Monthly Archives: December 2012

Anemometer 2

Given the loss of the main town anemometer, church have stepped in and supplied the backup system, in the form of a Norwegian flag. It comes in 3 sizes – small, medium and large, and you can tell roughly what weather we are having / will have, by the size being flown.

  • Large – calm, dry weather
  • Medium – quite windy and /or wet
  • Small – very wind (and probably wet)

Today was a small flag day, because it was pretty wind, although not the forecast gusts of 80mph. The first picture below was taken at about 9.30 am, and you can see it was also quite dark (it’s cloudy, but thankfully not raining). The second (a bit more exposure) shows the flag flapping at a blurringly high speed (is blurringly a word?).

The last couple of days the temperature has also risen from the -5 to -15C range of the last 6 weeks, to hovering around freezing. Whilst it’s nice that it’s warmer outside, it created a problem for us: our outdoor ‘freezer’ has defrosted (we’ve been using the storage compartment of our outdoor seat on the veranda to keep frozen foods as our proper freezer isn’t very large). So, today we will eat lots of pizza!

Juletrefest

Yesterday church held a very ‘Norwegian’ party – the Juletrefest (Christmas tree party). I was a little skeptical of the description – ‘we’ll sing songs as we dance around the tree’ – which sounded a bit pagan. However, it’s probably one of those ‘Christianised’ old customs and the songs were mostly carols ‘sung in joyful celebration of Jesus’ (whilst dancing around the tree – in joyful celebration of Jesus). There was of course plenty of coffee and cake to fuel the dancers. The tree itself was not in the ‘sanctuary’, but rather the ‘våpenhus’ – the armoury where you leave your weapons before entering the sanctuary (sounds a bit american!). Here’s a short video clip. Pictures are below.

In addition to singing and dancing there were games, some of our junior choir sang and there was also a visit by a very cool ‘Nissen’ (Nissen is a Norwegian character, a bit like Santa Clause), who gave out gifts to all the children who said they were ‘snill’ (kind). So, as in the rest of the western world, ‘works righteousness’ is alive and well!

And the final bit of news: having been about the only place in the world not to have snow for Christmas (or the last 6 weeks), it finally arrived  yesterday, together with a bit of wind, although so far not enough to be a problem.

Happy Christmas

It’s been a very busy few days and it ain’t over yet, so this is just a brief post to say:

HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Here was the view on the way to church this morning:

Happy_Christmas_2012

Shortest Day

Yesterday (21 December) we experienced the shortest day here (daylight hours, not working hours!). However, it was one of the brightest in a while so we actually had more hours of useable daylight than expected (about 5 hours). Below are pictures taken just after 9am with a spectacular dawn. The camera didn’t do a very good job with the colours (see the panorama stitched from pictures taken only seconds apart!), but it was a very fiery red.

The ‘dark time’ has so far been fine for us, and we haven’t really felt like we missed the sun that much. Looks like we can survive the arctic!

Today, 22nd December, dawned purple – brown. There hasn’t been too much to do, so we got skates from the library in anticipation of some fun.

Old News

Here are some short ‘snippets’ from the last week or so:

How Many Men . . .

We all know the jokes about how many xxxx does it take to xxxx (fill in the blanks), eg

  • How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
  • Change? CHANGE????

or

  • How many (insert name of the country to be mocked) men does it take to change a light bulb?
  • One. And ten to turn the round round

Etc. Well, the question here is how many men (and women) does it take to erect a Christmas tree (without decorations), and the answer is approx 10, although some had gone before I could get my camera.

Sun and Moon

Last week I had two photos published in Folkebladet, the local news paper. One was of the moon in the same part of the sky as the dawn colours (can’t really call it sunrise, as we don’t see the sun!). Unfortunately to make it fit the space they chopped the moon off, leaving people asking me where the moon had gone. Here is the complete picture:

12.12.12

Last Wednesday was 12/12/12, and at 12.00 we had the first of 3 weddings. I guess brides like these memorable date as it increases the chance of getting an anniversary card? Because these were church  services it was not possible to exactly time the 1st kiss at 12/12/12 12.12, so another couple made the front page of the papers, but hopefully all are successfully married, regardless. Because of some rather unusual ‘secrecy’ laws here, I cannot ever reveal the names of the couple.

Safety First

Last week I mentioned that we had sort of celebrated St Lucilia day, and that (at least in Sweden) girls where crowns with real lighted candles. The Norwegians, being more safety conscious, wear these:

Brown

A few days ago my friend Christopher Briggs wrote about the special colours of the polar night here in the Arctic, including brown. Well today we also had brown, just as the sky was beginning to lighten at 8.30AM (note that on a cloudy day it doesn’t even get this bright at noon!):

And Finally – Who Shrunk The HURTIGRUTEN ?

