Here, on the southwest coast of Norway, the cold days of winter are relatively short. The sun struggles from about the end of October until the middle of January to make any kind of significant appearance. There are some hours of daylight as it lingers on the horizon, but it’s never able to reach its full potential. It will however, make up for its shortcomings by working overtime during the summer months. That doesn’t necessarily mean the weather will be nice. As always we still have the cold Northern wind and lots of rain clouds to deal with.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe a beach girl such as myself ended up here (it must have been love).
I was suppose to be in school yesterday, studying Norwegian (one can never be too fluent) but for some reason my class was cancelled, or rather postponed. It was a beautiful but cold day, the temperature was -4 degrees Celsius, that’s about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. I decided to join some friends who were going over to the mainland for a walk along the old railway track. The trail takes you from the little town of Egersund to an even smaller place called Hellvik. There are a lot of twists and turns through the mountains and along the shore.
In some places we could see the island where we live, across the ‘fjord’.
We also walked through an old train tunnel, where giant icicles hung like daggers above our heads.
There was a sign posted outside which read, Enter at your own risk.
You can hardly take fifty steps in Norway without walking uphill, which can be absolutely exhausting, but at least you don’t have to worry about freezing. We walked for quite some time before taking a break between the rocks, in the sun. I could barely feel the sun on my face, but it was there, trying, and that’s good enough for me. It seems brighter days now lie ahead.
I was a shy girl, who grew into a guarded teenager. I never had the nerve to try out, or join anything at school. I was afraid of failure and being made fun of, that’s why my only goal was to blend in with the crowd. I probably never even raised my hand at school and I’m sure half of the people there didn’t even know my name. Don’t get me wrong – I had friends, but never wandered outside my circle. I played it safe at all times.
I grew up and although I gained some confidence in becoming a mom, I still worried about what other people thought and kept my head down. On the heels of a nasty divorce, I left America and started a new life in Norway (not because I was brave). After visiting numerous times throughout my life, I thought I knew what it would be like to live there. I was wrong.
Learning a new language and adjusting to a foreign culture is hard. I felt more like a refugee in this small local town, than an expat. My children didn’t seem to have any problem; They turned into little Norwegians overnight. Again, I kept pretty much to myself and tried not to be noticed. I knew there were people who thought I was unfriendly, when really I was just scared. Afraid of saying something wrong, afraid of being judged.
Only in a close group of friends was I able to open up and be myself, or as much of myself as I could be – talking another language…
My husband is the complete opposite. Once a local football hero (back in the day) he never cares what anyone thinks and oozes confidence. He’s dragged me kicking and screaming to events, in which I was forced to smile and meet new people. Together we have done things I never imagined myself doing…
Like cycling through France.
Sleeping in an igloo.
Hiking 2.4 miles up to the top of Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).
And publishing a book.
The whole time I was writing Fly Away Home, I never, EVER thought anyone other than family would read it. Why would they? I wasn’t a writer, or anyone famous, just a woman trying to explain her side of things.
There’s no hiding now…
Today was such a great day here in Norway that I thought it might be nice to share…
First the grandkids came for a visit.
Emily danced for me.
Adam colored a picture.
Emily shows off her little sister Annabell. (I didn’t forget to turn the picture, I took it like this)
I spent the rest of the day enjoying the nice weather and doing absolutely NOTHING!
Don’t you just love days like this?
I love tea and have been wanting to do a post about it for quite some time now. It’s my addiction and I cannot make it through the day without it. I brew a pot every morning and am still drinking long after its cooled off, I’ll drink it at any temperature, but never spoil it by adding milk or sugar. My favorite is green tea with mint, but I’ll drink all sorts. In good times and bad, I’m always comforted with tea. So if you ever come to visit, you can be sure I’ll serve tea.
Back in June, a good friend and fellow tea drinker named Marita, (who at this very moment is on her way to Africa to climb Kilimanjaro!) informed me of a tea party that was being held at a local lighthouse. As most of you already know, I live on an island in Norway and there is a light house out on the very tip, called Eigerøy Fyr.
