On Norwegian Temperature

I was told that Norwegians are cold. In preparation for coming here, the blogs, travel sites, and books warned of Norwegian reticence: everyone is polite, but it takes time to actually become friends. Be patient, the sources claimed, and eventually you will break through the Norwegian coolness.

When I got here I found both the literal and figurative Norwegian temperature quite comfortable. Perhaps it is the introversion (like so many academics), but I find people who are overly eager to become friends a bit taxing. So the welcoming yet cautious social choreography of most Norwegians suited me quite well; it mirrors my own approach to friendship. Though it does mean that I have attended precious few social gatherings, and my time is almost up. Such is the trade-off.

It has not been all books, though.

May 17th is the Norwegian national holiday, celebrating independence. It is a day of fanfare, where every city in Norway has a parade. My flatmates organized a potluck breakfast on the day, preceding the march downtown. I volunteered to make quiche, to infuse some French-Canadian cuisine into the Norwegian festivities.

As with so many other times, I stumble across a language issue; how do you make the pie crust without English or French instructions? You type the entire text into an online translator, and secretly hope that the sentence translated as, “prick the bottom with a fork and reinforced happy bottom for 5 minutes” actually means something about naughty fun.

It doesn’t, though. Such is the disappointment.

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Sausage, onion, mushroom, spinach, and gouda and mozzarella cheese, with cream and whipped eggs.

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It turned out pretty yummy.

My flatmates lay out an impressive table, complete with folded napkins. 

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As I don’t have permission, I won’t post their photos here, but all were dressed in their traditional Norwegian garb: a bunad. These costumes are wool and linen, with intricate embroidery:

The bunad, meaning ‘clothing’, is a fairly recent development in Norwegian culture.  The more ‘authentic’ bunads are modelled off old folk attire worn in certain regions that developed over the centuries.  Even though old folk wear (commonly called ‘folk costumes’ in Norway) evolved because of daily life, regional traditions and celebrations, the bunad only borrows from the more festive forms of traditional folk clothing.

The National Bunad Council Bunad-og Folkedraktrådet, the authority on national costumes appointed by the government, has developed five categories to grade modern day bunads according to ‘authentic’ regional folk clothing:

Category 1 – a bunad that represents a ‘final’ link’ in the development of a folk costume.  This is basically an original folk costume that has taken on the function of a bunad.

Category 2 – a bunad that has a background in a particular folk costume that is out of use but not forgotten.  It is generally reconstructed from first-hand knowledge.

Category 3 – a bunad that has been reconstructed from preserved folk garments which reflect the actually time and region of the piece.  Pictures and writings are used as sources in reconstruction.

Category 4 – a bunad that has been made based on random and incomplete folk material.  Missing peices have been designed to match the style of the materials.

Category 5 – a bunad that has been completely or partically ‘freely composed’.  It was the 1800s bunad movement that has given these types of bunad their status.

New ‘bunads’ that are being designed every year, must go through the strict judgement process of the National Bunad Council in order to be classified as a proper ‘bunad’.  The council is very strict in making sure new additions follow closely the traditions and history of the area.  Because of this, many designs today, even though they have the same function as a bunad, generally don’t make the cut and thus can not be called ‘bunads’.  They recieve the name ‘festive costumes’ instead.

This is a flower detail of one the guests at brunch.

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After the feast, I went downtown for the parade. People gathered in front of the Nidaros cathedral, preparing for the start.

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I walk through the crowd, and find a spot somewhere down the street. It is packed, and everyone is either dressed in traditional costume or their Sunday best. I take a thousand pictures of intricate hems.

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Coordinated costume romance.

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Bet that girl in the middle is regretting not playing along.

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Within the procession itself, various groups were represented: schools, dance clubs, sports teams, law enforcement, and cultural centres.

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The traditional costume of heart-throbs everywhere.

And what parade would be complete without a knight?

All medieval knights had the iPhone 6. Blackberrys are for wimps!

All medieval knights have the iPhone 6. Blackberries are for wimps.

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And of course, a stormtrooper and steampunk girl.

