Am presently at home in Lofoten, where I make some money doing bus-guiding, in German – in Lofoten we get a lot of cruiseships calling by, unloading passengers for bustrips around the islands, msotly at Leknes harbour which is roughly in the middle of Lofoten. I shall not bother you with my butchery of the German language, but the passengers apparently understand me good enough (except for that one lady in a yellow jacket on my first trip this year, but the staff escort from the ship commented on said lady's complaints that they were Quatsch). Weather here is completely out of character for the area - 25 to 30 degrees centigrade in the shade, little to no wind - and we have had this for almost a month now. The farmers look set to have to harvest prior to midsummer, to avoid having their crops destroyed - they grow grass to make hay for livestock, and if it is left standing to long in this weather, it looses its nutritional value.
Now, the guide-company for which I work places some value on providing some social happenings for the guides as well. Thus, last Wednesday we had a combined educational and social little trip. We strated with a meeting after lunch, going through the new job-instruction for busguides, including the new safety-briefing we have to give before the bus starts driving ("[...] This bus is equipped with six emergency exit windows, one on each side in the rear of the bus, and two on each side in the middle of the bus. In case of emergency, the windows are opened by janking out that little handle in the corner that is so small and inconspicuous that even I haven't managed to find it. [...]").
After this little meeting, we got in the bus, for a tour Eastwards in Lofoten. The trip was nice, and the senior guides commented on things that are good to know about different destinations, and also not always to believe the driver, and some fun stories about guiding mishaps. Example: When we have tours with buses going West in Lofoten, they pass a farm where the cows often have their utters in special harnesses; one could almost say they're wearing bras. This is because the cows produce a lot of milk, and the utters grow large and heavy, and drag along the ground, getting cuts and scrapes, which grow infected, when they're not wearing these harnesses. We like to point this out to our passengers, they find it a fun little thing. Now, some years ago, when a French cruise-ship was visiting, there weren't enough guides who knew French, and some of the buses then needed translators. This is typical with languages as Spanish, French, and Italian – we rarely have enough. One of the guides, a girl, understood French, but couldn't speak French well enough to guide in French, so she had a translator. The bus approaches the farm, and she explains away, and the translator's face lights up with an "Oh, so delightfully different and exotic"-smile, and start translating:
"Here in Lofoten, the women produce so much milk in their breasts that the breasts get so heavy that they hang down to the ground, and therefore the women of Lofoten have to wear special harnesses for their breasts, so they don't step on them". The passengers certainly found this piece of (mis-) information more than normally exotic and different.
But I am digressing. We were on this tour, and our first destination, after an hour and a half, was Storvågan, which is a centre wtih museum, art-gallery, and aquarium. We were given a rapid explanation of the Storvågan museum, which shows life in a typical grand trading-manor of Lofoten of the 19th century, including rorbus, boathouses, and the manor-house itself. And yes, manor is an appropriate term – these manors did have specific privileges, mostly trading-related, that went with the property, and they exercised feudal power on the inhabitants of the lcoal villages. After this we were shown Galleri Espolin, which exhibits a large selection of the production of the artist Kåre Espolin Johnson, who is the artist who more than anyone has managed to capture the essence of Northern Norway. After this, we went to the Lofoten Aquarium, for a presentation fo tis faciliaty – they have the local species of fish (100lbs codfish, 500lbs halibut, tiny fishes that weigh a fraction of an ounce, etc.), seals (one male, two females – both pregnant - someone's been having fun), otters (one male, two females, neither pregnatn – wonder what he did to get out of their good graces), etc. All very educational (although some distractions did prevent me from getting full benefit of the visit – more on that alter), and all three sights within walkingdistance of each other. The reason for the visit is that for the first time, ships will be sending buses of passengers Eastwards in Lofoten, and we need to learn about the news sights we will be stopping at.
Having been thoroughly educated, we were then granted a free dinner, at the local restaurant. We enjoyed roast mutton, in a bacalao-inspired sauce of tomatoes, greens and herbs, accompanied by potato-slices sautéed in herbs. Excellent! For dessert we enjoyed cloudberry-parfait on a mirror of strawberry-puré. This was the end of the official part of the trip. We got back on the coach, loaded with pamphlets and information, and went on to Svolvær. In Svolvær, we boarded a cargo-passenger ship of the Coastal Express Hurtigruten, and had a very pleasant trip back with the ship, particularly as the sun was pleasantly shining, and we had the aft sundeck almost entirely to ourselves. As I don't like tanning much, I sat with my back to the sun, with the shirt-collar raised to protect my neck from bruning – it does all too easily.
Now, in the guidecompany where I work, there are both male and female employees. Now four-five of these males.... Well, one of them is rather young, and he's only on one-week placement from school anyway, but the potential he has...! The other four.... The potential they have fulfilled.... Particularly two of them.... Yes. One of them sat directly opposite me on the deck (we were all sitting in a loose circle), tanning – shirtless – and by chance, I had the opportunity to conclude that he was wearing shorts... and shorts. The other one did not go shirtless, but his shirt was particularly well-chosen, and told a tale of its own. Both are quite congenial fellows too, but... they are above me in the hierarchy, adn tangling with superiors, particularly without knowing what side of the fence they prefer to tangle on, can be messy, so... alas. Pleasant distractions, nonetheless, and they provide a pleasant place for me to rest my eyes.
The next planned social happening apparently involves going on some sort of sea-safari with zodiacz (or RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats), for thsoe preferring that terminology), racing around straits and small fjords in Lofoten. Almost a form of ocean-rafting, I've been told.
Oh, and Stacey: I can't turn on the mobile much until Tuesday - I have tours every day until Monday now, and need my mobile charged up, as I must have it handy on tours - must have some way of calling ambulance, etc., after all.