It’s that time again. The party’s over and we are all trudging back to work after our summer holidays. The kids are resigned to it, the parents look quietly relieved and reasonably rested, and me? Well let’s just say as my first summer in Norway comes to an end, I can’t say I am ready for the finale.
Summer vacation in Stavanger really has borne little resemblance to summer vacation in Canada, with the exception that Norwegians, like Canadians, prefer to do most things outside during the summer months. This is manifested in our intense need to eat every single meal on a patio, balcony or in some sort of garden. Basically, you will find us anywhere we can drink while wearing sunglasses and pitying those who are NOT on a patio. Poor suckers. Of course, my tolerance for sitting outside is drastically reduced when you throw in a temperature of 12 degrees, an Ikea polar blanket and electric heaters. But the sunglasses and the pity are the main criteria for enjoyment. Oh, and the beer.
So it was in this spirit of summer that I decided to take a last minute trip back to my homeland. In early August, I spent a week in Toronto visiting friends and family, dedicated to hitting every patio within city limits. I should mention here that a week back home usually does little for my attitude as an expat, and never has. I generally come back homesick with visions of a cheap, carefree lifestyle of nightly get-togethers and restaurant dinners dancing in my head. Consciously, I know it is ridiculous to make comparisons but realistically, I like buying lots of cheap stuff and being able to afford to go out to a different part of the city ever night with a never ending round of friends and family who are ridiculously excited to see me. Things weren’t exactly like that when I lived in Toronto. Especially the bit about being able to afford stuff.
As I arrived back in Stavanger, it was clear that the aforementioned bad attitude was firmly in place. For the first time since I arrived in Norway over 9 months ago, I started to question whether I really was happy up here.
I rolled back into work, brain and body still in a big city state of mind. Everything in Stavanger was exactly as I had left it a few weeks before. Same buildings, same weather, same old same old. I walked back and forth to work with tunnel vision. Nothing new to see here. The bright lights and big city of Toronto had left me totally tuned out.
It took 4 days for me to see it. A great big banner in the center of town, that in my zombie state, I had been too blind to see.
The event; a festival in Stavanger sentrum in one week’s time, and the headliners, a Norwegian band I, and a good number of my friends in Toronto, would be thrilled to see. Should I mention the fact that they were playing for free? I can only pray my 36% income tax contribution is going towards some more of this.
When I stopped jumping up and down and squealing like a pre-pubescent Belieber, I had to recognize that maybe at the end of the day, life here is not about the non-stop excitement of the big city kind. For all this city has to offer, it will never be London, Houston or Toronto. Up here it’s more about the enjoyment of the everyday, punctuated by moments of unexpected delight. The party of summer may be over, but something tells me that in this town, those perfect moments of summer happiness will never be too far away.