Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hella Norway

Went to Hella today.
I would have gone based solely on the name of the hamlet (big up Bay Area and Zach Hill!) but it was my Dutch housemate Maiten who proposed the day trip out there.

"There are supposed to be a lot of cool old Norwegian houses and stuff."

It was, in fact, breathtaking. And I have the pictures and video to prove it. Later...

But first, Hella is not a town, village, hamlet, or even a truck stop. It's a cove. There happen to be ten old houses adjacent to it. Nothing spectacular about the houses whatsoever, but they become camping lodges over the summer. In the middle of winter though? Nothing. Everything's locked shut, done. Nothing. At. All.

Again, the view was breathtaking. We spent a solid hour shooting the vanishing point of the Arctic Circle and ice formations in the tundra. We watched seals wade in the water. We listened to birds making unusual sounds.

But an hour of this was really all we could handle in our daywear without food, shelter, or bathroom. Had we known where exactly we were headed, we would have been better prepared. But Hella is not the heaven it was advertised as in the brochures.

So Maiten and I headed back toward the bus stop and figured that because the bus runs every hour out of Tromso in the morning, it must return every hour from Hella. Aaaaand no. The bus runs every (wait for it) 2 and a half hours from Hella back into Tromso. We were stranded in freezing tundra with an hour and a half to kill.

I can safely say I have never been that cold before. I don't think Maiten had, either.
She started to go insane. She screamed "bus!!!" several times and looked like she might cry or start hitting me. I wandered away to take pictures so I was occupied with something else, but my fingers were so frozen I couldn't feel the shutter release. Maiten followed me at a distance and muttered, "why is there no bus" over and over. We were freezing. I started to worry about frost bite. (And as a matter of fact my toes still hurt several hours later.)

We started throwing our thumbs up at every passing car. Even the municipal truck. One old man waved at us. I started to worry hitchhiking didn't exist here.

After about an hour of this, our lips blue, our toes black, our souls crushed, a station-wagon pulled over.

Santa's handsome younger brother leaned across his passenger seat and asked us something in Norwegian. Presumably, "where are you guys headed?" Maiten asked if he was headed to Tromso and he grimaced. Then he said, "Ja ja. OK" and waved us in.

Once in the car Maiten started to explain that the bus we were waiting for was running slower than we'd thought, but Santa's handsome younger brother looked like a reindeer caught in headlights and said,
"I non't (sic) speak Engliss. Just a leetuh."

Maiten and I looked at each other. I whispered that we could probably ask him to drop us off at the first municipal bus stop we saw. Santa's bro asked if we were students. I said no. He asked, "how long you in Tromso?" and I did the dumbest thing I could have possibly done:

I tried to answer him in Norse-Swedish.

See, I studied Swedish for a year at grad school, but that's like saying you know how to play Metallica's "One" on acoustic guitar. It serves no purpose to anyone. Still.

Santa's bro: How long you in Tromso?
Anne: (Four weeks.)
Santa's bro: (Oh, you speak Norse?)
Anne: (I studied some Swedish in college.)
Santa's bro: (And you come from the USA?)
Anne: (Yes, I'm from New York.)
Santa's bro: (Do you like it here?)
Anne: (Yes, I like it here.)

OK. I'm the worst beginning language text book's wettest dream. Every first chapter of conversational foreign language puts you in the middle of nowhere with no recourse but to speak the local language. That was now happening to me, but only because I put myself there. So far, so good. Hooray for ice-breakers!! This stranger now knows how long I'm here and where I'm from. The next logical thing I can think to say is:

What is your name?

He smiled and said something like, "To-rhee-ar." I smiled and said, "Hi Toriar. My name is Anne. Her name is Maiten." I start to feel good. Feel OK about this Swedish conversation with the Norwegian. Figured I'd roll with it and asked the next question:

Do you live in Tromso?

This time he looked at me via the rear-view mirror like I'd just said:

Do you have an anus?

I repeated myself in English. Quickly.

Anyway, we got into Tromso island and I said something like, "you can just drop us off here. We can take the bus." But I'm sure Toriar heard:

I can stop cars with bus stops.

One very valuable sentence though, that every carpetbagging gnome ought to know is tusen takk (Norwegian), or tak så mycket (Swedish).

Thank you very much, Toria.

Toria shook my hand with his gigantic paw (he had some serious contractor hands), and gave me a sympathetic hug. Shit folks, older men here seriously look like Santa Claus, but like, if they were all handsome skiiers. I just gave him a dumb smile. He must have thought I was autistic. I need to learn more Norwegian.

Next time, I'm going straight to Sameland. [This site has already confused several people so I should spell it out: It's a farcical amusement park website. The whole thing is a joke. (One which fells the Saamis and Japanese tourists in one swift move.) And if you can navigate yourself to the "write your own joik" page, I promise it's almost as good as being high on moose knuckles...]

Hella Norway Dec. 8 2009 from Ill Iterate on Vimeo.


Aaron said...

Beautiful. Reminds me of my home in Montana at a perpetual 5pm in winter. Hey Anne, what's the music? singer's name?

ill iterate said...

Aaron: it's the group Little Dragon, "Feathers." Swedish band fronted by a Japano-Swedish woman.

Aaron said...