The tea party was being hosted by a Canadian artist, calligrapher, Asian scholar, and tea historian named Bryan Mulvihill. He travels the world talking about tea and its origins some 4,000 years ago, in China. He also talks about the global journey of this precious commodity and how almost every culture has a tea tradition.
He has served tea in a palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice and in a greenhouse in Kew Gardens, London. He has also served tea at International art fairs, local community centers, Buddhist temples and Jewish synagogues. He has served to as many as 17,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl, during the World Festival of Sacred Music in 1999, and to as little as twenty people at Eigerøy Fyr in Egersund, Norway.
Marita and I took the 2km. hike out to the lighthouse on a winding path that ran both up and down green hills dotted with grazing sheep. Wind and rain pushing and pulling us all the way. Once we arrived, we were served four different teas, in tiny porcelain cups. Each of them tasted light and refreshing, with a flowery sweet aroma.
A few weeks later I received an e-mail from a Norwegian named Christi, living in Ningbo, China. She heard about my book and wanted to congratulate me, she would soon be coming home to Egersund for the summer, and asked to visit.
She came by last week, we had a delightful chat and to my surprise, she brought white tea, all the way home from China. There were two shiny bags inside a small canister, one held tea leaves, the other small rose buds, used in flavoring the tea. The canister was then covered in a silky green kimono.
Yesterday, I decided to share my good fortune with another friend named Anja.
As the sun shone down on a lazy Saturday afternoon, two friends whiled away the hours…
Enjoying fresh strawberries, sweet cake and a delicious Chinese nectar
In Anja’s beautiful rose garden, in Norway.
The tea was fantastic! Thanks again, Christi.
Learning to talk Norwegian
is one of the hardest things oops, I mean, is the hardest thing I ever did!
I’m sure you heard the old saying -you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Well, you can its just going to take years to do it.
I landed in Norway with three young children in 1989 and the only words I knew were: takk for maten, which means thanks for the food and a few curse words (for some reason we always learn those first). We moved to a small town called Egersund and with the nearest International school miles away, I enrolled the children in Norwegian school. It didn’t take long for their young minds to absorb the Norwegian language. Meanwhile, as her whole world turned upside down, their poor mother struggled to clear the cobwebs from her head. I now had my eleven-year-old daughter reading my mail and translating cooking instructions for me.
I was living in an area where there were few expats, I didn’t even consider myself to be one. I wasn’t there because I had a job to do, or had a company supporting me, I was there as the wife of a local. I had no choice, but to sink or swim. At first, I really tried to swim; I took classes, read books and listened to language cassettes. The only thing I didn’t do was practice. I felt foolish speaking this foreign language, in which there were three extra letters in the Alphabet (Æ, Ø and Å) and all nouns were classified by gender.
Meaning, I had to learn the gender of every noun in the whole Norwegian language!
There were other problems as well; I was being taught proper (Bokmål) Norwegian, but the good people of Egersund were speaking in dialect. Help!
Years passed, and I began to understand the native tongue spoken around me, yet I still spoke English myself. It seemed like the perfect compromise; I talked my language, they talked theirs and everyone understood each other. The only thing is I stuck out like a sore thumb in the little town. I would try speaking to children, but always felt as if I were met with questioning eyes. When I tried speaking around the house to my own family I was either corrected or laughed at, (not in a mean way) but it still didn’t help matters.
I would spend hours rehearsing and planning what I would say. It sounded perfect inside my head, then something would go awry and I’d end up feeling dumb. What was wrong with me and why couldn’t I learn this damn language?! I was sinking.
Six years after moving to Norway and desperately wanting to fit in, I signed up for another Norsk course. The instructor informed the class that the only way to learn the language was to practice. “Drop your own language and speak Norwegian all the time,” he said. What did I have to lose, my humility? That was already long gone.
I threw myself out there and didn’t let my limited vocabulary or American accent stop me. I was tired of feeling bad about myself and was determined to conquer the language barrier this time!
That was seventeen years ago and guess what? I speak fluent Norwegian, with an American accent, and the occasional mistake thrown in every now and then for good measure.
So next time you meet someone speaking with an accent remember, they’re not thinking with one.