Monday, September 13, 2010

Not A Lavvo

Joining up again Friday afternoon with Helge and his family, we were off to Norevik on the Sognefjord. The family reunion was upon us. It's about a three hour drive with a ferry across the fjord as well. I just started to daydream and watch the beautiful scenery race by. Norway is a beautiful country. There isn't any other (to my knowledge) like it. I love the twisting roads, the endless tunnels, the mighty fjords. The longest tunnel we went through on the drive was about 11km. In perspective, that's like entering a tunnel in downtown Vancouver and coming out in the middle of Burnaby. Some of them are crazy long. Beth doesn't like the tunnels. The thought of all that mountain above us, not so comforting. Me? No problem.

By the time we hit the ferry, we'd met up with more family (Sveinung & Eva, Camilla & Martin) and across we went.

The weather was a question. There were signs that it could be good... but more and more it was looking like it would go bad.

We made it to Norevik. Helge had a cabin, so they went off there to settle in. Us? In a romantic notion, thinking of beautiful weather of the Norwegian summer, I had decided that we would reserve a lavvo.

A lavvo is sort of a Scandinavian teepee. Some good friends of ours were married last summer and they'd stayed in a lavvo the night of their wedding. It was beautiful and spacious... filled with proper bedding. In remembering their lavvo, I thought that would be a great idea. Sure, the website didn't have pictures of their lavvos... But well, that was no problem. It would most definitely live up to the vision in my head. How could it not? A lavvo, on the Sognefjord, in the middle of summer... It would be fit for a king.

Well... About that...

It turned out what they called a lavvo was most definitely not. Not a lavvo. It was a tent. A big tent yes... but not a lavvo.


It was cold. It was wet. It was fairly obvious we could not spend the weekend sleeping in this "lavvo".

So again, it came to Helge to save the day. The guy should wear a cape... My cousin Stian volunteered to give up his room... So between the two of them, we had a roof over our heads and a warm place to sleep.

Helge & Hansa

The whole weekend was interesting for me. I came in to it feeling that I had to be there and yet knowing that it wouldn't stack up to my memories of the original. It was unfair to Beth in a way because I spent the entire weekend drifting. Not necessarily thinking about having her with me at all times but rather just about where I wanted to be, what I wanted to experience.

That was alright. She had plenty of new, previously unmet family to bond with.

Probably key among these were cousins that I hadn't met yet either. Helge's niece and nephews Anett, Jokke and Thomas. Along with Stian, they provided constant amusement all weekend. It was great to get to spend time with them all.

As for the weekend itself... Of course it wasn't perfect. We'd only gotten our cabin situation dealt with when we first met up with Arthur. A cousin of my father and member of the organizing committee... We hadn't actually ever gotten an invite (it was supposed to have made it to us, but never did). So in a sense we were a surprise to be there... Beth worried for a moment they were going to kick us out. I wasn't worried... I suppose I'm used to just showing up now. At any rate, it wasnt a problem. Beth & I became #173 and #174.

174 people. I expected that. Expected more actually... I was sure there had been more in 1999. Still, it was a huge crowd of people... all related to me.

The weather was the biggest hurdle. Though apparently it had been beautiful the week before and it would be again the week after... Our first week in Norway was cold and wet. This was true of the Sognefjord as well. So cold... So wet... and really, the hall was not big enough for the people... So a good portion (including us) ended up outside for the meal. When we entered the hall for dinner, we found ourselves subject to reservation signs... People had beat us down there during the day and called tables. Tables for families, tables for kids, no tables for us. It was a major flaw to it all. I had the feeling that if my Great Uncle Ledvin was still alive and there, then there would have been no chance we'd have ended up outside, but it was what it was. The speeches and festivities from inside did not make it to the outside... Mostly the outside crowd did a lot of shivering (even with the heaters) and once the food was served, enjoyed their meals and made a break for it. Back to the cabins. It affected the party afterwards as well, as I remember all the people outside partying for most of the night during the 1999 reunion. Wandering from group to group, drinking with every crazy Norwegian family member I found. This time, that wasn't the case. It was too cold, too wet for any outside merriment... and so that toned down the entire party to an extent.

I floated. It drove Beth a little crazy. I floated between the family I'm close with, the ones I barely remembered, the ones that most definitely remembered me. I listened to the speeches, even though with so many voices to pick through, I was having trouble understanding much of anything. I took video (I tell you, that iPhone4 is so darn handy) and pictures and just tried to suck as much of it in as I could.

Due to the weather, the group picture didn't end up happening. This was too bad as well... They had been planning to do it on Saturday before dinner, but that was not to be.

So there were speeches... Then came the food... Then came the party and the dancing. Of course, a good amount of Hansa (the beer of Bergen and the west coast) kept the night flowing smoothly.

There were definitely highlights to the evening. The chance to spend good time with my Great Aunt Asta. The two of us shared a dance, I felt a little ridiculous (which of course proved that I wasn't drunk enough to be dancing). It was still a lot of fun. She also explained a lot of the connections and the pictures on the walls. Pictures of her parents and grandparents. Of my grandfather and great uncle. Pictures that were taken even before she was around. A lot of history to my family in this place.

Old Family Pictures

Overall it was an excellent experience and I was glad to have made the trip just to be there. Of course there were hiccups... Of course things didn't necessarily go to plan. It was great to get the chance again to make these connections and to actually be far more able to process and understand it all... As opposed to the first time, which was a whirlwind... I'd only been in the country for five days, no experience with the language... So much harder to take everything in.

This time it was manageable. This time I could understand far more... and even though I couldn't convince Beth to speak a word of it, she did well with understanding as well.

The party went well into the night. We retired to the cabins and the drinking and talking continued. It was a great time with a lot of people that I've become amazingly close to over the last eleven years. People that took me in eleven years ago when I just suddenly showed up on the doorstep. The power of blood and this half of my heritage.

We woke up the next morning and the weather was starting to clear. We packed up all our bags, said our goodbyes to the people that were still there. The people that we wouldn't see again this trip. With the end of the family reunion, so too came the end of our time in Bergen and time with this side of the family. Helge, Tove and Stian took us back out to Bergen. The one person I had missed seeing yet, I had expected her to be at the family reunion, was my Great Aunt Gudrun. Ledvin's wife. Another that I am really close with... and who has been an absolutely wonderful beautiful person to me since the first day I arrived. Helge was good enough to take us to Eidsvag (where I had shown up out of the blue eleven years before) for a quick visit with her (his aunt). We hugged, we chatted quick. She was disappointed that we couldn't come inside. It was quick, but it was good we got the chance.

Us & Gudrun

Helge dropped us off in downtown Bergen. We said our farewells to the three of them, our endless thanks... and again, we were alone.

It was time to switch sides of the family. From my grandfather's family to my grandmother's family. Time to go from the city to the country.

A boat was leaving from Bergen to Rosendal about an hour and a half from the time Helge dropped us off... We bought our tickets, found the dock... the boat arrived... and we were traveling again.

Time for Rosendal!

1 comment:

Grandma Simons said...

What fun to experience your visit through your eyes, Jon. Sounds like some more Norwegian lessons are in Beth's future?