In Oslo I found true what I found in Copenhagen: it’s like a good version of what the future could be if we take care of planet Earth and one another.
It was so incredibly nice to spend time with Ingrid and her family and see a slice of their life in Norway. After so many months of being on the move and constant newness, it felt so good to be with the familiar and be at a family home. Ingrid’s Aunt Britt (who lives in a teeny tiny town in western Germany) along with her daughter’s mother-in-law (from Holland) happened to be in town the exact days I was in town, so the house was full (Ingrid and I got to share a room!) and extra festive. Every night we had amazing family dinners: 2 nights of reindeer (one night was on the barbecue, the other was served like a stew over rice), the biggest salmon I’ve ever seen (caught 2 days prior by a friend), salmon mouse, and duck. It felt like Christmas dinner every night, as most nights we dined inside at a beautifully appointed dining room table. One night Ingrid actually cooked dinner, “Norwegian Tacos,” which ended up being exactly like the tacos we would have a couple times each month growing up, down to the same exact taco seasoning. One night Ingrid’s Aunt Cati and Uncle Odd who live in Oslo came over for dinner. It was great to meet the famous Uncle Odd.
I really enjoyed meeting Edvard for the first time—I can tell he is a wonderful friend to all, including an extremely thoughtful big brother to Ingrid. The year Ingrid lived with us in the U.S. was when Edvard served his compulsory year of military service in Norway’s most northern part along the Russian border. It was really interesting hearing about his experiences living so remotely and how the time positively shaped him, including life-long friendships.
Note: You can click on photos to enlarge them!
While I was in Oslo, Ingrid was starting to prepare for her move to Bergen to start her first year of university studying law, where Edvard also studies and will be switching his studies to economics this year. Bergen is about an 8-hour train ride from Oslo…it will be a fun new experience for Ingrid and Edvard to call the same city home as they haven’t since the year before Ingrid lived in the U.S. It was interesting to learn about the Norwegian education system. Not only does the government pay tuition, but also pays students a monthly stipend so they can be the best students they can be, without stressing about finances and having to get a job while simultaneously studying. The first week of Ingrid’s school year will be a week of orientation which sounds like a lot of fun, almost like Rush week for many American college students.
Each of Ingrid’s family members have incredibly impressive English: they can be totally themselves in English and can flawlessly communicate with one other like they can in Norwegian. Could you imagine being able to communicate with your family in a different language?! Although I’ve heard bits of Norwegian before, I had never listened to it so consistently—it is such an amazing and complex language. Although I was walking around in Norway and it should feel normal to overhear Norwegian, every time I heard it being spoken, I was amazed anew that another person speaks this language. It still surprises me to hear Ingrid speak it and know that she knows a language even better than English, as her English is so fluent. A few nights we played my favorite board game, A Ticket to Ride. The first night we all had to refresh our memories on this particular version of the game, and I opened up the instructions to read them, and of course—they were in Norwegian! Hah! It was fun to hear Ingrid and Edvard debate the rules of the game in Norwegian.
Ingrid lives in a very regal neighborhood, filled with many embassies and ambassadors. The Chinese ambassador to Norway lives just across the street. Her family home has a large flag pole in front, which makes it fit right into the neighborhood.
We spent all our days exploring Oslo and some of the nature just outside the city. The water, the green, and the sky (which doesn’t get dark until after 11pm) are truly gorgeous. I was really inspired by the design of the public spaces. One treat was that Ingrid and I managed to swim every day in a different location, a combination of fjords and lakes. I never thought that I’d be swimming outside comfortably in Norway! It truly felt like a summer vacation. Ingrid rarely swims, so it was a different week for her as well. Oh and the water temperature believe it or not was warmer than the ocean in Newport. Oslo has so much natural beauty both winning the city and a quick ride on different types of public transportation away.
Except for the first day being picked up at the airport and on the final day driving to the Escape Room before catching the airport train, we never drove in a car. We rode all sorts of different types of public transportation: bus, subway, tram, and airport train, as well as biking and walking. We were able to reach incredible beaches, majestic forests, and islands all with public transportation. Oh and we never waited more than 5 minutes for the transport to arrive.
On my final day in town, Ingrid, Otto, and I did an “Escape Room.” Otto and I had never done one before, but Ingrid had done it twice in Australia. It was an incredibly unique experience…you must work together as a team against the clock in order to solve a mystery by searching for clues and solving puzzles—in our case it was saving the world from a computer virus. While we didn’t finish within the 60 minutes, the guy allowed us to keep playing until we solved the mystery (which we did in just a few extra minutes thanks to his many hints he gave us via the TV monitor in the room) as it’s a lot more fun to see how the story ends. I would definitely do an escape room again, and see how previous experience can really help you even if they are totally unrelated themes.
Norway is so expensive!! A coffee is about $6, a beer about $13 out at a bar, and a train ticket to the airport is $21! Norwegians love their duty-free stores at the airport because you can buy liquor for about half the price. In fact, the Oslo airport was the first time I saw a duty-free store before exiting the terminal before you reach luggage claim. Let’s just say I was very lucky to be a guest in such a wonderful home, not needing to buy food and housing all week!
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to make the trip to Norway and experience yet another totally new culture. Most of all, it was just incredibly fun to hang and spend so much time with Ingrid. Although I’ve met so many wonderful people over the last months, it’s different than spending so much time with a best friend.