Norway Notes: 1998
by Grace Dyrud
Three years ago Keith set his hat on a shelf at Nils' and Solveig's house on Fitjar because it was too wet to put in the sleeve of his trench coat. Since it wasn't raining when he left, and the hat wasn't in his sleeve, the hat stayed on the shelf. It was supposed to find its way to Oslo to be given to Lars who was there at the time. Whatever the hat's route has been, it is now back with Keith. Anne-Marie, niece of Nils and Solveig Fitjar, brought it to Oslo when she and her husband, Nils, met us there with much accompanying laughter. It is a joke on Fitjar too. Keith is very glad to get it back, as he had never found another soft, olive moleskin hat.
Hats continued to figure in this Norway trip. Keith wanted a fisherman's hat that fit. He already had one that was too tight. At a large store in Fitjar (part of the island of Stord off the Bergen side of Norway) they had both Norwegian and Greek fishermen hats that actually fit! While he liked the Greek hat, he found it hard to decide, especially standing in a Norwegian store! So he bought both!
Lars also has found a good fit in Norway. He said, "Mom, I'm coming back to Norway to buy shirts. They make them to fit me here." Lars bought a suit in a thrift store which also fit well.
At that same Fitjar store which had caps, another of Keith's relatives, a Remeride, was talking to a man with a Dallas Cowboys hat who resembled Philip, Keith's brother. (What one might imagine that Philip could look like if he hadn't taken care of himself.) When this man began to talk, he sounded just like Philip, also, surprising Keith and me greatly. This man owns but doesn't live on the place where Keith's grandfather was born and joked that maybe he'd better get a lawyer.
A new development in Norway is the e-mail capability of relatives. Keith could, of course, check his e-mail on Lars' computer, but he could also check it at the homes of other relatives.
Keith's cousin, Odd (Bergen) , from his grandfather's side finally met cousin Nils (Husness) from the grandmother's side. Through the years they have communicated various times by phone as they hand relatives from U.S. over to relatives on the other side of the family tree. On this trip Odd and Nils finally met because Odd decided to meet us all at Fitjar to see the home site where his grandmother and Keith's grandfather (siblings) were born. We all looked at the location and the stream which was beside their birthplace on Fitjar and then later at the book which describes the history of farms. Keith was surprised to see that part of the church yard on Fitjar containing his ancestors' graves had been plowed up to make room for more graves. We did not check to see if the family graves were involved.
While we were visiting Fitjar at Nils' and Solveig's family farm, we were overjoyed to see that Anne-Marie had brought her dad and mother from Haugesund. The first evidence of that was the appearance of a very tall man coming up from a stooping position as he came through the short doorway into the dining room. It was Jens and behind him was Jenny whom I had not seen since 1980! We were so happy to see them. "Keith, I said, it's Jens!" I ran over and called, "Jens". He
asked who I was and I said, "Grace." He answered, "Oh, Grace." We hugged, and he asked, "Did you miss me?" Of course, I answered a heartfelt yes. And then Jenny and I hugged and cried. We were so happy to see them since our tickets and appointments had not allowed us time to visit Haugesund.
We also got to see their family cabin. In the rain (does it always rain on Fitjar?) we walked over the rocks with picturesque views (one side to the North Sea), to a beautiful red cabin finished with shiny blond wood inside, and a deck off the back overlooking yet another beautiful cove.
We also met Nils' and Solveig's son, Rasmus, and his children. At the end of the afternoon we all said long goodbyes. This time Keith got his hat along with him when he left Fitjar. With Odd we headed back to the Fitjar farm with Rasmus and Judith Tislevoll who live there now. On the way we found some other relatives named Vik, some of whom emigrated to North Dakota. We just made the 6 pm ferry back to Bergen at 6:02 pm.
We arrived in Bergen by train from Oslo at 10:30 P.M. The train ride over the mountains showed us wonderful scenery, with some snow and many melting waterfalls. We saw a rainbow in front of the mountains. The rainbow extended right down into the trees. Keith was certain that he knew where the pot of gold was for that rainbow. The train went so fast with such beautiful pictures from the windows that I called it a peep show! By the time that I got Keith's attention, the scene would be gone! There were occasional wooden tunnels for the trains which I assumed were for snow control. There was also some new rail construction on the top of the mountain which will straighten some sharp curves.
