Today it finally stopped raining. It’s only been 3 days, but it’s seems like a long time. It’s certainly changed the landscape. We now have an Olympic sized swimming pool where the ice skating area of Finnsnes Vann (pond) has flooded. The roads are now largely clear of ice, and at low altitude much of the snow has gone, revealing grass.
Yesterday when I drove to Lysbotn Kappel on Senja for a funeral, road conditions were much worse. There were large areas of standing water and rivers which flowed over the ice on the roads, channeled by the walls of ice left from snow ploughing earlier in the year. It makes driving difficult and potentially dangerous (one lady told me that she had done a little ‘dance’ in her car, using the whole road, but thankfully not a ditch). The local council are working hard to drain the roads, using a steam machine to clear drains and a digger with an ice pick to make holes in the ice ‘walls’ beside the roads. Sorry no pictures – it took all my concentration to stay on the road, and if you stop, it can be hard to getting going again on the ice: momentum is everything!
And white to green? Well the peculiar thing is that melting snow / ice and rain seems to produce green rivers and lakes. The water is on top of ice so, it’s not picking up the colour from the ground, so you would expect it to be clear. Very odd.
Anyway, this is Finnsnes today, which looked a bit like it might in May!
Today, Sunday, it’s still raining, and several roads have become rivers. Looking on the bright side, as one person said after church this morning ‘at least it’s not snow’, with a gesture to suggest that it would be a number of feet deep if it were. On the other hand, there were also several skiers worriedly discussing whether winter was over 2 months early.
So, in the continued absence of anything very photogenic, here is a little more humour. Some humour travels well, and here is an example of one of Great Britain’s greatest exports, now working for a chain of Norwegian supermarkets: Mr Bean:
Next comes ‘off beat’ (pun intended): Norwegian soldiers and military band with their version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, ‘performed’ during the changing of the guards outside the Royal Palace in Oslo. I begs the question, why? Possible answers include:
- Someone in the Royal family request it,
- The army decide to delight the royals with a surprise (maybe for a royal birthday?),
- This is some kind of specialist manoeuvre used in anti-terrorism and counter-espionage work,
- The army employed a band master who previously directed a high school or college band in the US.
Thriller starts at about 2.40:
Finally, some humour requires a little cultural understanding. For example, what has become know as the “Æ Ø Å” song. You need to know that:
- There are 3 extra vowels (Æ, Ø and Å) in the Norwegian alphabet, which come at the end, after Z.
- Norwegians invented the cheese slice (every home has several), and also the paper clip, although there’s no reference to in the song.
Because of the widespread use of English in Norway, it’s hard to gauge whether the fact that the song is in English is ironic or not. Also, be warned, sadly Norwegian ‘Youf’ employ a lot of English swear words, including in their songs. Perhaps cursing in another language is not as shocking, but I I have never heard Norwegians using their equivalent words as liberally.
Today (Saturday) is grey and it has rained for over 24 hours. It’s also at least one jumper (sweater) warmer than recently, which means the snow is melting, leaving large puddles on the ice, so it’s very slippery.
Anyway, here is a little bit of humour I’ve been saving for a rainy day:
Norway has a famous rally driver who is quite well know for his excellent driving, and not so excellent mixing of Norwegian and English (is that Nenglish?). For example:, It’s not the fart that kills, it’s the smell”. In Norwegian “fart” = speed and “smell” = crash).
Along the same lines, I took this photo in the local shops today:
A Norwegian tourist visits London hails a taxi. He opens the door to what he thinks is the passenger side, but is surprised to find the driver sitting there. The tourist says, “I’m sorry, but in my country the rat is on the other side”. In Norwegian “steering wheel” = ratt.
And to close, here is a video. Some of you may already have seen this, but it’s still funny:
This last couple of days skiers have been on high alert, and the rest of us have prepared our sku-piggs. Temperatures are swinging around freezing, so we have had a bit of a thaw, then rain, then a hard freeze, and now the forecast for the school holiday next week is 6C and rain which will make skiing almost impossible and probably turn the roads and pavements (sidewalks) into skating rinks.
Sarah and Susanna arrived safe and sound in the US yesterday.
Sarah is ‘veldig snill’ (very kind), so I’m sitting down to pork chop and vegatables – the first of many meals she prepared for me before she left!
Today we had our first wedding 2013. Binyam is a regular at our Friday evening bible study, so it was a joy to play for him. It was a beautiful sunny day and the wedding, in English, went without a hitch, after an extended pause whilst the best man went to find the couple (it was a small wedding and there was no one to marshal everyone into position before the service, so they were waiting in the church sitting room, whilst we were poised for a procession into church). Binyam’s new (only) wife is currently lives in Canada, so domestic arrangements are set to be a bit long-distance for now, but whether they finally settle in Norway or Canada our prayers are with them.
