Fifteen Things I Learned from Being on a Norwegian Reality Show

Earlier this spring I participated in the filming of the fifth season of Alt for Norge, a Norwegian reality show. I can’t give out details of the experience until after the show airs in the fall, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the time I spent there and here are just a few things I learned:

1. Just as I was told it would be, Norway is simply beautiful. It is so clean and cool and green. I can’t wait to return someday.

2. Being on a Norwegian reality show is fun. The first day in Norway we participated in a photo shoot at TV Norge where they are making commercials and posters featuring all of us for the fall line-up of shows. To get my hair and makeup done and pose for the cameras was an interesting and cool experience. TV Norge said we’ll get copies of some of those photographs in the fall – it will be fun to share them with you.

3. Being on a Norwegian reality show takes a lot of patience – there was so much hilarity and adventure but also a LOT of waiting: waiting for camera setups, waiting for people to get in place, waiting for interviews.

4. If you are in a Norwegian restaurant, have the fish – you’ll never be disappointed.

5. A common saying about Norwegians is that they are “born on skis” – skiing is a popular hobby among much of the population. It had been about twenty years since I had been on skis and I was never good at it back then – and as it turns out, I’m not any better at it now.

6. I learned that while most Norwegians left Norway because of the poverty and lack of land in Norway and the possibility for land and religious freedom in the United States, there were others who left for different reasons – namely, a fresh start for their family and for their family name. (This revelation came to me after I was given particular information about my own family history while I was in Norway…I can’t elaborate now but it will be part of an early episode)

7. While some people, namely most of the other cast members, seemed to love being in front of the camera and having their life and conversations being filmed, I found it to be slightly entertaining for a couple days but then after that I was less than enchanted with the process of having to reconstruct conversations for the camera, being interviewed incessantly about the “challenges” we had to do and our thoughts about this or that. It’s good that I never aspired to be in front of the camera for a career – because a little limelight goes a long way with me. It was a great experience and I am so glad I could do it, but the friendships made with the other cast members and the things we saw and did were much more valuable to me than actually being a part of the filming. Upon reflection, I think being a director would be a very hard job – to try to find a balance between dealing with the people who crave the spotlight and those who are nonplussed by the camera operations and incessant questions (me) would be constant challenge.

8. Most of the time we were being filmed for challenges, we were outdoors, it was freezing cold or raining, and there was no access to mirrors or makeup – so it’s awesome that for majority of my stint as a Norwegian television personality I will probably be looking about as good as an uncooked chicken leg with glasses and a stocking cap.

9. It’s nice to have a chance to write in a journal and live out of a backpack and remember what that feels like. But it is even nicer to come home and be with my boys and spouse.

10. I feel like I’m still in my 20’s – until I hang out with a bunch of people in their 20’s – then I remember I’m definitely in my 40’s.

11. There are many places in Norway where you can get sparkling (carbonated) water out of the tap. Out of the TAP! Seriously – one faucet will have regular water and the faucet right next to it has wonderful sparkling water. I need this innovation in the parsonage immediately.

12. One can get used to the little luxuries of being on a reality show cast very quickly: we never had to make any plans or arrange any details of our days. We were told when to wake up, given clothes to wear (I now have a pretty great cold weather wardrobe I was given to KEEP!), fed delectable meals, stayed in (mostly) excellent accommodations, shown gorgeous sights, and then our “job” was to participate in fun “challenges” (these challenges were never hard – each one was mostly based on luck or speed, not skill). It was not a hard life.

13. The greatest part of being on Alt for Norge was spending time with the rest of the cast. What a truly wonderful group of people. I laughed SO much.

14. I learned that while you can take the pastor away from her congregation, the congregation is never, ever far from the pastor’s heart and thoughts. Each day when I was writing in my journal I would write down all the things we were doing so I would never forget, but then I found myself also always writing about my prayers for my congregation – wondering how they were and what was happening. Since we couldn’t have contact with anyone while we were in Norway, it wasn’t until I called my husband to tell him I was on the way home that I found out one of the active members of our church had died shortly after I left. It’s still difficult for me to believe he is really dead. I went to visit his grave site in our cemetery as soon as I got home and stood there for a long time, wondering how it could be possible that the last time I had seen him we had been having a conversation in the Parish hall just like we always did, and now his body was laid to rest in that rocky Texas soil. I can’t believe I wasn’t here to lead his funeral service, to sit with his wife and family and pray with them in the days that followed. I feel sad about that and yet I knew when I left that there was the very real possibility something like this could happen in my absence.

15. Just as I imagined it would be, the experience of Alt for Norge was tremendous. It was challenging and restorative and invigorating. I made wonderful friends whom I cannot wait to see again. I saw places I never dreamed I would get to see and did things beyond the imagination. Stay tuned for more stories in the fall when I can share more.

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