Den 22 Juli

“The most important thing we can do to stand up against radicalization and violent extremism is to maintain and build on the foremost qualities of our society. The trust we have in each other in Norway is our greatest strength.” – Erna Solberg, Norwegian Prime Minister

Today marks the third anniversary of the terror attacks in Oslo that took the lives of 77 innocent people. We had our last meeting with Steinar and Einar, the head of ISS, and ruminated on the effects of the terror attacks and escalating violence around the world, particularly in Israel and Palestine. Einar said that the man who committed these acts of terror in Oslo wanted to put an end to dialogue. These words have stayed with me throughout the day. At times it is difficult to be optimistic when facing seemingly unsolvable problems, but we also realize the grave consequences of giving up.

We are our own worst enemies when we divide on extreme ends of the political spectrum. When thinking about peace studies, I believe we often focus on what is going wrong in the rest of the world without taking equal time to assess the situation at home. Members of our own communities resort to violence to have their voices heard. How do we discuss the pressing issues at home without individuals feeling the need to resort to acts of violence?

As I began to reflect on my summer here, I realize how thankful I am for the relationships I have formed. Our relationships have formed bridges across nations and countries. Dialogue cannot stand alone as a bridge to peace, but without it we cannot find a common ground to build the foundation of trust.

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The Amazing Race Comes to Oslo

What do Peace Scholars do in their free time? Get creative and make city wide scavenger hunts, that’s what. We considered Survivor on one of the islands, but decided that could escalate quickly.

It was a week long process, but on Saturday we finally had our Amazing Race. Andrew, the game creator and host, made all of the clues from our suggestions throughout the week. We even had a budget…that’s how serious this was. Some of our group was out on excursions, so our four teams of two had to do. Aseel and I decided to start the game running more for effect than with the intention of running the whole game. Brad and Eleni (Team Augsburg) took us seriously and ran all over the city. Needless to say they won.

A few highlights from our Amazing Race:

– On the metro I started asking two Norwegian women where we should go because we were “new” to the city. One woman told us to go to the toilet in the Opera House. Of course we did. In case you were wondering, the bathrooms look like large icebergs.
– Aseel and I sang “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” on top of the Opera House. Everyone stared at us.
– I planked on the statue of FDR.
– We filmed our Steve Irwin inspired video at Ensjø station. Aseel pretended to be a frog (she didn’t want to be a crocodile) and we played leap frog while people got on and off the metro. The Norwegians looked very concerned…

Team Augsburg won hands down. Annie and Amy came in second, Katie and Maddie third, and Aseel and I last. We took things at a more leisurely pace. All in all it was a successful afternoon!

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Memory and Our Future Through Peace Education

My second post for the Nobel Peace Prize Forum Blog…

As I have been conducting my research on peace education in Israel and Palestine, I am continually struck by the question of memory or history as a force in opposition to successful peace. Theories may lay out a set framework for how peace education can succeed, but what truly matters are the facts on the ground. This only confirms how difficult peace and reconciliation are, especially in a situation where the conflict evolves day to day.

When we go to school we bring along our biases and ideologies that our parents and communities reinforce. Many times our experiences in class only reiterate these biases and ideologies, further distancing us from “the Other.” In conflict situations, especially intractable conflicts, these views may be in direct opposition to the thought of reconciliation and the peace process. I’ve understood competing histories, such as those in Israel and Palestine, as deeply-rooted, conflicting memories. In his Nobel Lecture on December 11, 1986, Elie Wiesel stresses the importance of memory in building peace. Wiesel states, “Without memory, our existence would be barren and opaque, like a prison cell into which no light penetrates; like a tomb which rejects the living. Memory saved the Besht, and if anything can, it is memory that will save humanity. For me, hope without memory is like memory without hope.” Wiesel’s words from almost thirty years ago impact us today, just as memory from over 2000 years ago seems like yesterday to many in Israel and Palestine. In a situation of such animosity, is it possible to come together to form a collective memory without disrespect to each other’s pasts? Our past experiences are crucial in the formation of our future, but in the formation of a collective future how do we reconcile these differences?

