Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mike Takes Denmark-and develops a mild hatred of the Danish transportation department.

Homecoming: Day 16—> day 17

I have 100kroner and I need to get back to hostel or I will be stranded here- please, take me!”

My Saturday night in Aalborg, Denmark seamlessly transitioned into Sunday morning, a night done right with techno music, drinks, and random Erasmus students from around the world. Seeing as this was my last night in Denmark, I did it right and I did it hard. In other words, I stayed up all night with Peter and the guys dancing and drinking, trying to be “cool” with the ladies, which as I mentioned last post, is a very difficult task considering the socially-bipolar collection of women in the clubs.

4am: I enter the hostel lobby, stumbling around, trying to tell the dude behind the counter I need a taxi in 15minutes; it took a while- but I did it! And I will say this: if you plan on staying out all night, make sure you are packed before you go. As some of you reading this might guess that was me- YOU’RE WRONG. I packed up my schtuff before heading out because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to see straight come time to leave and whudathunkit I was right. The warm shower to “wake-up” didn’t help either, especially considering how small it was. I think I honestly fell into the walls enough times to count, but I wasn’t, I was actually considering getting a road brew while I waited for my taxi! No, don’t worry, I didn’t. I did however buy a Twix for the taxi ride.

What will eventually be concluded with this post is how much I have developed a mild hatred of the Danish transportation system, in regards to flying. It will be discussed in the following stages (somewhat in that order, but maybe not exactly):

  1. Ridiculous and redundant hours of operation;
  2. Robots that are not helpful;
  3. Asshole Customer Service agents;
  4. Danish websites changing dates of trips;
  5. Faulty trip reservation system;
  6. Non-compliance with said hours of operation;
  7. Inability to resolve conflict (quickly).

So, 4:30 rolls around and I’m at the airport, which has just opened. This, in the first place, seems counter intuitive when you have 6:30 international flights that require you be checked in at least 2 hours before the flight. I’d actually gotten there a little bit early, but only a few minutes, so that was nice. Anyway, I went over to the self-service kiosks, the electronic mah-doogies, to print of my boarding pass. Low and behold—there is an issue with my reservation. The machine, with all of it’s wisdom and power, wouldn’t tell me why my reservation code wasn’t working. So of course being as intoxicated as I still was, I get a little upset and decide to talk to someone to help me out. I waddle over to the customer service counter to see what I didn’t want to- NO ONE AT THE EFFING COUNTER. Why open an airport if there is going to be NO ONE to be there? I don’t get it! No service agents were there, in any of the kiosks and no one was behind their respective counters! At this point, I was drunk and now very pissed off, so I did what any self-respecting drunk American would do while they waited for a service agent: I played Angry Birds- and then passed out against the column I was propped up against. Like I said- I was pissed.

When the dude finally showed up, he tried to not pay attention to me as he gets his “area” ready for the day. I really had no right to have been pissed at him (yet) because I had done the same thing when I worked coffee. I couldn’t help anyone until the store was ready, so I would just pretend they weren’t there, as he was doing to me; I had just gotten served. When he finally came over to the counter, he wouldn’t stop speaking Danish, even despite my constant “nei, nei, Taller englesk, takk..” (even though it’s Norwegian/Danish, they can understand it, so he should have stopped SPEAKING IN DANISH) and it was not helping my pissy nature. As it turns out, the genius came up with the conclusion that I had purchased the ticket for February, not January.

FÆN [google translate it- I won’t say it here].

Looking at his screen I saw that the reservation was in fact made for February, yet I would have sworn on any holy book that I had clicked January. The idea that the Danish site changed my month isn’t too far fetched considering it wasn’t the first time a travel site had switched ish up on me during my travels. Even though it actually is pretty far fetched to say the Danish travel bureau sabotaged my flight to Amsterdam, I like to think I didn’t commit the foul. This is where the guy becomes a dick- he would not BUDGE on getting me on the flight. Before I could even finish asking to help a brotha out, he cut me off “Nope, no, we don’t-we can’t do that. It’s against policy.” The non-internet price for a ticket was upwards of $400 , and there was no way I could afford that, so I told him I needed to get on the flight because I couldn’t afford to stay in Aalborg another night. His response?

“Do you have a credit card?”

"Do you have a credit card?!” Are you kidding me?! It’s almost 5am and this chode was trying to commit extortion of the reasonable kind, but it was ridiculous. I can’t say that the US is any better, but I’m sure they would have tried a lot harder to get me on that flight. This guy actually walked away from me while I was trying to work something out! Chode aside, I backed away from the counter and took inventory of my decreasing currency. I had spent the last solid bit of Danish kroner to get to the airport and my US accounts were beginning to dwindle below the point I marked to have a reasonable move to California upon my return to the West Coast, so I had begun to float up the shit river. Luckily, I found 100kroner in my back pocket; unfortunately, my taxi ride out had cost me over 200kroner. Again, I did what any reasonable drunken American would do if they found out they were stranded and broke in a foreign country- I played Angry Birds, but when I couldn’t break down the effin pigs’ defense, I got even more angry and decided that I needed to get a game plan together. I decided to try my luck with a taxi-driver and ask for a ride back. In other words, I begged some guy, who turned out to be a douche, to give me a lift back to the hostel for the rest of my money. He reluctantly agreed, but was a dick the entire way back, which I think is completely unnecessary. If I were a taxi-driver, I would be up for helping out a brotha every once and a while, especially when the clubs were closing and I would definitely make up the loss very quickly from all the extremely drunk bastards around town.

I get to the hostel and explain to the new person behind the counter that I had just checked out but missed my flight and needed to use the internet. She was cool about it and let me ‘chill’ out in the lobby for a spell. And THANK GOD FOR FACEBOOK. I never thought I’d say that, but without it, I would have been EFFED because I was losing my cool and my mobile phone definitely did not have enough credits to call the states and talk with the parentals. My mom happened to be online and with the her help, I was able to regain my chi and think logically about things: I needed another flight and a place to stay for the night because I was running drunk with only 2 hours of sleep 27hours earlier (if that makes sense). After getting my to-do list busted out and booked, my parents were my knights in shining armor and wired me some extra cash to help with the room and food for the day.

Seriously, my parents are best. If you disagree, you can go f*ck yourself.

I eventually got a room and slept until about 3pm, which felt absolutely wonderful. Oddly enough, when I had reserved my new flight, it said there was a complication in purchasing the ticket, yet the confirmation I was emailed said everything was taken care of. All day after waking up, I called the customer service hotline, but being freaking Sunday, no one was there. I was quite concerned because I really could not afford another night in Aalborg. I gave up and decided to figure it out in the morning at the airport. In the evening time, I met back up with Peter and his Danish-American pal for some drinks to watch the Packers-Bears playoff game. Soon enough, a Belgian dude (that we all think was completellyyyy full of shit) and bought us all a bunch of beer, which was great.


I want to go on record and say that I did not get drunk that night, because I’d be a huge dick if I used the money my parents sent on booze; however, I did forget to set my alarm to wake up in time, and with going to bed at 3am and needing to be up at 5am, this was a bad new bears. Luckily, I had a dream that ended abruptly with me (yes, me) walking up to me in a dream and yelling at me- “YOU FORGOT TO SET YOUR ALARM, ASSWAD!” It actually freaked me out to the point where I abruptly jerked awake and fell out of my bunk. I looked at my iPod and saw that it was exactly 5am.

F8ck yeah.

Showered, taxied, and waiting in the airport, I go again to the freakin robot-kiosk and it says that my confirmation code had a problem…


I decide to keep my cool this time because (1) I wasn’t drunk, and (2) I had plenty of time to figure it out. Except the CHODE behind the counter wouldn’t tell me what was wrong because he couldn’t figure it out. I had the idea that it was my debit card (which had been acting up lately) and told him but he assured me that it wasn’t. So he tells me to wait 15minutes until their office opens [at this time, I had just about under an hour before my flight took off]. Once the time comes around to call the office, ChoderBoy calls them up and guess what- no. one. answers.

30minutes later (20min until I had to be on the GD flight), a lady called me over to the other counter and told me my credit card hadn’t been accepted- INCONVIEVABLE! Well, instead of saying that, I do one of those slow head turns toward Chode, who doesn’t make eye contact with me, and turn back to pay the lady with my other debit card. With my flight paid for and moderate hatred for the Danish travel system, I shoved some bitches (guy bitches and girl bitches) out my way to make it to security. At this point, I had 10min to board my flight. LUCKILY, I got through security lickety split and the gate was literally right there after you got through. I boarded my flight literally putting my belt on. I think I finished putting my belt on when right before I sat down in my seat.

Often times I’ll end a post with words of advice, but in all honesty, I may have messed up originally, but the Danish [assuming the rest of the country is just as incompetent as Aalborg] are horrendous at customer relations; thus, my advice is such- avoid flying in Denmark.
Considering the rest of the day was spent in an airport and flying, I will end my Danish leg of my blog with this:


IMG_0274I hate this place…


Friday, January 28, 2011

Mike takes Denmark: part 2!!!

