Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring in Norway

Beautiful yet peculiar sounds and sights greet spring in Norway. Starting early April, I was annoyingly awakened around 5:00 a.m. by a cacophony of barking & warring sounds, which turned out to be (to my bewilderment) bird sounds! The arrival of migratory birds beckons the coming of the warm season, and for that, I could be a bit forgiving about the strange noises that wake me up each morning.

I must admit, seeing so many human-friendly birds of all sizes and colors does make my day. And not a day goes by that I don't stop by and appreciate them flying high & low as I bike to work.

Meanwhile, an overwhelmingly powerful smell fills the air around April. No, I'm not talking about the blooming fragrant flowers. I'm referring to the ultimate sign of spring -- the smell of cow shit! Yes, it's the time for farmers to nourish their land with natural fertilizers. Holy shit indeed.

The smell is literally everywhere, there's nowhere to hide. It even haunts you in your dreams. Okay, I'm exaggerating. But it does take a while to get used to the smell.

And the spring flowers like hvitveis (small white flowers called wood anemone in English), tulips, and yellow spring flowers are now a pleasingly common sight.

And people have come out from hibernation! You can even catch your neighbors tending their gardens or drinking beer in their terraces. Outdoor cafes are virtually full. For someone from the tropical country like me, it's quite an amusing phenomenon that Norwegians remain anonymous and hide in their winter hole (aka home) during the long cold months and voila, they are all outside when the warm weather sets in! They even start smiling and saying hi to you!

Spring is also the time for all sorts of intriguing events and holidays, such as "russ", Labor Day, and 17th of May. Russ is the time for intense, crazy, and obscene partying of graduating high school kids. Dressed in blue & red overalls, they get loud, drink heavily, get injured, strip, dance, and have insane fun! For two weeks or so! Not to mention that they do this before their final exams. Oh well, the follies of being young and carefree. And the general public seems to be tolerant to the rowdy behavior of these kids on the loose.

1 May usually starts with a politician's speech, followed with a parade of marching bands and various groups carrying slogans related to working conditions, pension, social and ethnic issues. You are not supposed to work on this day...and if you do, it's a big blow to some.

And the winner of them all is the 17 May National Day celebration, yeah! It's a proud and colorful day for all Norwegians - a day exemplified by national flags, children's parades, traditional "bunad" costumes, royal family exchanging waves and greetings, royal guard parade, ice cream, hot dogs, and hordes of people. In fact, it appears like all 4.6 million of the population is put together in one place, in one event. The air of excitement, pride, and happiness is intoxicating. In spite of the nasty weather in Oslo this year, the day was still a memorable one...even for an "outsider" like me.

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