Becoming a True Norwegian

Hello everybody!  It goes without saying that I am still having a fantastic time in Norway.  The snow has been falling and melting and falling again but my love for the place has not yet diminished.  These past two weeks I was involved in a lot of activities but most notably I got in touch with my Norwegian roots.

One of the great things I have done is attend a tour of the Freia Chocolate Factory here in Norway.  Freia is basically the Hershey of Norway as it produces almost all of the chocolate consumed here.  It was purchased by Kraft Foods not too long ago so… ‘murica.  It was a free trip set up by the International Student Union here at the University and it was a load of fun.  After meeting up for some coffee and waffles the group set out to the factory located not too far away from the downtown area.  All of us were super excited and many of the international students were able to connect with some of us Americans as we discussed the possibility of it being exactly like Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  We were pretty excited when we arrived as when we got off the bus we were greeted by the sweet aroma of chocolate.  Even before we got inside it smelled of sweets in the air.  Needless to say, many of us decided that this is where we would live should we come back to Oslo.  When we got inside we were treated with a trip to the chocolate gift store in the factory.  All the prices were cheap so a lot of candy was purchased; if only we had known the amount of chocolate that would be given to us on our tour.

At first we were shown a brief video about the history of Freia chocolate factory while we ate some Kvikk Lunsj, the popular chocolate here in Norway that is very similar to Kit-Kats.  (Kvikk Lunsj is so popular because it is a “quick lunch” advertised to be a replacement for a lunch when you are cross country skiing or what have you. This will come into play later in my post).  Once the video was finished we quickly realized all of our excitement and jokes about it being like Willy Wonka were becoming true as a secret door opened from the wall.  From there were brought on a journey through “Ancient Mexico” where we learned about the cocoa bean.  Next we got into a time machine and traveled to 1800′s Oslo where the first Freia chocolate store was opened.  All the while we were given loads of free chocolate which was incredibly delicious.  At the end we created our own chocolate bars all the while eating even more chocolate.  Yeah the tour did seem designed for kids but hey, I had a great time and my expectations for the tour were blown out of the water.  At the end of the day most of us left the factory with sick stomachs and the desire to never eat chocolate again but I think we all had such a good time it more than made up for it.

The next day one of my friends from Montana decided to show up on a whim.  He works for an airlines in Bozeman and was able to land incredibly cheap tickets to Oslo.  It was such a surprise that I could barely give him directions to my flat before he had no more internet.  Luckily he was able to make it and enjoy one of the more fun nights I have had in Oslo so far.

On the Saturday before last, one of my German friends hosted an International Dinner Party in her kitchen.  All you had to do was make something you felt was representative of your country and bring it for everyone to try.   I am a bit embarrassed but I am going to come flat out and say this, I made a load of bacon for the party…  Currently, I blame my friend arriving from the States as the reason for my lack of creativity.  However, when I arrived everyone had a good laugh about it and agreed with me that bacon is pretty American.  Plus some other Americans were there to pick up the slack.  The party itself was a great success.  There were dishes from all around the world.  Spicy tofu from China, fried chicken from South Korea, delicious potato cakes from Czech Republic, Sauerkraut from Germany, Tiramisu from Italy, traditional meat and veggie soup from Poland, apple crisp from the US, and quesadillas from Mexico.  It was so much fun to try everyone’s favorite foods from their home country and the conversation was entertaining.  After that we went on an adventure to downtown Oslo to grab some drinks at bars and pubs that some of the Norwegian people in our group enjoyed.  The drinks were expensive but the dancing made it well worth it.  Plus the public transportation was so great it even had buses at 3 A.M. to take us home!

The next day (Sunday), I woke up early and went over to my relatives house in the “suburbs” of Oslo.  It was time for me to become a true Norwegian.  It was time to cross-country ski.  Borrowing a pair of extra skis from my relatives we set off to a trail not to far from their house.  I had not cross country skied in over 5 years so I was a little nervous about how I would look in front of all the native skiers.  The first kilometer was difficult as I had to adjust my balance being so used to downhill skiing at Bridger.  I was even more distraught as children not older than 5 years old were speeding past me and more than likely talking about my in Norwegian.  But after only a few falls I felt my Norwegian blood take over and guide me as we skied to waffle house located in the woods.  4.5 kilometers of intense sweating on my part (none of my relatives looked the least bit tired) and we finally made it to the waffle place.  There were a lot of people gathered eating waffles and drinking something my relative described as “hot lemonade(??)”.  It was all so delicious and I could feel my Norwegian roots growing stronger.   But a lunch break on a cross country ski outing in Norway wouldn’t be complete without some Kvikk Lunsj!  My relatives brought some for me and after consuming the chocolate that is when I felt like I had truly become a Norwegian.

That night my relatives had my friend from Montana and I over for some dinner.  As always with my family in Norway the food was great and the conversation greater.  After the dinner they were gracious enough to drop us downtown where I was able to give my friend a quick tour of Oslo before he left to the states.  We saw the Opera, the harbor, city hall, parliament, the National Theater, the palace, and the famous Die Hard ad next to the central station.  All I can say is my friend picked a perfect time to come visit me in Oslo.

After an amazing weekend it was back to school as we learned about religion in Norway, how to identify certain lithics, and how disease affects the progress of human culture.  But really that is all I will say about school this post.

On Wednesday I attended a party for the volunteers of the pub I had been working at.  It was a great party with free pizza and free drinks.  I was able to meet a lot of the people who work there and once again the foreigners outnumbered the Norwegians.  Again, I was so happy to be meeting people from all around the world.

This last weekend was a bit more relaxed when compared to the activities from the week before.  On Friday night it was one of my Polish friends birthday!  I had the perfect gift as I brought a bunch of Caribou Coffee from Minnesota before I left.  She was so excited to receive her “American” gift and the rest of the party was great.  Finally on Saturday myself and a few friends of mine attended a “Latin Party” at one of the student pubs.  It was advertised as a party to learn salsa and dance to music from South America.  However by the time we got there the party was already a typical dance party with top 20 music from 4 years ago being played.

As I conclude this post I cannot contain my excitement as in less than 36 hours I will be on a plane to Berlin!  A group of friends and I planned it a week ago and for 60 dollars round trip we couldn’t pass it up.  I am looking forward to delicious food, rich history, an interesting night life, and cheap beer as I finally make some steps outside of Scandinavia.  Look forward to my post next week for all the capital of Deutschland has to offer!

Too Long; Did Not Read: Went on a tour of the Freia Chocolate Factory here in Oslo, surprise visit from my friend from Montana, dinner party with international foods, became a true Norwegian, leaving for Berlin in less than two days.  SKOL!

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