One of my side interests, is to research women’s folk history via the textiles, as sewing, embroidery, crochet, and knitting are often skills passed through the female line. The songs sung and stories told reveal a particular, untold history of women’s work. Work that then contributes to the history of a nation and how it understands itself.

It will all have to wait until after the dissertation, of course, as with so many other things. Hobbies and interests and even friendships have fallen by the wayside in pursuit of this degree. Such is the price.

 

 

You don’t owe prettiness to anyone.

“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'”

—Erin McKean, fashion editor.

Spring, Food, and Missing Home

I know. It’s been a while.

In the past few weeks I haven’t done much, as I’ve been nursing some injuries obtained from working out at the gym. I am rather competitive, and since January I’ve been gaining muscle and losing weight by pushing myself at the gym three-four times a week. More weights, more reps, higher intensity running… it took its toll when I hurt my knees jogging, and then hurt my shoulder with pull-downs, which caused a pinch in my neck, which then lead to a two-week headache and an aching scalp. That’s right. My scalp hurt. Apparently when this neck nerve gets hurt it irritates the entire side of your head. I originally thought I had a fast-moving ear infection that was growing up the side of my face.

But, it turns out, the cause of my pain is just that I’m not young. Not quite old per se, but certainly no longer twenty-two years old, with a twenty-two year old’s agility or ability to heal. Phooey. Almost-forty sucks.

As for my research here, I do not have that much time left—just over seven weeks. In that time I will write a draft of my entire proposal and an introductory chapter of the thesis itself. Though the proposal and chapter will likely change over the next year, outlining the plan on paper is a good way to get decent feedback as well as clarify one’s own thoughts and direction. When I return home I will do three comprehensive exams and then spend a year writing the dissertation. So far, I’m on track.

This is Month Five of my six-month adventure, and is the first time since being here that I’ve truly felt homesick. I miss my cats, my bicycle, and a damned grown up bed.

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Dorm living is not for real grown ups who’ve paid their own rent since they were eighteen. I’ve regressed and there are no midnight cheerleader pillow fights to show for it.

I also miss real coffee.

In this pretty city of Trondheim, spring is trying to make its appearance. We had a high of 14 degree Celsius today, the highest temperature so far.

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I’ll gladly suffer seasonal allergies for some greenery.

The sun is now setting at around ten p.m. and sets ten minutes later every day—a strange experience, as even at home at the height of summer, nine p.m. is usually the latest. By June 21st, I’m told that the day will last for twenty-two hours.

Another reason for my quiet on the blog is that I’ve been saving monies. I have adventures planned for the last month, including a trip to the Lofoten Archipelago

Even Norway’s sleepiest fishing villages are still breathtakingly beautiful.

…as well as Estonia to present at the annual CESNUR conference.

Magic and Media, yo.

My panel brings all the boys academics to the yard seminar room.

Despite the wallet-gouging prices here in Norway, I’ve managed to keep costs low by mixing cheap one-dollar food…

Canned tuna: cheap in every country.

Canned tuna: cheap in every country.

…with six-dollar-bags of spinach. Occasionally, I splurge and buy steak, and it’s the BEST THING EVER.

This cost me a month's rent.

This cost me a month’s rent.

When I’m feeling gastronomically adventurous, I try something unpronounceable yet visually appealing, to greater or lesser success.

My first meme.

My first meme.

But mostly, I stick to Norwegian staples.

Norwegians are obsessed with bad frozen pizza. Seriously, it's a real thing. Norway jokingly calls it their national dish.

Norwegians are obsessed with bad frozen pizza.

Seriously, it’s a real thing. Norway jokingly calls frozen pizza its national dish.

It’s Saturday night now and I’ve spent the day writing, so I’m going to go to the gym and try to sweat out the aches for home and the affection of my feline furkids. I may also buy chocolate, because chocolate cures all.

Just none of that Norwegian chocolate, because, like a true nerd, the foreign labels can’t tell me if I’m allergic to its ingredients.

And me without a bathtub.

And me without a bathtub.