Posts Tagged ‘Norwegian’


Miles: Two weeks

May 23, 2011

Quick updates: I just got back from a weekend in Stockholm, which was amazing. The city is beautiful. I will say, though, that I think Norway still beats Sweden as far as awesomeness is concerned. This weekend I am going to Sognefjord on a hiking trip – fjord on Saturday, glacier on Sunday. (I’m pretty damn excited. It’ll be a great last weekend in Norway.)

In two weeks, I will, for the first time in 5 months, wake up in the US. I knew that I’d feel a lot of things at the end of my semester, but I wasn’t really prepared to feel this underwhelmed/overwhelmed about going home.

I mean, for starters, what the hell is “home”? My heart is divided into a bunch of little chunks – an endless supply of little pieces that I get to scatter. There is a chunk in Madison, and there always will be. There are pieces all over the twin cities. There’s a piece in Boston. There are pieces in Northern Wisconsin, where my family’s cabin was. Now there is a giant chunk in Oslo, with pieces in Bergen, in Stavanger, in Tromsø, on top of Preikestolen. This is a home. Norway is a home.

So am I going home or leaving home? And if the answer is both, what happens to that chunk of my heart? I have all the faith in the world that Norway will take care of it, and that I can come back here someday. Maybe I’ll live here, practice Norwegian, work at a daycare or for the state, and eventually the US will feel like an old photograph that I take out to look at occasionally when I feel nostalgic.

But more likely, at least for now, that’s what Norway will be. And that’s what scares me. I have a life here. I wasn’t just on vacation for 5 months, I lived here. How do you explain that life? I love so many people in the states so dearly, and I know that I can tell them all about my semester and they’ll listen and be excited for me, but ultimately, they just won’t get it. I can’t share the jordbær syltetøy at United Bakeries with them, I can’t take them to a kitchen party at Sogn, I can’t hike in Nordmarka with them or go on a skitur.

So I have this semester and it’s going to sit inside me and I get to decide how I remember it. It’s my job to keep it alive, and not let my Norwegian life disappear. I’ve changed during this semester. I’ve become stronger. I learned a lot about who I am. I can communicate much better than I used to be able to. I ask for what I need. I take care of myself, and I better know how to do that. I continue to improve at being social, and also knowing when I need space for myself. I pushed myself. I learned a brand new language, and practice using it every day. I fell in love with nature in a way I hadn’t before. I learned the pure, simple joy of climbing on a rock, skiing up a hill, or sitting by a lake. I am determined to not lose the person I’ve become. This semester was a beautiful experience because of what I learned and how I grew.

Because of all this growth, in a weird way, going back to Minneapolis seems like the worst sort of back-pedaling. I just experienced something amazing, something life-changing, and now I’m supposed to go back to the U of M and take required courses that only mildly interest me? Why? I know I need to finish my degree and do it at the U. I need to be an example for my younger sisters, who will be starting college in the fall. I need to complete that adventure, but I’m anxious. My head knows I need to, but my heart wants to keep moving forward. I think the next year will be a challenge in how to feel as though I’m moving even when my environment seems static, how to find the exciting in the familiar.

I was told that I’d feel culture shock coming back to the States. I’m as ready as I can be. I will be working a summer job at a day camp that I love in Madison for two months when I get home. I think all I can do in my first months back in the states is feel as productive and important as I can – to feel like I’m making a difference. Keep moving forward. Keep growing.

In these moments I remember the way I felt boarding my plane from Chicago to Oslo. I knew I was ready, but it almost felt like I was only ready because I needed to be- I was scared, but I made it.

I made it.

And I say all this now, two weeks before I go, because I won’t be blogging again until I get home. I need to really be here for these final days. I want to just take it all in, not process yet. I’ll have all summer to process.

So, Oslo, takk for alt.


Miles:It’s all really the same, except, of course, when it’s not

April 5, 2011

Some things about classes stay the same, regardless of location. There will always be those over-achievers — the ones who’s hands are almost stuck in a raised position, the ones who get extra nervous before each test, the ones who need to be right. There will always be the slackers — the people who probably could have been more productive being at home, the ones there out of a sense of obligation, not because they care about the material. There will also always be the people in-between. Everyone will always want to assume they’re an in-between. Some teachers will be annoying, some will always make you smile. Some you’ll want to impress, some you’ll want to spite.

Then there are the differences. These are what I need to pay attention to. First, because the most important question here is “Hvor kommer du fra?” everyone has a country attached to them. I am carrying the United States with me everywhere. I have met not just people, but representatives from countries. The overachievers in my Norwegian class, for example, aren’t just two women, they’re two Germans. This is the place where, if I’m not careful, stereotypes are born.

