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Monthly Archives: March 2009

Well, in less than 12 hours I’ll be on a plane to Oslo. It’s difficult to believe that it is already time to go home. While in some ways I feel as if I just arrived here, in others I feel as if I’ve been here for months.

I’ve had a wonderful time here in Bodø. The people here are extraordinary. The landscape is magical. It’s been just great.

However, I am ready to stop living out of my suitcase and get back to my little hole in the ground in Saskatoon. It’ll be nice to sleep in my own bed again.

But before I get there, I have 24 hours of travelling to do. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

It was soooooooo nice to sleep in this morning! But we were all still pretty tired today. By mid-afternoon we were dragging ourselves downtown and wishing we had a ride back to the hostel.

At 12:30 a group of us met in the lobby to go the Norwegian Air Force Museum, another one of Bodø’s ‘must-see’ attractions. I wasn’t sure what to expect until a did a little Google search this morning. And by the way, it’s really annoying that every search I do comes up in Norwegian.

Anyway, what I found out was that the museum was massive. And in person, it didn’t disappoint.

The building is shaped like propeller. The center has the gift shop, reception and at the top, a control tower. Each side of the propeller has its own exhibits. The first side is a history of flight, while the second focuses on the Norwegian Air Force.

The first part has a flight simulator, which I was interested in trying. It was quite life-like. There were a couple of times when the simulator slanted to the extreme right that I thought I would slide to the other side, and another few where I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle the motion. But I made it!

Most of the major exhibits were in both English and Norwegian, but some things weren’t, which took away from the experience just a little bit. But the to-scale models of all the planes was something to see! I know nothing about planes, but think that now I can more appreciate their intricacy. I also learned a little bit about Norwegian history.

Speaking of English, I continue to be amazed at how well most Norwegians speak English. For some, their Norwegian accent is almost completely non-existent when they speak. I asked the woman at the museum gift shop today about the English curriculum in the schools. She said that Norwegians start learning to speak English at the age of 6. She also said the fact that a lot of the TV they watch is in English also helps them learn it. I also continue to be stunned at the warmth and hospitality of the Norwegian people. They are so helpful; we Canadians do not have the market cornered on niceness.

After our adventures at the museum, we walked downtown to grab some lunch/supper. We ate at the same place we did the other day, and it was good! We sat at the restaurant for a lot longer than we probably would have, as we weren’t looking forward to the walk home. All of us were tired today.

Before coming home, we stopped off at the local Co-op (pronounced ‘Coop,’ as in ‘chicken coop’) for a few supplies.

Tonight the clocks jump one hour ahead. Even though Canada and the US ‘spring forward’ earlier now, the rest of the world hasn’t. So as of tomorrow, Norway is 8 hours ahead of Saskatchewan. We didn’t know this until mid-week, and apparently forgot to tell Professor Garcea, who was taken aback when we told him about it yesterday. If we wouldn’t have known, we would have been late for our plane on Monday!

I doubt I’ll be going anywhere tomorrow. I need to do some work, pack my bags and clean up my room a little bit. It’s hard to believe that in a little more than 24 hours, we’ll be on our way back home!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. No more lectures!!

I was very thankful that we only had a 1/2 day of lectures today. I don’t think I could have handled any more. Six-eight hours of lectures a day for five days in a row is a tall order. But I have learned so much this week and would love to come back and learn more!

This morning I met a Norwegian named Jonny. He pronounced it like ‘Johnny,’ which I thought was funny. Norwegians never pronounce the letter ‘j’ with a ‘juh’ sound; it always comes out like ‘yuh.’

Anyway, the topic was security in the Arctic. Jonny is an adviser on Arctic affairs for the Norwegian Air Force and works in a bunker in the mountains. No joke. Because Norway shares a border with Russia, which I didn’t know, they keep very close tabs on all that’s happening on land, sea and in the air. The Cold War may be over, but the renewed importance of the Arctic is forcing Noway to become more vigilant in its watch over its airspace and vessels on the sea.

Hearing about all of this was quite ironic considering that just today, the presidential Security Council of Russia released a document stating that it is creating a military force dedicated to the Arctic. The Russians have been flying through Arctic airspace much more frequently, especially around Norway. They’ve made a few passes by Canada, too, including on the day that President Obama came to visit. The Russians aren’t looking to invade or anything; they’re just asserting themselves and telling the world that ‘they’re back!’ Goody.

