In Tana Bru, Norway, it’s -31°C and dark at 2 p.m.

Hello everyone!


I am the sole patron in the one-room Tana Bibliotek, in northern Norway. I am using one of two Internet terminals, which are located in the children’s section. In Tana (Deatnu in Tunturi Sami or Northern Lapp) the languages are both Norwegian and Tunturi Sami, and the children’s book collection is bilingual. At the town’s bookstore I was so excited to find these two items: a Norwegian Scrabble set (299 NOK) and a Sami atlas of the world (225 NOK). I’m more excited about the latter! All the places in the world translated into Sami. Watch for your next postcard; in addition to the country name in Norwegian, I will add its Tunturi Sami name as well.

I visited the post office and was surprised to find out the cost to mail a postcard to Canada/US was 10 NOK ( = $1.78 Canadian). I have a few Tana Bru postcards to send, but unfortunately they are all summer shots. My Helsinki and Finland cards were all winter scenes but winter postcards are nowhere to be found in Tana Bru.

Yesterday I arrived in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lappi, after a twelve-hour train ride. I managed to get some sleep on the train but not enough. When I left the warm car, I was greeted to -23°C temperatures and not a soul or car in sight. What did I expect on a frozen Sunday morning (07.49) in Rovaniemi? I seriously got ticked off with myself for not having put on my long underwear and “40-below” socks before boarding the train in Helsinki. However, I know better than to dwell on this. I even thought to myself as I boarded the train the night before, that I was lucky not to have dressed extra-warm since the train cars were so hot. Yet when I got out and walked the icy streets of Rovaniemi, I wanted to change into warm clothes as soon as possible. Breakfast awaited at the pricy Rovaniemi train station restaurant, then I walked to the Arktikum museum. The museum opened at 10.00 and I arrived ten minutes early. Fortunately I was allowed in early and went immediately to the washroom to put on my warm clothes! Then I spent the next six hours looking at the museum’s exhibits devoted to Arctic culture, people, wildlife, geography and geology. My favourite exhibit was the room set up for the Languages of the Arctic. There were detailed maps of and audio samples for each Sami language, plus exhibits on the Canadian and Asian Arctic languages, plus interesting bits on Ket, a true language isolate [1].

One thing I definitely hate is being rushed through a museum, and the six hours I had in Arktikum enabled me to take in all the exhibits fully, except the last one, on the Petsamo region, and the region’s indigenous Skolt Sami population. The museum had signs and exhibit captions in Finnish, Swedish, English and Tunturi Sami, so fortunately I didn’t need to spend time thumbing through a dictionary! The Skolt Sami were forced by the Soviets out of Petsamo, and almost all Skolts migrated into Finnish territory after Finland lost the Petsamo region in the far north. (This territorial loss resulted in Finland losing its Arctic Ocean coastline and Norway now gaining a land frontier with Russia.) The captions for the Petsamo exhibits reflected the hurt and bitterness still felt by the Finns and the native Sami. In one caption, which I wrote down word-for-word, the innuendo is thick: “As far as Finns were concerned, mining ceased in the area in 1944. A mine still operates across the border.”. This caption was for one of the photos about the Finnish mining town of Nikkeli. When the Soviets gained this town (renaming it Nikel), they turned it into one of the most polluted places currently on Earth. This is no exaggeration–do web searches on the most polluted places on the planet and Nikel, Russia, comes up every time.

I had to view the Petsamo exhibits at a fast pace, in order to make it back to the Rovaniemi train station in time to catch my bus to Tana Bru. The bus was only half-full, and eight hours later, when I arrived at Tana Bru, I was one of three on board. As I type this to you now, it is 2:30 p.m., a teenage girl is beside me at the other Internet terminal, and I am looking out the window at total blackness. My gosh. And I’m going further north to Vadsø and Vardø!

Tana Bru, Vadsø and Vardø are in the Norwegian province of Finnmark. I watched the local weather forecast in the hotel dining room and I can expect the same weather this week. I even got to see a weather forecast for Spitsbergen.

[1] Basque and Burushaski are two other of the world’s true language isolates. Ket is currently spoken by only c. 530 speakers. Someone get a tape recorder and notepad and record everything these people say! With 530 speakers I’d say this language was extremely endangered.

Thanks for all of your messages! I appreciate your thoughtfulness and happy wishes!

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