“I could just live here, it’s so fun,” said Owen as we left Leo’s Lekeland. Leo’s is a franchised indoor playground. We had a little banter about where would one sleep and so forth and then I asked him if it would stop being fun, you know, if you were there all the time? Owen screwed up his face a little, maybe he didn’t like having his fantasy damaged. Who would? “No, I guess not,” he answered.
Travel brochures, family propaganda, fun literature, and internal aspirations create ideal places. Judge for yourself, think about: The Cotswolds, Bavaria, New Zealand, Nepal, or Tuscany. It is difficult to imagine life there as anything but mundane. “How fascinating… Must be nice… Couldn’t you just picture yourself…,” and all those other familiar phrases of lowgrade jealously. “Folks in Vail must never be bored.” “I wonder where people from Miami go for vacation?”
Norway is no exception to those examples. The chamber of commerce and tourism bureau do a bang up job here. And when you travel on a tourist’s agenda you expect to see, smell, hear, feel, and especially taste everything that makes a place wonderful. You better or disappointment begets negative press.
The reality is that life is so similar. Globalization has brought Levi’s, Coke, and Nintendo to all corners of the world. People go about their daily lives and gripe about the same issues. We should all be so lucky to complain about the mundane. When you live with famine, or displacement, or violence the trivia of life must become a dream.
Today was mundane. It was a nice day but like a day I could have had almost anywhere in the modern world. Saturday began with our new routine, which I detest: the boys spending a couple of hours on their e-tablets playing Minecraft. I don’t have too much standing to complain because since they’re playing quietly I troll the internet on my devices, Meghan does too. Codependents, all of us.
We needed to do something, to have a goal and get out of the house for the sake of our mental health if nothing else. Yesterday was stellar, the bar was low for today but there was a bar and we needed to cross it. Last night we scored big experiences for nary a Kroner so I was feeling generous.
What to do? Meghan and I settled on a choice for the boys: the Røa indoor pool or the indoor playground in Østerås. Leo’s was the winner even though it required traveling in a new part of city. But hey! That’s what makes every seemingly simple trip special. We hoofed it to Røa, took the #5 train to the end of the line at Østerås and then returned to Shank’s Mare for the rest of the trip. It took about hour total. I’ll be waiting for some local reader to suggest a more efficient route. Meghan quipped it would have taken 11 minutes if we had a car.
Leo’s was nice. It was clean. It had a lot of room and a surprisingly sophisticated food selection. In fact, the staff would even deliver the handsome open-faced sandwiches to your tables – no intercom blaring, “Solbretsen, dine pølser er ferdig. Solbretsen!” So actually, in those ways it was different from my experiences in America, but I digress.
We paid for the boys, we all took our shoes, and then, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.” Meghan and I found a comfortable brown leather couch. This place was organized for the contemporary world. That is, the parents are almost all on their smart phones, not paying attention to the children. So, the comfortable seating and couches were dispersed through the play areas. Kind of a soft supervision, if a child cried out at least there would be an adult nearby who’d look up in curiosity.
I am giving the architect a lot of credit. If it was an accident of design, then well done anyways. While the boys played Meghan and I read. She had her novel, I grabbed the house copy of VG, a daily newspaper. I was pleased to read a featured story about a Norwegian family living in sun-drenched Spain. The title was, “Lever Drømmelivet i Spania,” or my translation, Living the Dreamlife in Spain.
As a young couple they skipped out of Norway to Spain with just enough money to live for six months – to have an adventure. 17 years later they have two kids, a borrowed turtle and “hverdagsliv,” everyday life. That is they say their lives in sexy Spain don’t live up to their friends and countrymen’s ideas of what life is like in that Francophone slice of heaven. The weather is different, but after that it life is remarkably similar, said Hilde.
I predict this will be my abiding insight to living abroad, a year in Norway will strip away the gilding. I will get to appreciate the beauty and the wonderful people, but also that Norway is like most anywhere else. People go to work, worry about how their kids are doing in school, wonder what the election will mean for them, and complain about the weather.
And if you life movies, or sport, or repairing old cars, then you will find that most anywhere you live. Sure, if you really like ski-jumping, painting sunsets over the Channel Islands, or attending first-run theatre, then you need to choose your geography. But if you’re like most people, and you are, then where you live doesn’t matter that much. Same Difference.