A special series. Narvik, Norway – Immeasurable Hospitality — The North Star Reports – by Katherine LaFleur. Sponsored by The College of St. Scholastica and The Middle Ground Journal
[A shot of the view from Marit’s family cabin, the scenery here was almost surreal it was so beautiful. Pictured is her family’s bunkhouse.]
In 2008 I gained the older sister I lacked biologically by way of my family’s participation in a foreign exchange program. She came to us from a town in the North of Norway, and since leaving she has returned a handful of times to the U.S. to visit. I was able to make the jaunt to New York City to meet up with Marit, my Norwegian sister, and João, another beloved foreign exchange student from the past, for last Thanksgiving break, spending an amazing week catching up and enjoying the city and each other’s company. After 7 years of saying “Someday I’ll come visit YOU” I was finally able to fulfill my promise, venturing up to Narvik to spend my last week in Europe with Marit and her beautiful family.
[Looking out from the interior of the family cabin. Ann-Irene and Knut-Erik have put so much work into this amazing getaway and it shows in the details.]
My flight was scheduled to depart 4 hours after my last final exam, poor planning on my part, but I was stranded in Barcelona’s El Prat airport for a number of hours due to heavy snow in Oslo, Norway. The airport staff began giving us updates both in Spanish and English and then as time dragged on the notifications were given only in Norwegian and I was forced to ask for clarification, unable to read the context from the faces of my fellow stranded peoples. Finally, we were able to board and leave for Oslo’s Gardermoen airport where I met Marit and waited for our next flight even further North to Narvik. I hadn’t eaten much at all that day, not intending to be stuck in El Prat for so long, and so upon my arrival Marit and I feasted on Lapskaus, a stew-type dish, and flat bread. In retrospect, this airport meal should have acted as forewarning to just how well I would be eating during my time in Norway.
[Martin’s family has cabins up in Riksgränsen resort in Sweden, and I had the opportunity to snowboard even though I was incredibly out of shape/practice!]
One flight and bus ride later; we arrived in Narvik, hoofing it up the ice and snow-covered hill to Marit’s family home with our luggage. I still don’t know why I bothered trying to pack anything more than a backpack since realistically few things I had brought for Barcelona’s winter would serve me well in Narvik’s spring weather. Marit borrowed me everything I needed; long johns, wool socks in every thickness, hiking gear, jackets, and even a pair of boots loaned to me by her boyfriend’s mom (Thanks a million!!). The hospitality was unending. I almost felt uncomfortable accepting so much from her family my first time meeting them, but soon realized that they had already accepted me as one of the family, and my hesitation dissipated. We spent the week hiking, eating, exploring, visiting the nearby Riksgränsen ski area in Sweden, and eating more. Did I mention eating?
[On one of the last days we took the gondola up to the top of the mountain in Narvik and hiked back down. The views were amazing.]
The meals I enjoyed in Norway deserve their own post, and I think I may dedicate some time this week to detail it all, but right now let me hit the specifics. Typically I eat like a bird, taking small portions if at all possible just so that I can guarantee no waste. The week I spent in Norway I had thirds of everything put in front of me. Everything. I don’t think my hunger grew in any way, the food was just so amazing and in the back of my mind I knew I wouldn’t be eating this well for quite some time. After my third plate of dessert one night, Marit looked at me and just smiled, commenting on how she had never seen me eat so much, I retorted that I never eat this much. Something about the company I held, the amazing food they prepared, and all the coffee and wine that I could ingest had me mesmerized, left in a food-consuming trance that I couldn’t – and didn’t want to – break.
[Snapping a quick picture with the reindeer! We may have them in our zoo, or even in the Fitger’s courtyard around Christmas time, but seeing so many in one spot in their natural habitat was pretty cool! (Fun fact, all the reindeer in this area are owned by the Sami people.)]
The time I spent with Marit and her loved ones was nearly indescribable. I can’t thank them enough for their overwhelming warmth and hospitality, opening up every corner of their lives to me and even going so far as to re-tell jokes in English after they flew over my head in Norwegian. As my time with everyone came to a close I naïvely believed that maybe this time saying goodbye wouldn’t be so hard: that after receiving so much kindness and generosity and feeling like the world had maybe shrunk just that much more, maybe I wouldn’t feel so far from my big sister this time. I learned at the security check, as we hugged one more time, that I had thought wrong. Even typing this all up a week later I’m flooded with emotion; gratitude, love, longing. But mostly gratitude. No matter how many languages I learn I won’t be able to say thank you enough. Takk.
[From left to right: Knut-Erik, Marianne, Erik, Marie, Ann-Irene, Martin, Marit.]
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu
See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports
The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports publishes edited essays from our students, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Students have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing reviews of books, documentaries, and films, projects on historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and analysis of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
We thank The Department of History and Politics and the School of Arts and Letters of The College of St. Scholastica for their generous financial support for The North Star Reports and The Middle Ground Journal.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org The NSR is sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal and The College of St. Scholastica. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact chief editor Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu