23 July 2008

A Walk Through the Forest to Storfossen

I have been in Norway for exactly a week now, and yesterday was my first day off at Jøssåsen. With three other co-workers, Anne, Eva, and Linnea, who have the same day off, I went on a day hike to Storfossen (the Big Waterfall). I have wanted to hike this waterfall since the very moment I laid my eyes on it from afar, on my way to Jøssåsen from the airport in Trondheim. It made such a huge impression on me; I couldn't wait to hike to it. So when Linnea, who has been volunteering at Jøssåsen for a year, offered to guide the 3 newbies to the waterfall, I was ecstatic.

There were many new things I saw on our 3-hour walk. The first was the way hay was being dried in front of a farm house. According to Eva, there are only a few places in Europe, where they dry the grass on poles (detailed photo below). I have seen rolls of hay and haystacks like the ones in Millet paintings but never like this. The hay on distinctive trellises looked like a line of shaggy yaks in procession. I lost count of how many photos I took of the hay....

Everything was so green around us. There must have been thousands of shades of green. From the blackish dark green of the pines to the silvery green of the birch leaves, the array of green was endless. And the way the Norwegian sun reflected off these greens made me think that Monet would have enjoyed painting in Norway. As I walked along the path, I wondered how he may have captured the Norwegian summer light in his paintings. I would have been content just staring at the beautiful surrounds, especially the patches of fire weed growing wild at the edge of the paths. The contrast between the hot pink and the bright greens of the grass couldn't have been more vibrant.

As we got closer to the waterfall, the more magical the forest seem to become. I know I've said it before, but how could anyone not think that there are trolls living in such forests, with all the velvety peat moss hiding their living quarters. I bet if I lifted one of the moss patches, a troll would have surely appeared and welcomed me to Norway with open arms!

He certainly would have shouted, "Velkommen!" with a mischievous smile on his face, and he probably would have offered to take a picture of the four of us. (L to R: Linnea, Eva, Anne, and me!)

Lowbush blueberries were everywhere, and they were ripe! So we picked wild blueberries along the way to the waterfall, and when we stopped to have our picnic, we were able to have lots of fresh blueberries. I probably picked the most and also ate the most, not surprisingly. My tongue was probably a nice shade of blue or purple, like Linnea's shirt.

The sound of the rushing water from Storfossen was loud and calming, all at once. I wished I had a recorder to capture the sound. It would be so nice and relaxing to listen to in the evening, right before falling asleep.

And just when I thought the waterfall couldn't get any better, it did! A short walk later, up and down the trail in a moss covered forest, we came upon Dølafossen. It's a smaller waterfall than Storfossen, bu together, they were truly grand.

My first day off could not have been better, ending at midnight with a view of a mother moose and a baby moose, from afar. Picture perfect. (The mother moose, or "mor elk," is the big brown spot, and the baby moose is, obviously, the small brown spot, following the big spot. Obviously....)

19 July 2008

Sunrise at 3:55 AM; Sunset at 10:52 PM & Moonrise at 10:59 PM; Moonset at 6:39 AM

Since I get up at 6am to milk the cows at 6:30am, I've been going to bed at around 10:30pm, which by Chicago (or most anywhere) standards would be pretty dark. But the sun sets around 11pm in Trondheim these days so when I do go to bed, the sun is still in the sky shining brightly. And so because of my early sleeping and waking schedule, I had not yet seen the moon. Well, that is just until the other night....

There was a little party held for Tobias, one of the co-workers (a volunteer like myself), who is leaving Jøssåsen after working for a year. All the co-workers, new and old, gathered in one of the many huts that Jøssåsen owns to thank Tobias for all his hard work and also to socialize and drink. And because the party was held late in the evening, I had the rare opportunity to see the moon, a full moon, no less, on my way back from the hut to my house, Nergården.

Words can't even begin to describe what I saw. The big, round, silvery full moon was peeking just above the hills, and the mist from the lake was wrapping around the tall green pine trees. As I stared at the moon and the misty surroundings, I understood why there are so many mystical creatures or trolls in Norwegian folklore. Something very magical was going on, and I bet if I had stood out there long enough, I bet I could have met a troll, just like this one that I saw in Wisconsin, earlier this summer (right).

Eager to share this magical beauty with everyone, I tried taking as many pictures as possible. But alas, as I took the photo to the left, my camera ran out of batteries! Sad. Although the rare beauty I witnessed will never be forgotten, I am sorry that I couldn't capture it to share with everyone even though I realize that no picture could ever do it justice.

The daylight is fantastically long here. I have heard of "white nights" and experienced a bit of the phenomenon while working in Alaska and visiting Iceland, but it feels quite different here. I'm not sure exactly why. But I do know that the long daylight fills me with awe. Additionally, it gives me more time and opportunity to explore around Jøssåsen. Last "night, "Eva, Anne, and I went for a walk in the forest at around 8pm. Did it feel like "night?" No, it certainly did not.

When the three of us returned to Jøssåsen, and I managed to persuade Anne, my new partner in crime, to go rowing. It was well past 9 o'clock when we started rowing on the lake, but again, it seemed like it was midday.

We rowed to the middle of the lake and enjoyed the surrounding hills and the clear blue sky. It was so picturesque and so surreal....
The days are getting shorter as each day goes by. Just yesterday, Saturday, 19 July 2008, the duration of day in Trondheim was 19 hours and 2 minutes (5 minutes and 39 seconds shorter than Friday). Today the duration is 18 hours and 57 minutes (another 5 minutes and 43 seconds shorter than yesterday). As the days slowly shorten, I wonder what winter days will be like in Jøssåsen....


As many of you know, I have decided to take a little break from medical school to volunteer at Jøssåsen, a small community for disabled adults. The place is located approximately 45 minutes away from Trondheim, the third largest city in Norway, and I must admit it is pretty different from Chicago.

This picture (above) was the view outside of my window in Chicago. You can pretty much see all the major buildings in city: Sears Tower, Chicago Tribune, NBC Tower, Wrigley Building, Trump Tower, the Hancock, just to name a few. Yes, I was, indeed in the heart of the city in Chicago.

The view outside my window (picture on right), here in Jøssåsen, could not be more different. The largest building that you can see is the hall, a gathering place for less than 50 people who live in the community. And just outside my window are red and black currant bushes, bearing berries, which will be ripe enough to be harvested in late-August.

The sounds of the ambulances and honking of cars are now replaced by the gentle sounds of the breeze, making the trees whisper, and cow and sheep bells with a "moo" or a "baa" every now and then.

I'm finding Jøssåsen peaceful and quiet, and I feel as if I'm on a long extended vacation. Don't get me wrong, I do work! It's just that the type of work I do here doesn't quite seem like work to me. For example, I'm learning to milk cows. Yes, you read it right. I can actually milk cows! Well, I'm not that good at it yet (I've only been here for 5 days now), but I can get milk out of the cows, and it's pretty fun and amazing. I love it! And our cows produce enough milk for the community plus some, which then gets sold to a proper milk company. I am becoming a regular farm-girl, or I guess a milkmaid. I can't truly claim the title of a milkmaid just quite yet since I can't fill my own bucket full of milk, but once that happens, you will definitely hear about it, and I won't feel too terrible claiming that title. There are other types of work I do, as well, but more of that later.