Ethan Reddish presents a short documentary about Oslo Pride Festival 2018 and what it means to the people of Oslo who are involved in it.
Oslo is banning cars from the central part of the city in 2019 as part of its effort to reduce pollution. Oslo is the Green Capital of Europe for 2019. Story produced by Jessie Shiflett of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
By Shannon Kehoe
Nestled within the residential area of Trondheimsveien and surrounded by tall, large-windowed, modern buildings, sit the remains of an old brick factory. A large wooden door bears the word,”Schouskjelleren.” The door opens with surprising ease and ushers guests into a lofted room filled with copper kettles and walls lined with white subway tile. Stairs lead down to a dim room with a vaulted brick ceiling. On one side there is a fireplace. On the other is a blackboard covered in hand-lettering – Hibiscus Flower Cult, Old Muckamuck and Harry Porter.
Behind the bar, Magnus Holt pulls a copper tap, fills a glass and then slides it across the counter. “Flight of the Galaxy’ is a top seller,” he said, shattering the silence.
Holt’s tall stature commands attention as he stands at the taps and passionately describes each beer that flows from them.
Holt worked in customer relations, sales, and invoicing for four years, but was looking for more. An avid home brewer, Holt thought brewing beer could be a viable alternative and set out to gain some experience in the craft. Once a week, for 11 months, he made the five-hour drive to work at Tya Bryggeri – a brewery located in the mountains northwest of Oslo – to build skills and experience. He was then eligible to enroll in the Scandinavian School of Brewing in Copenhagen, where he earned a diploma in Craft Brewing.
Nearing the end of his first year at Schouskjelleren, Holt talks about his commitment to offering a product that is more than the pilsner his grandfather’s generation drank. Success depends on many factors, from inventing memorable beer names to showcasing the brewer’s social consciousness. He points to Schouskejelleren’s position as the number one place for nightlife in Oslo, according to travel website Trip Advisor, as an indication of his success.
Schouskjelleren Brewpub is housed in what is left of the Schous brewery, which dates back to 1800. Ringnes, Norway’s largest brewer, bought up and consolidated many breweries – including Schous – to brew beer in the popular northern European pilsner style, according to Ron Pattinson of the European Beer Guide. When Ringnes shuttered the Schous brewery in the 1980s, the facility took up the whole block, but all that remains now is a brewpub in what was once a cellar. But the combination of history and craft beer found in that cellar combine to create a gem of a location.
Now Holt and his partner are following beer drinking trends as they produce small batches from their two locations – Schouskjelleren Brewpub and the Schouskjelleren Mykrobryggeri – allowing greater flexibility in responding to the public’s demands. The bulk of the brewing is done at Schouskjelleren Mykrobryggeri, while the brewpub produces smaller quantities and provides a place for beer-lovers to gather.
When people realized beer could be more than just the Pilsner that drunk by generations past, the microbreweries listened. Sours are beginning to climb the charts but, according to Holt, “ really bitter Indian Pale Ales (IPAs) are going away and more juicy IPAs are coming in.” As trends change, it’s the responsibility of the brewer to recognize what drinkers want and keep current to stay competitive, he said.
Schouskjelleren Mykrobryggeri was launched nine years ago, just as the microbrewery and craft beer trend started its climb in Norway. About five years ago there was a marked jump in the number of microbreweries. Holt said the market became oversaturated with unique beers. Because microbreweries only make up five percent of the market, financial pressures have crept into the picture. It became necessary for brewers to keep up with the ever-changing trends in order to remain competitive. With about a dozen microbreweries and micropubs in Oslo, knowing what customers want is high on the list of priorities.
As community members and travelers wander through the brewpub’s large wooden door they find at least a dozen different beers flowing from the tap. That gives the consumer a taste of the trends, but it’s the names of the brews that stand out. “Don’t Tell Porky Pies” was chosen by Magnus’ Australian partner – its origin is old Cockney rhyming slang and it refers to telling lies. “Speedy Recovery” is what one wishes a friend suffering the effects of over-celebrating.
“Sales are increasing starting in April or May,” said Holt, which depletes the supply of ingredients in the stock room. “Most of the ingredients come from outside Norway,” Holt explained. For instance, many of the base malts for their brews come from Finland. “But we are starting to get some from within Norway as well, trying to push Norwegian malts for the brewery.”
