On 11th August 2009 the operation responsible for cleaning up the MV Full City oil spill (the IUA), gave a call out for volunteers to help with onshore cleaning. This was an open and general invititation, but various NGOs were contacted directly. It was through one of these that I got involved and travelled up to Norway to lend a hand. Clean some beaches, etc. Our time on the south coast of Norway was eventful and insightful, and so I've done by best to write it up accurately. The majority of this text is lifted directly from my diary which I kept on a day-to-day basis. Of course my account is biased, because i hate hierarchy, bureaucracy, profiteering and, most importantly, the cops. To avoid any trouble I've removed most peoples names, and the NGO i'm a volunteer with is consistently referred to ambigiously as the "organisation". Hopefully it's not too confusing.
Saturday night and Sunday
what is this? heading into the ruptured belly of a dying pandimensional beast. during the night i had nightmares in slick blackness. reverberating. all these images i can't quite place. the ultimate cliche is the bosch painting, but now devoid of any characters. uninhabited, just paint. slick black scum. from your knees to the horizon.
but i sleep. the bus is all blinking LEDs and the red demon eyes of car brake lights floating in the middle distance. sluggish. and i'm hating on the guy next to me. he can't take his eyes off the woman opposite. his evil eyebrows. in my memory he's licking his lips with forked tongue. and when his phone goes off for the fourth time, him asleep and oblivious, i resort to punching him. he feels nothing. he never has.
arriving into the oslo dawn it turns out i'm the only person who at all knows the way around. it's nice to feel useful. even reliable. but nowhere is open. people raid 7eleven, not willing to wait for the grocery store, and i'm disappointed by all the coke and meat. but i'll be damned if i'm going to judge these awesome people. tired and hungry. our group currently consists of nine - four guys, three english-only speakers, and two vegetarians. everyone is cool and i feel instantly comfortable around them. there is no clique and no pretense.
we get called pigs in the ladies toilet. the three of us only had one 10kr coin, in retrospect we should have chosen the gents. we learn from such mistakes. and it's worth noting the excellent bookcrossing shelf in the train station.
after six hours waiting in oslo we're on our way to stavern, the base of operations. we meet our primary contact and she leads us up to the headquarters, surrounded by a high barbed wire fence and deep moat. what the fuck is this place? she's lead us straight into a police station. the beast's jaws. don't you know who we are? we don't play well with cops.
but it will do. we have free pool (not a pool), coffee and internet. a large social room. it's like a hotel, but run by the police. the shower is an experience. you know when you get exposed to radiation and men in hazard suits come and scrub you down? it's like that, pinned against the wall.
so welcome to norway's coast again. since i came to clean an oil spill the last thing i thought i'd need was swimming clothes. but the water looks lovely. who would have thought? and we're only about 10 miles from tønsberg, where i was a couple of weeks ago. it's no less pretty here. only covered in oil. not that we've seen any evidence of it yet. we have no idea of the situation.
it's constantly earlier than i thought. only 5pm and everyone is in bed. they'll never be up at 7am for breakfast. but we've been up since 6am, and barely slept before then. i feel great considering. excitement overrides tiredness. helped along by fresh norwegian air.
if it wasn't sunday we could buy beer. stupid non-secular country. we meet the second shipment of volunteers, the swedish representation. this boosts our group's size to a strong 16. we tour the town for food and begrudingly choose the nicer looking restaurant. the pizza takeaway was the cheapest option, and the most expensive restaurant gets their pizzas from the takeaway. go figure. we all share food and i'm so happy to be here, amongst people with interesting stories. and a huge beer.
