“What time is it?” someone asked as we gathered around the flickering fire, painting our little snow-hollow orange with its dancing flames, browning our marshmallows most perfectly and giving some relief to our shivering feet. “About midnight” came the surprised answer and we drew our eyes away from the embers to the deep blue sky above our heads which, while far darker than I will be able to imagine in a month, was astonishingly light. We had hoped that this evening trip to the top of our wee local hill might be the last hurrah for some lights in the sky but it seems the days of craning our necks to check for a flash of green are over.
The fact that my last entry was full of awe at the awakening of the sun while now we can’t even find a black hour in the night gives a good impression both of how long it has been since I’ve written… (sorry!) but also of how incredibly fast the transition from darkness to light actually occurs up here.
I can’t lament the end of my aurora sightings too much however as over the last couple of months, we’ve had some wonderful displays – particularly magical when they catch you unawares; skiing home from uni, wandering back from the shop… I am especially glad that I could share my last, and possibly best, nordlys experience with my lucky family during their 10day visit at the beginning of this month…
The stunningly clear night with shimmering twists and curls stretching the length of the sky was the cherry-on-top to our ideal Nordic day. Waking up in my favourite uni-owned house on the seashore of Tromsø’s large neighbouring island to the company of my wonderful family gave the perfect start to the perfect day involving hiking in the midst of the delightfully familiar (for me), breathtakingly novel (for them) scenery of Sommarøy, majestic moose, reindeer silhouetted against arctic peaks, playing in the snow, sunbathing (yes!) and picnicking on the beach, a sauna and a sunset… This was just one (though a particularly special one) of the several lovely days we spent together, showing them some of my favourite places and sharing the magic of my temporary home which is something I’m hugely grateful to be able to have done. Some of the magic involved seeing a famous Saami singer (Mari Boine) perform the hauntingly beautiful traditional ‘yoiks’, snowshoeing (or normal-shoeing very deep in the snow in the case of me and Dad!) with a pure white and mountainous panorama and having my younger brother, Douglas, accompany me along my day-to-day cross country skiing track.
The weeks before they arrived are now a bit of a blur of uni-work, café-work, skiing, sledging, tennis, dinners with international friends and games of backgammon… They have, however, also involved a certain amount of Tromsø-in-action. Trying to help make Sivertsens Kafe into more of a political arena, we’ve organised a solidarity evening for Icelandic activists, facing charges for protests during the economic crisis of 2008 (read my summary here if you like: … ), hosted the Amnesty International Women’s Day event and held a showing of the film “Earthlings” ( … ) – a heavy but eye-opening documentary about animal-industries (maybe one to watch after your Easter Sunday roast…!). With the Amnesty student group, we’ve had some creative actions involving warning-eviction notices on student accommodations, a very snowy African dj-ed streetparty, a (rather impressive, if I say so myself!) cardboard bulldozer and a påskeegg jakt (Easter egg hunt) all having been geared towards this year’s main campaign to stop forced evictions in Nairobi slums (more info here: … ).
The couple of weeks which have passed now since they left have given us here a little teasing of ‘spring’, with the huge piles of snow hiding street signs and blanketing roofs melting enough to reveal sorry patches of brown grass and soggy hats/various items perhaps dropped and forgotten 7 months before. This brief spell of no-heavy-jacket-walking-about was just toying with us however, as I and a group of friends returned to Tromsø (after another fabulous trip to the Sommarøy house – this time managing a post-sauna swim in the sea!) to be greeted by the surreal experience of heavy snow pouring from a not-dark-yet 10pm sky. I think our heaviest batch of snow must have been sometime in March during which time I asked my Norwegian teacher if she knew roughly how deep it was…she thought about 1m60cm “ingenting!” she commented (“nothing!”) before telling us about their record of 2m70cm in 1997, at the end of April, which amazingly didn’t stop one bus running and tunnels were dug for children to safely make it in to their open and functioning schools.
One thing which does stop the busses running and generally leave the island, and country, ground to a halt however, is the påskeferie (Easter holidays) in which just about every Norwegian family takes to the sea or the mountains to kose seg “enjoy themselves” in their hytter (cabins). Familiar Easter traditions, such as Easter eggs and daffodils (not growing, but I saw some sold in the shops), are enjoyed here, alongside some other not-so-familiar traditions such as påskekrim “Easter crime” … apparently reading crime novels is the thing to do at Easter time, (even the milk cartons are decorated with crime mysteries, just for Easter). Somehow Britain and the rest of the world seem to have missed out on this part of the holiday!
All that is left for me to say, then, is ha en riktig god påske (have a very happy Easter), without too much crime but with a nice amount of mystery 😉
Until next time…