September/October 2009 (University of Oslo)

Hi everybody!

Since I have only posted two entries since August, I thought it would be good to post two now: the previous one deals with practical information and this one is just about my experiences here in Norway.
At the end of September, at about 400 m above sea level, we saw the first snow. We went walking in Nordmarka and spent the night in a cabin. Norway reminds me very much of Switzerland and 15 August back home, when we would go to the Nufenen Pass, at more than 2000 m a.s.l. to have a barbecue, see some marmots and a glacier. It makes me feel good that Switzerland has something in common with Norway. I have never been too proud of being half-Swiss, so sometimes I am happy to find something not to be ashamed of. However, we are never as well organized as the Norwegians. Whatever happens, they have a solution. No matter the weather or the time, they walk on and they are always in front. Bjørn Dæhlie is not an exception, they could all be Olympic champions! I am very Italian in this case. Rain means staying inside for me and walking means a boring way to get to places. This is going to change though; I’m taking away this part of Norwegian culture with me!


I have also had the great opportunity to visit a Norwegian high school. It was in the western part of Oslo, which is historically the richest part and it showed. Most of the pupils had a laptop and in the classroom there was a data projector. I am not sure what it is like in Scotland, but in Italian state schools our chairs are at least 40 years old and the saddest thing is that most pupils wouldn’t even know how to use a laptop properly. We don’t get any computing skills at school because most teachers are not required to learn these skills themselves. What we do get, though, is a lot more discipline, or maybe I should say that we live in a regime of quasi-terror, where teachers have extreme power over their pupils. If a mobile phone rings during the lesson as it did here in Norway, the student responsible would most likely pay a visit to the headteacher and have a mark put next to their name! I think these are two extremes, maybe we should aim for something in the middle.
I also want to remind you all that Jens Stoltenberg has won his third mandate! I had the pleasure of hearing his victory speech, of which I took a video (which is better than those taken by all the various news media – sorry but I’m a fanatic and proud of it!). It was great! It looks like Jens is also influencing my native country, where the government is beginning to crumble because we have a great constitution and we have just elected a new leader of the opposition, who is quite left-wing and hopefully is going to take us to victory, maybe even before 2013!
Last week has been pretty good on the linguistic side of things! I went to Bergen to see a friend and we had a really good time. She cooked us some very good Romanian food and we went up Bergen’s equivalent of Arthur’s Seat or Calton Hill, Fløyen. The fact that it wasn’t raining made the view even more beautiful! I also liked the fish market very much. It made me hungry every time I went by! I think the only thing I don’t like about Bergen is that people don’t roll their Rs. It’s very unpleasant for us Italians, as we are not used to such sounds. Oh yes, I forgot to mention the best part, which is that I spoke Norwegian the whole week.
I also had an appointment with my lecturer to discuss a summary of my essay in progress. She was really nice, she asked me what I was studying and when I said that my first subject is Norwegian, her face looked like this :-O… She then continued in Norwegian. I could actually follow her quite well, even if the discussion was not simple (it was about  fathers and childcare, so there were a lot of technical terms). In the end she said my Norwegian was great, that I should write my essay in Norwegian and come here to study for my master’s. Hold your horses!
Of course, since I come from Italy, we discussed childcare services and equality in my home country and I felt a bit miserable when she asked me why we voted for Berlusconi again. I could only say that I never have, but still I don’t know if that contributed to a better opinion of Italians. It made me happy though that she knew we have some ‘red’ regions in Italy and that they offer better social services.
Anyway, it feels good that I can understand so much, even if it still feels not enough to me. It’s sad how many Norwegians speak to us foreigners in English as soon as they can, but many others are so happy that someone actually wants to speak their language that they do whatever they can to speak to you in Norwegian, even if they have to make an effort for us foreigners to understand them.  I’m happy it’s this way. English is totally overrated and makes the world sound flat! Oh, now I’m actually tempted to write this blog entry in Norwegian, or maybe in Italian… I wonder how many people would bother trying to read it. Sadly probably not many and they don’t know what they are missing! J
So in order to make the world less flat, I have decided to start learning Georgian and I expect all of you have the same question: ‘Why?’. Good news, I think I’ve found an answer. I like to listen to things that nobody else is listening to, especially if the people shouting them deserve to be heard. Or maybe I just want to be like Nelson Mandela: ‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart’, except that I would substitute ‘man’ with ‘person’, since I’m following a course on gender equality. In any case, learning a new alphabet really reminds of when I started school and we had to learn how to write with joined-up letters, where to put double consonants and the letter H (by the way, that’s why we never pronounce it in Italian, that’s the first thing they teach us ‘the H is silent’)! In any case, I’m loving it!
In a way, I’m also missing Scotland and something that I thought I’d never say: a good baked potato with tuna mayonnaise from City Restaurant (that’s the best I’ve eaten!). I’m currently substituting it with Indian food (yes, I am converted, it’s not just strictly Italian food for me anymore!). Though what I really would like to try is a proper Norwegian meal. I’ll spend all my money on that before leaving I suppose! For now, I had the pleasure to taste the famous ‘julebrus’, a type of fizzy juice which tastes like bubble-gum.
After a few months of living in my student bedroom in Oslo, I’d really love to be in my living room in Edinburgh, watching University Challenge and desperately trying to answer at least one question. I haven’t watched TV for so long now and until now, I didn’t really miss it, but it would be good to go back for one week-end only. On the other hand, I think I will be quite sad when I leave. If I manage to leave, that is, because I have no idea where to put all the stuff I have accumulated since coming to Norway…

IMG_1452
View of Bergen

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