Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Well, that was summer.

Have I ever mentioned (pretty sure I have) that summer ends, in Oslo, promptly, every year, on August 24th? I hadn't realized that it ended on my annual anniversary of showing up here, but it's true, by August 24th, summer is done and dusted. When I arrived in Norway on that fateful August day in 2002, being from Texas, I figured I had plenty of warm time left, August being the hottest month, and that I could enjoy the summer that remained. Ha. Joke on me.

Within a day or so of that day, August 24th, every year, a chill appears in the air. It's inescapable. You can't go without an extra layer. You just can't. And there you have it. From here on out, you may have the occasional not-so-cold-oh-my-god-it's-almost-warm day, but no more summer days.

And that is SO disappointing because this year summer completely gave us a miss. It rained and it rained and it rained. That was summer. The last flowers on the balcony are already giving their all, that last gorgeous blowsy bloom before they go away. Then I have the choice to either rip them out and replace them with the standard Norwegian fall plants that I hate, (an insipid statis looking thing, that sort of dries and just sits there) or leave the boxes fallow.


To catch you up on what happened after my trip to the US, an impromptu and spontaneously booked trip to surprise my dad on his birthday, I guess mostly I should say it's been pretty freaking busy. I had a layover in London on the way back, for most of a the day, and chilled at LHR for a good few hours, then got back to Norway on the 13th. Went to work the next day and for the most of the week, and then on the 17th went to Munich with some friends where we celebrated my birthday. The jet lag was not so bad this time, maybe because of the layover, I am not sure.

It was hot in Munich, not just hot, but scorching, it got up to 94F, and I freaking loved it. It gets hot in Texas, too, of course, but in Texas you don't walk around for hours in the heat, you go from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned shop to air-conditioned house. In Europe, you just sweat. I spent the time lazing in the Englischer Garten, by the Isar river, watching people jump into the swiftly flowing freezing water and getting swept away, only to crawl out and do it again. I loved listening to the screams as their bodies hit the cold water and the laughter and joy of  people splashing around. It is such a summer sound, such a carefree one, one you don't realize you miss until you hear it again. Who needs water parks when you have a natural stream like that, ready for you to jump and play and cool off in, as much as you want, for free? I did it too, you jump in, it's not deep, you can stand, and the swift current sweeps you down a hundred meters or so, you are in just long enough to catch your breath after the shock of hitting the cold water, and you work your way to the bank, there, under the trees, crawl out, then go lie in the sun on the grassy banks for a bit to warm up, and do it all over again. There were people everywhere, all in bathing suits, all sorts of body types, all gorgeous, all getting tans and laughing and enjoying the summer. I don't know that Americans actually get the joy of summer once they are grown up. Europeans? They know how to enjoy summer, because they know that it is oh so short and oh so fleeting. I have learned that, too.  Whenever I go back to Texas, I will forever appreciate summer and warmth and sun, because i have lived in a place where it was a scarce resource, to be treasured and celebrated.

After Munich, and much beer and many beer gartens, I have been back at work, back into the day to day life, trying to face the fact that the much-anticipated summer that everyone in Norway considers their reward for the long hard winters never really happened, and it's back to sweaters and socks and tights and scarves. This summer I went to London and Amsterdam and the US and to Munich, at Easter I went to Turkey. In October I anticipate another trip to Amsterdam and possibly a trip in September to Ireland with a friend from home, but right now nothing is set and I am in that sad place where I have gone from having three anticipated and booked  travel experiences to look forward to, to none. I always prefer to have a trip in my pocket, something planned and set, so that I can work towards it. I need to book something.

I need some travel to look forward to, to get me over this 'back to school' feeling. I need something to work towards. I need...something.

Friday, August 24, 2012

10 years

August 24th, 2002.

That was the day I left Austin and flew to Norway.

I've been here 10 years today.

Holy. Shit.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Scenes from the country...barn storming

My parents live on a very old farm, it was here by the time of the Civil War. In fact rumor has it that there was a tiny battle between the two sides when two soldiers, one from the North and one from the South, met down by the creek at the bottom of the road and fought to the death. There is also a field that must have been an Indian campground in a field just down from the house, as we can always find arrowheads and such there. 

The original barns still stand. They are very rustic, but I think they are beautiful in their rusticity.

The wood the barns are made of has silvered over time, but wears like iron, and Dad has hung all manner of things he has found around on them, like some sort of sculptural art project. Here a rusted chain hangs from the almost two century-old logs.

I hope this is not Mom's old hooch supply. Looks like moonshine bottles, but I fear it's about 25 years worth of empty Gallo wine bottles. I am not sure why my parents kept them all. (Note they are NOT hoarders.)

A random assortment of stuff in one of the barns. I remember that huge mask from when I was a kid, I think it hung outside the house I grew up in,  in Houston. The mask right now reminds me very strongly of that British actor, Bill Nighy. Something about the wry smile.

Dad builds Japanese gardens and uses stone he hauls up from the creek for landscaping. So here is a little 'butthenge' bench he built at the base of a very tall tree. The bench is very sturdy. Dad does nothing by half measures.

Another view of the inside of the barn with the Bill Nighy mask. I didn't use any color filters or anything, everything in there is just that warm washed-out sepia tone. (Photo taken on a hot sunny day.) I like the juxtaposition of the rounded shapes piled next to the long boards, next to the mask.

My 2cv is being kept in one of the barns, I feel as if it has been somewhat ignominiously banished. Anyone want to buy a nice 2cv? Lovingly maintained and kept warm and dry in a pre-Civil War barn!

