Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Christmas in Norway

Another Christmas in Norway.  2011 is also a year of big changes for me.  I’ve moved and taken a new job in western Norway.  My new position is in Os, just about 20 miles south of Bergen, Norway’s second largest city.  Bergen is also known as the cultural capitol of Norway (Edvard Grieg lived here).  I look forward to hearing more concerts and taking advantage of the cultural riches in Bergen.  (Finally I’ve discovered that there is civilization and culture in Norway).

Being so close to Bergen, Os is fairly large, about 20,000 inhabitants.  There are just 2 churches in Os.  The main church is a wooden structure built in 1870.  The seating capacity is about 500.  The other church, Nore Neset is fairly new (built in 2000).  The organ in Nore Neset is a fine small 2-manual instrument.  The organ in Os Church is from the 1950’s, not the best period in Norwegian organ building.  Os has great natural beauty and is fairly close to the renowned Hardanger Fjord.

A few weeks ago I played for a funeral in Os Church.  A violinist also played.  As in most churches in Norway the organ is in the rear gallery.  The violinist has acrophobia (fear of heights).  The only solution was that he played from the front and I accompanied on the organ from the back.  Fortunately the music was slow so there were no ensemble problems.

The weather in western Norway is similar to England’s weather – mostly overcast with occasional bright intervals.  No snow yet as of the 1st of December, just a couple light frosts.  To put a positive spin on it you could say the weather is stable here, more so than the changeable patterns up north.  As we approach the winter solstice the days are short, but fortunately not as short as they are in northern Norway.  On December 11th the sun rises at 9:35 am and sets at 3:30 pm.  The coming days will be slightly shorter.  On the shortest day, December 21st, the sun rises at 9:45 am and sets at 3:30 pm.  I really don’t like going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark.  But that’s life in Norway -- a country of extremes.

I look forward to this new adventure. Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Easter and May

Week 16: the week between Palm Sunday and Easter. Here in Norway it is called «the quiet week» (den stille uken). Many are on holiday this week. Stores are open Monday through Wednesday but with reduced hours. Almost all stores are closed on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Many were open on Saturday but with reduced hours. Norway is really closed on Easter Sunday and Monday. I had services on Thursday, Friday, an Easter vigil service in Alstahaug Church where I had to sing some chant (in Norwegian), Easter Sunday, and an outdoor service on Easter Monday.

The Norwegian state church is now in a fairly weak position. There was talk last fall of separating the church and state, but it probably won't happen soon. (The political situation has shifted a bit: the Labour party (Arbeiderparti) has lost points in opinion polls and the Moderate Party (Høyreparti) has gained in popularity. The Høyreparti and the right-leaning parties wants to continue the current status.

From the Reformation the church here in Norway always had a position of power, priviledge and great wealth. (As opposed to various church demoninations in the US where most had humble beginnings). The church in Norway could afford to coast along. Now they are paying for their inattention: budgets are being slashed. 1 out of 3 Norwegians has a negative view of the state church. We'll see what happens in 2013 when the new parliament is elected.

On Easter Sunday the sun rose at 4:55 am and set at 9:20 pm. Length of day is 16 hours, 25 minutes.

Easter Monday I drove with a trumpet player to Søvikskaret for the outdoor service at noon. Despite the weather about 20 people (and 3 dogs) showed up.

Early Tuesday morning I took the express boat to Bodø for the Organ Festival. Fridthjov Anderssen (1876-1937) was a gifted composer who came from Nordland. Each year the opening of the Organ Festival begins with a laying of a wreath at the foot of Anderssen's statue in a park near the cathedral. I met a few acquantances from the last organ festival in Mosjøen, and met many new friends, including Jane Parker Smith, the star of the festival. Unfortunately I couldn't hear her concert on Thursday evening – I had to get back to Sandnessjøen for a Friday funeral. I took the train/bus back. The condition of the road from Mosjøen to Sandnessjøen is much worse than it was last fall. They are building a new tunnel/road but it won't be open until 2013.

On Mayday, the 1st of May, the sun rose at 4:30 am and set at 9:45 pm. Length of day is 17 hours, 15 minutes. I have now completed one year of residence in Norway. It still feels very exotic and the novelty hasn't worn off. Pianissimo, a small women's chorus, sang for the service on 1 May. For a prelude they sang «Somewhere, over the rainbow».

