Freedom from Fear

Ringo-table

At the shopping centre I saw a drawing competition for children to win a ‘pirate raid’ at Ringo, a toy store.  The winners get one minute to run around the store and pick out anything ‘their heart desires’.

My kids and I enjoyed looking at the pictures by children aged 2 to 7, but there was one thing I noticed about the competition that made me a little hesitant to let my kids participate.  The competition required you to write your child’s name, age and your telephone number on the picture for all to see.

ringo-comp

Being Australian, my first thought was about security.  Posting up children’s information in a public place – name, age and phone number, which reveals a child’s sex and inadvertently gives access to home address information through the Norwegian online white pages service – is irresponsible and unsafe.  Such a billboard is a mini-market place for creeps and kidnappers.  Something like this would never be appropriate in the other Western countries I have lived in.

However, Norway, and in particular, Norwegian towns, have kept their innocence.  They don’t have to think twice if other people will abuse their private information or commit other crimes against them.  Norwegians feel safe that their community is good and respectful, that everyone essentially watches out for each other.  Norwegian communities are free of the safety concerns other Western countries face in their communities.

Freedom of fear is what everyone deserves in this world.  But, being brought up in Australia, my natural instinct is to look for potential safety hazards and take action (or no action) to avoid them, thereby protecting myself and my family.  It might also be the fact that I’m female, which adds extra pressure walking in a patriarchal world.  How I wish to have the freedom of mind and the feeling of safety as a Norwegian – to be free of the dark thoughts in the back of my head of what could possibly happen if I’m not careful.  This fear is hard to get rid of and it has taken me ten years of living in Norway to become more relaxed.  Now I can confidently walk down the street without having to be on guard.  No wolf whistles, no ‘hey, baby’s’, no shady characters tailing, no fear – Norwegian men are wonderfully behaved!

It has also taken me a while to loosen up about my kids too.  At first I never let my kids have play dates unless I knew the parents personally (it was smart in Australia), but that is not how Norway rolls.  I was very surprised one day to find Lilu’s first grade class outside my front door with her teacher telling everyone that it would be fun to play at my place because of the blueberry forest and soccer field out back.  We often have kids come round looking to play and I always ask if their parents know where they are and what their last name is (as the school gives out everyones name (child and parents) contact numbers and home addresses to all parents of the same class! and it’s good to know which kid you have got at your place.)

Boy, this freedom of fear is hard to get used to.  I’m stuck on the decision whether to keep my cautiousness, which feels like a recurring ache from an old injury, or to just let it go, become innocent again, and enjoy the peace of mind.  There are benefits for each but one is designed to prevent and the other could be reckless with believing nothing will ever happen.  Sometimes I see Norwegians and think, ‘you guys need to start protecting yourselves for Norway will not be innocent forever’ and the other times I envy their freedom, their peace of mind.

But, knowing my kids will grow up in a carefree environment, without the continual worry of safety or security is a great blessing.  When it comes to safety, Norway is a dream country, a country that everyone hopes for, a luxury that many countries have lost.  I believe the reason Norway has this freedom is because of its unique population spread.  Cities are small, towns are very small and dot the whole country but add up to most of the population; villages can just be a couple of houses.  It seems the human race does well in small communities spread out over the country side.  They look after each other better, they enjoy safety.  It’s only when you put us all together, cramped in blocked, high-rise housing, that there is a need for fear.

Pens

Other observations about the luxuries of living in Norway:

(Above) A box full of high quality pens for all to share, as well as some wall-tack to put up pictures.  When we were drawing at the tables, the maintenance guy came up just to check we had enough wall-tack left for our pictures.  He was surprised that people had been so conservative with the wall-tack but was going to bring back some more anyway.  Norwegians have a habit of being considerate and are very good at teaching their kids this valuable trait.

(Top) In the first picture you’ll notice there are only a handful of drawings posted up.  Another thing that I love about Norway is that Norwegians don’t over indulge, especially when kids are involved, even when there is a prize.  There are no rules to the competition on how many entries you are allowed or age limits, yet Norwegians are very classy – they don’t try to beat the system by getting their kids to draw as many entries as possible.  In fact, some sheets of paper feature drawings from two kids, summing up to one entry.  When kids are involved the general consensus is that everyone gets a fair go (no one abuses the system), that participation is more important than the end result, and that community events are just fun activities to be a part of, not hardcore competitions – there are no losers in Norway.

