Typically the Notes from the Field column features other diplomats and their life of global adventure, but it can be easy to forget that we’re not the only ones that float around the globe, making our homes in the homes of others. Melissa Dalton-Bradford, blogger behind Melissa Writes of Passage and very recently published author of Global Mom, found herself in this exact lifestyle as a business spouse.
I’m so excited to have her share with us today about her years in Oslo, Norway – she’s a self-described “author, mom, wife, and avoider of things mathematical”, but I think as you read through you’ll realize that she is incredibly funny, incredibly resilient, and if you love the globe, you’ll recognize her as an incredible kindred spirit…From showing up in her red cowboy boots at a Norwegian kindergarten to her candidly tragic admission of what she can’t live without but has to, Melissa’s interview will definitely touch you…And did I mention she’s an amazing soprano?
Melissa also mentions Jante’s Law – something I’ve already been learning a lot about, even after less than a week in Denmark – people aren’t kidding when they say it prevails around here…
I mentioned yesterday that I’m already making a list of places to explore in “the neighborhood” and you can bet that after today, Norway is high on the list! Thank you for sharing Melissa! You can keep up with more of Melissa’s adventures via her book, her Facebook, Twitter and blog!
Diplo-spouse (or other)? Int’l Business-Spouse.
describe Norway: PRICEY, JANTELOVEN* (see below!), PARADISE
pristine, overwhelmingly majestic natural beauty. From jutting fjords to
stretches of steppes to forbidding tundra to vast wildflower fields along banks
of crystal waters, I dare you to find other topography as enticing as this!
visitors in town for the weekend, what does the weekend look
straight to the west coast (by car, but you can take a quickie flight with a
local carrier) to Stavanger so you can then get to Prekestolen (the Preacher’s
Pulpit) for a spectular day-long hike. You must pack lunch, (there are
obviously no eateries along the trek), which you’ll spread out on the granite
table of the Pulpit that juts out of the mountainside like a book of Henrik
Ibsen shoved out of a bookshelf. No
guard rails, not even a florescent painted strip will warn you of the Pulpit’s
edge that overlooks a 600-meter sheer drop into the fjord below.
make it back to Oslo, and then you must be sure to spend the 24 hours enjoying
a boat ride out on Oslofjord (book a refurbished Viking ship if you can),
dinner at any of the trendy eateries at Aker Brygge, get right up close to the
shiny-scaly metal contours of the Opera House, (have time to see a production
of the Norske Oper, even better!) then go to two places: Bygdøy for a special
trio of museums devoted to seafaring and arctic exploration, and then finish
off your day up at Holmenkollen, with the gut-spinning view down the Olympic
ski jump, and dinner at Holmenkollen Hotel’s Fem Stuer, a lusciously massive
interior and staff decked in local finery.
you can travel 20 minutes west of Oslo and eat at Baerums Vertshuset, where
local produce and typical farm interior deliver charm as well as reindeer, elk
steaks and cloud berries.
the boat route that weaves for different groupings of days or weeks in and out
of the western fjords and northern coastline. If you have time, money and an anorak, keep heading northward to get above the Arctic Circle where winter
blackens the skies from October to March, but summer shimmers round the clock
June-July and August.
withstand 6 hours on a hydrofoil, make the effort to visit the startling and
stark Lofoten Islands. (I devote half a
chapter in my book, Global Mom: A Memoir to our visit there. Well, at least to the trip getting out
there, which itself was worth several pages of narration.)
about living in Norway:
By our fifth year living on lovely Nesøya island west of Oslo, the heavy and
dark winters (starting in October and lasting until well into March), I felt my
system going into hibernation already by mid-October. My movements slowed down. My jaw went
slack. My speech slurred. My daytime and nighttime wardrobes — like
dinner and bedtime hours — began merging. Then I understood why people had
memberships to light treatment centers and even sun bathing services.
adventure at post?
unusual, perhaps, for a non-native, but I was able to continue to build my
career as a soprano and musical theater actress my performing with many local
musicians (other vocal soloists, orchestras, jazz bands, choirs) in different
venues. A special thrill was in
performing on national T.V., soling at Holmenkollen Kapell, and in taking the
lead in a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Josef og det Utrolige Farvet
Drømkåpet”. An unforgettable,
exhilarating life experience, not to mention a sweet reward for having taken
the language and culture into my heart.