The concept of using all in-country products is not uncommon as many countries, including the United States, are seeing a push for local products, according to the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture’s Siem Sigurd. Producing an all-Norwegian brew, however, is hampered by Norway’s weather. Its possible to grow malts, but hops’ dislike of cool, humid, cloudy weather, makes Norway less than ideal.
“If the product had all Norwegian ingredients, I think that would be interesting,” said Holt. “As long as you can get a product as good as you already make or the competition beers on the market.” But with beer already expensive in Norway, Holt believes Norwegians would pay a couple extra kroner to use all Norwegian products, stating with a chuckle, “Norwegians are really into liking Norwegian things.”
Schouskjelleren brewery is a full circle operation as malts, hops, and more ingredients enter the facility from farms worldwide, and what is left after the processing leaves to be used at another farm. A local cattle producer picks up the many hundred kilos of malt waste to feed to his cattle, ensuring that there’s no waste from what Schouskjelleren produces at their microbrewery.
Just as being environmentally conscious is important to the brewers at Schouskjelleren, staying active in the community is a factor in what goes on at the brewery. The months of May and June bring festivals that keep the area’s microbreweries busy as both sponsors and participants.
Schouskjelleren developed a product especially for Oslo Pride this year. “It’s made with passionfruit and coconut as a kettle sour beer, and, of course, glitter,” Holt explains. They’re pushing production so that it can be sold to outdoor pub venues during Pride festivities June 22 to July 1.
The rejuvenated cellar of a 150-year-old brewery is home to even greater magic than it first appears.
By Liam Carroll
Seated in her tattoo studio, wearing a black dress that leaves her fully-tatted arms exposed, Jannicke Wiese-Hansen reflected on her role in the madness of the black metal story.
Wiese-Hansen, 44, grew up on the west coast of Norway in Bergen, and began getting into heavy metal music around the age of 12.
Sitting next to the skull of a pig, Wiese-Hansen recalled a time when she was younger and exploring her atypical interests: “I remember one time walking home from school one day. I saw a cat that had been run over and it was lying dead in the road, with its eyes hanging out its head. And all I could think was I need to take this cat home to boil it because that skull would look awesome. That was my first reaction and it just says something about the mindset we had in high school.”
The dark themes of the black metal music genre have been well documented in the western world, from Satanism, to the burning of churches, to the murder of Euronymous, a guitarist for the black metal band Mayhem. The genre is arguably more well known for the controversy it creates than its actual music.
Since the early 1990s, stories painting a bad picture of the genre have popped up in Norway, as well as in the United States and elsewhere. While the artists of the genre have always taken centre stage, Wiese-Hansen was behind the scenes creating the artwork that would be seen by thousands of black metal fans.
While the wave of Norwegian black metal was in its infancy, Wiese-Hansen spent her teen years hanging out with soon-to-be black metal stars Ivar Bjørnson of Enslaved and Abbath of Immortal. Wiese-Hansen had a front row seat to the rise of black metal “I was there before black metal became black metal,” she said. “In the beginning Immortal was playing holocaust metal and Enslaved was playing Viking metal. From then on bands becam
e a little darker, I don’t think any of us got into black metal, it’s just the metal we were into became black metal.”
Asked if she had ever played in a black metal band, Wiese-Hansen gave a quick “no” and giggled. “I was not going on any stage because I had complete stage fright, I could play a little guitar but art was always more my thing, she said.” But her role in the black metal scene soon became clear. “I could draw and others could play instruments, we were all a bunch of friends hanging out. So I started drawing the logos and cover art,” she said. Wiese-Hansen went on to design multiple logos and artwork for bands such as Burzum, Enslaved, Immortal, Ancient and Satyricon.
As black metal grew in terms of popularity, so did the bad press it was getting. The negative reaction to black metal didn’t bother Wiese-Hansen. “I knew what was right and what was wrong so it didn’t affect me,” she said as she pulled out a book full of newspaper clippings. “I was a bouncer at the time. There was a lot of shit happening. Then, when Aarseth (aka Euronymous) got killed, things got much more serious.
“The scene distanced itself from all the other sub-cultures in the way we liked to walk in the forests at night and go into caves with a candle for everything to be a dark mood, we just came into this mindset,” said.Wiese-Hansen.
It’s a common belief that black
metal’s growing popularity was due to all the press it received, even if some of that press wasn’t always good. Growing up in Bergen, Wiese-Hansen was one of only a few girls who enjoyed the genre.
