As I prepare to embark on a year in Norway I decided to reflect on my first time traveling to my Grandmother’s homeland. I remember sitting at the kitchen table in the old house–grandma was sitting directly across from me. My mom asked my sister and I if we would want to go to Norway with grandma and grandpa for a month. To their surprise we (or at least I) said yes right away. Over the next few weeks Grandma told us all about the Norwegians– each of their names and relation to the two of us. I could tell she was nervous about taking us to her family. She made sure we knew all of the rules and customs for when we would be over there. The one rule I remember the best was not being able to get up in the middle of dinner to use the bathroom. Grandma had told us that this was not allowed in Norway so during the time leading up to the trip we practiced staying at the table. Now that I look back on it, I do not think we ever used to get up from the table in the middle of dinner. However, as soon as we knew we couldn’t leave, it felt like the hardest thing in the world. Grandma also told me that I would have to eat fruit on my pancakes instead of sugar. At the time this seemed like a really big deal. To my disappointment she explained to me that there would (most likely) only be blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries– three berries I did not like at the time.
I remember just snippets of the plane ride. Although I feel like some of these snippets might be fabricated by my mind. The one thing I do remember vividly is how nervous grandma had been. We had a layover somewhere else in Europe. The second plane ride was delayed because of storms so we had to stay in a hotel. The only thing I remember about the hotel is the huge playroom filled with foam blocks. Kayla and I made forts, although none of it seemed real. It was as if we were in a limbo, we certainly were not home but we weren’t in Norway either. We took a walk with Grandpa out in the snow. Kayla’s boot got stuck in a deep pile of snow. Naturally, Kayla had a little freak out because she couldn’t get her foot out. Grandpa just stood there and told her she had to get it out herself. I do not remember landing in Norway, but I remember walking into Tante Frodis and Uncle Reider’s house. From that point on my concept of time is lost. I know Kayla and I spent a lot of time watching The Crocodile Hunter and Sister Sister with english subtitles.
One of the most memorable senses for me in Norway was taste. I remember how “different” the hot dogs tasted. To no one’s surprise I didn’t like them. Luckily I didn’t mind the berries or jam on pancakes– I think I ate them for each meal some days. We went to the water and bought a few pounds of shrimp right off of the boat they were caught on. I’ll never forget that first bite. I expected to like it because I loved shrimp at home. To my disappointment (and Grandma’s confusion,) I did not like it at all. I am not quite sure why I was so opposed to these fresh Norwegian shrimp– right now they sound decadent. We walked into town almost every day with either Grandma or Grandpa. We had a routine for each walk to town. Kayla and I would walk on top of the ledge next to the street until it got too tall and Grandma got nervous. We then jumped down onto street level. When we reached the graffitied tunnel we would run through yelling “Echo!” repeatedly– sometimes throwing in a “Why are you copying me?!” Our first time into town we talked about how we would use the one phrase we knew in Norwegian if someone tried to talk to us. “Jeg kan ikke snakke norsk,” which means “I cannot speak Norwegian.” When the opportunity came and someone asked us a question we froze up and looked at each other nervously. I was always upset we weren’t able to use the one phrase we had practiced so much. When we got into town Grandpa would let us each buy an ice cream everyday. I soon found my favorite type. I cannot exactly remember what kind it was, however waffle cone, chocolate syrup, and vanilla ice cream were the components. I am pretty sure it was in the shape of a boat. Even though the details are hazy the taste is clear as ice. In fact, thinking of the taste is making my mouth water. One day we went to town and Grandpa took us to buy our daily ice cream. Instead of eating it then we took it back home for later. As we got home I realized that I had picked out the wrong type of ice cream. This… was a disaster. I threw a fit, cried, hid myself under the bed and refused to talk to anyone. I promise, I was not a huge brat all of the time. Even though I didn’t want to admit it I was a homesick 5 year old who was missing the everyday life at home. I remember Grandpa talking through the door explaining that he would go back into town to get the right kind. I do not remember for sure, but I think he did.
After the ice cream debacle the rest of the trip was smooth sailing. Each night Kayla and I would lay in bed and say our night prayers. She taught me the Lords Prayer and by the end of the trip we would say it together in unison. During the day (if we were not watching television) we played with Maren, Mads, Ole Jorgen, and Augusta. Tante Frodis’s house is on a huge hill and we managed to incorporate that into our many imaginative games. I specifically remember playing with the clothes line and clothes pins. One day, when all of the cousins were over, we played round after round of kick the can. Even though we knew no norwegian and they knew little english we managed to have a blast. It was that day when they introduced us to Fanta mixed with Coke– seems gross now, but at the time we were obsessed. During our trip we took a train. I couldn’t tell you where we went but what I do recall is the playground on the train. Yes, one car of the train was devoted to a kid’s playground. Kayla and I met a Danish family. We tried to play cards but it was too hard to break through the language barrior– even with something simple like Go Fish or War. One of my favorite memories of the trip was when we went to the farm. Kayla and I spent hours picking wild flowers. From what I remember the farm was perfectly picturesque. The photographer in me now wants to travel back in time to capture this beauty. Christian took Maren, Kayla and I out for a tractor ride. We sat in the back in white lawn chairs but the ride was so bumpy that the legs broke off. After stopping and making adjustments so we were sitting only on blankets, we rode some more.
Like I said, my concept of time on the trip is practically nonexistent. Some of the details are hazy, and some are just plain forgotten. That being said, the things I do remember about my first trip to Norway are engraved in my brain so vividly I will be able to recall them for life. My trip to Norway is definitely one of my most remembered trips. I can’t help but think that my plan to live in Norway this upcoming year is some sort of twisted fate related thing– that somehow my first trip to Norway always stuck with me, secretly and slowly drawing me back. Both Kayla and I bought Norway bracelets in town one day. Although I have not worn it all this time it has been on my wrist for a couple of years now. As I board the plane in August it will be with me also. It is as if things have come in a complete circle in the most perfect and unexpected way. Whether it’s fate or not, I am excited to embark on this great journey.