Homecoming: Day 15—>day 16

I’m really horny!"’

I’ll admit it: I passed out on the floor once we got back to the hotel. Am I embarrassed? Hell no, I meant to do it! I needed some energy for the night because as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t going to leave Denmark without checking out the night-life. Luckily for me, I had been in contact with a fellow Surfer who had invited me out. After Christian passed out, I snapped out of my drool-filled coma and cleaned up a bit (put on deodorant) and left to meet up with Natalia, an Erasmus student from Poland. We didn’t stay at the apartment for long since people wanted to hit Jomfru, granted the clock at just struck midnight:30, the party, my friends, was just beginning on Jomfru.


Katy Perry.



The night was pretty epic. I mean, there really isn’t much to talk about considering I danced and drank with people I vaguely knew, which was fun. I think one of the highlights of the night was while dancing, I kept feeling this bumping behind me. Of course, being the optimist, I think it’s some gorgeous Danish model that for some reason was getting my attention for a good techno session; it was a drunk dude. Slight embarrassment, yes, but the dude was dancing with an equally, if not more, intoxicated gal. This made to be the WORST dance team in the world as they were knocking into absolutely everyone on the floor. Luckily for me, I was a first hand witness to his downfall.

I was dancing with Natalia and her friend when this guy says something in this gals ear while dipping her, trying to neck, right? I guess that’s what single guys do- the dip and neck and whisper sweet nothings into a chick’s ears even though she can’t hear a damn word he’s saying. Being not nearly on their level of wasted, I was able to hear it just fine. The dude actually did this, I shit you not; he dipped her, nibbled on her neck, and then whispered- “I’m horny” in her ear, very nonchalantly. When she couldn’t hear him and asked him to repeat it, he said louder and probably more proud: “I’m horny!”

I have never seen anyone as drunk as she was at that moment become as sober as she seemed to become; she stood STRAIGHT up, almost robot-like, and walks in a direct-route to the bathroom [my guess- to hurl], again, like a robot. Simultaneously RIGHT at that moment, a loud “BARBARA STREISAND” came over the bass system and I’ll tell you what- I nearly lost it. I was laughing so hard from his EPIC fail and the song that I nearly pissed myself on the dance floor. You might not think it’s hilarious, but try having hundreds of people scream, “BARBARA STREISAND” in complete techno-unison; it’s hilarious.

ONTO THE NEXT PARTY (the next night, Saturday)

Christian was gone and I was contemplating not going out because of my early flight (those of you who know, know this is the reason I hate the Danish customer service industry)- but then after a good push from my pals in the states, I decided to head out and rock Denmark one last time.

Bar #1: Robin [ referencing Robin Hood]. Time: approx. 10:30pm

Fantastically cheap beer, especially when you say you’re American- People LOVE IT! There were two Danish “bros” that were absolutely enthralled with my Americaniness that they kept buying the rounds, which of course, would was mondo appreciated. Apparently, they love Los Angeles, Seattle, and how businesses are open on Sunday. Things were going great until they started mentioning hard drugs. I could SWEAR one kept rubbing his own nipples. Once they left to go into the ‘smoking room’ (an area with a 3/4 wall surrounding it), I paid my bill and peaced out to another bar, one with more….dancing! Boom!

Bar#2: Dunno, Didn’t see the name. Time: approx. Midnight

Way more dancing going on, myself included. The worst part was even though the ratio of men to girls was technically man-favored, Danish chicks will either dance with you- or not. There is NO middle-room, which is where I was. I consider “middle room” to be just dancing around having fun, nothing resembling the virtual kama-sutra. But as I said (and my soon-to-be-new friend Peter would later confirm for me) that Danish chicks are TOUGH. If they don’t wnat to dance with you, friendly or otherwise, they won’t have ANY of it. So, because of all the debbie-downers, I just decided to grab some beer and see what happens. Sure enough-nothing of circumstance.

Enter Peter Knox- the local Irishman.

Standing 6’1’’, blonde, and wearing a tight black tee, Peter’s out for a good time with some friends of his, a couple of which are Erasmus students with Natalia. He notices I’m drinking alone and instantly says “Cheers!” and I clink pints. “Who ya hear with, man?” says Peter. “No one, my man, no one,” says I. “Alright then- hey miss! And another beer for my friend here!”

Peter Knox- my new friend.

I’m not going to lie, I forget his buddies’ names, but they were pretty alright dudes. We got some drinks at the bar, and then I noticed the guys putting their jackets on and I guess we were moving to another bar with a better ‘crowd’ i.e. there weren’t enough beautiful ladies for my new posse. Boom, new bar!

Bar #3: I want to say….Hollywood Boulevard. Time: nearing 2am

2 beers and 3 cigarettes and the dudes wanted to bounce- and bounce we did. By then, it was getting late and I should have gone to bed, since I had to be at the airport in 2 hours; HOWEVER, no way I was going to let this night end so early because why…? I was in freaking DENMARK! Cripes! So anyway, we ran off to the next bar down the street to rock the night away.

Bar #4: Alright…way past the point of remembering- not gonna lie. Time: Somewhere around 3am.

We go to a fancy place down the street, a legit disco-teck- dancing platforms, bar in the middle of the room, and a 50kroner cover charge. As Peter and his crew mentioned, this places fellas-to-gals ratio was greatly in the guys favor, but as I had mentioned, Danish girls are hard. What this means for me is A LOT of mean glares from people I didn’t know when I became pushed into them by people actually more drunk than I was. It’s absolutely crazy! I wasn’t looking for anything than but some dancing and fun-having, but these club goers, the ones wanting to go home with EVERYONE with the opposite sex were making life miserable! Good thing my posse were all out for just having some good time. Beers in hand, and away we went! I left the incredibly mean Danish girls to all the club sharks- it just wasn’t for me. All the FREAKING perfume and over-stenched cologne was an ABOMINATION to nostils and I was having fun chatting it up with the dudes and getting the occasional wink from the ladies. Coincidentally, I got the most winks and looks only after people had heard my American accent. It was a mounting proof that foreign people, women in general, love the American. However, this American accent doesn’t mean diddly when you’re in a club with bass system that literally shakes your bones.

Ah, so is life.

In any case, it was now 4am and I was running late for the my airport appointment, so I booked back to the hostel. I needed to be checked in to the airport at 4:30am..ruhroh! WORTH IT! It’s 4am and I was about to discover just how much I hate Danish customer service.

….to be continued…

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mike Takes Denmark!

Homecoming: Day 15

We underestimated by a power of 10!”

Quick pre-cap [yes, no recap, but precap. Yes, the word doesn’t exist, according to Microsoft LiveWriter, but it can suck it]

I would like to say we took it easy after the Norwegian Sea and in terms of being touristy, this is completely true; however, in terms of relaxing, this is completely untrue. The two days following the epic battle of Man vs. Nature (which ended up as a draw, seeing as I bitchslapped a Jellyfish and we all fell in the Norwegian Sea), Christian and I prepared for Denmark by working over time in the woods. We didn’t want to leave his dad with all the work, so we busted ass and rocked it out. The day before Denmark, we went into Kristiansand for last minute shopping, but let’s face it- we’re dudes; we don’t shop. Instead, Christian bought a sandwich and I got coffee and eventually pistachio gelato.

Consider Kristiansand: TAKEN

Now onto the greasy greasy of Denmark…

First off, we had an entire day of awesome fortune, and honestly, if one thing would have gone wrong, we would have been effed in some way or the other.

  • We almost missed the Ferry because SOMEONE took forever getting ready (it was mmeeeeeee);
  • When we arrived, our tram to the train had pulled up and was about to leave, so we ended up booking it down the crowded path. It looked like this;
  • When we got to the train, we couldn’t figure out how to use the electronic-automatic ticket buying-thingie, so we went looking aimlessly for the ticket counter. By the time we got our tickets, our train was blowing the final whistle for boarding- so we ended up running to that, which looked kind of like this;
  • Once we got to Aalborg, Denmark, we had NO IDEA where we were going, but we just kind of started wondering and ended up being right down the street from our hotel, when we finally got wifi and checked our google maps;
  • Finally, and most importantly- the beer was cheaper than in Norway.

Once we finally checked in and headed out, we found out one MAJOR piece of information that I wish someone had told me, and because of this, I will say this to you all:

Aalborg has NO tourism/VERY LITTLE to DO

Totally serious. We went to a few places, all of which were the worst, most boring places we’ve visited:

  1. Aalborg Cultural Museum- Horrible. Worst displays ever and completely non-interesting;
  2. Utzon Architectural Museum- Boring. It is literally just drawings. Nothing fun or cool at all;
  3. The Modern Art Museum- the best by far, but still, nothing that exciting. The museum in Oslo was much better because a lot of the art was about issues, not some random clashing of lines that some people call art;
  4. The Military-Garrison Museum- looked ballin’, but was closed for winter.

