Woke up with no idea as to how I would be involved or participate in this week’s competition. We left the hotel at 7:45 and drove 15 minutes west to a small neighborhood where we pulled up to a random house. We soon learn that this week’s individual competition would focus on the dark portion of Vardø’s Eternal Light, Eternal Night mantra. We would be placed in a bunk bed in a completely dark apartment and would need to navigate off the bed, find and put on our socks and ski pants in the room, and then find the kitchen. In the kitchen we’d need to put spread on a piece of bread, pour some orange juice, drink the juice, and then eat the bread. Next we’d need to find the bathroom, brush our teeth, then find the door and leave the apartment. This is all pretty simple, but again, the room is pitch black (save a couple of infrared dots and red camera dots.)

My role in the challenge… was to give it a test run! This was great because 1.) It was going to be a blast and 2.) Having not been in an individual competition, this would be a great risk free and stress free way to get one out of the way.

I’m feeling fairly confident and my goal is to knock this challenge out of the park – because I didn’t have to worry about going home, I wanted to win the damn thing, I wasn’t concerned about not losing.

3…2…1… GO! I throw off the sheets, quickly head down the bunk stairs, feel around and quickly feel my socks and pants! Check! I feel my way out of the room to a new room, but realize it’s the bathroom. I leave and find the kitchen table, bread, and empty glass. I quickly locate the fridge, get the juice and spread, sit down, and soon I’m eating. I even Kobayashi-style dip the bread into the glass of OJ to make it quicker to eat. Back in the bathroom I take a moment to find the toothpaste and brush, but I still feel like I’m making great time! Then things quickly turn south.

I’m 4-5 minutes into the challenge, and all I need to do is find the door handle and I’m free, stop the stopwatch, knocked it out of the park… but for the life of my I can’t find it! I later learn that it took me another 6-7 minutes to find the handle, and that on 3 occasions I was within inches. While I started perhaps a bit cocky and confident, had this been a real challenge for me I’d certainly be feeling nervous.

If anything it was a good lesson in controlling my emotions in a stressful environment. Looking back I should have just traced all the walls until I found the door rather than running back and forth. I also should have banged on more walls to get the door/wall sound.

It’s such a random challenge, literally anybody could be going home. I walk around the hills above town for ~2 hours while the others compete. After lunch it’s time for results. I knew I clocked in at ~11 minutes, so I’m really impressed with Lauren’s winning time of 6 minutes 22 seconds. Jeff takes second, and it’s between Joni and Johnny. Fridtjof says Johnny struggled to find the exit, while Joni struggled with the OJ. In the end, much like the theme of the week, it would be Joni’s eternal ray of light that would turn to night, and she’d be headed home.

I’m lucky to have surrounded myself in life with a lot of great people, but no exaggeration, Joni is one of the sweetest most caring people I’ve ever met. Steadfast in her ways and morals, she never drank on camera, and never felt any pressure to change to try and fit into the crowd or play a role. She’s an adventurer who never stopped exploring and will be greatly missed by her biggest fans – the children of Norway who she quite literally spent hours with. She’ll someday make the best mom ever. If I turn these journal entries into a blog post and you (the reader) happen to be a nice North Dakota guy with a good head on your shoulders – as of this writing she’s single! (*Adding this now in October… it looks like I AM turning these entries into blog posts… and Joni’s still single! Call her!)

(As an aside, I’m also thrilled that Joni took the time to go to Puffin Island yesterday! Better to ask for forgiveness than permission, she certainly played that one right!)

The completion also serves as a wake up call to me about how precious these days really are, when I learn that had I been in today’s competition (not just testing it) I’d be headed home. Woah. Had I not had the troll, there’s a VERY real chance my butt would be on a plane to Oslo, and whatever adventures that may come would be for not. From a strictly math standpoint, the week 8 troll is technically the most valuable, but perhaps the week 4 troll was my saving grace. Needless to say I’m humbled by the competition, and continue to be grateful for every day I spend over here.

Based on the week, troll signs would point to Richard, but Jeff finally got it. This has been overdue since episode two, so I can’t say it comes as a surprise. I just home he’s not on my team next week!

We grab lunch at a café with Martine, and are forced to stay away from the hotel for almost 3 hours while the crew (and Joni) pack up and head to the airport. As the crew leaves, we see 2 young girls (friends she’d made the last few days) chasing the van waving goodbye.

We relax in the hotel for an hour, and then head out for Thai food for dinner. After dinner Jeff and I went back to the fortress and played catch for a bit. Catch in the Arctic Circle under the midnight sun is another cool one to add to the list!

I’m now back at the hotel just finishing this journal entry. We leave tomorrow morning for Oslo, and then will leave Oslo again the next day in the late afternoon. We’re now officially through 50% of Alt For Norge!