Yesterday I took part in the Norwegian citizenship ceremony. Even though I had received my citizenship half a year ago, this ceremony felt like a watershed to me. I slowly start to realize that I am not a guest here anymore, that this is my home too. And that I can breathe out, be proud of how far I came and start building something. Leaving the stress behind. Leaving the story of “poor me who has to fight for everything” behind.
Maybe, connected to this event or not, recently I am more aware of how Norwegian I have become in all these years. Today I want to share a simple list of the changes that would have seemed peculiar to me 10 years ago. But now they are my second nature, and it took some effort to step back and notice what is different to me now.
The snow has swept across Europe causing troubles and wonders. Paris looks so beautiful in the snow, and, as it doesn’t happen often there, it seems that everyone took a day off to go to the park, make a snowman, take a photo and post it on Instagram. Snow has fallen on the deserted beaches of Barcelona and has created chaos in the north of Catalonia. It was a protagonist on the Catalan news last night. Also in Moscow the extreme volumes of snow created problems for the traffic. As we sit here in our Norwegian homes and watch all these breaking news on tv, I wonder: when will they come here and film our snow?
My post about the perks of being Norwegian has got great support among my Facebook friends and I got many compliments for it a day later at a friend’s party. There was a note of surprise in their tone which was suspicious – am I usually not as positive? 🙂 So I had to reassure them: “Don’t worry, the negative post is just around the corner. It is already half-baked in the oven. First you catch the attention by the positive one – and then swoosh, comes the negative one. This is what I call strategic blogging, hehe”.
This was not far away from the truth, since I had written a draft a month earlier – about what I like and dislike about a typical Norwegian. The post was half-baked indeed. But now, on the positive wave of the new year and positive confirmation – should I go back to complaining again? I have learnt my lesson: complaining doesn’t work (it took me a long time, but at last I learnt it *grin*). And it is much better to keep the focus on the things I like instead of going through what I don’t like. But on the other side, I feel that I am hiding. I have my ideas and I am just afraid to air them. Because they are less pleasant for Norwegians, and so I am also afraid to touch that.
I don’t want to offend anyone – and then I end up tiptoeing way too much. I also want to be more positive than negative. But still there are things I want to say – and why should I suppress my voice which is still so weak? When suddenly I got the idea of talking about myself, instead of a typical Norwegian. What about Norwegian culture that I adopted myself and don’t like?
I wish you enough sun so that your days can be good. I wish you enough rain so that you know how to appreciate the sun.
Last night I read this phrase in the book “Kjemp for alt hva du har kjært” (Fight for everything that is dear to you) by H. K. Rohde, who was leading the police of Oslo when the terror attack of summer 2011 happened here. The book is a story of self-development and personal leadership. In Norway there are more than enough rainy days, cloudy skies and darkness – and here you learn to appreciate the sun and the light like in no other place.
Is it really dark here? You, guys, don’t live behind the polar circle and don’t have polar nights – so why winter darkness? Right, we don’t have polar nights and midnight sun like in the Northern Norway. But the days in winter are extremely short. In the darkest period, December-January, the sun rises at 9am and sets around 3pm. So the light day is short, and we spend more hours in darkness than in light. But calling it “light” and “sun” is really optimistic. Because of the low snowy clouds we happen to see the sun once in two weeks – if we are lucky. So the days look more like early evenings. You get up, wait for the light, live some hours through the grayness, and then it is night again. No wonder why winter is called mørketida, “darkness time” in Norway. I am not complaining here, but I feel a need to make this thing clear. I am not new to the cold and long winters, after all I come from Ukraine and Siberia is our neighbor (not really. Though some people believe it when I’m saying:)). My city can have colder winters than Oslo at times – but the light day is longer for a couple of hours. And I feel that difference now. After all, we all feel best with what we grew up with.
I love flying from Oslo. And not in the meaning of leaving Oslo for some exciting or sunny destination (though I love that too). I mean, I love how smooth the process is. From when I step out of my front door till the moment I am in the air.
I take a tram or a bus to the central station. The ticket for it I buy in the app. I know the timetable of the trains so I know if I can make it – otherwise I take an airport express (which costs twice as much). The ticket for the train I buy in the same app (for airport express I just swipe the card, no paper ticket needed). While sitting on the train I can check in with my flight. I still often prefer to check in at the machine at the airport. Norwegian has also an easy bag drop in Oslo airport where you can scan your bag yourself and off it goes. The whole check-in process takes no more than 5 minutes. I still remember flying to Norway from Ukraine. Passport controls, eternal lines for check-in. And good if there were lines. Crowds. Like someone said: “When you are in the big airport like Amsterdam and looking for a check-in window to Kiev it is easy to find. All other destinations stand in line. Ukrainians stand in a crowd”. True true.
Today I want to share my last year’s memories from our trip to Drøbak. It is a town where Santa Claus (julenisse) has his official address in Norway. The town has the post office of Santa Claus that takes itself of all letters addressed to him. As the year is closing by, I wish I could send a thank-you note to Santa Claus (with a wish list attached), but right now my energy is just enough to share those images and memories. Trying to keep up my humor in December turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. As we entered the darkest week of the year, I found myself lying flat with the flu and fever, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so bad. Though the previous week was full of positive events, I always find it so difficult to think positive in the time of sickness.
I always make sure to walk through the flower market on my way from work. It is there even in the late evening hours, flowers keeping strong in the cold. Today I haven’t seen the usual orchids, and those red and pink beauties, today there were small fir-trees and wreaths with pinecones. Their message was clear: November has moved out, December is now in. At this very moment the church bells chimed through the square, making everything feel like a cozy Scandinavian fairytale. And I was thankful that I didn’t plug headphones in my ears like I usually do.
The Christmas lights hang across the street, and every time there is someone reaching for his phone to snap a picture. Christmas music sounds from the shops, and I think: “Nice try to make it all look cozy and nice. When it is biting cold, and the streets are icy. And the dark hours are more than the light ones”. Then I hear a kid passing by talking joyfully about “the yummy pancakes”. In that moment I envy that kid’s energy. Where do they take it in this dark period? I usually never have this feeling – but now I would like to see the world with the kid’s eyes. No Monday blues, no winter blues, no knowledge about melatonin and serotonin and their effect on our mood, no longing for another place I have seen in December, that was full of sunlight and singing parrots. Just eyes wide open, with the reflection of the Christmas lights in them, and touching the Christmas tree set up in front of the church – which must appear just the size of that church in his eyes. Not afraid of the ice on the streets, but sliding cheerfully on it. And not thinking about the distant sunny place – just living in the moment.