Monday, August 06, 2012

A day of driving and sightseeing

Today we went out to a national park not far (2 hours, so it felt fucking far by European standards, but from a US perspective, a quick jaunt) from my parents house. The five of us wedged into my rental car (it's actually a rather spiffy VW Passat) and took off, after a leisurely breakfast and my having to chase everyone down to get them into the car to get going. The park is called Elephant Rocks, and it's a former granite quarry that has become a park. It is reminiscent of Enchanted Rock in Texas, but not quite so big, high, or as arduous a hike. But it had great views and that same elemental quality of earth meets sky that Enchanted Rock has. 

I think you can see why it's called Elephant Rocks, yes? Cute, isn't it? For a 20 ton rock, it's adorable. Apparently there are lots of views and rocks around that are very elephant-esque.  (Is that a word? Pachyderm-y?) 

Me overlooking the old quarry. I know, glamorous outfit. We don't dress up in the Ozarks.  My shorts are held on by a paper clip as I had forgotten how much weight I have lost since I last wore them and they wouldn't stay up. Me? So classy. Also, it was like, 96 degrees. You people are lucky I have pants on at all. 

View from the top. 
View from the top in the other direction, parents included. 

One of the best things about the US, but it seems, especially Missouri, is the quality of the roads. They have the BEST roads here. Smooth as silk, banked just when you need them on the curves, and when you have a car that is semi-decent, and, like me, you really enjoy driving...ah, heaven. When I was driving out to my folks, after my arrival, and I was working through the gears on the curves (the rental car has a tiptronic transmission) and using the engine to brake as I leaned into the swerve...I actually let out a yahoo or two of glee. Throw some good tunes on the iPod, (current favorite being She Wants Revenge) give me some good road and the freedom to put the engine through its paces....I am a happy girl. 

On the way to the park I saw a shop that sells guns and offers taxidermy services. I thought that was very efficient. You buy the gun there, kill whatever it is you want to kill, then bring it back to get it stuffed. Talk about a good way to keep your business going...create a constant cycle of death and display. 

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Some thoughts on Culture Shock and 'Murca

Greetings from Dallas Ft Worth Airport. I will post this tomorrow, as right now I am en route to my parents' place as a surprise for my dad on his 75th birthday. The things we do for love and family. Like fly halfway across this earth. On short notice. It's REALLY hot here, after having flown in from rainy cold Norway, and all the men here wear cargo shorts. Every last one of them. You can identify Americans everywhere by the cargo shorts and flip flops. Do they not have long pants for men here?

Anyhow. I have spent 10 years living in Norway, as of August 24th. 10 years. A quarter of my life. While I never thought of Norway as 'home' it is, in its own way, home. Home for now, home that I am used to, culturally and environmentally.

And this is brought heavily to bear on me as I feel some pretty severe culture shock right now, being in the US.

You gotta remember, I left the States very soon after 9/11. Just under a year after. When I left they were still building up the whole Homeland Security juggernaut. I left in 2002, I wasn't around when the US became, and I hate to say it, a police state.

Those of you living in the US, it has been a gradual process, you haven't felt the tightening of the rules and the militaristic, authoritarian build up so much as it happened slowly over time. Each time you went to the airport or did something, there was a new rule or two, but it wasn't too overwhelming. Another small inconvenience. But for those of us who remember the US from 10 years ago, it is a strange feeling to get on a plane and be told that the US Federal Government won't allow you to use a toilet that is not in your cabin class due to 'security concerns' and that you cannot stand in the aisles of the plane or move between cabins without staff knowledge, due, once again, to US Federal Law. There has been a big tightening in Customs rules, (though oddly immigration seems easier?) and the TSA is just an absolute nightmare. Sorry, but it is. Sure, there are good and bad experiences with it, but the difference in the security folderol between the US and Norway is like night and day. The US feels intrusive, now. Intrusive and almost Gestapo. There I said it. I guess it's true. You can't really ever come home. You may come back to the place, but the home you remember, it's gone.

This doesn't mean that I am not keen to move 'home', to Texas, eventually. Because I am. But it DOES mean that when I come back, my eyes are open, and I will experience my home country and state from a unique position, as one who understands all the language and pop culture and nuances of the place, but can also cast a critical eye on the absolute shit that has happened while I have been gone.  That there are different, and better, ways of doing things. You can bet I'll be more political, more active and more vocal about things. Hell, I might become a pain in the ass.

A big, sweaty, 'God I am not used to this heat anymore, aren't you DYING?', pain in the ass. All this air conditioning everywhere. Just not used to it.

One more flight, a car rental and a 90 minute drive and I will be in the bosom of my family. I left Norway at 7am Norway time and it's now 1 am that time, and I am still 4-5 hours from being finished.

Funny thing happened waiting for flight from DFW to Missouri: This guy sitting next to me was BITCHING AND MOANING loudly about how he couldn't get change to make a phone call and it was RUINING HIS LIFE and how ANGRY he was that he just COULDN'T GET CHANGE ANYWHERE. I got sick of his bitching, so got up, went to a Subway right there near the gate, got change for a buck, came back and gave it to him. He was shocked, and tried to give me a dollar, but I was all "Nah, just go make your call.". The people around me nearly high-fived me. Jesus dude, nothing is a problem that can't be fixed if you just FIX IT! Now shut the fuck up and get a pair. Damn.

I have talked to more strangers in a 4 hour period today than I have in over a year in Norway. Americans are the chattiest damn people. I totally forgot about that. They will talk to ANYONE.