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?

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”

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