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Norwegians visit Oldham County

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By Emory Williamson

Norwegian Aina Lundon is an avid shooter – so much so that when it came time to bet money on a recent horserace at Churchill Downs – the clear choice for her was “Shot Gun Cliff.” A couple minutes later, after her horse had won the race, she was $39 richer, much to the chagrin of her fellow Group Study Exchange team members. The group is visiting Kentucky from Norway as part of Rotary International’s month-long exchange program. GSE Team Leader Egil Berglund jovially chimed in, “She’s the only one who won!” “I did, I did, but just by a head,” said a blushing Lundon, 34, an agricultural researcher. Sitting at the opposite end of the table with his chin resting in his hand, fellow GSE team member Marius Ensrud reluctantly informed Lundon that she won another race as well, increasing her winnings to $60. “Oh yes, I did win twice,” Lundon responded. “But I don’t remember that horse’s name. I’m a shooter so I had to bet on the shotgun.” The GSE, consisting of five native Norwegians, arrived in Kentucky May 4 and gave a presentation at the Oldham County Schools Arts Center to local Rotary members May 8. Norway, a small mountainous country with a temperate climate, is located in northern Europe, more than 4,000 miles away from Oldham County. According to Berglund, a 36-year Rotarian, Rotary clubs in Norway selected the participants following an application and interview process. Once accepted, the team headed to the U.S. on an all-expenses paid excursion. Kevin Parker, president of the South Oldham Rotary Club, said the experience is enjoyable for club members and the GSE host families. “It was really neat for all of us because you get the opportunity to see what other cultures are like and experience new things,” Parker said. “By the end, we made some great new friends.” Some of the team members, including Sissel Sivertsen, a 36-year-old mother of two and volunteer organizer, said the time and distance away from their families is difficult, but the opportunity to visit Kentucky is too great to pass up. “At first I thought ‘no, no, I can’t do it, four weeks is too much,’” Sivertsen said. “But then I thought four weeks in a whole life isn’t so much and I think I can tell them a lot of history when I come home. And bring them gifts, lots of gifts when I come.” So far the group has ventured to local destinations such as Churchill Downs, Fourth Street Live and a tour of the United Parcel Services facility in Louisville. The group will continue traveling Kentucky through June 1, including visits to Princeton, Frankfort and Bardstown and staying with host families in those areas. Many of the activities for GSE team members include discussions and site tours with Kentuckians working in occupational fields related to the Norwegians’ professions, such as research, computer engineering, medicine and teaching. Several of the Norwegian team members said they are surprised by the similarities in American and Norwegian culture, but also pleased at the friendliness and hospitality they have experienced. “We’re doing things we never would have done without the GSE,” Lundon said. “Everything has been a wonderful experience.”   E-mail us about this story at: emory@oldhamera.com