“It was nice that there was only a few girls liking black metal. When I first met Euronymous in Oslo we would tell them the Immortal guys in Bergen said hi and they would be like, ‘Oh, you must be Jannicke.’ We didn’t have the same problems girls have nowadays where if you wear a band’s T-shirt you get quizzed.
“There’s a lot of annoying stuff like that in the metal scene now. I remember – around that time – if you saw someone with long hair, you’d ask around and someone would always know who it was,” she said.
Asked if being a girl in a scene with so many males was a struggle, Wiese-Hansen said, “Being a girl was fine – you were completely equal. I would spend a night in Helvete (a record shop) drawing the No Mosh logo and it was just friends hanging out, rather then men and women. Of course, I was dating some of them, but that’s just natural,” she said with a laugh.
Oslo and Bergen both produced their fair share of black metal bands, with bands Mayhem, Ulver and Tulus representing Oslo, while bands Gorgoroth, Immortal and Burzum came from Bergen. Wiese-Hansen said watching the black metal scene unfold in Bergen was a lot different from what it would have been like if she’d lived in Oslo. “The scene was so small in Bergen and I was working as a bouncer at the time, so I would sometimes see a group come over from Oslo and while the fans from Bergen were smiling, drinking and having a good time, the guys from Oslo would be there doing this (pulls a straight, moody face). They were a lot more serious and they wouldn’t really talk to people.”
The popularity of Norwegian black metal isn’t what it once was but there are still many heavy metal festivals in Norway, such as Inferno and Beyond the Gates, which mostly focus on black/extreme metal, and Tons of Rock, which usually has a few black metal artists performing every year.
Wiese-Hansen doesn’t foresee a black metal revival. “Black metal was such a small scene and I guess what made it big was the secrecy around it and it grew due to the media,” she said. “There are some young black metal bands around now but it’s kind of hard to find your own sound. Before – in the 90s – there was a huge difference in sounds from Immortal and Emperor but now it is really hard for a band to find their own path in it.”
After she designed a logo for Immortal in 1994, the owner of Bergen’s only tattoo shop asked Wiese-Hansen to become her apprentice, launching her 24-year career as a tattooist. Tattooing is something Wiese-Hansen loves. “I’ve always been drawing but I was always wondering how to use it in work because I didn’t want it to become commercialized. So I was very happy to just slide into the tattoo world, not on purpose, it just happened. I love tattooing!”
After tattooing for so many years, Wiese-Hansen has earned such an excellent reputation that she has a three-year waiting list: “I can now choose very much what I want to make. If there’s something I don’t want to do I just turn that person away. It’s nice to now be in this position. At the minute I have someone from Mexico booked in for 2020.”
Wiese-Hansen gets her inspiration from Norwegian culture and beyond. “My art is very Viking inspired and, I mean, now you can take a lot of inspiration from what people put up on Instagram, there is so much good art on there,” she said.
Wiese-Hansen still plays a role in the black metal scene. She was influential in getting, Gaahl (former lead singer and founding member of Gorgoroth and currently vocalist for Gaahls Wyrd) to open his own gallery just below her tattoo studio in May.
In November of 2015 she also organized a black metal tattoo festival called BlekkMetal.
Ten black metal bands with roots dating back to the early 1990s played, including Helheim, Enslaved and Kampfar. It was also the debut concert of Gaahls Wyrd. “The festival was a lot of fun, it’s never to be organized again, though,” she said.
It seems black metal may be slowly fading since very few young bands play that style of metal. Nonetheless the sheer impact of the genre in Norway has undoubtably influenced thousands of artists worldwide. And the images of black metal, inspired by Wiese-Hansen or inked by her hands on the bodies of the people who love it, refuse to fade.
By Liam Carroll
Once dubbed ‘the most evil man alive’ by Terrorizer magazine, the ex-lead singer and founding member of black metal giant Gorgoroth – Gaahl – sat down for a chat not long after completing a grueling, yet exhilarating, performance with his new band, Gaahls Wyrd.
Dressed in his usual black overcoat, with an upside down cross hanging from his neck, Gaahl sported left-over black marker around his eyes following his set at Tons of Rock, a three-day metal concert in Halden, Norway.
