The countryside is alive with a full-blown spring! There has been a long streak of consecutive sunny days, and daylight now lasts from 6am to 9pm. With birds chirping, flowers blooming, and trees budding leaves, I make way for a transition in my coursework from skiing to kayaking.
Our Outdoors in the Wintertime Study Trip yielded difficult snow conditions for traveling on skis. During the day the snow would start to melt, and then at night it would freeze creating a layer of ice. The 5 international students in my program were tasked with all our own planning and logistics for an 8-day trip. We decided to travel through the Lifjell mountains from Bøto to the town Seljord. The daily routine was to ski from 9am to somewhere around 3pm, then stop and set up camp. This was followed by impromptu skiing trips from camp for the remainder of the day. Weather conditions allowed perfect visibility and from many peaks I was able to capture photos of the snow capped mountains, valleys, and frozen lakes that stretched as far as the eye could see. This study trip allowed me to put together all of the technical winter camping skills I have developed this far. It was a healthy dose of adventure!
Turning 20 abroad was a great experience! The day prior was spent skiing and hiking in the sun on Lifjell wilderness area for Norwegian Perspectives on Outdoor Education. This is my largest class with 10 students. We ventured to the peak of a mountain, stopped for lunch, and enjoyed the panoramic views. On my birthday there was a combined effort of many to cook and prepare a fiesta dinner. It was great having time to relax, play cards (especially the game spoons), and enjoy the company of good friends.
Easter is very similar to how I know it back home. Church and family are central and chocolate is the sweet treat of choice. Easter egg hunts are a widespread phenomenon. It is a large part of the culture for families to travel to their huts (cabins) in the mountains or on the coast for rest, relaxation, and outdoor activities. During this period all schools are on vacation and stores are closed on Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday of Easter holiday and shops have limited hours the Saturday in between. I'm not going to lie--Easter away from home was especially difficult, but I was Skyped into the family get together. It is bittersweet to know that in a short while we will be reunited, but my journey here will come to a close.
When I learned I would be living in an apartment instead of with a host family, I felt that it would be part of the study abroad experience I would be missing. I now wouldn't trade it, because I have the best of both worlds. I live in Briesås student housing, which backs up to a forest with a network of hiking trails (over Easter I spent 3 days camping and exploring them). My building has four occupants, each with our own room and bathroom, and a shared kitchen. My roommates are all Norwegians that have been exceptionally friendly and helpful. They also keep the kitchen tidy, which I am extremely grateful for. It is great to have a space of my own in which I can introvert from time to time.
On top of this over the semester I have been "adopted" by a Pastor from Brazil, his Norwegian wife, their 4 kids (plus one on the way!), and the Pastor's nephew. I was introduced through another outdoor life friend one day and the rest is history. They live just across town and frequently have me over for dinners and chauffer me to church events. One weekend they invited me to a 24-hour event with over two hundred kids around the age of 10. It was held in the fitness/community center in town and brought together churches from all over Telemark County. I got to chaperone in the gym where there were at least 20 different inflatable games. It was a festival of food, fun, and worship. The weekend before Easter they brought me with them to the town of Ulefoss in western Telemark County for an 18+ retreat on a gorgeous lakeside compound. I met many Norwegians of my age while having an abundance of fun and personal growth. I can never thank this family enough for their hospitality and companionship as a home away from home.
With 42 days left on the countdown there is still so much to discover as I begin kayaking lectures and trips. I have finalized plans to visit Spain with a group of friends in May. On May 17th, Norway's Independence Day, I will be in Oslo, the capital city. This year marks the 200th anniversary. With so much to do and so little time, I can honestly say that I would not trade this experience for anything!
Snakk til deg snart ha de bra,