The mid-term training itself lasted from the 22nd to the 24th February, but I already left Nordfjordeid on Monday evening (20th) with the night bus. On Tuesday morning I arrived in Norway’s capital, Oslo. There I first tried to figure out where my bus to the Haraldsheim Youth Hostel (accommodation during the mid-term training) was leaving and succeeded after some time wandering around. It didn’t take long, at least not as long as finding Haraldsheim, but finally I made it and could get rid of my luggage and walk back into the city. More precisely to the opera, which is a lot bigger than the one in Nordfjordeid. From the top of the roof you have an amazing view over Oslo.
There I met Jürgen, a German guy who moved to Oslo with his Norwegian girlfriend and their little daughter. He showed me around all day and it was so much better than a usual sightseeing tour because he knows some places tourists don’t. Of course I have seen the important things like the port (very nice while enjoying the sun), the city hall (impressing) and the royal palace (very small), but also the hidden roads with sweet little shops, backyards and parks. Just Oslo from the perspective of an inhabitant, not a tourist.
All in all Oslo actually is nice, but on the whole it is not the most beautiful city I have been to. And it is so small (for a capital)! I feel like I have seen more or less everything, although I have only been there for a few days. So if you want to visit a Scandinavian capital I recommend you to go to Stockholm or Copenhagen instead. Unfortunately I haven’t been in Helsinki yet, but I will definitely go there one day :)
After our coffee break in Jürgen’s favorite cafe and exchanging experiences with Norwegians (we agreed on everything we talked about, it was so funny) we said goodbye around 6pm and I went back to the hostel to check in and move into my room. There I had to wait for my roommates, Barbara (who took the day bus) and Camille (a French girl I already knew), but it was just fine and I had time to recover from the long trip and tour around Oslo. In the evening we sat in our room and could have talked all night, but we were very tired and went to bed at some point.
On Tuesday morning we got up very late (in a snowy winter wonderland – surprise!) and bought our breakfast in the supermarket (no food before the official start of the seminar provided), which we ate in the guest kitchen while the other volunteers arrived as well as Kate, our fourth roommate from Ukraine. It was very nice to see all these people again and we talked all the time till lunch, which was the official start of the seminar.
Afterwards we all met in the conference room and played some games to get to know each other, because all volunteers, from the first and the second on-arrival training as well as those who didn’t attend one, participated. On the whole we were around 65 volunteers and it was so much fun, especially the photo rally. We had to take photos in little groups in front of different objects like a road sign, a shop or a goal post and act like politicians, children, a circus and so on.
Then we had a little coffee break (typical Norwegian) and started a discussion about the topic ‘hate speech’, which was very intense and sophisticated for the first seminar day, but it was good. After dinner we played games in teams of six people against each other to relax the atmosphere, which was very funny and took us an hour and a half more than planned. But it didn’t matter because we all enjoyed it very much and even continued playing games on our own in the lounge of the hostel afterwards. Better don’t ask when we went to bed that night ;)
On Thursday we were split in two groups and mine stayed at the hostel for a seminar day. After the breakfast we started with different energizers and moved on with an exercise called ‘magic carpet’. We were all laying on the floor with closed eyes and listened to one of the trainers, who let us reflect upon leaving our homes, the new environment, the project, success and failure, new experiences and so on, which we discussed and reflected with a partner afterwards. Then we all came back together and exchanged good and less good experiences during our projects by lighting or blowing out candles. It was very interesting to hear what has happened to the other volunteers and to compare it with my own stories.
After a short break we continued with preparing presentations about each project and our expectations versus the reality, which did not correspond in half of the cases. Often the project turned out to be different than expected or problems with the language (course) and making Norwegian friends (in their age group) appear. It became clear that volunteers in a more international environment like cities don’t have as much problems with that as those living in small isolated places in the middle of nowhere. There people seem to be less open-minded towards foreigners. But even the city dwellers among us volunteers have more friends with a foreign background than Norwegian ones. For me it was very important to see that others struggle with this problem as much as I do because I developed a feeling that something is wrong with me.
