Most people talk about what a blur the first week of an international trip can be. I guess I differ in my clarity, as each moment so far forms a concrete corner in my memories. The travel here was long, tedious, sweaty, and involved a lot of touching strangers. A task that I loathe and have learned (to my delight) that Norwegian people also loathe. When I arrived I was sleepy, still slightly drugged, a bit hungover from my airplane liquor, and in need of a shower. As the nerves crept their way into my exhausted mind, I found myself instantly homesick, a feeling I was not expecting. Am I cut out for this? Should I have come? What if I’m not a good enough writer? Insecurities that I’m not familiar with and that are still lingering.
The task of sharing a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment with three other young women presented its own unique challenges. There is no easy way to make four people in a small space un-stink. There isn’t a graceful bathroom schedule anyone’s bladder can follow. I can’t toss and turn in my top bunk without waking the bottom half of the bed. And apparently there isn’t any way to get air conditioning on this continent without a doctor’s note. The bright side is the sweat lodge effect that has overcome my body. I’m hoping to shrink to the average European size while I’m here and ultimately write a self-help book on getting thin without thinking. Not firm on the title.
I am finding new ways to annoy people with my conservatism without even trying. In my group of peers, my family, and my community at home, I am usually considered fairly moderate for a Republican. I am socially liberal with strong conservative values, complimented by an upbringing that taught me to earn everything I have and never ever expect a hand out. This contradicts Norway’s socialist political system harshly. They believe everyone to be equal. No one is special, or unique, or deserving of recognition. They are urged to blend in and create a society that takes care of its citizens by way of government involvement in almost every aspect of life. What is comforting and reassuring to them is frightening and suspicious to me. To come from an individualistic culture that promotes self-discovery and learn that I am not, in fact, a person with distinctive qualities to offer the world is a bit hard on my solid American ego. A quick phone call to my mother should put my self-importance back in order.
Ultimately, as this trip unfolds itself, I remain humbled by the opportunity and delighted at the 10 new friends and travel mates I now have. This is not surreal. I’m here, I’m reporting, I’m finding stories, and I’m loving it. I can now officially report to you that Oslo does indeed rock.