One difference between our life here in Norway as opposed to the other places we’ve lived abroad is the abudance of expats who live around us. In Crimmitschau, if I heard someone speaking English in the grocery store, I would turn around and see someone from the team. In Tilburg, just an hour from the bustling international city of Amsterdam, there was nary a North American to be found on your average day. But Oslo, being the capital city of the country and the center of their oil and IT business sectors, has a strong international presense in addition to the standard tourism.
Lucky for me, I’ve found a small group of literary minded Anglophiles with whom I can meet once a month to discuss one of my favorite topics…books! Apparently, within the expat community in Oslo, there are other book groups. Ours consists of only women and is, allegedly. the high brow book club. Which, I guess, means we talk excessively about the ‘Twilight’ series, but don’t officially name it the book of the month.
On Monday we met at lovely Cassandra’s apartment, an American girl who loves and married a Norwegian boy, where she served us pizza and wine and cookies and veggies with dip. We discussed colonialism, moral relativism, the state of present day Nigeria, the way Africa is viewed in the wider world, and our overall feelings and opinions on the distinct style of prose in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’
Before, during, and after our discussion of the book, we discussed many other things. And there, my readers, you have the beauty of what can happen when you put a group of intelligent women, from different backgrounds, in the midst of a common experience. Engaging, interesting, hilarious conversation, and some literature for good measure. We talked about online dating, engagement rings, H1N1, favorite Christmas foods, Norwegian cultural anomolies, the worst ways to be dumped, our awkward teenage years and how to smuggle a bridal bouquet through customs. I literally laughed until I cried. Twice. Talking about how lonely it can feel to be the foreigner in a foreign country is best done when you don’t feel lonely or foreign at all.
Next month we’ll be reading ‘The Geography of Bliss’ by Eric Weiner, which I’ve already heard great reviews of, and I’m looking forward to both the great read and the next meeting. I hope to continue conversations, find new topics, and further strengthen my relationships with people who don’t know about and, frankly, don’t need to care about ice hockey.
I don’t want to diminish the importance of the friends I am making (and have made) through the team directly. Without them I would have been lost and lonely, explaining this lifestyle to anyone who doesn’t live it is nearly impossible and hockey friends are invaluable because they understand without any need for explanation. But sometimes having not only the geography our life but also our entire social network revolving around Dave’s job can be a bit depressing. Sure, the true and lasting friendships that I have developed and carried on beyond the length of the season are only a credit to the work and love put in by my friends and I. But the truth is that, for the most part, my only connection to the world we create annually is Dave and hockey.
The book club is something that’s mine. My own. I leave the house, get on the train, then the tram and sometimes the bus on my own (and at night!) to meet people Dave doesn’t know, to talk about things he may not be interested in, with people who don’t know me as his wife. To them I’m an American, a social worker, a dog lover, a runner, a vegetarian, who has a husband somewhere out there. I couldn’t be prouder to have Dave as my husband, but I’m so glad that they don’t really need to know anything about him in order to want to get to know me.
For this to seem like such a feat coming from a feminist who planned (plans?) on conquering the world with her own might could be considered a bit sad. But I prefer to see it as me having the fortune to be able to make my own way in the world while simultaneously supporting the dream of someone I love infinitely. I see it as a luxury that, as it stands now, my job is a side dish and exploring the world is the main course. I read books, regardless of the club, and now I have an outlet for my thoughts and feelings, on books and life. It can’t get much better than that.