Now, we did hit up one place, the Maritime Museum of Aalborg which had a pseudo- chronological display of Denmark’s maritime history, which as it turned out, was pretty radical. “Why was it so awesome to see all these boats and ships and stuff? Haven’t you seen other maritime museums on your trip?” And the answer is yes; however, none that ended with a MOTHALUVIN SUBMARINE!




In all honesty, Aalborg is a very scenic destination spot and I can see where a lot of it’s tourism comes with the warmer seasons. The very Danish architecture is probably just an accent during the summer with all of the outside vendors and the hubbub of the sun. I chose to come in winter, so I can’t hate it too much, but you know what, I’m going to. And you’ll see why in a later post.

After the art gallery, we head back to the hotel to figure out the night. Christian, being a poopy-tired little sap decided to nap while I looked for transportation and housing for Amsterdam. Sounds dull, yeah, I know, but a mere 1.5hours later, we decided to hit- and hit it hard is what we did! Starting in the hotel, we had a small drink, which held us off until the quick-E-mart down the street when we got thirsty again. This was awesome because apparently, people just drink wherever they want. So of course, we felt like absolute mavericks walking down the street and drinking Carlsbourgs on our way to the bar! We made it to the Irish pub of choice (the one where we wanted to get damned delicious grub), ordered our pints and found out- whoops- kitchen was closed. At 7pm! Who does that?! Apparently this place does, so, do not enlist the help of “The Irish House” for late night munchies- they will not help.

We eventually got food after having a few drinks (which is not the greatest idea if you haven’t eaten all day) but at that point, Christian started getting tired. We had just walked onto Jomfru, the party street, and stopped into a bar called “Robin Hood”, which is a fantastic place, to be honest. Cheap beer and neat interior i.e. very attractive women behind the counter- and wouldn’t you know it- Christian starts dozing off at the bar! No, not on my clock! Not in Denmark. SO, what is the onnne thing that can make men wake up more quickly than any other known substance in the wide-world?

If you said naked women, you are correct; Luckily for us, there was a strip club right around the corner! I dragged his tired ass over to that beautifully lit establishment and started on his revival.


Long story short, students on a tight budget shouldn’t visit these establishments for a couple reasons: (1) the beer is GHASTLY expensive; (2) so is everything else! We actually, no joke, were getting glared at by all the ladies in the club because they knew we didn’t have any money. We took this as a sing we should leave before things got ugly. And by ugly, I mean this.

We eventually headed back to the hotel, but there was no way in HELL I was going to bed…I mean, it was Friday night in Denmark…I’m sure there was a party somewhere…right?


to be continued…

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Norwegian Sea and Me

Homecoming: Day 11


Needless to say that after taking Stavanger, I was a little beat. Christian and I decided to take it easy for a little bit- about 18hours, approximately; whilst enjoying coffee and cookies at Farmor’s, Saul (Christian’s sister’s English fiancé) we talked about ice-fishing and eating some good tasty-tasties for middag [mid-dog: dinner] when Christian got a crazy look in his eyes-

“So, I was thinking- the ice is too think to ice-fish now, but, we could, in fact, go fishing in the lake with Farfar’s canoe. What do you guys think?”

Of course! Why not go and do something extremely fun! I had little reservations and Saul wanted to do it, but being the senior to our little group, had to ponder a little more about the venture, but ultimately went with it. Now, to explains this mathematically (for those scientifically inclined), here is a formula for the grand scheme of things:

[ the original idea x youthful bliss ] + [ canoe ]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- x [ unknown variable ] = ASININE!!!!

[ freezing water ] + [ 3 grown men in a 2 person canoe ]

Now, I will explain: the numerator deals with our adventure-driven ambition, while the denominator stands for the known risks; of course, the unknown variable is something that is actually known to the people of Norway, yet somehow slipped by my Norwegian ‘guide’, Christian. As anyone who has canoed before, they aren’t realllly meant for fishing because of their innate ability to take any slight weight adjustment and throw the boat back and forth, making it damn near impossible to adjust your weight while reeling in a big ole' fish- and that is with TWO people in a two-person canoe. I will reiterate for storytelling purposes, probably multiple times: we were three grown men. Getting in was a bitch to start with because the deck we launched from was about 3feet up from the surface of the water. Christian, being the tallest, was able to lower down the easiest; I’m not too much shorter so it wasn’t anything difficult for me either; but Saul…SAUL is about 4foot nothing and more of the intellectual sort. Nothing against him, Saul is one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met, but an adventurer, I’m not so sure. SO, he tries lowering in, but his feet were kicking around similar to when you pull a swimming dog out of water- you know- the non-stop paddling as their paws search for water? Anyway, so he finally gets into the boat, and THANK GOD we were still dockside because Saul’s weight displacement began throwing the canoe and everyone/everything around helter skelter. Hahah we almost fell in right there! Christian used his strength to stabilize the canoe while I held onto the dock for a stable support while Saul got cozy. Freakin a, it was rough!

After we got it, we started oaring our way out- and yes, oars. We couldn’t find the paddles because we sort of…took the canoe from his grandparents because Farmor misunderstood Christian the first go around and he didn’t want to risk not being able to use the canoe, so we just went with it [turns out, the paddles were in the locked room in the barn- whodathunkit?!]. Our Viking rowing combined with the current to swiftly carry us out to what could be considered the gateway to the Norwegian Sea and we started to discuss where we should go to fish. This quickly turned to a discussion of if we should fish given how the canoe was rocking so ferociously while just preparing our fishing gear. We were only about 50yards from an island, but to fall in anywhere would have sucked ass given how cold it was. So, we begin discussing the severity of open water fishing and the idea of rowing over to the island to dock and what not when I looked to the side of the boat and saw it…

A gawd-damned Jellyfish; the unknown variable.

Quick Wikipedia search tells me the little dude is a “Moon Jellyfish”-Aurelia aurita- and lives (obviously) in Norway, moreover the colder parts of the Northern Atlantic and Norwegian Sea. Christian said that he would swim out in the area a bunch as a kid and would get stung quite often. Obviously, they aren’t fatal stings, but nonetheless- those little effers were EVERYWHERE! It was then we realized fishing was a bad idea because the shifting weight of the thrashing fish and us trying to compensate would more than likely tip us and then we would be effed. We decided to row over to the small island and fish from shore, but Saul-SAUL kept pointing at things, constantly throwing around the canoe like a toy-boat during bathtime for an infant. It was then when I cautioned Saul to keep his pointing to a minimum, in the words expressed in italics at the beginning of the post. In all honestly, if he tipped us….oh man…I’d catch a jellyfish and throw it in his face. It’d be worth my own self-inflicted stings.


Saul and I had set up shop and were fishing on the edge of the big rock while Christian hopped back in the canoe to let the lines go out deeper, hopefully increasing our chances for dinner. Upon coming back to the island, Christian was landing when he tipped and slipped- but not all the way- he managed to catch himself on a cresting rock that was exposed by the withdrawn tide, so only his arm got wet. No big deal- but then his boot became caught under the lip of the canoe. This forced him to try quickly pulling his boot out when the tide decided to go out further- so he stretches himself thin trying to hold onto the rock-and ultimately- his dry state of being. But, it failed and he fell in, and as soon as he did- oh MAN the tide came CRASHING into the cove, filling the canoe with water and putting Christian under! I ran over and hopped in (only up to my boots) and helped him up and out. The aftermath of the Norwegian Sea had left him soaked and an oar floating out to the open sea. After Christian got his freezing ass into (essentially) dry land, I hopped into the canoe and went after the oar. I quickly snagged it out of the water and decided to wait out in the canoe until the tide calmed down. It’s then I noticed the swarm of jellyfish around the boat. MY theory is they got the scent of human and decided to gather, but according to Wikipedia, they don’t eat humans, so, I’m wrong. BUT still! They were all around me! What is an outnumbered, outmatched Viking to do? Oh, I know:

moon jelly

I decided to punch one in the face.

Obviously, this was not possi ble, but I had an alternate solution similar to being punched in the face:

I bitchslapped it with an oar.

Yup, I flat out got close to the nearest one (which was actually messed with my everyone in the party in someway- Christian caught-and-released it with a net and Saul accidentally snagged it with his fishing hook) and brought down upon this unsuspecting Moon Jelly ALL THE MIGHT OF THOR. In all truth, since it was a couple inches under the surface, and I hit it with the broadside, it probably didn’t really affect it that much. But the point is- I did it. Why? Because Man > Nature. ‘Nuff Said.

After my jellyfish-bitchslapping-rampage, we decided with Christian being soaked that we should head back, so I headed to the island to pick up the others and our gear- when I fell in. It wasn’t as bad as Christian since it was just my entire left leg, but still, insulated boots absorb cold water and retain it just as well as it keeps feet warm and dry-unless submerged under water. This heightened our need to get back quickly, so we loaded up, but with all the water in the canoe from our little dips, the canoe had NO stabilization and the slightest of movements would send us rocking. We decided to go two at a time, Christian and I going first so he could warm up in the car. Saul was already in the canoe and had to get back out- and that’s when he fell in. He had the smallest of dips, only going up to his lower shins, but still- it’s cold!

