It's funny that come July I will have lived in Norway for 12 years and yet I have devoted little time to writing about my life here.
Maybe because Norway and I have had a rather rocky relationship at times or rather, when I look at it now with eyes wide open, because I have struggled through some trying and difficult human relationships here and wrongly held Norway the country to blame for personal attitudes I found restrictive and narrow.
This wasn't always so. When I first came to Norway, I threw myself into being there. I was enthusiastic about the people I met and the country itself. I was 18 years old. My hair was streaked blond and I was wearing an old grey and red school sweater and jeans. I stepped into the cool autumn air and smiled at my friend Alyssa, my partner in crime, my fellow adventurer. Oslo. It felt so grand. So far away. Feeling edgy and grown up, I slung my back pack over my shoulders and stepped on to the busy street, cupping my hands around my mouth and shouted to anyone listening "Can anyone point us in the direction of a church?"
We planned to take shelter in a church, we thought we could sleep there for the night. Because we had very little money we thought this was quite a clever plan.
A beautiful black haired woman stopped in front of me. "A church?" Her eyes curious, her mouth forming a surprised "o". I explained we needed somewhere to sleep and she smiled and motioned with her lovely, manicured hand to follow her. She had somewhere we could stay,
We were jet-lagged and optimistic. We followed her down some winding unfamiliar streets. She spoke to man outside a building, he led us to a room upstairs. It was expensive but by this point we were too tired to care.
We slept there one night and moved on, not thinking about it again until I told a Norwegian man where we had stayed our first night in Norway and he snorted with laughter. "You stayed there? That place is known for prostitution and drug dealers!"
To this day I still haven't slept in a church in Norway but at least I have this great achievement to brag about.
I digress but I came to Norway at 18 prepared to love it. I visited again several times before moving here "for good" at the age of 24. Every time I visited I told my Norwegian friends to find me a job and I would stay.
And that is funny in itself, because I often feel it would have made more sense given my personality and way of thinking to be drawn somewhere else. Somewhere vibrant and colorful and diverse. Instead at that time in my life, I was drawn here.
I was drawn here by love eventually and the thing is that after 12 years somewhere, you come to know yourself to be at home in a place, whether you like it or not really. Whether you intend to feel at home or not. The thing is the lines get blurred. Home, family, missing, loneliness. You come to see it's all a journey. You are home here. You are home there. It is not clear cut or easy to define anymore because you give up one home to create another and yet home is inside yourself. Home is anywhere now.
Living in a country is nothing like traveling, even extended traveling. Living somewhere is a whole other story.
I see now, finally, that Norway has borne the brunt of so many of my emotions that were really directed toward other people. People who rather than welcome me or helping my transition here, made it more difficult. People from whom I expected far too much. Now for me, the lovely thing is, this is all done in my head and heart.
I simply accept what is at this moment in time and I don't worry about the rest.
Some days I feel that this beautiful country lacks something essential for holding the soul together. I will never be fully Norwegian but nor am I really fully Canadian. I have trouble identifying a place I really identify with, But perhaps this is a great blessing. I am not afraid. I am not attached to just one place. I can move through the world with great ease.
I can be here. I can be there. My home is not a tangible place.