Sunday, February 16, 2014

ISFiT Diaries I - to the land of the fjords

Recollections from the International Students’ Festival in Trondheim 2013


‘Wow! I’m going to Norway’, I exclaimed, springing out my chair as I see my invitation for ISFiT 2013 (International Students’ Festival in Trondheim My shopping for ISFiT is focused on buying warm clothes as 15 – 20 C° is winter in Karachi. The departure day is packed with things-to-do. I listen to a ‘do-not’ list from my parents and off I go to embark on an incredible journey. In the aircraft, I am greeted with a plastic smile and packaged food. I rush to my connecting flight which is 60 minutes away in an airport spread over a large area. And after 6 hour of hanging up in the air, I can enjoy the panoramic view of the Norwegian landscape, which is white, peppered with green, as seen from the realm of my seat. At the Oslo airport, I’m welcomed by a bright faced damsel, holding high the Norwegian flag. Another ISFiT volunteer looks tired. Out of curiosity, I leave the airport premises and experience, for the first time, snow. My first impression of the freezing temperature outside is “How do Norwegians survive?”  Initially, waiting at the airport looked boring, but interesting interactions with fellow ISFiTers made the waiting fruitful. At the airport, it is nice to see a couple of women wearing the ‘shalwar kameez’ – the Pakistani national dress for women’. Time elapsed, and we finally board our buses at midnight, bound for the north.

We reach Trondheim early morning. Trondheim is draped in snow and dressed in scarves to welcome the inhabitants of the earth. We are driven to the red fort, a patch of Trondheim that is the epicenter of the world largest student’s festival called the ‘Studentersamfundet i Trondhjem’ (The Student’s Society in Trondheim). Later, I’m tagged with the ISFiT bracelet, initially serving as identification and for access to Trondheim bus network. Days later, there would be a paradigm shift in how I see the ISFiT bracelet. By now, I’m tired and my face is smeared with sebum. I meet my workshop leaders and fellow workshop mates as they pour in and leave with their host, simultaneously. We introduce ourselves and we play Uno.

Studentersamfundet i Trondhjem Source: Google Images

My Host

The ISFiT Bracelet. Click by Danish Henry
I meet my Norwegian host in the evening. My host is a gentleman in his 50s. He drives us to the suburbs where he lives. After brief introductions, I learn that my host is a medical doctor. Co-incidentally, my fellow ISFiTer Pasteur from Bujumbura, is a final year med student and a part of the dialogue group. So, we have a medical fraternity, brought together by ISFiT.  Also, I am informed that the home has a pet - Marco. As we enter, I am thoroughly sniffed and investigated by Marco’s olfactory sense. Dr Torgeir (my host) instructs us to untie our shoes at the entrance, as shoes worn outside are not bought to the insides in Norway. That night, Dr Torgeir cooks for us, Salmon fish and an interesting discussion ensues at the dining table. I was ashonished to learn that Dr Torgeir is very well informed about Pakistan. After more than 48 hours, I see a bed, the rest is understood.

My host Dr Torgeir and his agile dog Marco. Click by Pasteur Mberimbere

Dr Torgeir was kind enough to open, not only his home for us, but his heart as well. He cared for us, inquired whether we had any problems, and asked us about our day’s activities. I was always uncomfortable with him doing the cooking and arranging the table for us as it not customary in Pakistan for elders to work while the young sit back. It is kind of disrespecting the elders. He also educated us by getting us glimpses of the Norwegian health system and sponsored for me and Pasteur, ticket to the Jonas Alaska concert.

PS: The International Students' Festival in Trondheim is the world's largest students' festival and is held biennially. It was held from February 7 through 17, 2013 in Trondheim, Norway.

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