Archive for March, 2006

This sabbatical is all about quiet contemplation: reading, writing, etcetera. That said I have tried to get out a bit to check out the local music scene with the help of my friend Kjell. Last night we saw a Norwegian band play at a venue called Rockefeller. The venue reminds me of DC’s 9:30 Club (similar layout, but about 1/3rd the size). Another cool bar/venue here is called Cafe Mono, which seems to be the equivalent of DC’s Black Cat only minus all the cigarette smoke! Smoking was banned here a year ago in all bars, clubs, restaurants…

The band we saw play is called Kaizers Orchestra, currently one of the most popular bands in the country. The show marked the completion of a very long tour through North America and Europe. The crowd knew and sang the lyrics to every song. There was body-surfing, floor-thumping, oil-drum beating action, plus a stagehand dressed as Elvis. The dishy lead singer wouldn’t strip naked despite some chants from the crowd. When I told music critic Brian Liu about the band, he said they look like “a ripoff of the Hives and Interpol.” Whatever. He wasn’t there.

I’ve managed to avoid other genres of Norwegian music such as the ever-scary “Black Metal” or bands like the ever-present “A-ha,” but on Friday night Kjell and his brother dragged me to a highly entertaining hip hop showdown between some Norwegian and Swedish rappers. Sorry to say I left before the breakdancing battle. This ain’t a vacation: I got books to read & papers to write!

On a sunny day earlier this week my colleague Christian Ruge took me to see the Norwegian WWII Resistance Museum at Akershus fort on Oslo’s waterfront. The museum imaginatively documents the country’s effort to resist the German invasion in April 1940 and subsequent five-year occupation: a barrage of German rifles point menacingly at the entrance, while an underground chamber contains artifacts used by the resistance.

The story of the young nation’s resistance is heartening beginning from when the army managed to sink the German cruiser Blücher as it entered Oslo fjord, allowing enough for the government to escape the capital for London where it ruled in exile. King Haakon traveled through the country’s remote interior evading German soldiers until he too escaped by sea for England.

Once the Nazi regime took control, the Norwegian population mounted a spirited campaign and sustained campaign of civil disobedience. Illegal newspapers circulated countering to German propaganda. Norwegians refused to speak German or sit beside a German on public transportation. They wore a paper clip worn on their lapel to represent their patriotism as they assumed the paper clip to be a Norwegian invention.

It was interesting to visit with Christian. His grandfather was interned in the far north of the country together with hundreds of other Norwegian teachers for refusing to adhere to introduce a national socialist curriculum. Christian’s great-uncle General Otto Ruge was Commander-in-chief at the time of the invasion and negotiated the surrender of the remains of the Norwegian army after the fall of southern Norway and withdrawal of allied forces. He was subsequently arrested and sent to Germany for the rest of the war. On the way out we passed by a statue of him with maps in hand and head turned toward the castle.

My best friend Simone Kerlin came to see me one weekend earlier this month. As Brazilian now living in DC she’d never seen so much snow. It wasn’t even the snow that astonished her, rather the fact that it never stopped falling during her four day-long visit!

One day while attempting to avoid the snow we visited the Nobel Peace Center, which opened in June 2005. The Nobel Peace Prize is one of five Nobel Prizes bequested by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel and the only one to be awarded by a Norwegian committee.

When the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its coordinator Jody Williams were awarded the peace prize in 1997, the irony was not lost on the selection committee as Nobel had made his fortune after inventing the explosive dynamite.

The museum contains a curious mixture of multimedia exhibitions. At the time of our visit, one floor was devoted to the most recent winner – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its director general Mohamed El Baradi. The theme??? “Make Nuclear Power, Not Weapons.”

My apartment looks north-west toward a horizon on which the famed Oslo Ski Jump sits at Holmenkollen. This weekend was the annual ski jump competition so I had to go check it out.

My friend Alex Wilde came along together with her gorgeous 14-month old baby Mali. Alex is also from Wellington, went to secondary school with my sister Evelyn, was best friends with the sister of one of my first boyfriends, has a mother who was mayor of the city in the 1980s, and so on. Kiwis are good at finding so many different connections! Alex has lived in Oslo for the past six years since marrying a Norwegian she met while they were both serving in their respective countries’ foreign service at the United Nations in New York (New Zealand diplomats tend to hang out with the other ‘N’s, like the Netherlands, etc). When my sister learned I was coming to Oslo she urged me to get in touch with Alex. It turns out our organizations share the same building, so I see her daily in the canteen…

Anyway, we caught the metro train up the mountain then walked the final hill together pushing Mali in her pram. Over 40,000 fans were seated around the ski jump and on the surrounding hillside, many decked out in their national colours with plenty of Norwegian flag-waving and silly plastic viking helmets. Somehow we managed to meet Kiwis and Aussies at every turn though, including an obnoxious young Australian male with their awful flag who took off his shirt to reveal the word “OI” as in oi! written on his back. More suited to a rugby match in Brisbane than the ski jump…

It was clear and sunny so we could see the jumpers preparing at the top by shuffling their way to the center of the run. Then they slid down the track at speeds of over 100 kph before jumping what to me seemed like an enormous and stomach-churning distance.

This was an international contest with plenty of Finnish, Austrian, and American participants, but the Norwegian competitors always received the loudest applause. And who won? I believe it was Adam Malysz (28) from Poland. At least he wasn’t Swedish.