“Lets start the interview once I’ve emptied my bladder,” chuckled Gaahl, whose real name is Kristian Eivind Espeda. Upon his return he quickly reviewed Gaahls Wyrd’s performance on the opening day of Tons of Rock. “It went better than I felt prior. We were a bit amputated before the gig, due to a death, so our main session guitarist couldn’t join us.” Swirling his beer in a wine glass, he continued: “Only last week we had someone step in for us, so we had to learn a couple songs in very short notice.”
Gaahl has caused controversy in the past and spoke about church burnings in Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005): “Church burnings are, of course, a thing that I support 100 percent. It should have been done much more, and will be done much more in the future. We have to remove every trace of what Christianity, and the semitic roots, have to offer this world.”
He has also served time in prison for aggravated assault. More recently, however, the singer’s public image has been more positive. On Day Two of Tons of Rock he could be seen walking casually through the festival grounds, chatting with fans and letting people take pictures with him. Gaahl, who was born in the western Norwegian district of Sunnfjord, now spends a lot of his time in Bergen, where he opened an art gallery in May. He is often seen around in Bergen and stops for pictures with people as well as speaking with people in his gallery.
Two huge parts of Gaahl’s life are his music and his artwork. His style could be described as hauntingly striking, and his paintings generally feature people in dark moments. Asked if he could choose between music and painting he gave it a quick thought and said, “no.” Opening an art gallery has been a different experience for him. “Yeah, at the moment, by all means the gallery is very new to me but the gallery is, at least, representing one of my passions.”
Active in the music scene since 1993, Gaahl has been in numerous bands, starting off with black metal band Trelldom and moving on to Gorgoroth, God Seed and Wardruna. Balancing his gallery and his music can be challenging, he said. “At the moment it’s a bit stressful, but I have a tendency to get into a proper focus when something tries to distract you ,so it might actually help me in the sense of becoming lazy,” and added, “I’m originally extremely lazy, so its good to have something that you can push yourself with.”
When performing, the members of Gorgoroth wore dark-inspired costumes and makeup. Gaahl favored a look featuring spikes coming from his arms and blood makeup covering parts of his body and face. Gaahl continues to use costumes and makeup when performing live with Gaahls Wyrd. He compared his love for creating artwork and costumes, “Performing live is sending out energy and that’s what you’re trying to do in music and as an artist. I’d say describing performance as a type of artwork qualifies.”
Gaahls Wyrd is currently recording new material and tells fans to expect “something unexpected.” His enthusiasm waned and his answers grew shorter as two full plates of food were placed next to him. When asked if black metal is a big part of his life was, his response was, “It turned into it.”
The dark side of Gaahl’s life and career is well documented. Watching the singer once dubbed “the most evil man in the world” stopping to talk or take pictures with people he meets in the street is something new. Perhaps his public image is changing. Speaking about the possibility of a transformation Gaahl said: “A lot’s happened, so certain things have shaped me in some sort. But, then again, I have only walked the path I want to walk. So, (one) shapes ones own destiny, in that sense, but that’s what it has become.”
Video: Interview highlights
By Ethan Reddish
As part of my journalism study abroad program, I attended classes in Norwegian language and culture. My instructor, Lene Ness, provided a basic understanding of Norway’s political landscape. Her introduction to the subject was helpful when I interviewed local politicians and became better acquainted with how Norwegian politics work.
Ness is on the faculty of Alfaskolen, a Norwegian language school in Oslo. She primarily teaches newcomers the native language and – in the case of us at Oslo Rocks! – the history, culture and political structure, as well. Her work with those new to Norway, largely recent immigrants, has given her a unique opportunity to become familiar with politics and governments around the world. She described her political experiences both growing up in Norway and as an adult, and compared it with what she has learned about American politics.
“Norway has always put a great value on society, participation, and being an active citizen. Norwegian schooling focuses a lot on teaching children about the political system, how to get involved, who to talk to, what to do, and how they can influence their own situation, she said. In Norway there are active youth political parties and Ness described them as a logical next step for children whose school curriculum emphasizes civic engagement. “And as a step further from this, it really is only the natural progression that they see the political parties and the political structure and want to get involved in that, as well.”
She said it isn’t unheard of for people to start very young in these youth parties and go on to have significant positions. “When I was in the Labour Youth organization, I would recruit people as young as 13. I remember once I got an email from a nine-year-old wondering if he could join as well, and I had to say, ‘Yes, you can join, but you have to tell your parents first.’ And he joined, and he was very politically active. Actually, I think he’s a member of the local Parliament now.”
