Everything posted here is stricktly the opinion of the poster and shall not be taken to be the official position of UNMIS, UNMISS, UN, the Norwegian Armed Forces or any other organisation whatsoever.

Friday 31 July 2009

Got a date now

Got the official orders in the mail: Leaving for Sudan Monday 13 September 2010, end of assigment Thursday 29 September 2011.

Friday 29 May 2009

Just waiting for the bus...

Again, I'm reminded of how little I enjoy waiting - I've done packing (twice), settled my bills (to be reimbursed later by the Norwegian Armed Forces), and had all the coffee I can reasonable drink without injuring myself... all that is left to do is to watch Finnish television, stare at the walls and wait for the clock to hit noon and the bus to arrive.

The closing ceremony and dinner was somewhat formal in the beginning, but with the aid of 'traditional Finnish white wine' - also known as vodka - it soon settled into a more comfortable, if somewhat loud, groove. Music was by a Finnish military band, and after a few compulsory marches and other military music they changed to popular music from the '60s, '70s and '80s - itself a good indicator of the age range among the students on the course. And as always, while some of us found it prudent to head to the barracks when the official party was winding down, others decided to make the most out of their last night in Finland... some even made it last until the very early morning.

And on that note I'll lay this blog dormant for now - I'll resurrect it when I'm heading out on a real mission; most likely next fall.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

EndEx for real

True, the exercise was 'only' two days, but they were busy days.

Whats left is getting clean (sand can get into places you would never imagine), pack everything up, eat dinner and get on the bus for a three hour or so drive to get to Fincent. The challenge is to do it while more or less asleep on our feet - as someone commented; 'I hope the bus driver stays awake because no one else on the bus will'.

What is left of the course is more or less wrapping up loose ends: feedback, settling of bills, the closing ceremony and dinner, stuff like that. By Friday dinnertime I'll be back home, a tiny bit older and hopefully quite a bit wiser. But right now it's time to go stand in line for the showers...

Sunday 24 May 2009

Welfare trip to Tampere

Tampere... Finland's 3rd largest town. It has closed down shoe factories. And, uhm, thats it.

Well, not really - but about every other building the guide pointed out was a closed down shoe factory that lived by selling shoes to the Soviet Union... so when the wall fell, and the russians started to want newer models of better quality and lower pries, pretty much every factory went belly up.

Other than that it was a decent enough trip... whole class had dinner on Saturday, and a varying amount of beers after - along with a coupe of other Norwegians I found a place that had Kilkenny on tap, so thats where I stopped. And I have to add - having been around a bit by now - that the Finns in their natural environment can be funny, but also depressing and scary...

On Sunday we stopped by a giant mall to let us do some shopping, before we went to the local water land to prove the theory that the armed forces makes boys out of men... consider it to be a proven fact. Personally I think the "who can get the best speed in the water slide' was the clincher... 17 seconds by the way, with the best speed being 15.

After a buffet dinner - in the best tradition of the ferries to Denmark - it was back to Niinisalo, where the program for the Big Exercise was waiting in our pigeon holes, along with more things to read... I know what I'll do this evening.

Friday 22 May 2009

Endex, for now

Train hard, fight easy.

Or, in the case of being an UNMO - train hard, observe easy.

And off course, all of the training is considered UN Restricted, so I can't discuss any details of it here... lets just say it was more mentally than physically taxing, and the physical bit was hard enough for most of the students.

After EndEx - End of Exercise - today we had a quick brief on what living in each mission is like from one of the instructors who had actually lived there. Since I'm going to Sudan, I naturally selected that group and got a decent feel for what it's like. And despite some of the horror stories you can find online, it sounds fairly decent all things considered - for instance most team sites now have containers you an rent to live in, with a bed, fridge, AC and a small office space. And for 21$/night - deducted straight from your MSA - it's not a bad deal at all.

This weekend we'll go on a welfare trip to Tampere, and from what I've been able to gleam t should be a more relaxing weekend then Helsinki was. Most of the downtown area is within a few blocks from the hotel, and that includes four shopping centers and two Alko - the Finnish equivalent of the Norwegian Wine Monopoly. Sunday we'll spend some time at a huge shopping center / spa / bath land style of thing - imagine Tamarack meets a sauna meets a water park, and you should be fairly close.

On Monday we start up the 'big' exercise - the one where the instructors wont hold our hands. I'm not sure if I should worry or not, but I am excited...

Monday 18 May 2009

The end of the begining

The last day of theory... tomorrow we will transfer to Niinisalo to start the first of two exercises. It'll be long days, starting at seven and ending 'late', or possible even early. But the time will probably pass quicker than the first week - theory can be slooooow.

The bags are packed, the snacks bought, the batteries of my little 'puter are charing as I type. I guess I'm as ready for the four and a half hour bus trip as I will ever be.

Sunday 17 May 2009

May 17th

So.. Norwegian Constitution Day. Hipp, hipp hurra and all that.

We Norwegians had organised a small gathering around 6pm for all the students - some lefse, drinks and a cake courtesy of FINCENT.