Johnny was a great presenter and he was very interested in hearing about Canada’s efforts in the Arctic. He also challenged us as to what our concept of ‘north’ is. How do we define it? Is it by a certain latitute? The tree line? A provincial/territorial boundary like in Canada? How do we refer to it? They’re simple questions, but the answers to these questions are complex, and have a profound influence on Arctic policy.

After class, we were provided with a farewell lunch. The dean came and ate homemade hamburgers with us! Man, they were good! They don’t serve them with buns, though; they’re served on a piece of bread. In Norway they’re called ‘carbonates.’ The dean presented us with a beautiful book featuring some stunning photography of Norway, particularly the area we have been in. I’d like to find a copy of the book for myself and am going to look for it this weekend.

After we said our good-byes, we headed downtown. I spent more money today than I have in the past five days combined. I found some souvenirs, and now just need to find a little something extra for the guys. Any ideas??

A couple of us then decided to visit the Saltstraumen. The Saltstraumen is the world’s most powerful maelstrom, or tidal current. We took a public bus to get out there, and then spent about an hour and a half just walking around, taking pictures and being mesmerized by the current’s power. Every six hours the current is at its strongest, and we were able to be there for it. It doesn’t seem so impressive from the pictures, but trust me – it’s something to see. I did take a video and will try and upload it. However, I’ve had no luck uploading any videos so far.

The trip out to the Saltstraumen was nice because we were able to see some of the countryside. The Saltstraumen is 30km outside of Bodø, on the other side of the fjord. We saw some of the ‘suburbs’ of the city and went around some very narrow, hairpin curves! We also got some fresh air and had a chance to be a little more active than we’ve been the last couple of days. But the scenery was the best part: it is stunning, and the views remind me a lot of Vancouver.

Tomorrow we’re probably going to go the the Aviation Museum, another one of Bodø’s ‘must-see’ attractions. Sunday will be a do-nothing day; we need to clean our rooms and pack because we have to leave for the airport on Monday morning at 5 am.

Our plans to go the Lofoten Islands have been cancelled. Apparently there is some big festival out there that is making travel more difficult. Plus, if we had gone, we would have had to stay overnight; the ferries only go at odd hours, meaning that when we’d get there, nothing would be open. In Norway, hotel rooms average between $150-180 per night for a single room. On top of that, the round trip on the ferry would have cost $160. And the only ferry we would be able to take wouldn’t go around any of the islands; it would go through open sea. In other words – it wasn’t in the cards.

But that’s okay. I’m beat after all that I’ve absorbed this week. I could use a couple of days to just relax – ’cause when we get back, we’ll have to hit the ground running.

UPDATE: My camera may not be as broken as I thought it was. It still seems to take great pictures. Keep your fingers crossed!!
____________________________

I am really, really angry right now. I broke my new camera. I dropped it on the sidewalk while we were taking group pictures this evening. The lens is cracked and its cover is broken. @#$#%!$%!#%%!!@#T!#R$@!T$!$T@!T$@%$%Y!TY@T%. WHY MUST I DROP EVERYTHING?!?!?!?!?!?!? Thank goodness I have Michelle’s. Shelly – I will do everything in my power not to break it!! I can’t take the camera back to Walmart, either. It’s my fault that I broke it. @#%!%%$#%.

Anyway…

Today was a ‘lighter’ day – not in terms of the material we covered at the university, but in terms of what we did afterwards and the pictures I took. The Bodø winds subsided today. On the way home, it began to snow so gently; without the wind it was stunning.

This morning’s lectures were beyond boring. It’s not that the presentation or the presenter was boring, but the material just didn’t interest me in the slightest. Hearing about multi-level governance of UNESCO World Heritage sites and national parks that cross borders and moose migration patterns the governance of moose hunting for three hours – come on, you’ve got to admit it would have bored you.

This afternoon’s lecture was much more interesting. It was on indigenous rights. It’s all very complicated, but the lecturer gave us an impressive presentation that covered the history of indigenous rights from colonization all the way to the present-day.

After class we went downtown, wandered around a little and then went out for supper. We went to this little cafe where I had bacon and eggs for $23. Yeah. Food is ridiculously expensive in Norway. $4 for a small coffee. $5 for a bottle of juice.

