Brian Cheung
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Northbound

Thoughts, photos and anecdotes from my travels through Norway, Scotland and Finland.

Distractions

Greetings again from Akkarfjord! We arrived home yesterday afternoon after most of the day was spent driving back up the coast followed by a few hours idly waiting around for the ferry in Hammerfest. 

It's wet and windy outside, so perfect conditions to hole up inside and do some solid work. But instead I've spent the morning not doing anything remotely constructive. The postal vote for SSM looks like it's finally happening, and I don't think I have enough words to succinctly describe how disappointed, frustrated and angry I feel that such a simple straightforward human rights issue has been allowed to drag on for so long. Anything I have to say about being denied equal rights, about this being a great opportunity for bigots to casually spray their hate speech, about the sheer waste of time/money it is to confirm an opinion which is shared by the vast majority of the Australian public anyway, and about the complete pointlessness of it all has already been talked about ad nauseam by people more eloquent and more notable than me. That we still live in a time when this has to be discussed and debated is shameful and embarrassing. 

Of course I won't be in town for whenever the ballots get mailed out, so I spent the morning trying to somehow enrol myself for an overseas vote. The powers-that-be don't yet know if/where there will be places set up for voting (again, on an opinion poll that is not legally binding) in the UK. I'll be damned if I have to spend my own precious time and money travelling down south to the London embassy to put in my 2 cents. 

But briefly pushing that to one side, I'll give a brief account of the last few days before I get back onto work. We set out on Tuesday afternoon for Hammerfest, where we hopped on another ferry for Alta where we would pick up our van. The trip from Alta to Karasjok took about 4 hours, with a few detours and stops along the way. We stopped over in the village of Masi to meet with Sami musician Johan Sara - a friend of Sofie and Victor who creates contemporary music based on the Sami tradition of the Joik (an oral tradition somewhere between singing and chanting). We had a chat and he showed us around his beautiful log cabin studio. 

Being further inland away from the coast and pockmarked with lakes, this area of Finnmark is a hot bed breeding ground in summer for mosquitoes, midges and all those other flying biting insects that no one appreciates. None of us were prepared for the sheer numbers though. I've never been so engulfed in clouds of buzzing swarms every time I stood out in the open. We were basically followed for the entirety of the road trip, so it did feel like a less literal cloud hanging over us while we were away. It also turns out that I'm allergic to something in the air. I wasn't expecting my hayfever to pick up again so far up north, but since arriving in Sørøya I've been combatting the usual symptoms of a dripping/blocked nose and itchy eyes/throat - as much as I'd like to deny it altogether.

We arrived late that night to our cabins at the Karasjok camping grounds. The next morning we visited the Sami parliament (a large wooden building built to evoke a traditional Sami lavvu tent) and the Sami centre of contemporary art. There we were given a tour by the director Jan Erik and met a local artist Aage Gaupe who took us over to his studio for another tour after seeing the gallery. 

The afternoon/evening was free as S&V drove over the border to Finland for cheaper groceries, and we had a communal dinner in one of the wooden BBQ huts at the campsite. The next day (yesterday) Victor drove us home via another route so we could see more of the landscape. Akkarfjord - Hammerfest - Alta - Masi - Karasjok - Hammerfest - Akkarfjord. 

It was good to get out of the house for a bit, and to learn about a culture that I otherwise would not have much contact with. However it's now my last week here at the residency and I still can't help but feel like I haven't used my time wisely. For my work habits and practice, 3 weeks is a miniscule amount of time and I haven't been able to settle on anything concrete so far (and I don't think I will). But there's no use in bemoaning the point. This place is magical, and I'm glad to just be here taking everything in as much as possible.