My son Alexander was born in Stavanger, Norway in 1993. He was immediately issued a Norwegian birth certificate (his Dad is Norwegian) and after reporting his birth to the American Embassy in Oslo (I’m American) he was issued an American one as well. With two passports tucked in his diaper bag he started flying before he could walk, as we spent Winters in Norway and summers in New Jersey.
He grew up in a home that talked English, went to Norwegian school, had Norwegian playmates in the winter and American ones in the summer. Whenever I put him to bed we’d read Green Eggs and Ham and when my husband put him to bed they’d read Mine Fineste Eventyr, av Grimm.
Alexander’s grandparents lived just up the hill from our house and everyday on his way home from school he’d stop by to say hello and have a snack. He joined the scouts and loved learning about Norwegian nature. He played soccer (fotball, as its called here) would disappear on his bike and learned how to drive a boat, before he was ten. Every year on Norway’s Independence Day, he’d march through the streets waving a flag and singing for Norway. He was happy, growing up in a safe wholesome environment and as his mother, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
When Alexander was twelve my husband’s job took us to Houston for two years and after that to The Netherlands for three years. We left Norway with a boy and came back with a young man. While we were gone, we traveled through America and all over Europe. Alexander has also been lucky enough to travel to Russia, Africa, Jordan and Israel on school trips. He has attended the finest private schools and has made a variety of friends from all different cultures. These experiences have given him an unfaltering understanding and interest in people of all races.
Alexander had one year left of high school when we returned to Norway, it was therefore impossible to send him back to Norwegian school. Instead he attended an International School in Stavanger and had to travel three-hours-round trip, back and forth everyday. It was hard to make friends and impossible to join any sports or activities when living so far from the school.
After graduating he informed my husband and I that he no longer felt Norwegian. He struggled to read and write, and didn’t feel comfortable talking the language, he preferred English. He wanted to move back to Netherlands, back to The Hague where his friends were and what he felt was home!
The realization that our son now considered Norway a foreign land, where he felt bored and uninterested was heartbreaking.
In order for Alexander to receive support from Norway in funding further education, there are certain requirements. One of those requirements is a certificate in Norwegian, to which he did not have. This inconvenience ended up buying us some time, as he could not apply to schools outside the country without it. He would instead be spending another year in Norway, against his will.
We ended up sending him to a boarding school outside Lillehammer, where he not only attend classes in Norwegian and studied international relations (something he loves) but also lived full time with other Norwegian students.
Thankfully, he seems to be regaining his roots, although he still jumps on a plane to Amsterdam every chance he gets and considers himself a citizen without borders.
How did it go when you brought your world travelers home?
The two women you see in the picture above, are me and my oldest friend Annie. We met on our way to kindergarden when we were just five years old and here we are almost fifty years later, (I said almost) and still friends. Whats most surprising about the longevity of our friendship is the miles between us. Annie lives in America and me here in Norway. When I left America over twenty years ago, there was no facebook, twitter or even e-mail! Telephone calls were outrageously expensive and who had time to write letters?
The one condition I gave my husband when we decided to settle down and make Norway our permanent home, was one trip to America each year! Every summer we’d pack up the kiddies and head stateside. We’d stay with my parents and I’d hang out with my three childhood BFF’s Annie, Donna and Ellen. All three of them flew to the Netherlands for my book launch, and Annie flew back to Norway with me afterwards. The picture was taken from my terrace while she was here.
Before leaving to go back home Annie informed me that mine was the second signed memoir she owned. The first was My Life, Bill Clinton’s 2004 autobiography, which sold more than 2,250,000 copies. It’s believed that Clinton was paid 15 million dollars and the book has over one thousand pages! He has also stated that he wrote his whole first draft by hand, filling twenty-two thick notebooks.
The time came for my friend to leave and as I watched her make her way through airport security, I began to miss her already. Why is it always harder to watch people go than to leave yourself?
With an ocean again separating us, it was business as usual on facebook, and on the other side of the world there are now two memoirs standing next to each other on a bookshelf. One written by a former president and the other by an American expatriate.
Here’s hoping some of the luck rubs off.
Imagine my surprise when on a dreary day in March 2005, my Norwegian husband came home from work and made this announcement:
“There was a meeting at work today, and I was asked to work in Houston for the next two years!”
After living fifteen years in Norway, this Jersey girl was finally going home. Well, not exactly…
In a blur of packing and unpacking we made our way to the lone-star state, where we lived for the next two years in an elegant home on a quite cul-de-sac.
It was at my sons bus stop where I met the other ladies of the cul-de-sac. Congregating at eight o’clock in the morning, dressed in work-out-attire, clutching mugs of steaming hot coffee and squeezing any scrap of fresh gossip they could from one another. (Note to self…bring a cup of tea to the bus stop with me tomorrow) I felt exactly as if were on Wisteria Lane.
I showed up, introduced myself and we quickly fell into a one sided question and answer session. They already knew we were from Norway because they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew our landlord. Long after the bus had driven off with our children one of them remarked on how good I spoke English, for being Norwegian. I set the record straight, letting them know I came from New Jersey! Which in turn opened a conversation on how I met my husband and ended up living in Norway.
Long story short, I don’t think any of them made it to yoga that morning and by the time I finished telling my story one of them said, “I think I smell a book.”
Well, she must have had a very good nose because here I am seven years later, on my way to The Hague, for my book launch on Friday!