From Ness’ perspective, the United States’ political workings seem completely different. “It seems like, in Norway, everybody can get politically involved, no matter what background you have, socially, economically and family-wise. Whereas in other countries, especially in the U.S., one of my students told me, if you’re from a political family you get involved in policies and politics, but if your family is not politically active, you probably won’t be either, and that there’s not a lot of focus on recruiting and training.”
While people’s definition of politically active may be different from Ness’, it shows just how limited her exposure to American politics has been.
Ness’ somewhat inaccurate view of American politics, mirrors the limited understanding of a Socialist country I had when I arrived in Norway. My first few conversations with Ness and a handful of politicians offered a gradual learning experience, but I learned you must talk to a lot of people to avoid getting a skewed perspective. I am leaving Norway with a better (but still imperfect) understanding thanks to interviews and conversations with more politicians and citizens. I hope Ness will continue to expand her own understanding of U.S. politics, just as I expanded my own.
By Jenna Herrick
The streets of Oslo were bursting with the colors of the rainbow and filled with music as the 36th annual Oslo Pride parade marched along to celebrate diversity.
Tens of thousands of people marched in the parade on June 21, with groups ranging from the police and military, a BDSM fetish club to, The Women’s March, and a group advocating sex workers’ rights.
Oslo Pride has a way of bringing people together. Jennifer Priest and Camila Endresen met each other on the Ringen Via Toyen metro on their way to the pride parade. All it took was the simple question, “Are you going to Pride?” and they immediately bonded.
Endresen has been attending the Oslo Pride parade since she was only a teen in 1995. Priest moved to Norway from San Francisco ten years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She said she has been an active participant in the pride parade for nine years.
The event started at 1 p.m. in Oslo’s Grønland neighborhood and ended five kilometers later at Pride Park in downtown Oslo, after roughly three hours of celebrating. Last year more than 100,000 people participated in the event. This year the parade route was packed with humanity from Grønland to the National Theater. People in the upbeat crowd were wearing colorful costumes, waving rainbow flags and chanting “Happy Pride!”
The Skeiv Ungdom float, sponsored by a youth LGBT group, was filled with colorfully-garbed people dancing and singing along to the upbeat pop standards blaring from the huge speakers mounted on the truck.
The reaction of the crowd, as the truck slowly moved down the street, resembled people doing the wave at a sporting event. As soon as the first strains of Abba’s “Dancing Queen” or Shania Twain’s “Feel Like a Woman” could be heard, the spectators began to sway and sing along.
When The Village People’s iconic gay anthem, “YMCA,” started to play, the unexpected happened. No one in the crowd busted out the arm movements spelling out Y, M, C and A. They smiled. They sang, but they did not do the dance.
Martin, 23, Alexandra, 19 and Lene, 46, were watching from the doorway of Illums Bolighus, the upscale Scandinavian furniture where they work. Martin said he wished he could be out watching on the street and Alexandra chimed in and said they had been taking turns running to the sidewalk to get close. As the thudding beat of “YMCA” passed in front of the store, the two said they didn’t realize there are movements to the song, but Lene said, “Oh yes, there are!” When pressed she said she wouldn’t dance, though, because she is “too shy,” but added she would have danced “if anyone else had started.”
A sea of people
According to Visit Norway, Oslo’s first gay pride celebration – called “Gay Days” – was held in 1982; the name was changed to Oslo Pride in 2014. Oslo Pride aims “to make gay culture visible and contribute to increased acceptance and respect for the gay part of the capital’s diverse population,” according to Oslo Pride. The organization boasts that Oslo Pride is the largest pride celebration in Norway, with 80 volunteers who work year-round to prepare for the event. Another 300 individuals volunteer during the week-long festival.
As the Pride Parade goes by, the tell-tale roar of the Jurassic Park T-rex is heard, disrupting the usual chants and tunes. A truck bearing a familiar logo comes down the street. It’s Bearassic Park. Attached to the back of the truck is a float packed with men in costumes, most dressed as cavemen and one or two in T-rex costumes, all dancing to the song, “Walk the Dinosaur.”
Video: Getting Bearassic
These are the Norway Bears, a large gay meet-up service for all of Norway. Founded in 1999, the group is dedicated to supporting and providing social networking for mature gay men in Norway, and is easily recognized by its bear-oriented theme.