There’s also the systematic difference of the education system in Norway. My Norwegian exam is in 10 days. It is my one and only grade for the course. I need an A. Most people in my class are learning Norwegian to pass the exam. They won’t really try too hard to speak it in class because that’s not on the test. They instead obsess about the proper declination of nouns. This is important, sure, but I’m also interested in using my Norwegian to communicate. I’m in Norway. To me, the only respectful thing to do is try to learn Norwegian, particularly because I’ve been presented with the tools needed to do so. That being said, I do also need a good grade on this test, so don’t expect me to be doing much outside of studying Norwegian for the next week.

(Especially since next weekend I’ll be frolicking through fields of tulips in Holland. Insert all sorts of excited faces.)

Things I have learned:

NORWAY FOG IS LIKE NO OTHER. Field of snow pressing against completely foggy sky is the most disorienting thing one can witness on a run. Trust me. It is the moment in my life where I’ve been the least sure of where the ground ends and where the sky begins.

I LIVE BY THE SEA. I knew this. To witness it with my hands, to feel it against my face, though, is to truly discover it. Never underestimate how much I love bodies of water, and how at peace I feel near the ocean/lake/whatever. This is the moment when I begin shopping for houseboats. (I’m only sort of kidding.)


Miles: Language

April 1, 2011
  • In my Gender Equality class, we talk about major issues. We represent ten mother tongues. We never bothered to define “Gender.”
  • At a party, a woman from Mexico and I start speaking in Spanish. I realize that I’m accidentally sticking Norwegian words into my sentences.
  • My good friend says “Well, this girl, I mean, Woman” then says “Damn, Miles, I can always tell when I’ve broken one of your language rules” joking about how I have chosen to try and refer to my peers as women, not girls.
  • I am asked to, and do, to the best of my ability, perform all the different “American” accents.

If nothing else, this semester I have learned the importance of language. Or rather, I have learned that I have yet to discover the full importance of language. As a writer, clearly I’ve always placed a certain emphasis on words and the power they hold, but here, with the added element of different languages, I’m understanding how many layers go into the simple act of using words.

I don’t really have anything concrete or informative to say. I just feel strongly that language should be paid more attention to. And I want to learn how culture influences language — for example, if one of my friends says something that I perceive, from an American background, to be incredibly offensive, am I obligated to consider whether or not it’s offensive in their culture?

I think I’ve just entered another “too much input, no way to output” mode. It’s officially April. I’m halfway done. I’m nowhere near ready to leave. I keep having to work on preparations for coming back  – job interview, searching craigslist for apartments — and while I’m glad to be prepared, I feel frustrated that the US and my life there is invading my Norway life.

This is why I am currently eating a matpakke with knekkebrød, ost, and hardkokt egg. I will be as Norwegian as possible for the next two months.

Things I have learned:

WHEN YOU EAT SWISS FONDUE, YOU DRINK TEA. Why? To prevent the inevitable cheese hangover that hurts all over, but hurts so good.



Miles: Vigelandsparken

January 19, 2011

A sculpture on the bridge

Because I only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, yesterday was a day for an adventure. I hopped on the T-bane and rode towards Vigeland Sculpture park.

The entire park is called Frogner park, and is fairly massive for an Oslo park. The sculptures are all sort of concentrated in the middle of the park. The weather was cold and foggy, so it took me a while to find where I was going. The river is frozen over, so I had no guidance there.

The first set of sculptures I saw was the bridge. Lining the sides of this walking bridge are clusters of people, children included, all in various positions. Some are embracing, some are almost leaping off of each other. There are families, couples, and the famous “grumpy boy.” (A tiny child clearly in the middle of a temper tantrum.)

At the end of the bridge there’s a giant fountain being held up by groups of men. Past the fountain is the centerpiece of the entire park—the Monolith. This giant (phallic) statue is literally tons of people piled onto each other. Because of the fog, as I walked towards it, it seemed to appear out of the abyss—super creepy and awesome. It was so tall I couldn’t clearly see to the top of it. (This also may have had something to do with the fog.)

