Monday, August 30, 2010

What an amazing summer I've had...

It's very easy to go overboard on the superlatives when you're up here, but the fact of the matter remains that it's true. This is truly an amazing place and it's very hard not to have a really great time.

Let's use this last week as an example.

I had a buddy from Germany come visit me and while I had to work for half his stay, I did manage to pull some crazy stunts and do some awesome stuff while I was off. I had a great four course dinner at my job (the chefs are really, really good) last Saturday with a bunch of other co-workers and other mates, spent a lot of time down in the village and also managed to pull a full work-week in 3,5 days... in other words, I was busy.

But the real fun (for me) didn't start until Wednesday when my four day weekend started. First, we rented some ATV-s and goofed around for a couple of hours, trying to take in as much as possible of the 50 km of road we have up here. This proved to be quite the challenge, since they don't go much faster than 80 km/h, not really enough for our extended tour.

Then came Thursday and with it our true highlight of the week; a two day tour of Barentsburg. So we got up early and headed out on the Polargirl with not very many other passengers. A few hours later we arrived and were left behind with a two Danish guys and our guide from St. Petersburg for company. We then headed out on a great exploratory trip in which we even managed to find a passage into the coal-mine; apparently a feat only a few outsiders have managed before us.

How we did it?

Well, since we don't read russian and there were no signs in any other language, we simply followed the train-tracks into the underground. Since nobody was there, unless you count two guys who simply waved at us and let us pass by, we followed the tracks for a bit until we got bored and then we left through the mining company HQ.

Tada!

Then there was dinner and partying with the aforementioned guys.

Good fun!

The next day we headed back to Longyearbyen and made the decision to take another boat-trip - this time to Pyramided - on Saturday, which would be my buddies last day here. So off we went, to visit this abandoned ghost town. Tres cool! Pyramiden used to be the creme de la creme site up here and you could really see the faded glamour of the place; kinda sad to walk around knowing that just over ten years ago there were kids running about, having a good time.

Still, time goes by.

Saturday was then rounded off with a shrimp-fest for dinner and a good old party throughout the night, 'till the airport-bus picked him up at 6 AM.

Then I basically slept through Sunday.

So you see? Even tough this week might have been a compressed version, full of awesomeness, there's just so much to do up here that you'd have to really try to be bored.

And I promise not to take this long for my next update ;)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Something about everything, but still maybe not

First things first; the snow is gone from the village! Sure, it's still up in the mountains all around, but at least it's gone from where I wander on a daily basis. Feels very good to finally have switched from hiking boots to sneakers, even though the sneakers need to be cleaned pretty much daily due to all the rock-dust that's on all the roads....

And ok, the snow actually went away maybe two weeks ago but I haven't really gotten around to writing this before now, so I'm sticking with my story.

Second things second; it's still kinda cold. But since I'm getting used to the cold, I've decided to put my winter cap away for summer storage and just be a man about frozen ears. Also, I'm not going on very long hikes to be able to jump inside when the numbness gets to me.

Third things third; I'm going for a one week vacay to Sweden in two weeks! Man, it's gonna be grand to get some real summer, heat and trees! Yes trees goshdarnit! I haven't seen a tree for months and when I get down to the mainland they're gonna be all green and full of leaves!

It's gonna totally rock I tell ya!

I love trees!

(no, not in that way... you pervert)


Then to give you the animal tally up here, since I've been neglectiing it lately:

Polar Bears sighted: 0 live ones :(
Walrusses sighted: 0
Seals sighted: 0
Polar Foxes sighted: 2!!! (but no pics I'm afraid)
Reindeer sighted: About a gazillion

That's it for now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

17 Maj!


Yes, today is the Independence Day of Norway... WOHOOO!

The day every Norwegian takes to the streets to wave flags and celebrate King and country with a mass-hysteria of nationalism.

Kudos to them, I say!

Iceland does the same thing (except for the King-part) on June 17.th and from what I recall it was a very nice day off that I personally mostly spent waking up late and drinking coffee with friends and family.

Still, a nice day.

Sweden's on June 6 for some unknown reason (I've heard several reasons for that date, but none make sense) and it's only been a day off for the last couple of years. Hence I've mostly spent it either at work or school... no fun there.

But to round off these ramblings...

