Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hello from Bø!

I had meant to start blogging before I left for Norway—but that did not happen. So, my first entry will instead be an account of my journey from Golden Valley, Minnesota to Bø i Telemark. I apologize for its length and promise that future entries will be more concise.
I had a very long day of travel yesterday (technically two days ago now)—about 22 hours total. After getting to spend a little time with my parents on the morning of Mom’s birthday, I left the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport at around 1:30 pm on Tuesday, January 3rd. On the way to Chicago, I sat next to a middle-aged man from Sri Lanka who was a recently retired bio-chemical researcher at the University of Minnesota. He told me he had a daughter my age who was studying in London right now, and for the remaining 45 minutes proceeded to share fatherly wisdom about staying safe while traveling. While his advice was well-intended, I didn’t necessarily appreciate hearing a series of stories about young women who had been abducted in foreign countries. He told me about the movie Taken, where a teenage girl travels to Paris and is kidnapped after she accepts the help of a stranger. I had never seen the film before, but the young man sitting next to me on the 4:30 flight from Chicago to Stockholm happened to watch it on his laptop, so now I have.  
The overseas flight felt very long, but Scandinavian Air offered high-quality service, free movies and good food. Although I assumed he was European at first, I later learned the man to my right was an American solider stationed at an air force base in Germany. We spent the last three hours of the trip in conversation and they went by quickly.
I arrived in Sweden after 8 hours—or about 7:30 am local time—and went through customs without incident. The Stockholm airport was luxurious and largely deserted, and the sun did not rise until after 9:00. Spotting my Luther College water bottle, a woman at the gate introduced herself to me as a 1998 alumna. Especially with the anxiety of being on a different continent for the first time, this unexpected encounter with a familiar stranger was comforting . At 9:30 my last flight departed for the Oslo Gardermoen airport. When the flight attendant came by with the cart, I was finally able to use my very limited Norwegian to successfully order tea (“Kan jeg ha te?”) and answer that no, thank you, I did not care for any cream or sugar (“Nei, takk.”) This was my small victory of the day.
My flight arrived almost half and hour later than scheduled, so from Oslo Gardermoen I grabbed my bags off the belt and practically jogged across the airport to make the next flytoget express train to Oslo Sentralstasjon at 10:56. After the 20 minute ride, I walked for what felt like a mile through Oslo S toward the bus terminal, where I caught the TIMEkspressen Linje 1 bound for Notodden just minutes before its departure at 11:40.
We drove through Oslo on our way out, so it was fun to see the city. Oslo wasn’t quite as romantic as I had hoped it would be. It appeared modern and industrial—much more sensible than beautiful. I noticed a lot of interesting things in Oslo, but came away with two observations in particular: One, apparently every family in the city owns a boat and two, the civil engineers who designed the roads were completely adverse to 90-degree turns.
As we left the city and entered rural areas, I began to see for myself why some people call Norway the loveliest country in the world. We drove along staggering mountain sides with deep ravines below, the entire hillside covered in snow-capped evergreens. Narrow creeks with rushing water cut through the snow banks, and little red farmhouses straight out of a calendar were perched on plateaus. The landscape was achingly beautiful.
The bus stopped in Notodden after about two hours, and from there I boarded a second bus and began the very last segment of my journey. I finally arrived in Bø at 14:45, where Lisa, the student coordinator, was waiting for me. There was enough daylight left for a drive-by tour of the town, and then she took me to the grocery store to pick up a few basic items. Somehow, this was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my entire day. I didn’t recognize any of the brand names, I couldn’t read the labels, I still don’t really grasp the value of the Norwegian kroner so I couldn’t tell if a particular item was expensive or not, plus it was my first time handling the currency and the cashier was impatient with me.
I guess I had expected to be babysat on the first day or something, but Lisa dropped me off at my new house and left me to my own devices. My room looks like a small cabin on the inside with its wood paneling and plaid curtains, and I have this ridiculously majestic view outside of my window. Take a look:
Taken at sunset around 15:30

I resisted the urge to hurl myself onto the bed and sleep immediately. First I unpacked, and then I made myself a cheese sandwich for dinner before falling asleep around 17:00. I slept almost twelve hours and woke up feeling well-rested, so now I’m writing this at 5:00 in the morning on January 5th. I was excited to have my own room and bathroom before I arrived, but now all of this personal space feels kind of lonely. I briefly met two of my housemates yesterday afternoon, and learned that I will be the only international student living in the house this semester. I know that’s exactly what I signed up for, but a part of me is a little disappointed. Most Norwegians speak quickly and quietly, so I’m having a lot of trouble understanding even basic utterances. I am very shy about speaking Norwegian because I don’t know much yet, but I also feel self-conscious about speaking English because it means I stand out as a foreigner. I haven’t met any of the other international students yet, but orientation starts this morning, so the promise of connecting with other new-comers is reassuring.
You can write to me at any point during the semester if you would like (I know I would like that):
Ellen Amundson
Elgfaret 29, H0103
3800 Bø i Telemark


  1. I'm glad to hear that you made it to Bø alright! I think you got the toughest part of your semester out of the way after you got there. I hope you meet lots of people and have a great time. It is great to read about all your experiences in Bø too. Hilsen!

  2. Ellen! I can't wait to hear more about your Norwegian adventure! Love the picture :)