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Lofoten in All Its Glory My Summer Vacation in the North of Norway

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’s humor or specific cultural brain wiring (for example: how different cultures understand time). But there is one thing that reassures me in all of this, a ray of hope that cuts through the vague cloudiness which always has me scratching my head asking “Is he/she joking…?” — and that is when a Norwegian talks about the Lofoten Islands.

Because they don’t understate anything about it. Any Norwegian will tell you how magical Lofoten is — how emotional it is to stand next to giant mountains that dive straight into the sea, or how disoriented one b... [more]

By Adrian
Beirut Art in Oslo

-A Norwegian’s art exhibit from her time in Beirut; A Lebanese artist & Kurdish artist.

Back in Beirut I met an artist friend of Matias’ from Norway who has been visiting Lebanon since 2008: Mari Meen Halsøy. At the time I didn’t know what kind of art she did, and I still wouldn’t know until I moved here. But first I found out how awesome she is!

I learned a lesson carrying a lot of the Lebanese bounty I had just acquired selling my stuff with me OUT of Lebanon. Don’t do it. No exchanges were willing to take Lebanese liras. Afghani and Syrian ones are fine though. Mari, who will be visiting Lebanon in April or May offered to help us out and exchange our cash at a super hip party in Oslo. It was a win win.

She’s the reason I could buy our groceries for the next week, but she’s also one of the very few people I actually know here. So on a day when I was sitting around the apartment she invited me to her current ... [more]

By Adrian
Art Basel for Poor Locals: Lots of Street Art & Free Cheese

A good friend once told me “Adrian, don’t try to be an artist, you’re a better muse.” And while I took it as a backhanded compliment, she’s right in that I’m not an artist, I hardly even get art most of the time. So going to Art Basel with hardly any cash with my little sister afforded me to check out all the not-so-complicated stuff like wall murals and cheese. Here’s some fun art we saw:

Lily loved the huge Buddha mural but I was skeptical of the stranger holding her iPhone 5. He turned out to be OK.

Speaking of muses, look at this one! All eyes on her.

We went to a free cheese exhibit where an artist named Krai was ... [more]

By Adrian
Ohh, The Places you´ll Probably Never Go: Where Everything You Buy Comes From - Factory Hopping in China!

– How I forced the Norwegian Army to know where their uniforms are being made.

How I got there: Some years ago I got a phone call from Norwatch, an NGO investigating Norwegian investments abroad as well as their ethical responsibility towards the workers. Their mission was to go to China to research the factories where the Norwegian Army’s uniforms are made and they needed a photographer. Two weeks later I was on the infamous bullet train riding 400 km an hour into Shanghai alongside Erik who leads these investigations.

Our Misson: Our job was going to be to check up on the factories where they produced Norwegian Army uniforms and investigate the working conditions. Erik, the lead journalist on the investigation, had been working on this project for a while from Norway but had come to many dead ends. That’s why he decided he had to go to China and che... [more]

By @mrmatias
Syria in Better Times

A nostalgic homage to one of our favorite towns in the whole world

If you’re a foreigner who’s been living in Lebanon the chances are you have ventured to Syria at some point before the political situation descended into utter tragedy. For myself, and many people I know in Lebanon, Syria is not some far-flung wild country that is the center of everything wrong with humanity, no matter what people in Beirut try to tell us (history can be complicated). Instead it is a place many of us have built a lasting affection for as a beautiful, historic country with incredibly warm people. Canadian journalist Nahlah Ayed wrote in her recent book that Syria was viewed by many in the Arab world as the embodiment of hospitality and simplicity. While that may be quite generalizing (and not the case in Lebanon), I would have to agree that there is some truth in it.

During my time in Syria I paid a few visits to the village of Al-Bara, in Idlib province, about an hour outside of Aleppo. Al-Bara is home to one of the most intact of the “d... [more]

By Adrian, The Man
I Was the Only Girl in a Boy Gang And I Wondered "Where All My Girls At?"

