Thursday, September 18, 2008

I need to clean my house ...

So I thought this would be a good time to tell you about a city which captured my heart over 25 years ago, and still holds it fast.

A little background is in order. When I graduated from high school, I went on a year-long exchange with AFS Intercultural Programs and spent a second senior year in (what was then) Yugoslavia. More on that another time. While I was there, my parents realized a long-standing dream of their own by moving to Europe - they went to live in Brussels, Belgium, and then, two years later, got to live in London for a year. Not being stupid, I postponed college after my AFS year so that I could live and play in Europe!

While we were in London, my cousin from Norway came to visit, bringing with him a young man with deep blue eyes, soft blonde hair, an irresistible smile, and an amazing sense of humor. Can you say head. over. heels. ???

So, a year later, off I went to study in Norway. I began my stay there as a student of urban studies, as part of the HECUA program. After that, I got a job with Control Data Norway. And in the meantime, I fell completely in love with my new hometown.

This is the Oslo Harbor, with the City Hall proudly overlooking the entrance to the city.
A view from Frogner Park (or Vigeland's Park, as it is sometimes called for the sculptor Gustav Vigeland) which is a magnificent garden of sculptures honoring and celebrating the human spirit.
The Oslo Cathedral, located at one end of Karl Johan's Gate, the main shopping street in downtown Oslo. I took the train almost every day in and out of downtown, to the station located just behind the church. This became one of my most favorite landmarks.
At the other end of Karl Johan's Gate is the palace. Norwegian royalty is known for being accessible and friendly. During the gas shortage in the 70's, the King rode the streetcars with everyone else. The King (Olav IV) was also famous for making his chauffeur sit in the backseat of the limo so he could drive!
This is where I lived - if not this exact building, one just like it a block over. My apartment was on the top floor and I could see Oslo Harbor from my balcony. It was about a 20 minute train ride outside of downtown, and I loved living there.

And here's a treat, a picture of me & him, from way back then ...

I stayed about 2 1/2 years, but eventually my work permit was denied, and since I was no longer feeling sure that my personal Norwegian prince was THE one for me, I couldn't marry him (which would have allowed me to stay), so I left ... and haven't been back, since.

While there, I became fluent in Norwegian, learned to knit, learned to rosemal (Norwegian folk art painting), travelled all over the country, made life-long friends that I am still in contact with, got to know my extended family (my grandfather, who died long before I was born, was born and raised in Norway and left behind a large family to come to Minnesota when he was a teen.) I learned to understand and appreciate the Norwegian sensibilities, their politics, their social programs, their ideas of fun, their value of family and health. I cross-country skied, I hiked, I ate lutefisk (ok, only once), I reveled in being a part of the community.

Oslo, kjaere Oslo, jeg savner deg!


shawn said...

You so want to go back!! Nice picture by the way!!

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