Day 1 - 17.08.2009
the bulk cargo carrier full city hit the ground on july 31st. it's now august 17th. over 200 tonnes of oil spilled out into the sea (the most common figure quoted is 120, however the operation itself claimed that 212 tonnes had been recovered by august 5th). someone on the ground told us that for the first two weeks the clean-up operation consisted of only a handful of people, various 'officials' and a few firemen. however the website claims approximately 500 personnel are participating. i'm inclined to believe this is an optimistic estimate of the total number of people that will have been involved when the operation is finally complete. we've been told the operation is currently about 200 people strong, although i've seen no evidence of this. none of these numbers make sense and i don't know what to believe.
currently i'm sitting in the cafeteria on my own. there's a few cops around but at least now, unlike during breakfast, they are plain clothed. horrible people.
it's dinner time and i'm starving. i'm stuffing myself on two plates of mashed potato, steamed broccoli and carrots. my dessert is chocolate mousse with choclate sauce. excellently disgusting. if only because this is the only food i've had all day. the lunch they brought to us out in the field was all meat. we'd been through this, but crucial links in the communication chain had obviously failed. they hadn't been told about the six vegetarians/vegans. they promised dinner would be fine. which of course it wasn't. we don't eat fish, you fucking retrogressive fucktards. a full days work and no food. although the meat eaters weren't much better off, their food looked absolutely disgusting. microwave tv dinners. boiled reconstitued meat. foul. but now i'm happy and i can't understand why no one else has joined me. i think everyone is just too fed up.
it's been one of those days. we assembled at 8am and were provided with all new gear. work outfits, full protective clothing, boots, rain clothes, helmet. then we were driven down to the beach in a bus with no seatbelts ("this is norway and it's a legal requirement to wear your seatbelt, so belt up everyone. what? nevermind then").
the beach is covered in black fabric. endless rolls. we have to cover it all, end to end, from the clean grass to the clean stones. blanket the oil so as to stop the birds from landing on it. we work well as a team, with no hierarchy or difficulty or proper guidance. the person who seems to be in charge speaks a strange norwegian and no one can understand him.
the view is fabulous. glorious weather. fresh salty air. and thick crude oil smeared all along the coast, a strip 5 metres wide. the rocks black and glistening, alien like. oil pools thick beneath them. it sticks to everything. spreads. the dead trees come to haunt us. benzine. hydrogen and carbon. the nightmare of industry. here's your vision of the future. all we need is ash falling from the sky in thick clumps. here is your cormac mccarthy. your mad max. waterworld. a suitably shit and horrible reference.
after lunch we start collecting the seaweed, placing into into doubled black plastic bags, then these in turn into large tarp containers to be air lifted away. it's grim and tiring and in three hours we're done nothing but spit on the beach and rub it around a bit. we filled three large sacks, each of which can supposedly carry a ton.
scraping tar from the surface. it really is the most vile stuff. i'm never going to get the smell of seaweed and oil out of my nostrils. will i ever be able to eat seaweed again? at least there's no dead birds here. no beached wales, giant bloated lumps of glistening black. all we have to play with is dead jelly fish.
i'm starting to think they should straight up napalm the whole beach. poor diesel on it and burn the lot. tarmac it. just turn it into a car park. not that i feel defeated. just suckerpunched at the futility. we're making a difference, yes, but it's so very small. why aren't all the oil company employees down here? breaking their backs and getting caked in crude oil like us (we're very eager to get dirty). take some responsibility.
around 3pm it starts to rain and we run out of cleaning wipes. i have oil smeared across my belly (from pulling my boiler suit up, which has been tied around my waist inside my protective outer layer and seriously pissing me off). we use sun cream to remove the oil. it's very clever. and it contains only a fraction of the horrible chemicals that are in the cleaning wipes. i've never seen a list of such terrifying ingredients. is the oil honestly worse?
we didn't see them towing the tanker away. finally removed after 18 days.
our biggest challenge today was following the rules. the health and safety regulations being told to us patchy and vague. beginning to doubt the sensibility of what we're being told to do. no one has demonstrated anything to gain our confidence or respect. i sympathise with those of us who are complaining, but it wont get us anywhere - causing trouble and getting smeared in oil, as if you're not working hard enough if you're not dirty. it's ridiculous to think we might know better than these people how to deal with the oil. discussing it is just pointless. and it will make us unpopular.
we had a pleasant evening. took a jaunt to the supermarket (everyone gawping at the beer prices), discussion on food, protests, police, "what's wrong with coke?" etc. i worry i'm being too enthusiastic and talking too much. coming across as opinionated, arrogant, of any of the synonyms. but it's so refreshing to be able to talk on these topics with such an interesting and varied group (varied but aligned in the right direction).
