Life in rural Norway continues at a slow and gentle pace. I am settling in and very content in the knowledge that this might, hopefully, be our home for a very long time. People always talk about putting down roots, but this may be the first time, in my many years of life, that I am actually going to do such a thing. Prior to meeting my husband, I had lived in an apartment in Toronto for 4 years. Prior to that, I had moved 12 times in 12 years. So, I am looking to break my 4 year record and put down some real roots – strong, sturdy, settled, Norwegian-y roots.
This may sound a bit boring to some of you. Moving around and changing my life has been exciting and interesting over the years, but there does begin to be a longing for place and community and, to a certain degree, even some routine. I had found some of that routine in Toronto (in the 4 years I was back there after living in France), which is why it has been especially challenging to start all over again.
The last 4 years have been also been exciting and interesting: meeting my husband, coming to Norway for the first time, coming to Norway many many times, being annoyed by Norway, loving Norway, crying saying goodbye to my husband (and Norway) again and again and again. It was 4 years in a emotional amusement park – rollercoasters of highs and lows.
And now here I am. Finally living here. Finally in a house of our own. Finally creating a “home”. It only took 40 years, but I did it guys. There is hope for all the wandering souls!
So, now what?
I ask myself that every day.
In the 17 days since we moved out of the city, I have not been to Oslo once. Being the exuberant and dutiful wife that I am (read: sarcasm), I have been driving my husband to the train station every morning. It goes like this:
6:44 – I get a light tap on the leg to let me know it’s go-time. I feel about the tap much the same way that most people feel about their alarm clocks. It fills me with sleep-infused confusion and rage. But only for that split second before I am fully awake, and then I am only mildly furious. After the tap, my husband leaves the room quickly. Because he knows what’s best.
6:46 – I am in the car. I am in my pyjamas. I am not interested in talk or any other method of human communication. We listen to the radio. I have discovered a “rock” station that I like, but at 6:46 in the morning it’s a bit much.
“Oh, Gojira… these guys are great!”, says my husband, cranking up the French heavy metal.
Seriously. French heavy metal at 6:46. But what can I do? I sit silently and think about going back to bed as soon as I am home again. And, really, if I was the one heading to work in the morning, I’d love some good tunes to get my day going. So, I won’t begrudge him that one pleasure. (Remember I am exuberant and dutiful.)
6:56 – We arrive at the station. I occasionally feel like I’ve been transported back to the 50s because I’m not the only wife dropping her man at the train. It slightly amuses me. And slightly scares me. I should really get out, hand him a lunch box , give him a kiss, and adoringly brush a piece of lint off his suit collar. But I don’t because I’m me, and it’s 2016. I also don’t because he’s not wearing a suit. He’s wearing a t-shirt, jeans and hoodie. Such is the way of “business” casual in Norway. My friend “S” and I were talking about this casual Oslo work attire. It’s impossible to tell what type of job anyone has. “S” put it perfectly in a text she sent me:
It’s like um… are you the king? Or just a dude hiking? Or a lawyer…
So, I don’t get out of the car. I wave goodbye and do my “morning acrobatics” (as my husband calls it), climbing over into the driver’s seat to avoid having to get out and reveal me and my PJs to the world.
Driving the 10 minutes back home, I am fully awake and now able to appreciate the new day. Every morning, as I wind along the little country roads, I feel happy. I listen to the 7:00 news, which is now my early morning Norwegian lesson, and then have small-town thoughts… noticing what plants are blooming, what the birds are doing, and remarking that the same kid I always pass, as he walks to school, is a little late this morning. Small town thoughts.
By the time I get home, any thought of wanting to crawl back into bed has disappeared and I am ready to start my day. I have never been much of an early riser (my family and friends are laughing as they read this… and thinking.. understatement of the year) but I am really enjoying it. The basic routine is coffee, while wandering through the garden identifying what work needs to be done. After coffee, there are hours of weeding. I know nothing about gardening so I’m on a steep learning curve. Like an Everest-steep learning curve. It’s less dangerous than Everest but just as mystifying to the novice. I am becoming more emboldened in pulling out weeds, but I have made the odd mistake. Like pulling out a raspberry plant. Oops. After weeding, there is perhaps some cooking, some work, and some general fussing and organizing of things in the house.
