In the spirit of ending chapters in order to start new ones, here’s a post I never posted. It’s from October or Novermber last year, clearly before the election got me down (let’s be honest, that’s one of the reasons I couldn’t bring myself to write for so long), and before I started to have any sense of myself as someone who might actually be able to blend in in Scandinavia. I’m in Norway now, at an international summer school where people are from all over the world. It’s the most diverse group of people I’ve ever been with, which is saying something. And despite what the following post says, I actually feel a little bit scandinavian, at least some of the time. I can read all the signs, I can read the newspaper, I know more or less how much money I’m spending when I buy things in kroner, and I’m past the point where it feels weird that people in this part of the world seem so afraid of strangers when they’re in public places. I’ll leave the intro at that. Here’s Katherine in Denmark in October:
This week, I’ve laughed. Mostly at my own expense, because no matter how hard I try to convince myself and others that I know what I’m doing here, I have no idea what I’m doing.
I laughed on Monday because I didn’t go outside even once because the world is too scary.
I laughed on Tuesday morning because I thought for over an hour that there was a strong possibility I had written down the wrong country for class that day, not just the wrong classroom number.
I laughed on Tuesday night because I admitted out loud that Hvad er klokken? (What time is it) and Jeg kan ikke tale arabisk (I don’t speak arabic) really aren’t very useful phrases when you’re just trying to make friends.
I laughed on Wednesday because I biked around for an hour looking for one of the biggest train stations in the city before realizing I had passed by it three times. I should add now, months later, that I was looking for that station because I wanted to apply for a job, and when I couldn’t find it I ended up going to a movie by myself, because if you can’t earn money, why not spend some?
And it’s only Thursday morning, but I have this feeling I’ll be laughing tonight when I have a beer in my hand to watch the debate that everyone is already talking about on my social media.
I’m glad that I’m laughing, because a week ago I couldn’t. A week ago I was still hoping I could blend in. A week ago I hadn’t worn my new (to me, thanks Madita) bright orange jacket that screams I wear colors! I am not from here! yet in public.
I wish I could laugh more about things like this in the United States. It’s easier to make excuses for myself here because when you can ask people if they speak a certain language but not for the list of languages they speak, it’s hard to argue that it’s not funny.
I’m pretty sure that the reason I didn’t post this back when I wrote it is that I was a little bit afraid to admit all of these things, especially to the people in Denmark I was meeting and starting to be friends with. It’s pretty hard to admit failure, even if you’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t sound like you think you’re failing. In retrospect, all of these things actually are pretty funny. In just a couple months, I’ll be moving to Seattle. I probably won’t have the same language issues, but I don’t think anyone should be surprised if I end up making a fool of myself some other way.