Fieldwork, Friends and Food - An Excursion to Manndalen

Back in September I went on an excursion with mine and our partner Masters program. We are only about 18 students in the Indigenous Studies group and there are only 8 girls in the Visual Cultural Studies program so we were quite a small company. As both programs have an anthropological background, we went together to Manndalen, a Sea Sami community about 2 hours from Tromso. We stayed there for 3 days and had a lot of fun.

Now, as you might not know anything about the Sami, let me explain their culture super briefly. The Sami are the indigenous people of Scandinavia and live in Norway, Sweden, Finland and the northwestern part of Russia. Overall, their culture is very diverse and traditions as well as languages differ from region to region. There once were 9 different Sami languages around Scandinavia and although many of them are extinct now, a couple of them are still spoken here. In Tromso for example, street signs are in Norwegian and Sami.

 Furthermore there are different forms of traditional livelihoods. While there are reindeer herding Sami inland, there are also Sea Sami who live at the coast and don't engage in reindeer herding. Manndalen is such a Sea Sami community, situated right next to the Lyngen Alps I already spoke of. Manndalen is a very important Sami community as you can find the Aja Sami Center there and also as the international indigenous youth festival Riddu Riddu is held there every year (that's also the reason for the Native American influences you can find in the pictures).

Naturally we had all our seminars at the Sami Centre and were even served traditional dishes there every day. I've never eaten so much fish before but it was great! I even tried whale meat although I didn't really enjoy it. Tastes like fish first but then like beef which I absolutely hate so no more whale for me. It was super interesting to try it though and other dishes included reindeer meat, fish soup and fiskekake which translates more or less to fish pancakes but which in reality are more like fish burgers instead of real pancakes. Anyhow, the food was great!

The program was super interesting too but also super exhausting. We conducted our first fieldwork in Manndalen which was a very interesting experience. We have to do fieldwork next summer for our Masters thesis and most of us had never done it before. Naturally we were quite nervous and it wasn't exactly easy to prepare for it. The plan was to do a semi-structured interview and our interview partner was the owner of the guesthouses we stayed in. Turned out he was super nice and the interview went totally smoothly.

On our last day we went on a hike in the valley of Manndalen and had a bonfire. The scenery was gorgeous - the cow dung on our shoes not so much though.

Apart from that, we had a few seminars, watched some movies, had to introduce our own culture in 10 mins (most of us just played a Youtube clip - we're so creative) and spend our last evening at the pub. The excursion definitely helped us in getting to know each other better and left me thinking that I chose the right study program with the right people (well apart from one or two but you can find black sheep in every family right?!).

I plan on writing a post solely on my studies and about what it means to be an international student in Norway soon so stay tuned!

Can you remember any awesome excursions with your study program?