The Norway Bears float was a big hit with the crowds, with spectators cheering and applauding for the dance routine the float occupants performed. But this wasn’t the only contribution the Bears made to Pride Fest. The group’s booth in Pride Park features a stage where the men gave an encore performance of their “Walk the Dinosaur” dance. Their booth hosts bingo games, slam poetry and rock performances, as well.
Oslo Pride’s corporate sponsors are very proud to show their support. TGI Fridays changed their name to TGI Pridays and decorated the outside of their restaurants with pride colors for the duration of Oslo Pride. Wella Professionals had a booth at Pride Park to provide hairstyling services. Comfort Inn installed a large bouquet of balloons outside the hotel to celebrate the occasion. Companies from IBM to Ikea sponsored units in the parade.
Patricia, originally from Scotland, walked down the street wearing bright butterfly wings emblazoned with the word “Olafiaklinikken.” Patricia works at Olafiaklinikken, the main sexual health clinic in Oslo, providing testing and treatment to Oslo’s citizens. It’s her third year in the Oslo Pride Parade and she said it’s important, “to have this diversity and to celebrate being different,” and acknowledging that there’s a place for everyone.
Entrance to the parade was free except for businesses and organizations, which were required to register in advance.
Photo gallery: Scenes from Oslo Pride Parade 2018
Video: Dorthea | First time marcher
(This story was written by Jenna Herrick. Also contributing to this story were Shannon Kehoe, Ethan Reddish, Jessie Shiflett, Dalton Spangler, and Stacie Chandler.)
By Jenna Herrick
Cities all over the world spend the month of June celebrating the LGBTQ community and Oslo is showing its Pride this week.
According to the Visit Norway website, Oslo’s first gay pride celebration – called “Gay Days” – was held in 1982; the name was changed to Oslo Pride in 2014. The Oslo Pride website boasts that its event is the largest pride celebration in Norway and says its goal is “to make gay culture visible and contribute to increased acceptance and respect for the gay part of the capital’s diverse population.”
The festivities, which run from June 21 to July 1, feature dozens of events, including concerts, lectures, debates, art shows, parties and the parade. Individual event venues are scattered throughout Oslo and are anchored by Pride House, the event headquarters at Youngstorget, and Pride Park, known the rest of the year as Studenterlunden Park.
Pride participant Karine Jager talked about the event’s importance for her. “Just within the few years that I’ve been coming to Pride, it’s gotten so much bigger. I think that shows that the word is getting out that this is a place where you can be yourself and everyone is accepted for who they are.”
The iconic Pride rainbow can be seen everywhere in Oslo from restaurants and hotels sporting pride flags, banners or balloons to retail shops selling rainbow-themed merchandise to a local microbewery’s specially-crafted glitter beer. Pedestrians and passers-by wear tee shirts with Pride slogans, brightly-colored hair, and rainbow everything.
By Jessie Shiflett
It was noon as the car pulled into a gravel drive in Sveio, Norway. The GPS had led us to a house atop a small hill overlooking a sheep farm in the Norwegian countryside. Not one of us in the rental car knew what the people we sought look like, nor did we know if we’d even found the right house. The car came to a stop and we got out. Armed only with an email from great-great aunt Helen, we walked up to the large wooden door and knocked. This is it, I thought to myself, there is no turning back now.
After a few moments, the door opened and a woman wearing a confused expression appeared in the doorway, speaking Norwegian. We quickly explained we were Americans who only speak English and were looking for my relatives. I had no idea if this woman was a family member, nor did I know how to pronounce the names listed in the email. I handed my phone to her and pointed to the e-mail. It probably only took a few seconds for her to respond, but it felt like many minutes. As soon as she saw the names of my Norwegian relatives, Hans-Einar Grimstvedt and Solveig Grimstvedt, she immediately exclaimed, “Oh, I know these people! Is this who you are looking for?”
I said yes and another woman appeared behind the woman still in the doorway. While one gave us directions to my family’s house, the second woman gestured with her hands and arms. “Head back down the drive, turn left onto the main road, keep going until you get to the cross in the road, then to turn left and keep going until you see yellow flowers, and the house and drive will be on the right.”
We thanked the women and made our way to the car. Suddenly remembering that I don’t know how to pronounce my relatives’ names, I paused long enough to ask the first woman how to say their names. Looking amused, she sounded them out for me. I thanked her again and ran to the car saying the names over and over in my head.