You want to know what else is expensive? Withdrawing money from an ATM. I checked my bank account tonight and it cost me $45.88 to take out money on Monday. I haven’t done so since, thank goodness. Why is it so high? Because it’s a Credit Union. Those idiots couldn’t even get me Norwegian currency unless I gave them two weeks to get it. It’s not like I asked for a bunch of Zimbabwe currency. But don’t get me started on that.

I didn’t give out any drugs today. I’m amazed that no one has any medication with them! No one had any gravol or ibuprofen or pepto bismol! How do you travel without the basics?!?!

I’m sorry, but I’m a little grumpy because of my camera.

Anyway, tomorrow we have a half-day of lectures and then a farewell lunch. After that, we’re FREE! We’re planning on taking a ferry to the Lofoten Islands on Saturday. Apparently the islands are world-famous. I’m hoping there will be some good shopping there. I haven’t bought anything for anyone yet – myself included. Touristy, authentic Norwegian stuff is hard to come by, mostly because it’s not tourist season. But I have some ideas. Wish me luck!

It’s hard to believe it is already Wednesday evening! Today was the first day I finally felt human again. Jet lag is as much of a pain as they say it is. I didn’t feel tired today and my cold has subsided. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate with my mood. Before the trip, I had read that Bodø was a very windy place. Today I learned that firsthand. It was -4, but the winds gusted from 30-50 km per hour. Of course this was the day that I decided to stroll around the downtown area and take some pictures.

The day did not begin well. I used a friend’s straightening iron on my hair this morning. I plugged the iron through a travel converter, as I figured the iron wouldn’t be able to handle the voltage of the plug by itself. Everything was fine until I heard a POP and smelled smoke. I quickly pulled the travel converter out of the outlet and saw it smoking. And I had no more power in my room. Brilliant. I had no idea what to do with the converter, and feared that the smell and smoke would cause the fire alarm to go off. So, instead of just opening my window and throwing the converter out of it, I put on my slippers and trudged to the front of the hostel and put the converter on the steps. It’s still sitting there. Nobody saw me, thank goodness.

When I came home today, I fully expected to still be in the dark. And I was. I haven’t seen any management around or an office, so I had no idea who to call. I was going to go and see one of the guys upstairs, who acts as an RA of sorts, after supper, but shortly after I got home, I heard talking in the halfway and then – the lights came on! The breaker I blew must have been connected to my neighbor’s room. I’m just glad everything’s okay and I didn’t have to pay some sort of damage fee. Or be the cause of a 7:30 am fire alarm.

Today’s lectures were okay; the afternoon’s was better than the morning’s. This morning we talked about regime theory (yawn) and examined the theory using the Arctic Council and the Barents Euro-Arctic Region as case studies. I was hoping to hear more information on the workings of these two groups and the policies they’ve created, but I didn’t get a lot of that info. The lecturer wasn’t bad; it was the material. However, the lecturer neglected to mention that the chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates between members every two years, and what impact that has on the direction of the Council. Yeah, I pointed that out. But very nicely.

After lunch, I bought some postcards, filled them out and mailed them. Jeff and Michelle – your postcards are going to Mom and Dad because I had no idea what your addresses were. Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, yours are in the mail as well! As for the rest of you, send me 15 NOK and you can have one too (that’s $3 CDN – divide by five). There was also some sort of (job?) fair in the main corridor, so I snagged four free pens, a lanyard and some chocolate. I do love freebies!

The afternoon’s lecture was about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and fishing. It was originally just about UNCLOS, but the lecturer, professor Bjørn Sagdahl (who has co-orindated this entire trip for us!) digressed to fishing issues. I had honestly never cared about fishing before, but the way he approached it interested me. I was actually sad when we were finished! I didn’t realize that it was fishing rights that began the push for allocation of specific resource zones. I guess I could have figured it out.

After class, I wandered around town with one of the other girls and took some pictures. I found an old church and the town library, as well as a museum. I don’t know if you’ll find the pictures interesting, particularly the one of the phone booth, but it’s all of the cultural peculiarities that fascinate me the most.

For instance, there is English everywhere. Everyone speaks basic English. If I ask a question, I’m always understood. As one of the Norwegian professors said after I commented on the abundance of English, “We are a small country. No one needs to know Norwegian!” I guess he’s right.

All American TV shows are shown in English on TV. They are given Norwegian subtitles, but they are never ‘dubbed.’ Same goes for movies.

