Monday, July 23, 2007

The Grey Havens

Our last day in Norway was hard for all three of us to swallow. We were certainly not ready to leave yet, and were not looking forward to saying goodbye to our family and new friends. Luckily, we had a full day to keep our minds off our melancholic moods. We spent the afternoon on Uncle Mikal’s farm and got a tour of the pigs and cow that are raised and milked there. After attempting to get the pigs’ “special” smell off with a shower, we decided to head by train over to a mall near Stavanger. Mikal and Zac found a few things to take home to share with their families but I could not muster an impulse to buy anything. When we arrived back, we once again went over to Anders’ house and hung out for one last time. Our trip ended much like this last blog, abrupt and yet satisfying.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Land Of My Lineage

We woke up early this morning to help bring the tables and chairs from reunion at the school to another building. This caused us to have a little bit of a late start on our way to Ualand. Ualand is the home of the farm where my great-grandpa raised his family. The house where my grandpa and his siblings grew up is still standing and is in the care some of my relatives. Our visit included another terrific meal of Norwegian pancakes (sorry I still can’t get the real name right. I always say lempas but that is from Lord of the Rings). After this, we got a tour of the grounds including a look through the old house. Crossing the threshold into this place was a fantastic experience. We were given the opportunity to visualize the lives of our family from almost 100 years ago. For precious moments we were able to see our grandpa bossing around his younger siblings in their crowded upstairs bedroom. Able to see great grandma cooking in the kitchen while proudly watching great grandpa working on the farm. Able to see the entire family sit down at the table and dream about the great family that would one day spring from this small white house. After the tour, we were going to hike up the side of the hills and get some pictures of the whole farm, but it started to downpour and we left for Vigrestad. Later that evening, we drove down to Egersund to visit Marion, a friend of Alexander’s. On the way we stopped at the beach. After some volleyball and dune jumping we were on our way. At Marion’s house we hung out by a lake and sang worship songs and made S’mores on small disposable grill (apparently no bonfires in Norway). We then went into town and visited the harbor where the still, soothing waters were very conducive to conversation. Suddenly the cold night chill and body’s weariness told us it was time to head back to Vigrestad.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Shhh don’t tell my mom about today’s adventure! One of the things I wanted to do while in Norway was to go on a hike and see some of Norway’s views. Peter suggested Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock as a place to get a great view. I’ll leave the words to Twain and Steinbeck and let my pictures describe this fantastic place, but it is basically a rock you can go out on and look over 2000 foot cliffs. I’ve seen this rock in movies and pictures and the real thing is very intense. The hike to the actual rock was very nice. Unlike monotonous switchbacks in the forest of hikes in Washington, this hike offered open view for the whole time. There were an incredible amount of people climbing the mountain, and I was amazed at how elderly people and children were climbing as it was quite difficult and pretty dangerous. When we got to the rock the tingle in the ankles immediately kicked in. We ate lunch first because we decided if we had to, we wanted to die on an empty stomach (just a joke mom). We then very carefully took our first peek over the edge by crawling on our bellies. The drop makes you feel sick instantly, and your whole body tingles. After many photos to prove our manliness, we were ready to head back down. The family was relieved when we finally arrived back at the house and we were quite ready for a delicious meal. We spent the rest of the evening at the house of Alexander’s friend who has a home theater. I am quite happy to be off the rock and sitting on the couch with a warm laptop on my legs.

2007 Vasshuas Reunion

We woke up to the fateful sound of rain on the panes by our bed. This unfortunatly meant that we could not have the family reunion outside Peter and Kjellaug’s house and would have to relocate to the middle school where Kjellaug works. We arrived there just in time to see the first guests drive in. As relatives poured in Mikal, Zac and I were barraged with delightful introductions. Some of the people we vaguely remembered from the 2000 visit, others were new faces. Having everyone talk to us and welcome us to Norway was a true blessing. There were a good amount of people from our generation and it was fun to talk to them and get to see their children. We also got to see the remaining siblings of our Bestefar, Aunt Anna, Uncle Magnus and Uncle Arnt. After dinner, we were honored to hear Uncle Arnt tell the emotional story of my Great Grandfather. It was a beautiful story and further tied the bond between all the people there that all owe their lives to the result of that story. What reunion would be complete without group portraits and the toil of the cameras to take them? We all piled into the gym and lined up for our family mug shots. We felt very welcomed into the family and are extremely thankful for the oppurtunity to have materialize and actualize this illusive thing that has always been in our minds, ‘our Norwegian family’. We aren’t entirely sure how God will use the ties and connections we have made but we are excited to find out.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Exploring Stavanger

