Norway Trip – August 7-17


Last year, I was asked by some in this area with Norwegian ancestry to put together a trip to Norway. This summer, we are going! After looking around at different companies to help me, I decided Brekke Travel’s reputation and long history of leading trips to Norway was unsurpassed. They helped me put together this trip – the itinerary is one of their most popular and the price is great when you look at all that is included. Also, if you have ancestral places you would like to visit while we are there, Brekke can help you get to those places. I plan to see the homeplace of my great-grandparents on both my mother’s side and my father’s side while we are there! I would love to have you join us for this exceptional journey. For more information, message me at or call me at 254-265-5349. Let’s go to Norway!

Alt for Norge – Challenge 1 – Lom

The day of the first challenge was sunny and beautiful. As usual, the mamas told us what to wear – which that day was our wind pants, warm jackets, and either a red, blue, or white hat they had given us to show which team we were on. I was to be on the red team with Brandon, Kent, and Candice. We were the first team to be filmed that day, and as usual, the setup for filming took forever. We hung out about 200 feet from the filming location and we could see that a small course had been set up in front of the Stave Kirke. Finally, the director came to tell us the rules of the first challenge. We were not allowed to run. We had to stay together. At each “station” there would be a puzzle to solve. Once we had come to an answer as a group, we would grab the puzzle piece we thought was correct and go on to the next station. After all the stations, we would try to put the puzzle pieces together and if they fit, we were done. If they did not fit, we had to figure out where we had gone wrong and fix it. Meanwhile, we would be timed. The team with the slowest time would be in danger of being eliminated.

We knew that this challenge would be testing what we already knew about Norway. I knew a few things from my upbringing and some studying I had done before I came – but I had no idea what kinds of information they would be wanting! I just had to hope and pray I had some knowledge that would be helpful to my team.

The first station turned out to be easy – it asked questions about the Norwegian National anthem, locations in Oslo, and government. I knew all the answers at this station.

The next station asked “what was typical Norwegian.” We agreed on an answer that I thought was very good and I felt confident of our answer.

The third station had locations and we were to guess which were Norwegian. This one, I had no idea. We just guessed.

The fourth station was on a bus and the bus driver asked us “Where would the Norwegian sit?” There were puzzle pieces scattered throughout the bus.We all agreed that the Norwegian would sit alone. But the question came down to whether the Norwegian would sit by the window alone or sit on the aisle seat alone. I immediately decided the aisle seat was right and grabbed that piece. Everyone knows that if you don’t want anyone to sit by you, you sit on the aisle seat!  (I thought this station was really cool. The answer to this was so natural. I felt like I had been studying for this challenge my whole life).

We speed-walked to the place where we were to put our puzzle together and found that we had three of the four pieces correct, as we suspected. We went back and got another puzzle piece from the location station and fortunately, we guessed correctly this time. We were done!

As we walked back to the room where the other teams were, we decided to look really downcast – like we thought we hadn’t done well at all.  However, we all felt really great about how quickly we completed the course.

Once the challenge got started, it didn’t take long until all the teams were done and we were being interviewed individually again. Four different times I was interviewed about how I felt I had done and how our team had done. Finally, they brought us all together for the results.

It felt as ridiculous and exciting as I imagined it would – to be there with the cameras trained on us and waiting for the results. I had so much fun doing the challenge and I was pretty confident we had won. Other teams would have had to do it perfectly to have beaten us since we only made one error. Candice was standing next to me and she was so nervous – her breathing was getting heavier and heavier as Henriette slowly began to announce who had come in last place, then third place. Finally, it was down to us and one other team.

“The winner for today’s challenge is, Team Red!”

It was pretty cool!  We cheered! We shouted!  We rejoiced! We embraced! Oh sweet victory! And we knew none of us on our team would be the dreaded first person to go home. I was so glad about that and so glad that I contributed to the victory.

It became very clear that day that this competition was anyone’s to win. It all depended on what kinds of challenges came your way and who your teammates were. We were all smart and capable and gifted in our own ways.The challenges were very fair. Only time would tell how long any of us would be there. But that day – I was really happy to have tasted victory and to be able to not even worry about the next challenge because our victory had ensured we didn’t even have to compete in the next round.

That night we ate supper with the crew and celebrated that the first episode was now complete. The next day we would journey to a new place and another new episode of Alt for Norge.




