You know you are in Norway when:
• A sign in the express boat says “Be nice to everyone.” Hey—maybe each of us could get a peace prize!
• You happily discover that the tiled bathroom floor in the chilly hotel is heated!
• You are provided fur skins on chair seats to keep your butt warm.
• Grass grows on roofs.
• The National News is not talking of war but of hanging rainbow colored flags outside of government buildings (and homes) for Gay-Lesbian-Transgender Day. Also, it is advising people to have more goats.
• There is a monument to an Olympic champion of “ski-shooting.” What? Sounds like James Bond!
• Because of the price of alcohol, in general a person doesn’t drink during the week. But if he wants to get drunk on a week-end, he does it at home first and then goes to the bar.
Only in Norway (in my experience):
Would a town festival have children’s games with this figure.
Would a lovely psychotherapist, Grethe Nordhelle, who works from her home feature a garden for healing and welcome her patients to come and stroll. She told me that plants create a sense of harmony. And “Never would one flower want to be another flower!”
Would there be an Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. This amazing center founded in the memory of his wife, a famous gold-medal figure skater, is an art center, an outdoor art installation complete with banana sculpture, an world-class restaurant with tablewear sculptures and a Sanatorium. In this Sanatorium Carsten Holler “deploys techniques that alter the patients’ physical and psychological sensations, inspiring doubt and uncertainty about the world around them — this disorientation and ambiguity allows for rehabilitation and recovery.” Sort of describes my world trip!! Check out www.hok.no.
Only in Norway would the misery of The Scream by Munch,
and the Nobel Peace Museum be within blocks of each other.
The Peace Museum is almost overwhelmingly inspiring and the antidote to selfishness and self-centered misery. It made me want to take action! And the acceptance speach for 2016 by Colombian President Juan Santos, who ended a 50 year war against all odds, definitely reminds me to “Use all things as an opportunity.”
Only in Norway you walk out of the Nobel Peace Museum to hear a military band and think, "Well, peace just went down the drain!"
... to discover that is was the Salvation Army Band! And what were these hordes of people gathered for? "The Homeless World Cup!"
It turns out that the so-called “marginalized people” play the soccer-- homeless, prostitutes, ex-drug addicts, HIV. And here are some of the national teams following the band to the stadium for the week-long competition. Zimbabwe doing their African dance. The Russians shouting. The Norse a little more restrained. Again I thought, “Only in Norway!” Actually it is a world event, changing countries each year. But only in Norway is it applauded by the Crown Princess!
I must admit getting jolted by differences in Norway, and maybe all of Scandinavia, compared to the States. The USA is home and I love it and am returning to it but, my friends, there are other ways of doing things.
In Norway you are not allowed to punish your children physically. The language of the law also implies verbal punishment. (Do a google search on corporal punishment for children—you will be amazed at how many countries agree on non-spanking.)
Health care is paid for (small deductibles). Free nursing home and long-term psychotherapy. Doctors have reasonable hours, good pay, simple billing and no malpractice. (Oystein and Liv’s son is a doctor. We had an interesting discussion on national comparisons.)
Conservation is taken seriously. Oystein’s town does composting. The right lanes on the highway are for electric cars.
Exercise is a way of life. Bicycling, walking, skiing.... I asked a couple by the mountain cabin if they minded carrying their weekend luggage all that way across the marsh on the boardwalk? “We love it — it builds muscles!” And, “We love the winter – we get to ski!”
And the list goes on and on. A peaceful and sane society. Genuinely nice people who historically and culturally care about the good of all. Drawbacks? High taxes. Expensive products. And I was told that most wives actually work to finance the life-style.
So if you ask me, “What is Norway?”
...after a pondering of water, rock, fjords, fish, cheeses, coffee, kindness to strangers, whizzing bicycles, mostly wilderness, I would have to say it is family. It is a small country where generations know their history. I am shown handcrafted items by Liv made by a grandfather and told stories of summers spent with grandmothers. Where parents are given one year of full parental leave and another year of partial salary in honor of a healthy family bond.
And I was so fortunate to have been included in two cabins, hikes, berry picking and a generational home in Oslo with Oystein and Liv. Thank you so much!
And thank you Norway for a beautiful time. Yes, visit my friends!
Now on to Portugal.