Summer Is …

June 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Although technically speaking we have not reached summer season yet, we have had such gloriously sunny and warm days that it does feel like it. With a 18C water temperature at our local beach and 25C in the air, this is probably as good as it gets!! Then i can confidently say that summer is:

Picking up bouquets of wildflowers ….

Getting ready for wild strawberry season …

Outdoor eating …

and summer is also allergy season …

The Criminalization of Poverty

May 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

  There is a debate going on in Norway, particularly in Oslo, about what to do or rather not to do with Romani people. The discourse raging in the media goes more or less along these lines: Romani people come to Norway as beggars organized or not by human trafficking gangs, eat, sleep and defecate in the streets, and lately demand, supported by local actors, that the state should provide a minimum of service to them (like public bathrooms or a roof to sleep). Their presence in the streets either increases criminality or is plainly annoying. People interviewed think that either they should get a job (and not just beg for money), or they think that giving a couple of coins “is not going to solve the problem”. In conclusion, politicians have felt some sort of pressure to do something and in the city of Oslo they have recently introduced a law that prohibits setting up a tent or sleeping in public zones like parks or other green areas. Although this prohibition is mainly targeted towards Romani people camping in public areas, it also affects other groups like drug addicts and homeless who also happen to sleep in the streets.

The introduction, or rather the expansion of this prohibition, has also stormed a lot of criticisms and last night a large group of priests and other people working in humanitarian organizations decided to camp in a public park as a way to show their protest. They demand that if the state is going to penalize outdoor sleeping, they should provide alternatives for those unable to afford a roof. Particularly, it has been argued that there is an ongoing trend to criminalize poverty. Surely there are other ways to deal with beggars or homeless rather than by prohibiting their daily presence in our lives?

The Hope of Spring – Part II

May 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

As I wrote in an earlier post, in these northern latitudes spring comes late. It starts out very timidly with a few flowers here and there which suddenly start popping up all over when they realize that the warmth is here to stay. Usually there are just anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot. They are the ones that are strong enough to make it through a slight layer of snow or a chilly night. I like to think of them as the trailblazers.

However, if you go out for a walk in the woods now, just a couple of weeks later, you can´t decide where to focus your view. There is such an explosion of flowers that is difficult to decide which one is prettier. Adorning the trees, on the ground, close to the streams, nature is hurrying to bloom. The anemones, snowdrops and coltsfoot have drown in an emerging sea of blades and grass, and many other flowers are taking their place. In the area where i live, the indisputable queen of the woods is the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). Although it has not blossomed yet, leafy stems creating large colonies have conquered the underground forest and very soon we´ll have their precious bells enthralling us with their scent!

Lily of the Valley

 

Norway´s National Day

May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

May 17th is the national day of Norway and unlike in many other countries it is a day dedicated to the children. In Venezuela, where i grew up (as well as in many places around the globe), the national day is celebrated with military parades, politicians discourses on the importance of sovereignty or whatever the local issue at hand, and in general, it is an opportunity to take the day off and enjoy the beach, mountain or just plainly relax.

Norway is a bit different. People dress up with the national costumes (or try their best clothes), spring clean their houses, prepare special meals and lots of cakes, and wake up early to attend the local parade and school activities. Children are the focus of attention as they lead the parade (organized by their schools) and traditionally it is the day where they  are allowed eat as much ice cream and hot dogs as they want. Schools and parents prepare raffles, games and sell cakes and food to collect funds. As the weather in Norway is quite unreliable, people start speculating in advance whether that day it´s going to rain or not, how cold it´s going to be compared with previous year and where in the country is going to be warmest (not that it matters much because anyway everyone will try to attend the parade and the activities afterwards rain or not). The whole 17th of May deal is quite a different twist from the usually quite boring military exhibition.

However, complaints have shown up in the newspapers lately about people dropping the 17th of May festivities in order to travel or go to the mountains and not participating in their local parades. In the school that my daughter attends some parents have also mentioned this … Maybe some people are bored of the same activity year after year. Yet, I think that the majority are still quite patriotic in this sense. As a foreigner i do see it as a charming and special way to celebrate your independence. After all is it not the independence of the country the way to provide a different future for the new generations?

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P.S. If you are interested in the subject of how countries celebrate their national days, particularly in Norway, you may want to check this book  “Symbols of Nations and Nationalism: Celebrating Nationhood”

Ornamental Sewers

May 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

Walking around the streets and eventually looking down at your feet, is it not incredible to discover these cast-iron ornamental sewer casings and weave stories about their possible meanings?

Trondheim  Oslo

P.S. The photo to the left was taken in Trondheim (Norway)  while the one to the left in Oslo

Temporarily Out of Reach

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have a friend who took some pictures similar to the ones attached to this post. She then sent them to a friend and was asked whether the pictures were taken in Barbados?? No, this is not a Caribbean hidden gem, but a Norwegian one (Villa Malla, Filtvet). The colors, the sea, the sand, all look perfectly beachy, except that the water temperature at this time of the year is probably around 14C … Oh well, nothing is perfect!

Villa Malla, Filtvet  Filtvet Lighthouse

Paris Mon Amour

May 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

 I was recently in Paris and at an earlier post i wrote about my visit to the Pompidou. Yet some people have asked me why haven´t i written more extensively about the trip? Well, I think that Paris is so fantastic that probably there is no point in discussing about it, but just experiencing it at least once in your life. Yet, I´m writing this post about some experiences with the much-criticized Parisian treatment of tourists …

We all have heard about their arrogance, not to mention their total lack of awareness for the idea: “the costumer is always right”. Countless jokes, stories and comments have circulated around this not-so glorious part of the Parisian tourist adventure-package. To be sure, in this last trip we tasted our own piece of the Parisian reputation several times (much to my dismay). However it only took a brief reminder from my partner, back at home, to realize how forgetful and blind had I been! – “Didn´t you remember about the golden rule when walking into a Parisian restaurant??” – he exclaimed amused. Of course, I had forgotten …

Some time ago, i bought a book about “Edible Adventures in Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier wherein she has a brief chapter about dining tips: “In France, a restaurant is not perceived as a public place so much as the extension of the chef´s or owner´s home (…) Diners are seen as paying guests rather than just customers (…) Waiters feel proprietorial about the restaurant they work in, and want to be sure their value is recognized and appreciated ” (p. 6).  How could i not remember that the very American “the customer is always right“, simply does not fit there.

I don´t like the attitude that because i´m paying i have the right to impose my will. Neither do i like to be massaged or seduced into eating or buying things, yet i do also feel that as a hostess I would love my guests to feel most welcomed and appreciated. Human interaction is always a challenge and like a carefully choreographed dance, it takes a misstep to derail the whole thing. So the next time that i travel to Paris, I´ll keep in the back of my head Dusoulier´s tip. Yet it takes two to tango, so while I´ll walk in as a very respectful paying guest, I´ll be hoping for signs of appreciation at my being there.

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