I’ve never been a huge sculpture fan. I’m the sort of tourist who often takes pictures of important looking statues just to prove I saw them. I usually run past the ceramics area of a museum towards the “better” art. However, I felt oddly moved by these sculptures. The characters presented such a feeling of unity, of togetherness, of shared burden. Even if the people weren’t directly looking at each other, often they were touching in a way that said “I’m here” and showed intense amounts of family and community. Some were playful, some were clearly more serious. I didn’t examine closely enough to really be able to claim to understand what the motive of the work is, but I enjoyed it. Simplified, the pieces seemed to say “We are all together. We will share the weight.” Works for me.
Things I have learned:

SNOW IS NATURE. Okay, let me explain this one. I found myself thinking or mentioning to multiple people that I have way more tolerance for Oslo snow than I do for Minnesota snow. During my first North American Environmentalism class (The whole title is Renewing the Earth/Restoring Culture: Critical Evaluations of the American Green Tradition), the professor mentioned Norway’s lack of shoveling laws. “You know what we do with snow on the streets in the US? We get rid of it!” And then it hit me—I expect snow as a part of the Norwegian landscape. I know its coming, and I adapt. Why can’t I do the same in Minnesota? Maybe we are all meant to slow down in the Winter and just appreciate the nature of it all.

JEG HETER MILES. JEG KOMMER FRA USA. I started Norwegian class.


Natalie: Living like a Norwegian

October 7, 2010

An any given day when I walk over to the near by lake there are hoards of people. Groups of kids playing games, families walking, moms pushing strollers, and sports groups jogging. It seems that all of Norway is at the lake all the time. Norwegians really value fresh air and the out doors. In the U.S. I have never seen as many people as I’ve seen near Sognsvann in Hartley field. Here, being outside, is just a way of life. I read that it’s actually mandatory for schools to spend one day a week outside participating in “practical” learning. No wonder there were so many school aged kids out building bon-fires and hiking Tuesday. I’ve taken up a bit of this way myself. I’ve started walking every evening after dinner. It gives me a little break from my studies and freshens my mind especially now in the crisp autumn air. The leaves haven’t started changing yet. I can not wait until they do!


Natalie: Update

September 4, 2010

All I can say is that it is very obvious that Norwegians enjoy being out in Nature. Today the lake was swarming with people. Trying to run was very difficult as I had to zig zag through families with strollers and leashed dogs. So today I only did one lap around the lake. The rest of the day I spent reading. Currently I’m reading ‘The Great Gatsby” and some other short pieces by Emerson. That evening I decided to be adventurous and actually cook. I made stuffed eggplant, which sounds like it could be stomach churning, but was actually quite delicious. Even the Singaporeans were impressed.
Here is how I prepared it:

Today I had a full day of classes, 9 ‘til 6. American Literature went by without a hitch, except for that again not a single person said anything to me. The seminar for that class was different though. Almost immediately a girl approached me and started chattering in Norwegian. Every time this happens I’m almost embarrassed to reply, “sorry I can only speak English.” As soon as she learned I was an international student she asked if I had met many people yet. Sheepishly, I looked down and shook my head. I’ve seemed to have hit a wall in this. It’s not easy making friends for me. Every time I’m surrounded by new people it’s almost painful to force myself to be in good spirits and willing to open up. I can’t understand why I can’t get over it. It’s been getting me down a lot lately and as a result I’ve spent a little bit too much time in my room on the internet. As soon as she heard that she quickly introduced herself as Ava. Later she passed me a note that read…”Norwegians are pretty skeptical when it comes to international students. Shy as well. But you’ll get used to it!” This almost came as a relief. Woof! It’s not completely my fault. This seems very true though. I feel like as soon as people hear me speak they turn away and try to avoid me. UGH! Later in our group discussion about America I was really struck by a few thoughts that were brought up.

1. They felt that America was very religious compared to Europe.
a. I thought maybe it had to do with the crazy ways we celebrate Easter and Christmas, but all that really is commercialization, not religious celebration. I asked my German roommate what she thought, and she said she had thought that America was strictly religious because of American movies she had seen. I guess there are a lot of church scenes in movies, but still usually they involve Christmas or weddings, the one time a year most Americans attend church.
2. They felt that Americans were being scared by their government.
3. They felt that Americans banded together in times of war.
a. This is definitely not true. There is more than one American I know who doesn’t support the war. If anything the war has split the nation. Just yesterday I read an online story about how a flight of troops arrived at an airport and they were booed.

I was actually excited for my Norwegian Life and Society class until the professor started. He droned on for full 2 hours from a pre-written sheet of paper. He had no slides of pictures and struggled with his English. I couldn’t even take notes his lecture was so disorganized and he was using so many Norwegian words I had no idea how to spell. I have never had such a bad teacher. I learned absolutely nothing!