(Middle) The middle poster says a lot about Norway by not saying anything.  There is no small print – no disclaimers, no rules on judging, no law statements, no penalties or disqualification warnings, nothing.  They are not needed as Norwegians play fairly, especially when kids are involved.  The competition is just a casual and fun way to draw attention to a pirate show that is coming, and is an opportunity for kids to display their drawings.  There were no rules on what they wanted kids to draw but for some odd reason (wink wink) the kids all drew pirates and pirate ships.  I guess the advertising worked – in the best passive way – not in your face, but by a little desk that was placed under the escalators with a few posters of a pirate.  If I hadn’t sat down next to the posters so my kids could have a shopping break, I would not have known the competition even existed.  Kind of uneventful, really.

As it turned out, my kids have their drawings up for everyone to see, along with their name, age and my phone number.  I guess trust wins the day.

Creating the Borealis Winter Festival 2015 Opening Show

Borealis 2012-9754

I’m the creator and director for the Borealis Winter festival 2015 opening show next year.  This will be the third time I have designed and directed a show for the ice stage and I am so happy to be doing it this year with the wonderful artists and dancers in Alta.

Borealis 2015 will be a bigger deal than most because the Finnmarksløpet (Finnmark race in dog sledding), which is a part of the festival, is hosting the international championship in dog sledding.  There will be more people and more broadcasters from all over the world.  (Not much pressure at all!)

Finnmarkslopet

As I’ll be immersed in creating a show for Alta, Norway and the world, I thought it would be interesting for readers to get a glimpse into the creative processes involved in putting on an outside show on an ice stage in the Arctic.  I will be posting several articles about certain aspects of the show – from story and history to snow choreography and building ice stages.  The articles will be headed by “Borealis 2015”.

There will also be an opportunity to see the show live on the internet, as the High School’s media centre streams the show and they also have a youtube channel.

I hope you enjoy following the creation of the show.  (And if you have the chance, we’d love to see you come over for the celebrations!)

borealis-pic-3

New Resuce Helicopter for Norway

helicopter

All of Norway has just ordered in some new rescue helicopters.  The coast guard operates them for land and sea.  This new ‘Augusta’ is from the Augusta Westland factory.  The previous helicopter Norway used was the “Sea King” made by the same company.

Why is the helicopter brand name important?  Well, for us in Alta, at least, you don’t say ‘call the coast guard’ in an emergency, you say ‘call the Sea King’.  But I never did catch the correct name until I saw it written in the paper.  Norwegian’s seem to pronounce Sea King as ‘Seeking’.  It wasn’t until I saw it spelt out that I realized what everyone was trying to say.

Now everyone has to get used to the new name ‘Augusta’, a name that can’t be mistaken.  However, other countries are calling it the Merlin (GB) or Kestrel (US) or Cormorant (Canada).  I must admit, ‘Augusta’ is a bit of a mouthful to say in an emergency but it’s a lot easier for an outlander like me to say ‘Augusta’ than ‘Ring kystvakta‘ (Call the Coast Guard).

Lamb for Fårikål

farikal-2014

Fårikål is the national dish of Norway.  It is a traditional country stew made with mutton, cabbage, peppercorns and water.  That’s it.  As there are many different dialects in Norway, there are also many different ideas about Fårikål.  Traditionalists say that you shouldn’t divert from the original simplicity of the dish but modernists prefer to add in extra ingredients for variety and flavour.  We’ve certainly experimented with a few of our own ideas, such as Fårikål with Rosemary and Garlic, Cinnamon, Curry and even Ginger and Chili.  We always start off the season with the original and nothing has ever been better than making fårikål with your own home grown meat.

I have seen a growing trend over the last few years that Norwegians are changing from using the traditional mutton (usually frozen) to using fresh lamb.  In the original dish the fat is very important for flavour and helps create the body of the stew.  Using lamb doesn’t give that thickness or rustic flavour, but it seems that the Norwegian palate is becoming finer and more health conscious.  That the fatty stew providing good for energy in the farming days is not needed for todays lifestyles.

One of the things Norwegians are certainly masters of is eating in season.  It is smart, economical and environmentally conscious, a long tradition that has paid off.  Norwegians have always valued home-grown.  I have come quite accustomed to eating certain foods at certain times of the year.  I think it is the natural way to eat.  Nature provides all the foods you need at the right times of the year to survive.  Autumn is my favourite.  It is the time of plenty, when nature gives to the most to fatten ourselves up for the long winter ahead.  Berries, mushrooms, vegetables, tea plants and meats go into the stores to wait for the many feast days of Christmas.  It’s lovely to live the old ways in the modern world.

farikal-2014-2

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