Monday, July 20, 2009

Norwegian Experience 2009: We're off and running!

As you may have read in Viking magazine, this year’s Norwegian Experience Recruitment Contest was Leif Erikson 2-001 member, Judy Gray. The reason I bring this up is because today is Judy’s first day in Norway! As I write this, Judy is probably checking into her hotel and getting ready to spend the next 12 days exploring Norway and enjoying the experience of a lifetime!

We’ll be checking in with Judy later this afternoon to see how her first day went and following up with her every day or two after that, but in the mean time here’s some excerpts from an interview I did with Judy after she’d been informed about winning this year’s contest. Enjoy!

Why did you join Sons of Norway?
My underlying reason is because of a pride in my heritage: my grandparents on my mother’s side came from Norway. I remember my childhood listening to my Grandma and Grandpa talk about “the old country” and seeing their movies after they returned home from a few trips to Norway to see my Great-Grandmother and sisters/brothers still living in Norway.

Also, my aunt (my mother’s sister) has been an active member for many years; she also worked in the office as a volunteer from 1995 to 2007. At a family gathering, she said she was getting tired of working; so I said I would join the Lodge and take her place in the office. Since that time, all but one of the other “office ladies” also retired; so I was elevated to a position of office manager and had to recruit other people to work in the office. It took over a year, but we have a talented, dedicated group now.

What do you like best about Sons of Norway?
I certainly enjoy the fellowship of the members. As one of the younger members (at 62, mind you!), the VERY active members who happen to be in their 80’s and 90’s are inspirations to me to keep active in my retirement years. One of my favorite new friends just turned 101 last month.

Have you ever been to Norway before?
Yes, I went to Norway in 1994 with my aunt, cousin, and her two sons. We spent about three weeks in Norway and a week in Denmark. We made a giant loop from Oslo through Hamar and Lillihammer to Trondheim, then to the Molde/Sundalsora area before arriving in Bergen and Lysekloster. We did all that traveling by car – so we were able to do a lot of visiting of family members along the way. From Bergen, we took the bus back to Oslo, visiting Voss, Flam, and the beautiful areas along the way. Family members took us to the various sights in the city of Oslo, as well as areas along the fjord on the east side (Drobak and Vestby) and the west side (Drammen, Horten, and “the end of the earth.”)

How did you find out that you’d won the contest?
The International President Dan Rude called me at home in the evening to tell me the great news. It was quite a surprise!

This contest is open to anyone who recruited at least one new member last year. How many people did you recruit?
I recruited and sponsored four new members for Leif Erikson 2-001 lodge last year.

How has it been working with our partner Borton Overseas, our partner in the Norwegian Experience?
I have been working with Linda McCormick over at Borton. She helped us plan our itinerary and has been fabulous to work with. She has made some great suggestions – which are greatly appreciated.

What are you most looking forward to when you travel to Norway?
Returning to Oslo and Bergen, seeing new areas along the southern coast (Kristiansand and Stavanger), experiencing the beauty of more fjords and waterfalls, and meeting and enjoying the company of Norwegians. As soon as the exact dates are set, I will contact a few of the people we visited 15 years ago – hoping to be able to see them once again and renew our connections.

Any last thoughts?
I still can’t believe I won such an INCREDIBLE trip. I am so grateful to the Sons of Norway for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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