Day 2 - 18.08.2009
"unprepared" doesn't begin to describe the norwegian government's relationship to the oil disaster. a government whose economic 'success' and stability is built purely on oil - the government pension fund, more commonly known as "the oil fund". and of couse it was a StatoilHydro tanker that caused this disaster. StatoilHydro is the largest offshore oil company in the world and the largest company in the whole of the nordic region (59th in the world). the norwegian goverment has 62.5% ownership of the company. there is complete accountability. this clean up operation is being estimated at 500million norwegian kroner, 200million of which will be paid for by the insurance company. the rest will come from the oil fund. there's some kind of economic justice there, if only it was that simple. it's not norway that has been hurt by this, it's the exceptionally beautiful corner of the world that norway has built itself on and utterly failed to protect.
"unprepared" also describes my mental state. i'm up too early this morning, shouldn't have stayed up late drinking beer, could have been slightly better prepared for what just happened. which was walking straight into fear and loathing in las vegas. climbing the stairs to the cafeteria alone, the food hall is full of uniformed police. dazed and confused, straight into the den. my heart sank. popped. hundreds of them, all in light blue shirts. the only consolation is they're still in training, they're still somewhat human. right? there's a metaphor in here somewhere. somewhere between the 200 cops and the 200 tonnes of oil.
i waited a minute or two, taking extra long in choosing my coffee, pouring my cereal ever-so slowly, hoping a table devoid of cops will appear out of the conwayian chaos. they must have all arrived yesterday. why did i have to be the first real person to breakfast?
the rest of the morning follows the same crazy pattern. variations on the theme of bureaucratic time wasting. we sit in a lecture theatre and we're told everything we already know in a language we don't understand. it's frustrating, especially when we could be out actually doing work. the operation is a process still very much in the development phase. the system is still learning its way. from up here it looks blind and retarded, but what do i know of bureaucratic bureaucracy?
three hours wasted. we have a short version of the lecture in english, where they tell us what documents and leaflets to read, none of which have been translated into english yet, and it's all just common sense anyway. we're then driven to the tax office. you can imagine the nightmares they have instore for us there, but surprisingly it's fast and easy. never has such a loathesome extension of the system been so painless.
well, for most of us. one of our group is from south america. he's married to a danish woman and is awaiting his danish CPR number (social security / national insurance). just to get here he needed stamped papers to guarantee he wasn't deported when he left or tried to return. they weren't hard to get, it's just an extra layer of bureaucracy. his problem now is that because he doesn't have a danish CPR yet he can't get a norwegian one, therefore can't be put into the payroll system, and without being on payroll he can't be insured for the job. basically he can't work, not as an employee or as a volunteer.
we also discovered most of the staff here are being paid over 300kr an hour. locals, volunteers and fireman amongst them. they spend most of the day sitting in the sun and drinking coffee. sometimes telling people what not to do. they're in no rush to get this job done. "take your time", "take breaks whenever you want", "when the winter comes the snow and ice will clean it all away". i have no problem with pouring money down the drain and into the local community. just think how hard their real estate has been hurt (no, really). but when it's at the expense of the environment i'm nothing but rage.
so it was no surprise when we returned to the depot, ready for work and now insured (don't ask about yesterday), and we're told it's too late to go to the beach. they tell us to go for a swim. so we did. fuck them.
at dinner time we're told we're not allowed to eat at the cafeteria where we're staying. the other staff can, the 200 police can. but for some reason they can't cater for an extra 15 environmental activists. even if it means we work an extra hour and a half (they don't want that, of course). the tv dinner they provide us with is shit again. absolutely and unforgivingly piss poor. no protein or carbohydrate. the meat is so bad it turns our whole group into vegans. we drafted a series of recipes for them to cook for us tomorrow. what kind of catering company doesn't understand the most basic principles of nutrition? protein.
i'm drinking so much solo. this is out of disgust at them giving us so much coke.
i went and got peaches and cream from the cafeteria anyway. and in the evening we drank some wine that had been left in the social room and played cards. trying not to get too late a night.
