Trip Start Jul 15, 2007
197Trip End Jul 16, 2008
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Tonight Jack had his own crisis of homesickness. Mike, one of Jack's best friends, is celebrating his birthday today. Most of Jack's other friends from school came to the party, and Jack was heartbroken not to be there. Tears, frustration, need for lots of mommy time.
We gave the kids the choice of where to eat, and being in Norway, home of the world's freshest fish, as well as great cheeses and terrific beer, they chose Italian. (We are definitely getting smoked fish as soon as we get to Montalcino, though.) At Pasta Central, a student hangout near the fish market, we got big plates of pasta, decent pizzas, and one $8 beer.
But the real treat of the evening was the discovery of...Americans! Even better, a very nice family from New Jersey, and better still, with two of the three wearing football jerseys -- Charlie age 7 wearing Alec's favorite player, Wayne Rooney of Manchester United, and Billy age 10 wearing a Juventus jersey. Plus daughter Ellie age 11, so Katharine had an older girl to talk to. After initial shyness, the combined force of American kids took over the playroom in the back, inventing a noisy and dangerous game of kickball/cricket (played with Legos as both bats and balls) that drove two nice little Norwegian girls crying from the room.
Later we went for gelato with our new friends. Having the chance to talk English with kids their own age was a huge release for our kids. Nice for Amy and me, too, having a chance to compare notes with other Yanks on the challenges of paying for a trip to Norway at a time when the dollar is wastepaper.
As Jim mentioned, spending a few hours with an incredibly lovely family from New Jersey was wonderful, and the timing could not have been better. Jack had spent several hours begging to spend his life savings on a plane ticket home for Mike's party and was pretty inconsolable. Playing with Billy and Charlie was the best antidote. Mom Jana, who is an economist by training teaching in the Women's Studies department at Rutgers, was fascinating. Her research overlaps with many of my interests regarding the relationship between empowering women and improving global health. She has also found a nice family/work balance, and it was great to spend time with her. I would love to keep in touch over the coming years.
That said, I have found the Norwegian people to be wonderfully friendly. People on the street would stop to ask if we needed directions and would smile at the children frequently. One conversation in particular that struck me was with our cab driver from the airport. He told us that he had to work additional hours that month to cover absent employees, and doing so would mean that his tax rate would be increased, leading to less take-home pay. He said in this way, the government encourages balance; working too much is penalized financially.