I've had my computer back to working order for a few weeks now, but then final exams were upon me and I let the blogging slide for a bit...now there's too much to say! And on Christmas Eve. I said Merry Christmas Eve to my brother, and my dad called from upstairs "and Merry Christmas Adam!" and I didn't get the reference...I thought my dad was just late in wishing my brother and Merry Christmas.
Going way back to before my computer was in the shop, and maybe even around the time of my last entry, there was an amazing amount of fog in Ås, followed by frost:
This one reminded me of prairie grasses. They usually mow the grasses down but not anymore now that it's winter. I'm allowed to like European grasses now that I'm in Europe. They belong here, and do they ever stay green forever! As long as they have enough moisture, even below zero temperatures don't faze them. I told some friends of my roommate JB (all French) how when the snow melts in Minnesota there's brown grass. They were surprised.
A couple of weeks before final exams I had a great two weekends--one with some cool people from school, and one with an old friend of my mom's who showed her and then us the ancestral farms in Aurland.
First the weekend in Kobberhaughytta. I have a crazy new friend from Canada, Kristi, who invited me and a group of people up to a lodge in the mountains of Nordmarka where she works on the weekends. Nordmarka is one of the forest preserves with cross country skiing, hiking and a series of small cabins and lodges people can stay in while they ski or hike from place to place.
Kristi is quite the host, and her and some of her coworkers cooked us gourmet meals and entertained us. We sang songs and did some "skits" about our countries for each other. Kristi, I and Ruben (from Colombia), being from the Americas, did a hip hop song. It was stupid but funny. The other groups, like from Greece, Slovakia, France and Norway, did actual folksongs from their country. Not to say that hip hop is not American folk music in some cases...but this was one of the pop ones that is exported to every other country and played in clubs.
In the morning, I went for a walk around the lake nearby.
Later, in the light, which is about as light as it got:
There was a tour for kids, where there are informational signs and a quiz at the bottom. I liked this one the best:
It's about the two plants pictured, which have been around since the dinosaurs. The question is, "What dinosaur eats plants?" I think everyone can tell it is not answer X, but I don't think there's any kids reading my blog...is there? Anyway, it's fun practice for my Norwegian.
The next night we relaxed more, but then I and three of the Norwegians got it in our heads that we should jump in the lake after a sauna, like in the polar bear club. There was a thin layer of ice on the lake at the time, but not at the shore so no holes in the ice were needed. We were just on the edge of winter. Still a bit crazy, and the first time for two of us. Here's where we jumped in, in the light:
Doesn't look as cold as it was! Then we ran back to the sauna muddy and cold and laughing as hard as we were able. It's not so scary now--maybe I will try again in the real winter!
I spent the next weekend at Unni Ø.'s place, the friend of my mom's who showed her around Aurland. She lives north of Oslo and I had two nice dinners with her and her husband.
It was a delicious quiche! Made more delicious by the wonderful company.
We also toured around her town, and saw a fakkeltog (torchlight procession). They have fakkeltogs in winter often, because it's so dark so early.
This one was for the first Sunday of Advent, which is the day they light a candle for happiness the first week, then the second week for longing, then for hope, then for peace. They start four weekends before Christmas. It was totally new to me, so if anyone reading is like "duh!" then I apologize.
While studying for exams, we finally got some real snow. It was really sudden, with big fat flakes that collected in just over an hour, and made everything white for the first time. I wasn't quite quick enough to catch it while still light, but you'll see the rock outside my door in this one.
On another weekend I went with the same group from the Kobberhaughytta to Oslo for the Christmas markets.
We ended up doing a lot, including ice skating, and joining another fakkeltog, this time for peace. We followed the torch-bearing crowd to the Parliament building, where we were graced with the presence of the three women who just won the Nobel Peace Prize. They waved to us out of their Grand Hotel, but my pictures were not very good of them.
Here's the hotel:
And then of them, after I improved the lighting in the picture:
Then we got to the Christmas market and I saw this nice snow castle, even though it's kind of small with the lack of snow:
After the market we went to a pub to watch the football match, thankfully not choosing here:
I doubt they play the right kind of football here. When we got to the pub Kristi and I just gossiped and didn't pay attention to the match, except to see the awesome first goal of Madrid on Barcelona. Then we went dancing until way too late and slept in a friend's place in the city. Good weekend!
I finished my exams just before my dad and bro came, and though I think I did well I am not sure about their system here. I will get my grades in January. I was always the first one done, as the only native speaker of English in the room, but my answers were not necessarily better than anyone else's. They gave us 3 hours for each exam, with cute elderly local Norwegians monitoring us who I think were not always informed that many of us taking the test couldn't speak Norwegian. Thankfully they adjusted and the tests went smoothly.
Now that my dad and bro are here, we've been to Oslo a couple of times to see the sights, and today I'm going to go back to enjoying Christmas. We'll have lutefisk with bacon and kjøttkaker (meat balls) with vegetables. My roommates are all gone for the holiday so I think we'll take over my little kitchen and make it smell like Christmas dinner.