Today we decided to travel to the second largest city in Norway, Stavanger. We started our tour of the city at a small park that had three giant swords sticking in the ground. They are supposed to be a monument to three warriors that fought in a battle near that location. Once in Stavanger we met a couple of Lisbeths friends, but by this time our stomachs were leading the way as well as most of the conversation. Zac, Alex, Mikal and I ate at a subway, Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki for those of you who were wondering, and Lisbeth ate a bagel shop next door. From here it was a short walk to a big church where Lisbeth was baptized as an infant. The interiour was very similar to other Catholic churches I have been to. We then went down to the harbor and bought some shrimp right off a boat that was docked. We did some shopping without the shopping part, which gave us a good chance to see the nice, expensive Norwegian products. Around the harbor was ‘Old Stavanger’ a part of the city with small cobble stone roads and beatiful, old houses. Oh yeah, and kitties, lots of cats. I tried to catch one but it was obviously used to the abuse of visitors. We ate that evening at a nice pizza restaurant called ‘Peppes Pizza’. The food was excellent but my Dutch father will disown me when he hears how much I paid for the pop I got there. We finished the evening by seeing Die Hard 4.0 in a theater near Stavanger. And as Bruce Willis always says in these movies, we had “another day in paradise”.

A day of rest

After such a busy schedule, Mikal, Zac and I were gracious to have a relaxing day at Alexander’s house. We woke up late, played Alexander’s new Playstation 3, played computer games, and watched Norske TV. In the afternoon we sat down and watched Catwoman. This movie has won several awards as the worst movie ever and we found that it was quite deserving of the title. In the evening, we got to hang out with some of Alexander’s friends. It was one of those days that slips by with out much incidence, yet,
can be every bit as memorable as the exciting ones.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

…and back again—Vigrestad

For the trip back to Vigrestad from the cabin we had a choice between going back along the coast as we came, or we could go across the mainland of Norway and climb the mountains. In the words of Robert Frost, we “took the road less traveled by/ and it has made all the difference” (The Road Not Taken). Our mountainous journey allowed us to see more of the beauty that Norway has to offer. We visited a stave church that is the oldest wooden church in Norway. Eidsborg church was built in the 13th century and is set in a lush green valley. The rest of the trip we had our eyes glued to the window as the slim road wound through miles of mountains, lakes and a lot of green.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Trip to Stavern

I was awoken abrutly this morning by Mikal’s alarm clock. It was time to hit the nets and pots to see our catch for the night. Apparently, however, my morning mind did not find this to be an appealing idea and I grumbled for Mikal and the others to go on without me. They had fun pulling in another good catch and I had fun finishing my sleep. We spent the afternoon in a small town near the cabin called Stavern. In this town there was an old fort that was used in the days of Norway’s alliance with Napoleon. Here we walked along the beautiful waterfront that was accented by unique rocks. This bay formed a perfect area for a little sailing school where children could sign up for week long lessons in small boats. There was also a small museum that chronicled the maritime activity of the area. We then headed back to the cabin for a big seafood dinner. And don’t worry, I made it through the meal but I feel a bit whoozy now. After one last swim in the fjord we packed up our stuff and are ready to head out tomorrow morning.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Surfing and Fishing in the Fjord

This morning we got to see our first bit of Norwegian sun. After lunch, we headed down to the dock with the windsurfing board and wetsuits. The latter is not really a necessity as much as a convenience. I was surprised to find out that the water here is quite a bit warmer than back home in the Sound and the ocean. Peter took everyone and gave individual coaching in windsurfing technique while the others watched from the rocks. While awaiting our lessons we caught crabs under the dock, but they were a bit too small to eat. My turn with windsurfing was mildly successful, Peter taught me a few techniques that helped in getting started, and made it a better attempt than some of the mishaps we’ve had with our board. This board was also a bit smaller than ours, making it easier to manuever. The afternoon was gorgeous, and I spent much of it basking in the sun on the deck with a cool drink and watching the sun glisten on the fjord below. I was struck in this moment with the incredible way that God can bless me with just some heat and a nice background. Thank you Lord! Before dinner we decided to give fishing another try because we hadn’t caught anything the time before. We did not fish with poles, however, but with string on handle that had 5 hooks on it (see The Norwegian gods of the ocean provided these foreign Vikings with a good catch, 11 fish, on just a short trip. After an authentic Scandinavian dish of tacos and burritos, with the confidence from our recent success, we decided to try another method of fishing. We took the boat out on the fjord and set up a crab pot and a fishing net that we will pull out tomorrow morning.

