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Chapter 5 Excerpt

(I attended the International Summer School at the University of Oslo with 500 students of different ages from 70 countries in 1992 with my then girlfriend, Alice. One weekend we went on a school excursion to Noresund.)

27 July 1992
...The next morning it rained, which put a damper on the scheduled five-hour hike. The bus climbed steep roads and I wondered if there would be any more space to walk once we reached the destination. (Excursion leaders) Guro and Lena decided to change the route because of the weather. When we got off the bus, we could see the clouds practically touching the mountain tops. The weather began to clear.

The “leave the umbrella home and it rains; bring it and it doesn’t” proverb came true regarding my camera. I left it in another bag, thinking the rain might continue and it would weigh my backpack down. So, I missed photographing all the views. The up hills were strenuous; the inclines toward the end of the route up were full of stones and pebbles. When people tired, others waited for them.

Everyone, people from so many different countries made it to the top of Høvegarde, 1,340 meters above sea level. On the way, we saw herds of reindeer and sheep. The sight from the peak was absolutely beautiful. The clouds seemed so close to the top of the mountain. People took plenty of pictures. How exciting to have group shots with people from the United States, Slovakia, Nepal, Benin, Norway, Slovenia, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Philippines, West Bank! Walking down took only an hour and fifteen minutes, less than half the time it took hiking up.

7 August 1992
Who We Were and The Goodbyes

Last night there was a farewell party the first sign that this experience was ending at the Ingenørings Hus (Engineer’s Hall) near the National Theatre. There were some encore performances from the talent show, including a “deja vù” rendition of Deja Vù Cafe, a song written by an American student in honor of the Blindern cafeteria. A man from Zimbabwe came on stage, somewhat nervous and said, “There are two things I hate, meeting people and leaving.” There were singing groups made up of people of different nationalities...

The woman president acknowledged the cultural, political, social and sports committees and listed all the events they had organized... Polish, German films; Argentinean, Indian cultural programs; discussions on topics like “Women’s Rights Around the World.”

Still, there was a special feeling during the last week. There was a bonding with the students in class with whom I experienced six weeks of learning Norwegian. But, also with teachers, administrators and staff that made up our community. Maybe exams had something to do with it. I studied for the oral exam with Shayna from the United States and Denisa from Slovakia. During the pauses in class, Denisa would sometimes go and buy chocolate. When I signed her directory/yearbook at the farewell party, I teased her about her chocolate aholism. (Who could blame her with Freia chocolate available?)

We had assigned seats in class. On my left was a woman from Estonia; to my right was Beatriz, and to her right was Erica. Beatriz was from Spain, but had spent many summers in England, so she spoke English with a very British accent. She was married to an American and they had moved from New York to Oslo because her husband got a job with Den Norske Bank. During pauses in class, we would often talk...
An Afghan woman commuted two hours to class from her home outside Oslo. She asked me to sign her directory/yearbook. There were two Japanese women in the class. They didn’t know each other before they came, but sat next to each other for the whole course. When they would try to talk Norwegian to me, they would talk so fast it would surprise me and I couldn’t understand. We would always laugh...One of them and Denisa were the two women with whom I had trouble communicating on the first day of the Intermediate class and now...

Some of us knew about each other’s goals and reasons for learning Norwegian. So our lives in a way became intertwined. It will be interesting if we ever find out how we did....In the class, there were four Americans, two Czechs, two Japanese, two Spaniards, one Dutch, one Austrian, one Belgian, one Canadian, one Afghan, one German and one Estonian.

I grew to appreciate and respect Audun even more during the last few days...Audun wanted us to talk Norwegian. For example, he broke us into pairs to talk about what we did on the weekend. We laughed in class. David, from Ohio State, may never forget his birthday in 1992 because Audun taught us to sing Happy Birthday in Norwegian and brought in cookies. He was available after class for questions..
He was patient and interested in the students...

Another unique aspect of the ISS was that the students ranged in age from 20s-60s. There was some intergenerational mingling...