We turned the car around and made a left at the bottom of the drive. Soon we came to a four-way intersection with a roundabout. In an attempt to follow the woman’s directions, we circled the roundabout and headed left, but in less than a minute we were pretty sure we had made a wrong turn and were lost again.
We looked out the windows at ditches and fields full of yellow wildflowers, but there was no drive or house to be seen. Had we gone the wrong way at the roundabout, or somehow misunderstood the directions? Just then we spotted an elderly couple weeding their fence-line and walked over to ask for directions.
The man glared at us as we approached and didn’t say anything when we explained we were lost and looking for my family. Unsure if the man didn’t trust us or didn’t understand us, I again handed over my phone with the e-mail and asked if he recognized the names. After looking at the e-mail he said in a deep, gravelly voice, “Hans-Einar lives up there” and pointed to a large house behind us, three-quarters of the way up a massive hill. Again we said our thanks, climbed to the car and and headed in the direction he indicated.
When we got to the bottom of the hill, we all laughed when we saw two small planters with bright yellow flowers on either side of the the drive and a sign with my relatives’ name and address on it.
As the car went up the drive I told myself, “This is it, for real this time. I’m about to meet my cousins, the descendants of my great-great grandfather’s sister who stayed behind in Norway.”
In 1911, my great-great grandfather, Hans Bjordal, left his family and home in Norway at the age of 19. He and his brothers, Helge and Ole, were three of the roughly one million Norwegians who came to America between 1820 and 1920 in search of a better life.
While Hans Bjordal was supposed to inherit the family farm, he and his father are rumored to have had an argument that prompted him to follow his brothers to America, leaving one of his three sisters to inherit the family farm. While no one in my family seems to remember what the argument was about, it wasn’t severe enough for the Norwegian branch to lose contact with those who emigrated to America and settled in South Dakota. Because the family stayed in contact for the next one hundred years – via post cards in the early 1900s and email in the 2000s – my great-grandparents were able to visit the family in Norway in 1991. However, no one in my parents’ or grandparents’ generations has made the trip since, and I was the first of my generation to visit Norway. All I could think as the car went up the drive was, “How lucky am I?”
As the car rolled to a stop, my companion looked at me and said, “This is it.” As I opened the car door and walk up to the front door it hit me: there was still a chance this wasn’t the right house, or they may not have gotten my e-mail saying I would visit. Again I pulled out my phone with great-great aunt Helen’s email, but before I could open the email, the front door opened and a woman emerged and walked toward me.
I started to say “Hi, my name is Jessie…” but before I could get the words out she exclaimed, “Oh, you’re Jessie from America!” In that moment a wave of relief and shock washed over me all at once. I really had found them, but now what?
The woman who recognized me is my cousin Solveig Grimstvedt and she wasted no time inviting me in, and telling me her husband Hans-Einar Grimstvedt was in town but she would call him to come home as soon as we got inside.
Upon entering the house, Solveig directed us up the stairs to the living room and stepped off to call Hans-Einar. When she returned, I explained that Marjie (88) and Leonard (90) Lindsay are my great-grandparents. She immediately began to tell me all about their visit in ’91, asking how they were doing and if Leonard still fishes every chance he gets. I explained Papa, Leonard, doesn’t get to fish as much as he’d like to these days. As we settled into the living room, Solveig pointed out a ceramic plaque that my Mema, Marjie, made to commemorate the birth of their son Hans-Christian. I told her that Mema sold the ceramics shop a several years ago, but would be happy to know her work is still appreciated.
Before long Hans-Einar arrived and immediately greeted me. He said he doesn’t speak much English and disappeared into another room, only to return a minute later with a stack of photo albums, pictures and old post cards, some of which had been sent from our family in South Dakota. As we went through the family photos, Hans-Einar and Solveig asked about my visit to Norway.
Explaining that I was part of a journalism study abroad program for the entire month of June, and that sadly I would not be able to see them again as I had to cover a music festival in Bergen the next day before I returned to Oslo the the following day. It had been lucky that Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, was just a few hours’ drive from Sveio.
Shocked that we’d only have the afternoon together, they offered to take me on a tour of the area. I responded with an immediate “yes” and, before I knew it, we were on the road to my ancestors’ home. In the space of an afternoon Hans-Einar took me to meet their son, Hans-Christian, to see the old family farm, a nearby city, and a monument at an old battleground.