Happy 17 Maj all you Norwegians!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just back from a quick hop to Greenland

At 83 degrees north in Greenland, a major mining company has set up a "recon camp" to see if there's Zinc in them hills (or rather, mountains).

Heading out from Longyearbyen are the intrepid pilots of a Hercules plane, giving those poor souls up there all the supplies they need.

And standing behind a bar there's me - supplying these gentlemen with all they require in the way of booze (and some food).


So to go on with the story.

At 7 AM this morning I was awoken from my slumber by the cell phone ringing. On the line was the night shift receptionist asking me if I wanted to go to Greenland?

"Hell yeah!" I said

"Well, be here in ten minutes then"

"Ugh... ok"

So I jump out of bed, into some clothes, grab a slice of bread and haul my ass up to the hotel where the flight crew is waiting for me to tag along on their first trip of the day.

There really wasn't all that much to see at the landing strip on the fjord where we touched ground and we only stayed for the 20 minutes it took to unload the fuel drums they were transporting. But it was still pretty damn awesome! I've never been in a Hercules before and I sure ain't never been to 83 degrees North before (nor Greenland for that matter).

All in all a damn good morning!

Monday, April 26, 2010

It all depends on who you say hi from

I've started looking for what to do, once I'm done up here and for the moment I'm leaning towards heading back to the office. At least for awhile until something else might happen....

To start of this search, I went to my usual job-related sites online and decided to give this recruitment firm I've applied to before another chance. I've never gotten an interview through them (mainly since I've never applied when living in mainland Norway). But it so happened their CEO happened to be trapped up here while Eyjafjallajökull had some hickups. One evening, he and I chatted for awhile, he gave me the e-mail and number to his no. 1 in O&G-recruitment and told me to say hi from him when I send her an e-mail.

So I update my profile (not much office-related to update, but still), fill in two related applications and sent her an e-mail this last Friday evening.

When I wake up on Monday I see that she's read it and already told two guys to get in touch me regarding possibilites within O&G in western Norway.

Damn, saying hi from the CEO apparently made all the difference

Friday, April 16, 2010

Just a good song

Well, this song seems to have been one of my themes for the last couple of months.

So why not share it?

Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy!


By Big & Rich and yes, it's country ;)

What a difference a day makes...

...or in this case, a simple Volcanic Eruption.

Yeah, I'm staying at 78 degrees north, which should be way above any consideration since the current blast from Eyjafjallajökull is heading southwest from Iceland.

Think again.

Where do all those planes to us come from?

Yup, you got it right.

So we are at the moment stuck with the "guests" we had yesterady, which most of the time is pretty fine. Except for the fact that they've already spent all the money they were going to spend and get their continuous stays (and meals) at a very low rate (since SAS has pretty damn good rates up here, considering they're the only ones who do the trp).

So (yes, I know I shouldn't start to paragraphs in a row with that, so sue me) what we have to play with is upping them on the wine (since the food is free) and trying to get them to do........ well, not much more.

So (yes, for the third time in a row), I'm - for all sorts of reasons pretty much no one else has - hoping that my country will get it's game on right back real soon.

Well, sure, this has had oone major benefit for me. I may be closer to a new job after Svalbard.

More about that later.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Meet interesting people they said...

One of the best things about working as a bartender/waiter is all the interesting and fun people you meet while at work. While most customers (yes, I know I'm supposed to call them guests but a business degree apparently has its influences) are as forgettable as yesterday's lunch, a few do stand out from the crowd.

The polar explorers: We've had a bunch of people heading up for the North Pole; most of them are regular joes who've forked over a big wad of dough and go there by snowscooter or helicopter, but a few of them are the real deal.

One of them is here with his ten year old son (who will be the youngest ever on the NP); he's a nine time pole-visitor and this time he will be leading a group of crazy chinese on skis from the Russian base to the pole (his son will take the chopper).

Another, who is preparing for an altogether crazier stunt is Mark Woods. This guy is going to take a solo-hike to the South Pole, then pretty much jump on a plane up north and do another solo-hike to the North Pole. He's a really cool guy, with whom I've chatted quite a bit (British blokes in general tend to spend a lot of time chatting in bars) and I wish him all the best on his endevour!

The rich guys: These also fall into two categories; they either want to see a Polar Bear (and are prepared to spend lots of money on it), or are stopping by until they continue onwards to the North Pole. I have two personal favourites in this group, both of them Brits.