Finally the weather is turning warm and sunny. (Warm means above freezing). I took a couple longs walks with Magnar – up Fjellåsen and the area near the small boat harbor.

Confirmation services began on 8 May. The church was packed for the 1st service – about 350. At the later service there were about 250. On 8 May the sun rose at 4 am and set at 10:15 pm. Length of day is 18 hours, 15 minutes.

We now have 24-hour light. Confirmation services again on the 15th. On Saturday the 21st the Bigband had a concert. Everything went very well. (I was the pianist). I'm still getting used to this style of pop music. Playing the notes isn't so difficult, it's the rhythms.

I went on the radio again to help advertise a Russian male choir that came to Sandnessjøen on Monday the 23rd. The concert was a great success. We took in about 25,000 crowns, way over my expectations. Attendance was just over 200.

At the end of May Magnar and I took the express boat to Vega to meet another friend, Bjarne, for a cycle tour on Vega. We stayed at Vega Havhotell. On Saturday evening we had a great 5-course meal – the best meal I've eaten since I've been here. The weather was good on Saturday: we cycled all over Vega.

Sad news: there was a funeral for Egil on the 26th. Egil and his wife Berit are very active in the church, and they befriended me when I first moved here. They are good friends with Paul Christensen, former pastor of 1st Lutheran in Decorah, and assistant pastor here in Sandnessjøen in 1995-96. Last September Egil was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent chemotherapy but it didn't help. Egil was in his 80th year.

As of the 1st of June the sun rose at 2:20 am and set at midnight.

Monday, April 18, 2011

In the bleak mid-winter

Week 12: In the bleak mid-winter. Spring is supposed to be here but it kept on snowing this week. Many roads were closed. On Marimesse (25 March-Annunciation) I bought skis. That should be a guarantee that spring will come next week. This week we began planning for the Easter Vigil service at Alstahaug Church. The Men's Chorus had concerts on Friday and Saturday (I played accompaniments for a couple pieces).

The Annunciation theme was prevalent for Sunday's service. It's a bit unusual for Protestant churches to give much attention to Mary, but the Lutheran Church broke with Rome over the papacy and selling indulgences, not over the importance of Mary.

On Sunday, the 27th of March the sun rose at 6:45 am and set at 7:45 pm. Length of day is 13 hours.
Daylight savings time began today (here it's simply called «summer time»).

At the beginning of the last week in March we got more snow. It snowed about 5-6 inches on each day. The total was about 1 ½ feet. At least the skiing was good. I bought a spark sled and was able to try it out a few times. I got my Norwegian tax return this week. I have to pay about $150. This was the week to spend money: I bought a spark sled, a year's subscription to the local paper, paid my Norwegian taxes and for an oil change/tune up for my old car.

Next week there is something called Påske vandring – Easter Journey. Kids from the local schools come to church for the half hour gathering. They begin with a short version of the Christmas story, go on to Palm Sunday, then Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and finally Easter. That reminds me of the joke about the (Catholic) priest who didn't know the Bible very well. He was called in to the bishop's office for a consulation. The bishop asked him, «what is Easter»? The priest said, «that's when Jesus died for our sins. He let himself be crucified. After he died he was taken to a stone tomb. Early on Sunday morning he awoke from the dead, came out of the tomb, and if he saw his shadow we would have 6 more weeks of winter.»

Two services on Sunday: 11 am in Tjøtta and 6:30 pm in Sandnessjøen. Sunrise is at 6:15 am, sunset at 8:15 pm. Length of day is 14 hours.

Week 14: Nothing unusual this week. We had påskevandring services for the 5 year-olds. Most of the snow is gone.  On Friday afternoon/evening I flew to Oslo for the weekend. I saw my friends Harry and Bruce. I met more American friends: Roger and Norman. Sunday I met Marilyn (a classmate from Luther days) at Holmen Church and we had a nice lunch afterward. Sunday afternoon I took to train up to Jessheim to visit Turid and Gunnar. The weather was splendid. On Monday it was very warm in protected spots. It was great to feel the sun on your face. When I got back to Sandnessjøen I found that my car had a flat tire. It was too dark to change it so I walked the 2 km home. Fortunately it wasn't raining.  An optimist would say it's only flat on the bottom.