Today I played for a funeral in Bjorvelnes, which involves a drive along one ot the coast roads. Just after 12, on the return journey, I took these pictures, including the coastal ‘steamer / ferry’, the Hurtigruten. Hurtigruten is not one boat, but rather the service, which means that at least 4 boats are working simultaneously, up and down the coast of Norway. Usually the boats are quite modern and large, but occasionally in the winter they use one of the old ones, pictured here.  If you have a lot of free time / a good internet connection over Christmas / New Year and want to ‘explorer’ the Norwegian coast, you can still watch the Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt program from NRK (click the interactive map to watch the video from that location).

A Different View

Tomorrow is the parish Christmas Concert, which together with everything else that is going on, means we are keeping quite busy! Sadly no time to take new photo, but here are some from our travels in the last week, mainly to Bothamn, one of the furthest places we visit. The ‘different view’ is because this time it’s mostly pictures taken by Sarah.

Following up on the news about our friends facing deportation, we learned today that the decision to re-hear their case was made after their plane had taken off. So, the pilot turned around and brought them back! What a God we serve – never early, never late. They have another hearing on Monday, so all prayer is still appreciated.

Julespill

After several previous mentions, today’s post is mainly photos from the church Julespill (Christmas play). Sarah and I both had roles. Sarah was one of the costumed ‘registrars’ (before the children come into the church room. they are ‘registered’ to help them understand the concept of why Jesus was born far from home), and she played the piano and sang. Thankfully I had a none-speaking part, looking after the sound!

Other really good news – today, just before they were due to be put on a plane to Sri Lanka from the  transit centre in Oslo, our friends were given permission to stay in Norway so their case can be re-heard. We are thankful to God for this last minute intervention, and thankful to all who have prayed.

What A Difference A Day Can Make

This week we have had many ‘performances’ of the church  ‘Julespill’. Unlike the UK and USA where it’s usually the children who put on the play for the adults, here the adults in church are the actors and the ‘audience’ are children from the local nurseries / pre-schools (ages 1- 5). The actors are a mixture of staff and volunteers and the church is transformed into several stages with seating for the children who walk with the shepherds from their fields to Bethlehem, to greet Jesus, closely followed by the wise-men.

Yesterday was the final day of performances and today is St Lucille day, which is widely celebrated here with songs, special food and hats with candles (rather dangerous). So, today we came expecting a bit of a party, but just as we gathered for coffee and cakes we were all totally shocked and deeply saddened by news that Dilani – Mary in our Julespill – and her parents had been ‘collected’ from their home without warning this morning and deported back to Sri Lanka. They had been refused asylum, so everyone knew that it was a possibility, but after nearly 3 years it is still shocking, and made more so by the manner in which it is done, with no opportunity to say goodbye, phones confiscated, etc. We only know the country where they will go back to danger; we have no method of contacting them or offering help.

They are lovely Christian friends, always ready to serve, and always with a smile. When I arrived in Norway, they were some of the first in the congregation to welcome me. The irony in the midst of on-going debate about immigrants coming and taking Norwegian jobs, is that despite living in very humble circumstance they volunteered in Cafe Pluss (without pay) to help and serve others, many of whom  have fallen through the social safety net.

Please join us in praying for them, where ever they are.

First_service_07

What_a_difference_a_day_makes

Gingerbread Land

One of the great Christmas traditions in Norway is making gingerbread and gingerbread houses.

In Finnsnes one of the shopping centres mounted a display of dozens of gingerbread creations from local schools, nurseries, the language school, etc. The young people in the ‘internat’ (boarding accommodation) at Susanna’s school also participated, but sadly the the edifice created by Susanna’s group was to fragile to transport. None-the-less, here for your edification, if not your taste-buds, is gingerbread land . . . .

Changing Skies

This has been a somewhat sad week in many of the communities in Lenvik, with 6 funerals, including a young man, only 20 years old. For Sarah and I it has meant quite a bit of traveling, although we are thankful for the clear roads and wonderful views. Travel in the south of Norway has apparently been much worse, and our next-door-neighbours in Sweden have had a terrible time with several feet of early snow creating chaos on the roads and bringing down power-lines.

As we head deeper into the ‘polar night’ the skies continue to amaze with the variety of colours which change minute by minute as the sun moves below the horizon, lighting the clouds.

These pictures were taken on Tuesday at Rossfjord, shortly before and after a funeral. There was an amazing bank of cloud over the sea, obscuring most of the mountains:

These pictures were taken a little later in Finnsnes, on the journey home. The same cloud was over the sea, just out of these pictures, but there were lots of small patches of fog. You can see how the light and colour changes, even in a few minutes.

And finally, these pictures were taken yesterday (Thursday), again at Rossfjord. Again there was some cloud at sea level, and the light was completely different – very blue. Wednesday night was very cold and still, and there must have been a little moisture in the air, because everything was covered in bright white frost.