We stopped once on the way to the old farm to meet Hans-Christian, who is fluent in English and could act as translator for us. It was quiet until we got to the farm. Then Hans-Einar showed us a map of the area, and told us that the old farm is five kilometers (about three miles) from where we had parked.
During the five-kilometer walk, Hans-Einar explained that, back when the family lived on this farm, the closest store was seven kilometers (4.35 miles) away, and that most of the goods they bought were sold in bulk, with the heaviest bags weighing as much as 100 kilos (220.46 lbs.). The family didn’t own any draft animals and carried their supplies up the mountain on their backs.
When we finally reached the site of the old farm I was surprised to see all but one of the structures were standing and in immaculate shape, despite being vacant. In answer to my questions, my cousins told me that the people who now own the property had fixed up the buildings that were still standing and rent them to the hikers who traverse the trails that cut through the mountains.
As we made our way to the back of the property, Hans-Einar pointed out the root cellar, where they stored all the vegetables they grew – most of which were potatoes. After walking through the cellar, we made our way around to the front of the house which overlooks the valley we had just hiked through. The view was, by far, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I immediately, and without thinking, asked, “How could anyone leave behind a house with a view as incredible as this?” Hans-Christian agreed it was beautiful, but told me, “You can’t feed your family and live off a view.”
Now that I have had time to reflect, it seems ironic that the farm and view which could not sustain my family more than 100 years ago had been transformed into a property that now makes money for its owners by sharing that view.
Photo gallery: More pictures from the quest to find family
Photo gallery: The journey of Jessie Shiflett’s ancestors
By Billy Ray Malone
NRK P1 music reporter Hilde Zahl scanned the crowd at Bergenfest – the annual music festival in Bergen, Norway – and spotted a woman wearing a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds tee shirt. Zahl walked right up to the woman, crossed her ankles, dipped into a curtsy and, without skipping a beat, extended her phone to record the interview and began to ask questions
Watching this, I whispered my thanks to the universe for leading me to the NRK P1 press tent and talking my way into shadowing Zahl for the day. NRK is Norway’s government run public broadcasting company. P1 is one of several radio stations, each with its own focus. The U.S. has nothing comparable: our National Public Radio (NPR) is funded through listener donations and commercial radio is funded by advertising. When you flip through the channels of Norwegian digital radio, you’ll find that there aren’t any commercials because it is funded through a special tax on televisions.
During the first week of a journalism study abroad program in Norway, I took a Norwegian language class. The instructor cautioned the American students in the class that walking up to Norwegians and talking to them can be awkward. The American tendency to smile at strangers on the streets makes Norwegians uncomfortable. I recalled my instructor’s words when Zahl asked that I stand away from the interviews so I wouldn’t scare people away.
Zahl’s trademark pre-interview curtsy and bubbly personality helped break the ice and disarm her interview subjects. She said using a phone bothers people less than a microphone in their face.
NRK P1 covers Bergenfest and similar festivals to expose listeners to acts such as Sparks and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Zahl said 40% of the country tunes in for their 6:30 to 9 p.m. show every night.
Nick Cave refused doing any interviews with press, as he has been known to do in the past. “If the musician won’t talk to me, I will build my story by talking to the fans,” Zahl said. After a dozen interviews with Nick Cave fans, Zahl had everything she needed to prepare her four-minute package. She went back to the press tent and quickly prepared the package.
Before heading out for more interviews, Zahl prepared for an upcoming interview with the band Sparks, whose frontmen Ron and Russel Mael are happy to talk with reporters.
Sparks manager Sue Harris had warned Zahl that reporters in the past have frustrated the Mael brothers by having little to no knowledge about their band. With extra zeal, she plunged into her research, listening to Sparks albums and becoming something of an expert about the band in less than two hours.
Due to my lack of a backstage press pass I couldn’t sit in on Zahl’s interview. But I watched when she returned to the tent and efficiently pieced together the package in time to air on the show.
At the end of the two-hour show, the P1 team smiled as they packed up their gear. They huddled together under the Bergenfest sign for a group photo. One of the producers handed me a Canon 35mm camera, a camera with which I am not familiar and asked me to take their picture. The pressure was intense as I aimed the lens at six professional journalists/photographers who, I was convinced, were silently judging my skills. Perhaps because I am still a journalism student and rookie photographer, they politely suggested I take more than one shot. I didn’t capture the full sign in my second picture, so I was sent back to try again. After successfully taking their picture with the full sign in the background, one of the reporters said, “the third time is the charm!”