10:11 p.m.
Wow, it’s really over now! ... The place was emptying out of people; some people were coming back because of the SAS strike. How strange closing down and partings can be. The mail baskets were taken down. No more announcements on the bulletin boards. The reception area was set up for check out.

The school allowed people to stay through the weekend at 165 NoK per person per night, without food, to accommodate different travel plans.... There are several people hanging around. It’s eerie because there is virtually no one on the floor. There is no staff on duty.

As difficult as parting can be, this was one of the nicest days we spent here certainly the most relaxing. It helped add perspective to this experience. Despite some regrets, it is a teary good bye. There is no way to meet every single person at the summer school. So you hold onto the memories and experiences of the people you did get to meet, even if it was for a few minutes at a meal some weeks ago.

There were enough people around today that we knew, either staying or on the way out, that we could spend time with. Then there were people we met for the first time. In one of the ironies, I never met the Israelis, but met some Palestinians. And I found that some of the nicest people were the German students, notably Matthias and Astrid from Mannheim...We had our picture taken with them at the party last night and they gave us a ride back in their car. This morning there were hugs...

Students, most faculty, administrators and staff were so nice and it was evident today...I sat on the steps and talked to Mike, the sportswriter from Minnesota and a couple of others. I had a picture taken (for me) of me with the two women receptionists, Kari and Inger (who helped us with our Norwegian homework, answered the phone and gave me change for the pay phone); the night watchman, who was Yugoslavian and had come to ISS for 37 straight summers and would let me know about the availability of the Herald Tribune; Kaare, a law student who worked in the administration office and always had a pleasant smile; my classmate, Shayna, from Miami, and my teacher Audun.
... In the afternoon, after Alice and I returned from shopping, I sat on the steps and wrote the last post cards. I talked to a man from Bangladesh and a Palestinian woman. It was a beautiful day, warm, similar to when we came. It was also ironic that we were the last to arrive, so we didn’t see everyone arrive. Now, we were one of the last to leave and watched all the taxis arrive; the luggage in the courtyard; the good byes; the hugs and the departures toward everyone’s hjemmebaner (home bases, home places).

We joined a group that was going to a vegetarian restaurant, Krishna, at Majorstua for dinner ...Twelve people walked over to the restaurant (about 20 minutes) and six others met us there for a total of 18...
It was still very early about 6:30 when we got back... Erica (from Vancouver, BC) came out ready to depart. It was her birthday and she was being picked up by Norwegian relatives. We said our good byes...

Astri, the house mother, had her car all packed up. She hugged us good bye and wished us luck...

Later, Sultan (from Moscow) came out ready to leave. He was leaving with a man from Azerbaijan, who gave Alice and the other women flowers. Sultan insisted, “...we must write...continue to be friends.” He is impressed that I am a journalist, who could be a contact for him to publish some of his material (he is an ethnographer). For the last couple of weeks, he had been saying what a wonderful person I am. Then we had a picture taken of Alice, myself, Sultan, another man from Moscow and someone we didn’t know. Who would’ve thought a couple of years ago this could happen?

Earlier in the day, Angel from Bulgaria gave Alice a tape of Bulgarian folk music, something we had discussed when we met the first time on the second night.... As we sat on the steps, he returned from sentrum (Center City). We went over to return the tape. Angel said she could keep it. “Perhaps we’ll see each other again,” he said.

We had disagreed on some issues, but it didn’t mean we weren’t friends.

We spent most of the rest of the evening talking to Kaare.

Alice took a picture of me with a man from South Africa, Kaare (Norway), a woman from Switzerland, Matthias’ friend, the woman from Würzburg and her friend (Germany). We were holding the flowers the Azerbaijanian man had given out....

8 August 1992
...Parting is also a time of saying “Time to go home.” To think of a person who must face going home to Croatia is mind boggling. What is going through their minds? Maybe I’ll see some of these people again, then maybe not. Perhaps, I’ll be spending a lot of money on international postage.

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