realize you were far from home?
morning I stood in front of the women (tanter, or aunts) running the
local barnepark (outdoor kindergarten) in my fancy red cowboy boots from Utah,
asking in the best Norwegian I could muster through frozen lips and bracing
against the icy gale if my two children could have dagbarn plasser
(daily admission). And the wonderful women glances me up and down, patiently
taking in my rodeo apparel, unimpressed.
and flimsy thermal vest had been a major hit in New York City!)
to school me on how to outfit myself in ekte vintertøy, (real winter
clothing) which, incidentally, had nothing in common with Western riding garb.
most important thing about re-creating your home at post?
things local. That means getting the sights, smells and sounds of local culture
to seep into our walls, our cells. This means learning the language as best as
possible, a serous undertaking that demands effort and commitment for which the
parents set the example. Our home then
becomes not a retreat or bubble from the local surroundings, but a receptacle
of what we love about that place.
always take our huge Norwegian langbord (table) with us, wherever we
roam. Its massive pine-ness features
centrally, in fact, in my book.
you can’t live without at post?
children, my laptop.
thought you couldn’t live without but have had to?
who lost his life tragically and in an act of heroism at age 18, and during the
very week we had made (another) major international move.
the polar opposite of what I did in Paris, which begins with shoes made
for pioneering (not prettiness), and continues upward with everything
Patagonia-NorthFace-Timberland-Columbia-Eddie Bauer. And finished with an unwashed ponytail.
guests over on Saturday night, what’s on the menu?
of raw shrimp and crab you’ve picked up on the warf at Aker Brygge, or at
Sandvika’s fishmongers’. To these mounds of shellfish you add lof
(perfect white loafs of bread), mayo, sprigs of fresh dill, and dishes with
lemon water for rinsing your fingers. You skin each shrimp and pick apart each
crab right at the table with your fingers, suck the raw eggs out of the tail of
the shrimp (a rite of passage), and heap them on slices of lof. If
you’re feeling extravagant, you can throw together a salad of local grown
lettuces and blåbaer (blueberries), or multer, which are local
cloudberries. A big cold mug of paere Mozell, and you have entered
Or Rome. Or Shanghai.
gracefulness, safety, superlative international schools. And I want to learn
people, heartiness of spirit, coziness of the local university community. And I want to learn Polish.
funghi, mozzarella de buffala, scrappiness and passion. And I want to learn Italian. (beyond the
rudiments of la cucina).
history, Asia, diversity. And I’d like to keep up my Mandarin.
wished someone had told you before arriving?
be some “assignment.” It will be a life-altering, trajectory-guiding,
family-shaping concept that, 20 years later, you’ll appreciate as the
incredibly tender gift it continues to be.
explained. I write about it extensively in Global Mom: A Memoir.
creed governing a fictional village (Jante) created by Danish/Norwegian author
Aksel Sandemose in his novel, En flygtning krysder sit spor (A Refugee Crosses
His Tracks). In this work, the author satirizes the Scandinavian effort to
reinforce egalitarianism by squelching ambition and discouraging originality.
your own blog, what are three of your own favorite posts?
Velkommen til Lofoten
our family living across 8 countries, 16 address, 15 school systems, and 5
languages. Tales of all that is gained, and much that is lost – including
tragically – fill this memoir’s pages. It’s a must-read for expatriate families.
Braestrup, NYT best-selling author:
could have been a memoir about loss, and a mother’s grief. It would have been
natural and understandable, given that her son, Parker Bradford, died suddenly
and unexpectedly at the age of eighteen. Any parent brave enough to try to
imagine that loss would have forgiven Melissa Dalton Bradford for being unable
to write from any other point of view than that of sorrow. Moreover, I
have no doubt that book would also have been worth reading, since Melissa
Dalton-Bradford writes very well. Instead, here is a rich, frank and
funny book in which the essentials of family and friendship and community are
combined with interesting travelogue and the best kind of spiritual writing. In
short, this is a book about love.”
Caliguiri, Ph.D., author o Cultural Agility, and D’More-McKim Distinguished
Professor of International Business and Strategy at Northeastern University:
hero’s journey highlighting the challenges and triumphs of motherhood under
unique cross-cultural circumstances.With honesty, sensitivity an humor,
Dalton-Bradford is a role model for all parents.”