I went there

I was on the patio last night, discussing collage with my neighbor next door (we both collage), when the subject of Norway somehow came up. It is, apparently, her dream trip. Who knew? I’ve been to Norway. Sometimes I sort of forget that. It seems like another lifetime ago. It wasn’t my dream trip (Japan is), but the opportunity (and a man) came along. I pondered it for awhile. I’d never been to Norway before.  I was in love. I take that back. I wanted to be in love. Quite off topic, but isn’t the heartbreak of a broken relationship sometimes more about wanting to be in love than perhaps  any actual or imagined feeling of love that existed? I digress. But the wanting to be in love thing capped it.

Off I went (only after I made Pentyne pray for me on the eve of the trip. In addition to never having been to Norway, I’d never flown on a jet before across the ocean), on a six hour plane ride filled with beautiful Swedes and surly flight attendants. Logan Airport was enjoying a pleasant, warm day when I left it. I wore a mini skirt. It was freezing on a typical August day  in Stockholm, Sweden; capital of the most beautiful people who’ve ever graced the planet. I think we stayed a week in Sweden, at some spa type place that served a lot of fish. I remember being rather hungry most of the time, because I don’t eat fish.

We visited a Steiner (that would be Waldorf) school. And that was the beginning of everything relating to my anti-traditional learning philosophy (as an aside, there’s a great article by John Taylor  Gatto about all that’s wrong with U.S. teaching in one of my favorite magazines, ODE). The school was set right smack in the middle of a forest, with beautiful buildings done up in rich cobalt blues and adorned with stained glass windows and terracotta roofing. Everything about the atmosphere was gentle, warm, and yet engaging. The kids were self assured; different than the kids I’d worked with during my summers as a theatre teacher. The curriculum focus was more holistic than the academic heavy menu of U.S. syllabuses, and it revolved around nature and the seasons. Most importantly, it was dependent upon individual child development, instead of broad requirements that were dictated by grade level. Some parents will hear the term “child led development” and will misinterpret that statement as “coddling.” That’s not so. To put it simply, when you were a baby, and  you were ready and willing to walk, you did. And what ever month you did accomplich that developmental feat, it was accepted. Why can’t that acceptance continue into elementary learning?

O.k., I’m off of my soapbox. Norway was a great trip, twisty, motion sickness inducing roads and all. Norwegians are some of the most well read people I’ve ever met. I met farmers who could discuss philosophy with me. Artists get prime time on t.v.—though I could watch Seinfeld and Friends if I’d wanted to as well. They are among the most even tempered, practical beings ever, and yet they have this whimsical side that embraces trolls, sprites, and other spirits that reside in the snow. I love that.

“Did you ever feel like you wanted to stay?”, my neighbor asked. I think I felt that way for two weeks. Then I started missing American newspapers. And baseball….the world series got exactly one inch of column space in the newspaper there. I missed pasta, too.  And turkey. They’re not much for poultry there, though they do eat eggs. With fish(!) on top of them. For breakfast. Shrimp paste, too. For breakfast. Gah! But that didn’t make me run screaming across the ocean. I’d just realized that I wasn’t going to be in love with that man, ever. And I was feeling personally stifled on top of that. So, I left.

Besides the man, there were things I liked about Norway, though. I liked the sod roofs, and the warm golds, rusts, and cobalt blues, they’d painted their houses. There are very, very few white houses there. I liked collecting starfish by the sea, and making a berry sauce out of these berries whose name I can’t remember, and then eating them with ice cream. It amused me that to get to the capital, Oslo, I’d take a ferry, a bus, a train, and an airplane to make the trip. I liked eating lunch between two boulders at the top of the fjords I’d climbed to catch a break from the bracing winds. Couldn’t understand why my friend regarded  one of my favorite cars, the Saab, as a farmer’s car, and yet loved Fords (Winnie, now don’t be insulted. I love you. I do.). Wierd. I liked that Norwegians read so much, everywhere, in public, and liked John Irving in particular.

It’s a nice country. I’m glad I went. I hope my neighbor goes, too.


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September 2008
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