Day 3 - 19.08.2009
we're dealing with crude oil. this is the evil sucked straight out of the ground. and whilst standing amongst the oil covered rocks and lighting up a cigarette they tell us it's not flammable. just don't get it on you. even if you don't react to it now, you may develop an allergy ten years down the line. in the worst case you wont be able to go near rubber without having an adverse reaction. if you smell the gas you should ask for a gasmask. the fumes are toxic. but everything around here stinks, the masks don't help. finally they tell us the oil's been tested and it contains no polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). they leave it to us to figure out what that means, because obviously they don't know themselves.
today we had to kick serious ass. to make up for all the complaining yesterday. to justify ourselves. to say "hey we pissed you off but we're amazing". we are clearly the most motivated workers here, they can't hold that against us.
let me explain the basic cleaning process. first of all the 'clean areas' are allocated and set up, fabric laid down and the borders marked with tape. when coming from a polluted area nothing with oil on can be brought back into the clean area. there can be no spreading. protective gear is removed and boots must be covered.
paths between these areas and down to the beach are created by pouring bark on the ground. the bark soaks up oil so minimises spreading. on the beach all organic matter that has oil on it is removed. all the seaweed is removed and the grass is cut down to the soil/sand. the roots are left, so as not to completely destroy the ecosystem. this is gruelling work, hacking away at oil soaked grass with a rapidly blunting 3" blade. like giving giant elvis a haircut.
once the area is cleared more bark is thrown down and rubbed into the rocks and ground. every stone has to be lifted up and polished with bark to clean it. in the worst areas there's thick oil under every rock. if there's too much for the bark to soak up it is placed into buckets to be removed (although we're in the dark as to where that goes). it's slow, but when you look around and your team mate has covered the area behind you in bark, completely transforming it, it makes it all worth it. over the hours it starts to resemble a beach again.
the bark is delivered on the back of a lorry in 10kg bags. it's these that i spent all morning hauling down to the seafront. the frontline.
it looks great on tv, but there is no bird cleaning. they just kill them. they're going to die anyway from oil ingestion, it's the most humane way to deal with them. as for the sticky black crabs, we're not told. sometimes we throw them into the sea. i'm just happy i've managed to avoid cutting any in half.
today went how monday should have gone. our team leader spoke english and actually led us. he monitored us and worked with us. he earned respect and we worked well together. it's explained to us why we have to do things certain ways, and we're happy with that. blindly following rules is something we're not so good at. it's a shame we can't have him every day. the firemen are taking it in turns to come down here, doing a couple of days a week each.
it was the best days work i ever did. sweating in the unbreathable protective gear. when we finished for dinner my trousers are completley soaked through with sweat, top to bottom. and i was starving. again they insisted on driving us miles out of the way to eat our food. nothing makes much sense around here. and the catering company had completely ignored us. the food was mildly better, they fed us some vegetables and blah blah. but there was still no protein. and only six vegan meals, not sixteen. they tell us they can only cater for six vegans. it's a good job we are only six then, i presume. they must really hate their job when they do it this bad. half of the meat eaters don't even touch the food. i don't know whether to laugh or cry when we're told it's the same company who cooks for the hospital.
and a boiled egg broke in my pack. the cafeteria can't even cook a boiled egg properly. it's disgusting.
anyway. during the day some of our group had been taken away to join the WWF boat and work on one of the islands. (yes i'm immensely jealous, but unnatural disasters warrant no egoism). they also had an excellent day with no bullshit. hardcore oil cleaning and no messing around. we all met up again in the evening at the pyramid memorial (for the thousands of norwegians that lost their lives in the world wars) for some beers and smokes.
the WWF woman has been here since just after the 'accident'. she had a full weeks comprehensive training, nature and wildlife, conservation and protection. this is something no one else around here seems to have had, or is at least able to convincingly demonstrate. she has many stories, and nearly all of them involve the familiar frustrations and anger at this useless operation. it turns out she'd been expecting a full team from our organisation. her boat had even stocked up on vegetarian food especially. hearing this crushes us. all that wasted time and unnecessary bureaucracy. we could have been working with a brilliant team on the worst hit islands. making the difference we're so desperately craving.
actually i want to stay another week. what we've achieved so far is nothing compared to the mammoth task ahead. we've been told the operation will take at least until december. six months. we need to be working more now, whilst the days are long and weather is good. but they wont let us.
