They call them seasons…

I come from a part of the world where the four seasons are sandwiched into one wholesome block with a few twists and turns… The tropical country has equal nights and days; and the sun comes up and goes down at constant times. This makes the various times of the day very predictable. We don’t need to (as a matter of choice and not fact) use watches because many times, we could easily tell the hour of the day by looking at the length and direction of our projected shadows. This has been wonderful for me and I guess it is greatly fun to behold…

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While Kenya manifests all the above features, Norway has the four-fold seasons. The seasons are distinct, each with its own classical traits. In my short stay here, I have experienced two of them and just beginning to witness the third one. The seasons make it colorful and enjoyable as individuals seem to always anticipate the transitions. Of cause, there are those times that it is desired that something else could take precedence but the outcome always indicates the significance of all the four.

The summer
This is the most looked-forward-to season in Norway. It was slowly coming to an end when I came to Norway in August. This season is a time when the sun is on for most of the day; up to and including 11pm at night in some places. Am notably informed that some places in the far North of Norway never have night (read as darkness) due to the presence of the midnight sun. The days are longest more than ever. In this season, lots of outdoor games (like football and volleyball) are engaged; most beaches are occupied; and some adventurous youths sleep in the woods. The dress code at this time of the year, as I have gathered, is quite brief so as to enjoy as much sun as possible. During this time, swimming in the sea and open water bodies is very common and most people are aptly happy and social. This time is when, as a way of fitting in, I got to participate in most of the activities like football and volleyball…

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Rowing the boat, anticipating football and playing volleyball

The fall
This season,also called autumn, comes around the mid of September. It is quite a transitory season as it doesn’t take very long. The season is called the fall because during this time, the trees start losing their leaves to the ground. The leaves first become yellow then they brown up. The transition in the colors of the leaves is really awesome to look at. Taking a look at the spectacle is not only refreshing but also very cosy. The end of the season is marked by bare trees; trees without any leaves.

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Expression of the scare

The winter
This is the most dreaded season of all the four. It usually commences from about mid October and is marked by some very low temperatures. According to the interactions I have had, they could go as low as -30 degrees. In addition to being very cold, the winter is also the darkest season. It is apparently worth mentioning that just as the North of Norway has the longest days in the summer, so does it have the longest nights during the winter. Am told that most people get seriously depressed during this time!! With snow on, there seems to be a notable glow, which lights the atmosphere for easy visibility. In the very breathe, activities like ice-skating and skiing are undertaken. There is more fun with more snow! Now, that I haven’t experienced this yet, it was very exhilarating for me to touch my first flake of snow during a recent adventurous trip… This came with some repercussions; as I ended up getting stuck in the snow. The snow got the better of me when it got to my shoes hence rendering me immobile for several minutes, with my feet going numb! I must say that I look forwad to experiencing more of this with a greater bias to the activities of the moment… I wouldn’t mind snow-balling at all.

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The glamor of the snow

The spring
As regards this season, more will be told when time goes by. This shall come into course around March next year. It is, however, worth mentioning that it is the season when most flowers start blooming again. The color and magic of trees and birds singing comes back again. And life springs forth again…

Through my eyes

Norway is a great country. It is in fact the fourth richest country in the world and second richest in Europe after Luxembourg (http://www.gfmag.com/component/content/article/119-economic-data/12538-the-richest-countries-in-the-world.html#axzz2icsbX0QK). I have now been here for about two months and there are things I have noted. This article will unveil some of these amazing observations about Norway and her people…

1. Closed people: The Norwegians are highly closed up; they are very personal and private with their lives. And they only open up after they have known you; which takes time. This is demonstrated in the way most people behave while on buses; they put on headphones (which could at times be very huge) just to shut others out. I remember this particular time while on the bus; and with my daring nature, I tried to say hi to the person who was seated next to me… What I received: a strong gaze and a face that could only be interpreted as saying “What on earth is wrong with this young man? Is he crazy!!” Everyone needs their space and one must be very deliberate in investing both emotionally and in time to win their trust.

2. People enjoy lots of camping: It is very common for Norwegian families to go out into the woods and stay there for a whole weekend. Most families here do have their own cabins in the forests, where they can always just go as a family to recollect themselves or to know each other more…

ImageOne interesting thing is that they are duly willing to take walks in their “swampy forests” for up to six hours, and they never easily tire… I joined on one of these hikes, and though it was tough going up, it was really refreshing chatting on the way, encouraging one another and helping each other to the end of the journey.

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3. The apartments system: One thing that still remains significant in this society is the apartments. In Norway, or at least in Trondheim, people live together (up to and including six) each with their bedrooms but they share common facilities like the kitchen and bathroom. What amazed me is that both men and women (or should I say, ladies and gentlemen) could coexist together… It is an interesting arrangement; that has essentially worked for long and is generally acceptable!

