They say you’ve truly settled in to a place when you start to be there in your dreams. I would go along with this to some extent though the subconscious can take us to many weird and wonderful places…
For me, a more realistic mark of one’s assimilation into a new place comes with the sudden realisation that whatever you are doing feels ‘normal’. When you switch to autopilot on the walk to uni, when you automatically say ‘takk’ in place of ‘thanks’ to the cashier, when you can walk through the town centre and greet several passers by…
Having been here over a month now, I am beginning to feel these small signals of being ‘at home’. Now, I could go into a long discussion about what being ‘truly settled’ actually means but I’m happy, for the moment, to leave you with the simple observation that ‘settling in’ is something which builds up in stages and its nice, a month in, to step back and watch how the first stage of the process is unfolding.
Of course, not everything yet has such a natural feel to it. I still can’t, for example, quite manage to switch off the automatic currency conversion from kroner to sterling in my head. The prices – post conversion – leave me less astonished than they previously did, which is a step in itself, but it is definitely still a challenge to get my head around £7-for-a-pint-of-beer type prices. The trick, I am sure, is to stop converting… (maybe alongside not drinking too much!) Being from Britain though, I really can’t complain. Norway must be one of the only countries in the world in which we Brits can go and feel the sting of the price tag. For my Polish and Nepalese flatmates, it must send their heads (and wallets..) into a spin.
The wonderful thing about being a student though, is that there are so many opportunities for low cost entertainment (and, if you’re lucky, free food!). The same could be said of living in a rural area (including the part about free food – the amount of blueberries and cloudberries I’ve consumed ‘on the house’ from dear old Mother Nature).
Since I last wrote I have been on a kayaking weekend on the neighbouring island in which we were blessed with such beautiful weather with pure blue skies and a turquoise sea I could have (before a dip in the water..!) convinced myself we were in the tropics.
I have returned to the peak of our local highest mountain ‘Tromstalstinden’ which rewards the steep ascent with the most incredible views of the surrounding mountainous landscape, the entirety of Tromsø island laid out below and even a glimpse of the open sea in the distance beyond the fjords, giving me a very unique sense of where I really am.
And I have been on the wettest but most atmospheric camping trip I have ever experienced. With the university ‘fjellgruppa’ (mountain group)’s weekend trip, we had a little sun on the Friday evening so that we could at least see for a few hours the beauty of our shore side camping spot. The following couple of days’ weather was atrocious though it was nice to be with a group of people for whom this didn’t matter too much. There is something quite liberating about being so unbelievably wet all over that while in the beginning you are jumping carefully over boggy patches, by the end nothing is an obstacle and rivers are merely a minor disruption in the path. As one fellow camper said; ‘we would never go out walking in this kind of weather if we weren’t on a camping trip – so really, it’s a bonus.’ I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment!
The other bonus of the trip was that, for almost the first time since my arrival, I was (more or less) surrounded by Norwegians. This may seem like a strange novelty while living in Norway, however, having my classes in English, an English-speaking flat and (at the moment) a predominantly international network of friends, it does take some effort to find yourself in a situation with Norwegians who are speaking their language.
While my speaking ability is still very basic (though gradually improving with the 4hour a week language courses which have just begun) – it is lovely and essential for any real learning to take place just to sit and listen to the language being spoken and crafted and played with in a real environment.