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  • Jamie Ramsay

Sees snart, Norway! And Never Pull the Emergency Brake on a Train

I’m looking at the 4565 photos I’ve just downloaded, re-living my two-week, dream trip to Norway. Shooting that massive amount of images means I’ll be editing for a few weeks, but wanted to put up a post with some shots to preview (keep scrolling!) this incredible country, the amazing people (and cats!) in it and the opportunity of a lifetime to explore fjords.

Last December, at the Women's Roller Derby World Cup in Dallas, Team Norway’s unbridled joy in competing made me an immediate fan. After some conversations with members of Trondheim’s Nidaros Roller Derby, I was generously offered the opportunity to teach at a coed roller derby bootcamp in Trondheim April 18 and 19. I leapt at the chance. The Nidaros All-Stars are an incredible, motivated team of women. I also had the great pleasure of bench coaching the All-Stars in a game against Copenhagen that weekend (victorious - 421-63 woot!). We all worked well together and we’ll be joining forces again when the team comes to Fort Lauderdale in June for an international tournament. NIDA NIDA ROS!!!!!

In the weeks to come, I hope to update this blog with the experiences that shaped this journey, along with some travel and food guides. Beyond the jaw-dropping scenery, Norway’s social consciousness, the environmentalism, the progressive thinking, the emphasis placed on family and holistic well-being, the outdoorsyness, the smart sense of design, the love of good coffee and brød med pålegg* (stuff on bread), all really clicked with me…in a profound way. I love Chicago. It’s always been home and, until now, completely where my heart is. But a piece of my heart most definitely also beats in Norway now.

A quick story...

The day before I left, I was 2844 feet above sea level, at the remote and snowy Myrdal train station, headed back to Oslo after turning the lower half of the country by rail. As we pulled away from the station, I went into a state of panic. Looking out the window, I saw my bag, sitting lonely on the platform. It was mostly just snacks for the three hour ride, but also had medication, a book of containing all of my derby lesson plans, and some sentimental momentos from this trip. Stomach drop. The emergency brake may have been pulled in my hysteria. :O Unbeknownst to me, people NEVER do that in Norway.

I ran up and down the now-halted train and finally found a conductor. No going back. We were just minutes outside the station, but I was told there was nothing that could be done. She was upset at first, because Norwegians hate to be late…and no one ever pulls the emergency brake in Norway. But she came to understand, after I explained the contents of that bag. This awesome conductor graciously, incredibly, kindly, called the station and arranged for someone to find my bag and for it to be transported on the next train that was headed to Oslo.

At 5:30 a.m. the next day, bearing a bag of “waffles of gratitude,” I met the overnight train conductor at Oslo Station. From his window in the center of the train, he smiled and held up my bag in one hand, as the train rolled in. It was totally in tact, everything there. It was the greatest relief.

The part that is striking is that the bag sat on the platform and not a soul touched it. In Chicago, hell, probably anywhere else, it would have been grabbed up in seconds. Anyone boarding could have snatched it up inconspicuously. Not trying to be a downer on the States, but it’s reality. I know, like anywhere, Norway likely has its shortcomings (but seriously, are there any?!). I am sure theft and breaking happen on occasion. But the overall safety I felt, even in bustling cities, was remarkable to me. I’ve traveled all across the United States, Europe, South Asia and South Africa on my own, knowing how much solo, especially solo travel for a woman, travel equates to being on guard constantly. I’ve slept on my backpack with it padlocked to my person and chained suitcases to my bed in hotels. What is street smart everywhere else in the world seemed to be paranoia while I was traveling in Norway.

There is a level of respect that actually works in Norway. It works in this modern day, very highly progressive, contented country. When people all buy in, respect of others can work. It’s uplifting. It’s encouraging. They don't have the death penalty and there's no such thing as a life sentence. And even without that “deterrent,” crime is still kept in check. People enjoy a mandatory five weeks of paid work vacation each year and answering emails after work is a rarity. Parents are given a combined year of leave after the birth of child and healthcare is covered by the government. Gender-neutral marriage has been recognized there since 2009. Nothing is open on Sundays and people take advantage of that to be outdoors and active - no matter their age and no matter the precipitation. There is no such thing as bad weather in Norway, just bad clothing, as they say!

The sanity and humanity that I experienced in Norwegian society really resonated with me. They just get it right. And it just works really well.

*Sees snart = See You Soon!

WAY more to come...

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