Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Norway: Kid-Tested and Mother-Approved

The adorable apartment they rented

My parents visited me in Bergen last week. Since my dad’s the main reason I write this blog (it’s the first time since I left home six years ago that he actually has a clue of what’s going on in my life) I’m not going to fill you in on the trip in too much detail. Just that I had the most beautiful time showing my parents my life in Norway, tramping along the picturesque streets of Bergen, appreciating the cuteness of Norwegian babies and the gorgeousness of Norwegian men with my mom, and kicking back in our lovely old apartment with a 360 degree view of the fjord and Bergen sentrum.

The first night, I took them to Godt Brød. As I joked around with the cashier, showing off my Norwegian for my mom, his fellow worker behind the counter came over. The first guy beckoned to me. “Look, she’s an American, speaking Norwegian.”

“Yeah, and her name is Hannah.” It was Anita’s son, Evan. Nothing emphasizes Bergen’s tiny size like running into people you know every few hours. Then we bumped into one of my students at Rimi, and the impression was complete.

We went to Café Opera with Anita, and I had that shocking feeling you get when two worlds collide. You see, Anita only met me this year, and sees mature competence, confidence, and creativity (I hope!), where my parents see an adorable yet precocious six-year-old. I didn’t realize how much I regress around my parents until thrust into the presence of a third party, where my character played a funny tug-of-war between its mature self and the kid my parents see me as.

Laundry list: We saw Gamlehaugen, the Fantoft Stavkirk, Kunst gallery, Hanseatisk Museum, Bryggen, the Bergen Domkirk, Fløyen...  while hiking up Fløyen, exclaiming at the beauty of its lushly green trails, we passed a passel of men in their seventies, sturdily hiking up. They enjoyed our presence, offering the tidbit that Prince Charles and Camilla had been up on Fløyen only yesterday—apparently all English speakers should care about British royalty.

I bought kaviar in a tube for my Abba, and brunøst for my Ima. Easy enough to know what they’d each like. They, in turn, brought me Trader Joe's in a suitcase. Sometimes food is love. 

Friday we took the train into Oslo, passing the breathtaking views of fjord and fjell that astound every passenger. One of the best parts of the weekend was introducing my parents to the Oslo Jewish community—to the shlichot who have so comfortably hosted me again and again, and the Norwegian-Israelis who have so warmly welcomed me into the fold. Shabbat dinner at the shlichot we ate with a Tunisian man who had lived in Israel then fallen in love with a Norwegian, and his two sons. The conversation surged through three languages as per usual (only very briefly did my mother and the man speak French, so it really doesn’t count). At one point, discussing the chazzan, my mother asked what he does the rest of the week. Inbar’s answer: “byom shani, hu oseh havdalah bagan.” Hehehe.

Sunday morning my Abba left for the airport. My Ima and I went down to Oslo harbor for tickets on the ferry. It was only when buying them that we realized daylight savings had happened and we’d missed an hour! Luckily, my Abba left in plenty of time, and Oslo airport is small.

The outside of 5 Draggefjelltrappen
We took the ferry to the new opera house, moved through the Munch museum (vastly prefer “Anxiety” and “Despair” to “The Scream,” now that I’ve seen all three, and a silent landscape of snow-heaped firs to those—who knew Munch could paint calm solitude as well as feverish modern angst?), speedwalked the Botanical gardens, and sat for a pleasant while on the Bygdøy shore watching the kayakers after circling around the open-air model Viking village. On the ferry ride back, a father placed his toddler son on the railing near us. The boy was so deliciously cute, waving and calling “mama” to his mother on the lower deck. When he began to stomp on the captain’s roof, the father gently told him, “ikke bang bang.” What a sweet kid, and how perfectly did it exemplify the Norwegian family dynamic.
My parents gone, I’ve been feverishly rushing to catch up with everything. Though this morning I did take off for a gorgeous hike up Landås and across to Ulriken. The mud drying in the sun smelled like Monongahela National Park in West Virginia. Vaguely sweet and clean, with the hum of bees accompanying it even when no bees flew. I kept sniffing and thinking of berries. Back home I launched into my frenzy of work: I have to clean for pesach, pack for London, plan my trip to Copenhagen in May, catch up and get ahead on grading and class preparation for the next few weeks, and see the friends I haven’t seen for the past week and won’t see for the next two. Life is deliciously full of good things.

Ready for rain

Alas, the view atop Fløyen
At the top of Karl Johan. Check out that hat.
Showing my appreciation for Wigeland
I may have taught my parents a proper love for Freia
At Akershus Fort, overlooking Oslo's fjord

Bergen the Beautiful

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