Miles: On place and person

January 14, 2011

Because this post is not so much about what I’ve been doing, here’s a quick recap of the past few days:

  • Started Buddy Week  (think welcome week, but with more pubs.)
  • Found out there’s a pub in almost every major building on my campus. You can do an entire pub crawl and not leave University property. Huh.
  • Met people from tons of different countries. Went Ice Skating. Made what we’ve dubbed “Viking Pizza” (so as not to offend the Italian in the room).
  • Successfully registered for Classes. (Waiting to hear if I made it into a Norwegian language course).
  • Began a bulletin board of Melvinisms. (Anything crude yet hilarious that Melvin says.)

I’ve been here for almost a week now. I am starting to feel more comfortable walking down a street and not being able to read any of the signs. I don’t panic when I can’t eavesdrop on conversations around me. I am getting used to being here, which has me thinking about what my “regular life” will be like.

During a conversation with a woman I met who’s also from Minnesota, she said “I can’t try to recreate my American life here, I’ll just get frustrated. I need to make my Norwegian life.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way before, but it made me think. What is my American life? What can I bring to Norway with me?

I am curious to discover how much effect place has on a person. Who is American Miles? Do I bring all of American Miles to Norway and in a sense teach Norway about who I am? Do I sit back, keep quiet, and let Norway dictate who I will become for the next few months? (I understand that neither extreme is likely the answer, but then the question is about the balance between the two.)

Also, what happens if, after a few months, I hate Norway Miles? Does it make me a bad global citizen to prefer my life in America? (Are the two really ever comprable anyway?) And, on the flip side, what if I find myself secretly planning a return to Oslo in a year after I graduate from Minnesota? What if I fall in love with this place and never want to leave? I think, quite possibly, that is the most terrifying possibility. I find I’m almost scared when I start to feel really comfortable here. (It’s a good scared.)

I understand that none of this is answers, but I figured I’d throw the questions out into the interweb abyss. Someone else can deal with them.

Things I have learned: (I think I’ll keep this as a regular segment of posts.)

ENGLISH IS A POWERFUL LANGUAGE. I mean this in all senses of the word power. At the University of Oslo, the default language for all international students who speak no Norwegian is English. Doesn’t matter if you’re from Minnesota, Italy, France, Poland… you speak Norwegian or English. I feel incredibly privileged to be a native speaker. It makes me realize that in the States, we take English for granted and really could stand to make more of an effort to learn other languages.

THE BEST WAY TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY IS THROUGH PUNISHMENT. No lie. At most grocery stores here, if you don’t bring your own bag with you, you pay for a plastic bag. That seems to much more effect that rewarding reusable users something like $.05 off of their bill. US: get with the program.

ANOTHER CONCEPT THAT DOESN’T TRASLATE: THE BRO. Last night while making Viking Pizza, my Polish friend turned on Jack Johnson. I said, “Oh, you like him? I saw him in concert once.” (No shame.) “Oh, I’m so envious of you,” she said. “Yeah,” I replied, “but there were a lot of bros there.” Trying to explain Bros to a roomful of Europeans is no easy task. The new running joke is to look at me and say “Sup?”

That’s all I’ve got right now. Also, a pledge to continue posting even though I start classes next week.


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