Day 4 - 20.08.2009
the amount of waste being generated by this clean-up operation is immense. it's almost ironic. all of the organic material that needs to be removed. countless bin bags. the mass of waste from cleaning just a couple of square metres of beach is incredible. and no one here knows where it goes, because no one wants to know. and all of our 'use once and destroy' equipment, the rubber gloves and protective suits (two a day per person, at 50kr each). garbage generation and profiteering. cleaning is a positive force, but the negative we create is ignored. it's collateral. the implications are further reaching than you realise.
what happens to the 1100 tonnes of oil that's been collected from the tanker and the sea? the kystverket website redirects you to veolia miljø, the company tasked with removal of the oil (COSCO, the owners of the tanker, hired smit salvage BV to deal with the oil, perhaps it was them who subcontracted veolia?). here it explains that it's the insurance company who decides what is to happen to the oil, which will all be processed and sold as refuse-derived fuel to norcem, a company who make concrete. they'll be getting a very good deal i'm sure.
today i finally cracked. i keep laughing about it still, several hours later. it hadn't meant to be funny, or even rude, but after too many hours in the baking sun wearing full protective gear, and too many days of pent up vegan rage, something snapped. we'd just sat down together for dinner, us vegetarians/vegans with our crap food (not quite as crap before, not quite as crap as everyone elses), and this guy comes over. "ey ey". that's all he said. and he makes one of use move out of 'his' seat. should i say something? it was that vegan rage building up. "excuse me, but we're all vegetarians here. this is the vegetarian table, and i'd prefer it if you didn't eat your meat here". his face was pure disgust. teeth and sneer. indignation. perhaps my actual words were a bit harsher than those quoted above. i wish i'd had a camera. "i've been sitting her all day", was his best reply. some of us had been on the beach all day working. i explained to him how i couldn't eat at the same table as him. he wasn't going to leave so i left, joining the person he'd evicted. the others followed one by one, unable to sit there without laughing, leaving him on his own. stupid fucker.
they keep looking at me funny when i ask for water to clean my hands. they kept giving me the chemical wipes box, insisting i use them, not quite understanding that it's those chemicals i'm trying to wash off my hands before eating. i was too tired for this.
some of us had woken up early in hope of getting on the WWF boat ("i'm here and i'm ready, let me go"), but it wasn't going to happen. they had to split up our group. to break our morale if nothing else. to give them something to do whilst drinking their coffee and sitting on the arses:
however, they did appoint one of our group as our own team leader. was this acknowledgement that we know our stuff, work well as a team, without their intervention and time wasting? or was it just so that they didn't have to deal with us asking complicated questions anymore? or was it because they were a team leader short and didn't have a clue what to do? i'm sure i said this before, they don't mind breaking the rules if it makes life comfier for themselves.
so all day we were cutting grass, wiping the rocks with bark, scooping oil out from underneath them. the stink of oil and salty death through the protective mask. helicopters flying low over us (probably just journalists, i'm not even joking). great conversations passing the time. trying to block out nickelback playing on someones mobile phone ("is this radio? or..?"). as if the sound of the waves isn't all you need. isn't this just the nicest work environment?
and now the thunder comes. the sky gasping for air. boom.