We eventually got everyone and our gear back to the car safely. Long-story short: if the canoe says 2 person- keep it that way and if you see a jellyfish, give him ‘one-for’ and a ‘greetings from AMERICA’ with a good ole’ fashion bitchslap. Oh, and if you do decide to take 3 people in a 2 person canoe in the middle of a Norwegian winter with said to-be-bitchslapped jellyfish, do not- DO NOT- take an unbalanced and uncoordinated intellectual. Saul, I love you man, but no. No…no…

Consider the Norwegian Sea: TAKEN.


The Crew of USS Something: Saul, Christian, and Me

Mike out!

fra Norge med kjærlighet

Mike Takes Stavanger!!!

Homecoming: Day 8

“I’m going to buy you a drink- but only if you drink it!”- Egil

So far, this was one of the most exciting for these reasons:

  1. I was alone (Christian stuck back to help his dad);
  2. I only booked hotel for one night (I was counting on my social skills or CouchSurfing to find a place to stay the second night);
  3. I had NO idea where I was.

And in brief, I will say this: it was a damn good trip.

There really aren’t many tourist activities, with I'd say only about 8 museums, of which, 4 are actually interesting. I sort of knew that going into it, though. Stavanger is a huge oil town and known for its close proximity to gorgeous fjords, fantastic scenery, etc; the tourism lies in nature. I will say this: Stavanger has a very good ‘old’ section of town that brings to light a modern-history. It was kind of neat to walk through that section of town and see the close clusters of neighborhoods and then look behind them to see skyscrapers and cranes, building newer, more attractive buildings. It was also…kind of sad…it reminded me of America and it’s inability to preserve history. I guess it’s not all to blame on our desire to progress, but I mean, c’mon- we suck at building history-withstanding structures; barns no older than 100 years are crumbling all around us.

Anyway, so, tangent aside: Stavanger was awesome!

I’ve decided not to talk about how I walked around all day and looked at things, because there is only so much I can say:

So, I walked down that street and that one. I stopped to take a photo. It was nice.”

There, I talked about it!

But really, what was really nice about the Stavanger trip was meeting up with the new people. I recently was told about this site called, a place where people from all over the world who like to travel, can meet other people who like to travel just as much as they do. Aside from the obvious [you can use it to sleep on people’s couches], it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet opened minded people who don’t think the whole world has gone to the dogs. And it’s true- you have to be open-minded about a lot in order to have a successful surfing experience. Both parties have to trust in people and believe in the world for it to work and if you don’t, well, you' should stay in a hotel. It’s not for everyone; if you like your privacy, don’t like talking to other people, and you have a dislike of genuine humanity- you should stay in a hotel.

I had two really great surfing experiences in Stavanger; one was with Vegard Bø and the other Chi-Chi Ton. Vegard was my night life guide, while Chi allowed me to stay on her couch [which actually turned out to be a nice IKEA bed]. I was a little downtrodden because no one had responded to any of my requests to hang out that night, but then Vegard responded and invited me out for some drinks with his friends. This worked out fabulous because it was Friday night in Stavanger and I wanted to experience it. It ended up also that his buds had a huge work project that held them from the night out, but we rocked it anyway. We met in the hotel lobby around 7 and headed out. What I saw was a 5foot-nothing dude was glasses, but who I saw was someone who knew how to have a good time. And dayum- he knew how to work the bars. We went to a hole-in-the-wall place with 30Kroner beer, which is a big thing because alcohol is SO damned expensive here. After a few rounds, we started talking to a big S.Korean-Norwegian dude by the name of Egil. EGIL!! It was one of my goals for the trip to meet an Egil and I did! and he bought me round after round of drinks because (1) he was hella impressed with my Norwegian and (2) because he said I was a good man. SEE- it pays to be an open-minded, fun loving dude from the states. We peaced out after Vegard’s buddy, Saema, said there was an after-party at another bar. So we go, but the dude wants 100kroner to get in! What’s a Mike Snowden to do? Oh, yeah-

“Hey man! I’m from USA on vacation- how’s about 50kroner for me and my friend?”

He folded like a house of cards. BOOM!

So, after some drinking, dancing, and helping some old drunk bastard get up from falling down the stairs, we call it a night. It’s 3am and we’re sh*tfaced.


Chi picks me up from outside the hotel and seriously, we hit it off. Not in the “oh yeah, totally gonna get some” hit it off, but in the fact that it seemed right away that we had been friends for years. Chi was such an awesome host, seriously. She made dinner [one with meat, which she did for me because I said I missed bbq food] and bought beer [for me, because she was on penicillin], and watched Team America [for us, because we both love that movie]. Her friend came over and we all hung out and talked, you know, kept it real. I really wanted to go out again, but as Chi mentioned, “Norwegians for the most part are difficult to just start a conversation with. It’s not that they are assholes, it’s just that sometimes they don’t want to”. Plus, Chi and I were having a grand time just talking and laughing, that I ended up opting out of the bar scene. We ended the night with a movie and both passing out on our respective sides of the very comfortable couch. Chi, my newest friend, put me-a stranger- up for the night and we both had a great effing time. We spent most of it laughing and making fun of stupid things, which as we all know, are my favorite past-times.

All in all, the best part about Stavanger was the people I met and the fantastic time I had integrating myself into modern Norwegian life. I had experienced more of the traditional life in Kristiansand, but in Stavanger, I set out to meet new people and share in a fun experience; I did this and it was awesome.

Consider Stavanger: TAKEN.

IMG_0219 chi

Vegard, Saema, and Me This is Chi Ton, my Couch Savior.

fra Norge med kjærlighet

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mike takes Oslo and takes it to the AWESOME

Homecoming: Day 5

"Oh-Would you Like a bag?"

We had an early start to the day with breakfast at our exclusive Regence Kristinelund hotel (corn flakes and fruit) and got going to the Norwegian Folk-Heritage Museum.

The Norwegian Folk-Heritage Museum is an outdoor museum that is really just a bunch of buildings from the historical progression of the Norwegians aka really flipping cool- I mean, these buildings weren’t anything spectacular, but the history behind them is amazing. The buildings, made from strong-ass Norwegian timber is not only built to survive all the elements (and survive them well), but they wood was decorated accordingly b the builder. Very intricate, very delicate, and very beautiful carvings usually covered just the face of the house and added a certain comfort to the large, snow-covered building. Inside, the buildings were scantly populated with unused furniture, with most benches being carved from the timber along the walls (this has been done by Norwegians essentially ever-since they became less nomadic). You know that warm and cozy feeling you get when you visit a family cabin or see pictures of warm and cozy cabins? Yeah, it’s like that, but much colder because there was no fire, but you get my point- they seemed like a nice place to live in. So much, even, that I started imagining myself living in one of these places once I get my own mortgage. And some of you will be thinking “wait- that’s what he said about every castle in the UK…?” And you’re right, I did and I do want a castle house. So now, I need to make a hybrid castle-cabin. It can and will be done.

We ended the museum with a trip to the top of a large hill where the church sat. This place was gorgeous, gothic, and ginormous (on the outside). The interior was absolutely fantastic- huge timber pillars held up the roof, with said timber being carved delicately; the small-sized and small amount of windows let in just enough light to add esthetic, while lit candles did the rest of the work; and the deck around the main worship hall (on the outside of the building) was perfect. It’s all I can really say. I’ll let you know when I have pictures posted, because this thing was wonderful.

VIKING SHIP MUSEUM! [vikingshiphuset]

FREAKING FANTASTIC, says I! This relatively small museum holds 3 of the largest Viking ship discoveries of Norway-the Oseberg, the Gokstad, and another one- and they are all HUGE! The Gokstad was the most intact find, while the Oseberg was pretty battered up, but due to careful reconstruction, they were able to make this historical artifact come to life. I read a ton on these ships and how they were constructed by hand and sat anywhere from 16-36large Vikings, royalty, and merchants and I was standing literally right next to it. HISTORY BONER! I would say I was embarrassed, but c’mon, I wasn’t. In any case, the museum was huge and awesome and seriously worth the long-ass walk from the hotel.

Maritime Museum [maritimtgaleriet]

I’d say it was similar to the Viking ship museum, but the only real similarities were both places housed boats. In know, it sounds like a big “doi” but it’s true. Whereas the Vikingship Museum had actual artifacts, the Maritime museum had models and replicas of a progression through the maritime history of Norway. It was cool, but it really wasn’t much of anything spectacular. If you’re into boats and ships, then this is the place to be; unfortunately, I am not so much into those things. Still, worth the visit and I saw a lot of interesting facts about their ships. Ultimately: worth it.

We planned on going to the Fram (one of the strongest and largest ships ever built), but it was closed for renovations. Balls! Minor note, though, the building was HUGE, so the ship has got to be worth the visit. Maybe next time….


