The weblog of a traveller

   Aug 22

Report from Full City

The South Norwegian coastline is one of the most wondrous places I know. The latest Ice Age did a good job on it, neatly polishing the bedrock into friendly rounds that get nice and warm in the sun. Due to straight-edged protectionism much of it is still public although strong financial forces call for privatization. Building regulations direct that houses be adorable (literally. In several places it is for instance specified that houses must be wooden, painted white with a red tilted roof). Forests are open with more precious species than the common spruces and pines that dominate your standard Nordic forest. Wildlife abounds.

In this paradise the Full City oil spill seems all the grosser. The ship was not an oil vessel; the 1000+ tonnes of bunker oil was the fuel only. How the sticky, thick, chewing-gum-like substance can be good as fuel is a mystery to me, and this is indeed a likely cause for the havary -using such yucky fuel, it takes a loong time for an engine to pick up speed. Turning off the engines in narrow waters with a sucky forecast then seems like a very bad idea. A call for a ban of bunker oil as fuel must be in order. If Iceland, very possibly the most shipping-dependent nation in the world, can ban bunker oil in their waters, it must be doable here as well. Anyhow, the skerries are asfalted now.

So in this situation, when WWF called for volunteer diggers I did not feel I had much choice but going.

Map of the area:

Purple mark: Langesund town, the headquarters and birds’ hospital.

Red mark: Frøholmen, a birds’ reserve that was hit badly and mostly all over.

Pink mark: Jomfruland, also with birds’ reserves, was hit by one splosh of several tonnes close to the south peak.

The ship crashed outside Brevikstranda. Between the wreck and Stråholmen there is a half hour in a fast boat, little islets all along the way.

A grinning monument of one of the dangers of the oil industry.

I am sad to say I saw more dead than live birds in the reserves. Damaged birds were taken to an ad-hoc birds’ hospital, which aroused quite some controversy as many do not value birds and the hunting season starts in a few months’ time anyway. For my own part, I can not see many better uses for the money this nation has gotten from oil.

Eider duck, poisoned or frozen to death

Recovering falcon

The birds’ reserves at Stråholmen and Jomfruland were cleaned first as they are resting spots on the trekking route for certain birds and the trekking season was about to begin.

Seals. Although naturally dark and spotty, the young one in the middle is oily. I hope it will be fine.


The people living here are so proud of their area. Even the janitor who was understandably not happy about being ordered to install me in my accommodation when I arrived late Sunday evening, explained cheerfully what sites I just had to see while I was there.

   Jul 26

The Westerlands

I went west. Life was peaceful there.

Crammed between staggering mountains, the sea way down there and more mountains so close you can throw a rock across the fjord, is an itty bitty cabin full of wonderful artefacts gathered by sailors in distant havens, truly impressive artwork created during long hours of hiding during the War, and colorful remains of the ’70s. Here I spent a week with crazier half,  father-in-law whom he got it from, and little else. And time whizzled by.

We lived off the sea, having self-fished fish or crab every day, taking only what we needed and releasing the rest. It’s all so steep, the boat must be put in the water using a crane.

If you ever do the ultimate tour of Norway, when you get to the really narrow strait, the one that makes you think “no way the boat will fit in there,” see the really big oak about half way through and tell it hello from me. He is a tough one. Being the tallest point in the area, he’s been struck by lightning more than once but he stays strong. I had a good laugh every time that ship passed, it is just so absurdely huge in that tiny passage.

   Jul 06

Tanzania I: Summing up

sunrise over the savanna

sunrise over the savanna

Bagamoyo is a small town on the coast of Tanzania, an hours drive north of Dar. As the president’s mother lives in Bagamoyo, the road is very good. We were going to learn that the government is rather person focused – but grim as this may seem to us, Tanzania is a comparably well-governed and stable corner in the area. On the airport our papers were checked six or seven times (in Oslo they were checked twice), witnessing that peaceful Tanzania is a place where many people want to be.

We stayed at a small, adorable gusethouse called Moyo mmoja (one heart), ten minutes from the beach at stroll speed -there is no hurrying at these latitudes. One of the bangalows we stayed in:

Do not let the clay walls and palm leaf roofing fool you -inside there is electricity, wc, and tiles in the bathroom.

A cornerstone of Bagamoyo is the arts college. We met many skilled performers, and brought variegated paintings home. On our first weekend there was a crafts fair where sister and I went havoc over handmade jewellery, kitchen utensils and body paint.

There was the obligatory safari (separate post), and we planned to go to Zanzibar, the beautiful island. But as soon as we settled a bit in Bagamoyo we realised there was no need to travel further as this is really a hidden treasure. Could Zanzibar be prettier than this?



Doubt it. As you see, we had the endless beach but to ourselves. Mmmm.. Envy me!

On the last night there was a leaving party (for our hosts, but as we were leaving too we got our share). Drumming the night away:

The dinner was fårikål (sheep-and-cabbage), an exotically Norwegian dish. I did feel bad for the fårikål as it had been baaing outside our window the night before, but really the livestock seemed content and happy. Chickens, goats and even cattle were roaming the streets freely, voluntarily coming back to their shelters for the night. Also they looked much sturdier than ours.

