A Bergen Shrimp Picnic

After leaving Norway two years ago, I was left missing two things: the shrimp, and my friends… not necessarily in that order. Nothing beats a buttered piece of bread topped with a pile of Norwegian shrimp, drizzled with lemon, and garnished with dill. This particular meal has been haunting me in my dreams– a constant craving lasting two years.

Needless to say, there was a lot of pressure on this shrimp picnic I had been waiting for. We decided to have our picnic on Tuesday. Kayla took a trip to the grocery store only to find out they were out of fresh shrimp. They had frozen shrimp that had been caught over the weekend, but we didn’t want to settle– we wanted the freshest and the best! The next batch was getting in the next morning, so we postponed our picnic until Wednesday.

I spent the morning with Margit, who had just arrived from Sogndal. We walked around town, ate ice cream, and caught up on each other’s year. A lot has happened for both of us since Canada so there was a lot to chat (and laugh) about.

Margit and I in Bergen

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We met up with Kayla and Brandi in the early afternoon and made our way to the store to buy our shrimp. As we approached the cooler, we were taken aback by the tragic sight of six lonely shrimp laying where we expected to see hundreds.

With this devastating turn of events, we had to change plans and settle for frozen shrimpies. We gathered 3 kilos and headed back to the airbnb. We laid the shrimp out flat to help with defrosting, and spent the rest of the afternoon prepping our picnic.

Despite missing the boat on fresh shrimp, the picnic was a success. We set up in Nordnes Park– a popular picnic and swimming spot in Bergen. The park was full of people grilling, dancing, drinking and having fun. Peeling and cleaning the shrimp was hard work which only made them even tastier. We worked our way through almost all 3 kilos– leaving just 7 shrimp uneaten.

Brandi had expressed interest in swimming in the fjord. It was particularly warm out, so Nordnes was full of people jumping into the water. As the clouds rolled in and temperatures dropped, Brandi’s window for swimming started to close. Maria agreed to join Brandi which was enough to convince her to make the plunge. They jumped in 3 times and didn’t seem to be so miserable– which is how I knew the water must have been warmer than typical fjord temps.

The weather was warm, the shrimp were tasty, and the friends were great. Overall, it was a perfect picnic. I didn’t get nearly enough time with my girls this trip, but the time we did have, was full of laughs like always.

Norway 2018… Coming Soon!

Four years ago, my Norwegian friends and I made a pact to see each other every summer. Our first summer after NF, Øyvind and Margit visited me in The States. We explored NYC, VA Beach, Richmond, and Washington DC.

The next summer, I travelled back to Norway and we adventured up to the northern archipelago, Lofoten.

Last summer Margit and Maria met me in British Columbia, Canada for an epic road trip out west to Whistler.

As this summer approached– the fourth summer since our year together– I became doubtful that another trip would happen. But alas– I made it back to Norway for a 15 day trip exploring the cities and catching up with as many friends as possible.

I have a couple more days here in Norway, but it’s way too sunny to stay inside and write blog posts… so pictures and posts will be coming soon!

India Phase 2B: The Upadhyaya Homecoming

We woke up the next morning and walked through the alleys of Azamgarh to make it back to the family’s house. We ate great pakora and drank hot chai before setting out on our adventure to the village.

The historic walk to Haathia ran through the streets of the city before hitting the bridge. This car bridge was new– when my father grew up in the village there was only a rickety walking bridge that often got washed out by the high waters.

Once we entered the village, everything was quieter and greener. The paved car bridge quickly turned into a dirt path which zigzagged in what seemed like a nonsensical pattern. We followed our cousins’ lead through the village towards the family home.

The family house has been in the family for over 60 years. It is the birthplace of not only my dad, but most of his relatives. Chinki (who is around 30yo) was the last one to be born in the Haathia house. As you can see in the photos below, the house oozes history.

After walking through the house, we walked over to our family’s patch of Guava trees. Although the tree patch wasn’t far, we paraded at a slow pace through the village. The fruit was hardly ripe, but both Dad and Lars tried the Guava. They found it too tough and bitter– but that didn’t stop our cousins who ate nearly the whole fruit, down to the stem.

We eventually made our way back to the family house, took a few last photos, and headed back to Azamgarh.

India Phase 2A: The Upadhyaya Homecoming

Many people do not know that my father, Alok, was born and raised in a small village in the Uttar Pradesh region of India. His village, Haathia, is across the Tamsa River, on the outskirts of Azamgarh city.

From Agra, we travelled to Varanasi– one step closer to my family’s hometown. [Varanasi sits on the Ganges River and is known in India as the Holy city.]

As I began to feel better I started to further appreciate the smells, tastes, and feels of Northern India. The air quality in the rural areas was not better, but it was easier for me to handle. Dust and dirt levels were higher, while car exhaust and burning plastic fumes were lower.

Dad’s Hindi was truly put to the test when he was coordinating our travels to his home town. After many phone calls back and forth, he concluded that his two cousins were driving to Varanasi to pick us up at 7am. We questioned why they were leaving Azamgarh (which was about 4 hours away) so early, but Dad told us not to worry. After waking up early enough to get ready and pack up our bags, my dad told us that he had misunderstood. The cousins were planning on leaving Azamgarh at 7am. This meant they wouldn’t get to Varanasi until 11 (at the earliest).

Alok’s cousins, Praveen, (also known as Hinay), and Keso, (also known as Bara Bhai, Big Brother), arrived shortly after noon. We loaded up the two cars and started our adventure towards Azamgarh. The drive was crazy. Some roads were no wider than the car’s axle, which wouldn’t have been a problem if it were not for the sharp turns and oncoming cars, cows, and bicycles. We stopped for a (much needed) break with steaming roadside chai and pakori.

We arrived at the family’s house and were greeted by Parinda with burning incense and ghee. My father was reunited with his aunt, (who is like a second mother to him), after nearly 30 years.

We all huddled closely to the table, with the rest of the family standing around our chairs, and listened to Amma tell stories.

The youngest generation of women stayed in the kitchen in order to prepare us a delicious snack of Ghughri. Amma asked Alok if he liked the Ghughri. He responded yes and told Ama that he liked the potatoes– probably because he couldn’t remember the Hindi word for green pees. She then proceeded to pick out the potatoes from the extra cup and give them to Dad. The women insisted on washing our feet, which is a tremendous sign of respect in Indian culture.

The rest of the time with family was a blur of posing for photos and communicating through a thick language barrier. Everywhere I turned, there was a flashing camera– documenting this historical reunion and first-time meeting of family members from across the globe.

We went up to the roof during sunset and watched flickering kites backdropped by a killer sunset. Once the sun set we went to the local temple with my dad’s cousin, Urchena, and her daughter Priti.

After the temple we spent some time at the other Azamgarh house. Cousin Chinki did beautiful henna for Kayla, mom, and I. We returned to the first house and were served a delicious dinner prepared by the women. We were served along Amma, however the rest of the family just gathered and watched as we ate. They refused to eat while we were eating– they made sure our well being was prioritized.