Cabin on the North Sea

After packing all of our gear from the festival we headed out of Lygøs with a rather late start. Our destination was a cabin 2 hours north near Oslo. Mikal drove their Subaru stationwagon because both Alexander and Lisbeth cannot get their licenses until they are 18. Mikal soon found out that the roads in Norway are very different than those in the States. Sharp turns, constant speed changes, and one lane for both ways made the trip interesting for both driver and passengers. But Mikal drove very carefully and we arrived at the cabin only slightly behind schedule. When we got there we met one of Peter’s cousins, Bjørn, his wife and son. After lunch we took a trip in the boat and went fishing. Before we knew it, it was time for another meal. This one was very familiar to a few hungry Americans: hot dogs, chicken, pork, and potatoes. We ate our fill and spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the living room where we found a convenience we had been missing for a few days: the internet. I got a chance to upload photos and blog, and Mikal got to reconnect with his home social network through his MySpace.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Big Festival Day

Today, was the festival’s biggest day, with the largest bands, a few from the US, playing in the evening. In the afternoon Alexander brought us to an awesome swimming area where we jumped off cliffs and attempted to dodge the millions of jellyfish (the kinds that can actually sting you). It was also really fun meeting and hanging out with Lisbeth and Alexander’s friends from Vigrestad. Even though they spoke broken English, it was fun to get to know them. This day was not as rainy as yesterday, and the evening event was a Black gospel choir from Los Angeles (an interesting choice for a main event in my opinion). After this the entire field of people, about 6 or 7 thousand, participated in worship and communion. All three of us felt very honored and blessed to be able to fellowship like this with our Christian brothers and sisters in Norway. The topic of unity in the church, and the problems that dissention and disagreement can cause, has come up in many of our conversations here. I couldn’t help appreciating the importance of unity as I worshipped on that field in a language I did not understand.

Norway makes a few Washingtonians feel right at home

Rain has a unique power to bring people together in the midst of the misery that it causes. As the festival plowed on, the rain began to dump. The entire camp became a gaint mudhole. With smells that would put the Lynden fair to shame, the festival went on with music, speakers, and worship. Before the rain hit, however, Alexander took us to his Grandmother’s cabin that is out on an island in Lygøs. Both Zac and I were kicking ourselves all afternoon because we forgot our cameras and missed out on capturing some truly unique and amazing views. After a quick swim and a delicious lunch we headed back to the festival to meet an evening under hoods.

From Vigrestad to Kristiansand

After 16 hours of sleep we were ready for our trip to Norway’s biggest Christian music festival. We packed up there two vehicles and headed out from Vigrestad. It was a long scenic drive along the southern Norwegian coast and we got to see the many unique features of Norway including the massive fishing operations and very long tunnels. Mikal and Zac also took this time to comment on just about every vehicle that passed. But their excitement over these unique vehicles and their desire to race along these foreign speedways quickly evaporated as they learned of the strict enforcement over the roads. We got to the festival around 9:00 and spent the rest of the evening listening to concerts and attending a worship session that was half English and half Norwegian.

Norway or Bust

We arrived at the airport with 2 and a half hours until our flight. But after we got through the massive line for check in, we were looking at a possible reschedule of flight because we had less than a half an our to get through the security line and to our gate before it closed. Thankfully, the security line went fast and we got right on our plane. Zac, Mikal and I settled into our seats and took in the long plane ride with movies and games provided by the flights ‘International Entertainment System’. Before we knew it, we were landing in Amsterdam. The transfer here went smoothly but we were quickly on our plane to Stavanger, Norway. By now, our bodies were telling us it was time to find a bed, but as we landed our eyes told us otherwise. The drive from Stavanger to Vigrestad was exciting as we took in the beautiful landscape with a feeling of euphoric disbelief that we were finally in Norway. We got to Alexander’s house around 1:00 PM their time but he was not there but at the festival that we would soon be going to. My eyes were now starting to drop, however, I was determined to stay awake to try and keep a normal sleep schedule. Lisbeth took us out and gave us the tour of Vigrestad and we got to see all five buildings. Along with the grocery stores there was the church where she and Alexander attend and the school where they attended and Christina, their younger sister, now goes. When we got back we had a delicious dinner of meat cakes and potatoes. Soon after this we headed over to see some of our cousins that we haven’t seen for years and ended up at Fredrick and Turron’s house for pancakes or lempa as they call it. By this time my body had completely shut off and had become disconnected with my brain. I was so tired it became hard to comprehend and follow conversation and it didn’t help that it often broke into fast squabbles of Norwegian. I had never been awake for so many consecutive hours. Mikal, Zac and I retreated to the downstairs and I fell asleep in the middle of taking off my clothes.