Tag Archives: expat

“I Hope You Have A Pleasant Stay in Stavanger” – The Reality of Settling Somewhere for Good

Yesterday we moved.

Kind of.

We still have to go back to Oslo. Our apartment is not packed up, but we have removed most of the things that we use on a day to day basis, like our clothes, toiletries, shoes, and kitchen machines. We are renting it out until mid July, at which point we will go back and help organize and pack up for the movers, who will come at some point. But we will be there for a visit. We will come with the clothes we will wear. We will bring toothbrushes. Cuz that stuff isn’t there anymore.

Yesterday, we loaded up the car, did a couple of random errands like get the dog vaccine card stamped at a vet we will never visit again and pick up some gourmet coffee, and then Kiddo and I hopped on a plane to Stavanger and Hubby drove with Poodle and the car full of lots of our crap across the country. It felt weird, but not that weird.

Until 40 minutes into the flight, when we were almost on the ground, and the pilot announced the weather in Stavanger and said, “I hope you all have a pleasant stay in Stavanger.” Then, WHOOSH! Tears.

“Oh my god,” I thought, “We live in Stavanger now. My stay in Stavanger is indefinite.”

I had a similar moment when I changed my voter registration to Switzerland. I had sent my ballot to Greece for the 2004 election, and then for some reason they were still sending it there for awhile, and then when we got married and I changed my name, I went to the office in the US and told them I needed to be sure my ballot got to me where we were. They asked where that was, and it was a big deal that it was overseas (not a lot of army people in the area? Not a lot of traveling businessmen/women and their families?). The options were to send the ballot there for one calendar year or indefinitely. She asked how long I would be living in Norway and I said, longer than a year, that is for sure, and so she told me to mark, “indefinite.” I didn’t want to then, and I don’t want to now.

Not for any other reason than it is scary.

I think the hardest part about essentially settling here for good (whichever city it is in Norway), is that it is NOTHING like the US. It will never be the US. That can be both positive and negative, but it is true. If I live here and raise Kiddo (and any other babies I might have) here, then this will be her childhood. She wont have…I don’t even know! She won’t have Saturday morning cartoons in English. She won’t have grandma´s house where she goes and watches Nickelodeon and eats cottage cheese and canned peaches. She won’t have a birthday party at McDonald´s. She wont have an elementary school tradition including tea bag dyed pillowcases for Native American celebrations or plaid shirts and cowboy hats and square dancing for the old west dances. She won’t have Halloween. She won’t have OMSI summer camps. She won’t have my childhood, in other words.

Of course my kid(s) won’t have the same childhood as I had. That would be weird and impossible. I think parents always sort of hold on to the idea that their kids will have lots in common with their own childhoods, though, consciously or subconsciously. That is just what we know.

For expats, it is easier to understand – superficially – that our kids will have different upbringings than we had. We expect these obvious differences, such as food preferences, song knowledge, slang words, cartoons and so on. They will adapt to where they are, as much as we make them mac and cheese (or Mac Oh Geez!).

But it is easiest, I think, to avoid thinking about the problems they – or we – will have living away from one easy home base. For us, Kiddo has half her nationalities represented in Norway. She still will likely feel in the middle, because I am American and I do things differently – not exactly American anymore, I don’t think, but definitely not full fledged mainstream Norwegian. How will a child cope with being moved a lot, or in our case, feeling pulled between two poles: one set of grandparents (and cultural references) on one side of the world, the other set of grandparents (with different cultural references) on the other side of the world?

When I started writing this, I was only thinking of myself. How I felt about moving. But I guess it dredges up a whole lot of feelings about my life, which now is certainly centered around Kiddo, and where I fit in the world.

I guess I am left feeling very small, and at the start of a long windy road called life. I don’t know what will happen here in Stavanger. I don’t know what kind of childhood Kiddo will have. I don’t know if I will stay at home for the duration of her early years, or find a job or some sort of other work. I don’t know which way my passions – about organic and compassionate food, music, writing, reading, meditating, and so on – will evolve. I don’t know if we will be able to have another child, and if so, how that will affect our family. There are so many unknowns.

Which brings me back to the Buddhist axiom: you only have today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow might never come. You have just got to live. So that is what I am trying to do, wherever I am, however I feel, and whoever is around me. It is not always easy but it is all I have. (And that is a lot!)

