Next month marks two years since I moved to Stavanger, and as with all anniversaries it necessitates a certain degree of retrospection. Fortunately for anyone reading this, I have a lousy memory when it comes to remembering day to day feelings and emotions and all that sentimental stuff, although I remember every single detail of that time my mum made my sister and I eat fried liver and onions as a punishment for our non-stop bickering. Thank god for the invention of ketchup.
What I CAN remember about moving to Stavanger is that from the beginning, I was excited about making a fresh start in a new country, and particularly the prospect of learning the Norwegian language. It seemed so niche. Like one evening, many, many years from now at something that can only be described as a soirée, I would be sitting across from some terribly learned and posh aristocrat whom I would dazzle and charm with my vast knowledge of the nuances of Nynorsk and Bokmål. I was sure that “På Vei Workbook 1” was just the first step on my path to becoming that sophisticated woman. Oh sure, I was bound to make mistakes and I would maybe even get laughed at, but four years of living in Asia had long since taken away any pride I had in my language ability. Once you have publicly embarrassed yourself by crying all over your Thai teacher’s alphabet chart while wailing, “I’ll never get it, never ,never, never!” , there really isn’t much more to say on the topic of linguistic humiliation. Norwegian would be a breeze in comparison. At the very least I hoped it wouldn’t end in tears.
Upon my arrival in Stavanger, I promised myself that I would take advantage of its proximity to fresh seafood. In reality, this basically involved eating salmon on Wasa crackers, twice a day, for 3 months on end. Why? Because I read in some crappy beauty magazine that it was supposed to give you glowing skin. I was convinced that if I ate enough of it I could undo the damage caused by wearing only baby oil to the beach and smoking far too many Vietnamese old man cigarettes when I lived in Thailand. And because I didn’t yet quite know how to convert Norwegian Kroner into dollars, I had no idea I was practically bankrupting Scottish partner and I every time I went to the supermarket. Ah, those blissful days of innocence.
Something that seems incredibly naive now, I was also hopelessly optimistic about getting a job. And even if that weren’t to happen, I had my blog, I had the gym, and maybe, I mused, I would finally learn to cook- proper gourmet meals made with exotic local delicacies like reindeer and hot dogs. I would host lively dinner parties where my Norwegian friends would exclaim that they have never tasted anything so entirely delicious in their lives, and that I absolutely must give them my recipe for twice baked brunost soufflé with cranberry compote. Then I got a job, and the learn to cook thing went right out the window. Who really needed gourmet cooking anyway when, after a long day at the office, you could come home to a freshly assembled and lovingly selected plate of Wasa crackers and salmon?
And so, in retrospect, my life in Norway now isn’t quite what I imagined it to be back in 2012. Or maybe I am not quite what I imagined myself becoming, but I have little to complain about. I dropped out of A2 level Norwegian classes because I got a job where I speak English all day. The salmon makes an appearance as part of my once a month trip to the sushi restaurant in town-one of the best I have ever been to outside of Japan. Neither “glowy” nor “dewy” are words I would use to describe the current state of my skin, but a good set of bangs conceal a multitude of sins. And the cooking thing? Well, let’s just say that Scottish partner is happy I stay out of the kitchen, a place I clearly don’t belong. And believe me, we both have Stavanger to thank for that.