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Oslo: a Great But Wet City

We arrived in Oslo after a short 6 hour flight. We hadn’t slept much, if at all and were exhausted. Walking through the airport after immigration and customs, and looking out the window, it felt so strange to think that we were in another country across the ocean. Through the windows, Norway looked like just a regular place, with grass and trees. We could have been home to see this. It’s so strange to think about what divides people. Language, for one. But other than that?

The thing is, every single person we have encountered in Oslo speaks fluent English (I found out they start learning it when they are in 1st grade) so after a very short time we felt comfortable. And so if the whole world feels like this we will get along fine. But we shall see, won’t we? On that note, imagine how excited I was when we were at the Kon-Tiki museum (more below) and I found the perfect tagline for our trip that Thor Heyerdahl had written: “Borders? I have never seen one. But I have heard they exist in the minds of some people.” It matched my mood perfectly.

Oslo is a great city. We really like it.

Interesting Story: The first day, after a short nap we decided to explore the city a little. As we were walking towards the harbor, we saw a huge crowd of people, most in football (soccer) uniforms and some carrying soccer balls. As we approached the harbor area, we heard the roar of a crowd and saw that a small soccer field and stands had been erected. We stopped two young men who were wearing South Africa jerseys and asked them what was going on. We learned that this was the World Cup for Homeless Awareness. The young men had just finished their game and were excited to tell us how much fun it had been.

Based on their endorsement, we decided to check it out further. As we approached the stands, we heard (in English) that Mexico was going to be playing Chile in the women’s finals.

We sat in the stands and started talking to the women sitting next to us and discovered more about what we were watching: all around the world there are soccer leagues for kids who are homeless. They use soccer as a way to get the kids to feel connected to something. To learn teamwork, to feel what working together and achieving something means. They learn that people are relying on them to show up and to perform to the best of their ability. And then each year, countries send a team to the Homeless Awareness World Cup so they can feel a sense of camaraderie with people from all over the world who have experienced something they have and can gain hope for their future through this experience.

This may explain why when the girls from Chile lost their match, they all fell on the ground face down and their coaches came to them and were consoling them. And then the girls all stood together in a huddle and did a cheer. I didn’t really understand it when I watched, but after the woman’s explanation, I gained a bit of insight as to what I was really watching.

The woman explained that her daughter was a coach for the US team, and had previously been a player, having been an addict and had been living on the streets. Playing soccer in this league, where she initially played on a men’s team gave her a sense of purpose, and she subsequently helped organize a girls’ team in her city. So this is a major part of her life right now and her mom came to Oslo to support her and the US team. We realized then that the two boys we had spoken to from South Africa must have been homeless at one time also, and here they were in Oslo and were SO happy and excited to be there. What a wonderful experience for all the young people!

Day 2 in Oslo

It rained. All day. Without stopping. Good news: those of you who read my blog this summer know that I had a bad experience with my raincoat and ended up buying a new one in Silverthorpe, CO. Well, my new raincoat worked like a charm. I stayed dry the entire day.

And with my puffy coat that Jay laughed at me for bringing and wearing, I was warm and toasty all day long.

Jay however, wore a raincoat that he had gotten at a swap meet, and discovered that it wasn’t waterproof.

Same problem I had in Rocky Mountain National Park. But, in Jay style, he turned that bit of bad news into a shopping experience. He was SO happy that he could go shopping. And after checking out a couple very expensive outdoor outfitter stores and seeing the prices for Norwegian outdoor gear, he was THRILLED when he discovered an OUTLET store for outdoor gear. Those who know Jay can imagine how happy he was.

I think we spent over an hour in the store as he deliberated as to which coat he should get. We learned all kinds of new things about waterproofness of coats (that I’ll be happy to share with anyone who is interested.) In the end, he found a great bargain on a great coat. After he tried to persuade me to buy something new (where am I going to put one more item????) we left. He was so happy with his new rain jacket and I was happy that the shopping experience was over.

Interesting Story: At dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant we talked to one of the people who is in the family that owns it. He’s from Vietnam and came to Norway in 1977. He has been working in his family restaurant forever, but his life is about to change. He is going to be in a movie next year. The movie producers discovered him because they always eat in his restaurant and they liked him. He said they liked the way he moved! Really smooth-like, he said. And gave us a little demonstration of his smooth moves.

He is SO excited and can’t wait. He said life in Norway is so easy. Nothing ever happens. It’s the same every day. I suppose that if I lived through the Vietnam War and immigrated at age 13 to another country that has so much freedom and peace, I might feel the same way. He was definitely looking for some excitement.

After dinner, we headed out again in the rain and walked back to the hotel. Exhausted. Why were we so tired? Here are some things that we did that day:

Free walking tour of Oslo. These free walking tours are the best. The tour guides are always wonderful, and this one was also. You really get to see an overview of the city and learn some interesting history and culture and fun facts. Also, the free tours we've gone on have all had foreign students as tour guides.

Taking the bus to the museums. It was great to get out of the rain for a while.

The Viking Museum: very cool to see actual Viking ships.

The Kon-Tiki Museum: a great display of Thor Heyerdahl and his adventures in sailing across the Pacific Ocean. And more.

Google it to see more. It was very interesting.

Shopping for a new raincoat

Eating Vietnamese soup

Collapsing in bed

Tomorrow we are off to Athens.

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