In the Backstreets of Alta

We were driving through the backstreets of Alta to get to some good berry picking when I shouted 'Stop the car!' I ran out with the camera, the cows were a little puzzled and my family sat there wondering what the hec I was taking a picture of.  I jumped back in the car and showed my shot on the camera screen to Moose. 'You took a picture of a gate?', he said with one raised eye-brow. 'Well, yeah', I said, not understanding why it was not obvious to him, 'this is a lovely gate, clean design, easy to make, can swivel or come off the post - perfect for our farm'. Moose laughed and then suddenly thought of all the work he might be doing in the near future. I think I might be a farmer.

Equality over Safety

Rape crimes have seen a dramatic increase in Oslo in the last months. Many of the rapes have happened to women walking home alone late at night, something that has caused concern in the general public. One student, herself a victim af an attempted rape, sent a proposal to the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communication to make the way home safer for women at night. In the proposal, she stated that it is often a matter of money that makes women opt to walk home through dark streets rather than take a taxi. She suggested that taxi companies should offer a low-price "girl taxi" for young women at night. The proposal, however, was dismissed by the Ministry on the grounds that providing more safety for women through concession fares would violate the Norwegian Gender Equality Act. In a reply to the proposal, the Ministry stated that they are conerned with "public transportation being a safe means of travel", however they "can not allow taxi companies to have special rates for specific clients, and as such not have special rates for female passengers, as this would mean a violation of the Equality Act."   Via Aftenbladet.no

Living Beach

Lathari beach is the only beach in Alta (the only one big enough to have a name).  The water is very shallow so when the tide rolls out you can walk out into the middle of the fjord.  Many living things are left behind. A sandskjell, or blunt gaper in English, is an edible clam.  They attach themselves to rocks in the fjord so they wont go out with the tide. Prawns are common in the fjord.  They are called reke in Norwegian.  This little fella was stuck in a puddle.  Because the fjord is shallow the tide moves quickly and many creatures, including large fish get stuck in the mud. Clear jellyfish are the only ones we have seen in the Alta fjord.  However, not all jellyfish in Norway are so nice.  In Harstad, red jellyfish can swamp the area and can give a serious sting with their tentacles.  Norwegians don't eat jellyfish. The blåskjell, or blue mussel in English, are common in the Alta fjord and are considered a delicacy.  A lot of the year these mussels can be poisonous.  Norwegians are taught only to pick and eat them in the months with an 'r' - from September to April - as they are safest (and at their tastiest) to eat during this time.

Lemming Invasion

The only thing I knew about lemmings before coming to Norway was from the video game - they follow each other and will look for any opportunity to commit suicide. At the beginning of summer I started to see these huge mice running everywhere in the fields. They were a little freaky as they screeched and fought each other aggressively. I tried to describe them to Moose and he had no idea what I was talking about - huh, squished mice that screech? It wasn't until we saw the first newspaper article about a pre-warning to a lemming invasion that the penny dropped. I did get a little excited about all the coming lemmings until Moose read further about the damage they where doing to strawberry crops across the city. They have eaten all the roots of our strawberries so therefore we have none this year. Norwegian lemmings (Lemmus lemmus) are real funny creatures. They are very similar to a hamster. Lemmings are quite slow as they have little legs so their bodies are flat to the ground and have to cover more surface area when running. They are nowhere near on the brink of extinction but Norway has a responsibility to the lemming as a large portion of the total population is in Norway. Every now and then Norway gets a lemming infestation and out comes all the myths and tales of the lemming. Growing up I learnt (through the video game) that lemmings follow each other, even off a cliff and commit mass suicide. It is not true, of course, but this myth is also in Norway. Norwegians also believe lemmings spread disease, being a rodent (but Norwegian scientists profusely rebut this).  However, the most fantastical myth is that lemmings explode - some people say it is their bodies that explode and others say it is the lemming heads that just pop off. It is true that lemmings get frightened very easily and can die.  They get so stressed their little hearts beat so hard that they just give out (I learnt this the hard way - read below). But exploding bodies and heads?  I have already had three Norwegians try to convince me of this. However, they themselves have never seen it happen, they just find lemmings in their backyard with no heads. (No one even considers that it could have been the cat leaving its treasure to be admired by the humans.) Though, I have seen many lemmings just dead, like the one above when we went blueberry picking - he must have eaten too many blue berries. But lemmings are certainly little feisty creatures. When we were cloudberry picking we continually heard fights, screeches and squeals all around us in the swamp. One chap from Nordland, Øyvind Gundersen, caught on camera a lemming charging his sled dog. It bit the dog on the nose twice and the dog flipped it up into the air, caught it in its mouth and gobbled it down: [Read more...]

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