Want a quick recipe for life? If you feel bored in one place – move. If you want to discover how amazing your place can be – move. If you want to start noticing again all the beauty of your old place – move.
Since we started moving plans for real, Oslo has become so amazing to me. I can just walk without my headphones now, listening to the people talking, to the singing notes of everyday Norwegian. Listening to the fountains and dogs barking. Noticing all the small things that make this place beautiful. Lights in the dark autumn evening. Hipster shop signs. Friends smiling to each other. City bikes. Blue trams. Bars and cafes of my neighborhood.
The more I realize that moving is for real, the more I come to see the things I will miss. I think so. But there is one thing I will not miss. Or will I?
Some weeks ago we were walking through the woods – and I suddenly got the flashback of my adolescence. We were visiting friends outside of Oslo and took a walk to the beach. Through the woods which went up and down, with a little river and a bridge over it. This spot brought a vivid memory of a similar place in other woods – in the village where my grandmother lived. I walked there, some 14 years old, and that place seemed just charming to me. Why? Because I thought, it would look perfect in the photo. At that time my pictures could be taken by the old black-and-white analog camera, difficult in use. Why did I want those photos? Passion for photography at such a young age?
No, it was not the passion for art. It was a wish to show something to my classmates. And how did I get inspired? So, there was this popular girl in our class, Irina, and in the back of her day-book (an obligatory book where we noted our schedule, homework and the teacher put our marks into it) she had some chocolate wrapping papers and photos. Yes, we were showing each other the papers of sweets we ate. Asking each other: “Did you try Mars? Did you try Snickers?”
Monday night I arrived home from my favorite dance event – Croatian Summer Salsa Festival. Held in the fantastic town of Rovinj which has stolen my heart from the very first sight, four years ago. Two weeks I have spent dancing, meeting people and enjoying life.
There has been so much enjoying that at times I wanted to throw my arms into the air and shout on the top of my lungs. The first time I enter the sea and it catches me in its arms like a lover, carrying me and stroking my skin. The moment I share a meal in the place from the last year, and the waiter recognizes us, laughs and brings schnapps on the house. The moment we dance and sing alone to “One love” reggae while the sun is going down over our last pool party. And all those moments I meet old friends, new friends – and then again say good-bye to them. I would come home at 6am at the sunrise and could not sleep, my heart overflowing with the emotions and gratitude. Love and gratitude have been the air I breathe in and out.
I never expect great revelations from these two weeks as I go just for fun, chill, dance and swimming. And who would say that partying all day and all night, dancing at the beach, in the pool and on the streets, could be a source of any spiritual experience! 🙂 But here I am, full of happy memories and insights. And I want to share them with you. The lessons the life was teaching me on the dancefloor (and around it).
I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.
I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.
I have written for a while under a tag “expat” – but the more I was writing, the more I understood that this doesn’t apply to me. There is a taste to the word “expat”, sweet and free, that is unfamiliar to my palate. I am more an immigrant and less an expat in Norway. Somewhere I have read a discussion of the differences between immigrants and expats, and since then this thought hasn’t left me. How would I explain that difference? In my post “Thriving in Norway” I made a try of explaining – and I feel that I have so much more to say about feelings of an immigrant. And how they differ from other kinds of foreigners.
We, foreigners in Norway, often view ourselves as a big group as opposed to the group of native Norwegians. But we tend to forget that this big group is not homogenous, and as we experience difficulties understanding the locals – we may also face difficulties understanding other foreigners with whom we identify us. I get a skin-close experience of it since I live together with another foreigner – and sometimes it feels like we have lived in two different countries, though we have lived in the same city in the same country of Norway for the past 11 years (20 in his case). Let me explore the differences.
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.
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?