Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Norge here I come!

Sheer excitement best described my feelings upon arrival in Norway -- imagine the new friends I will meet, novel experiences I will encounter, and totally unfamiliar environments I will tread upon?

Coming from a tropical country where the sun smiles year-round, arriving in the middle of winter and being greeted with a minus degree temperature is hardly a "warm" welcome. Yet, the frosty white landscape and thoughts about white Christmas did make my heart warm; hot chocolate drink, home-baked cookies, and traditional Norwegian Christmas dishes. Uhmn, yummy.

So why the blog theme "dance with reindeer"?

For most of us (and I mean Asians), Norway seems like a remote, cold country where the midnight sun (24 hours of pure sunshine) exists and polar bears live. And oh, the Vikings! Which are all true, except of course that there are four seasons in Norway, the midnight sun lives for a month or so in the northern part of the country, and polar bears are mostly found in the archipelago of Svalbard (very close to the North Pole) where only few human beings are lucky enough to see them in their natural habitats. And the Vikings are but history now.

According to me (based on 2 summer visits and my first month in the country), Norway is all about nature: dramatic landscapes (mountains, lakes, fjords, and seas), outdoorsy lifestyle (skiing, hiking, fishing, etc.), wild berries, fish (salmon, trout, cod), Northern Lights, stave churches, and reindeer.

Reindeer represent strong traditions of Norway; reindeer hunting is a 10-thousand year old tradition, reindeer meat is considered a delicacy (sorry Rudolph!), and some municipalities have reindeer depicted in their coat-of-arms. They are hunted, yet domesticated; seemingly amiable, yet elusive; powerful, yet vulnerable.

To "dance with reindeer", as my personal goal, is simply a metaphor for understanding Norway's cultural identity and society and immerse myself into this newly-adopted homeland. And more literally, to touch a beautiful wild reindeer, if I happen to stumble upon them in my future hiking trips.

And to end my very first blog, imagine how different my country (Philippines) is from Norway...

Population - 4.6 million
Languages - 11
Population below poverty line - NA% (wow!)
Human Development Index (HDI) - 0.968 (2nd)
HPI (Happy Planet Index) - 115th

Population - 91 million
Languages - 175
Population below poverty line - 40%
Human Development Index (HDI) - 0.771 (90th)
HPI (Happy Planet Index) - 17th

I rest my case...

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