On the 10th of April the sun rose at 5:50 am and set at 8:30 pm. Length of day is 14 hours, 40 minutes.

Week 15: the week before Palm Sunday. There were a few nice sunny intervals this week. Friday and Saturday were windy and rainy. I began listening to my Norwegian dialect recordings. At the staff meeting on Wednesday I followed everything that was said. That is great progress. All the services are planned for Easter week. Next week will be interesting, as far as seeing what stores are open. Thursday and Friday are holidays so very few stores will be open. I'm not sure about Saturday. Easter Sunday and Monday are also holidays and nothing will be open.

On the 17th of April the sun rose at 5:20 am and set at 9 pm. Length of day is 15 hours and 40 minutes. At 11:30 pm there is stll a little light in the north-west. At 4:30 am it is light outside.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

End of Winter?

The first week of March: most of the snow has melted. The past week I spent contacting newspapers to help publicize a concert coming up at church. I called the local radio station to see if they could help. On Tuesday the 9th I'll show up at 12 noon and be on the radio. Yikes (or Jeiks)! Well, at least I'll be known. As Dan said of himself, «star of television and church». I guess I'll be star of radio and church! More snow on Friday night/Saturday morning. Enough, already! The one thing that I really dislike about northern Norway is the weather and long winter. Not that I want a hot day, but it would be nice to have a full day of warm sunshine. On Sunday, the 6th of March, the sun rose at 7 am, and set at 5:30 pm. Length of day is about 10 ½ hours.

Week 10: The interview on Tuesday went fine. I was nervous about it but they edited it a little. It's supposed to be available on an archived recording on their website but so far it isn't listed. On Wednesday there was a funeral. Thursday was Magnar's birthday. For presents I gave him a sweater, a book on Cambridge, and a cd that Tom L signed. Friday evening Magnar and I had a dinner party for Hans and Inge.

I finally saw the northern lights this past weekend. On Saturday night they were fairly weak. On Sunday night they were a little better, but still bashful.

Sunday was a long day: an 11 am service at Alstahaug with 3 baptisms, and a 6:30 pm service with the choir in Sandnessjøen.

On Sunday the 13th of March the sun rose at about 6:30 am and set at 6 pm. Length of day is about 11 ½ hours. There was more snow this weekend, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.

Week 11: Winter is over. Spring has begun. Yeah, right. (That is probably the only example to two positives creating a negative). The days are thankfully getting longer and the sun is shining. But there is still snow on the ground. Spring will come in late April or May.

Tuesday, the 15th of March, we had a concert in Sandnessjøen Church. MiNensemble with pianist Anna Kuvaja gave a first-rate performance. They performed music by Liszt, a trio by Max Reger and the Piano Quartet Nr. 2 by Fauré. The church is ideal for chamber music. There were about 25 in the audience. To put a positive spin on it, you could say that the number of people in the audience didn't spoil the acoustics. Maybe the Ides of March kept people away. I really don't know how to get people to come – maybe I should use a Republican tactic: false advertizing.

My friend Bjarne from Brønnøysund came for a short visit this weekend. He took the Polarlys Hurtigruten back on Saturday. Before the ship left we had coffee onboard.

As of the 20th of March the sun rose at 6:10 am and set at 6:25 pm. Total length of day is 12 hours, 15 minutes.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Zippers and cod tongues

My trip back to Boston and Wisconsin went well. I didn't see all the people I wanted to see but I packed in a lot in those 7 days. The snow in Cambridge was incredible: snow piles 2 meters high. Some streets were so narrow that a fire truck could barely get through. On Monday the 14th the temperatures reached about 50 F (10 C). At least the ice melted. I was lucky with the weather – no travel delays. I found it a little easier to get over jetlag coming east. I must have slept on the plane. (I couldn't sleep going to Boston and had problems getting used to the time change). My cousin Turid picked me up at the Oslo airport on Thursday morning. On Saturday morning I flew back to Sandnessjøen. We landed in a snow storm. While I was away it had been cold and clear. Sunday morning I woke about 6:30 to dawn. Finally there is light in the morning.

