Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day 304: Things!

It's been awhile since I've written, but really, there's not a lot to talk about. It's raining a lot in Drammen so I don't get out much. Most of my time recently has been spent coordinating everything involved in getting to Russia. While I have purchased all of my airplane tickets, I'm still waiting for one to be delivered. Nerve-wracking. I'm also trying to arrange for a hotel in Yakutsk, where they INSIST that I fax a reservation form to them. This is a problem since I don't have a fax machine, and after some appreciated help from Katrine in Longyearbyen, Yakutsk doesn't seem to receive faxes. Phone conversations and email inquiries are...questionable. Yay Russia!

Once, long (about 13 days) ago, there was a holiday on May 17th that was a pretty big deal for Norwegians. Their independence day, from what I gather. I got to experience it in Drammen with the family I'm staying with. The following photos are out of date, but its what I have for now.

First we went to the town square and got places to stand to see the parade. Let me tell you, hanging on to crutches and standing on one foot in a crowd while using a 2-ton camera is not easy.

Joachim's little sister - a member of the family I'm staying with in Drammen:

Everyone was dressed up so nice! The Norwegian national outfit is very nice.

So...a lot of what I have here are pictures of random people gathered for the parade. Observe:

Another addition to the "children dubious about Laurel" series:

There was lots of Norwegian spirit everywhere:

On babies:


My mini-Norwegian doppleganger #2:

After while the parade came around our part of the road - quite an extensive parade, I must say. A lot of bands and schools and kids.



The politi come by to keep kiddos in line:

The mom and daughter I'm staying with - she's very kindly holding my crutches for me for a minute...

Then, a big fancy band:

And another...

And finally, a lot more kids:

A shot of the people I'm staying with, beautiful people (but missing a couple brothers, off in different places...)

After the parade we drove up a huuuuuge spiral tunnel inside a mountain! It was awesome! Up at the top we had ice cream, and I got to take this photo of DRAMMEN:

Norway's a pretty nice place, everywhere!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


I'm going to RUSSIAAAAA! (said like Borat, of course)

Fantastic day. FANTASTIC. After a few million years of problems (ie six months) I've achieved two things today: I got my Russian visa, and I figured out how to replace the blogger header with a specialized image. Hope you love it.

The header will probably change soon until I find a background I really like. I like this one, but the black and white is sort of misleading...since I really don't like doing black and white photography. But what won't change is I'M GOING TO RUSSIAAAAA! In exchange for a very signficant percentage of my bank account. I hope my friends at home have some nice couches for me to sleep on.

For people interested in this sort of thing, here's my route to my final destination in Siberia - we can also note that this comes in at a close second as the most long-winded, complicated route of this year (the road from northern Canada to northern Greenland continues to reign as The Most Ridiculous Journey Ever).

Anyway, here it is: Oslo (Norway) to Copenhagen (Denmark) to St. Petersburg (Russia) to Moscow to Krasnoyarsk to Yakutsk to Cherskii.

I'm afraid thats all for now. The official departure date is June 5. The official cast-off date is June 4!


Friday, May 18, 2007

Day 293: Goodbye Longyearbyen

Well, here we are again. I've left beloved Longyearbyen for Drammen, a city outside of Oslo in southern Norway. It's ridiculously warm and green here.

First - in keeping with tradition, a tribute to some of the fantastic people I left in Longyearbyen, taken from my going-away dinner...

I miss you already! Especially Greeny, who now lives with Daniel - look how much it grew!

But moving on. Some last looks at Longyearbyen - the day before I left it was very foggy, and bizarrely it reminded me very much of California. Probably because it brought out the sea smell, which smells nearly exactly like the fog near my hometown.

About, eh, three weeks ago, the day before I left for Tromso for my foot surgery, I took my last photo trip around Svalbard. I decided my foot was broken anyhow and headed for surgery, so I walked into town with Pierre and then scootered across the the fjord one last time.

Heading out:

Precipices, which will probably start some wicked avalanches soon:

One of those very avalanches:

One of the old coal mines, with the surrounding red stones revealing the fire damage that occured a number of years ago. Coal mine fires burn extremely hot:

Looking towards town:

Coal transport system, which I am consistantly amazed has not be pushed over by avalanches:

West side of town:

If I remember correctly, this was one of the first warmer-but-not-quite-melting days - enough so that people were eating outside the restaurant:

From the back edge of town, looking up the valley:

Various buildings in town:

That last one is the hospital, with a coal-miner sculpture in front.

Mountains across the fjord:

UNIS park:

Do you remember this shot from January?

Here's the April version:

The funny fortress looking building below the coal plant is the Syssleman's office.

So, scootering across the fjord next. Reindeers!

Old abandoned boat:

And more old coal mining equipement:

A parent pulls their kids behind a snowmobile to their cabin:

And there it is: Longyearbyen. There's no doubt I'll be back someday.

Moving to Drammen with everything I own while on crutches was epic, to say the least. Luckily I had people help me to the airport (eternal thanks to Katrine and Daniel) and then ran into an old friend from the Norwegian coast guard on the plane, who helped me get through Tromso. On the flight to Oslo I met a random person - a Norwegian TV host, apparently - who helped me get to the baggage claim. I will say this for Norway - its a lot easier to be comfortable letting strangers carry your bags than most other places.

Yesterday was May 17th, a big day in Norway - from what I understand, their Independence Day. I have photos from that, so I'll bring those out and talk about the day on my next post. Today I took the train to Oslo and went to the Russian consulate and stood in line for three hours to apply for my visa. I guess more people go to Russia than I thought. They - thank god - stayed open a half an hour longer than they were supposed to because their were so many people, and I was the second to last person to get through. The speed of visa processing is directly related to how much money you give them, so mine should be ready next week...

Awesome moment of the day: I managed to be one of the few people at the consulate who actually had my entire aplication in order without any mistakes. While the Russian guy was going over my application, he stopped at the "Name, address, etc of where you'll be staying in Russia". I don't know if him shaking his head and laughing is a good sign. They probably don't get a lot of applications for remote Siberian outposts.

Ah, and finally the foot update. In a cast, on crutches, same old thing. Hurts in creative ways, swells up a lot. Makes me a lot of old-lady friends when I walk down the street.

Alright then!