big thing though was the absolute blatantness of the more infamous aspects of the city, all the coffee shops, the red light district, and the erotic shops are all very much front and centered and you would have a hard time ignoring it anywhere in the city. Just very contrasting to me as all of these places tend to be tucked away in the US where the majority of people would never see them unless they were looking for them. I imagined that this would create a atmosphere where you would mainly see younger guys, with less girls and families. But I was incredibly surprised by the amount of families there, many of them not even putting in an effort to avoid the seedier parts of the town and just dragging their young children through them. Another thing that I really like about Amsterdam was just how every building was historical. While the buildings all looked like they were well maintained, they also all looked like someone had just taken a brand new house out of the 18th century and then plucked it down today. It really creates a cool vibe for the city and gives it a lot of culture and identity. Amsterdam is by far the most fun city i’ve been to in my life though and I would love any opportunity to go back.

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Geiranger Trip

All I can say is woah. I just got back from a two day trip where I started out in Trondheim and then drove down the Atlantic Coast of  Norway to the city of  Ålesund. Stayed in Ålesund for a night and then drove to Geiranger to spend the day in the fjord; and it is absolutely spectacular, gorgeous, and one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. I have never seen anything quite like it before, and I doubt that there are many like it. For anyone who has the opportunity to travel there it is worth it.

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Ohana means family

When I left the US I had gone through the long process of saying goodbye to as many friends as I could in the few days before I left, and that definitely isn’t fun, but at the same time it’s not all that bad really because as I was leaving I was about to do something that nobody close to me had ever done and go places that no one that I knew had ever been to before. So the excitement of all the unknown definitely made it not really a problem to say goodbye and get on my way. The last person from home that I saw before leaving the country was mom standing at the edge of the security gate, crying, trying to take pictures of me. So definitely throughout my experience so far in Norway I’ve had some times where I felt home sick, but it’s never really that bad because I can still talk to all my friends and family back home when I want to through the internet. But what helps stave off any homesickness the most is my family here in Norway. I found a really great group of friends over here in Norway and I love how diverse we all are but at the same time how we are all drawn to similar things even even though we span a dozen nationalities. But I think it’s going to be even harder to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made over here than the friends I had back home. Not because one group of friends is better or anything like that, just because I left my friends in the US knowing that I was going to see them in the not too distant future, but when I leave my friends here in Norway, it will be very difficult for me to see them again, and I definitely don’t imagine being able to see all of them in one place ever again. I wish it easy for me to say oh yeah i’m just going over to Europe, or Australia, or wherever today to say hello to some friends, but planes just don’t move that fast and that cheaply. And then again while I’m sure many of them will visit the US in the future, it’s a little bit difficult to convince someone visiting the US to visit central Iowa. So thats a bummer. But I do get a really nice visit soon. Next week I will get to see my dad for the first time since a couple days before I left the US. He is stopping by for a few days on his way back from a business trip to India. I don’t know exactly how it will play out yet but I imagine that when I first see him I’ll just kinda sit there staring with a stupid grin on my face for a while. After that I’ve got a couple day road trip planned out so that we can both go and see some of the more famous parts of Norway, but I think regardless of what we do it’s just going to be really awesome to see family from back home for a little while.

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I guess this is really my first post about Norwegian people, and they have definitely left an impression on me here so far. What I have found here is that during the day, most Norwegians tend to keep to themselves and their close friends. But at night they can be some of the rowdiest, most fun loving, outgoing, and  casually insane people I know. Your typical Norwegian guy is tall (well maybe not to me), broad faced, with thick blonde hair flipped over to one side, fit and healthy, and very well dressed. Your typical Norwegian girl is tall, not usually broad faced, with thick blonde hair usually straightened, fit and healthy, and very well dressed. Can you start to see the patterns? Norwegian people are also in love with good summer weather, around Trondheim the summers usually don’t feel like the summers from Iowa. It still rains all the time and when it rains the temperature usually drops. So from my 2nd week in Trondheim through about the 5th week, the weather decided it wanted to be nice to us and cleared up with lots of sun and highs in the upper 20s (~80F) nearly everyday. The Norwegians all told me that it was unusually amazing weather for this time of the year, but I don’t think anyone could accuse the Norwegians of not taking advantage of it. During those three weeks I’m not sure any of them went to school or work, every single day was filled with barbeques and parties outside. Even if they were just waiting for a bus, they would lay in the grass besides the road with their shirt off and suntan. The Norwegians also seem to be very conscious of the environment, they do a much better job of recycling (well actually Europe in general seems to do a much better job than the US, we gotta step it up) and they really seem to love their Tesla cars. As a big Tesla fan, when I first came over here and saw a Tesla I was very excited, but I soon realized that it seems like pretty much anyone who can afford one here has one. I think it’s easy to see why the Norwegian people might be a bit more conscious of the environment though, because just about every nook and cranny of Norway finds a way to be very beautiful, and I’m sure just about anyone would feel very guilty if they messed that up. So overall I think the Norwegians deserve a round of applause for what they’ve managed to create as their culture, because they seem to have going for them right now.

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