Ester worked as a librarian at the Vadsø library until she retired three years ago. She now enjoys sweet times with her knockout husband (who makes some exquisite cold smoked salmon on their yard). We snacked on cloudberries and chatted about all things Varanger.
Ester’s father’s family came from North Finland, to a little kvæn village called Saltjern just outside of Vadsø. ‘The Kven background is special for Nord-Varanger and parts of Sør-Varanger too. ‘My middle name Niemi is Finnish’. Ester’s three children live all over Norway and every now and then she drives down to visit them, even if it sometimes takes days to get there.
‘The concept of distance up here is difficult to grasp unless you actually live here. For example, if I have a doctor’s appointment at Kirkenes Hospital at 11 in the afternoon, I leave Vadsø with Hurtigruten at 7 am, mosey around Kirkenes before my 15 minute appointment, afterwards I read at the library or wander around town some more. Then I get on the bus that goes back with all the other patients that have had appointments that day and arrive home at 7 pm. A 15 minute consultation actually means you are gone for a full 12 hours and if you have a job you need to take a day off to do so.’ Imagine making that journey right after an operation as the anesthetics are wearing off…
Since retiring and getting used to a more laid back pace of living, Ester enjoys not having to rush for anything. ‘I don’t think I ever understood what people mean when they go on about their ‘rat-race lives’ or how stressed they are feeling. Maybe I don’t have the capability of being stressed or maybe it’s the way of life up here. With the high sky and wide horizon, it’s impossible to imagine living anywhere else.