Archive - July, 2011

Norway in a Nutshell

We arrived in Oslo, Norway with our list of things to do and an idea of what order we wanted to do them in.  We spent our first night settling in and finding our bearings by walking around Oslo.

Norwegian Parliament Building (flag is up when Parliament is in session):

Thursday we got up and headed over to the City Hall, which is where the Nobel Peace Prize is handed out every year.

Nobel was Swedish and the rest of the Nobel Prizes are handed out in Sweden, but he wanted this one prize to be handed out in Norway (there are some assumptions to why he did this, but no one is sure).  We had an excellent guided tour by our guide, Ivan, who was paid by the city to give tours throughout the day at no charge.  They only had two murals on the wall of previous people who had received the Nobel Peace Prize: Obama and Wangari Maathai from Kenya.  I had the opportunity to meet Wangari Maathai when I was in Kenya at an Obama Election Party… kind of cool. Continue Reading…

Rachel’s Post: Traveling


I always forget.

I leave, bags brimming, ready to take in new information: prepared to absorb other cultures, explore new cities, and delight in multiple languages like a newborn.  That’s what it’s like: an expectant child crawling somewhere foreign, a little uncomfortable, and delightfully new.  I always think that the purpose of these travels is to learn about others; take in new places, geographies and history. But the truth is that I always come back knowing far more about myself than the country I’m visiting.

I learn so much while on the road. How I define “normal” or “weird”, and trying to remind myself that different isn’t bad-it’s just different.  The Norwegians love canned and pickled fish-at breakfast!  The Swedes have a knack for efficiency of design and space (a la IKEA). For some, bathing in a multi-purpose bathroom/laundry room is too crammed; for others it just makes sense.

We have been so generously helped this journey: Couchsurfer hosts who opened their homes, lives and refrigerators to us, and old friends we reconnected with along the way. Continue Reading…

In Oslo, Safe & Sound

“I think there’s been a bombing in Oslo,” Rachel said as she walked out of a souvenir shop in central Norway.  We had left Oslo Friday morning for a tour of the fjords and had just finished the ferry portion.  “You sure?”  I asked.  “Well, there were a lot of ambulances on the television at the square we were at last night; and I saw the words ‘bomb’ and ‘Oslo.”  We got on the bus to our next train and heard some people talking about it as word spread and families started calling everyone we were with.  There had been a bombing in Oslo, but we didn’t know anything beyond that.  We hopped on the train to Bergen and didn’t think too much about it with hopes that everyone back in Oslo was alright.

As we got on the sleeper train around midnight, I was able to pull up The New York Times and it said that there were 16 dead.  That’s when I learned that someone had gone to the Labour Party camp’s island and started shorting random campers.  I felt sick in my stomach.  The train pulled away from the station and the internet was gone.  Rachel was already asleep in the bed above me. Continue Reading…

Rachel’s Post: Fear Itself

When you stop living, you start letting them win.

Robert and I spent this week in Norway, and were on a train to the western coast yesterday, when a bomb went off in downtown Oslo.  A right-wing extremist attempted to kill the Norwegian Prime Minister, and shot a lot of youths at a Labour Party summer camp yesterday. It has been a shock to the entire nation of Norway, and people today are asking how such terrorism could happen.  They are a very peaceful country, and have not seen this extent of violence since World War II.

After a tragedy strikes, people have a tendency to stop living life and start living in fear. It’s the typical snail-shell effect:  something scary comes toward you and you shrink back into your safe place. It’s a natural reaction. What is not healthy is to stay inside that snail shell forever. Signs of fear like this have been posted for visitors to the city: Continue Reading…

Rachel’s Post: The Greatest Ship: A Mostly True Story

I will tell you a story.  It’s a true story and it happened a long, long time ago.

The story starts on the coast of Sweden, in the capital called Stockholm.  At the time, the country was ruled by a ferocious and powerful king named Gustavus Adolphus. Because of his reputation, he went by “The Lion of the North” for short.  Gustav had a hankering to rule the world.  He was doing pretty well taking over Nordic countries like Norway and Denmark until 1628, when he made one fateful mistake.  Gustavo had been so successful in the past building up naval fleets, taking over small countries and kicking dogs, that he decided over herring and vodka at dinner to build a mighty boat.

This wasn’t going to be a small fishing charter, or even a pleasure cruise for eating mackerel buffets.  This was going to be the largest and most powerful ship ever built.  It would defy God by having not one, but two cannon decks on board.  He designed it himself, then expertly delegated the construction to some guys who had the word, “Viking” on their resume.  The mighty ship was assembled exactly according to the design.  Gustavo named it the “Vasa” which means something like “really oversized wooden donkey” in Swedish.

Finally the day to set sail had come.  Gustav could hardly sleep the night before, because he was so excited to take over the world in his sailing donkey.  Of course, he would stay at home during the conquest and let his minions actually do the “taking over the world” part.  When they returned victorious, he would take all the credit. Continue Reading…

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