For anyone that doesn’t know about this, the Kon-TIki experiment boiled down to this: some smart dudes told other smart dudes that ancient raft sciences could successfully produce a craft that would sail across open bodies of water, namely the Atlantic. The first set of smart dudes got ridiculed by the other smart dudes, and thus, a challenge was born. Led by a Norwegian smart dude, a group of peeps from around the world got together to research and create successful tours across the Atlantic. Ultimately, the goal of the project wasn’t just to prove the neigh-saying smart dudes wrong, but also create an international team of smart dudes and prove that people from around the world could work together.

This was that museum.

The main displays were the two final versions of the individual ships created by the team for separate challenges and my GAWD were these rafts badass! One was made from the extremely light Balsa wood and the other was made from [name it]. In the end, both rafts were successful in their respective journeys and well, the smart dudes with the smart idea showed up the stupid smart dudes who doubted them. Hurrah!

Also, there was a HUGE ass replica of one of the stone carving from the island of [name it], made from a cast the scientists made of the statue (using something like 2000lbs of goo)! It was massive!!!!

Last stop: Vigeland Statue park [Vigelandsparken]

This was a magnificent stop on our Oslo tour. Some guy had an entire , huge-ass park to fill with his sculptures, and these sculptures were of people and various stages in life.

Oh yeah, and they’re naked; all of them.

It’s not like its bad nudity or graphic, its natural nudity and it’s tasteful. Sure, there are a ton of dicks and boobies, but in Scandinavia and Europe have such a different view on nudity that it is ok to see some random boob. I respect Europe for this because America is such a mondo prude and it’s really a drag on our youth, I believe. In any case, this park is wild. There is a bridge that is literally covered in his work, not to mention the entire park. You can say what you will about artistic interpretation, but the work is about people in all stages of life- anger, sadness, joy, etc. There is one statue with a man juggling eight small tots, one of a couple fighting, and even statues of small children playing. The guy knew how to capture human nature and he did it hundreds of times throughout this park and seriously, if you come to Oslo and NOT visit this park-you’re an idiot. The park is much larger than you would think, even by looking at the map of the city. We we’re there for maybe 45minutes and just reached the center via a quick path; like a radius to a circle. Yeah, freaking huge. Awesome place to check out.

So now, the reason this post is titled “oh…would you like a bag?”

Christian and I agreed that we were going to speak in strict Norwegian so I could get as much practice as possible. I had been feeling pretty good about my skills when we decided to stop by a 7-11 for food on the train. I pick my stuff, go to the cash register and say proudly I would like these items. After paying, the dude asks me something and I did really hear him. Upon me saying “what” in Norwegian, the guy looks at me and says “Ohh….would you like a bag?”

What an ass! Totally ruined it for me! I was doing so well!! He just needed to repeat himself!

Anyway, I told Christian and he almost fell over from laughing. He, too, is an ass. Whatever, I’m over it!

Oslo, my friends, is a very fun city. It was simply unfortunate for us to have gone on a Tuesday and Wednesday because I bet the night-life is off the HOOK! Awesomeness also occurred because it was only about 60$ to travel by train. Not bad!

Consider Oslo: Taken by Mike.

Mike takes Oslo- "Victory- US"

Homecoming: Day 4, Part 2-

Previously on “MTO!” …

· Christian and Mike arrived in Oslo, the capital city;

· They bought Oslo Passes, which allow them to see a lot more than they could have originally;

· Mike bitched about the difference in public transit systems.

Now, the continued adventures of “Mike takes Oslo!”

Destination #1: Akershus

Akershus is Oslo’s reining fortress and the most castle-like building I’ve seen in Norway thus-far. Now, if any of you know me, you’ll know that castles give me the biggest and hardest “history-boner” of them all. Castles hold such a huge place in my intrigue because of their architecture, their (typical) grandeur, and their past that it is really hard to contain myself from swearing under my breath at their magnificence. Askershus is not as grand or elaborate as the English and the Welsh because it was a fortress- it was meant to protect and provide for its inhabitants; it is, however, very practical. Scandinavians are productive to the core and their architecture illustrates this very well. The fortress, placed Cliffside, doesn’t have walls nearly as tall as English and its perimeter is jagged and bent, parallel to the cliff’s edges.

[Editor’s Note: I understand the English and Welsh are very much different in history and culture, etc, but I will be abbreviating “the English and the welsh” with simply “English”, unless I feel the need to discern the two]

While walking around the courtyard, we came across what would have been the detention rooms for bad guys. Let’s just say this: hell no. Those containment areas were completely open to the elements and only gave minor protection from on-lookers. Most English dungeons were at least in the basement (of-shorts) so it was most likely damp and cold, but the Akershus rooms were outside, surrounded by open air and enough holes to allow sufficient precipitation to RUIN.YOUR. LIFE. Vikings were vicious, hands-down, to foreigners and traitors all the same.

[Editor’s Note: To be historically accurate, by the time this castle was constructed, history had moved out of the Viking Age; any mention of “Vikings” would be historically ignorant, however, because Norwegian’s were bad-ass in all areas of life, I will refer to them in all bad-ass contexts as “Vikings”.]

Sadly enough, the main part of the fortress is closed during the week, which means we were not able to walk through the main body of Akershus; sad day, indeed. Seriously, we were pissed. But, onto better things, ikke sant?

Or so we thought….

Norway’s Wartime Museum

[Editor’s Note: this museum is absolutely free, Oslo Pass or not.]

Christian and I like Vikings; we like guns; we play Call of Duty more than we should; we like Norwegian history. Ultimately, this museum should have tickled every fancy possible, and it some respects it absolutely did; other aspects proved quite opposite. Being an absolutely free museum, the exhibits don’t quite get the attention and financing as they should. I mean, the museum takes you on a course through the militaristic history of one of the world’s most renowned violent peoples, it should have HEAPS of kroner tossed its way! But sadly, it doesn’t. Examples:

1. Poorly translated captions (with an awful lot of English being misspelled);

2. Misspelled NORWEGIAN names [I.e. Krisiansand. Missing a “t”, anyone?]

3. Exhibits that look like grade-school projects (probably were);

4. Video and Audio displays not working;

5. Gaudy attention grabbers.

I don’t really like being a Debbie-downer, but dude- this place was supposed to be awesome. And to turn it around, I will say this: for the funding it (most likely) receives, the museum makes an ample attempt to create a true tourist destination. With the amount of artifacts and their history, the wartime museum was pretty cool.

And that is all true- it was pretty cool for what it was- a collection of violence that begins with the Viking Age. It’s just too bad that the institution doesn’t seem to get the funding to make a higher-grade exhibit for its patrons. Upside: the museum had tanks outside the building!

The Norwegian National Art Gallery [Norges Najonalgaleritet]

There were a lot of paintings.

I saw them.

Moreover, there were a bunch that I remember from my Norwegian studies.

So that was cool.

The Palace

It’s eerily similar to the Whitehouse in design, but taller, and though I’m in Norway, I’m going to say it- I think the white house is better. Why? Because it has a lawn; Palace= No lawn. But seriously, the palace is a pretty legit building and one of the neat things about it is it is not blocked off like a lot of ‘royalty’ places, such as the White House. You can virtually walk up to the front stairs! As Christian said, Norway is just more relaxed and not as socially dangerous as the US is.

Sad face for America.

University of Oslo [Universitet i Oslo]

It’s a college campus and thus didn’t warrant much time sightseeing, but it was a virtual diamond-in-the-rough because there is no official entry to campus- one minute you’re walking on the street looking for beer and the next you’re standing outside of the campus registrar.

We ended the night with some drinks and pizza. The pizza was a fiasco because we got into Peppe’s Pizza 30 minutes before they closed, had a Swedish waitress (so even Christian couldn’t really understand her) and we were tipsy. This meant that despite her passive attempts to urge us not to have a large Rio Grande pizza and to be content with one beer, we were aggressive in our attempts to feast; we won.

Victory: Team Norway.

Mike takes Oslo, to be continued...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mike takes Oslo!!!

[Editor’s Note: We were in Oslo [pronounced ”Oosh-lou”] for two days and one night. Because we ended up doing quite a bit, I will be breaking each day into two parts. This will most likely mean four separate entries, so I apologize ahead of time]

Homecoming: Day 4, Part 1-

"Oslo, a bed –and- breakfast, Europe’s advanced bus system"

In order to save A LOT of writing, the trip to Oslo will be recorded as such:

1. We woke up HELLA early to make a 5:30am train [tog, “toe-guh”, short ‘uh’];

2. We rode a train;

3. We arrived in Oslo 5 hours later.

And also to save a lot of writing, the walk to our hotel will be recorded as such:

1. Christian and I miscalculated the distance and walked close to 3,0km when we thought it was closer to 2,0km;

2. This was done in really cold and really wet rain;

3. Neither of us dressed for rain.

Alright, so this brings us to our hotel, Regence Kristinelund, a former house-turned-hotel that was what we’d probably refer to in the states as a bed-and-breakfast. Say what you will, but next trip to Oslo, I will stay in the same place, no hesitation. It was clean, it was simple, and the people were extremely nice; they even tossed in a space-heater! Anyways, the place was nice. We bunked down for a few minutes and let my camera battery charge while Christian made the video-call to his girl back in the states; I tried video-calliing a few people on my Skype list with my iPod; however, it took credit to Skype phone numbers and seeing as Friday we’re going to Stavanger for a weekend long party, there was no way I was paying for that BOWL-Shit. So, sorry to those who would have gotten an update call, but my priorities lie with having a good-ass time haha!

