Archive for May 2010
I had an amazing day on Saturday. Slept really well in my fancy three bedroom rorbu, got up and had coffee at the dock and said farewell to the Englishmen. Checked out and walked across the little square where a woman was renting out rooms in her attic (for three times less than the rorbu) and left my backpack there. Then I took the time to explore the area.
I went on a fjord cruise in the morning. There are really nice beaches on the other side of the mountain that I wanted to go to but people said I wouldn’t have a chance to get back because there were no more boats passing by, which ruled that option out.
Back in Reine it was quite cloudy but I didn’t want to miss out on the postcard panorama from Reinebringen so I started hiking the 670 meter mountain, wondering half way what I had gotten myself into. Rocks, steep and narrow passages, mud and water. But about an hour later the sky cleared up and I reached the sunlit summit and just like I imagine it must feel like to give birth (alright, maybe I’m being a little dramatic all the struggle was forgotten and the satisfaction was worth every step.
It was breathtaking!!
I wish I could upload the videos but my Internet is too slow, even pictures take ages and they don’t nearly capture the mesmerizing moment. I’ll upload one picture now and hope I’ll have better connection soon to share some more.
A couple from Colorado came up and we sat for a long time watching the majestic scenery together, all agreeing it was the wildest thing we’ve seen.
How precious this spot was;
quiet, real, no signs, no tourists except us, just nature at its best.
It was 10 p.m when we got back into Reine, and we had heard there was a band playing at the local pub in Sorvågen, so we thought we’d check that out. We started walking along the road hoping some cars would pass by and give us a ride but apparently people were either already there or had nestled into their houses, because for the full hour we walked only two cars came by and they were full. Although it was midnight the sky was bright and we were having fun, so we didn’t mind walking really.
When we got to the place there turned out to be an entrance fee of 100 NOK, the cover band was terrible and there were only drunken middle age women on the dance floor so we quickly came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth it (plus we wouldn’t have enough money for beer anyway) so we just sneaked into the bathroom, drank as much water as possible and started our hitch hike back. This time we were more lucky and got picked up half way.
I slept like a baby in my room with the view of the mountain backdrop.
It is midnight in Reine and I’m sitting in the kitchen of my wooden fishermens hut, the rorbu as it is called in Norwegian. It looks like midday because of the light outside but the blue and pink clouds behind the mountains give away the early hour.
This is the most beautiful spot I have seen in my life!
My body is weary from walking and my eyes are sore from the sun and the breathtaking scenery.
But I can’t sleep. I am too excited to be here, to be alive!
Let me tell you more about my trip to paradise. From the night train I came into Narvik around noon on Thursday. Some guys gave me a lift to the bus station where I hung around for a few hours before catching the coach to the Lofoten islands. At this point, I still hadn’t decided where I would get off, but a man in the bus said he was staying at a dried cod fish museum and hostel down in Å, the furthest south you can get in the archipelago. I said, “that’s where I’m going” and the bus driver said “akkurat, that’s 690 NOK” (about twice as much as I had expected – but then again, Norway is the fifth most expensive country in the world)
The bus ride lasted for 7 hours but went by in a flash – literally. I was taking pictures through the whole scenic route. Had someone told me it would only get more and more pretty the further down you go, I would have saved some camera battery. It ran out just as we were rolling into Reine, known as one of the most beautiful villages in the world.
But there have been plenty of photo opportunities today. I left Å which was a cute little spot – despite the smell of dried cod – and travelled back to Reine to check into my rorbu. While chatting to the staff (many of them being Swedish) one of the girls mentioned that the diving and seal safari guy across the road was just getting for a three hours rib boat tour along the coast. I walked over and signed up. (Another 750 NOK + 1000 NOK for the rorbu – money has little wings in this country)
It was great to breathe the fresh air and watch the towering mountains on one side and the open Arctic Sea on the other. We caught a glimpse of a few eagles and seals but were told that killer whales had been spotted in the same bay, only a day before.
When I got back in the late afternoon I took a stroll around the cabins. Two Englishmen were sitting down at the pier drinking beer and I joined them. A few hours later, sun still shining bright, we were listening to Bob Dylan from an iPhone, talking about life and eating pizza and fries – that for some odd reason tasted like dried cod fish…
I guess not even paradise is perfect!
This is how happy I am, arriving in Å at midnight yesterday,
at the southern peninsula of Lofoten,
after 28 hrs of travelling.
On the night train to Narvik, Norway.
In my sleeping car; Kerstin, Kerstin and Alice.
Wonderful, real Northern ladies with great life stories to tell. They are all excited for my summer in Lofoten and have given their approval of Norwegian men – because they are so charming.
Green fields, red wooden houses and crystal clear water flashing by my window whilst the car softly rocks us forward.
