Settling into a new city and completely foreign (urban! European!) lifestyle has made for a fast-paced and enjoyably exhausting first week in Norway. A week ago we left Boston packed to the gills: two bike boxes, two ski bags, a couple large duffels of clothing and backpacks. A day later we found ourselves in our new home, a little apartment in the Bislett neighborhood of Oslo. It couldn't be any more opposite from our home in Vermont-- which is to say, it is perfect: bustling with people, a coop grocery store a stones throw away, a cafe on the corner, and busses whizzing past. Different, sure, but exactly what we came for. A fresh, exhilarating and challenging new perspective on life and work.
Knowing us, it's probably not surprising that our vehicle of choice for acquainting ourselves with our new neighborhood is bicycle. One thing we immediately noticed about Oslo is the incredible bike lanes, as life in this city so obviously revolves around a shared passion for the outdoors. Cyclists, runners and skiers enjoy easy access to recreational opportunities right here in downtown Oslo as well as a short train ride (like, 10 min) to the outskirts of the city where the real magic begins. So the bikes emerged from their boxes and were assembled in no time.
A 1,200 km network of gravel roads (cars are not allowed) weaves around countless lakes just a short ride from our apartment. We rode 55km yesterday and just scratched the surface. Additionally, huts serving waffles and other treats are scattered throughout the forest. And much of the area is lit and groomed for nordic skiing in the winter. How did we land here, again?
I am continually reminded how lucky I am to have this travel (er, well, life) companion. We've been able to explore three separate regions of Oslo given Tyler's knack for piecing together heat map data and loading rides onto his Garmin, helping us avoid high traffic areas and weave bike paths together with an ease that would otherwise be utterly impossible to new-comers.
Additionally, a public transportation ticket allows you to visit several islands in the inner Oslo Fjord. We visited Hovdoya, Lindoya, and Langoyene.
While this first week in Oslo has certainly been filled with lots of play, I am anxious to begin my real work as a Fulbright grantee. Collecting resources for workshops and beginning to schedule school visits has put that familiar fire back in my belly. Honestly, I wonder every July if it will come again, this yearning to return to the classroom. And this year, knowing I will not be returning to my teaching job, I was wondering where and when I'd start to feel that excitement for the first day of school, for new faces and lessons. Well, I think its here. Tomorrow begins a few days of orientation, both here in Oslo and an overnight in Halden at the Centre for Foreign Language in Education. Having the opportunity to collaborate with new colleagues and learn more about the education system I will be working in this year are the top priorities for the days ahead, and I am ready.
Today I took a day trip to Fredrikstad, a well-preserved, fortified town about an hours train ride south of Oslo. I travelled with Brie, another American Fulbright grantee, and as we strolled back to the train station at the end of our day, we found ourselves overcome with gratitude for this rare opportunity to do such unique work for a year. In just a week I can tell that this country is something unlike anywhere I've visited or lived. In these peoples' stewardship for the land and progressive attitudes I see reflections of my home state of Vermont. But in the fullness of their contentment, how it seems to transcend occupation and stage of life, this initial impression leaves me with so many new questions.
And so it's time to go to work as a Roving Scholar in American Studies. What does that mean? I'll be visiting schools in diverse communities across Norway for the entire school year. I'll be teaching my workshops and engaging in professional development with Norwegian educators. If schools are the heart of communities, I want to experience the entire pulmonary system, starting at the source.
And yet, I feel the weight of my responsibility at this time when my country is shining a light into some of the darkest places I teach about. Yes, I am certainly filled with uneasiness and my heart aches as I prep and read, watch and listen; as I re-work, re-read, re-think and re-read some more.
But for the values that led me to this profession, for the reasons I can stand up in front of my American students and tell them "In no other country on earth can you..." I am eager to begin roving. American is so much more than it's government, and certainly more than any administration. I am honored to represent my homeland and my profession, maybe at this time in history more than ever, as we sift through our distinctly American past and struggle, again and again, and then some more, toward The Dream of e pluribus unum.