You can’t find ‘authentic’ Norwegian food. Why? One of the Norwegian professors said that because Norway has to import everything, the culture is saturated with international flavour. It’s true. I’ve seen more pizzerias here than real restaurants. The only ‘authentic’ Norwegian food I’ve seen is waffles with brown goat cheese. Apparently it tastes like cheese and caramel. I haven’t screwed up the courage to try it yet. But I will be week’s end.

Well, it is far past my bedtime. If I ever went to sleep this early at home, I’d wonder if something was wrong with me. I guess I did miss two nights of sleep, which explains my desire for sleep, sleep and more sleep.

Tomorrow we learn about natural resources and how those issues tie into indigenous rights. I’m not really that excited to learn about the migrating patterns of moose in Norway, but then I never thought I’d care about fishing.

There aren’t a lot of photos from today because my camera died early in the afternoon. Sorry!

It was another early morning today. At 7:30 we jumped on the bus and headed for the Arran Lulesami Cultural Center, a three hour drive northeast of Bodø. If you look at the map I posted yesterday, the center is located where the arrow is pointing to – the town of Dagg, Norway. The town isn’t really that far from Bodø, but the fjords and mountains make driving quite slow. Also, the roads in northern Norway aren’t highways but simple paved roads with barely enough room for two vehicles to pass by each other. Many of us got motion sick from the winding roads and constant braking. The road wasn’t smooth either; I don’t know if there were a lot of speed bumps or what, but I went up and down in my seat every couple of minutes.

When we got the center, we were warmly welcomed and given a tour of the exhibits. Arran means fireplace in the Sami language. The homeland of the Sami is called Sampi. The number of Sami is around 100,000 – but it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact population because registration as a Sami is voluntary. The population is spread out over northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, although most of the Sami reside in Norway and Sweden.

After a lunch of what I can only describe as some sort of lamb stew (that wasn’t too bad), we listened to two men who talked about two very different subjects. One was Konrad Saett, who spoke about the ways in which Norwegian and Russian municipalities collaborate. The other was Sven-Roald Nystø.

Sven was the first president of the Sami Parliament from 1997-2005. He gave us a history of the Sami people and then spoke about Arctic issues affecting the Sami. What struck me was how similar their story is to that of our Aboriginal peoples. The Sami were a hunter-gatherer people in earlier years, and later raised reindeer. In the 1850s, the Norwegian government began a policy of ‘Norwegianization’ or assimilation, geared at making the population homogeneous. Sami children were sent to residential schools (sound familiar?) and a century later, during the 1950s, began to organize in order to regain control over their culture and rights.

The Sami are very, very well-organized and keep themselves in the limelight. They play a major role in a number of United Nations advisory boards, as well as within the Arctic Council and the Barents Cooperation. Norway has signed the convention on the rights of Indigenous People while Canada has not. Norway has settled its major land claim with the Sami people, a claim that is co-managed by the local county and the Sami.

The discovery of oil and gas in the Barents Sea will have major consequences for the Sami people. The small villages on the northern coats of Norway will eventually be infiltrated by industry, which will severely change the communities forever. Just as our Aboriginal people do in Canada, the Sami constantly lobby the national government to make sure they are consulted with and that the environmental ramificiations of any oil and gas developments are kept to a minimum.

Sven’s lecture also gave me an idea for my thesis. He talked about the two visions there are of north: the frontier and the homeland. To indigenous peoples, the north is home, while to the government and industry, it is a place to be settled and industrialized. How can these two competing visions be reconciled? I wonder if this dichotomy is a reason why Canada has not had an effective northern policy – maybe we can’t figure out how the north can be both a frontier and a homeland. Or can it?

We did not get to take the boat ride out to Musken. The weather was too cold for the 15km boat ride it would take. It’s too bad; I was really looking forward to it! A community without roads would have been quite the experience!

We were also recognized as celebrities today. A woman from the local newspaper came to see us. She interviewed Professor Garcea and one of the students and then took pictures of us. I’m telling ya – we are rock stars over here!

Tomorow we head back to Bodø University College for a day of lectures on the Arctic Council and the Barents Cooperation. We will be joined by Masters students from the university, so it should be a good cross-cultural experience! I am also hoping to actually go out for a real meal tomorrow. I haven’t had a ‘real’ meal since I left Saskatoon! Between all of the walking and small amounts of food, I think I’ve created my own Norwegian travel diet!