Once we left, we hopped on the number 30 bus which took us down town for 30kroner (roughly 6$) and found our way to the Tourist Center to purchase an “Oslo Pass”, which is basically a city-hopper pass that gets you into really expensive destinations for free or discount, and allows for free-use of public transit. And trust me, if you are touring Oslo, get this pass. You pay for it almost immediately with all the cool things Oslo has to offer.

Also, another thing: the bus system in Oslo (and I think the rest of at least Norway) is far better than the US system. Why? Because it has these advanced systems on the main stops that send signals back-and-forth from the stop to the bus that tracks how far (in minutes) the bus is from the stop; it’s dead on. It’s not the-schedule-says-this-I-do-that system Seattle has, but it is far better and way worth it for America to step up its game and learn something from Northern Europe. And another thing: Oslo’s busses have trash cans!

[coughcoughHINTHINT Seattle]

….to be continued!

Room and Board

Homecoming: Day 4-

American men: Free room and Board!”- Christian's dad 'advertising' to all travelers, as long as they work their asses off.

So, you might have noticed that I don’t have many photos posted yet and the reason is simple: they are freaking huge. You can thank my preference of high-quality photos for that (and Pentax). The small amounts of pictures that have been posted on the blog are those that were taken with my iPod Touch, a size-format much smaller than my camera. I bring this up because this post will be smaller because I really only did one thing: work. Because of this, I will supplement HUNDREDS of words with a few pictures (and maybe video) that I took throughout the day.

Now to it: this was a rougher day than the last time I worked because instead of chopping wood that had been previously harvested, today we did the harvesting. How it worked was 3 men (all of them Wathnes) used chainsaws to bring down the mighty wooden beasts and then, while the beast was down, dismembered it into even smaller, less heavy beasts; this is where I came in. I was the “carrier”, or the dude that collected the chopped wood and stacked in on the buckets of the tractor. It sounds easy, I know it does, but when those normally 40-50lbs chunks of wood become frozen, they can weigh up to 60lbs each (I say “can” loosely because there were only a few that were ~60lbs)! There was also the task I had in which I need to get the wood from up the hill-across the hill, down the hill, down the path, and on the tractor; the repeated action of this exponentially increase the weight of the wood simply because you get effin tired. But, since I wasn’t getting paid and Christian’s dad is giving me room and board for a couple of weeks, the least I could do is work as hard as they did, which turned out to be very hard and very long.

[Editor’s Note: Farfar, Christian’s grandfather, is a freakin’ savage. He hardly rested, resisted help from his son, and only took a 10minute lunch, which consisted of 1 hotdog [pølse, “pouls-eh”]. Like I said- freakin’ savage]

We ended up only doing 3 loads but those three loads took a good 6hours. Honestly, the hard work felt good. Living in Seattle for the last few years, I’ve forgotten what good manual labor can do for you. Sure, I was exhausted and sore, dirty and soaked to the bone, but:

Extremely brisk fresh air + positive feeling of productivity + home-cooked traditional food =


Farmor, being the champ she is, cooked another traditional meal for us, called løpskoss. It essentially consists of steak, carrots, potatoes, parsley, and other fine ingredients to make a thick sort-of-soup-but-not-exactly-a-soup-soup. It was damn hearty and damn delicious; the perfect end to a good day of work.

I ended up going to bed early this night simply from exhaustion, but couldn’t sleep after about 2:30-3am because I was so excited for...


Fra Norge med Kjærlighet

Ødderøy, falling into the Atlantic, and Max Manus

Homecoming: Day 3-

"Waffle Island"

Today could be considered the first official day of tourist activity, for yours truly. Christian had been talking non-stop about this place –Ødderøya- which has spectacular waffler (“waffles”). Unbeknownst to me, this waffle-house of Norwegianess stood halfway up a small mountain. But you know what? Eff it. I’m Norwegian and Norwegians, when they want something, they do what it takes and by God, I raised my hands unto the sky and screamed at the top of my lungs- “BRING IT!”

[Editor’s Note: I more or less stated, “Alright, I’m down” and it’s not so much a matter of willpower to conquer this small mountain, rather it’s just a relatively small hike and as we all know, Norwegians like the outdoors and like to walk around. So, when the walking gets tough, the tough get walking, right?]

So we began out hike and it was not bad at all. For a country of fjords and ginormous hills and valleys, it turns out Ødderøya is quite small in comparison, and since the waffle house sits roughly at the halfway point, it was a good morning’s outing. The waffles, though, were mondo overpriced for what they were - store bought pancake batter slapped onto a do-it-yourself waffle iron.

EH, it’s all about the experience, ikke sant?

[Editor’s note: saying “ikke sant” at the end of a sentence like I did means essentially “am I right?” or “don’t you think”. Try saying it sometime, it feels much more….international and suave.]

Interesting thing, though: I’ve been trying hard to use my Norwegian the entire trip and I don’t know what it was (either my backwards UW cap, red flannel shirt, touristy-looking camera, s.v.) but the moment my sentence didn’t make sense, I apologized and said I was from the USA and it was my first trip to Norway (said like this: Unnskyld, men Jeg kommer fra USA og dette er min første tur til Norge) and guess what the dude says?

“Oh, I know.”

If he weren’t such a tall, built, and very strong looking Norwegian man, I’d probably have slapped in the face with my white-glove and challenged him to a duel. But instead, I laughed and said “hahah yeah.” Whatever, you’d have done the same thing if you were called out like that….

After waffles, we decided to listen to the big-Norwegian behind the cash register and follow some trails up Ødderøya because there was a good chance of seeing some wild-life [dyr]. This ended up being a very long hike up the mountain with no animal, or its tracks, in sight. Luckily for us, Christian and I were wearing tennis shoes and were able to trek the mountainside like we owned the fool (though to be honest, we slipped and fell a lot and had soaking feet by the end of the trip from all of the off-roading we did). Even though we didn’t see any animals, we say a lot of coolness that was the WWII bunkers and remnant buildings that the Kristiansand military was nice enough to leave behind for us. See, during the Nazi invasion of 1940, Kristiansand was one of the main oppositions because it is a large port city. And yes, if you know your Scandinavian countries, you’ll have said to yourself- “Wait Mike, most of Norway is port cities”- and you’d be correct, which is why the Nazi’s attacked ALL of the major cities (all ports) and began its occupation in one fell swoop in April of 1940.As you will eventually see when I get around to posting my pictures, I took a TON of photos. See, I only go to countries that are rich with history and give me an inquisitive and awe-inspired history boner; Norway fills the “history-boner” shoes quite well.

SO, boners all of varieties aside, we made it down the mountain just fine, even with a couple of ice-related falls. Once down, Christian whips into a sweet-looking dock spot where the ice had been broken leading up to the shore from the obscure warm weather Kristiansand had just received. And this is where I, Michael Snowden, fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

Short story short: I took an unlucky step between two rocks that were hidden under the snow and slipped right down into the frigid water. It really wasn’t that bad and only my calf was soaked but to be honest- it was hilarious. Had I been walking by and seen it, I would have been that dude you hear in the background that sounds like Nelson from The Simpsons- “HA-HA!”

After wringing some Atlantic from my jeans [bukser, pronounced “book-sir”, with a long ‘O’], we toured downtown Kristiansand. By the way, the city center for a Norwegian town is simply referred to as sentrum [pronounced like the multivitamin “cen-trum”]. Everything was closed because it was Sunday [Sønndag, “sun-dog”, long ‘U’] but it had a really nice feel to it and I felt instantly that if it came to it and someone said “Mike, you’re moving to a city in Norway- where shall it be?” My answer would be Kristiansand. Flat-out. Inflation is still high, but it’s not as bad as Oslo (which I’ll get to in a bit).

At the end of the day, we watched a movie called Max Manus, which chronicles the WWII hero of the same name. Basically, Manus becomes one of the most lethal and successful saboteurs for Norway and unlike movies about famous people- he isn’t a martyr; he doesn’t die in the war! I know, right?!

In any case, this is long enough. I’ve included a link to a (hopefully) subtitled trailer for the movie. Check it out and Netflix the real thing later.

Fra Norge med kjærlighet.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Exhausting Realization of faulty Planning

Homecoming: Day 3, Part 1
"Early Morning Hussle"

For the record, I am not awake at 6:30am because of jetlag- I simply fell asleep at like 7:30 from an awesome day and I woke up accordingly.

