Friday, 7 November 2008

Safe, Sunless Oslo

It's cold again. Imagine that. As the wind whips my face, and I receive a lashing from the sleet shooting down from the Heavens, I think what in God's name have I done?

I live in a city where Halloween is a ritual performed out of car trunks in a poorly lit parking lot. Where men with accordions fight over street turf. Where the women don legwarmers and Wellingtons. 

And just when I think things can't get any different, I discover that the 7-11 down the street was robbed the night before, and I think, ah, just like home. The bottle brunette (because certainly there aren't any naturals here) even showed me the scar  from where the bat met counter. Oh, they employ baseball bats here? Interesting-not even a sport I thought they played here. How do they get the bats? Is there a tax on bats? How does that work? But I digress...

Safety is something I am not entirely used to. Let me rephrase. I have always felt secure in Dallas, but have never lived somewhere and felt truly safe. Here I have no problem walking alone at night downtown-not so in big D. My guard is still up-I am wary to let it down completely. I like to think the wariness keeps me alert. Don't want to lose my street smarts (if I ever had any to begin with). But I also find my trepidation at relaxing can also get in the way of meeting people.

For instance, I was approached at the pool by a girl who is studying to become...wait for astrologer. I smiled politely and listened as she told me about her double cancer sign, and ascending suns and moons and things. She recounted her tales about Mexico and Los Angeles-an aspiring actress as well. She seemed a little dippy and maybe even a little pie-eyed, but truly genuine. She told me all about how she preferred the city to the suburbs, and that the suburbs were filled with bad, shallow people. This all explained while she was completely naked in the shower, like three feet away. She and her breasts both told me eagerly that she would leave her contact information for me at the information desk. What could I do but smile and say "takk"?

I feel bad. I feel bad that I ended up taking her information without really looking at it. I feel bad that I couldn't make eye contact with her as she told me she would like to teach me Norwegian, the whole time knowing that I would never email her or call her. I feel bad that she gave a shit and took an hour to talk to a complete stranger, a foreigner who probably looked like she could use someone to talk to. But she could be crazy right? Who does that? Who calls people they just met randomly? Would I have made a friend if she had been a lawyer or a sta-at-home mom? Probably. 

So I'll keep my guard up for now, avoiding those that are too different from me. I'm not ready to take a chance yet. I'll stick to the ex-pats for now. So far, I've a got a pair of Wellingtons and the newly purchased legwarmers are sitting in the dresser. 

Baby steps. 


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Not *really* lost, just in Oslo

But I feel lost. The whole process of moving to a foreign place feels like being lost and finding yourself over and over again. Everything must be relearned to a certain extent, but you are given a few clues with which to start. Familiar letters, pictures and sounds. You are reduced to a 4 year old sounding out letters, something akin to a Dick and Jane book. Toaletter for instance. Hmmm. Towlettay? Twaletter? It doesn't matter how you pronounce it, but after a few seconds you realize, a ha! Toilet. And then you find yourself excited over every word you can figure out the meaning of. The same goes with habits and actions.

Every day is a constant rediscovery of things that you did without a second thought.

For instance, food. Never really had to worry about food before. Just went to the store and bought it. Now it's: where is the grocery store, which one is better, how do we get to the store, is the store open, is it a Sunday and am I totally screwed? My first breakdown came at the grocery store when I realized I needed 10 kroner to get the bloody cart to even think about putting food in my basket. When I asked a woman to help me try to decipher the denominations of the coins I did have, she thought I was panhandling at first. After discovering I needed 10 kroner adn finding an ATM and buying something to get change, I was ready and armed with my basket. Then began the shopping by pictures. Then the pictures began to look the same. Excuse me sir, what is the word for ham? Stinky? Oh, Shinky. Uh, really? Could you spell that please? S-k-i-n-k-e. Sounds like shinka. Excuse me lady, could you please just tell me which is the normal salt? Because there are 10 different kinds here. Oh, no more room in the basket and I don't have ten more kroner. Time to check out, put bags in the car, and then come back in again. Seriously. I'm not kidding.

Then there are rules that maybe you just never learned: 

1. Always put brakes on the stroller. It's really windy here. Strollers can fall into the tram tracks, and well, that's bad. At least Alec wasn't in the stroller at the time, so that's a bonus. This may seem like common sense, but I ask, do you actually incorporate the brake on a regular basis if you live in a suburban mall most of the time?

2. Wear boots outside of your jeans. It may be a fashion faux pas in the states, but is a necessary evil. At least we will all look like idiots together. In fact the look is kind of growing on me. But the problem is that I need skinny jeans and not bootcut, and I don't think I can find pants to fit over my ginormous American ass. 

3. Always carry 10 kroner with you for the grocery store. See above explanation.

4. Bad weather is no excuse to stay inside.

So I'm relearning my rules to live by. Day-to-day I just worry about getting out of the apartment, cooking dinner, and making sure Alexandre is taken care of and fed and happy. I guess we've gone back to basics. I'm sure Nirvana will come later, Maslow.