I finally made it to Norway, home to some of my favourite people! For those of you who don’t know, four years ago, my brother met his now-wife, Lise (who is Norwegian), while attending Boise State University. Lise and Jonathan quickly realized that they were made for each other, and before I knew it, Jonathan called to tell me he was going to propose to her in a couple of weeks. The next day, he called again to say he had proposed to her that day, because he couldn’t wait the couple weeks. So, when I went to Cape Town in 2013, I already knew that I would be traveling to Norway in 2015 for the wedding, and was extremely excited about it.
When I arrived at my house in Cape Town, I found out one of my roommates, Thea, was Norwegian. There really must be something about McKays and Norwegians, because Thea and I quickly became great friends, and she started bringing me to all the Norwegian parties in Cape Town (there were a lot, and they were the best parties, clearly). After my first party at the Camp’s Bay house (I think we left the party at 11am the following morning), I was (if possible) even more excited for my brother’s wedding, because I knew it meant I would get to travel to Norway and visit all the awesome people I met from there.
So needless to say, I was pretty pumped to FINALLY visit the land that brought us the 2009 Eurovision song winner (trust me, North Americans, it’s relevant). So I took 3.5 days off work to fly into Oslo Tuesday afternoon to meet up with Thea.
Our first night was spent with me learning about how expensive Norwegian beers are, and of course, while catching up, I mentioned that I’m training for a marathon. Naturally, Thea suggested we do a running tour of the Oslo sights on Wednesday morning. You may notice a theme for all my trips – I’m lucky I have friends that are willing to put up with (and participate in!) my training.
Our first stop was Frogner Park, which is home to the Vigelandsanlegget, a world-famous sculpture installation.
Oddly enough, the most famous of the sculptures is not pictured above, but is instead, the Angry Boy statue.
Fun fact – the model for the Angry Boy statue was the grandfather of a friend of Thea’s. After spending three days in Oslo, this doesn’t surprise me. We couldn’t walk for an hour without running into someone that Thea knew, and we even managed to run into someone I knew in the queue for the bar (obviously, a fellow Cape Town Norwegian party goer). Oslo, despite having a population of nearly a million people (including the surrounding suburbs), very much has a small town feel to it. It reminded me so much of Canada, and actually, the landscape reminded me a lot of Northwestern Ontario, where I grew up.
I was lucky enough to be welcomed to two Norwegian meals that day – lunch with the grandparents of one of Thea’s friends, which was a classic grandparent meal in that the food and wine never seemed to end, and then dinner with Thea’s parents and brother, out in the suburbs of Oslo.
I had so much fun with everyone. It was so cool to finally get to meet Thea’s family and spend an evening with them. They were (obviously) fantastic people (I’m not just saying that in case they’re reading this, I swear!), which I could have guessed by how awesome of a person Thea is! But I always find it fun and interesting to meet people’s families to see where someone came from and understand more who helped make them who they are today. I really had a great evening with them and am so thankful we were able to get together!
The following day, Thea and I had some more Oslo sight seeing on the agenda, this time without a run.
We visited the Nobel Museum, which, in addition to its permanent exhibit about all the past winners of the Peace Prize, currently has an exhibition on Malala and Kailash, who have both fought for children’s rights, and shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. I didn’t know much about Kailash, so it was interesting to learn more about him – he is an Indian children’s rights and education advocate, as well as an advocate against child labour. His position is that child labour perpetuates social problems, such as poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. He established a organization called Goodweave International, which was the first voluntary labelling, monitoring and certification system of rugs manufactured without the use of child-labour in South Asia. He has also worked to raise awareness of consumer awareness in socially responsible trade and purchasing. And if you’re not aware of who Malala is…. where have you been during the past three years?
Following the Nobel Centre, we had to head over and see Oslo’s opera house, which is quite the architectural feat. We walked up on top of it to get a view of the city, and went in to see the design inside. One funny thing I’ve noticed living here is that dogs just go in places, and it’s fine. Opera house? Why not bring your dog in? Obviously, I love this, but it does make me miss Varta all the time.
That night we had made plans with some of our Cape Town-Norway crew, and it was so much fun. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if we had found a way to un-invite Anders, but I’m sure next time I’m in town he won’t have access to the internet… I don’t think they have WiFi in caravans.
In all honesty, it was great seeing this crew again. Generally, I think it’s a sign of real friendship when you don’t see someone for a long time, and then when you do see them again, you don’t spend the entire time doing the ‘typical catch up conversation.’ Obviously, there was some classic catching up, but it was mostly just being with old friends, and it made it hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years since we’ve all hung out together. I will definitely be looking for jobs in Oslo to have an excuse to see everyone more frequently 🙂 (and, I really do need to show you guys how to properly plant trees so Emil can stop spending hours youtubing the techniques).
After an eventful night out in Oslo, in which we ran into Magnus Carleson, the number one ranked chess player in the world (#oslocelebrities), Thea and I packed up to have one of our classic roadtrips to Kristiansand and Flekkerøy, where Lise’s family comes from.
On Friday night, Thea and I were able to meet up with Silje, another one of our friends from Cape Town, as well as a couple of Thea’s friends from university. There is a tall ships race that stops in Kristiansand, and it happened to be passing through this past weekend, so we were able to go out and look at the ships. I wasn’t able to get much information other than the fact that these ships stop in Kristiansand, and no other port really matters.
I was also treated to a very special drink called the selfie that night… you had to drink from a straw through a mirror. Essentially, you felt like you were about to make out with yourself every time you took a sip. It was hilariously awkward. We stayed out a bit playing dice, but kept everything pretty light so we could make sure we looked half decent for the wedding.
Unfortunately I barely have any photos from the wedding! I left the photography to the professionals so I could enjoy the day. It was a great wedding though – I did a reading in church, and obviously Pippa Middleton-ed my way through it (though I can really tell it has been ages since I’ve gone to church, as I had the desire to clap after anyone finished doing anything. Not a concert, Melissa, it’s a service). After church we had a boat tour through the tall ships, which was beautiful despite the rain, followed by dinner in an old bank hall in Kristiansand, which was very cool. The afterparty was in the vault, which had been revamped with an artist’s installation in the floors. I wish I had photos, but I guess I have to wait for the photographer to release hers!
I have to, of course, thank Lise’s family and friends for hosting my family and friends! It was great to not have to worry about anything while in Kristiansand (other than looking good at the wedding, but I mean, we all know how easy that is for the ol McKays).
Norway: you lived up to my expectations. I already want to come back, and with all the beautiful souls I love living there, I am sure I will be there again in no time! Tusen takk, you beautiful country!