Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Day 178: In Which I Remember Why I'm Here

Something about photos...or something...

It's easy for me to get disgruntled about how my photos turn out, so basically you can assume that if I'm not posting much, it's because I think things are going poorly. Today, we finally got some good stuff. The above photo is the view of Longyearbyen from UNIS.

Here's part of the front of UNIS:

I like that grating thing in front of the "SVA". It keeps snow from killing you when it falls off the roof. AMUSINGLY, it's also too short for me to walk under standing up straight. In other snow-news, just a few days after the avalanche seminar in our safety course, there was an avalanche on the hillside near NyByen (the student-end of town). No one was hurt, and it was away from the houses, but it was like...whoa.

Snow-scooter parking lot:

We got a whole bunch of snow today, which makes mobility an even bigger issue than normal for me:

It's ok, I've got some high-tech protection for the toes under that cast. I call it "Plastic Grocery Sack". It keeps the foot dry, at least, and as long as I don't stop moving and keep warm the toes don't freeze. That, and the three pairs of socks I have on.

Oh here's something interesting. I noticed that the cars in the UNIS parking lot were plugged in - like with an electrical cord. I thought, oh Norway! Riding the wave of the future with your electric cars! Actually, plugging a normal car in helps keep the innards warm enough so that it will start again. The alternative, which I find equally amusing, is to leave the car running. About half the cars in the market parking lot are left running, with no one in the car. Who's going to steal a car and get away with it around here? There's no where to go., plugged in:

Travel agency's car in front of the shopping center:

View across the river of the edge of town:

If you look close, you can see the line of old coal cable-car support piers against the middle of the mountian. While there's not so much mining in the area anymore, Longyearbyen used to be supported by coal mining.

The long walk home:


The Longyearbyen sports hall ("gym"). They pretty much do every sport here that you do in normal places - football (as in soccer), swimming, running, underwater rugby, all that stuff:

And THIS is the special little hallway from the school (elementary, high school, etc) to the sports hall:

I have to walk an hour through the snow with one good leg to get to work, and they get a indoor sidewalk for 20 feet. Weak.

And another thing...look at this:

Ok, I might be able to understand why you need a car if you've got kids, even though anyone can walk across the entire town in under 30 minutes (I live outside of town, and its not like students here can usually afford cars, so us wanting cars doesn't count). I might also understand that you want a nice reliable car. BUT WHY, I ask, does anyone up here need an AUDI? "Oh, we're living in the Arctic, let's import, at ridiculous expense, a car that has absolutely no chance at staying in good condition to one of the most abusive locations on earth." Smooth.

When I got home today, I found this on the door:

"Til Beboere", I thought. "Super. No idea what that means." Luckily, a Norwegian living in my building was there as well, and it turns out its a warning for us not to drink the water, because some dangerous pipe broke.

I realize I'm in Norway, and I'm usually very laid back about not expecting to understand the languages around me. But the official language of the university is English - its an international institution, all the classes and business are conducted in English, including the management of the dorms. Only 50% of the student population is actually Norwegain. In this case, I found it extremely frustrating that such an important message (I drink the water here all the time) was put up in Norwegain, especially since only ONE person in my building is Norwegian.

Eh, I'm just feeling bitter because food here is insanely expensive. Convoluted reasoning, I realize. I shake my fist at you, Norway!

Finally, a look at the mountainside behind Nybyen:

That's an old coal-mining center up there. It's a bit out of focus, but you can see part of the avalanche on the left side of the photo as well. It's not much to look at, actually...also, the light in this photo is totally wrong. It's dark out, and the mountain doesn't glow orange. An extremely high ISO (light sensitivity meter in a digital camera) lets me take a tolerable, if unrealistic, photo of a very dark mountainside.


sam said...

Does that UNIS building say something about "tourist information" (only in norwegian)? Is tourism a big deal up there? (when it's light out, i'd assume)

Laurel said...

Tourism is actually HUGE up here - all year 'round, although more so in the spring and summer. Part of the UNIS building houses a sort of museum/tourist trap/information center about Svalbard, which is open to anyone.

Jeanette said...

I love the second picture. It looks very otherwordly. When you get back, I'm going to blow it up, print it out, and put it on my wall in a nice frame.

Anonymous said...

With all your trudging around, don't you have to worry about Polar Bears? Where's your rifle? Now, keep those toes warm 'cause it looks more than freezing out there!

Anonymous said...

You should buy a share in a snowmobile. I'm sure there are students who jointly own some, and that'll make it easier to get around with the foot.

Hans Mundahl said...

Some of the folks I knew in Norway would get together during the winter time for (as far as I could tell) completely trivial and made up reasons. "It's tuesday - let's get together at your place!"

It seemed to be a survival skill in the winter there. Do you see that where you are or was that just the folks I knew?