Archive for June, 2010

From Just Another Tourist In Bergen

Post by Cindy Mom

(Written while on a fjord tour in Bergen on May 30th.)
The contrast of experience is absolutely stunning.  No homecooked food, no inside scoop, no special pass, no keys to locked doors, no one to answer all my questions, no one to tell me the Norwegian names for things.  On this fjord tour boat, I feel like I should be sitting inside, visiting with the captain.  Instead, I’m out on the deck with a bunch of strangers, and we’re all getting in each others’ ways – unlike the graceful group awareness I felt with “my team.” We’re snapping photos of the scenery to which we have no relationship or understanding, and very little information.  I haven’t said more than three words to anyone in hours.  We’re all in our little bubbles, and together we share the larger bubble of our tourist boat.  Although the weather’s perfect and the scenery is fine and the ride is lovely, there’s a certain lack of depth to the experience.

I’m glad I took a couple of extra days after the GSE program, so that I could have some time and space to think, and maybe begin to process what has happened over the last month. Group Study Exchange: there is no comparison to any other experience I’ve ever had in my life. The thing I can’t get out of my head, that continues to bring tears to my eyes, is the thankfulness I feel for having met all the dear hosts, guides, and vocational contacts who took care of us during our stay in Norway. We were welcomed into the homes and lives of these wonderful people.  They rearranged their schedules to spend time with us. We saw their communities and favorite places that they hold sacred.  We spent time with their spouses, kids and grandkids, siblings, and extended families. We met their neighbors and friends.  We cuddled with their pets, looked at their bookshelves, learned about their hobbies and interests (and yes, obsessions, too.) We saw the insides of their refrigerators and under their sinks.  We got to know each other well as we cooked together, did laundry, ran errands, went to the grocery store or the auto shop or picked the kids up from school.  We stayed up late, talking, singing, telling stories, dancing, and yes, sometimes alcohol was involved. We shared our experiences of stressful work situations, injuries and illnesses, worries about aging parents, joys of birthdays and celebrations, and grief (some very fresh, and some not so recent but still terribly painful) over friends and family members who’ve been lost.  Memories of these new friends will be vivid and powerful for years and years.  I just hope some of our Norwegian friends will come visit us in Michigan and Ontario, so we can return some of the splendid hospitality and warmth that they showed us.

Tusen takk, dear friends, and all the Rotary Clubs who made this trip possible.