When I first came here I was put in a group of immigrants to learn Norwegian. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was actually an immigrant myself, so I thought it very weird to be mixed in with everyone else. Americans, Brazilians, Vietnamese, Georgians, Puerto Ricans, English, Russians, Germans and even Australians were considered ‘immigrant’. Being labelled as such made it easier for all of us to become good friends and help each other live in this strange land called Norway. We could talk about how rude, funny, un-talkative, arrogant, simple, weird, casual, sweet, silly and adorable our Norwegian hosts were. We could share our struggles and disappointments as well as our successes. But most importantly we had a safe place to be Australian or Puerto Rican or German.
Having this group made me feel secure again. Knowing that people are experiencing what I was experiencing and therefore could understand what I was going through made life much easier. I would often bump into different classmates in the city and we would practise our Norwegian conversation. However, one by one they all started disappearing. A few moved down south to a bigger city, a few moved on to another country and the rest moved back home.
Today I found out that one of my closest ‘immigrant’ friends has returned to her home country. In Norway, she studied Norwegian so hard and actually finished the course ahead of everyone else. (I admired her greatly.) She worked, participated in community groups, and tried really hard to become a part of society. I thought she was destined to make a life in Norway. But like many, in the end it was still all too much for her.
I am very sad to know that she has gone (and a little jealous). She talks about sunshine, golden beaches and smiling faces – things that you don’t see much here in Norway. I surprised myself as I started to feel abandoned. After all the hard work I know we all put in to making Norway our home, I am the only one left. I secretly long to surrender and go back home where I can feel secure everyday again, but I can’t help feeling that I if I give up now I will always regret it. I have tried so much and have come so far, I can’t give up.
Even though Norway is a ‘modern’ country, it is a very hard place to live in. The environment is an everyday struggle. Just walking in snow or on ice takes twice as long to get anywhere. Trying to just live in society makes you feel inadequate, embarrassed and alone because of the language barrier. Simple things like trying to read the instructions on a food packet or calling up the telephone company can be such a struggle. Life can certainly be exhausting in Norway, if not humbling.
So why am I the last one standing? (I might just be too blind to see that I have failed…lol – but I think there is a better reason.) Circles. Lots and lots of circles! Everything that I have become involved in Norway I have gathered a circle of people around me. At uni, at dancing, at Norwegian class, at home, at work, even on the internet – but not just any circles – Norwegian circles. The best thing about circles is they have no end. The bigger splash you make the bigger your circle can become. I started just throwing pebbles but now when I get involved in anything I throw a big rock so the circles ripple wider and wider. At first I only had rocks of talent and enthusiasm and dedication, but as Lilu has become more adventurous she throws herself in with a big splash and makes my circle become even bigger.
I can certainly say that one of the best ways to last in Norway is to have a little Norwegian to lure you in. The best thing about Lilu’s big splash is that she effects other peoples circles too – I have never seen a Norwegian smile as much as when they get a big happy greeting from Lilu.