Thursday, February 2, 2012

Trolls in the lakes of Landås

Yesterday I went into the city to teach my writing workshop. As I bounced around the whiteboard, watching the students carefully scribe “Purdue OWL” and “no subject headers” in their notebooks, I felt as though every batch of kids that sits in there is one more buttress against the grammatically inventive, meandering, plagiarism-pocked papers bound to turn up in a month.

I was meant to check out a class on Norwegian literature, but I couldn’t face it. Instead I went up Landåsfjell, to gain some perspective and a view of the western edge of Bergen’s fjord. I climbed up and sat by one of the frozen lakes, dusted with snow, until a terrifying burbling noise startled me down the mountain like a jackrabbit. In afterthought, it must have been the ice settling. At the time I thought there was surely something under there trying to get out.

Wednesday evenings there is an organ concert at Storetveit kirk near Fantoft. I’ve only been once before, but the swell of solemn sound in that great stone kirk floods my imagination with Viking triumphs and troll invasions and faery dances. The solemnity with which everyone sits, head tilted, in their pews, bowed or uplifted beneath the weight of the music, gives a social quality to what is yet solitude. Walking home after through crisp frozen air, the bell tolling the hour behind me, I once more breathed the mixture of contentment and heroism that steals through life.

Today Anita brought marmite in for the class to eat, as a taste of Britain. She also brought me a Daim Freia bar. Now that is love.

We didn’t teach our adult class today—there was a presentation on students’ mental health that we had to attend, instead. I understood about forti prosent of the lecture, and just about all of the slide show (luckily, I’ve been reading a Norwegian book about a depressed writer this past week and had the vocabulary). It didn’t help that of the two psychologists presenting, one spoke a rapidfire Norwegian that bubbled out of him with little pause for breath or moments of clearsighted translation. And the other was Swedish. Still, I got the gist: fifty percent of Norwegian high school girls are dissatisfied with their bodies (so, glass half full or empty), tips on identifying depressed students, and there will be a special meeting for teachers of Uttøya survivors after. Tusen takk, UiB Norskkurs.

Movie recommendation: Upperdog. Intense, honest look at Norwegian life.


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