Day 5 - 21.08.2009
mosquito bites and warped dreams. running up stair rails. it rains all night and i feel every drop hit the ground. at breakfast we've taken to automatically sitting at the table marked 'reserved'. after four days it surely must be reserved for us. it's amusing how blindly the cops follow rules, not even looking at this table. it's almost annoying how much they queue. waiting infront of the cheese board, only to discover it's my own fork i'm using (yes, i've seen you use those forks for meat). i bet they don't even mix their apple and orange juice. and when they walk in groups they're marching. they don't realise they're doing it. we even asked them about it. "we're just walking" they said.
down on the beach we're starting to see our work taking shape. the rain pummeled the ground and spread the wood chips. we had to do some of it again, but this is what they call nature taking charge. just wash it all back in the sea. that's how it goes right?
coffee break. just a joke. there is no real coffee. the same way there are no real knives.
so we start to get sloppy. the grass isn't being cut short enough and i have to go back and redo it. nasty work the second time round because there's nothing to grapple with. i start complaining about other people's work and i hate myself for it. but if we're not going to do it properly then there's no point. we're all very reasonable about it.
for lunch we finally get tofu. tofuckingfu. salad with pineapple and pasta (wow) with cut up raw silken tofu. it's as bland as food can get, but it least it contains protein today. the dishes also came with air filled bags of white bread. we spent half the meal laughing at the absurdity of it all.
and then the shit really hit the fan.
but this story will have to wait for tomorrow. we need to get drunk.
the official story is there is no official story. most of everything seems to be speculation. and we're not allowed to talk about it to anyone. not until it's been resolved. whatever that means. but what we know so far is this. yesterday evening we were informed that the head of the police had decided, without a doubt and without evidence, that one of our group has been running around on amphetamine. a specific person and a specific drug. based purely on observation. and they're rejecting his offer to be drug tested. they're not interested, they just want him to leave immediately. the rest of us are welcome to stay. i'm sure the word they used wasn't actually "welcome".
shortly after this we're contacted by the head of operations and we're told our organisation is no longer needed. we are all to leave in the morning. this is after everyone has said we're one the best groups working out in the field. we're the most enthusiastic and effective team. they even allowed us to work pseudo-autonomously, with our own team leader. and it was them who invited us. NGOs were contacted directly. help requested.
we rocked and they fucked us.
currently it's all up in the air. our head office is trying to negotiate with the operation. it's gone all the way to the top. but i'm not going to hold my breath. i've seen the speed at which things move around here. and how the people are so very stuck in their ways.
whether our organisation is being dismissed due to the drug allegation is speculation. but it seems obvious to me. especially since we've been told we're all (but the one) allowed back of our own accord. but for now we have to leave, and the eight people who were about to catch the ferry from sweden have been turned back. it's just layers of bullshit covering the layers of bureaucracy. is this what they mean by "operating at full force to clean affected shore areas"?
coincidentally, as soon as we find out what's happening the internet is cut off. this is where the conspiracy theories begin. i start getting paranoid. this is a police facility, their own network, of course they've been monitoring us. every page and every email. all passwords compromised. i'm annoyed at myself for not thinking of this before. for even sitting down at their machines. the only comfort is that i'm always careful when using unknown networks. it's always in the back of my mind. and either way, i've nothing to hide. it's just the principle. but i'll still be changing my passwords as soon as i get home. can't walk around feeling violated all the time.
and to think, when we first moved into our rooms i made a joke about something hanging out of the air vent being a bug.
this ridiculous turn of events completely justifies all of our paranoid and uncomfortable feelings, our thoughts on the idiocy of mixing us with the people who hate us the most. those looks were all dirty looks. disdain. why would they want to so completely reinforce our negative view of them? at least i can take comfort in their stupidity. amphetamine? they're clearly shit at their job. if they were simply trying to remove us based on their institutionalised prejudice, using one of us as a scapegoat, they could have picked a more realistic drug.
but without making arrests, searching rooms or doing drug tests, the whole thing is nothing but a political farce.
once at the oslo office, back on the internet (and being very wary), we have a look around the police school's website. we discover they're currently running a three day course on drug indentification. everything falls into place. can you spot the copper who just earnt an A+?
that evening we raided the bins infront of all the living quarters and hauled over 130 pant-able bottles. in denmark this would buy you about 50 beers, but in norway it's only enough for 13 of the cheapest beers. we all chipped in extra. sat up late drinking and discussing. at one point one of our contacts came over (i nicknamed her "the sour woman") to collect our time sheets. she was all smiles and pleasantries. makes no sense.
our exit wasn't exactly quiet. but it was polite and professional. nothing these people deserve. we were denied breakfast and the internet still wasn't working. at least they'd left us the pool table.
