Jul 20 2012

First Day of Our Scandahoovia Trip

Category: Memory Lane,TravelRandall Kelley @ 20:27

So we’re eating lunch at the airport waiting on our flight to take off, and Rita asks me, “Was the food good in Norway?” So I thought about it and had to tell her, “I don’t know. Our landlord who lived in the other half of the duplex was always cooking us ‘gourmet’ meals that I would promptly spit out. But I loved to walk to the bottom of the hill and get a topless hotdog and a coke. They were great.” Of course I had to explain that they served them on what would be considered half a bun in the states, in an envelope thing with the frank and toppings piled up and fed into your mouth like a sloppy ice cream push up. I’ve already had numerous things come rushing back into my head over the past few weeks, and I am rather enjoying the chance to reminisce on something that was SO key in turning me into who I am.

My passport from the time shows me as I was, but truthful I never felt like that. By the time we left Wilburton, Oklahoma for Stavanger, I had been through enough family crap, and had been more or less taking care of myself for nearly three years. What I do remember was that most of the things we experienced triggered reactions from my mom (and most of the other Americans there) of, “Well that’s just strange. Why would they do that?” I knew things were going to be different when my mom panicked on the ride in from the airport and tried to shield my eyes when we passed whole families skinny dipping in the fjords. Yup, This ain’t Oklahoma!

Some things I know now I was unaware of at the time. I knew my new stepdad (my first step dad) was coming here to work on an offshore drilling rig. I had no idea that this was almost as new to Norway as to me. I recently was forwarded an article by the woman who runs the Stavanger International School on a man from Iraq who helped them set up their fledgling oil minestry. That school is the direct decedent of “SAMS” (Stavanger AMerican School) where I attended most of my eighth grade year of school. They tore down the small, old, four room schoolhouse where I went right after the school year when I was there. They built a nice new building of their own, probably right after all the sponsoring oil companies realized the oil was really there and so they would be in it for the long haul.

As bits and pieces come back to me, I’ll try to write them down. Some of the more memorable stuff is going to be repetition for my girls who grew up hearing about my time there. While you could call what I experienced culture shock, I call it enlightenment and I can attribute my current socialist leanings to seeing first hand what a democratic socialist country was like, and listening in as my overly capitalistic stepdad had his mind blown in conversations with our landlord on those evening dinners he hosted of us. I remember his shock in hearing about half of the guy’s income went to the government, then slowly looking more and more stunned as he proceeded to find out that he would not have to pay for a retirement, would get to keep the proceeds for selling his house when he moved into government housing for seniors, didn’t have to pay for his daughter’s education, nor did he have to spend his money on health care. Suddenly the “taxes” sounded more like investment. For me it was, “Welcome to the world, where the American way is NOT the only way.” I apologize to any of my conservative friends, but the American way IS one way, but the idea it’s the only way is just not true.

The other big shock to Americans there was the absolute reversal of the attitude about sex and violence. As a young looking eighth grade boy I could walk into Swedish movies that would be a hard R (if not NC17) here unquestioned. But try to get into a John Wayne western and I had to explain that I was an American. I guess they knew that meant it was too late and I was already ruined. They fought a whole year before finally admitting a highly edited version of “Bonnie and Clyde” into the country. Today it’s probably showing on the Nickelodeon channel at 8 AM. Also, the high school boys all wanted Norwegian girlfriends (at least on the weekends) as they considered them “easy”. So, I guess if you are an American parent of daughters you are thinking, Thank god for the American way… lets see some killing.” but if you are an American boy, you might be willing to put down that violent video game and go outdoors!

Odd feeling. I wrote this so far on the plane heading over. The I read this morning about what all the Facebook fuss was about. The news of Colorado and another mass killing is a strange and disconcerting feeling. I’m going to do my American thing and try not to think about it. Maybe there is no message to be learned from these kinds of incidents, but if there is, we are obviously missing it. Still, I have to question if the cultural acceptance of the kind or rudeness, self centeredness, and hostility that pervades our society is not complicit.

As for the trip… so far it was OK except we were stalled in Iceland for several hours, not bad, it could be Switzerland for several days, as our nephew Richard and family were last year. But the extra time, time zone difference, lack of sleep, and the mood shift that the incident set off took it’s toll. It wasn’t the delay so much as the “Ignore the passengers. Don’t tell them what’s happening.” attitude that got me. I don’t like being treated like sheep or cattle and at various point we were treated like each.

But we survived, however fried. And after finding our way to the hotel, than a parking garage, we had a nice but hugely outrageously expensive dinner (and not in the type of place where you saw it coming) and then came back and didn’t so much go to bed as passed out. But, it’s a new day, the trip is ahead, and I’m hoping for smooth sailing from here on out. I’ll be getting the camera gear ready and we will be out shooting soon, then I know I’ll feel better. Probably Stavanger isn’t going to be the most picturesque part of the trip. But I have so many things to go see that are meaningful to me that it will make up for it.

Steve and Diane arrive soon. We head to the Airport right after breakfast to pick them up. Then we will get to laugh at them for being so fried from their trip over. West to East travel of this distance is always a bit disconcerting to the body’s inner clock, so it’s to be expected and will pass. More soon. Our love, R&R

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