I’m remembering my trip last summer to Norway and Spain. Here’s a couple of things that struck me. I went to Spain to attend the Malaga Classica Chamber Music Festival via Trondheim. I’ve been hearing about the programing of Malaga Clasica for several years from friends in the US. I was delighted to have been invited by the founders of the Festival, Jesus and Anna, to attend the 4-day musical feast as their guest. More about Spain in another post !
Let me explain about my pre-occupation with Norway, having been there more than a half dozen times over the years: I have dear friends who are like family there. One of the luckiest accidents of my family’s history was the arrival of Elin-Therese, aged 19 who came to live with us for the year in 1998. Soon after she arrived it became apparent that she was a kind, patient, and witty young woman with wisdom far beyond her years. Not only did she become a seamless addition to our family, she would remain a calm and steady rock with whom we weathered some very difficult family challenges. When she returned to Norway to launch her career and start her own family, we remained close through visits on both sides of the Atlantic. Although I don’t speak Norwegian, I have enjoyed many trips there for family occasions: her wedding, the birth of her children and vacations together at Tone and Stein’s Swedish hytte. I also lived in Oslo for several months with my two sons aged 18 months 6 years old. I’ve been very fortunate to feel a deep connection to Norway through ET, and marvel each time I visit at many of the uniquely humane qualities that seem to permeate their culture. I feel lucky often about the fact that I have discovered the following: It just goes to show: it’s not true that you can’t choose your family:
Here’s some thoughts from when I arrived there last summer:
When I arrived we were joking about the features that have brought Norway into the world’s eyes recently for having been declared in 2017, the country with the highest level of happiness in the world. It is interesting to note that the human factors supporting happiness are: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.
Since I arrived I’ve been observing the small and big ways i’ve noticed that “caring” is manifested in the society. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg but here’s a list:
- When a child misbehaves in school, a team of social workers is sent in to support the parents, the child, and the teachers. They are all worked with closely for 5 weeks to determine if the child’s behavior is the result of a family problem, the teacher, students, or the child’s mental health. Through a trained counselor, all are given the opportunity to be heard and helped to support the family. All at no cost and for as long as the family feels it is needed.
- Wheelchairs can be attached to bicycles here, so I see Bronze skinned, smiling….elder folk cycled around in the sunshine along the roads to the fjords. It’s a beautiful sight. There is a very high priority placed on being in the sun during the light months and on everyone having access to recreation and fresh air, even the wheel chair bound.
- The work day is generally from 8-4pm. They are very hard working and consider the responsibility of being present with family to be AS important as the development of a career.
- I am ever struck by the extraordinary level of english I encounter everywhere I go. A political discussion with the cab driver, the gal I buy my coffee from, the fish monger in the grocery store, the janitor in the school. They speak with incredible fluency, using slang and colloquialisms and making jokes all along the way… How in the world does ANY country teach a foreign language this thoroughly?
- In the winter: one day a week is spent completely OUTSIDE regardless of snow, rain sleet or cold!!!! I asked ET if she ever gets complaints from her kids about having to have school outside on a cold day: “What?? It’s their favorite day of the week.” “Don’t they complain about being cold?” “No, of course not, she says. They wear proper clothes so of course they are not cold outside…..” Whadya think? Is this why they win the most medals at the winter olympics or is it why they are again considered the happiest country in the world????