a couple of us went for a walk along the rocks that stretch out into the sea. it's a lovely location and completely free of oil, but i still manage to slip on a rock, resulting in a vicious bruise on my thigh. later i'll be claiming this came from a police rubber bullet. and looking at it you'll believe me too.
in oslo we were met by someone from our local office and he shows us the way there. fast walking, difficult with all our gear. it's funny how we're all leaving with twice as much stuff as we arrived with. and if your curious about the ethical implications of this, you'll be 'happy' to hear that everything with any amount of oil on is instantly trashed. boots and overalls are not reused. nothing is.
at the office we collapse down and dig in. we cook up the best food we've eaten all week (the only food). it was a feast. we watched stupid videos on youtube and talked all kinds of stupish. "who needs molotovs when you have pepsi and mentos?".
in the evening we took a walk to a nearby grassy hill and drank some beers. chilled out. played some football. the sky huge and inviting. oslo never looked this hip before, bars on the river and spectacular graffiti. pretentious art parties.
returning to the office we rolled out some mattresses and watched an awful horror film. i slept with the teddy polar bear. and it was the best sleep i've ever had on the floor of an office shared with seven other people. and i like how it's all the non-meat eaters how have ended up together.
it takes us several hours to get up and out. but that's ok. here's our action plan:
we find our way to what i thought was the contemporary art gallery, but is acutally the national art gallery. it's not really the wrong place, but it kind of is, and so despite it being good we moved on. i love how all the galleries are in old banks. we should turn all of the world's banks into art galleries.
so what is it? gaffa tape stuck on walls ("a measure of tape"). nothing is as interesting as the fake art gallery wall, which wasn't actually part of the exhibition. "shocked into abstraction", how can you even tell?
money gets complicated and i buy everyone falafels. but when we get to the nobel peace centre (almost in time for the tour) i can't afford the ticket and everyone has already bought theirs. the machine wont take repeated card transactions. we pool money and if they give me a student discount (thank you studenterhuset) and i include the 20kr i put into the locker i have enough to get in. very nice of them. the tour was rubbish anyway. but the photo exhibition is excellent. very nicely lit. i care about these things.
back at the office again we watch earthlings. enough to ruin anyones day. we eat dinner early. mess around. then leave for the bus terminal, where we meet up with those who had gone camping, one of whom had just had their backpack stolen. she's on her way to india and her pack contained everything she owned (excluding the things worth any money, such as passport, money, phone, etc).
total the fuck ups. we're riding out the flat end of a rather steep improbability curve. another of our group's back had been stolen in malmo on the way up. you try and help the world and people fuck you over.
then our bus was cancelled. delayed. whatever, i don't care. there was another an hour later. and then i slept better than ever on a night bus, surrounded by new friends and a rediscovered enthusiasm for fucking shit up. some optimism has returned. and that's enough for me right now.
two months later and our organisation has decided it's not going to follow up anything. this is frustrating but probably for the best, depending on which of the larger pictures you're looking at. there has been a lot of hard work in norway to improve the organisation's historically bad reputation, they receive little respect and are generally disliked, pushed aside as trouble makers, as you'd expect in a country rich from oil - if you're against oil you're against progress, prosperity, etc etc. but recently they've been making progress, improving their image, and this kind of press will only hamper that. allegations false or not, the infallible police must have had their reasons. we're clearly just causing trouble again. it's just how the shit goes down.
even more frustrating is that some of us have been in contact with the operation again, seperately from our organisation, requesting to return and continue with the work (which they themselves described as "pigs works"). this is after they told us we were all (but the one) welcome back. but no. we've been told they have enough workers. enough for what? taking as long as possible? when we were out there, when everything was in full swing, the size of the workforce was nowhere near adequate to clean up the mess before the winter comes. they don't have a hope in hell.
perhaps it's an economic issue. with norway's $395 billion oil fund perhaps they simply can't afford the workers.
or perhaps norway, currently ranking top in the human development index and bottom in the failed states index, doesn't have the infrastructure.
i'm at a loss.