I Shoulda Made a Left at Reykjavik

Our journey home from Oslo was supposed to be a simple matter of 14 hours in transit via Paris, arriving in Seattle on Monday around noon. However, little did we realize that we would be contenting with weather issues that even Lady Gaga was unable to overcome

Our 6:30am flight to Paris was delayed to 7:30, then 10, then 3pm. They were kind enough to provide us with food vouchers with each delay, but with the final update we were clearly going to miss our connection. So Air France re-routed us through Brussels for an overnight stay and departure Tuesday morning (via Atlanta). Updated ETA in Seattle: Tuesday night.

Or so we thought. An hour before departure our flight to Brussels was cancelled as they had run out of de-icing fluid. We were re-routed through Amsterdam, where we got on a train to the Brussels airport. At midnight (18 hours after leaving our Oslo hotel) we arrived at the airport, looked up at the screen of Tuesday’s departures, and discovered that our flight (as well as all other US-bound flights) was cancelled. This was probably the lowest point in any of my travels. We finally regrouped at the airport Sheraton, and after another hour long call we were booked on the Paris->Seattle flight this Thursday.

Things are looking up today. Sleeping in has helped immensely, and we are speeding along on the Thalys train to Paris. We should arrive around 5PM, which will give us a full day and two nights to soak in some unexpected deliciousness. Viva la France!

Free lunch
Lauren making the best of our food vouchers from Air France

Upper Crust bakery
We can verify this claim based on our 10 hour observation period in OSL

Broken Ethics

As luck would have it, I connected with a friend of ours from Thailand this morning. Matt is in Oslo to launch EarthRights International’s new report, which details how 15 multi-national oil and gas companies are contributing to human rights violations in Burma.

I attended his press conference this morning where he called Norway to task for their investments (~$4.7 billion) in these companies. While Norway has in place a very laudable set of Ethical Guidelines, Matt’s report details how their investments in these companies violate those guidelines. The hope is that the Council on Ethics will act on this information to evaluate whether the companies should be put under observation or potentially even excluded from their fund.

While there has not been a response from the Council quite yet, the report has received a good amount of coverage over the past few hours. Articles have appeared in Bloomberg and The Independent, as well as more traditional Burma-focused press outlets such as the Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma. For those who speak Norwegian, there is additional content here and here.

It felt great discussing the Burma situation all afternoon and reliving some of my activist days; it also reminded me how much I miss our Burmese friends in Thailand, how complicated the situation is, and  how much work remains before the Burmese can live a life free of human rights violations.

Hanging out at the Litteraturhuset
Hanging out at the Litteraturhuset before Matt’s BBC interview

Frogner Park

My team finished our morning meetings early today, so we decided to get outside and catch a bit of Oslo sunshine before our 1:00. Watching us attempt to purchase tram tickets from the machine by the train station must’ve been high comedy for the locals; we eventually gave up on technology and acquired a Flexikort (pack of 8 tickets) from a helpful barista at the coffee kiosk in the information center. Then we boarded line #12 and made our way towards the Vigelandsparken stop.

Our destination was Frogner Park, set on 80 acres of land and home to over 200 nude human figures, cast in bronze by Gustav Vigeland during the 1920s and 30s. Some of them are decidedly weird, but the landscape is beautiful and makes a fun place to frolic while playing hooky from work for a few hours on a sunny winter day.

Dad Mom
Kids and adults

Raise the roof
Raise the roof

Snow-covered path
A nice picnic spot in summertime

Angry boy
Vigeland reportedly got his subject to make this face by giving him a chocolate bar… and then taking it away

Get off! Melting snow
Left: A sign that you may have too many babies…
Right: The sun was out long enough to start melting some of the snow

Oslo

Just when we thought we’d be staying put for a while, I started collaborating closely with an engineering team in Oslo. I’m headed there for a week, to meet with the team and have some intensive brainstorming sessions. Kenny will be tagging along and will spend much of his time working remotely, but hopefully he’ll also get to go sightseeing during a few of my meetings.

Few sane people would choose Oslo as a travel destination in December: it is bitterly cold and the days are short. Hopefully we’ll be able to get the most out of the few daylight hours we have, and perhaps I can influence my team to plan our next trip in May or June.