Our plan had been to arrive in Bergen at 3:30 P.M. but the train was full because Thursday was a holiday, Ascension Day. (Norwegians have so many holidays in May that it was difficult to even set up appointments with faculty.) A friend of Lars called and told him that there was no school because it was a holiday commemorating the day that Jesus performed a reverse bungee jump!
We had been invited to Olaf Fitjar's house when we got to Bergen so off we went. We were welcomed by Olaf who is 80, his sister Britta, and a friend of Olaf's who helps him with house work. They had a feast ready for us at 11:00 P.M. There were various little sandwiches and a beautiful cake with marzipan frosting decorated with little flowers. It had been decorated by people in a home for elderly. We ate, visited, played songs on Olaf's organ and did not get back to Odd's and Oddlaug's house until 1:00 A.M. Again Odd is not related to Olaf, but he is probably beginning to feel that he is so. Olaf who is a widower tries to make it clear that the woman friend is merely someone who helps him with housework; I heard talk that he has another woman friend too, so two girlfriends, according to heresay.
We enjoyed our stay in Bergen with Odd and family. We also enjoyed getting re-acquainted with their children, now young adults. Halvard was taking exams for the end of high school. Students there do not take exams in all subjects but are told shortly before exam time which exams they will have. Halvard was not totally happy with drawing the chemistry exam, but his father suggested that he look at it as an opportunity to improve his grade. I wasn't certain that Halvard was convinced that this presented a great opportunity. Aashild will be a nurse in Oslo this next year. She had just returned from Costa Rica after a six month stay. She is probably a pretty good Spanish speaker by now. She also has an admirer from there who calls her long distance. One day I said I'd see her in the evening, unless something more exciting came along for her. Something apparently did in the form of a young man with whom she went out that evening. She showed pictures of her and her Costa Rican friend to this date, apparently to ward off any significant interest in her. Keith heard the description of this episode; he interpreted it as Aashild showing this date her pictures except for the ones of the Costa Rican boyfriend. It took several repeats of this for him to grasp the reality. He decided that he is inexperienced in some ways of women! I also greatly enjoyed Aashild's comment that, "Any good conversation can be turned into a computer conversation." That is the way it is in many social situations these days.
On our way from Bergen to Fitjar we were welcomed at the boat by Nils and Randi on Husness. We stayed at their house one night and at bedtime Randi said not to worry if we hear sniffing near the foundation of the house. It would be a hedgehog exploring. That was exciting since we do not have any direct hedgehog experience in U.S. We didn't hear the sniffing if the hedgehog did, in fact, come around. We had Norwegian open faced sandwiches with cheeses, sausage, potato salad, jams, herring and good Norwegian bread with Nils and Randi. We also found out that Nils plays hardanger fiddle. He showed us his fiddle and violin and played tapes of his group playing hardanger fiddle pieces. They also gave us a little tour around Husness (a peninsula -though we took a boat to get there -the fastest way from Bergen). From Husness the four of us went by ferry to Fitjar where we met Odd from Bergen and many relatives of Keith.
We also visited Oslo and Trondheim. Lars and Mocha were in Oslo and together we went to Vigeland Park (with the nude granite and bronze statues), and the Munch museum which gives a broader and a more developmental perspective of Munch and his work than just "The Scream" painting. When we visited the Resistance Museum, we got a feeling what life must have been like under the Nazis, how much effort was put into resisting, and how nicely it was put regarding people who did not resist, but who felt it was better to keep some order. Keith and I also went to the National Gallery, where we especially noted the Norwegian artists. We visited the museums across the Oslo Fjord: an ancient Viking ship museum, The Fram [a polar explorers' ship] museum, the Kon-Tiki Museum, and the Folk Museum. Since I had read Kon-Tiki years ago, it was hard to believe that I was actually looking at the ship itself. The folk museum has buildings which have been brought from various places in Norway. Traditional stabburs and a stavekirkke with an altar painting on the wood wall were impressive there. Some buildings had traditional birch roofs with grass growing on the top of the roofs.
As we walked to the museums, Keith noticed the sign on one of the houses which announced that it was the Indonesian ambassador's residence. [The night before on TV we had watched the demonstrations in the streets of Jakarta that ultimately forced the Indonesian president to resign.] Keith wanted to stop in to ask how things were at home, but there was no sign of life around the residence. Perhaps the ambassador had gone to the mountains?