The first is now visiting for the second time since I got here and is getting quite desperate to see a White Teddy. Thus far, he's logged several thousand km on a snowmobile and is on his fourth visit up here, but still no sightings. He's travelling the world to see all the major mammals and is now down to only the Tiger, the Panda and our own beloved Teddybears. He's a lousy tipper, but tells good stories about past trips and coming adventures. Also, he's pretty much single handedly emptied our stock of Chardonnays. Quite a feat in itself.

The other one is a real old-school British industrialist. One of those who built up the western world as we know it after WWII; pulling himself up from humble beginnings and ending with way more than he knows what to do with (at least according to the bar-side stories). He had factories all over the world - from the UK to Hawaii, from China to France - but now he's retired and spends his time hopping between Andorra, Barcelona and Mallorca (with a few jumps all over the world). This one is a true story teller and a great tipper; preferring Champange to Chardonnays.

Then I have to give an honorable mention to the retired world class footballer who visited us last week with his wife and kids. And I even know what the Italian brute said, which led to his final red card.


These and many others are the guests that visit our not very icy shores. I'm sure there will be plenty more who stand up as the months pass by, and I'll probably tell you a bit about them too.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A really bad (but funny) joke

Q: Why are all the numbers afraid of 7

A: 'Cause 7 8 9

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Avatar

Just watched Avatar at a buds place on his massively huge screen projector (it's an ordinary projector which makes everything friggin' huge compared to my 9" lcd-screen).

First, I have to agree with most everyone that the CGI was pretty durn awesome! It definitely raised the bar for all coming movbies and also proved that you can make a proper flick using tons of CGI.

But why, I continually asked myself, do I always cheer for the bad guys? They were simply so much cooler with their Space Marine suits and wicked helicopters, while the good guys just looked like wusses... also, I liked their (the bad guys that is) go get some attitude.

But maybe that's because I want to work in O&G?

Still, it was a darn good movie and I really enjoyed it.

I'm giving it SSSS out of 5 possible ones.

Friday, April 02, 2010

One month in...

I've now spent a bit more than a month up here where the Polar Bears roam and the Northern Lights go when they need a brake. And so far I've managed to see neither, which is kindof a bummer. Don't care that much about the Lights (since it's hard to top gazing at them when you're soaking in a 40 degree hot tub after a hard days work), but I really, really, really want to see a white Teddy.

Well, I'll get my best chance for that come Monday, when me and a bud are heading out on a snow scooter trip to Tempelfjorden. It'll be my first scooter trip since I was about 15, on a ski trip in Sweden, and managed to flip it over at an attempted turn. I do hope that will not happen this time; especially if we're being chaced by a grumpy, hungry, bear.

Enough about the bears now already.

So what I've mostly been doing is three things: I've worked, slept and spent time on the computer. Sounds utterly fascinating doesn't it? Three things I have no chance of doing nowhere else in the world, right? Maybe the next couple of things brighten it up a bit?

I've taken a few dog sled rides (that's mushing, for you who know the lingo). It's a completely awesome sport and the dogs seem to love it. These being really bad ass Alaskan malamutes(may be an error in the spelling there) and Greenladers who thoroughly enjoy life in the snow at negative 20 c. Also, they are generally very cute, huggable and really want to give you a nice slobbery kiss.

In addition to mushing, I've taken a few hikes around the village, amongst others up on one of the mountains surrounding Longyearbyen. Took the hike early one morning (early being defined here by a guy who works late and never gets to bed before 4-5 AM) and realized halfway up that we had both forgotten to bring those spikey thingys you can attach to your shoes so you don't slip on slippery surfaces (not that either one of us actually owns a pair of those, but still). This was a rather awkward discovery since the mountain began to offer us a lot more ice and hard snow than the nice one further below. Still, we didn't let that stop us on our adventurous endevour but kept heading for the top. And finally we succeded and I planted my brought along flag. Sure, it may have really been a scarf and not a flag, but it's the thoguht that counts.

Other than this I've discovered the local haunts, tried the assortments of beer on offer and started to up my previously all to bad pool playing skills.

And with that I wish you all a Happy Easter Holiday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day one on Svalbard

I went on a flight today; well actually I went on three flights today but they all led to the same place. A place so distant and far north that I'm even impressing some of my very-well travelled friends.