Advertisements

Starting the move to Stavanger

The time has come that we have fewer days left in Oslo that I think I can deal with. Like, instead of months, or even weeks, I feel like we have days. Just days. Like, 9 days for sure, and a few more that might happen if we need to or want to or can manage.

NINE DAYS?

Are you kidding me?

When did this happen?

I feel NOT good about this. In fact, I feel sick about this. Yesterday, I flew with Kiddo and Hubby drove with Poodle to Stavanger, from Oslo. We are getting keys to the temporary apartment, and we have fishing rights on the river nearby early next week, and we were going to rent out our Oslo apartment through airbnb but had to cancel, so the plan is that we will be here until next Monday, which is about 10 days. Then we go back to Oslo for 9 days, and spend the next essentially 6 weeks at the summer cabin, and then a week in Italy with my parents, and then…Stavanger?

Because of all these feelings that arose when I realized how few days we have left in Oslo, I was bitter and surly to Hubby yesterday. I didn’t want to go to Stavanger, but I didn’t want to stay in Oslo alone with Kiddo and no backup (I have a health issue that I will probably write about soon that makes that scary). I knew I was upsetting him, but I couldn’t help myself. I was trying to be kind to myself, to honor the feeling, to be honest with him, but at the base of all that, I was just pissed off. 

Let´s spend just a moment on that. Why, when this has been coming for so long – I mean really since I met Hubby I knew we would probably end up in Stavanger so he could work with the family business – why do I feel so upset about this?

This is what I come up with:

  • Change is stressful.
  • Oslo is so nice this time of year.
  • My friend just had a baby and I want to see her a lot.
  • Friends in general.
  • Barbeques and beer and stuff in the park?!
  • Our apartment is amazing and we have been keeping it cleaner and I love being back in one place after so much traveling.

But Stavanger will be undeniably great on paper.

In Stavanger, I will have access to a place that is my own. In half a year I will have a house with a garden, something I have dreamed about for a long time! But I will be trading in my real city life of walking absolutely everywhere for a life where you can walk, but will probably drive. I hope we will bike more often, though.

I can make friends – this I know! But it is undeniably stressful. (Of course, it is also beautiful when you connect with someone for the first time!) It is hard, as an introvert, to put myself out there. I feel too different. I feel like a crazy person, like who could possibly jive with me?  When I moved to Oslo I fell into some amazing friendships literally within days. But I was younger then; I had lots of time. Specifically, I didn’t have a child who is age appropriately dependent on me and who I parent in a way that is respectful to that. Also, I feel like being a stay at home mom in socialist Norway makes me some sort of pariah, or at least a veritable freak.

Also, I am the kind of person who wants a handful of people that are really close. I don’t want hoards. I don’t want to befriend the entire English speaking population of Stavanger (let alone the whole Norwegian population, jeez!). I want a few great chums. I don’t look forward to the part when you weed through people whom you might get along with but might not.

Anyway, this is why I am apprehensive and irritated about the move. 

I guess it is normal? Unless you thrive on change and love meeting new people, you probably dislike moving, and even if you are those things maybe the other aspects of moving are unappealing. I think it is not a natural human thing – to move so many miles from one place to another (says the person who has done four major moves in my life already!).

I am making some deals with myself to ease the move and motivate myself to get out there:

  • Sign up for a class – anything! Guitar or painting or drawing or I don’t care, just: something. (I had Norwegian class in Oslo that put me in touch with the first and best friendships I have!)
  • Find fun places to work out – a park, a running route, something where I can get my blood flowing and maybe run into other people who are out doing the same things.
  • Connect on Facebook and social media to people with similar interests – I am already doing this with an international moms group and a group that is interested in traditional foods.
  • As much as I don’t like them, try out all the playgroups I can find.
  • Also, try out all the åpen barnehager or open daycares that I can find.
  • Find a book club.
  • Get a library card and join stuff at the library.
  • But: don’t overload myself all at once or I will just burn out and feel horrible. If I don’t feel like doing anything that day – don’t!
  • Spent lots of time with my in-laws, because they are family and can help out and know the town and love me for me.
  • Spent lots of time with Hubby, because haven’t we always said that at the very basic core, we just need each other?
  • Remember to breathe! Life is for living, not for stressing about!

Here is to trying, forgiving myself, loving everybody, and living in the moment. I will need a lot of all of that in the weeks to come!