Only intending to go for a quick walk around the lake, I guess you could say I got a little distracted. I ended up hiking through the wilderness for nearly 3 hours. The trails just keep going and going! And while I was walking these paths I was struck by something… I saw not a single animal! No birds were even singing. I’m not sure if this is because I’m still near Oslo, or what but it was weird. No squirrels, no birds, no deer. Haha. I’ll say that today and then tomorrow be eaten by a bear! In the afternoon I worked on planning my travels. I booked a flight in early November to London and Dublin for round trip $70! Jamie and I are also planning a trip in December to Rome and Paris! I cannot wait, especially for Paris. Finally I’ll be able to practice my French on an unexpecting waitress! Haha.


Trystan: Time

May 12, 2010

As I write this, I have 14 hours of exams staring me down. (First off, isn’t that insane!? 14 hours of exams for 3 classes – jeez!). I’ve been studying Norwegian for a good portion of the day, and need to continue. I really hope to take more classes when I get home. I know it’s not “practical,” but I really like the language—this coming from someone who sucks at learning them. That’s not to say I’ve had the same experience as some others studying abroad. I didn’t stay with a host family, nor did I even live with Norwegians. Though I can read and speak at a basic level, conversations with proper Norwegians are still firmly out of my grasp. The speaking is one thing; the dialect is another beast entirely. Conversations I instinctively know I should know are incoherent to me. Bit frustrating, but ah well.

I’ve started planning out my summer travels. Leaving is definitely going to be very bittersweet. I’m scared as hell, but I can’t wait to be “out there” travelling around for 2 months. I’m going to miss Norway, a lot. I’m absolutely going to miss everyone in Fantoft more than I can even put in words. These people have become part of my life in ways that I will not and cannot forget. I don’t want to get too sentimental just yet. We’ve still got a whole month left! Finals, shminals: there’s plenty of time to enjoy ourselves. And I’m going to see most of them in their hometowns / areas this summer. But already I’m starting to feel it. It’s going to be a long, difficult process—one which I’ve never had to deal with before and will most likely not experience again. This kind of long-distance, long-term, conceivably permanent separation? It’s staggering to think about. But it’s also incredibly humbling and gratifying. How was I lucky enough to run into all these people, at these particular times in our lives? It seems to good to be true. I’m starting to get that strange dream sensation that I had when I first came here. Is this real? Am I really in Norway right now? Can this actually be my life?

Funny how that comes full circle. Maybe it’s an automatic reaction to loss or change, I don’t know.

At any rate, this is the best dream I’ve ever had. Please don’t pinch me just yet.


Trystan: Påskeuken (Easterweek/Spring Break)

April 19, 2010

I’m really sick of the obnoxious, clunky way that WordPress makes me deal with photos. From now on I think I’m going to just link to my Flickr page. If it’s too annoying, I can switch back. But seriously. For a fairly modern website, their photo manipulation is awful. FLICKR: Here

I didn’t go anywhere tropical or with a beach. I didn’t spend a solid week drunk. Norwegian spring breaks are very different than ours back home. Typically Norwegians spent their Easter “up north” (I feel right at home, coming from MN/WI!) in their cabins, relaxing and skiing. The main point is to get close to Nature.

I left for Tynset, a little town with 5,000 people. The train ride from Bergen to Oslo is considered one of the most beautiful rides in the world, and it was certainly something to behold. At one point I saw snow-covered desolation (think Planet Hoth—they actually filmed it here) and mountains for miles.

After arriving in Tynset 13 hours later, sleep was incredibly welcoming. The next day Kasia and I went to visit her aunt. They (unexpectedly) lent us their cross-country skis! So we drove half an hour to a valley of sorts. It was kind of foggy and snowing when we arrived, but the random minutes of sunshine in the middle of the forest, surrounded by fog and snow, provided some of the most surreal beauty I’ve ever seen. It was like a dream, honestly.

Thursday we went downhill skiing. Well, let me clarify. The rest of our group went downhill skiing. I essentially paid 750 Swedish kroner ($105) for an hour of skiing and 14 stitches. Yours truly managed to make it down only THREE runs before injuring myself. I fell (for quite possibly the 10th time—these slopes were wicked) and slammed my ski into my right leg. It hurt, but I didn’t think anything of it. By the time I got down I could feel some weird wetness on my leg. Apparently I was bleeding a bit, but I didn’t think it could be so bad since my leg wasn’t hurting.

I went into the bathroom to wipe it up and contin–OH MY GOD MY LEG IS WIDE OPEN WHAT THE HELL OH THAT’S A LOT OF BLOOD I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD. Turns out the ski sliced into me pretty good, but my body auto-numbed it (thanks, Nature!) so I didn’t think I was hurt. I slowly walked out to Kasia and mumbled something to the effect of, “Someone, look at this, go find, not good, blood, this is really bad, damnit I suck at skiing, emergency…” 14 stitches later the doc apologetically said I would have to pay something—to the tune of 150 SEK (about $14). I almost laughed.