The vulnerability both Israelis and Palestinians feel in reaction to past atrocities unto each other and other nations shows us the need for peace education to strengthen internal and external relations, but also why peace has been so difficult. My research and experience thus far in Norway has pointed toward the need for dialogue and grassroots efforts to begin this conversation with “the Other.” Past attempts at peace have proven that trust and understanding are difficult to filter down into all aspects of society if only top tier officials are involved in dialogue with “the Other.” Education, as a foundational element to every society, gives us space to think critically and objectively when given the right tools and guidance. As educators we have a duty to aid younger generations in facilitating reconciliation to build a culture of peace. Instead of waiting for the conditions theory states will be most successful, we need to dive in and act now. Memory demands that we act, but also that we have hope to create our future together.

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“Nobel Field” at the Nobel Peace Center

Wednesdays Are Typically the Hottest Day in Norway

Well this “fact,” courtesy of Andrew, has proven to be true while in Norway, and this past Wednesday was the beginning of our long weekend at ISS. Thursdays are also the least likely day for Norwegians to go out. Sadly that was true and the highlight of the night was eating fries at McDonalds.

Although some of us didn’t travel anywhere on our break, we had an amazing time exploring Oslo and camping. It’s incredible how you can be in the city in one minute and in the wilderness the next. You can camp almost anywhere so we decided to take a Wednesday night excursion to Skogen (1 hour from Blindern). Andrew, Amy, Maddie, and I packed up a little tent, our sleeping bags, and sandwiches and set off for our adventure in nature. We found wild strawberries, a gorgeous lake at sunset, a boat, and some cute hiking trails. After setting up camp next to the lake we spent hours talking, exploring, swimming, and paddling around on the boat. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to break!

I’ve put on my tourist hat and started visiting lots of museums and exploring the East side of Oslo. So far I’ve gone to the National Gallery, the Astrup Fearnley Museet, the Opera House, the Munch Museum, the Akershus Fortress, and wandered around Grønland and Grünerløkka. Seeing “The Scream” was incredible, I’ve been a total art and history geek for the past few days. I’ve also managed to spend lots of time at the beach. We even sang Kum-Bah-Yah in the fjord while swimming so that’s checked off the to-do list. This weekend has also helped me to meet more students at ISS. It is so interesting to hear their stories and learn about their homes. These students have such insight into the various events occurring around the world and I’ve enjoyed hearing their perspectives. I’ve also gotten some great travel advice!

I recently spent some time at Bjølsen Bakeri doing research and chatting with friends. The coffee here is 25 kroner with free refills. If you know anything about the cost of (good) coffee in Norway, you would know this is the best thing a tired college student could find. Although, I did get made fun of for asking for iced coffee…us silly Americans. I’m starting to find some great material in my research on Peace Education in Societies in Intractable Conflicts. One of the biggest obstacles I see for the success of a peace education program in an ongoing conflict are the competing historical narratives that instill the “us” and “them” mentality. My focus is on Israel and Palestine where the facts on the ground change daily and actions are justified through past histories. How can we come together to form a joint history that is accepted by all? Is it possible to begin peace education without a common history? These are questions I continue to struggle with. At the same time, I am researching the power of nationalism in war films as seen in Hollywood and Scandinavian cinema. It has been wonderful to see the parallels between my film class and peace seminar. I knew absolutely nothing about film before arriving here and I now understand the conventions of film in a different light.

So far this Monday has proven to be unusually sunny, good thing since we watched Trolljegeren (Trollhunter) in class. Trolls don’t like sun so we were safe, whew. If you’re looking for some authentic Norwegian fun (besides reading my blog) watch Trollhunter.

Camping fun…

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❤ Cezanne

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The Opera House

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Astrup Fearnley Museet

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Munch 🙂

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FJORD

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Akershus Fortress…Overlooking the fjord keeping Oslo safe from the Swedes. There’s also some treasure. Fun fact: During the Nordic Seven-year War Lord Christiern Munk ordered the people of Oslo to burn their houses so the Swedes couldn’t find shelter. They got twelve years free of taxation in return.