My new Norwegian drivers license arrived in the mail. It is valid until 2055 (just 44 years from now). While I was in Cambridge/Boston I waited in line to get a duplicate license from Massachusetts. (I had to give up my original Mass. license in order to get a Norwegian license). Now I'm completely covered. I may be dead in 2055, but at least I'll still be driving!

On the 20th of February the sun rose at 8 am and set at 4:50 pm. Total daylight is approaching 9 hours. It's beginning to feel like a normal winter.

The 8th week of the year: Back to the normal working routine. At the last minute they had to change Sunday's church service from 11 am to 5 pm. Apparently there was only one sexton available and he had to be at the service at Alstahaug Church. Too bad they hadn't trained a volunteer for this.

I brought back a fleece jacket for my friend Magnar. We had a discussion about zippers. In the U.S. zippers on the left side are for women's clothes; men's are on the right side. Here in Norway (and Europe) it's just the opposite.

One of the "delicacies" in northern Norway are cod tongues. They are available now. I tried it this past week (twice). They can be poached or fried. I think they are better fried in bacon grease or butter. Since I've been here I've eaten whale, moose and cod tongues. But I draw the line for lutefisk!

I spoke with Trond, the owner of the house where I live. He and his wife are separating. They don't know if it's temporary or for a longer period. In any case it's rather sad. I feel sorry for their 5 year old.

On Monday, the 28th of February the sun rose at 7:30 am and set at 5:15 pm. Length of day is 9 hours, 45 minutes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

First week in February

Week 5: the first week of February. If the weather weren't cloudy we would have sunshine here. I know the sun exists – I saw it on Thursday in Tjøtta. Lots of news this week: my interim status is extended until October. On Thursday I passed my drivers test. The ice has finally melted, but with the mild weather there was more snow on Saturday. So the question is, «will I watch the Super Bowl»? It will be carried live on channel 1 here, without commercials. Unfortunately it starts at 11:15pm and goes until 4 am. So the answer is «kanskje», which means maybe.

On 6 February the sun rose at 8:50 am and set at 4 pm. Length of day is just over 7 hours. Right now daylight is increasing by about 7 minutes a day.  The sun shone on Sandnessjøen for a few minutes today.  It is finally back.

I'm pretty much packed for the trip back to Boston. I should have made it longer. On Saturday the 19th (Feb) I return to Sandnessjøen.

Monday, January 31, 2011

End of January

This week I joined «Storband», a band that performs popular music. The first rehearsal that I attended was on Wednesday evening. It went OK, but I have to practice, especially rhythmic music that I'm not used to. There is a concert on 21 May. The past weekend was quite social: a dinner party on Friday evening at Magnar's house for Katrin and Elizabeth. On Saturday Magnar and I were invited to a party at Hans and Inge's house. Sunday I had two services: one at 11 in Sandnessjøen and one at 6:30 pm at Blomsø Bedehus (prayer house on Blomsø). Attendance was pretty good in Sandnessjøen: about 60. At Blomsø there were only 5 or 6. The weather is fairly mild. The snow and ice are slowly melting, although it snows once in a while.

The days are getting longer: on 23 January the sun rose at 9:40 am and set at 3 pm. The length of day is almost 5 ½ hours.

This week I first noticed that I no longer arrived at work in complete darkness. The days are getting longer. The weather was fairly mild but overcast. It snowed/rained/hailed a little then mostly melted away. We got quite a bit of rain so some of the roads are not so icy.

Today the sun rose at 9:15 am and set at 3:30. The length of day is 6 hours, 15 minutes.

Monday the 31st of January. I finally got an explanation of what my status is here, vis-à-vis the church. Since I was in an interim position I can't automatically become a permanent employee. I can apply for the position, or not. They will extend my interim position for 6 months from 9 April, when my current position ends, to 9 October. If I apply for it, there's a pretty good chance I will get it, but it's not guaranteed. If I don't apply for it, I'll have to go back in October. If I get the job it will be permanent – something I'm not sure I want. If I were younger there would be no question of me staying here. I'm not sure what I'll do. There are so many things to consider. I'll use the next month to think it over.

My colleague Venera will continue her sick leave for the month of February. More work for me. I had planned to take my driving test on Thursday, but I had to cancel it because there is a funeral I have to play for.