Transit in Amsterdam: 5 metres under sea level. The dikes are higher than they seem from the plane.

11 hours on a plane is not good for you, and the heat did not help. I tottered off the plane with gigantic swollen calves (known as the “old lady syndrome”) and spent the rest of the day horizontally, legs high.

We found Oslo in a rare heat wave, much hotter than Tanzania!

   Jun 30

Double landmark

As I know you were expecting a different post in this spot, I’ll make this short:



Post no. 50 concludes Murmeldyr’s first year of existence. Quality over quantity! The marmot promises to keep posting wry reflections, overuse adverbs and stay different.

   Jun 11

On life and responsibility

A young girl was buried today. As I happened to know her, this revoked all sorts of reactions and set off many slumbering thoughts, some of which worth sending down the Tubes.

I always found it strange how suicide is looked upon as weak, immoral and/or foolish, and I get upset whenever someone characterises it as selfish. If you believe that we stay around in some form until our purpose is fulfilled, it seems only reasonable to ask for a new chance to do your job, learn your lesson or whatever that purpose might be, if the current chance messed up beyond repair.

Isn’t that blaming attitude towards the passed person just as selfish? Sure it leaves a mess behind, but what kind of argument is that – should a wrecked soul be held responsible for the wellbeing of others even after they are gone? Maybe the rest of us even need to have our roots shaken once in a while to remind us what is important, like making sure we care for each other.

So in this country where ending your misery is a legal crime, one is supposed to choose life at any cost. On another hand, we are constantly told to shape our own destiny, we can do anything we want if the effort is big enough, we are solely responsible for our actions and you know the drill. If you follow that idea a few steps further down, it follows quite naturally that our lives are in our own hands. So while I mourn the loss on my own part, I respect the choice totally and would not consider blaming her. The rest of us are poorer than we were, and the girl is possibly in a better place.

(Also the priest’s talking about the sheep mildly following the lord shepherd reminded me why I like the independent goats so much. I cannot get my head around the virtue of blindly depending. It bears such a negative view on humanity.)
A couple of days before, I found a stunningly beautiful flower coming out of a green plant that normally does not flower at all. A good last gift for a rare soul.

May your memory forever inspire others to open their hearts and speak their mind freely as you did.

   May 23

The Missing Bachelor Party

Photo by Michelle

A few weeks from now I’ll have a very satisfying Bachelor’s degree in hand. Also unless something  surprising happens I’ll have a masters’ admittance in the other. In other words, the next couple of years will take me further down the same road I’ve been walking some time already, although I do expect the next phase to be different and better. For one, there’s the postgrad props. For two, there’s only so many masters’ courses in my field where I go now and I realised I’ve done most of them already so I’m applying for a bigger uni.

I contemplated waiting a year for a program that was basically the same but with a cooler-sounding title, but decided waiting is boring. After all, the current plan is staying in Uni forever. As the current wave is that the at one point idolized eternal students should be doing something useful instead, this means I need to get a job there at some point. Also, it means the boundaries of Eastern Norway may become too small -which will be a tough one. The very significant other was fantastic and understanding when I flew away for a term on more windy shores, but anything more permanent could be harder to explain.

Funny thing. To me, Bachelor is the word to use for subtly signaling that a guy, however handsome or charming, is slobby. So, I have a slob degree. Excellent.

What IS slobby, there is no graduation. We asked ‘where is our graduation ceremony’ and the answer was there is none. The diploma comes in the mail. -The ceremony will come in two years when you’re done. So much for module-based educational system! This goes with the “no problem your course will not be on this year, you can do it next year” attitude of the Living University. How about we’re not here next year?

I want my square hat and gown.

   May 04

New Adventures

Tanzania is hereby official.

Fuzzy 80's sunset photo

Fuzzy 80's sunset photo

It will be simple. A lost and found phone will be my most valuable possession. We will stay in a bungalow (nicer term for hut) with “sort of a bathroom” in the words of the host.

Although Tanzania is regarded a peaceful place in African context; as Europeans tourists we are advised to travel in large groups and not at all after dark. Hard for someone who goes exploring first thing in a new place and a type of rule I would normally be flexible about. But seeing our in comparison staggering prospery, it’s hard to blame anyone for doing like a certain mister Hood and take justice in own hands.

Why go to such great lengths in pursuit of uncomfortable, inescapable heat, new interesting germs, towering barriers of communication and very limited freedom of movement?

It’s been said that you will never be the same having seen the Moon from the other side of the globe. Maybe I will understand things I would not if I stayed in the West. Maybe I can spread said understanding and contribute in making this world a more unified place.

It’s tempting to claim the altruistic aspect (the work part of the schedule) as a rationale for going, especially when people ask and don’t seem too interested in actually listening to a proper answer. That would, however, have been very shallow minded and just as selfish as other grounds. If helping out was the reason for going, the money would certainly be better spent if simply sent.

Someone said that the value for money is terrible when booking everything yourself as I do. I guess if value for money means comfort for money, I would have been better off at a hotel in Alicante. And I would return and not be a millimeter better a person.

