Posted by: Margaret Cappa | June 8, 2010

June 7: Last day in Oslo, last day in Norway

Wow! This internship has FLOWN by!!

Today was a full day of seeing some sights and having meetings. My plane leaves in a few hours for Ottawa, I can’t believe it!

The day started when my 7:45 a.m. wake up call came on my hotel telephone. It was a glorious morning; the sun was shining, the breeze was warm and when I turned on the TV-Music channel Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was playing! How much more awesome could your last day in Norway start than that? I have to admit, I woke up dancing today 🙂

Chantaie and I had morning coffee with the man who started the Barents Observer, now that was really neat. What an inspiration!! We had great conversation and some good laughs about being in the high north.

(more blog below)

1180-year-old Viking Ship

1180-year-old Viking Ship

We’ve seen the Olympic ski jumping complex, the Norwegian Parliament, the Viking Ships Museum and Vigeland Sculpture Park. Now seeing the Viking ships in person was really neat. I can’t believe how well-preserved two of the three are! They look as if they were just made 100 years ago, never mind 1100+ years. I learned that the Vikings, much like the Egyptians, buried their deceased with all sorts of belongings, including servants and animals. Two of the three ships in the Viking Museum are burial ships, where as the very decrepit one is thought to have been a sailing ship. So neat to see! They are HUGE!

Another beautiful landmark was the Vigeland Sculpture Park. The sculptures are incredibly life-like. Their faces can be filled with sorrow, joy, disdain, anger or happiness. It’s amazing that someone can convery such emotion in a statue!

The Vigeland Sculpture Park is famous for the “Angry Baby,” which in fact, has been stolen a few times! But, it’s safely back and apparently reinforced with anti-theft measures.

Well my plane leaves in a just a few hours for Canada. I better finish packing!

This internship and experience has been like none other. I feel so lucky, so blessed and so grateful. I’ve learned a lot about journalism and reporting in Norway and the high north, I’ve grown a lot as a person and I’ve gained some great friends and contacts 🙂

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | June 6, 2010

June 5: Oslo day 1

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | June 6, 2010

June 1: Murmansk, Russia

Previat! As I would say in Russia for “Hello!”

Murmansk Russia was sure an experience. It’s the largest city above the Arctic Circle at 330,000 inhabitants and it’s one of the few ports up here that doesn’t freeze in the winter – very valuable.

Murmansk port

Murmansk port

I was surprised at how much the people of Murmansk did not match their surroundings. People were friendly, accommodating and hospitable, but the city looked as if it were 15 years over due on a facelift. From what I can understand, when the Soviet Union fell in 1991 there wasn’t a firm plan in place for to rule the country after. There were some hard times in the early 90s, but things seem to have settled now for the most part. Infrastructure is probably the most apparent area where many funds haven’t been spent for a decade or two. It does not seem to bother people though, I guess because the insides of buildings are quite modern and trendy. In this city, you must really live by the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!”

Rectangular apartment blocks mark the city’s dwellings, there aren’t homes with backyards. People are always dressed to-the-nine, which is a sharp contrast from Norway, where it would be uncommon to come to work in high heels and pants suit – unless you’re a big cheese in Oslo. Women wear high heels everywhere and all-the-time; walking the kids to school, grocery shopping, strolling with friends.

(more blog below)

As I said a few times in my vlog, the food was delicious in Murmansk. Everything seafood was so fresh, tender and tasty and all the Russian specialities – Borsch, Meat Soup, desserts – were mmmmmm so good!

Chantaie and I had a GREAT time with our colleague and guide Maria. She showed us around her city with such pride and happiness, you couldn’t help but like it too. Her husband Evgeni, somewhat of a well-known name in western Russia, is a playwright and musician. He comes from a talented family – his brother won Russian Idol a few years ago! Here is a link to his brother on Russian Idol: ALEKSEY

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 31, 2010

May 30: Arrival in Russia

I am in RUSSIA! I honestly can not believe that I’m writing this. This internship is offering me such spectacular experiences, I couldn’t be more happy 🙂

It is 8:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. Toronto time). I’m about to embark on my first full day in Murmansk, Russia. But let me tell you about how I got here…

Chantaie and I were waiting in the parking lot outside our workplace for the taxi to take us on the three-hour drive to Murmansk, Russia. Then, a white Dodge Caravan drove up, the man driving rolled down the window, and, in a thick Russian accent said, “Murmansk?”