In the end we couldn’t finish the presentations before lunch because there was a lot to talk about, why we continued afterwards. Moreover we got our letters back, which we wrote to ourselves during the on-arrival training in September. It was very interesting to compare the thoughts I had during the first seminar and the second half a year later. In this context the following exercise, called ‘EVS wheel’, dealt with all the different aspects concerning a European Voluntary Service (such as project, language, mentor, free time, sending organization, friends, personal development, family & friends at home, housing and physical health). The task was to decide how satisfied we are with the different aspects and to think of concrete measures to improve at least three of them. I chose language, friends and free time because I want to achieve a certain level of Norwegian, connect with local people and use my free time more useful than I did during the last months (the weather and darkness demotivated me quite a lot – but it is getting better and better every day).
After a short evaluation of the day and notice not to forget the Youthpass we all went to our rooms and dressed up for the following dinner in the ‘PS:hotell’. I had the usual problem with fish, but I was not the only one and the vegetarian food much better anyway. There I realized that since I am in Norway I developed to kind of a Vegetarian. Not on purpose, but I just don’t like frozen meat and most of the sausage available (which is both not worth the money), moreover it makes me feel sick every time I eat it. So it often happens that I live without meat products for several weeks and I am totally fine with it. But I guess in Germany I can’t resist a proper roast joint, schnitzel or goulash anymore – not to mention a barbecue. But to come back to the dinner: On the whole it was a very nice evening with good conversations – and we even got a glass of wine ;)
On Friday my group (the others did it the day before) went to Oslo city at 8am after breakfast, which was too early for the tired group of volunteers, but somehow we managed to stay awake during the day. First we went to the parliament, which is called ‘Stortinget’. But we were a bit too early and the security personal not there yet. Some decided to wait in front of the building, some (including me – freezing while standing around and waiting wasn’t an option for me) walked down the shopping street to the palace and back again. In the parliament we had a guided tour with a very funny guy, but he gave us the impression that the Norwegian politicians don’t really have something to do, or in other words that Norway doesn’t really have serious problems to discuss – currently the only things bothering them seem to be the dress code in the parliament and if the 65 wolves in Norway can stay or not (farmers against townsfolk).
Afterwards we visited the 22 July Centre, located in the high-rise building in the Norwegian Government Centre in Oslo. It contains an exhibition about the twin attacks in Oslo (car bomb exploded in the government center) and on the island Utøya (massacre), 22 July 2011. People became thoughtful and very quiet when they entered the first room, which is dedicated to the 77 persons who were killed during the act of terror. The atmosphere was quite tensed and only relaxed during lunch break in a pizzeria.
Following lunch, the rest of our day in Oslo was spent in a Norwegian folk museum. But there was almost no time left and we had to rush through the old settlements, which was sad. I could have spent some more time there. Back in the hostel we met in the conference room with all volunteers for a final evaluation of the mid-term training. On one thing we could all agree: It was too short of a time. We only just got to know the others and it was very nice passing time together. We didn’t want to say goodbye already… But after packing and dinner we had to, because most people left.
The remaining volunteers, including me, sat in the lobby and talked till we decided to go to a bar, where we met volunteers we already said goodbye to because they changed their accommodation. All in all it was a nice evening with a lot of Belgium beer (the Norwegian beer is not edible), but I was terribly tired and the music too loud to have a real conversation, and for that reason I decided to go back to the hostel around midnight. Those who had to catch a flight or bus early in the morning joined me and together we made it, even if we almost missed our bus stop.
On Saturday morning, after breakfast, we all checked out and I went to the city with a group of volunteers. There we somehow lost half of the group and it took us some time till we met again. After that we all stayed in a café, drinking coffee and trying to stay awake, not motivated to go sightseeing, especially not with the snow storm blustering outside. At noon we accompanied the Trondheim crew to their train and afterwards I decided to go to another café with Klara (from Berlin) and Hilal (from Turkey), because we didn’t feel up to anything else. There we passed the rest of the day and we talked a lot about our projects, especially difficulties which appeared, and we all felt better after knowing that others have the same problems.
Around 6pm we said goodbye too and I went to the bus station, where I met Oleksandr. There we waited for the night bus to Nordfjordeid while our state of health worsened the longer we had to wait. Moreover I managed to fall over a bench, wherefor my knee is a bit damaged now. I don't know what is going on in this country, but since I am here I am quite good at falling. But the funniest thing about it is that Barbara has exactly the same problem – very strange. In any case we were all coughing and huffed when the bus finally arrived and Artur and Barbara had joined us. Now we are all sick and slept more or less the whole day after arriving in Eid this morning, but it will pass. Take good care of yourselves!