In biology, outgroups are used in distinguishing characteristic features. If studying flies, adding an ant can be useful (Comparing them you can say that having six legs is an insect property, while having wings is not). Maybe discovering a very different way of life can tell me something about human traits. Could some of the things I reckon as distinctly Western be universally human? Or the other way round?

In my otherwise thorough History class in High school, one page of a fat textbook was dedicated to Africa. As far as I remember no one questioned the striking skewness. Since, the pattern has been upheld and in the country where “looking at your navel” is a commonly used phrase, international media coverance is either missing or horribly sensational (and the next person to mention swine flu is in risk of getting a fist. Obvious hype is obvious). When we never hear of something, we conceive it as less important and further away, not a part of us. To break the mental pattern, I realize I need to go get a glimpse myself.

People and societies aside, I look forward to feel a different air, walk on different soil, drink different (although filtered) water and climb some different trees.

To sum up this brainstorming shortly and a bit bombastically, I strive to expand as a human being and that is why I go outside of the yellow brick road.

It's a gnu life!

It's a gnu life!

As a bonus, the change of plans gives more time for recruiting and plotting destinations on the Interrail route. Flipping coins is good, but there needs to be some anchors as well.

So; travel partners wanted for backpacking in India, tracking in Scottish high plains or abovementioned Interrail! Leave a comment if interested.

   Mar 16

What now, Murmeldyr?

Lately I have engaged in very mundane activities, such as planning on Interrail for summer (there will be a separate post. In the meantime, please comment if you are interested in backpacking throughout Europe some 3 weeks in July), repeatedly informing rabbits keyboard cords are not edible (another reason for the offlineness but a very good lesson in fusing cables!), failingly persuading James (the support guy with the distinctly Engrish accent) that performing a 2h memory test is outstandingly bad advice when the problem at hand is the friggin’ computer rebooting every ten minutes!, catching up with what network theorists would call my dead network (they turned out to be alive and well) and reclaiming the rabbit fort (I am now the posessor of a fully functioning sleeping couch armed with chicken wire).

I still love random oddities and brackets.

Murmeldyr was started as means of letting people like yourself in on what life brought while I was off to faraway for what then was a substantial part of my close future. Partly to avoid forgetting what I’d told who and repeating myself too much, partly for broadcasting pixelated evidence and partly for looking back later. Close future very rapidly transformed into recent past, Aggy is back in homely lands and Murmeldyr has fulfilled its purpose?

Undoubtedly there will be more travels. In the meantime, your happy Marmot will be busy typing rants and wry outlooks in the Murmle (“grumbling”) section.

As any social blog is incomplete without a section for “hey look what I found!” I created it and called it Findings. I am sure there will be more findings as well.

Till next time, have some duckling on acid!

   Feb 01

Norway Schmorway

Norway: Cold in more than one way

The people of this country scare me sometimes. Since I came back, I have been trodded on, sneaked past in shops several times, been ignored by service personnel and generally been treated as Norwegian people treat their neighbors. Compared to the caring strangers I met in Aberdeen, my countryfellows remind me of zombies. The emotionless crowd really freaks me out.

I did not mind before. Now I am not used to it anymore. Everyone acts as though they are alone, even on a crowded street, taking great care to not ever look anyone in the face or in any other way acknowledge their existence. And, as they are alone, there is no need to keep a passage open where space is limited, or wait for their turn where there is no ordered line. It seems unnatural. I am having nightmares about being attacked in the middle of Oslo and empty-eyed people wander past without ever interfering, watching the scene indifferently for a second as they pass. Then I am left bleeding on the ground and the gray mass of people fill the gap, walking right through me.

Stand out in the crowd!

Stand out in the crowd!

I know that we are a shy people and do not want to bother others. But do we need to treat everyone as though they were invisible? The peer pressure to do so is intense; the other person’s uneasiness if you are as rude as to break the pattern is so visible and it is so much easier to conform. But respect comes to the one who dares to stand out, and I still believe we are a caring people – just why do we not dare to show it and make the world a happier place?

This post is not about you. It is about everyone else. I know you can think of several times when you treated a stranger well. Actually I don’t think many people at all will feel this is about them. Still, this is a very real experience I have. If you feel the tiniest bit touched by this, please regard it as food for thought.

   Jan 27

Weird News

It may well be that my head is in a funky state from exams and the floaty existence that surrounds them, but I’ve seen so many outright awesome headlines on my tour de web today that I will collect them for future reference. These are from renowned sources, it’s not April fools’ day and they are, as far as I can tell, completely true. Some are serious stuff, but forgive me for laughing – it is too absurd.

Woman exchanged 2000 Monopoly dollars into 1400 danish Kr in the bank, at an exchange rate of 0.7. But it does not stop there: Next day she went back to the same bank to do the same thing.

Blagojevich planned to sell the empty Illinois senator seat to Oprah Winfrey (who has never been in politics)?!

Car stuck, in church roof 35 m above ground. Used slope to launch.

No case files exist for Guantanamo detainees. Wait, what? That’s even crazier than I expected.

Man accepts other people’s speeding fines -goes to jail.