Well, welcome to my first blog post from the great ol’ UK. I finally got my laptop the other day and picked myself out a place with free wifi and here we are. I have a backlog of entries to post. Here’s the first one I wrote in my notebook.
No longer than twenty four hours outside of the country and I already wished I were something other than American.
I sat by the most delightful Norwegian woman on my second flight from New York to Amsterdam. She was older with gray hair and a subtle beard and mustache. A sign to me of someone who grew up before vanity took a hold of her culture (if it did, even, I’m not sure) through the form of the media. She wore a green plaid dress and tights and though she spoke fluently in one of the Norwegian languages with her husband and friend, she knew to switch immediately to English when she addressed me. We chatted for a good hour or two on the flight and she explained that her husband, her and her friends had gone to a conference just two hours away from my hometown in Illinois where my sister went to college. She was a speaker there about something I couldn’t quite understand for her profession which also slipped right past me in her charming accent.
As expected to my delight and dismay she spoke English incredibly well, despite it not being a language of Norway. What surprised me more was that her son had told her that her pronunciation was not up to par. And of course this shamed me, even though I am bilingual, being an interpreter and all. I am embarrassed to know that American culture has so impacted the world that one must learn English to succeed, and that even someone as fluent as she is not “up to par.”
When we were having lunch she pointed to the symbol on the cheese wrapper that said “no hormones” and commented that she had never seen such a thing before. My immediate reaction was one of surprise and assumed ignorance of the food industry. Thank goodness she quickly spoke, silencing all my assumptions by saying that in Norway no hormones are used on animals that will be consumed by humans. In fact, it’s illegal. I knew Norway to be a bit of heaven anyway, but this made it all the better.
And the way she said it made the idea of feeding such things to humans inconceivable. I was fascinated, pleased-and jealous. I quickly asked about GMO. She wasn’t even familiar with the acronym until I expanded it. She said that GMO was not used but was not yet illegal. She said that Norwegians like to sit and think and then maybe they’ll decide. They don’t necessarily like to hurry and jump on the band wagon. But the way she said “sit and think” was said with a bit of humility.
After conversations we both fell into a hard sleep. It was 7 hour plane ride-red eye. I awoke to a call to the lavatory and a call to breakfast. A muffin, a suspiciously small banana and orange juice. It wasn’t too bad considering all the horrifying stories I’ve heard of airplane food. And I was happy to eat.
After the sleep stupor wore off we chatted for the final 45 minutes of the flight, about when our next flights were, where we were going, the like. Before we left she told me a few Norwegian jokes. One in particular was about a town off the coast of Norway that used to be a hub for immigrating to the United States of America. The punch line was that anyone still left in the town was too slow or too stupid to get on the boat. I laughed at the punchline but I can’t help but think that no, in fact they were probably much smarter than the joke let on.