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4. The coffee habit: I have been privileged to visit four Norwegian homes in my short stint in Norway. While in these homes, I noted that there is an inherent consistent culture of always taking coffee after dinner (the evening meal). This is usually accompanied by some “home-baked cake”. I must reiterate here that they take their coffee (which is relatively very strong) without any sugar except a little milk at times! They apparently consume lots of coffee despite the fact that they don’t grow any…

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5. Meal times: In this lovely country, people eat as and when they are hungry. The meal times could slightly vary but the most definite one is having breakfast in the morning at around 8am; some fruit/coffee break at around 10am; some lunch at around 1pm; dinner at around 5pm, and supper at around 8pm. Here, it is not the names of the meals that matter but the times. And, importantly, I realized that bread is a very central part of each and every one of their meals except the dinner. Dinner is also the only warm meal here… Did I say that they can also eat from anywhere: when on the street, when seated in the bus, while walking, and even when in meetings. They usually carry packed lunch called “matpakke”, that usually comprises braed with other additives.

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6. The weather: While in Nairobi, Kenya, at some point I nearly thought that the weather pattern was quite unpredictable. I no longer hold the same view right now! Norway has the most unpredictable weather pattern that I have ever witnessed. It could actually be very sunny in the morning with a notable warmth of up to 15 degrees; and one could easily be fooled into not putting on warmly! Within a few minutes, the temperatures could have gone as low as 0 degrees yet the sun could still be on! There is a time I made this fatal mistake and I danced the regret music… The weather is extremely unstable and very irregular. As such, they keep truthfully stating that “There is never bad weather, only bad clothing”. So somebody has to keep dressing appropriately at all times. That may mean walking with a backpack at all times; with your warm clothes just in case….

7. The midnight sun: Amazing and colorful was my arrival in Norway. I witnessed the presence of the sun past 11pm in the night. This was so cool but also very confusing… How does someone know when to sleep and when to wake up!? Seeing this made me realize the need for the clock and to appreciate the seasons. Of course having the sun on all through means more “day” even while it is night and it is quite a beautiful scenery!

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8. The language: Norwegians love their language very much.They will, therefore, appreciate anyone who makes an effort to reach out to them but in their own loanguage. Thus, despite having learnt English in school for very many years, most of the young Norwegians still don’t have the confidence to sustain a conversation in English. This has come with my realizing that most of the Norwegians, both young and old, men and women alike, make very trivial yet pronouned grammatical mistakes. In Norwegian grammar, there is no plural for “er=is; and var=was”. Consequently, they tend to directly translate into English. It is quite amusing to hear a reputable person say something like “My friends DOESN’T like talking on the bus” or “My parents IS coming to visit me today” or “All my books WAS eaten”. But I guess this is simply what categorises our differences.

9. Shopping: In Norway, there is a lot of emphasis on conserving the environment. As such, every time someone goes shopping, they pay for the polythene bag they use in wrapping their goods. The Norwegians also always want to cut down on the labor cost. There is, thus, neither one employed to specifically pack a customer’s goods nor direct them around the stores. Every person goes the “self-service” way; to take their goods and pack them on their own. And one has to acrry their own polythene bag if they don’t want to pay for it…

10. The bus system: While in Kenya, the bus (mainly referred to as “matatu”) goes for people and can even beg you to board, it is the people who have to run after the bus in Norway. The Norwegian buses go as per the scheduled times. If you come late even by a minute, you’ll have to wait for the next bus (which could take up to 30 minutes). I actually witnessed a certain mother who had a child getting locked just outside the door on delaying for about 30 seconds; a mother with a baby!!!

Well, these are just some of my observations; I hope they add to your knowledge…

The Denmark experience

Getting to travel is always a great expedition. It comes with mixed feelings; the fear of heights and the anticipation for a totally new experience. People variedly tend to have expectations, most of which are never met. For me, the Denmark journey was more than fulfilling…

The welcoming statement was quite broad and indelible…

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The challenges:
Joyline (my colleague) and I had to travel two days earlier (on 15th October) to Copenhagen for the NOSA (Nordic Student Alliance) conference. This meant going to a new place on our own. This is not to say that we are afarid of new places, but the realization that we were to find our own way in a land where people speak through maps kept dawning with a thud… All along, we thought we could at least find someone at the airport or more details as to how we were to get to the venue. To our amazement, the coordinator was still held up at work by the time we arrived (at around 3pm). That only blew us to the daunting task of looking for ways of using up the three hours that we had at our disposal…

The language that was being used by most of the people we met remained to be Danish. I personlaly tried going to some of the shops; and surprisingly, the attandants kept speaking to me in Danish!! Of course, I explained my dogma, but it was quite tough since they are not very confident in English… And I can truly state that listening to a dialect that even “some Norwegians” consider quite difficult can be highly disheartening!

The highlights:
The visit to Copenhagen came with lots of discoveries. To start with, we boarded an amazing train for the first time. Sitting down comfortably was duly great and aptly comfortable. It gave me the fulfilment of apprecaiting technology. The train was so fast such that no sooner had we enjoyed our sitting than we arrived to our intended destination.