Alt for Norge – Galdhøpiggen

The next morning we woke up and went to a delicious breakfast buffet. We were told to wear our boots, snow pants, long underwear, fleece, hats, jackets – we guessed we were definitely going to be doing something in the snow.  Marshell had noticed a yellow helicopter in a field near the hotel and so we wondered if the helicopter had something to do with the shoot. Finally, they divided us into three groups and told us to go down to the field to wait. The helicopter was no longer there but very soon we saw it flying overhead and it came to land in the field. Beth, Guy, Kyle, and I were in the first group that would be going up in the helicopter.

We took off and soon were flying over the mountains – I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful – white snowy peaks everywhere. The cameraman focused on Beth and Guy – they are definitely external processors and had a lot to say as we went zooming over the mountains. I said nothing – just soaked it all in. As we soared along, finally we saw some patches of color below and we could tell that was where the film crew was set up. We came to a landing and exited the helicopter. The helicopter then left to go and pick up the next groups of the cast. Beth, Guy, Kyle and I blinked at the sunlight and the snow and greeted the crew who were up there waiting for us. There was a tent set up where we could go in and get a little warm so we did that.

Finally, the whole group was there and then they took some shots of all of us by the helicopter and the helicopter taking off. They wanted it to look like the helicopter had just left us there in the middle of nowhere and we had to hike to figure out where to go – so we hiked up a tiny hill and there were twelve backpacks up there. They filmed us looking at the contents of the backpacks and putting on skis. I hadn’t been on skis for about twenty years.  I could hardly stand upright on them but I wasn’t the only one.  For a couple hours they filmed us skiing back and forth on the mountainside and they filmed us from every angle. It was cold but not too bad because we were moving around and laughing a lot.

Next, we filmed the part where we “meet” Henriette and she shows us the ice cave. The day started to get long now because there was a ton of waiting and being interviewed individually. It was very cool when we got to go in the room where they had displayed pictures with information about our families. My picture was of the Stavanger Cathedral and it said that my great grandfather, Julius Hetland, was baptized there. He is buried just up the road from where I grew up and it was so moving to see this connection with where he came from. I started crying – I couldn’t help thinking about how much it would have meant to both my mom and dad if they could have seen this.

Then, it was time for more waiting and more bits of filming. I remember at one point I had gone down to the tent to warm up for a minute but apparently the producers wanted us up in the ice cave and so Thor said to me, “Ruth, you have to go warm up in the ice cave now.” Of course, I dutifully went right away but as I was walking up the hill I thought about how that was kind of a messed up thing – to be “warming up” in a freaking ice cave.  🙂

It was getting to be 8 or 9 pm and we were still filming. Next we were to head over toward some tents that were set up about a quarter mile away. We laughed and joked on the way over there that they would never really make us sleep in these tents. It was cold and windy and we had been outside all day, I was shaking and starting to feel pretty bad.  I didn’t say anything – I just kept thinking it was all going to be done soon. Up until this time our accommodations and treatment had been so cushy.  We honestly never dreamed we would actually have to sleep in the tents – we thought they would just film us by the tents, eating the reindeer stew, and then take us somewhere warm.  But NOOOOO!

We found out we would be staying in the tents. There were little stoves in the tents that had to be filled with wood all night to keep the fire going – but the stove really emitted very little heat. We all had good sleeping bags but it was a very long night. I couldn’t get warm. The wind kept picking up more and more. I doubted we would experience many nights like this while on Alt for Norge – because I had seen all the other seasons and it wasn’t usually like this!  Maybe they were doing something different for season 5 – a sort of Survivor edition of Alt for Norge?  Time would tell. But for now, I was cold to my very core and praying for morning to come quickly.Alt_for_Norge__ses_5637978a


Alt for Norge – Roisheim

The next day we got up and were loaded onto a bus with the crew to head somewhere, of course no one would tell the cast anything about where we were going, they only told us what to bring with us. As we were riding along, I started to get excited because we were headed toward the area where my mother’s side of the family came from in Norway. I knew from watching the show that most weeks someone on the cast had something revealed to them about their family. I was a little teary-eyed at the thought of getting to see the farm where my great grandmother grew up. My own mother never got to see it and she always had wanted to do so. My mom died in 2011 and we always talked about making a trip to Norway together. My mom was the person I was closest to in the whole world and her loss is the greatest sadness of my life. As we rode along, I looked at the map and the gorgeous scenery and I felt so lucky that I was in the homeland of our ancestors.

Along the way we stopped in Lillehammer for lunch. It was a gorgeous day, but cool.  By late afternoon we made it to our destination for that day – Roisheim, a beautiful hotel out in the mountains not far from Lom.

I was going to be sharing a room with Candice that evening so we got our stuff moved into our accommodations. Roisheim has quaint cabins all over its’ property and hiking trails as well. Before supper, many of us went on hikes and explored the beautiful setting.  Part way up one trail we came upon a tiny chapel in the woods.  Guy took my picture by it – that was nice.