Weddings are quite different in Norway to England or the US. They are now regarded as ‘confidential’, so technically I’m not supposed to name names or show pictures, although it’s OK with Binyam). Invited family and guests mostly seat themselves, and there is no ‘seating of the mothers / grandmothers’. Services are normally quite short and rarely are there more than a couple of bridesmaids and the best man. Four chairs are set at the front of the church and the maid of honour and best man sit there before the service, awaiting the wedding couple: unfortunately the wedding chars in Finnsnes church are rather large, so most people can’t see anything. The ingangs prosesjon is often only the bride and groom, and therefore short. It’s unusual to have the bride’s father walk her down the aisle and ‘transfer’ her to the groom. The exchange of rings is still not widespread (and regarded by many as ‘foreign’). At the end of the service the couple are presented with a bible and everyone shakes hands (there is no ‘you may kiss the bride’ or ‘presentation’ of the new couple), followed by the utgangs prosesjon of the bridal party together.
Just for a change, we’ve had a busy weekend (!).
Friday dawned golden. Most of the day was taken with a concert in the neighbouring parish of Sørreisa (for me) and washing / packing (Sarah and Susanna).
The concert was a group of 4 ‘geezers’ – Odd Fredriksen and friends. Odd is the guitarist the church band and a fantastic player, vocalist and friend. I played organ and piano, and we were joined by Sven Arild Berntsen (local artist and musician – vocals and mouthorgan) and Steinar Steffensen (electric guitar). It was eclectic mix of hymns, original songs and a bit of rock / blues / gospel. For me it was a little reminiscent of Prince George, with the organ at the back of the church (up a spiral staircase), and the piano at the front, so an opportunity for a bit of exercise between songs!
On Saturday the church band took part in a missions celebration evening with a Norwegian missionary who works in Japan. Whilst language learning is slow for me, I understood almost everything he said (apart from when he spoke Japanese!). We sang in Norwegian (a setting of John 3:16 by Odd, a translation of When I needed a neighbour and a new song) and English (Shout it from the rooftops, from the album we recorded at Prince George, which we explained to the audience as equivalent to shouting from the mountain-tops in Norway).
Today we had 3 services, and a visit to a group of confirmands on a weekend away, to teach them some new songs and hymns. After that it was a race back to Finnsnes so that Sarah and Susanna could catch the airport bus to begin their two week trip to visit Ruth and friends in the USA (Bort = away). As the bus pulled away it was really cold (allegedly -17C) and the whole sky was green with the northern lights. It’s hard to get good northern light photos in the town because of the street lights, so I took a walk on the bridge. There’s also a long exposure shot of the hurtigbåt (the ‘fast’ boat) as it set off for Tromsø.
Vakker = Beautiful / Lovely
Just one photo from Wednesday – a cold but beautiful sunset, eclipsed only by my cold but beautiful wife!
Oh, and a quick update on words for the Lent / Easter season: apparently the word “skjærtorsdag” is from the old Norse word skíra – meaning “to clean”. Hence the literal translation is not “cutting” Thursday, or even “shearing”, but rather “cleansing” or “purifying”. If your Norwegian is up to speed, there is an article here. Thanks to Christopher for this information.
NO pictures today – just a bit of a rant.
Yesterday was Ash Wednesday – the beginning of lent. We are learning new vocabulary for this season, and it is interesting to see how the language might reveal differing cultural understandings:
- Shrove Tuesday -> Fetetirsdag (lit. fat Tuesday)
- Ash Wednesday – Askeonsdag (lit. ash Wednesday)
- Lent – Fastetiden (lit. fasting time)
- Maunday Thursday – Skjærtorsdag (lit. cutting / shearing Thursday)
- Good Friday – Langfredag (lit. long Friday)
- Easter – Påske
Uvanlige means unusual. Ash Wednesday was somewhat unusual here in that it was ‘ash free’. It seems that here, as in so many places, names and forms have been kept without the substance! For example, despite the name Fastetiden, it’s apparently almost unheard of to fast in Lent (or even participate in the somewhat ‘whimpy’ giving up of chocolate). Then there is the original Lenten practice of fasting 6 days a week and celebrating the resurrection with feasting on Sundays which has been so ignored / ‘inverted’, that most people make no change to their lives in the week, and if they come to church on Sundays, worship is penitential. And Paul’s encouragement to “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5: 19) is now fulfilled by sitting in rows so no-one can address anyone else in a meaningful way, whilst the choir is often out of sight on a gallery. Hmm . . .
On with the reformation!
This has been a very busy week, as we plan for discipling the large number of young people who came forward to make commitments when TX Viking visited last week. On top of that Sarah was away in England for a week (so missed all the excitement), and an initial visit to Husøy on Senja to help breathe some life back into a shrinking Kappell brought 30 children and 10 adults (that’s about 20% of the population). Oh, and yesterday we had ‘Være i stillheten’ which was well received and appreciated.
And the colour? On Thursday, the church flew the Sami flag (the Sami are the indigenous people who live across Norway / Sweden / Finland / Russia. Today was one of our favourite times – International Kafe, with lots of different foods and cakes. And we’ve been seeing the most amazing colours in the sky.