When we moved back to the U.S. for last season, we let go of some of our favorite things about Europe for some comforts of home. We exchanged more exotic cheeses for an abundance of sharp cheddar. We exchanged a cereal section that consists of four types of muesli for an entire aisle of delicious crunchiness. We exchanged another year of unknowns and new languages and a bit of loneliness for the comfort of place we’ve lived happily before. And it all worked out brilliantly. Until it was over.
Because we don’t know if we’ll have the chance again, we’ve exchanged the cheddar for the Jarlsberg and the amazing cereal selection for the muesli and the comfort of a place we know for somewhere new. And it feels just as good to be exchanging this way as it did the other way. We find ourselves happy wherever we are. As long as there is cheese.
Being back here does bring, however, that bit of loneliness I mentioned before. In addition to not knowing anyone here before we arrived, there is that additional feeling of isolation that you can’t help but feel when you don’t understand the language. Even though nearly everyone here speaks English quite well, there is still that barrier to complete comprehension. When in a group of Norwegians they, naturally, tend to transition back to Norwegian when they aren’t addressing you directly, and you kind of feel a bit disconnected from the whole of the conversation…although a bit of wine can help that. When you turn on the T.V. for background noise, the very foreign sounds of a foreign language tend to get annoying rather than soothing. When people pass you on the path and say something to your dogs, you don’t know what it is, so you just nod and smile knowing that may be the completely wrong reaction for their question/statement/request.
So despite that the fact that feeling lonely is only a tiny part of life abroad, it’s important to find ways to combat those feelings so they don’t have a chance to grow bigger. And yesterday, while the men were away in battle, I took refuge in two by spending time with two things that I truly love: books and a Midwestern girl.
On a glorious sunny day, Blair Curley Bostrom and I headed to the main branch of the Oslo public library to get our library cards and find ourselves some books in ENGLISH! It was amazingly easy to get the card, just a passport and a little note in my pocket to remind me of my address. We spent time slowly going up and down the section with books in English, reading the spines, touching the books, weighing our choices. I love libraries under any circumstance, but when I’ve already torn through the three books I packed and can’t bring myself to buy the overpriced English books in the bookstore, the library is like an oasis in the desert. An oasis that smells like dust and sounds like learning. We emerged victorious, books in our bags ready to take on the world.
The rest of the day was spent wandering, with our only real goal being to stumble upon a Subway (success!), and discovering some cute cafés, a giant cruise ship and an amazing fortress overlooking the harbor. I when I got my tired feet and my sore back on the subway to return home, I didn’t feel quite as lonely among the foreign language and the surrounding strangers. Curled up on the couch with a book and my dogs, I spent the rest of the night feeling a little closer to home.