It is a strange little life I lead now.
When I left Canada, I was living in the city in a very “urban” life. I was working on a TV show (which was my dream job), and surrounded by friends and family and constant activity.
[Side note/Blatant self-promotion: The show I was working on last year is now airing on CBC in Canada. It just premiered last Tuesday. Canadians can see it on TV or online. Non-Canadians can see clips on YouTube: Baroness Von Sketch Show. You can also find it on Facebook, of course. The women who wrote, produced, and star in it are my best friends and I am immensely proud of what we created.]
I have moments of wondering whether I made the right choice by moving here. My husband would also have been happy to move to Canada but the immigration process was so much more onerous. Those of you who are immigrants will know that we have our moments of wondering what we’ve done. (WHAT HAVE I DONE?!) Not because we don’t still understand the reasons for our move(s), but sometimes we need to indulge in a little self-questioning of why make things so challenging for ourselves.
Being at the new house every day, I can sometimes forget I am even in Norway. When you are out in the garden, surrounded by trees, you can really imagine you are anywhere. Well, perhaps not anywhere, but I could certainly be somewhere in rural Canada. And that is quite a nice feeling. There is some sort of familiarity that we can have just by being surrounded by nature, rather than by people and busy city life.
Yesterday was a highlight. “S” came to visit me from the “big city”. I was so excited you would have thought she was flying in from New York, not just taking the train down from Oslo. Having read my last article, she was looking forward to a little tour of the local establishments, and I was of course thrilled to oblige. Our last stop was at the country store. The owner wasn’t there but the very friendly dark-haired lady was. She might have wondered what we were up to as we strolled around slowly, discussing every possible item the store contained. It’s an impressive feat to spend a long time in a tiny store. As we were about to leave, “S” said to me:
“Do you kind of feel like you have to buy something before you leave?”
Excellent point. Of course I did. So, I picked up a few yogurts, did my best at some small talk and off we went.
The streets in the village are very narrow and it’s not uncommon to meet another car coming the other way. One of you has to pull over and wait. These are often the moments that I remember I am, indeed, in Norway. It is customary in small towns in Canada to do a lot of waving and smiling with other drivers in this situation. I don’t find that the case here. Often there is very little (or no) acknowledgement of the other driver. This is another one of those Norwegian-isms that is not considered to be rude, but just a reflection (I think) 0f the slightly removed and reserved manner. Somehow the smiling and waving perhaps feels invasive? Unnecessary? Too in-your-face?
Anyway, I have decided to smile and wave. To everyone. I told “S” about this plan and she was fully on board. She’s North American. Of course she get’s it.
First we encountered an older lady coming the other way. She pulled over so that I could cross the little bridge. She looked stern. I was worried. As I passed, I waved and smiled and she did the same. Success! “S” and I cheered enthusiastically at our win. As we curved along the streets, we came across a bigger challenge – the local bus. I could see he was pulled over to let a car way ahead of me pass. I am not sure of the protocols around here yet and I’m very wary of getting a bad reputation so soon. I didn’t know if I should now wait for the bus (it would seem to make sense). But, he didn’t seem to be moving so I quickly sped up to pass him. As we passed, I smiled and gave a hearty “thank you for waiting” wave. And we hit the jackpot. We got a smile and wave so enormous, we both let out a scream of delight and laughed the whole way back to the station. Victory was ours.
After dropping “S” off back at the station, I waited 15 minutes for my husband’s train to come in. I sat in the sun, on a bench, by the tracks. As the train pulled in, I looked up, and there he was stepping off and walking towards me. He had a big smile and suddenly I remembered exactly why I am in Norway. And it all felt right. Even his early morning metal sessions.
We drove back home as I regaled him with stories of my day and my visit with my friend.
“I am so glad I met her!”, I told him.
And, as “S” and I have said to each other:
We would even be friends in “real-life”!
Somehow Norway doesn’t quite feel like “real life” yet.
But we both know that it will, some day.