Saturday, June 27, 2009

Norway, Day 6

June 26

I suppose everybody who has maintained a blog or any kind of semi-public writing has run into the problem of how public it should be. On the one hand, you want to write personally in order to really connect with what you're writing about & have your best chance to make it interesting. On the other hand, you want to protect the privacy of those who share your story & also of yourself.

It's been a rather intense week, emotionally, with several personal events impacting my life but at the risk of sounding insipid, I will (for the reasons above) simply tell you about my day.

We headed into Oslo via a combination of buses and subway. The first place we visited was the statue park. The statue park (is that really its proper name?) is such a fantastic place I am amazed that I had never heard of it before. Apparently sculptor Gustav Vigeland was commissioned in the inter-war period to produce a series of statues for a park area near downtown Oslo. He produced a LOT of statues, perhaps a hundred? in bronze and concrete. I am not quite sure what his vision was: maybe he wanted to capture every human emotion or perhaps to portray human life at every stage of the life cycle. Certainly that's what you see on the surface. But there are also some strange sub-themes... I don't really know anything about sculpture but our hosts, Juan & Georgiana, agree that there is also a sort of celebration -- probably innocent -- of nordic-ness or even aryan-ness. The figures are all naked and are posed singly or in pairs, sturdy individuals with very north european features, women with braids. And babies, LOTS of babies! Curiously, it's mostly the men you see with babies. One sculpture is called something like 'man being attacked (or swarmed?) by babies, if that whets your curiousity. But the overall impression was about the power and mystery of emotions... something like that. Or perhaps that was simply the mood that I brought to it.

We spent most of the afternoon just wandering around the downtown, drifting in & out of shops, watching people, walking past the landmark buildings. Oslo has been burned down (mostly by accident) so many times over the years that what we see are mostly the newer (<150 years) buildings.

One can't help notice that, unlike Vigeland's statues, there are a lot of non-aryan people in Oslo. Georgiana says that 38% of the children in Oslo's school are not from Europe. Certainly the Middle Eastern & African residents stand out most but there are also many people from India, Pakistan, and Asia. It's especially interesting because according to Eivind immigration to Norway was essentially unheard of until about 25 years ago. At that time, the Norwegian immigration department (if there was one) allowed in one solitary immigrant from Lebanon (I think) on an experimental basis. But just to be on the safe side, they insisted that he remain in quarantine for a while to be sure that he did not immunulogically threaten the Norwegian people. So he had to live all by himself in some lonely cabin somewhere for a few months before joining the Norwegian milieu! My, how things have changed.

And now my feet are tired & it feels very good to lie down. More tomorrow.

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