It wasn’t just the train that stood out throughout the stay. The Metro, an automated electric train, remained a great means of transport. Sitting in the Metro got me thinking of how much the technological advancements are easing the human locomotion and enhancing easier interactions.

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In the beauty of the Metro

It is amazing how Denmark and moreso, Copenhagen is greatly endowed with wonderful displays of architecture. Some of the buildings’ designs just blew me off…

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The colorful Copenhagen scenaries

The Mark drama:
Our traveling early to Copenhnagen was so that we could participate in the “Mark Drama”. This is a 90-minute perfomance of the Mark’s gospel with all the action and drama in it. It was amazing for me to be part of the whole procession. Taking part in the two feeding episodes, as a disciple, really made me realize how human the disciples were , continually forgeting the doings of the Lord; to see how compassionate Christ is to both the crowds and his disciples.

The Mark drama helped me to deepen a clear view of Christ: He was fully human and fully God. He was fully human, and thus, went through pain and had real human emotions. He was moved at the downplaying of the temple into a “den of thieves and robbers” and whipped the traders out. He struggled in the garden of Gethsemane and cried out loudly at the cross… He went through actual human sufferings; all for me! That breaks me yet makes me glad…

He was fully God; and thus, couldn’t be trapped by the various snares of the pharisees and scribes. He predicted His own death and it came to pass. He declared that “It is finished” and those words still linger on and on…. He silenced the storm; healed the sick; cast out demons, which were aware of him and wasn’t limited by death because he raised a number from the dead…

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Some scenes from the Mark drama rehearsals

This drama wasn’t just a performance for me but a moment to reckon my place with the Lord Jesus! His Word remains to be the fundamental foundation for my passion and content…

Meeting new people:
The Conference brought together students and staff from all the five Nordic countries: Norway (which I was part of), Denmark (the hosts), Iceland, Sweden and Finland.

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Some new friends

Meeting the people from all over was exhilarating and remained to be a wonderful experience. Hearing the various languages being spoken ensured diversity yet united by the common bond in Christ… One thing that was strikingly notable was the fact that every one of the five countries has a special type of chocolate for which it is acclaimed!!

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Familiar and friendly

The teachings:
The teachings at this confrence were profoundly significant in our lives, both as Christians and Christ’s agents in this perverse generation. “If we respond to what we have understood, we understand more and more,” said Andrew page, the Conference Bible expositor. He belabored the centrality of God’s Word in all that we do. This is essentially what should stir us up… Our reaching out should, therefore, be done with the understanding that the power is in Christ, and we are the vesssels.

I was dumbfounded to listen to Bodil Skjøtt’s exegesis of the whole Bible in one continuous story. She actually came through so clearly yet so simply by stating that the story still needs to be told to all; and that God is still speaking, so the question remains “Are we listening?” “The Gospel is a story that needs fresh telling and not a concept that needs fresh ideas,” she firmly asserted.

The worship:
There was an excellent worship team that led us through the various praise and prayer moments. I have to reiterate that I enjoyed their choice of the songs. The song titled “Lead me to the cross by Hillsongs” specifically touched me with this chorus:

Lead me to the cross
Where Your love poured out
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
Lead me, lead me to the cross

And my prayer was in the next song “The wonder of the cross by Vicky Beeching

May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time
Standing as a sinner lost,
Undone by mercy and left speechless,
Watching wide eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
The wonder of the cross.

Thank you Lord for the opportunity to explore you more…

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Another glance

Life is full of varied circumstances, some of which may be quite confusing. As massive as the waters in a lake are, so are the tumultous waves and realities of life. This being the case, everyone rowing on a boat, must keenly take another glance to ensure a safe ride…

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Rowing a boat isn’t the only reality in the life’s journey. Thus, it is imperative that everyone considers another glance at the glaring obvious facts so as to get what really lies underneath. “Looks can be deceptive” is a slogan that has been propelled amongst many discussion tables especially when it comes to making conclusions. This surmounts to great truths all of which must be assorted in the beauty of full facts.

A great example is when someone gets attached to a new culture, with new a environment, new people and different ways of doing things. If they are not careful, it may easily topple them over in the all-deep pit of mistakenness. Everything must be taken slowly and singly at a time. Rash choices must be averted and the need for a second gaze encouarged. Whenever there is room for refreshment of thought, it should be duly integrated.

In one of my cultural classes at Hald International Center, I vividly remember what the teacher said, “In a new culture, what you see is not always what is there”. There is, therefore, a great need to look again and again and again… This rules out the possibility of losing oneself and getting misled by prejudice in making deductions.

Consequently, always take another glance at the prevailing circumstances. This is because one’s lack of understanding doesn’t necessarily make what one sees bad. Instead, a greater level of appreciation is expected from the new entrant in order to ensure a state of balance and to avert extended controversies…