Travel Diaries V — Many of them are in the Middle East

Being the only girl on the trip is definitely a ‘thing’ and it’s not because I point it out all the time, it seems to be in line with the way society here rolls. Our third day in Kathmandu we joined Hira and his friends to celebrate a local festival in their village and out of 25+ guys at most times, I was the only female.

On our way to the festival, I wobblingly demounted the bike high from the ride, and walked into a small room packed with 15 guys chatting and smoking and preparing for the festival. They all shook my hand and acknowledged me like the other guys and I am pleased and impressed to get the same respect and acknowldgement as everyone else. That doesn’t always happen in Lebanon, fyi.

Hira tells us fights will most likely break out but not to worry, because we’re foreigner... [more]

By Adrian
Oh, The Places You'll Probably Never go: Western Sahara

– The last Colony in Africa.

– Where all young people have scars from the police.

While the rest of the Arab world has been speaking out against unjust dictators the past few years, the Occupied Saharawi people of Western Sahara continue to suffer in silence due to the iron fist of the Moroccan government.

But no matter how tenaciously the authorities portray Morocco as an ideal vacation spot, just south of the Bedouin towns and tourist beaches you will find the troubled occupied territories of Western Sahara. The highly underreported conflict is still ongoing and the UN released a special report about the human rights abuses done by the Moroccan government towards the indigenous people. I went there during Christmas some years ago, eager to figure out more about the occupation.

History: Morocco annexed most of Western Sahara in 1975, when Spanish occupiers retreated during Franco’s last years. ... [more]

By @mrmatias
Oh, The Places You'll Probably Never go: South Georgia

I never thought I would end up in Antarctica protecting myself from Fur Seals and spotting Kayaks from a sailboat in one of the harshest climates in the world. However, I was the camera man of a Kayak expedition there, and while some became the first kayakers to circumnavigate the island unsupported, I became one of the leading Kayakspotters of the south Atlantic (someone who spots kayakers on the horizon).

How I got there: I was really broke after I’d lived in Lebanon for 10 months when I received an email from an old friend who told me he was supposed to go to South Georgia to film an expedition, but had to cancel since he got sick. Finding a replacement for a 6-week expedition is extremely difficult but since he knew I was a sailor on previous trips and always up for an unplanned adventure, (LINK) he asked me if I could replace him. I was still conf... [more]

By @mrmatias
Oh, Places You'll Probably Never Go: South of Bangladesh

The Rohingya people are native to Myanmar but of a different ethnic group and therefore considered illegal immigrants. According to the UN they are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Many of them have to flee to neighboring Bangladesh where they live in Ghettos and Refugee Camps. I have always been very interested in refugees, and when I had to renew my visa when I lived in Nepal, I decided to check out the South of Bangladesh and a refugee situation I knew nothing about.

How I got there: I took a plane from Kathmandu to Dokha, and then I went by bus to Chittargong, which is the second biggest city in Bangladesh and is famous for its Shipwreckyard. My preferences for a holiday might seem a bit weird in retrospect, but I have always dreamed of going to the shipwreck yard. It’s a huge beach where they take apart the biggest ships in the world, by hand.... [more]
By @mrmatias
Oh, The Places You'll Probably Never go: St. Helena

St. Helena is one of the most remote places on earth, located basically in the middle of nowhere, west of Angola in the South Atlantic. With no airport it is the perfect hide out if you need to be cut of from the world for a bit. However, it is still hard to get there.

How I got there:

I ended up on St. Helena accidentally. Some years ago I had hitchhiked to South Africa from the North of Norway (I’ll write more about that trip another time.) When I finished the journey I just hung out in Cape Town for a while. That’s where I met Mr. Dan, at an afterparty. He told me he was travelling on a sailboat due to cross the Atlantic as soon as they found an extra crew and since I was so tired of the road, I thought I’d join them and become a sailor. I wouldn’t have to see road for weeks!

The next day I didn’t even remember Dan’s nam... [more]

By @mrmatias
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