Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Løvstakken at last!

On the peak!
Ruth and I hiked up Løvstakken Sunday. Well, she acrobated up, and I crawled up. There were places where the ice was so smooth we literally had to butt-scootch along, encouraged by the friendly Norwegians who laughed with us on our way up.

We took a completely different route from the one I normally use, climbing beside a chirruping stream as the Sunday morning bells tolled below us. At points we hauled ourselves up by the tree branches, feet slipping on icy patches. Once, as I stood precariously on a frozen knoll, a dog bolted past me up the mountain, and with a joyous “Jesus Christ!” I wobbled down into the snow, laughing ruefully to the owner as she came up behind.

Towards the top of the mountain we reached the boulders that must be climbed using ropes. Only, all of the rock face was so icy, that we were really just rope-climbing—the boulders were irrelevant except as lessons in treachery. I’ve never had such good fellow-feeling with the Norwegians on the trail; everyone was helping everyone else and laughing as we fell.

Hanging onto trees for dear life
The peak of Løvstakken is magnificent. It offers a 360 view of Bergen from fjord to shining fjord, with mountains unfolding into the distance, and far off, the faint shimmering sheen of ocean. We took pictures mocking the Norway Fulbright poster, and ate the Trader Joe’s granola bars that we’d each been sent in care packages (love to home!), and hiked back along the ridge, which was even more slippery than the way up. At one point my feet swooshed out from under me, and resigned, I sailed down the mountain on my tush, pretty certain that I would end in a crush of snow at some point. A Norwegian asked us for directions, and Ruth explained that the trail meets up anyways. I really wish there was a special American language nobody could understand so I could have joked about how awesome it is that Norwegians ask us for trail directions!

Ice the whole way down
The fire alarm marshals came by, and surprise-knocked my hallway out for a demonstration on how turn off the fire alarm. Those of us too sleepy to realize who we were opening the door for, and kind enough to come, huddled into a small group around the alarm as they walked us through the procedure in obnoxiously slow English. Afterwards we stood in the hall in our socks talking, until finally I invited two of the women (Germany and Nepal) I’m friendly with back for tea. As we sipped and talked, I became uncomfortable. In our inevitable comparison of home to Bergen, Nepal mentioned her 12-house village and the 14 hours of electricity they get per day. Why did my friendly curiosity in Germany seem like anthropological sightseeing in Nepal?

Monday night, Ruth and Perle and I went to a class on salsa dancing. We were each completely ready to make idiots of ourselves, and so we had a lot of fun! And salsa dancing is much easier than I thought—now I surreptitiously salsa everywhere. One of the Fantoft Spanish guys is teaching, so everyone mumbles in Spanish under their breath as they dance-- he can't count in English, so neither do we. I love the joy in the movement, and the friendliness of passing from one partner to the next.

Today I found myself accidentally explaining Foucault’s History of Sexuality to my high schoolers because one asked if Shakespeare was gay. This after yesterday’s impromptu lesson on Butler and performativity in my master’s seminar. I really must remember not to upset their world paradigms too often.

Prospective students visited our English class today, bundling into the back of the classroom uncomfortably for a ten minutes display of Shakespearian invective on the part of our students (I set them to have “insult duels” after a fabulous beginning in which I shouted "George W. Bush, you pribbling yeasty guts-griping foot-licker, I thumb my nose at you!" at the picture of him Anita had taped to the wall). Then they asked questions, the first of which was “do you speak all in English all the time?” Anita answered, and then gestured to me and explained that I don't speak Norwegian. I smiled and, in Norwegian, said that sometimes we allow a bit of Norsk, bare for vanskelig sporsmal. My students all cracked up, as one. They find my accent hilarious. I explained to the visitors that that is a one-way street; they mock my Norsk, but I never laugh at their English. As the laughter settled, Sara repeated my American-accented phrase, and the class dissolved into laughter again. Still, I understood most of the questions that followed, about the demographics of the school and such. The thing that made me glow with warmth was seeing how my class came together, in the face of others, in a very closely-knit way yet still friendly way, so that their kindness spilled out for the visitors.

Ruth and a friendly dog admire the view
After discussing sonnet 18 with the class, and accidentally using the phrase “hot shit” and making the class burst into laughter yet again (how else to explain Shakespeare’s opinion of his own writing in that sonnet?), I headed over to the university to sit in on a theory lecture my students have to take and watch one present on the concept of “the literary canon.” At one point he said, “A few years ago in the US, we had African American rights, and women’s rights…” I firmly expected him to say, “but those have vanished since then.” He just meant the struggle became public in those days.

They’re showing a Norwegian movie at the university tonight, so I’m heading back down there soon with a friend from my floor (Germany from tea). We're going to learn us some Norsk!

I received my invitation to the American ambassador's house for our February Fulbright seminar. Apparently, we're allowed to bring dates. If anyone's going to be in Oslo on the 16th, shoot me an email if you'd like to be arm candy.

Fulbright pose in front of our beautiful Bergen!

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