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Friday
Mar252011

For a Stranger

By Bill Kerig

(Mid-march) Sailing over Winnemucca in a small airplane on my way to San Francisco, wondering if Lindsey Van can read what I’m typing. How odd it must be for someone to follow you around with cameras for a year of your life. And to have that same person blog about you frequently… Though that’s what we’ve done, and she’s endured. Lindsey is seated a row behind me, to the side, her arms crossed over her ribs, hugging herself, wincing occasionally from shooting pains caused by the injections she’s taking to prepare her body to have its most valuable cells harvested.

As Whitney has been asking for a blog to post on our site, I’m trying to recall Norway — our last adventure — one that seems now to be so much less important than the challenge Lindsey is now taking on: a bone marrow transplant that may save a stranger’s life. A 49-year-old white male stranger’s life. Which is what I am: the 49-year-old white male part that is. After a year of stalking her with cameras, we're no longer strangers.

So, anyway, here are some images from our long, cold days in Norway at World Championships that come back to me as we fly to warmer San Francisco. I hope it gives you a taste of what life was like behind the scenes – and beyond:

OSLO, THE EARLY DAYS

Under a purple, Arctic twilight sky the plane lands in Oslo. The cold of the jet way is stunning, a change in temperature so quick that it succeeds only in being puzzling. How could it be so cold and there be so much bustle, so many people schlepping bags, streaming into customs, milling in duty free? The environment feels like what I imagine the North Pole would feel like. And yet, here is this airport, a hub of highly civilized, organized, energy. It just doesn’t add up in my mind. 

The rental car is frozen shut and I hear a loud snap as I yank the driver’s side door open. Cinematographer Peter Pilafian and I load the wagon with bags of camera gear, our fingers not so much cold as suddenly nonfunctioning. The cold here goes right past discomfort, skips over the body’s warning system, and drives straight into incapacitation. The heater blows fruitlessly on the windshield ice. Scraping with a credit card, I make a hole and begin driving. And the driver’s door swings open. The latch is sprung and won’t close. I’ve been in Norway less than an hour and already I’ve broken something. Usually it takes a bit longer.

Huffing heated breath on the latch for long minutes, something loosens enough to allow it to work. The door stays closed. Driving into the dark Norwegian night, the glow of the Google Maps image off my computer screen lights the interior of the Scorda wagon. Electing to save $200 on the rental car GPS — how hard could this little country be to navigate? — Peter and I are soon zigzagging the frozen north.

Endless snow-packed corridors through stunted evergreens, lights of a gas station glow from behind 20-foot snow banks. Inside, two clerks and a taxi driver compete to show us the route on the map that’s unfolded over the Snus counter. Stomach already burning from the recommended local specialty — a foot-long hot dog, wrapped in bacon, smothered in a “mayonnaisey” shrimp salad – we head into the night again.

Women’s Ski Jumping Team head coach Kjell Magnussen hugs us in the lobby of the Tyrifiord Hotel.

“It only took you five hours from the airport to here?,” he says. “That’s really good. It’s an hour-and-a-half drive.”

I buy him a beer anyway. After he’s done chuckling, he lays out the plan. The team will train here in the peaceful atmosphere of Vikersund for several days before heading up to Oslo for the World Championships. 

More reflections to come...



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