The flight to New Jersey took me through North Carolina. By the time I finally landed in Newark it was after 10:00 p.m. I was to meet Ane from Monster in the lobby of the hotel. I easily found the shuttle to the hotel and was very excited and nervous to meet Ane. As I walked into the hotel lobby, she stood up to greet me and I was relieved that she recognized me and I didn’t have to hunt for her. She was very nice and reminded me of a college friend. We sat down for a few minutes and she gave me a folder of information, my room information, and told me that I would be having two meetings the next day with Thor and Brita. Otherwise, I would be free to do whatever I wanted except I wasn’t allowed to go into New York City. We would also be having supper together the next day with the whole group. I asked Ane how many of the cast members were already there and she said I was only the second to arrive. I found out later that Kent had arrived first.
My phone had stopped working for some reason and so I went to the hotel computer to send a message to Chad. Then I went to my room, had a drink, and tried to organize my stuff. I noticed as soon as I opened my suitcase that it smelled distinctly like cat pee. Oh crap. Had the cat peed on my suitcase before I left? I soon realized it was my running shoes – they had been sitting by the door before I packed them and the cat must have had his way with them. I couldn’t ditch them – I wouldn’t have time to get new ones. I found a plastic bag that I could wrap them in when I wasn’t using them and hoped that would work. Maybe in time the smell would wear off?
I collapsed into bed and thought about all the people I would meet the next day. Would they be nice? I really hoped they would be nice. I wasn’t scared – just excited. I didn’t miss the boys or Chad too much – we had all been preparing for this time for months now so I just had to set my sights on moving forward now and experiencing all there was to experience. As I drifted off to sleep I thought about my church, especially those who were sick. I prayed for them and remembered that even though I couldn’t be with them, I could still pray for them. My prayers would be the same – whether in Texas, or New Jersey, or Norway. I hoped my congregation could be excited for me and happy for me. I hoped the weeks to come would be as good as I had anticipated. I was happy to finally be beginning the journey I had been looking forward to for so long.
The next morning I slept in a little bit. It was Sunday morning and while it felt strange to not be at church, I was so glad to have some rest. I went to have breakfast at the little restaurant downstairs. We had been told to charge all our food to Ane’s room. I had some sausage and eggs, a lot of coffee, and then I headed upstairs to meet with Thor. I knocked on his door promptly at 10:00 a.m. and then he brought me into his room to sit down at a table where he shared with me some logistics and information that he needed to share with all of us who were participating. As soon as I saw him, I remembered him from the interview in Chicago – tall, thin, and a beautiful smile. I liked his manner a lot and his words helped to put me at ease in many ways. He said something to the effect of, “we picked you to be you on the show. We don’t want you to try to be someone else and if something bothers you, let us know.” There was just something about what he said and how he said it that was very comforting – like even though I was about to go and be filmed doing who knows what on Norwegian television, it was going to be okay because they wanted me to be there, and they were on my side in all of this. After Thor and I had been talking for a while, there was a knock at the door – another contestant was there to meet with him and I would finally get to meet someone else who had been picked to be on Season 5. It was Norris! I greeted him and thought about how he looked very sweet and very young! I later found out he was in his early twenties. I went out in the hall to wait to meet with Brita next and then met Marshell. I was struck by how beautiful her eyes were and as she talked, she seemed very down to earth and I thought I would like to be friends with her. We only talked for a few moments before Brita called me into her room and I was so happy to finally meet Brita (even though I knew she had been there in Chicago so I had actually met her, but had been in too much of a daze to remember) since she had been sending all of us e-mails to get us ready for our journey. She also had some information to go over with me and asked if I had any questions. I remember asking her if I was the oldest participant this year. She said no. I asked her when I would have to give up my cell phone and she said when we got to Norway they would collect our phones.
After I met with Brita, I went outside to exercise. I found that the hotel was next to a number of cemeteries. I had to laugh – I usually go jogging every day by my own church cemetery and now I was out running by the dead people again. There were some beautiful gravestones and I took a lot of pictures. After I got back to the hotel, I took the elevator up to my room to change and saw a tall, blond fellow carrying the same Monster folder I was given when I arrived. I introduced myself to him and found out his name was Kyle and he had just arrived from Utah. He was heading up to meet Thor right then. Next, I went to have lunch and found that a group of Alt for Norge participants had now clustered in the restaurant. It was time to play extrovert and go say “hello.” Sitting at the lunch table was Beth (who got up and hugged me and greeted me like we were long lost friends – love her!), Leah, David, and Kent. We all sat there and talked and got to know each other as others came and went. Marshell stopped in and sat down to eat lunch, Kyle eventually came and sat down, Kent and Beth left to do some other things, eventually Brandon came in and I met him, also Breyanne stopped by the table briefly but she needed to go write in her journal and so she said she would come talk to us later. I finally went back to my room to spend some time alone before we all met for supper. I had met everyone except Candice and Guy by then – and I was so happy they all seemed very nice.
Later that day we all met in a conference room and introduced ourselves to each other. I finally met Candice (who I thought was so beautiful and full of life) and Guy (who seemed so smart and well-spoken). As I looked around the room I was deeply impressed by what a unique bunch we were and I was very pleased that I somehow had ended up included with this group of people. I remember as I introduced myself to the others I said that it was “one of the greatest surprises of my life that I get to be a part of such a fun thing as this.” Thor briefed us on the details of our journey to Norway the next day.
We went downstairs to have supper and there was a lot of talking and laughter. I remember I had a steak and a glass of wine. Then, I went upstairs and called my boys and Chad. I was glad to see their faces as we Facetimed, I was happy to hear about their day, but I was too excited about everything that was to come to be sad about being away from them yet.
I went to sleep and dreamed about Norway.