“Yes…” we said, puzzled for a minute – could this be our taxi?

Then the driver, wearing an AC/DC, shirt popped out of the van, walked up to us, extended his hand and couldn’t stop the natural smile from drawing over his face, “Hi! I’m Sergei!” he said.

The drive was quite enjoyable, Sergei gave us a commentary – as best he could in English – and him and I talked hockey for a bit. Most of the hockey-talk surrounded Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, the two biggest Russian names in the NHL right now. I think he was quite impressed when I told him I played hockey!

When driving through Murmansk to our hotel, he pointed out landmarks to us along the main street, “Lenin Street.” First “Supermarket” was on the right, then the “Theatre,” after a stop light or two he pointed to the left, “K.G.B.”  We of course know the state police aren’t called that anymore, they’re called “F.S.B.,” but I guess a name sticks after growing up with it?

So here we are! I’m not sure how much I’ll be videotaping and documenting as I am here on a tourist visa, so stay tuned for all the Russian experiences possible!

Saturday (May 29) was a fun day, and that’s what the following video is. Fun in Kirkenes and snipits of our night taking in the Eurovision experience. Eurovision is basically like the American or Canadian Idol contest, but for all of Europe and some middle-eastern countries!! It was SO neat to watch. Twenty-five contestants from places like Ireland, Moldova, France and Azerbaijan. GERMANY WON!

If you’re feeling so inclined to listen to more of the Eurovision favourites, I suggest the following countries:

Germany – Lena “Satellite”

Beligium – Tom Dice “Me and my guitar”

Turkey – maNga “We could be the same”

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 30, 2010

May 28: Bugøynes

Hey there! It’s been two days since I wrote, but I have been working a lot – which is a great thing. Doing a lot of interviews and learning a lot. The Barents Observer is keeping me quite busy in the day time and at night we have often had appointments. But here I am, and I’m ready to fill you in on the amazing past few days!

Here is a link to my latest article: “Russian Sami – how much do you know about them?”

So today, Kim (a colleague from the Barents) drove Chantaie and I to Buygoynes for a day of interviews. On the way there we saw a lot of wildlife! We saw two moose, two herds of reindeer and a couple Arctic hares. It was amazing, within the span of one hour we saw all of that! And, most of it’s on video too, which you can see in the vlog.

We plan to generate around four stories from this trip.  It’s a small fishing town about 100 km from Kirkenes, on the northeast tip of Norway. The King Crab industry in this town of 200 inhabitants is huge. Historically, cod was the name of the game in Bugoynes. But when the cod stocks collapsed in the early 80s, it appeared as if Bugoynes would shut down. Then came in the King Crab. It wasn’t right away, and King Crab wasn’t a viable industry until the early 2000s, but now the cod stocks are back and King Crab is giving fisherman yet another economic opportunity.

We interviewed the managing director of Norway King Crab, a Russian scientist who works with King Crab, and, Chantaie and I HELD a King Crab – a 6-year-old, 7 lb King Crab.

(more blog – important – below)

Now, as I said, Bugoynes is a town of roughly 200. Many of its residents are of Finnish descent, and those 5o years of age and older speak a rare and dying Finnish dialect called  “Meiðänkieli,” meaning “our language.” The younger generation hasn’t learned the language, so it will die with those who currently speak it. Chantaie and I interviewed a man, Øyvind Seipæjærvi, who speaks the language.

Please find below an audio slideshow we recorded, photographed and produced:

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 27, 2010

May 26: Lessons on controlling the Russian-Norwegian border

Today Chantaie and I visited Svanvik Border Station with two French journalists visiting the Kirkenes area.

This station is one of six along the 196 km Norwegian-Russian border. The Norwegian Border Guard has 110 full-time employees and 550 conscripts. They ensure Norwegian border sovereignty, embarking on many border patrol missions by helicopter, snowmobile, skiing and on-foot. Even in the harshest of Arctic conditions, the border is patrolled.

(more blog below)

While there was a sharp rise in illegal trespassers from Russia into Norway in 2008 of 21 attempts, the number dropped to one attempt in 2009. The Norwegians and Russians have a very friendly relationship now, after years of hard work to improve border relations. It’s even been dubbed, “the friendliest Russian border.”

