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.
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!