First of all, apologies for the lack of promised videos. I tried uploading them last night, but they just wouldn’t load. I was literally falling asleep at my laptop, so I just decided to forget it and go to sleep. This morning I woke up and my throat was a bit sore. I was quite stuffed up and blew more out of my nose than I have in long time. The sleep I got wasn’t near enough, but I felt pretty good considering. I popped a few Tylenol Cold and felt better. Another good sleep tonight and I should be fine.

I know I promised you some links and whatnot yesterday, but, again, I was just too tired to do so.

So where is Bodø? It’s north. Very north. North of the Arctic Circle north.



In the little picture, the dotted line is the Arctic Circle. Oslo, the capital, is not on the map, is in southern Norway. So where is the Arctic Circle in Canada?



Yep. I’m definitely in the north.

The city has a population of 45,000 people. It is a mix of old and new and is growing. It is an important administrative and communications center for north central Norway. It has an important NATO installation, and military exercises still occur here in the winter. It has a large air force base. It has a strong shipping industry, contrary to what I said yesterday (I blame it on a lack of sleep), because its port is ice-free year-round. Norway is 7 hours ahead of Saskatchewan. This weekend the time changes to daylight savings time, so on Sunday the country will move another hour forward. We didn’t know this until today. Thank goodness we do know, otherwise we’d probably have missed our plan on Monday morning!

The weather is probably what should be expected if one is north of the Arctic Circle. Today it was -3, but the wind made it feel colder; there have been flurries on and off this evening. Tomorrow it will be -4 and it will be windy again.

We went to Bodø University College this morning and spent the day there. We wandered around a bit to find our classroom. We thought people were going to meet us, but they thought we would go to the Information kiosk located right inside the door. If we had gone there, the ladies at the desk would have phoned the professor in charge, Bjørn, and we would have met him there. But we decided to find our own way, which wasn’t a big deal.

The university isn’t very big. It has approximately 5000 students. Information about it can be found here. It is called a university college because it lacks the number of Ph. D programs needed to become a full-fledged university. From what I understand, it will have enough of those programs in the next year or two to be able to drop ‘university’ from its title. Higher education is fully subsidized by the Norwegian government; no $5000/year tuition fees for students! Students must pay for books, housing and all the other things that go along with university life, but not having to pay tuition is pretty amazing!

We had a lecture on Nowegian government this morning. Like many European democracies, governments in Norway are usually coalition governments. The professor talked about the different types of governments possible in a parliamentary democracy, and when speaking of the single party majority type – like Canada has most of the time – he called them undemocratic. I thought that was very telling of the Nordic, or maybe even European, view of democracy. It was a very interesting lecture. The party system in Norway extends right down to local governments, and all elections are based on proportional representation – even local government elections. This means that when you vote, you vote for a party. Once the election is over and the party knows how many seats it won, it fills those seats with candidates from a list it has.

Lunch was provided for us in the cafeteria, but we didn’t eat cafeteria food! We had sandwiches, some of which were salmon. Seafood is plentiful here, and because of that, it is cheap. Some of the faculty joined us and we learned a bit about the surrounding area and had a chance to compare Canadian and Norwegian policies regarding their respective northern reaches.

After lunch we had a lecture on local government/governance in Norway. In Norway, there is a national system of local government. There are 431 municipalities, and they are in the process of amalgamating some. Professor Garcea says Saskatchewan has 800+ municipalities, which I didn’t realize. Local governments in Norway are also responsibile for providing some social services, such as kindergarten education and care for the elderly, which I assume means looking after nursing homes and the like.

We ended the day with a lecture by the president of the university (called a ‘rector’ in Norway) on oil and the Norwegian pension fund. I wasn’t too terribly interested in this because I really have no interest in economics, but I did learn that Norway has so far not been affected by the global recession. The monies from oil royalties and taxes have been invested wisely and have provided the country with enough to see it through so far.

After we were done for the day, we went to the shopping complex and wandered around for a bit. We went to Rema 1000, which is a common grocery store chain. We also went to H&M, a popular chain of Swedish clothing store chain that is to fashion what Ikea is to furniture: trendy but cheap. I haven’t really found any tourist-y shops yet, but I guess it isn’t really tourist season.

Tomorrow we have to get up early. We’re driving three hours north to the Lulesami Cultural Centre in Tysfjord (see the map above to find out where it is) and learning about the Sami people, the indigenous people of Norway (like our Inuit peoples). If the weather is good, we will take a boat ride to the Sami community of Musken, which is only accessible by boat. I sure hope the weather is good!

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