There are talks now of making cross-border travel easier for Norwegians and Russians.

It was a worthwhile experience going to the border station; very, very informative and interesting!

Catholic meets Protestant meets Russian Orthodox church

Catholic meets Protestant meets Russian Orthodox church

On the way home from the station we went into quite a unique church.

It was built to affirm Norwegian sovereignty in this area before the border between Norway and Russia was set. Well, here is the strange yet fascinating thing about the church:

Norway is a Protestant nation – it’s the state religion – but the artist of of the church was converting to Catholicism at the time of construction, thus, there are many Catholic icons and murals inside its walls. For example, the angels. What’s more, Russian Orthodox images fill the church’s walls too! There was a good number of Russians who would have lived in the area while the border was being drawn in the 1920s.

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 25, 2010

May 25: Dinner fit for a King (Crab)

Every day of this internship in Norway is filled with amazing conversations, heartwarming moments and just awing feelings. I am so grateful. This is truly one of the best experiences of my life.

Today at work I did a lot of research and interviewing for the multiple stories I’ve got on-the-go. By now I must be becoming a quasi-specialist in aquaculture information! I can tell you about the spawning cycle of wild salmon or the four or five main forms of de-licing used to get rid of sea lice on fish farms. But, my stories are stretching beyond aquaculture as you may know. I published a story about renewable wave-generated energy, ocean acidification (a process whereby the ocean pH level will decrease and become more acidic as it is forced to absorb increasing levels of CO2, some scientists say) and I’m currently working on a Sami-related story. The Barents Observer provides a lot of support for my initially proposed research as well as stories that present themselves along the way.

This evening Chantaie and I attended a very nice dinner with the Norwegian Border Commissioner, our colleague Trude, a Foreign Affairs Officer and two French journalists. It was, well, delightful! I seldom use that word, but I think it fits the evening. The seven of us shared absolutely wonderful and fascinating conversation. For instance, the border commissioner recalled stories from his services in Lebanon, Bosnia and Afghanistan on UN and NATO missions. Very vivid stories – which you don’t hear first-hand very often about such places. Being the border commissioner for the Norway-Russia border seems very intriguing. The French journalists both added in neat anecdotes throughout the evening too. One of them was the Moscow correspondent for his newspaper for years and the other is now a director at a major French radio station. We will spend more time with them tomorrow.

Today I found out what my name is in Russian: KAППA MAPГAPET ФPAHCEC

Neat eh?  What’s funny is that while the Russian Cyrillic symbols looks so different than the English alphabet, the pronunciation is nearly the same. Just put on a Russian accent and you can say “Margaret Cappa” in Russian!

Until tomorrow, I’m faithfully your aspiring Canadian journalist in Norway, KAППA MAPГAPET ФPAHCEC  🙂

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 24, 2010

May 22 – 24: To Bodø and back

The latter half of my trip to Bodø was perhaps the most exciting.

Saturday, May 22 marked the official beginning of the Barents International Press Conference. While most of the meetings were in either Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish or Russian, there were seminars in English. The seminar which sticks out to me most was the youth seminar. Chantaie and I participated in discussion of how to better involve young journalists in the Barents region and create a network of youth. It was so invigorating and encouraging to see these young journalists want to work together for something greater than themselves and their own nation’s media. It would be really neat to be a young reporter in the Barents region at this time.

The conference included a trip to the National Aviation Museum and boat ride through the Bodø fjords and islands for all the attending journalists.

I had no idea how key a post Norway was for NATO during the Cold War. It was a real learning experience.

The boat ride was gorgeous! While it got quite windy and cold on the deck – as you will see in the vlog – it was so worth doing! We rode past island communities that had only 100 to 150 inhabitants, who must drive their boats into Bodø each day for work.

(more blog below)

We made some great contacts at the conference, I’m very glad we went. I met and shared conversation with journalists from all over the region. I even was interviewed by a Finnish woman! She is writing a book about the Finnish liquor “Jalovina” and wanted a Canadian’s perspective on the taste. So, she had me take two swigs of this Finnish brandy and give her my impressions. Her camera was clicking the whole time, documenting my facial expressions. It was a really neat experience, plus, I may be in a book! She said she’d let me know when the release party is so I can attend – another trip to Scandinavia anyone?