“Seriously?” I said.

He responded, “Yeah, since you’re not a Swedish citizen, you’ll have to pay, sorry. I just need your name, birthday, and city of birth.”

“So… an hour of your time (a plastic surgeon), 3 subdermal stitches, 11 surface ones… and all I need is 150 SEK and my birthday? Do you want my insurance card or anything”

“HAHA, no. This isn’t America, don’t worry. Remember, no exercise, etc…”

I love Scandinavia.

Unfortunately I didn’t follow his advice of “No walking! Just keep your leg up and rest.” I was on vacation! And I’m young and invincible, damnit! So the next day I went horseback riding.

I got a feisty guy who hardly listened to me. (Just look at him in the Flickr pictures. He looks like a little hellion, doesn’t he?). I got him partially under control and we walked and trotted around near the barn and down into the little resort area. We met Chris—son of the owner and Kasia’s friend from way back when—and made plans to hang out later in the evening.

We met him and two of his friends around 10. We all went to our apartment and started forspill. (Literal translation: foreplay; actual translation: pre-party. Weird, I know.) The Tynset bar—the only one, in fact—was packed with villagers. Some of them had all their gear on and had obviously just walked in from a day full of skiing. Loud, local Norwegian music, dancing, and drinking ensued. We walked to Chris’s for nattspill (night play, after-party) afterward. Unfortunately, we had to be up at 10 for the three hour drive to Trondheim.


Trystan: and it’s good

March 8, 2010

So, school is definitely starting to catch up with me. My math class is exactly what profs back at the U said Norwegian math classes would be – stupidly difficult. So much theory / proofs I can barely grab onto what it means. Political Econ is really interesting, though I’m still nervous for the final. Norwegian is fun, actually. I really enjoy it. I’m not a huge fan of the teacher – she’s very unstructured still, and I learn quite a bit more on my own. The problem is conversation – I’m not quick enough to think on my feet. I should speak with Kasia and Darrio (both majored in Norwegian language) and other people learning it here, but that doesn’t happen often enough.

In other news, on Friday there was a Bad Taste Party at Klubb Fantoft. Everyone’s outfits were horrible and fantastic. Here I’m apparently trying to look as creepy as possible. Yes, those are mutton chops and that is a mustache. My hair was also excessively curly. Fun fact: I owned those pants before this party.

Seriously, I didn’t mean to look like a child molester and/or ’70s pornstar, it just kinda happened. Other people’s outfits were equally as awesome :D

Also of note: I just found a few new Cloud Cult songs (on the reissue of Aurora Borealis / They Live On the Sun). “And It’s Good” is really just awesomely awesome. Cannot wait for the new album this summer!


Adam: Meanwhile, in Oslo

November 14, 2009

My lips are super chapped, which only means one thing: Winter weather is here. But, this year I’m actually prepared with my lip balm and hat and gloves. My mother would be so proud.

As I’ve mentioned before, I finished my last paper a few weeks ago and only have a couple readings to do before the semester ends. Looking back, we really have learned just about everything there is to know about Oslo. In fact, we’ve so wrapped up in Oslo’s business, it would probably file a restraining order if we were not leaving soon.

Also, even though it was a lot of work, my Norwegian course was absolutely worth taking. Not because I can now lightly converse with Norwegians, but because of Astrid. She’s one of those teachers that makes it clear that she loves what she does, ya know?

Tuesday night she gave Kirby, Sonja and me another private lesson that again included cake and fruit. It makes it a lot easier to study Norwegian for two hours straight when cake is involved. We only have a few more classes left until our final exam, which spans Monday and Tuesday. Blurg.

I had the final day of my internship at Utrop Wednesday. We unofficially celebrated my time there by eating fish burgers (or at least that’s what the package said). Super classy and magically delicious. I was informed that my story about Norwegian language courses made the front page of the current issue. Super neat-o! I plan on getting a stack of copies. I’m lucky President Obama’s visit is a couple weeks away, otherwise I probably would have been bumped.

We make another visit to Parliament tomorrow to meet with a member of the Progressive Party, which brings in young voters through pledges of lowering alcohol tax. Yeah, this is the situation.

This weekend is an excursion to Tromsø, which is located in Northern Norway. Sadly, it has not snowed enough or at all really, so we will not be dog sledding as originally planned. However, we still plan on staying in a tent and trying to see the Northern Lights. I guess they said we could walk the dogs if we’d like. I miss my Rosie, so that will probably happen.

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