Simply said, people don’t love Norway because it’s cold most of the year and sparsely populated. They love it because of its vast wealth, successful social system, and stunning natural beauty. While I had yet to witness the latter three since I moved here, last weekend I roadtripped with Fatstone.TV to cover the X2 Extreme Sports Festival in Volda and saw firsthand why everyone gets so googly about the topography.
Habitats breed particular patterns of behavior; a certain culture created through adaptation. I grew up in Florida with flip flops and lazy beach days, sweating my ass off in the sand and going for a dip in the ocean. Norway has no capacity for that, but the activities I always recognized as Beach Culture might be more universal than I presumed. No matter the climate, we all live under the same sun.
I was in new territory. An 8-hour car ride away from Oslo, Volda is a small town nestled between a fjord and mountains on the west coast of Norway. It’s known as an academic stronghold and townies pride themselves on the communion between scholarly success and abundant nature to explore.
And explore it we did. The festival’s biggest day revolved around ski sports, so for the first time in my life I rode a ski lift that creeped ever so slowly higher and higher until we finally reached the top. I hopped off the lift with the fear of death motivating me and scuttled to safety in the arms of two First Aid workers who, miraculously, were waiting to drive us on snowmobiles to the site. Whether the organizer of X2 picked up on our lacking Norwegian athletic prowess or someone bribed him, I don’t know, but since we’re not in Lebanon anymore I think it was the former. Maybe my marshmallow man coats gave us away.
We zoomed for miles up and down blindingly white hills and valleys and endless mountains passing tons of poor people stuck slipping and sliding and skiing and trudging through the snow to get to the exact same place we were headed. I was convinced they resented our VIP treatment so I made sure my ‘Presse’ pass was visible, thereby proving we were artistic talent not meant to endure such harsh labor.
Finally we arrived high off the ride, and looked around the snowy monstrosity sparkling under the full blazing sun to see floods of smiling Norwegians arriving with their sticks and their skis doot-dooting past us and making spaces for themselves in the snow. There wasn’t a slight indication of fatigue on any of one person, let alone the completely swollen pregnant woman trudging along.
Who are these people, I thought. I hoped I could absorb some of their physical aptitude and good nature simply by osmosis.
Across from us loomed a giant mountain two times bigger than the one we stood atop where the pros prepared to drop down and compete in their free-style sport. They had to climb the face of the mountain to get to the starting point first.
Things warmed up. I threw off my third coat and stuck my face in the sun telling everyone to leave me alone for at least ten minutes while I absorbed my much needed vitamin D and restored the tan I’d been mourning since I moved here. Rashly, I gave my sunglasses to Jorgen because I didn’t want to end up with those raccoon tan lines I’ve seen sailors in Florida get. I thought I was dodging a bullet.
Before that I observed Norwegians all around getting to work. Unpacking their bags and assembling mini shovels, they dug out snow benches for themselves. Not rudimentary caveman holes but proper theater seating. And they crafted ice igloos in the ground to store beer and chocolate and hot dogs.
“Ice people” I whispered in awe, standing stupidly as if this were the spectator sport I was there for.
Then they started disrobing. I watched, frozen, layered like a newborn, bearing witness to those classic sexy snowbunny illusions of hot blonde guys and girls on skis and no shirts. A Norwegian tourism fantasy of frosty-haired, slightly tanned, super high pitched ice people with ski caps on. When they squeezed out sunscreen I had an ‘aha!’ moment — I recognized something! Their snow is my sand and we all like to protect our skin from the sun…
While I could still see I prodded Jorgo, “Hey, why don’t people wear scarves like me in the mountains?”
“Hate to break it to you but your scarf is a joke. It’s knitted out of cotton — more of a novelty item than anything that would keep you warm. And today’s temperature doesn’t come close to scarf weather. But if anyone were wearing a scarf it’d be made of wool, obviously.”
Obviously. When they were wearing clothes everyone had extremely professional looking gear on. Wool underwear and goretex and ski pants and goggles and the whole nine yards. I didn’t even have gloves.
I noticed the competition began when the commentator’s droning voice went from unintelligible Norwegian chatter to universal sports commentator chatter. The crowd was transfixed on tiny ant-like athletes across the mountain. Sometimes they did flips and the spectators roared. I lost track of who was doing what because I started to hallucinate while losing my vision. I shouldn’t have given my sunglasses away to Jorgo! Too much white, I was going blind. My eyes!
But through it all, I clung to the notion that it was like a day at the beach. Since I had to squint so hard, I pretended the snow castles were sand castles and those moments of sun were helping me rebuild a pre-summer tan. All I had to do was just get comfortable peeing behind a small snow bank with other steaming pee-holes rather than freely in the ocean. But hey, that’s what next time’s for.
When it’s not snowy, it’s still mountainous! Read Layal’s hilarious tale of Hiking in the Norwegian Mountains — Inner Dialogue of a Non-Trekker.
Electric Youth, cherished in my heart for their dreamy electro sound and renowned for their song ‘A Real Hero’ on the Drive soundtrack, just released a video for ‘Runaway’ which is directed by Noel Paul and cast and shot in Lebanon.
Noel as you remember, was our [more]
“We’ve had to cut out a lot of shit to get here”-Adrian
Back when Layal and I started our own radio show we broadcast through a spotty Internet source at our favorite local beer joint in Beirut.
While hardly anyone in Lebanon had good enough Internet to stream the show, and those outside Lebanon couldn’t rely on the weak stream to listen either, we were lucky enough to have the space, equipment, and support to try our hands at somethin... [more]
Camping, off-festival events, environtmentalism, and the biggest acts in Lebanon
“It doesn’t get better than Wickerpark.” says Philippe Manasseh, lead singer of last year’s Canadian-Lebanese headliner Wake Island, and recent member of How Sad, also part of the 2014 lineup.
For the fourth year in a row, Junior Daou and his family open their large swath of land for a day of music, art, a... [more]
-But Berlin DJ predictably denied into Lebanon for Israeli stamp
You know what, I’m glad the Middle Eastern Gulf region is taking into account all kinds of sexy when it comes to deporting men.
Because the most recent deportee is a 55-year old German man, Rolf Buccholz, internationally known for holding the Guinness World Record in having the most body piercings.
Buchholz flew to Dubai to party it up at Circque le Soir, a club that pro... [more]
Norwegians are the masters of understatement. When something is gargantuan, they’ll say ‘It’s a bit big’ and when something’s breathtakingly beautiful, they’ll say ‘It’s nice.’ If a friend made a $10 million profit on a business deal, they’d claim he made ‘a bit of money.’
I still don’t understand whether it&... [more]
-I was the only dancer and they noticed