Thursday, March 18, 2010

Norwegian Nostalgia...

 *The view from the mountain where Wes proposed to me nearly 7 years ago.  Overlooking downtown Bergen, Norway.

So my mother is from Bergen, Norway.   My two brothers and I spent most of our childhood summers there visiting with our Bestemor and Bestefar (Grandmother and Grandfather in Norwegian).  I don't think I ever realized how special this was when I was a little girl.  I knew that I loved our times there, and my grandparents were probably the best you could get.  Our days were always filled with playing out in the streets (it's a VERY safe place to live), eating piles of shrimp, getting bags filled with salty, black licorice, playing cards, and visiting the fish market in downtown Bergen.  We loved it.  We grew up with Norwegian traditions, like joining hands and circling the Christmas tree as we sang Norwegian Christmas carols.  As children, my mother (we call her Mamma...not Mom....not Mama....Mamma) would read us stories from Norwegian children's books (all in Norwegian, of course).  It was all normal for us.

It was not a very diverse culture, though.  Most people have a certain image that comes to mind when they think of your typical Norwegian.  It usually involves someone rather tall, white, blond, and blue eyes (please don't say we are like the Swedish Chef!  We are not Swedish! haha).  Well, that is pretty typical, but there are also brown eyes and brown hair too (such as my grandparents....who knows how my mom turned out with blond hair???).  But as for any other mixture of ethnicities, you just didn't see it that much when I was growing up.  I have one distinct memory from my childhood when we went grocery shopping one time, and I saw a woman with dark skin, completely covered from head to toe with a burka.  She stood out to me, because you just didn't see that too often around there.  But she was not the norm, and more than likely, not Norwegian.

Fast forward about 13 grandmother had just passed away, and my whole family traveled to Bergen for the funeral.  We went to a little grocery store, and the young girl at the check out counter looked Asian.  As I asked her a question, she responded in a beautifully pure, Bergen accent.  I tried not to look too surprised as she handed me my change, but on the inside I was blown away.  It blew my cultural contextualization out of the water!  In the States, we are such a melting pot of culture and race, that nothing is surprising.  But to the little girl within, whose version of Norway was filled with white faces, standing there at that check out counter left me mesmerized.  I wanted to stand there longer, and here her speak more, because I was fascinated by the words coming out of this girl's mouth.  It reminded me of the time I was in Mexico, and this little boy from a remote village asked me if there was sun where I lived.  He asked this because my skin was so pale.  It was beautifully innocent and made me smile.  And in that little grocery store, I was a little girl again, in awe of this person who didn't look Norwegian to me, but sounded Norwegian. 

I'm sure this girl's parents could have been Korean, and moved to Norway when she was quite young or before she was born, and she grew up speaking Norwegian.  But I also know that much of Scandinavia has been adopting internationally for quite some time, and it is not unlikely that this young girl was part of this.  And now Norway is becoming more than just tall, blond vikings....It is becoming it's own mixture of a beautifully diverse people.  Probably not quite to the extent of the United States, but significant none-the-less.

So perhaps this post is not really about adoption, and maybe it's just a shout-out to my Norwegian peeps across the ocean who are going through the same bumpy adoption ride.  But I was feeling a bit nostalgic today, remembering beautiful Norway and childhood summers.  Heija Norge!

1 comment:

  1. Norway is a beautiful country and Scandinavia is full of so many different cultures now, it is very cool. Hope you can come back and visit Norway and of course the greater Sweden someday.