Norway #4: The Real World

Lucky optics living in a glass bubble
Just a cloud draped mountain overlook 
I think last week in Tromsø we were all still in this rose-tinted glasses world of snow and sunshine, but this week things 'got real'. Amore's project started up, which was an optical based experiment looking for black aurora operated in conjunction with the EISCAT UHF radar. Amore's project involved a full team effort - someone needed to be at the radar at all times from 21:00 to 1:00 and Amore' needed to be in the hut staring at a screen for black aurora events for hours. She also needed to calibrate for about 2 hours before the experiment and then turn off the camera at 4 AM. Whereas YY's experiments ran for 4 hours in the afternoon and only 1 person needed to be there, it was a much more straightforward set up. 

Things were tense many times... we are staying 40 km from town and there wasn't really an 'escape' from work ever. Couple that with poor Amore' was seriously sleep deprived after staying up till 4 AM and then being woken up between 8-10 to go over analysis, etc. It is really tough to live with your boss; I have no idea how people marry their supervisors and have an even remotely peace co-existence. None at all. 

Common attire on the sunny Norwegian beaches
I escaped to Tromsø proper on Tuesday, going in to spend a full day exploring the city. It's a fantastically hipster town, where second hand stores and coffee shops with homemade goods abound. I was lucky to get a chance just to breathe and explore, walking all over. The sidewalks are pure ice, so by 'walking', I mean waddling like an obese and terrified penguin, haha! 

Olympic training, the usu in Norway
Returning to 'The REAL World: Tromsø Nerdy Scientist Edition', we had several small issues that were getting increasingly dire. These tragedies included (my favorites): "Who got butter on the side of the loaf of bread?" , "Nutella is a luxury item, how do you think we justify that to tax payers? ", "You're tired? You are a student, you need to toughen up. This [staying up all night and not sleeping] is expected for students", and, the most common problem "Who is making dinner tonight? Why don't we have food prepared?". This may seem minor, but as I said, living with your boss is tough because smeared butter suddenly evolves to rudeness and hostility while working on research. Hmmmm. 

Taken with my iPhone, that was how bright it was!! 
But hey, the bright side of everything was Amore'. We had a blast when we found time to frolick in the snow and remember that we're alive and self-respecting individuals. We skiied through the nearby hills on a perfect sunny afternoon (Amore's first time skiing!). I can't even begin to tell you how many of 100s of times we wipeout (Nooo not again!!!) but we laughed till we cried while doing so. 

We also had fantastic aurora view that night and saw... purple aurora (!?!?!?!?!). A mild geomagnetic storm occurred, which meant we were in the perfect location to see STUNNING aurora. Picture two girls laying down in the middle of a road with Enya ('only time') playing in the background (OK, in my head, but whatever), and us giggling like 12 year old girls because we're watching the aurora weave through the sky. It was... enchanting and probably one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Probably also one of the most romantic (bummer!), so plan your honeymoon for Tromsø in March. 

Necessary for taking data in the hut
I also decided to learn Norwegian now. I updated my facebook to be in Norwegian, so this is a serious commitment. Bring on a future in the land of snow, ice, mountains, and seas, I'm ready :) 

So, we survived! Amore' observed excellent black aurora, we sang many songs (some of which are recorded) while recording data (terrorizing the operator in the process), I finished writing a manuscript and started working on another one, YY ate meals I swear were more than his bodyweight, and when Kosch left for England we didn't burn the hut down. After this experience, I'm in love with Norway and Amore' and I are 'intellectual soul-mates' (watching that aurora together... I'm telling you, profound stuff).  I'm off now.. my flight is leaving and I'm off to Ethiopia with the Sarnos for a week for... vacation! Arriba! 

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