Saturday, August 21, 2010

Boulders and BASE-jumping.

I’m feeling out of place. I’ve come to Lysebotn, a small village that sit on the Lysefjord, about a 3 hour boat-ride from Stavanger in Norway. I came here to hike to the Kjerag boulder, and expected the hostel to be full of people doing the same. It is, however, full of people that hike up to the boulder, continue past it to the cliffs, then hurl themselves off them. They're BASE-jumpers. I’ve arrived at their southern Norwegian epicenter, and they are everywhere.

In the past 24 hours I’ve had a crash course in all things BASE-jumping, not that I am any closer to understanding their conversations. They speak in a language more foreign to me than Norwegian, but every once in awhile they’ll courteously turn to explain what this means or why that type of jump is bad. Last night the conversation included casual talk of the Russian guy who died jumping here three weeks ago, and another guy’s plans to go up Everest next year. To BASE-jump you have to have a minimum of 250 sky-dives under your belt, but many that I've talked to have done at least 300-500, “just to be prepared.” I hiked up to the cliffs they take off from yesterday, and what prepares a person to go over the edge of one of them is beyond me.

It’s all about perspective, however. Most of the world thinks BASE-jumpers are crazy, but when you’re submersed in a group of them it becomes the most normal thing in the world. It’s just what they do, what they love; everyone says I should take up the hobby too, casually suggesting it as they would scrap-booking or model airplane-making. Telling them you’ve bungee-jumped is like announcing to a room full of Michelin-star chefs that you once made Kraft Dinner.

This morning I was told to go down to the dock, look for “Ryan from Canada,” and go with him on the boat to the landing site for the jumpers.  So I did, and I ended up atop a big boulder, watching as over twenty of them rained down two or three at a time. I squinted hard to spot their tiny bodies buzzing through the air before their chutes went up and a few of them wore wingsuits, making them look like flying squirrels. And they do actually fly, higher and for longer than I thought possible for a person that hasn’t jumped out of a plane.

They're not crazy; they are extremely confident, ambitious, and outgoing souls whose lust for life I admire. There's no frigging way I'm taking up BASE-jumping, though.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's OK, it's Gonna be OK.

I don't know why I'm on such a fish-kick at the moment, but I recently watched The End of the Line, a documentary about how industrial fishing is about as much help to the ocean as industrial farming is to soil (the implication here being not helpful, in case you haven't had your morning coffee ). The film is interesting, informative, if not a touch over-dramatic in its portrayal of fishermen, and though it doesn't outright state that we're screwed, the film essentially leaves you not wanting to eat fish ever again. With the exception of freshwater ling-cod, of course.

So this left me in a bit of a pickle, because tomorrow I head to Norway and have been told by people that while I'm there I must eat FISH FISH FISH. In an attempt to relieve my conscience I googled "Sustainable Fishing Norway," and good news people! Norway has been ranked number one in sustainable fishing by the University of British Columbia and the WWF. Pheeeew, she says, wiping the sweat from her brow.

That's a green light for my conscience and my stomach. Thank you Norway! I can't wait to come to your clean, organized, and humidity free country.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Canadians Catching Skookum Lingcod.

Why start a blog? Well, it’s an excellent forum in which to prove you ARE NOT NUTS to your fellow-classmates. Case in point:

A few months ago, we had an entire school day devoted to fish; a fish expert and her Michelin-star chef husband came in with a large box of swimmers and taught us all sorts of fishy things.

At one point in the lesson our teacher held up a salt-water ling-cod, prompting me to raise my hand and ask:

“Are there ling-cod in freshwater? No? Well that’s strange, because my Dad and I used to go fishing at a lake in northern BC and he’d set night lines for ling-cod, then when we caught one he’d nail it by its head to a tree.”

This statement, unsurprisingly, got a reaction from the class and from it I learned that:

a) What we caught, according to her, weren't ling-cod.

b) I didn’t actually know why my Dad nailed the fish to a tree. As a child, apparently there were certain things I accepted without question.

c) I am, short of living in an igloo, everything my classmates and their cliché-ed view of Canadians expect me to be. Where do I spend my summers? In the woods with plaid-wearing treeplanters. Are there moose where I live? Of course, they always used to be in our backyard before my dad put a fence up. Have I eaten moose? Yes, because my neighbour hunts them. Does it get freezing cold in the winter? In Prince George, absolutely. Do I say eh? ALL THE TIME.

The point of this story is that not only am I one big walking Canuck, but it turns out there is such a thing as a freshwater ling-cod (though that’s a BC nickname for them and their real name is Burbot). You have to set nightlines for them because they are bottom-feeders, and my Dad explained to me that nailing them to a tree makes them easier to skin. So I’m not nuts, I was just using BC vocabulary in Italy, which also turns out to be a problem when employing the adjective ‘skookum.’

I’d like to tell my dad that camping each summer in the middle of Carp Lake was one of the greatest highlights of my childhood. I don’t really think a kid needs Disneyland when they’ve got a lake and an island to themselves for entertainment. I also think that if you nailed anything to a tree at Disneyland, there would be problems.

Thanks Dad.