But, I have been kept up with the realization that I haven't planned out everywhere I'm staying yet and even though I wanted a "non-itinerary-dominated" trip, I guess I got too cocky about my first real international trip and didn't plan enough.

So, in order to fix this, I have boiled down my options to thus:
  1. Pay monies to rent hostels and cheap hotels;
  2. Use family and friends as hookups for couches or floors;
  3. Utilize a world-wide couch-surfing website that gathers travelers the world over who have couches for you to sleep on.
Right now, I'm leaning towards the CouchSurfing thing because I can travel to more places and meet more people. Yes, MOTHER, there runs the inherent risk of the movie Hostel taking effect, but from what I have seen and have been noticing- at least in Norway- it's typically safer to do these types of things. They have a group on the CouchSurfing website that is called "Last Minute CouchSurfing". Those kind of categories aren't created if everyone has been abducted, ya know?

So, I've created my profile and I'm looking for places to stay on my travels for cheaper. Although, socializing and going out at night miggggght make it more expensive...we'll just have to see! If I stay mostly in non-EU countries, I'll be fine because of the exchange rate.

However, if anyone knows of family or friends abroad in the area, I'd love to hear about it!

Anyway, I need to plan a trip, so...umm..peace!


Homecoming: Day 2, Part 3

After we showered and changed from working, we walked down the street to the old school house where the Jultrefest was. Don’t worry, I was just as confused about it when I realized we were going to a Christmas tree party in January. Here’s what I gathered about the celebration:

1. It’s an annual event that basically retains all the goodwill of Christmas for one final celebration held in the small, retired school house;

2. It’s not elitist by any means, but it seemed that only those who were relatively familiar with the Wathne family knew about it [there’s no way it’d fit the whole town];

3. It felt as if this was the Christmas party for families and friends, the ones we all have before Christmas;

4. Santa Claus comes after they sing a song to “call him out”;

5. Songs of the season are sung while everyone gathers around the Christmas tree [I’ll talk more about this in a second].

I’ll tell you this much, it was a damn comfortable and friendly little school house. We had gotten their late and didn’t have a place to sit, but the place was just filled with happiness and joy. It almost felt as if it were Christmas Eve, truly. I saw Farfar being a pimp with the other elder men against one of the walls; Farmor was sneaking into hidden seats to talk with everyone; and I met a nice man and his kid who were sitting at the table with us (this happened after people brought out another small table). As we drank coffee and ate cookies, fruit, and bread, this man (whom I can’t remember) talked to me about my trip so far and how long I was here, where I studied, etc and it was nice to meet such friendly people. I tried my best to keep up the language, but in my attempts to be clear, I spoke really quietly and repeating things too often forced my hand to use language. As it turns out, the young snowboarder/skateboarder clothing line in America is alive and well in Norway. The guy’s son was wearing an LA Dodgers cap to complete his outfit and I asked him if he’s ever been to LA – low and behold- he has not. He just likes the team, but there is nothing wrong that! I used to where an NC Tarheels cap and I didn’t even like the team, I just liked the colors- they went well with most of the clothes I wore.

After the Santa song was sung and a very skinny Santa came out to give candy to the kids, we played trivia. They had a round of trivia for the kids and there was this one girl who kept saying she got the answer but I didn’t see her answer one-yet she had almost 12 pieces of candy! She’s a sneaky little devil! When the kids had had their fun, the adult round began. I was proud because I only had Christian translate a few of the questions for me, and right when I was getting the hang of it- the Ringleader of the Night calls out- “we have a visitor from America with us tonight- this question is for you!”

So naturlig, everyone turn around to see me in my red flannel shirt, Seattle-style glasses, and me looking around at everyone-because-they-were-all-looking-at-me; I was made. I was put on the spot and kind of nervous about the question ‘cause I mean, what if I got it wrong? I’d be the worst American to visit this small and beautiful town!

The question: Who is the Governor of California?

I know, right?! Perfekt question! BUT right before I answer, Christian speaks up and calls “Arnold Schwarzenegger!” What a douche! He had all night to answer and get candy, yet he takes mine! OH MAN I WAS ‘PISSED’! We started laughing and I brought it up to him, saying, “You know, Arnold isn’t the governor anymore, right? He was done in office on Monday”. Christian quickly turns to quiet me and says, “Shhh! They don’t know that yet!” Retaliation: Complete- I almost had his candy taken away. Boom! Don’t mess with me, yo!

When trivia was done, they wrapped up the night singing songs around a Christmas tree, but in a traditional manner, where the youngens hold hands and make a small, inner circle around the tree and the adults hold hands to make up the larger, outer circle. When they sing, they move around the tree, but in different directions. Usually it started out with the kids moving clockwise and the adults moving counter-clockwise, but at stopping points in the song, they would halt, sing, and change directions. Christian at first seemed embarrassed but quickly got over it as he remembered the words to the songs from when he was a kid. I also remembered one of the songs from class and joined in from the sidelines, tapped my boot a bit, and clapped my hands together.

After 8-9ish songs, they Ringleader of the Evening concluded with a “thanks for coming, it was a fun night and we are so lucky you came” kind of thing and they sang a final song and that was that.

EXCEPT afterwards, I had a TON of Norwegians flank me to talk to me about being from America and how my trip was going, if I had family, if I could speak Norwegian, and so on. I tried to use my Norwegian for a while but after a bit I couldn’t think of the words so I allowed them to practice their English.

We came home to a homemade-from-scratch pizza that Berit (my host-mother) had prepared, which was DELICIOUS! OH.EM.GEE! SO good! The crust was perfect! I don’t even know what flavor it technically was but I definitely ate too much of it to be comfortable!

The night was ended with going to Christian’s sister’s place just down the street to use her wifi and plan out our trip to the capital city of Oslo. Just saying- I’ve been having these weird dreams where I’ve been getting into a bit of trouble…I’m hoping this isn’t a premonition for my upcoming trips….

Fra Norge med Kjærlighet

Work all Day, Party all Night

Homecoming: Day 2, Part 2-

"Klæver vi ved og drikker noe kaffe med Farmor! [We chop wood and drink coffee with Grandma!]"

I managed to get a couple more hours of rest and it was good, because it was my first day of wood chopping and I didn’t want to be that guy that got his fingers chopped off from being too tired to pay attention.

[Editor’s Note: this is not a jab at Christian’s grandpa’s brother who actually had this happen to him- I’m just saying I didn’t want it to happen to me]

It all started with a quick tractor ride to the CHOPPING ZONE i.e . the area where we worked. And yes, I rode in the bucket of the tractor, which I will say, will always tickle my fancy since it is one of those things you just don’t do very often. After we got p the property a little ways, Christian cleared some of the piled up snow out of our way and then lowered the klævermaskin into place.

“Wait? Klævermaskin? Woahwoahwoah! What happened to lumberjacking, yo?”

(or so I would think someone would say)

Today, we didn’t technically “chop” wood how most westerners, myself included, would think to chop wood. The wood was already chopped in smaller pieces from an earlier trip to the tree farm and what we did was essentially chop it up even further by setting it on a guiding track and having a very powerful metal arm push it towards an industrial strength axe-head. And I when I say industrial, I mean, it really wasn’t that sharp, but with the torque of the extendo-matic robot arm, this thing was splitting big-ass frozen pieces of wood. Even though I only lifted the handle to being the arm-moving-process, I still felt like a badass when that wood seemed to cry out to the world. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears because it was just SO AWESOME! I did have a small part to do with it, seeing as I would lift the heavy, ice covered pieces of wood onto the tracks. It gets to be quite a workout not because all of the pieces were massive, but they are frozen, which means that maybe a 3olb piece of wood could easily now weight 35-40lbs. Do that for a couple of hours and you got yourself some MUSS-KULLS! Christian and I switched jobs after an hour or so. My new task was to break the ice on the wood that was frozen together and stack it next to the chopper dude (which was now Christian) and then stack the wood he cut. In between all that, I would do small things like shovel some snow from around the stacks, or axe small pieces of wood that were a waste of time on the machine, etc.

After a couple hours, we walked down to Farmor’s house to dry-off and warm up over some coffee and cookies- and some good conversation. Once again, Farmor was a champ and slowed down her speech for a little bit, but thanks to the easier Kristiansand dialect, I was able to pick up more than before. I contribute this partially to being rested, but also to the fact I pick up on things quickly. In any case, we mostly talked about how the weather was going to take a turn and it wasn’t a good thing, but then Farmor remembered she had shown me an olddddddd school perfume bottle from 1742 and this set her off on a history tangent, which, I thought was absolutely amazing!

Farmor showed us:

1. A pair of scissors that were probably, if not certainly, used by the tailor-trade Wathnes back in the old days;

2. A busted up flint, that we eventually also said could have been a fishing weight;

3. A HUGE ass pipe one of their relatives used (remind me to tell you this story as a follow-up post);

4. Pictures of said guy who used the pipe;

5. A Flint-lock from a rifle that was found in the ground;

6. Small, horn-looking things that Christian and his brother had found as small children;

7. A powder-tobacco horn;

8. And her families collection of generation-spoons [every generation imbibes a silver spoon as a sort of commemoration. This has been going on for thousands of years. The earliest I can remember was 1718).

