January 11, 2007

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by christy

Christmas in Norway, the land of our dreams. We were so fortunate to be able to return to Trondheim last month after 18 months away. Ted learned of a wave power conference there just 3 weeks earlier, and we quickly made plans to take advantage of the opportunity to visit. We were fortunate to be able to go back to see the people and places we had grown to love, and it was a great opportunity for Ted to connect with people in his new area of work. Despite the hassles of flying, especially with a toddler, it was well worth the trip. We never thought we would have a chance to go back so soon.

One of the best parts of the trip was the chance to meet our newest little friends, Hanna Elise and Virginia Celine. Hanna, 6 months old at the time of our visit, is the daughter of our dear friends Trond and Annie, who are like family to us now. As you can see in the pictures, she is a sweet little girl. She is a little angel too, who hardly makes a peep! Anders really adored "baby Hanna," showering her with toys and bouncing her little seat. If he was being loud at night, we could say "shhh, baby Hanna is sleeping" and he would quiet down. After this became routine, once I just said "shhh" and he finished with "baby Hanna sleepin'" in a little whisper. He is still talking about baby Hanna, even now that we have returned home.

Virginia Celine is the daughter of our other good friends, Marta and Giuseppe, who also have a 5 year old daughter, Sofia. Marta is from Paraguay and Giuseppe is from Italy, and they have both lived in Japan before moving to Norway. Sofia is so beautiful and simply brilliant, she will break a few hearts. She speaks Italian as her first language and understands some Spanish. After attending Norwegian daycare these last 2 years, she is also fluent in Norwegian. Next year she will attend the International School in Trondheim and learn English. She already understands some English now, but when we were living in Norway and she was 3, she would get mad at her parents for speaking to us English. I'm sure she thought, "I know 2 languages, why do these adults have to speak in a language I don't understand!" I'm sure she will be speaking English next time we meet. I had some fun speaking Norwegian with her and playing a computer game in Norwegian, but she definitely has surpassed my Norwegian skills. Luckily for me, I still grasp counting better than a 5 year old and could help with her game!

But, back to Virginia. She is 7 months old and a lot of fun. She is also a very easy going baby and is used to the bustle of having a big sister around the house. She looks a lot like Giuseppe, I think, with her big dark eyes. I am sure she will be as beautiful and brilliant as her big sister.

We adjusted to the time change easier than I expected, but because of the winter darkness we missed out on the "daytime" the first few days of our trip. It is generally overcast in Trondheim, and while we were there the sun peeked over the horizon from about 10:00 to 2:30, with dusky light an hour before and after official sunrise and sunset. We spent the first few days hanging out at Trond and Annie's and doing the stuff of daily life: grocery shopping, entertaining the kids, a little mall browsing. I had an unexpected tour of the Trondheim malls those first few days, tagging along with Trond and Annie on their errands while Ted was at the wave conference. We took short trips to the University and downtown too, but baby schedules kept us pretty close to home.

For the weekend, we stayed with Marta, Giuseppe, Sofia and Virginia. They are renting a large, nicely updated apartment with a great view of the city. We had great fun visiting and playing with the kids. On Sunday, the streak of unseasonably warm weather broke and Trondheim got a nice blanket of snow. We took the opportunity to go up to Lake Lian, which is at the end of the tram line just minutes from Marta and Giuseppe's house. We walked part of the way around the lake and enjoyed watching the Norwegians play in the snow as well; we were certainly not alone in our enthusiasm for the winter weather.

We had many nice experiences that made the trip special. Annie's friend Monica has a daughter named Marie that was born the same day as Anders (but not in the same hospital, we weren't next door to her). It was so fun to see them play together, they were so similar in looks, size, ability, temperament; they had such fun together. We wish they could have played a together more. Anders was a very good sport, considering all that we asked of him. One funny moment came while Ted had him in a sports store. Anders immediately spotted a bin filled with soccer balls, which are called "footballs" in Norway (and everywhere except the US). He was thrilled that Ted let him carry one around with him, and started singing his own song that goes "oh no soccer ball." He gave himself away as an American, but he is so cute, who could blame him. He still sings his "oh no soccer ball" song occasionally. We bought him some Norwegian books, along with the books on tape in Norwegian, so that we could all benefit from hearing proper spoken Norwegian. Trond also taught us a song, so we can sing a little Norwegian anytime (and we still remember it!)

We did wish that we could have had some more time out in nature, but the weather and lack of sunlight really made that kind of excursion more difficult. There is something very special about the outdoors in Norway that I don't feel anywhere else. Maybe it is something about the crisp arctic air and cold, clear sunlight, or the sheer scale of the natural landscape with its towering mountains and plunging fjords. Maybe it is that the other people you encounter in the Norwegian outdoors have a quiet reverence for nature too, or maybe it is because the culture allows you to feel alone wherever you are. We did enjoy some time outdoors, but I am looking forward to making that a bigger part of our next trip.

Maybe what is more important than what we did in Norway was how it felt to be there. We truly enjoyed the time that we lived there, and since our move to Oregon we have been longing for Norway and questioning our decision not to go back. We saw this as an opportunity to test our feelings about living there again. I think we both agree that it felt very good to be back, but in the sense that it felt very familiar and ordinary; it was almost as if we hadn't left. There was a rush of recognition and comfort, but not necessarily nostalgia. And while familiar is a sense of "home," familiar also lets in all of the not-so-ideal aspects of living in a place. I had the same feelings of discomfort with "outing" myself as a non-Norwegian, which brings a sense of isolation. Our experiences abroad have taught me that I like to blend into my surroundings and not be seen as foreign. I recognized that I would have to live with that everyday, or at least until I can speak and understand Norwegian with ease. I hadn't forgotten those aspects of living in Norway, but I wasn't sure if I would experience that again when we visited, or if I would have an overwhelming sense that this was the place we had to live. I guess it is a comfort that I don't feel a great regret for not moving back, and if we have the opportunity to make the decision again, I will have this experience to remind me what daily life will entail.

I must say that we truly enjoyed our visit and look forward to meeting our friends again, whether that be in Norway or elsewhere. It is the people that we love that make a place welcoming, so we send our warmest thanks and greetings to Trond, Annie, Hanna, Marta, Giuseppe, Sofia, Virginia, Tore and his family, Pål, and everyone else that we might be missing. You are like family to us and we will always have an open door, a soft bed, and good food if you pass through our corner of the world.

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