Zach, Outbound to Norway

A few weeks ago I officially passed the five month mark on my exchange which depressingly means I’m more than halfway done with this adventure. In four months time I’ll be back in PV preparing for my senior year of high school. It’s no exaggeration to say this school year has been the fastest of my life almost even to the point where it seems to be escaping me.

The Norwegian language is tricky business because as much as I think I know, all it takes is a person who lives two hours away to remind me I can pretty much only speak and understand the language in Rogaland, the region I live in. I’m pleased nonetheless, as in class I can at the very least understand what the topic we’re learning is about. Talking with my friends isn’t too bad as they know they have to speak slow if they want me in on a conversation. Then there’s Phillip, my history teacher (Yes in Norway they call the teachers by their first name). This guy is German, speaks fluent English and Norwegian, and hasn’t said a word to me in English at all besides one time during an oral test. I know that he’s really just trying to help me with the language but some of my friends can’t even understand his way of speaking Norwegian. Luckily the class is basically a toned down version of World History at PVHS, so I haven’t really failed any test yet.

Despite currently being with a Dutch host family, my Christmas was about as Norwegian as it could get. In Norway the day of Christmas is actually on the 24th, and on that day I went back to my first host family to celebrate during the day. We went inside a barn with a bunch of other families and waited until the “barn Santa” entered from behind the hay to collect his porridge and give gifts to all the little kids. He came with a classic Santa gift sack and one by one called the names of the kids who would collect their prize and give him a hug. Naturally I was called and by far the oldest of the group. During the night I stayed with my current host family and ate traditional Norwegian Christmas food and exchanged gifts which were mostly things I could use to keep warm as the array of clothes I brought were no match for the winter here.

There’s actually a million things I could talk about in this last paragraph, but one thing in particular epitomizes exactly what I feel youth exchange is all about, and it happened yesterday (or the day before I wrote this piece 01/26/19). It was a Saturday and all I really had planned was to meet my fellow exchanger friends from Germany and Canada at the library in the city about a 25 minute train ride from where I live. I arrived an hour earlier so I could stop at a café and play piano in the libraries music room. The German girl arrived first and we waited for about an hour until finally the Canadian says she won’t make it. From that point the day just got crazier as we decided to grab something to eat and saw there was an Ethiopian restaurant not too far and ate there. Neither of us had ever eaten Ethiopian food before but it was basically different kinds of meat, beans, and sauce on an extremely spongy bread. After some more walking we stumbled upon a little studio with a sign that read “GRATIS AFRIKANSE DANSSEKLASSE” which means free African dance class. It started ten minutes from when we arrived and after some convincing I got my friend to go inside. We were just thrown into it and just began to copy the choreography which was mostly different ways of stomping on the ground to the beat of a drum. After a whole hour of this the leader of the group said we’d be moving in to a church to perform for a few people. A few people ended being roughly 150 and before you know it, it was an African dance party in a church with 150+ older Norwegian folks on a Saturday. This is exactly what an open mind and a plan-less day can get you here in Norway and I’m hoping for a few more days like this one.

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