Off to the Reindeer Races…

Last month, Tromsø hosted “Sami Week” to celebrate cultural heritage of the indigenous Sami people in northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The weeklong festival included concerts, Sami language courses, and a traditional arts & craft market in the center of town.

On Saturday, contenders of all age groups competed in a reindeer-lassoing contest. To make things fair, reindeer antlers were fixed to poles in the town square and participants had 5 attempts to lasso them successfully. The competitors were so skilled that just two failed attempts instantly eliminated a participant. Time to start practicing…



Lassoing contest! Photos by Illustratedjc available on

The highlight of Sami week was definitely the World Cup in Reindeer Racing.  12 athletic reindeer from all over Norway and Finland, were brought into Tromsø to race for the title, honor, and glory of “Fastest Reindeer in the North.”  Jockeys on skis were pulled along by the galloping reindeer for the 200 meter race down the main street of Tromsø. Amidst fierce competition, the defending champion, Ingrid, claimed first place by less than an antler’s length!


Photo by anjci available on


Ingrid, the champion reindeer racer


Photo credits to Tara Miller


Photo credits to Tara Miller

After Sami week, the festivals were far from over. Just a week later, Tromsø hosted the International Snow Festival. Teams from around the world including Thailand, Germany, Finland, Russia, Sweden, Norway and the U.K. were flown in to Tromsø to create snow sculptures main square. Teams were each given a 3m x 3m x 2.5m snow block to work on day and night. 72 hours later, the larger-than-life snow sculptures were unveiled at the opening ceremony.

The main square in Tromsø was abuzz with families admiring the finished sculptures. Children were clambering on top of sculptures of wizened owls, snowflakes, coral reefs, and lilies. The Thai sculpture of an elephant was my favorite  🙂




Speaking of snow, the skiing has been great here lately. Tromsø has extensive trails on Tromsøya (Troms island), Kvaløya (Whale island), and on the mainland. The total amount of groomed trails just in the surroundings of Tromsø adds up to over 250 kilometers. Lucky for me, one of these trails goes almost exactly from my house to the front door of the lab. And I’m not the only one who commutes by ski: it seems like nearly all of Tromsø is skiing to work. It’s so popular there can sometimes be traffic jams on the trails!


The ski commuter trail to work

The weekend of Valentine’s day, all the Fulbrighters in Norway gathered together for a seminar in Oslo and ski weekend outside Lillehammer. We heard about the progress of everyone’s projects and met some of the new Fulbright scholars who arrived for the spring. The topics of the seminars ranged from fish feed nutrition to diabetes to the international criminal court. One of the new scholars, Dr. Irina Sekerina, is coming to Tromsø to conduct linguistics research on the disappearing feminine gender in the Norwegian language. Another Fulbrighter, Andrew Bahle is doing neuroscience research in Trondheim with advisors who were awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Such an interesting and talented group! We finished off the evening with a reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Oslo.


Fulbright grantee Tara Miller presenting about her  research. Photo credit: Kevin McGuiness

The exciting part of the weekend was, of course, skiing. A three-hour bus ride later we found ourselves up in the mountains outside Lillehammer at a resort called “Skeikampen.” In good company with the other Fulbrighters, we enjoyed two days of fresh snow and sunshine. Some of the Fulbrighters had never strapped on skis before in their life while others, like Nels, have been ski racing since a young age.


Smiley Tara out for a ski





Nels Thompson, in St. Olaf skiing gear. Um Ya Ya!

Although skiing was fantastic, another highlight weekend was the buffet at the Thon hotel. We have been living as students in a country with some of the highest food prices in the world, so you can imagine the excitement over an all-expenses paid gourmet Norwegian buffet. The buffet boasted at least 5 different dishes prepared with salmon everyday and a full spread of other options. Hard to complain when the most difficult decision to be made is whether to eat smoked salmon or baked peppercorn salmon 🙂


Skeikampen ski resort

All too soon it was time to say goodbye to the other Fulbrighters and return home to Tromsø. Next up is a trip to the European Fulbright Seminar in Berlin next week. Really looking forward to seeing Germany for the first time. Until then, Auf Wiedersehen!



Photo credits to Tara Miller

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