The place? Svalbard!

Yes, I'm in friggin’ Svalbard, and will hopefully stay for the next six months waiting tables at a pretty damn nice restaurant up here. Now how did I ever end up at the top of the world? It all started before I went to Norway this autumn to work as a butcher when I a few weeks into August still hadn’t gotten a reply. So I set about applying for jobs pretty much everywhere and this included Svalbard. Come September and the maitre’d sent me an e-mail and after a few phone-calls and several more e-mails we came to the conclusion that I was suitable for the position and should stay over the summer season.

So early this morning I boarded a flight in Stockholm and seven hours later, after a truly magnificent view from the plane, I touched frozen ground in Longyearbyen.

This is going really to be a blast and a true adventure!

I was picked up at the airport by this guy from Åland who gave me the minor tour of the village and then dropped me off at what will be my home for the next half year. After dropping my bags, we walked the 50 m to the hotel where the boss gave me the grand tour of the establishments, including a gym and a sauna which I intend to use more often than I have done lately (at least the sauna).

And that was pretty much it for the first day. I met tons of new people who all seem to be quite nice and have to add that I am very grateful that we all have to wear name-badges while working.

Yup, that’s it for a first report.

Polar Bears sighted: 0 live ones (1 stuffed at the airport)
Seals sighted: 0 in total

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Action-Adventures in Sweden

I left Israel two weeks ago now and am just about to head off on my next "grand adventure", this time up to the frozen north where the polar bears roam and the icebergs are born. But I've been keeping myself busy with all sorts of things while waiting for my flight to leave and my imminent transformation into a human popsicle (I'm hoping I'll be lemon flavoured, but the odds say vanilla).

As you may guess, most of my time was spent buying clothes so I'll survive. Clothes I also need here in Sweden, since Lord Winter has completely taken over and holds the lands hostage under his white snow coat. Basically, it's really friggin' cold, which I didn't really approve of at first, but now I'm getting used to it. Considering I'm now the proud owner of a really thick down winter coat and some other great winter gear, I bloody well should be used to it (don't ya think).

But anyway, buying clothes isn't much of an adventure according to me (though women might be of a different opinion), so let's move onwards to last weekend.

Last Friday, I met up with a few childhood mates and we headed northwards to a very nice ski-area of the long weekend type (big enough for a long weekend, not quite for a week). I snapped the snowboard to my feet and at nine o' clock Saturday it was time for the first run in aprox. ten year... I spent that run mostly on my ass or my knees. The second run went much better and by the fourth one I felt pretty good; sure I was still staying in the easy slopes, but then I never was really good at this "going-down-a-slope-really-fast"-thing. I'm much more of a "let's-sit-down-and-enjoy-the-view-while-we-look-cool"-kinda runner. The absolutely best type according to me.

There was though a slight problem with the day: the weather. It was below -20, windy and in the afternoon it started to snow. All things that cramp my style in the slopes and cramp my body in general. Still the day was a blast! As was the next one, even though it was even colder.

This ends the action part of the weekend and we get to the adventures. However, it's not an adventure of the Hollywood kind, with swashbuckling heroes and damsels in distress, but rather of the "why can't stuff work"-kind. For it had been snowing a bloody lot around Stockholm, which for some reason meant that every friggin train heading in that general direction was either cancelled or massively delayed.

Bad news for me, but even worse for my bud who was supposed to go through Stockholm to get home in the south. With our train cancelled, we waited for the replacement bus - which never showed up. So we waited a bit longer... still no bus. Now my bud realized that he didn't have a snowballs chance in hell to make his connection, so he headed back to our other mate who'd set us up for the weekend. Hoping to catch a train in the morning instead. I staid on and staid strong (or rather, a bit frozen) and after three hours finally got the news that we'd be set up in a hotel overnight since the traincompany couldn't arrange a bus for us. Hence, I got the chance to eat a proper hotel-breakfast (bacon 'n' eggs is the yumms!) before heading back to the trainstation to catch my 7.52 train that left the station at 9.30.

But in the end, it turned out all good. Met up with my parents in Uppsala, only 14 hours later than planned and am now spending my last days in Sweden chilling, relaxing and trying to figure out what other stuff I might possibly need... so far I'm thinking more books.