A quick speach by the senior Norwegian, a not quite so quick rendering on the how and why of May 17th by me - starting with Harald Hairfair in 872 and ending in 1945 - and then a quick hint to dig into the goodies. Quite successful, especially with the music I had downloaded earlier playing in the background. Took a good couple of hours for the gathering to die out... by which time most of us were once again full.

International evening & Welfare trip Helsinki

First off: a delay in posting just means I'm too busy doing something else, not that something is wrong.

Friday was the international evening, where the students from the various nations got to show of their national specialties in the culinary department - in other words; food and drink. The Norwegian table featured cured meat and smoked salmon along with enough Løiten Linje Akevit to help the food go down. The Danes had brought enough red hot dogs to feed a battalion, and a selection of various akevits and bitters. On the Swedish table there was a selection of dried and cured meats, the Army Pea Soup as well as snaps and lingonberry saft. On the small German table there was some really good cheese, as well as Jeagermeister and pear liquir. Our Montenegroan student had brought some very tasty cured meats while our Slovakian student had filled his backpack with plenty of wine to help wash everything. The Finns off course had the home field advantage, and their offerings were spread over several tables. Overall a very successful - if late - evening.

On Saturday we left for Helsinki, capital of Finland. We started with a sightseeing from the bus, with a couple of stops along the way. After checking in, a group of us set out on foot to find some lunch, ending up at the very Finnish, very exclusive restaurant McDonald... In the evening we had a semi-official dinner - good food, interesting company but taking a little too long. And while some of the students decided to sample what Helsinki night-life is like, several of us went back to the hotel to see about getting a full night of sleep.

Sunday we started off with breakfast at the hotel, before we visited the Mannerheim Museum. interesting, but would have benefited from a guide with a bit more skills in spoken English. After the museum we went by bus back to Tuusula, for a hearty lunch in the officers club. Unknown to us, the staff had decided to celebrate both the Norwegian Constitution Day as well as the Norwegian victory in the Eurovision Song Contents by baking a large cake - so we were all pretty stuffed when we got back in the bus to head 'home'.

Thursday 14 May 2009

Day four

Yet another long, interesting and filled to the brim day in Finland. So filled that I'm a little to frazzled to write much more =)

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Third day

Another packed day deep in the finnish forests... well, in Finland at least.

Plenty of theory, but starting to get our hands dirty learning the tools of the trade. Lots of materials to read through too - the near empty binder we got when we arrived was deceptive - and not too much spare time to do it in; some evenings have (in)voluntary happenings, and the weekend programe is compulsory too... good thing the goverment is picking up my tab and paying me back later =)

Tomorrow and friday is going to be more practical excercices, before we take a welfare trip to Helsinki in the weekend - it's for teambuilding and we know that.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Second day

The day in highlights:
  1. Theory
  2. Volleyball
  3. Get together cocktail party

The instructors are good, but powerpoints can still be sleep inducing - luckily I'm not the only one with that problem. My team came second in the sand volleyball turnament, but it was less due to us being good and more to do with the others not being very good either... And as for the get togheter - enjoyable, but since I made a mad dash to save one ball during the volleyball and ended up on my tailbone, I think I would have prefered to sit for a while and not stand the whole time.

Overall a productive day - networking, learning stuff, getting even more reading material to pour over. They are driving us hard, but there is a lot of ground to cover.

Todays word of wisdom: Dont be a hero - your mission is to get home safe and sound.

Monday 11 May 2009

First day... Done!

Powerpoint is the most powerful sleeping agent known to man...

Lots of talking about what we're going to talk about - today was the day of introductions, administrative info and generaly feeling each others teeth...

It was also the day for curzing and fuming at my decision NOT to bring my USB stick with WinXP on it - the local net dont like Linux, and my Eee runs that.

Oh well, they have given us an old FS Lifebook, and it connects readily enought. I don't like IE though...

First night!

Clock goes forward, not back! I still got to breakfast though, even if I had to take my shower afterwards...

My roommate is a dane, and while he's not always that easy to understand I can manage... safe in my knowledge that he has trouble understanding me too =) Speaking English seems to take care of the issues though...

It is time to straighten out my dress uniform and discover what I might have forgotten to bring... I hope I discover nothing =)

Sunday 10 May 2009

Going to Finland

Flights that short are a bore - too long to just zone out, too short to actually do anything. But here I am, and it's good so far. just shy of three dozen officers in class, apperantly, some norwegians, some danes, a few finns and probably a handfull of others too. I'll know more tomorrow.
The rooms are good, for what they are, two officers to the room and plenty of room to swing a cat around it. Showers and toiletts down the hall, but a sink in the room. And even better; free coffee at the students coffee bar on the second floor :)
Downsides so far; only finnish television, the on site network throws a wobble when confromted with Linux on my netbook (but I'll keep trying - got a few aces up my sleeve, and in the meantime I have the provided laptop) and breakfast in another building. I'll live...
Next up: put sheets on the bed and see about getting some sleep.