Friday, July 29, 2011

Finally, some thoughts on Oslo and Utøya

This is a post I've been avoiding writing for nearly a week. I've been trying to put together my reactions to the attacks in Oslo and Utøya, but am really struggling to get my thoughts to be at all eloquent or coherent. (In fact, I had a post ready to go on Monday, but then our internet failed, and the post was lost. I haven't had the emotional energy to sit down and address the subject matter again.) I feel like everything that I write is just repeating what every other news report has said, and my own personal insights are rather limited. I actually haven't spoken with any "real" Norwegians about the attacks, so I can't even offer a first-hand story of how a "real" Norwegian feels. And in some ways, I feel like my point of view isn't so important. I feel like an outsider, an imposter; but then again, Norway is now my home. For better or worse. And good times, and in bad.

It is shocking. It is unfathomable. The numbers defy my imagination. I do not profess to understand much about Norway's political system, but Norway has always felt peaceful to me, a quiet, respectful land keeping to itself in the north. One rarely sees the police on the street and they are never armed, you don't need to take off your shoes in the Oslo airport, political leaders and star Olympic athletes have their home phone numbers listed in the phone book, and nearly every mail box has the entire family's names listed on them: Lars, Mari, Olav, Sigrid and Ingrid. We've been so hard-wired in the US to look out for kidnappers, I think: who's to stop the dirty old man down the street from luring Sigrid and Ingrid into his van, calling them by name? 

But, I digress.  

The young people who gathered on the island came from communities all across Norway. They were leaders with and interest in politics, and going to the summer camp run by the Labor Party was a great privilege. As a result, every community or region in the nation has been personally touched by this massacre. Every area either had children that survived or children that were lost, so the entire country is deeply grieving. I watched a news report of about a dozen teens flown home together on a charter plane to some of the northern most cities in Norway, being welcomed on the tarmac by their families, several days after the tragedy. Watching these kids collapse into their parents arms in tears was absolutely heart-wrenching. I can't imagine the images in their memories, and don't know what can be done to help erase them.

I am very grateful that Greta is only 3, and that I can--for the time being--protect her from the stories and images. I noticed a father at the grocery store with his two elementary aged kids, and they all gazed at the  collection of newspapers at the check-out line. Even a year or two older, she would be astute enough to ask about the broken buildings or the parades of flowers, or the pictures of people crying and hugging. I know I won't be able to avoid these difficult parenting situations for long, or even this particular story. This is by far the darkest day in Norway's history, and will be recognized and taught in schools from this day forward, I'm certain of it. 

I have been most impressed with the strength and courage that so many of these kids have demonstrated when they talk of returning to Utøya. When I learned that this was an annual camp, something that has been going on since the 1970s, I thought, "they are going to board up those doors, and no one will every step foot on that island again." Instead, the day following the attack, the leaders of the Youth Organization were declaring, "we're going back. We're taking back that island." I am humbled by such profound displays of courage.

And now for displays of cowardice. Erik read a newspaper article that described the treatment that some Muslims received in the first few hours following the bombing. Insults, blame and finger-pointing, including one woman saying to a Pakastani neighbor who has lived in Norway for over 10 years, "You did this. You did this bombing". Muslims make up 10% of Norway's population, according to a news report I heard the other day, but this is a fairly recent phenomenon. By recent, I mean in the last 30-40 years. "Recent" is a relative term, when you consider Norway's history of a fairly homogenous society and race. And while I believe that most Norwegians are open and accepting to immigrants, it's obviously not an easy process for anyone.

I think Norwegians are very shocked by the fact that this tragedy came from a native Norwegian. It would be--and was--very easy to blame a Muslim terrorist for the attack, and to find excuses and explanations for his actions. "He doesn't understand our values," "he's doesn't believe in the same God as we do" "he doesn't appreciate what it means to be Norwegian". Then again, the same can be said for Anders Behring Breivik. I don't think there are too many people--Norwegian or otherwise--who believe in a God who would endorse this. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Attacks in Oslo

Just a quick post to assure my friends and family that we are safe in Lillehammer, several hours from both Oslo and the island of Utøya. The news is devastating, and I believe will continue to get worse we get more updates about the poor children on the island. I can't help but feeling that Norway lost its innocence today.

My heart and prayers go out to the people of Norway.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And. . . skriftlig bestått (written passed)

Perhaps it was the exhaustion of 2 moves in 5 days, 12+ hours of house-cleaning, and the promise of living out of suitcases for months that stunted my reaction this time around. Or perhaps it was being handed the envelope at 7:30am by Erik, while I still sat groggily in bed. Or maybe I had used up all my jumping up and down jumping up and down excitement with the first Norsk Prøve 3 results, two weeks earlier. Or maybe I was just so convinced I actually would pass that I really wasn't so worried. No. . . definitely not the last one. But when Erik handed me the envelope, which he had fetched from the mailbox around midnight the night before--and wisely opted not to wake me over--I was rather numb.

But I did it. I passed that stinking skriftlig norsk prøve 3-- all three stinking sections: writing of essays, reading comprehension and listening comprehension.

I didn't jump up and down. I didn't whoop. I didn't fist-pump "YES!" like my Norwegian friend did when she heard my news. I think I sighed heavily. Shed a few tears of relief, but didn't really feel a huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

I know I certainly would have an intense reaction if I had failed. I would have cried--quite hard--knowing I would have to study more, retake the exam, postpone a nursing class, and put my life on hold even further.

But, now I don't. And if I weren't so distracted by suitcases scattered all over, federal taxes that still need to be filed, and the great unknown of architect plans and housing options for August and September, I probably would have jumped up and down.

But I didn't.