Monday, June 28, 2010

Oslo - International Polar Year

After my health retreat in Tjonnstaul I headed into the big city of Oslo. I was certainly looking forward to an increase in stimulation. I mean spending a week in a cabin in the woods is wonderful, just a little less so when one is sick. So after a three hour bus ride and a wander through the city with my 35 kilos of baggage, I flopped down in my hostel.
Over the next two days I joined a hundred other early career polar researchers and teachers from around the world and we talked about life as an academic, how to find financing, how to manage field projects, how to impact policy, how to do outreach and so much more. From 9am to 5pm we were busy meeting, greeting, chatting, laughing, eating and learning. It was great. On the first night we were all taken out on a cruise in the Oslo harbor where we were fed prawns and salad, and serenaded by two local musicians with their guitar, flute and voice.
The second night was the registration for the IPY (international polar year) conference. With over 2200 people, there were 3 registration venues - City Hall, where it was all fancy dress and champagne with a classical quartet - An old sailing boat, with prawns and traditional music - and two Sami teepees with wild game and cloudberry liquor and Sami music and dance. I ended up in the teepees and thoroughly enjoyed myself there.
The next six days were intense. On Monday morning, all 2200+ people were ushered into the Oslo conference centre (in Lillestrom) and the opening of the conference began. It was like the opening of the Olympics, but with no fireworks. Speakers, singers, dancers, people performing music using instruments made entirely of ice. And after that, the conference began. There were 1800 presentations, in 6 different themes ranging from Human dimensions of change (that's where I was) to Polar ecosystems and biodiversity, from Polar science education, outreach and communication to Past, present and future changes in polar regions. At times there were 15 concurrent sessions to choose from. There were computers throughout the building to help one plan the day. Despite the poor show with regards to the food (unidentified meat wrapped in tortilla shells with cream cheese everyday for lunch), the conference was great. So much knowledge being shared and passed along, if my belly was unhappy at least my brain was celebrating.
Although there was all this lovely brain food floating around, I did reach a saturation point later on in the week. I decided to take an afternoon off and explore the city. Walking the twisting, narrow streets of Oslo reminded me of a medieval city. No street continued on in the same direction it started in and with the tiny, inconspicuous placement of street signs, getting lost was easy. But fun. I found my way to the Viking museum and enjoyed the excavated treasures along with a hundred other eager visitors. Then took the ferry-bus back across to city hall and went into the Nobel Peace Centre to explore their exhibits. I made my way back to the conference centre to meet with some others and off we went for dinner.
Oslo is very, very, very expensive. A bowl of soup, albeit good soup, set me back $50 NZD. A beer - $20 NZD. Not a place I would go out much as a student. But what a place to explore. There was certainly lots to see and enjoy, you just have to have to money to do it. Next time I come here (if indeed I do), I'll see if I can find a friend to stay with.
Next, it was off to London. Family and relaxing.

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