Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Living In Translation

It’s always a jolt, that moment when I enter a foreign country and realize that I’ve been transformed from a competent adult (okay, super-competent, because my OCD and white middle-class privilege combine nicely for ultimate societal mobility in the States) into a pre-lingual child who has to work hard to fulfill basic needs. True, at the moment I have a warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment because today I figured out how to buy a light rail pass at student rates, but it may not count because I was helped by a biology grad student. Whose request for my number afterwards amused me because I don’t even have a phone yet, which sounds like an awful “move on, sir” line but was true (No, Casey, I was not a bitch!). Anyhow, my To-Do List is miles long, and each thing ridiculously contingent on another.

To Do:
Get internet access!
Get my student name and password so that I can have internet access
Get my student card so that I can have my student name and password
Get my personnummer (sort of like a social security number but much more necessary to
Norwegian beauracracy) so that I can get my student card
Fly to Oslo so that I can get my personnumer at the Fulbright Orientation
Check the bus schedule to the airport on the flybus website
Oh wait… first I need internet access.
Oh, and buy a phone so helpful grad students can call me after they’ve told me how to navigate Bergen.

Yes, it is a vicious cycle. Made more complicated by the fact that the forms and brochures and info-packets I’m using have all been translated from Norwegian, so that they are often vague or self-contradictory. And that UiB seems to have a ludicrously loose grasp on the fact that their system to access the internet actually requires checking one’s email for updates. Makes me miss good old U of Maryland, which, with all its challenges, had a wonderful surplus of informative helpfulness.

What I’ve accomplished since arriving:
A library card to Bergen Library, and three English novels plus a children’s book in Norwegian on my shelf. At least I have my priorities right.


  1. Welcome to Norway, home of the free bureaucrats.
    Well, there's always an office to tell you which office to contact.
    The Blue Stone is a vital place in everyday Bergen where people meet before going to where they are going to meet elsewhere.
    (Got that?)
    Therefore it has also become a place for the mourners after July 22.
    We are novices in mourning, and I hope we will stay that way. In Oslo you will probably have seen people gather outside Oslo Cathedral.

    I wonder how you managed not to get internet access at Fantoft. Some nasty bureaucrat again.
    Does the flats still have their sad concrete walls from the seventies?

    I wish you welcome and a better flat.

  2. Thanks Elise! I share your hope about Norway staying a novice in mourning.
    Yep, nobody has internet yet, but we should get it soon... now we're all gathering nightly outside Klubb Fantoft and leeching off the internet from the Klubb. The walls are okay, I covered them up with pictures anyways.