I had a delicious lunch with my extra gran Ursula before going to the train station. For dessert we had home made ice cream with strawberries and she took a picture of me in my new (but already a favourite) Fjällräven Kajka backpack.
I packed all morning but had to leave half of the stuff I had planned to bring. After much contemplation I decided the SLR camera had to go, as well as the rubber boots. I left a few other things that I’m hoping the boys will be kind enough to drop off at my mom’s place, where my old room serves as storage.
I was a sad to leave Micke and Tomas and the flat with the view but I got a real pretty last sunrise, a cute hand written card and a compass.
My last week in Stockholm has been so beautiful I can only smile and leave with the comfort that distance and time won’t separate me from these people.
I left work on Monday. John, the Scotsman, put on his best jacket and read me a poem: Farewell to Helen. I got tears in my eyes. He gave me a hug and told me I had made a great difference to him during this time we’ve worked together. I could only agree. The others mostly joked about when I’d be back.
The Flight of the Conchords show on Monday was hilarious!! It was extra special because I got to share it with Maria, whom I watched the entire series with in Cape Town. And just a week after me, she is coming to Lofoten to work.
Ain’t life funny?
You never know which places it takes you, what people it brings on your path but one thing is for sure;
With a compass pointing towards happiness you can never really be lost.
Life is like riding a bicycle.
To keep your balance you must keep moving.
Sunday morning. Spring rain is pouring over the lush tree tops of Stockholm.
My window is wide open, like my heart.
Lying on my bed I have a perfect view of the sky, the heavy clouds drifting slowly. One of many things I will miss when I leave this place.
I am munching on the thin forest fruit chocolate I got from Sophie yesterday. I got chocolate from Jessica and a funny wedding chocolate box from Maria too. We laughed about our crown princess’ wedding hype and I said that if I ever got an outhouse loo I would put the cover up in a frame. Sandra, Ida and Emma game me a real cute kit of outdoor magazines and trail mix nuts.
I had a little farewell party yesterday with home-made meze’s; spicy meatballs, hummus, grilled pepper and walnut spread, falafel, tabbouleh, garlic and mint yoghurt, grilled halloumi cheese, olives, wine leaves dolmades and pita bread.
It was wonderful to have them gathered. Friends from different times of my life. From my home town. From college. From Cape Town. From the many different years in Stockholm.
I felt like a little cheeky spider smiling in a web of all the loved ones I have around me.
People were chatting. Drinking. Watching Champions League or the amazing view. Everyone was having a good time. I couldn’t be more content.
To let the smiles in.
mot min nacke, du viskar
på mitt modersmål,
jag känner mig rotlös
och rastlös, och säger
att antagligen är det den tiden
på året, då vi förskönar allt
att finns det en själ
som ger skälen mening
så är det här, nu
I studied tourism and service management, a definition hard to clarify. The tourism industry IS the largest industry of the world (according to the World Bank) and the most important source of income for many countries, primarily underdeveloped ones. Within that industry (don’t you just hate that world) there are innumerable people in innumerable positions. But somehow, when you say you work with tourism most people instantly perceive the idea of a guide or a travel agent.
I’ve tried both and it’s not my thing.
When I applied for my school in Båstad I had just been out backpacking in Australia and I thought to myself: I love traveling. I could work and make a living out of this! The truth is, it’s not that easy. Arranging, operating, marketing and selling travels is a completely different thing than experiencing them yourself. Service, is even more tricky. Many people think service is all about smiling and being polite, but the same attitude that work so well in one situation can have the opposite effect if say, you’re in Thailand and you’re complaining to the front desk for the fifth time that you’re air con isn’t working and the personnel greets you with a smile saying; “yes, sir, we fix”.
Service is a complex art.
It is about understanding someone else’s needs (the need being the gap between the actual scenario and the dream scenario), not from your own reference point, but putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (having no idea where they’ve been and how far they’ve gone to get there ) and committing, not to your assumption of the promise, but of THEIR expectations on you (based on many previous experiences and factors) Furthermore, if you want to make an impression (so that they will actually experience “good service”), you need to exceed those expectations, and that, after a fifteen hours shift of complaints, confusion and stress, when you really just want to “shut off” your channel.
Being perceptive is the key to providing good service. In fact, if you look up the word “perceptive” in a thesaurus you get a description of what we often refer to as “service minded”:
Alert, aware, insightful, keen, knowing, observant, rational, responsive and wise.
Perception is my thing.
You see, I may not be the quickest co-worker in a group of staff. But I ALWAYS put people first.
I may not know my role yet within this massive machinery of people and services but I know, whatever I do, I am learning AND teaching. I am giving AND receiving. And yes, I smile too.