Oslo is a very cosmopolitan city with many ethnic groups in evidence on the streets. We saw many children, some with Islamic dress, on the ferry to the museums. There was also a woman with a cane who got onto the boat. Everyone made room for her to get around. When it came time to get off the boat she used the cane as a horizontal device to open her way through the crowd to be the first to get off the boat. Keith was wondering if she really needed the cane for walking.
From Bergen we flew to Trondheim (we had to fly because we discovered that there are no trains between Bergen and Trondheim). We were met at the plane in Trondheim by Karl, the professor who has visited Augsburg from Sør-Trondelag College. Karl's wife and another faculty member joined us and took us to the folk museum in Trondheim where there are old churches, a Sami house and ruins of an old fort where the archbishop and the king fought centuries ago. When Keith asked the guide who won, the answer was that it wasn't the king. In those days archbishops had much power; they even printed their own money.
We ate a wonderful salmon meal at the same restaurant that the exchange agreement between Augsburg and Sør-Trondelag was signed. After that we had waffles and coffee at a faculty home. The couple have two children, a thirteen year old girl and a ten year old boy. The girl helped her mother make the waffles. She went out later and her brother came in from play, self-confidently sitting down with the company to eat one waffle after another.
We went to a concert of the Uppsala choir in the Nidaros Cathedral in the evening. (This is where the king is crowned). The concert and acoustics were beautiful, and so was the setting. The Church is a magnificent structure with beautiful windows, especially the rose window. On the outside of the building, two gargoyles facing each other were particularly charming: One was playing a violin and the other was holding his head!
The next day we toured the school building which is very open and bright, and got an update on the duck which had nested on the roof deck several stories in the air. This may have seemed like a good nesting site until one projects the path of the baby ducks as they try to reach water. Later in the day the ducks were gone and were not visible on the sidewalk below either. We hoped that someone had taken them down to the street level.
We participated in meetings with faculty and administrators and discussed possible joint efforts of the two colleges. Keith and I were treated to a special lunch with faculty and administrators where we continued to become more acquainted with each other and Norway. One topic involved Americans maintaining traditions from Norway which for Norway are in "the past". Karl mentioned that some Norwegians make fun of such holding on to traditions, but he thought that this extension of old Norway could be interesting for Norwegians in the present.
I also met with two of the students who are coming to Augsburg next fall. They had many questions of a most basic nature: "How will I keep warm?" [They've heard that it is very cold here.] "How will I eat, get around, meet American students," etc.
The professors there shared various teaching experiences. A few years ago faculty members took a group of students to Romania to help with the institutionalized children. They had created a photo album which communicated the vividness of the experience. Leif, an administrator, recalled that the Romanians could not understand why the Norwegians treated the gypsies as kindly as they did other children.
We shared other experiences regarding academic life, including some humorous ones. Experiences with humor in Norway with which we found ourselves very much "at home" were the following:
A thirteen year old girl announcing, "If I can't wear heavy makeup, then I'm going to see about some body piercing!"
Our choir plans to come to America in 2000, but maybe it will go to Finnmark instead.
Norwegian students study more--they are often studying when American students are not. [Because of the seven hour time difference.]
The mission church for sailors has three symbols on their sign which shows what is important to Norwegians: a waffle, a coffee cup, and a cross.
After our meetings, Keith and I walked around Trondheim, looked in an antique store and an army surplus store where we bought a souvenir for our Ukrainian exchange student, and then walked to the Trondheim gate. The gate and buildings in Trondheim made us think of architecture in Russia with vertical boards (such as are on the restaurant called The Tavern and the King's Palace). There are waterfront buildings of the type that we saw in Bergen.
We took the night train back to Oslo; in spite of the sleeper car, I did not sleep much, but I did finish Rookery Blues by Hassler. We then went to the downtown airport (which will not be in use for large planes after October when all will go to Gardemon. Reasons for changing location are the tight landing area and the environmental concerns regarding humans and wild life.
We left on Icelandair; we liked their treatment of passengers, manners, meals, and all. Looking down at Greenland's ice and snow patterns with frozen turquoise lakes where we could see the two small settlements, and spotting Iceland, this beautiful green dot in the turquoise ocean, were special tour experiences. Imagine those Vikings sailing to such places!