Of course, there was probably more, but these were the ones that stuck out the most. Seriously, people pay butt-loads of cash to go in a museum and see an item with a caption that says something like “Found on Wathne, 1718” and here I am –ON Wathne (the property is their family name)- and talking to the family historian about all of this cool stuff that is hardcore history…AMAZING!

Eventually we went back out to work for another hour or so, but then we left to get ready for….


Saturday, January 8, 2011

A dying iPod and two strange lights

Homecoming: Day 2 (technically), Part 1-

"I could swear I saw one!"

[Editors note: As you’ll see, I’m breaking up the days into smaller parts, because as anyone knows, I can talk about things I’m passionate about for a good while. Some of these parts may over lap, but that’s ok. Why? Because I said so]

So, it’s now 6am here and I can’t get back to sleep. I was actually really fortunate to sleep another 5 hours after I initially woke up but still- no one is awake and I feel inclined to stay put, ya know? I decided to look out the window, which was slightly illuminated from the massive amounts of snow outside. It was still early, early morning but because of all the gorgeous snow, it wasn’t completely dark. This left a light purple haze across the hillsides that I found completely encaptivating (if this isn’t a word, too bad. I added it my computer’s dictionary, suckas)- until I saw the lights. Two small lights across the lake that looked like headlights at first, but then I realized that they were two individual lights, not pairs. Oh, and as anyone might know about me, when I am tired or can’t sleep, my imagination wonders incredibly far. Right, so, my first thought went straight where it usually does: aliens. Yes, I swore they were alien headlights because as the picture below will show, I SWEAR I captured an UFO on film. Look! Look in the top right- streaaaaky thing!! AH! EFF! Sh*tballs, right?! Yeah, that’s how I was at 6am!

[editor's note: I had the photo, but in between noticing it and having my paranoid filled night, it has disappeared. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!]

Until I remembered the last Norwegian film I saw: Dead Snow. Right?! Right?! I mean, the movie is about a group of friends who go camping at an isolated cabin that one of their uncles owns. Soon enough, Nazi Zombies pop out everywhere and everyone dies. Oh, Spoiler Alert. Yeah! So, now, I can’t stop thinking about NAZI ZOMBIES AND ALIENS swarming around the house and this doesn’t help my restlessness, so I decide to listen to a collection of music that tends to calm me down and make me more at ease.


Now….I am effed. No computer ( I was afraid to plug in my adapter after horror stories of Christian’s experience- which I’ll include at the bottom of this post) and no iPod, there were NAZI ZOMBIES AND ALIENS swarming the house and I couldn’t sleep. What is a guy to do now?

Try to remember Norwegian vocabulary from years of learning the language. For instance, what is the Norske word for “experience”? The answer: utføre. How did I remember this? I wrote an essay about a magical experience doing “magic” for the younger kids in my grade school as the “Great Snowdini”. How long did this take me? At least an hour. Why? F*CKIN NAZI ZOMBIES AND UFOS, motha EFFA!

In any case, my first night was spent 50/50 between a jetlagged coma and a ridiculous paranoia-fueled imagination. Right now, I’m finished this post as I can hear Christian waking up. Time to Lumberjack! It’s a good thing we’ve got tools because I swear, if any- ANY- of those Nazi zombies or UFOs try to eff with me…well…they got two armed Vikings waiting for a fight.

Fra Norge med Kjærlighet

A frozen lake, Farmor, and a ski-shoot biathlon

Homecoming: Day 1, Part 2-

"Hot-Damn it's cold!"

So, back to the flight: I couldn’t sleep, I understood children, yiddyiddyiddy- the most awesome part of the day was when I saw the coast line of Norway.

I couldn’t stop myself from putting on the biggest shit-eating grin of my life.

[editors note: I have no idea to this day what that phrase “shit-eating grin” means, but I had a pretty big effin smile]

I mean, here I was, in Norway! I had done it! I’d dreamed of this moment for so long that I put myself to it and I was moments away from landing in Norway. I was just at the start of a whole new experience and life that I have dreamed of for so long. I recently began believing in a the mantra of living without regrets, right? Well, as opposed to some who say this before eating a “gotta love it” tub of ice-cream from Coldstone, I up and left to Norway. I’m sorry, but this is much better than some f*cking ice cream.

I have studied for years about a language and a people that held so much fascination it’s hard to contain and now I was diving head-first into it. And let me tell you something- it feels absolutley incredible.

The coastline was breathtakingly gorgeous with small islands spotting the last quarter of a mile before the mainland. Each island looked like one of those rocks in a puddle you’d come across on your way to school on a cold morning- that iceberg-esque image where the top half juts from the water and that scant frozen ring of water around it, the ring that is lighter in color from being more shallow that the rest of the puddle; the trees were all frosted like the perfect Christmas morning; the sun was dancing off the snow-laden terrain from the last couple of days of precipitation; and there is not flat land- it’s all beautiful rolling hillsides of trees, lakes, and packed houses.

Speaking of houses, there are three, and only three, colors of houses in Norway:

· White

· Red

· Brown

Granted the brown can have variations of lighter or darker colors, it is still—brown. You don’t see elaborate *cough* ridiculous ‘baby-blue’ houses with its ‘Easter yellow’ trim and ‘teenage-girl pink’ garage door; no, this is Norway; its décor is simple but damn cozy. I likened it to a cottage a family might borrow from a friend for a summer vacation- it has the necessities for living and then a tv, but you feel comfortable in every room. Oh, and out every window in Kristiansand, you see hills covered in snow and lakes buried under snow, and the snow buried under a light mist that literally takes your breath away.

One of the first things I did after I’d dropped off the things in my temporary man-cave was walk onto a frozen lake, with an axe and a shovel, to chop a hole for ice-fishing.

Yes please.

We didn’t actually go ice-fishing, but we’d tested the lake for thickness of ice. See, the best part of ice-fishing- outside of sitting on a frozen lake catching fish- is when you don’t fall in and die of hypothermia. Just saying- it would kind of suck.

After ice-fishing, we went back to Christian’s dad’s place to get some coffee. His Dad came home and we met and upon discovering my college major, his dad began a long and in-depth chat about the state of the economy- of both countries- and it was nice to know that I hadn’t lost all of my college knowledge.

3 o’ clock rolled around and Farmor had dinner waiting at her place, so we drove down and got our food on.

[editor’s note: Farmor means “grandmother”, but on the fathers side. Far means “father” and mor means “mother”, literally translated, but put them together and it means “father’s mother”. Equally, Mormor would mean “mother’s mother”- your maternal grandmother.

And boy… was it good. We ate kjøttkaker med brunsaus [mean-cakes in brownsauce] with steam carrots, broccoli, and potatoes (a staple of the people), with flat-bread. Dessert was small snack-cakes, jørdbær (strawberries) and crem (whipped crème) with kaffe (coffee). Dessert was akin to that of an English tea-time….but better. Because it was Norwegian.

Farmor is a champ because she not only made some bitchin’ food, but as Christian introduced me he made the note that I could speak Norwegian and to only speak in Norwegian to me. What does she do? Just that, but she slowed it down so I could pick it up easier. I used to be able to understand people much better when I was surrounded daily by the language, but graduation I haven’t really been using my Norwegian and even though Christian and I said we were only going to use Norwegian around the house (which lasted a day), I just haven’t gotten enough practice for the country. But as I said, the aforementioned badass Farmor helped give me a launching pad into being able to comprehend the speech and participate in conversations.

Now that we were fed full of delicious, delicious food, what were two Norwegian boys to do the night before lumberjacking? If you answered “drink beer and watch a winter biathlon”, then you must really know your Norwegians!

True story: we got home and busted out the Christiansand Bygger i, the renowned ale of the Kristiansand area, and watched a biathlon which featured skiers from across the globe in a 3-lap cross-country circuit which included skiing downhill and uphill stretches. I’m not going to butter this at all- those guys are CRAZY. Not only were the uphill stretches mega difficult, but even the flat areas demanded intensity! Oh, and in the middle of pushing their bodies to an all-time ‘wtf’ level of athleticism the participants stop to shoot rifles. Intense! One of the guys, Boe, was SO freaking fast! And he did it seemingly without effort! Cuhhh-razy!!!!

The biathlon did two things for me: got me interested in the sport and progressed my jetlag to the point of blackout every few minutes. Even though it was only about 7pmIsh in the House of Wathne, it was far past my bedtime. I think, though, that I stayed up long enough to beat the jetlag effect (hopefully). Even though right now as I typed this initial draft it’s roughly 1am here (4pm back home) and wide awake, I think I can contain this demon that is Jetlag….

[at this point, I decided to try and sleep again].

Fra Norge med Kjærlighet