Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why Norway? Part One.

So let me explain Norway.

Well... the beginnings of my experience with Norway at any rate... and in essence the beginning of this blog.

When I was young I knew little more than my father's side of the family was from Norway. They moved to Canada in the early 1950's... from beautiful Norway to beautiful... umm... vibrant... umm... flat Saskatchewan.

That was really the end of my knowledge.

I always had a pride in the fact that I was half Norwegian... although I never really had any deep reason behind that pride.

When I didn't have a good reason to the things I was questioned on as a kid... That would be a common answer,

"Why are you doing it like that?", I'd be asked.

"Because that's how they do it in Norway!", my ten year old brain lied.

There was never a good reason, but there was always something that identified with it. Definite pride.

The years passed by... and in my early 20's came a time when I was going to do the big European backpacking trip. I didn't have a clue really where I was going or what I was doing... but somewhere in the back of my head I thought, "I have family in Norway!"

My Grandmother, a woman I love dearly, sent me a bunch of old clippings from envelopes with addresses on them. Also notations that only my Grandmother would add... 'This is the cousin of so and so', 'This is my niece and her husband, they are married.' etc etc. It wasn't until later I found a lot of these were likely 20 years old... but that didn't matter in the end.

She also sent a postcard. A postcard from the early 1970's. A postcard of a place called Mundheim.

I packed all these into my backpack... and we were off.

As I said, we didn't know where we were going. We didn't think to warn anyone in advance... We just went.

It was a good three weeks into our adventures when we crossed on a boat from Newcastle, England to Bergen, Norway.

The second I saw the first signs of the coast I was absolutely entranced. It was beautiful. In certain ways it seemed a lot like British Columbia... but you could tell it was very different.

By the time we sailed under the two bridges leading into Bergen harbour I was in absolute awe. For anyone who has seen that city... sailing into the harbour is the most amazing way to get your first memory. You always remember that view.

The boat pulled up to the dock. Eventually we found our way off...

I'll never forget the second my foot touched the ground. I didn't fully understand why... but I knew the feeling. I was home.

We walked from the port to the tourist information centre. I looked in a phone book... I looked up my last name.

There were 20!

This was a big deal. In Canada there are only 7... and I am related to them all.

We went to a phone booth. I called my Grandfather's brother.

I never really knew my Grandfather. He passed on when I was ten. It wasn't until that very moment I realized I had no idea what to expect.

I phoned my Great Uncle Ledvin. He answered.

I tried to explain who I was.

His response, I will never forget... 'No english!'

It was the one time in my life that I was shocked speechless. I hadn't considered that option. Hadn't even slightly considered that. So I'll admit. Begrudgingly I'll admit... I did the obnoxious tourist thing. He doesn't speak my language... Maybe he will if I say it louder.

I said it louder. Amazingly enough. It worked.

"When you come?", he asked.

I said, "An hour."

It took us three hours... wandering through the most beautiful Norwegian country side. Asking directions when people understood us. Just wandering.

Eventually we found it.

I walked down the driveway. There was an old couple waiting by the doorway.

Again, I tried to explain who I was.

He asked, "Son of? Son of?"

It took a minute for my mind to comprehend. A minute to wrap around that thought.

I said my father's name.

Their eyes lit up. They grabbed onto me and hugged me. They brought us into the house.

It was the one time in my life that my father's name has done anything at all for me. It was also the only time it needed to. I came to find myself in Norway. I came to understand my heritage. Find a pride that I had never known or understood before that point.

But I think this entry is long enough as it is... So lets just say,

To be continued...