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What to expect in a foreign land: My Norwegian experience

As I write this article I have mixed emotions. I am so excited to tell you all about my experience in the land of Vikings, and at the same time it is becoming a reality that my time is nigh. Not to worry much, thanks to all these social networks and good internet connection I am positive all the friends I have made are just but a click away.

My journey as FK participant in SAIH started with meeting a great group of people, ranging from medical personnel, to artists and to fellow activists in Johannesburg, South Africa. Of course, (according to many sources at the preparatory course) the main thing that brought us closer was the meals, like we say in my mother tongue, ‘Ukama igasva hunozadziswa nekudya,’ loosely translated to ‘Relationships are cemented by sharing a meal’.

We also had great exchanges in communication workshops: ‘What to expect in a foreign land’, and of course health safety workshops. The week spent with fellow FK Participants was however not a true representation of what I would encounter once I got to Norway.

Norwegian lessons

My colleagues in the office have been great. I got to call everyone by their first name, pretty hard at first but at the end it was all to natural. You could see sometimes that they wished to speak in Norsk during meetings but because they were accommodating, also because they did not have a choice, all meetings and minutes had to be in English for us the FK Participants. The Norsk lessons, which were taught in Norsk by the way, were enough for me to tell people that: ‘Jeg er sulten and Jeg vil slapper av’.

I am entirely grateful for the continuously growing and humorous SAIH team. I have always felt like I was part of the team and it has helped me learn more about SAIH and its other partners across the world. I had great experiences working in the Information and Political team. Now I wish I could say on my CV, ‘I have a one year experience in Social Media activities'. The candy bowl in our office meant to lure other teams to visit us, and the exercises while singing, ‘head and shoulders, knees and toes’ like kindergarten kids - awesome.

Representing Zimbabwe

Most of the days were filled with meetings, planning, monitoring or evaluation, trust me, things are always up to date. The meetings I enjoyed the most were the priority meetings every Monday. These meetings entailed us to present on the work we would be doing for the week. One important point on the agenda was also to brag about the previous weeks’ achievements as an organisation or for an individual. It is with great pleasure that I inform you that I have been bragged about once…or twice. And this just made me want to achieve more in my work.

I kid you not when I tell you most communication has gone back and forth through email to the person literally next to you, in the same office. And this is why maybe most people prefer walking to taking the bus when out of office?

Some of the work involved workshops or presentations with stakeholders like International Students Festival in Trondheim (ISFiT), Worlds Best News. Presentations on SAIH and its partners YETT and ZINASU in Zimbabwe were a hit for me because I understood more and more about these organisations as I took the presentations.

More reading: Surviving student fees in Zimbabwe

It was a little awkward when doing the Operations Days’ Work 2016 presentations because this is how the introduction went about: ‘Hi everyone. My name is Valerie and I am from Zimbabwe. And today I will present to you about Colombia…’ Always felt the high school pupils took time to adjust, but all the same the most important thing was to spread the notion ‘Education for all’.

Funny Norwegian habits

So most of my friends were from the office because Norwegians are ‘shy’ until they have a beer or two. Which is really not a bad thing until you want to go. If you carry the Zimbabwean spirit of bidding farewell to fellow guests, you have to wait for an opportune time to jump into the conversation and speak as fast as you can before someone else starts a more interesting conversation.

The Norwegian parties… mmmm, it is pretty hard to describe how fun it was when you have a group of people sitting and talking until maybe midnight. There is surely no dancing unless one is really under the influence (yes, that is how we knew who had had too much to drink, haha).

I would have loved to comment more about the food served at parties, but I will just say some bread, butter, lemon juice and cold shrimp is a delicacy.

You have to pull off the head, pull off the legs (if you are hard core Norwegian you can first look if there are shrimp eggs...no wasting), pull off the shell and the tail… I am sorry I do not think I can continue with this topic, I only managed to down a few of those until the ‘African’ in me decided that was it.

The shock for me really was seeing lots of people with their dogs (Of course the dogs were on leashes) out and about jogging (even in the winter-poor cold dogs I thought to myself) and on the public transport system. And speaking of winter, did you know that Norwegian babies are made to sleep out in the snow and cold weather? And the parents or guardians actively make them play outside in their penguin-like costumes so that they get used to the snow. Yeah, shocker right, you should have seen my face when a proud mum was narrating this to me, hahaha.

A warm host in a cold land

Of course, there is much more to Norwegians than I have shared, some I cannot recount (for example the ‘nude’ beach, also known as the natural beach) for fear of misrepresenting. Some things you have to see them for yourself to believe.

This has been a great experience, one of the many to follow, and I believe Norway has exposed me to a different culture and way of life that changes my perspectives on how I view everyone. People are different and my motto/meme of the time now is ‘Just because you are right, does not mean I am wrong. You just haven’t seen life from my side’.

Thank you Norge for being a warm host… not literally because it is really cold in Norway, but yes, for being warm and a comfortable place.

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