We had an excellent supper and wine. Before bed we were told what to bring with us and wear the next day. We wouldn’t be staying at Roisheim again and we knew that all day the next day we would be filming part of the first episode.  Where would we go? What adventures were in store? I was nervous but happy to finally be exploring beautiful Norway in such a strange and wonderful way.


Alt for Norge – Smile for the Camera

I meant to write many detailed posts about the time with Alt for Norge but I got derailed along the way. Now nearly two years have passed since I found out I would be going to Norway to be on the show.  Let’s see how much I can remember about the press photo day.

We woke up and had breakfast and dressed in the clothes that they asked us to wear. They asked me to wear a tan sweater and colorful scarf I had worn for my interview in Chicago and they said they would provide a pastor robe and stole for me to wear for some of our photographs.  It was obvious that they wanted each of us to look a certain way for the publicity photos.  When we got to TV Norge, we each went to makeup and hair and that was fun.  Brita brought over a pastor robe and stole they had found – and the color of the stole was even liturgically correct for the church season we were in!  Church-geek bonus!  🙂

For a long time we took turns posing for pictures – alone, in pairs, and in groups.  It was very nice. Then, we went over to the Folk Museum where more pictures were taken. They also took the film footage for the opening of the show.  I couldn’t wait to see how it would all turn out. When we weren’t posing or being interviewed, we were talking with each other or eating the delicious refreshments they set out for us in one of the buildings.The wind was starting to pick up and it was a little chilly and then it got really very cold. Finally, we went back to the hotel and had another great meal.

Already by this time I remember thinking how much I genuinely liked everyone in the group.  There was a wide variety of personalities but a real camaraderie was developing and I was so glad to get to know each of those people in the cast and all the people on the crew and the producers.  It felt so nice to be a part of something so cool and FUN!  I love my life as a pastor and wife and mom, but I hadn’t done something so carefree in a very long time.  I loved being told what to wear and when to show up and when to go to bed! I loved having food placed in front of me and not having to cook it. Each day was exciting and good…and there was much more to come.826x550alt for norge photo shoot


The next day we woke up and had breakfast on our own. I went jogging out by the cemetery again and ordered some room service while I organized my luggage. I was enjoying a last few minutes alone before we started the journey. We met for lunch and then were set to depart for the airport right after that.

Lunch seemed to last forever – I was so excited to just get going! Finally, we boarded a couple shuttle buses and went to the airport. Brita and Ane helped us get all our luggage checked. Brandon’s bag was a little too heavy so he gave some of his stuff to different people to carry. I ended up bringing one of his shoes and a couple books for him.

We made it to Norway after a 7.5 hour flight. Breyanne and I sat in the same row with a Norwegian fellow between us. He seemed to be very interested in Breyanne and drank a lot – which was only annoying because I kept having to get up for him to go to the bathroom. Over and over and over. It was a long flight and I didn’t sleep at all but as the light began to fill the sky I was so excited to nearing Norway.

We finally landed in Oslo and went through customs. Then, we retrieved our bags and immediately went to the hotel and had lunch. The food was wonderful – an excellent buffet. I sat by Brandon and we talked quite a bit. I loved his personality and his warmth.

As soon as lunch was over we were told that we had the afternoon to ourselves except that we would each take turns getting outfitted for the next weeks. I was one of the first to be brought to a room where there were piles of bags and clothes and we had to try on quite a bit of clothes – mostly outdoor gear – to make sure they had the right sizes of everything. Then, after we had all the coats, pants, gloves, boots, etc. that we needed, we put all of it into a Helly Hanson bag with our name on it and were told that would be ours now. I had no idea we would get to keep so much cool stuff! Not that I can wear a lot of it in Texas, but still! Free clothes are awesome clothes – and everything they gave us was beautiful, high quality stuff.

I spent the next hours going for a walk, sitting and talking with some others from the group in the hotel lobby, and trying to stay awake. We had been told to not fall asleep until nighttime and that would help a lot with the jet lag. It had been a long time since I had been up more than 24 hours in a row. We were all looking forward to going to sleep that night.

We met for supper and then afterward we began our nightly ritual of meeting with “the mamas” (Brita, Ane, and Ragnild) to tell us what to pack, prepare for the next day. They reminded us what we needed to wear and bring with us and then I immediately went up to my hotel room to try to get to sleep. The next day we would be having a photo shoot at TV Norge! I was SO excited and looking forward to it.

Alt for Norge – first stop – New Jersey

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.