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There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather, Only Inappropriate Clothing

This past weekend we got to sing some hiking songs as we traveled up to Joutunheimen for our reindeer safari and 7 hour hike. The reindeer were pretty neat, and what do you know, Lars was our reindeer expert and guide! It was great to have a break from the busy city life in Oslo, social media, and homework. I enjoyed having time to enjoy the scenery and get to know my fellow hikers. I’m sorry I didn’t take many pictures, you’ll have to come see this gorgeous place for yourself.

On Saturday we took the plunge, literally, into 38 degree emerald green glacier water at 10pm while it was raining. It was great, you should try it sometime. We joked about this as a metaphor for our summer, but in a way we are jumping into the unknown. Our research will take us in many different directions, and our lives after this summer are undetermined as many of us enter our senior years and decide what direction we want to go after graduation.

The “forecast” for our hike on Sunday predicted thunder and lightning with rain all day so unfortunately we didn’t get to climb up the famous Besseggen Ridge trail. I’ll save that for my next trip to Norway, Peace Scholar reunion? We hiked on the Bukkelægeret trail along the side of lake Gjende and across some waterfalls. Although it was raining, it was probably the most fun I’ve had here so far. Our group worked well as a team, building rock bridges to cross the waterfalls and helping each other up the difficult rocky slopes. I also took the trip as a challenge to see just how waterproof my hiking boots were. In case you were wondering, Keens are waterproof until you are submerged in ankle deep water jumping across a waterfall.

Today my professor asked what we all did this weekend and for those of us that went on the hiking excursion she said we got the real Norwegian experience. In Norway there is no such thing as a forecast because the weather can go from 70 degrees and sunny to pouring rain within an hour. The key is to always be prepared. I think this is true, but this weekend taught me to just enjoy the moment, no matter how much rain. Also, don’t hike with your rain-jacket hood on, you won’t see as much.

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Send in Jan Egeland

Send in Jan Egeland the United Nations superhero man! But really, ISS sent in Jan Egeland so we could learn from his peaceful ways (more like we hopped on the metro to meet him, but ISS sending him in sounds cooler). Steinar told us this would be the summer of our lives and meeting Jan Egeland was certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

This afternoon we wandered over to the Norwegian Refugee Council offices in downtown Oslo where Jan works and he provided us with a brief overview of the work he is doing. What impressed me most about our visit with Jan were the statistics he presented. Currently there are 51.2 million refugees in the world. Thinking about that number is daunting. The NRC has approximately 4200 volunteers working around the world to aid in shelter, education, water and sanitation, food security, and counseling and legal assistance. This past year they were able to aid a little over 4.5 million refugees and their impact increases each year. It’s incredible the amount of good people can do in such dire situations.

Something I’ve been hearing a lot while here in Norway is the debate over immigration and refugees seeking asylum. This debate is just as heated, if not more, in the United States. The tragic terrorist attack in Oslo on July 22, 2011 is one example of this debate being taken to an extreme. Many individuals view immigrant and refugee populations as “free-loaders,” something I feel is a massive generalization and stereotype. How can we jump to such conclusions about fellow human beings? This mindset only deepens the wounds from discrimination and fear that many refugees bear, not to mention further instilling mistrust and the feeling of “otherness.” I asked Jan his views on the debate and although he doesn’t anticipate Europe becoming more liberal in allowing larger numbers of refugees to seek safety in their countries, he does have hope for helping refugees locally. Therefore we need to continue to provide aid both at home and abroad while we work to move conflicts away from physical violence.

Today has been one of the most inspiring days on our trip so far, and Jan Egeland’s motivation is impressive. He definitely drinks protein shakes to keep up all that positive energy and drive to make a difference. We shouldn’t get discouraged though, because peacemaking takes time and practice. I guess you could drink a protein shake if you wanted to, but no guarantees you’ll turn into a peace making machine instantly. If there is one thing I’ve learned so far on my journey in Norway it is that peace is complicated stuff. No brainer, I know, but an incredible amount of logistics, analytics, and field work go into the process. Peace involves perseverance, organization, dialogue, and an action-oriented way of life. Back home in Sioux Falls we have a large refugee community where each of us can make a difference. Take the time to ask good questions and listen as you move through each day. Need some motivation? Send in Jan Egeland. http://youtu.be/Yn-oemgzlEU

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