The last thing we did before leaving Bodø was to drive 30km out of the city to the Saltstraumen. It is the biggest maelstrom in the world. What is a maelstrom? Well, I’ll fill you in – since I just learned this the other day too. A maelstrom is when two ocean currents going in opposite directions hit each other and whirlpools form. At this maelstrom, the Salstraumen, ocean currents coming down two different fjords hit each other. About 400 million cubic metres of water pass through the Salstraumen in six hours. It is very dangerous waters!

The plane ride back to Kirkenes took us up and down three times to pick-up and drop-off passengers. Even though cities aren’t that far apart in Norway, the mountains and fjords make it very difficult to build good highways. The existing roads are very windy to accommodate the landscape. In some parts there are tunnels blasted through the mountains, but more often than not, a 25 minute flight is the transportation mode of choice.

And finally, today is May 24 – another national holiday in Norway. Today is meant to celebrate the Pentecost (when the disciples received the Holy Spirit).

As a caught a cold over the past week, I spent the day tending to my sore throat and cough and doing some work. It’s been a nice relaxing day back in our cozy Kirkenes apartment. Chat tomorrow! 🙂

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 21, 2010

May 21: Bodø

I am writing to you from Bodø, Norway. It’s located just above the Arctic Circle. We are here for the Barents International Press Meeting.

There are 72 journalists from across the Barents Region, which is Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Unfortunately a group of about 12 journalists from Murmansk, Russia aren’t coming anymore because of complications from the Icelandic volcano ash cloud.

Bodø is a port town, just north of the Arctic Circle. It’s cradled between jarring, rocky mountains and a harbour teaming with ocean life. We’ve only had the opportunity to walk around the harbour, so I hope we’ll see more of this ocean town tomorrow and Sunday!

(more blog below video)

Some strange and funny things happened to me today!

First, we found a baby in Oslo airport. Yes, it’s true! This little, blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddler was wandering around with no one in sight watching him. He’d wandered off from his family. It is quite a busy transportation hub and I can see how a 2-foot tall little guy could walk out-of-sight in a split second. Anyways, Chantaie and I spotted him and followed him around as he seemed to scan the bustling crowds for a familiar face. Then, a frantic father came scurrying towards us, scooped up his child and said thank-you umpteen times. I can’t imagine the emotional roller coaster he must have experienced in those 10 or so minutes.

From there, we decided to get a coffee. Well, that was a heated situation – literally. I think this coffee shop must have talked to Tim Horton’s and been inspired to make REALLY hot coffee! I thought I could manage holding the coffee in one hand and pulling my carry-on in the other, but let me tell you, I was wrong. After about a minute walking, I had to make a big decision so as to not burn my hand – do I interrupt a group of middle-aged business having a pint at an approaching table or drop the coffee on the floor? I think you know what I did 🙂 I don’t think these men understood what I was saying, but they sure read by body language and proceeded to chuckle. They helped me wrap some paper around the cup and sent me off with a smile.

Bodø harbour

Bodø harbour

Tomorrow should prove to be memorable. There’s a seminar for “Young Journalists in the Barents Region” where I’ll get to meet journalism students and young journalists in Scandinavia and Russia.

I’m also looking forward to exploring more of Bodø.

Posted by: Margaret Cappa | May 21, 2010

May 20: Fish Farming Excursion

Excellent, excellent day.

Our colleague at the Barents Observer, Jonas, took drove us out to a Kirkenes fish farm to interview its general director. It was really interesting to actually visit a fish farm and see how it all works.

This one, Kirkenes Charr, grows and exports arctic char. The fish live in very cold, freshwater that comes from the Norwegian mountains. Kirkenes Charr farm is particularly newsworthy because it won Norway’s highest acclaim for the best raw seafood product last year. Their fish has now been in high demand in Norway and especially in Russia.

They export 1/2 million fish per year and in their three-year life, the farm has never had a disease outbreak. In fact, a fish has never died of illness there.

When we got back to the office, Chantaie and I did a story package – she wrote the story part and I did a video story! It was great working as a team on it.

Check out the story package on the Barents Observer

Video story:

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