Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Warm Thoughts from a Cold and Rainy Bergen Norway

It is cold and rainy outside, very cold and very rainy. From my vantage point I can see the wind whipping around a leafy green tree on the street below and I just didn’t pack enough warm clothes to motivate me to get back out there.

It’s no wonder Norway has the highest literacy rate in the world. I don’t think I just made that up. I am pretty sure I read that in a guide book. It’s also the third-highest oil producing country in the world. Which I find strange since it is the most beautiful, pristine environment I have ever been in. You would think the people who are afraid of drilling in Alaska would have set up camp here too.

Kip and I are here in Norway for a “computer nerd conference.” (That is his description to me, probably because he thinks I can’t handle a real description.) He is currently at the conference and I am completely enjoying being in our little room we rented at this budget guesthouse in Bergen.

Norway has got to be the most expensive country Americans can visit right now. Our dollar is worth 5 Kroner which sounds good until you make the conversion and realize that a simple bottle of water is $5, a “value” meal at McDonald’s $20, a beer at a local tavern $20 and a no frills hotel room $300.

When we discovered this would be the case, we began searching for bed and breakfast options. Most places were already booked, but we stumbled upon a little guesthouse that rents five bedrooms with a single shared bathroom and a tiny kitchen. Having never stayed in a youth hostel, we were a little nervous about the accommodations, but it has actually been wonderful.

There is no breakfast included here. It is like a bed and breakfast without the breakfast, but there is a market around the corner and it hasn’t been bad sharing the kitchen with so many different people. This morning the Aussies were frying up eggs and bacon, the family from London family were toasting bread with jam and making tea and I was making oatmeal. For the past two days I’ve been making porridge and adding dried fruit from home, but Kip has only put up with that for so long. He discovered the fish market the first day and was able to score local smoked mackerel for less than the price of two cups of coffee. Since then he has been making up snacks of dried fish, cream cheese and toast. It’s actually pretty amazing and compliments oatmeal perfectly.

Speaking of complimenting perfectly, it is our 17th wedding anniversary this month. That is why I am here with Kip. My parents and Kip’s parents and my sister are hosting the kids in the Midwest.  They were going to go to just one place, but everyone was eager to have them and so they are traveling between Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas over the next two weeks.

But with the kids in the Midwest and Kip at the conference and the nearly-freezing rain pouring down outside, that leaves me alone in the most quiet I have felt in years. It’s good for the soul. 

The week before we left for Norway, I got an e-mail from one of my friends who just moved her family to China. She was writing about their experiences and their difficulties with cultural adjustment. In it she described meditating on Psalm 23 and taking comfort in God's gentle leading, "He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul and guides me ...."  
When I read the e-mail it touched me because with all the changes we have been experiencing the last month, all the decisions we have been making, I have felt such a need to be in God's presence.I just wasn't sure how to get there. 

So with a cup of tea, safe in a guesthouse, halfway up a rain soaked cobble street, half way across the world from home, I'm enjoying a moment of Peace.

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