Posts Tagged With: Travelling

New Country, Who Dis?

IMG_1108

It’s been over a week. I have been busy. Well… to be a little more honest, i have been VERY busy with being absolutely not busy at all. The wifey and i have made a bit of a pact that we shall be deliberately doing as little as possible for the first week here. Mainly so we can shuck off the jet lag.

Which isn’t working by the way. So let’s just start there shall we?

You get on the plane at 7PM in Chicago. Which, by the way, is a fricking zoo. It’s an apocalyptic zoo. Sort of like walking into a music festival where you hate all the musicians playing…. and everyone is a vampire in a bad mood. Or a Werewolf with mange. In our case, we sort of bustled to the nearest bar, had a seat and had a few. This is part of my flying routine. Generally, i am so absolutely stressed by travel (and particularly leaving the comfort of my home Butt Groove) that pounding back two (no more than two) vodka cranberries before a flight helps to steady the nerves. Why no more than two? Because you might get a wee bit tipsy and you don’t want to give them any excuse not to let you on the plane.

I was excited by the prospect of an open lane in my seats on the plane. It has happened on this trip before – particularly if your seat is towards the back of the plane. I ALWAYS take the back of the plane. It might be a bit smellier, the seats are tiny, BUT the further back you are, the closer you are to the bathroom and the less fear you have of getting locked into your seat when the service carts start moving. AND the more likely it will be that there may be open, unclaimed seats. I have personally witnessed one intrepid traveller on a larger flight sprawl out in the center aisle seats. I have also had a row to myself once. If you haven’t travelled much, know this – that having a row to yourself is absolute bliss.

Unlike this flight.

Remember the mangy werewolves i mentioned? Well… one ended up sitting right next to me. Here i thought i hit the jackpot and had the row to myself again but at the last minute it filled up – one incel writer type in a tweed jacket that he did not take off despite the canned and sweltering air and another… well… mangy werewolf is the best description. There was just something… off… about that guy: shaved head, sketchy darting eyes, blotchy. He was the fellow right next to me. He climbed into his seat which is basically the reverse of being born, sat down and sacked out before the plane even left the earth and stayed that way until it touched down.

Now you might say ‘oh gee, you lucked out’. Which is not the case. Because, as it happens, folks who sack out that hard and that consistently on an international flight are aberrations from the depths of hell. And they tend to flop. And flail. And the fellow did both. Often. Right on top of me. I’m in coach, of course, so there is precious little space to begin with but having a 250 lb man snooze closer and closer eats up what little space you have rather quickly and i couldn’t exactly create more without actually opening the window.

Anyway… Back to the jet lag.

The thing of it is, you’re not just flying east by seven hours. You’re also flying north. This makes a huge difference. While Oslo is not the land of the midnight sun, it’s close enough that you can smell it. So not only is your body off by seven hours when you land, but you’ve also just experienced the shortest night ever AND the light, when you land, is all sorts of wrong. We landed in Reykjavik at 7 am. It felt like 3 PM. And that displacement would only get more pronounced the further west we travelled.

Unlike, Chicago O’Hare, Gardermoen Airport in Oslo is a paragon of grace and beauty. They have an actual Munch painting right there in the long, wide, parquetted concourse. The space inside the terminal is nothing short of glorious. Angelic. I swear, if it weren’t for the general subdued noise echoing off of natural wood interiors, you might hear a choir of angels sing or Handels Messiah playing as you make your way to arrivals. It’s literally the prettiest airport i have ever seen in my life, a fact made all the more precious by the fact that it is well run, well organized, and actually makes some sort of rational sense.

Norway is part of the Schengen area – a set of european countries that have abolished the need for passports at entry. This means that once you pass through customs at Keflavik in Iceland, you are done with the customs process. And passing through customs at Iceland is USUALLY a licketty split process. This was the first and only time there was a bit of a wait. It might have had something to do with travelling on a saturday. But either way, there is nothing much to do at Gardermoen except take your leisurely time getting through the gloriousness of the airport -maybe enjoy the view of the distant mountains outside the concourse windows. Then you collect your bags. There is no glowering TSA agent waiting for you to hand in your little slip of paper or check your Fast Pass. There is a door that says ‘nothing to declare’ and that’s it. Go through that door and you’re out. (Unless, of course, you have something to declare.)

By now it is 11 AM. And i am temporally displaced in the extreme. Because the arrivals area of Gardermoen is so well ordered it actually FEELS like a nice quiet sunday morning. I grabbed my bags and headed out to the pick up area which, again, is busier than i have ever seen it. Which is to say it’s 300 times LESS busy than O’Hare on an off day. It’s quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful. Not much to do but take in clean air and watch pigeons and magpies battle each other for scraps of fresh baked bread from the various kiosks in the arrivals area. And smoke. I’m a vaper. So i vape. Ten hours of flying has turned me into a chimney.

Ordinarily, at Gardermoen, you’d simply hang a right through the ‘nothing to declare’ door, head to the Flytoget (Plane Train) kiosk and get a ticket into Oslo. That’s what i did every other time i’ve been through and that’s why Gardermoen is like an airport for silent monks. There is no need for the hustle and bustle of absurdity that is the pick up for every other airport i’ve been to. You simply get your bags, get a ticket, get on the rather sumptuous plane train, and whisk your way quickly to Sentrum. This time, my wife’s parent’s picked us up.

So now i am here. Home. It took me about 48 hours to remember the homeyness of it. I still missed my butt groove. But one walk to the grocery store from our apartment and it was like putting on an old pair of jeans. Lilacs dripping down from fresh green lanes, people meandering along the roadways, the quiet peace of the neighborhood.

Oslo, or at least my current section of it, is what i would have imagined had i had the tools to imagine it. It’s what i would have built if i knew how to build it. It’s quiet, but there is some sort of odd reverence to it’s quietness that doesn’t feel enforced. It’s not… well… demanded… but respected in some way. As though there is an agreement among everyone that this is how it should be – the tiny little lanes, the footpaths that meander into woods, the way the rock of the fjord and mountains jutt through and are worked around. It’s as though elves live here or something – determined to preserve as much of the natural beauty of the place as they can while still building around it. I love the rock protruding from peoples lawns, the miniscule forested areas with their little paths. I love the outside seating areas around every bar or restaurant – the seats covered in sheeps wool, empty wine glasses still sitting on the table.

And despite the undeniable comfort of my relinquished American Butt Groove, there is nothing so wonderful as this place and my home. Even as i write this, my tiny but unbelievably fierce part Norwegian Forest Cat, Spoon is staring at me. It’s cool. It rained this morning. And it’s quiet. I may still have absolutely no idea what time it is, but in this moment i don’t care. It’s enough to be here. To be building a new butt groove. To be home.

There are homes we are born to, and no matter how hard we try we will never fully escape them. That’s what America was built on: memories of homes we left – ethnic festivals, cuisine from the home country. It’s why lutefisk is served in Minnesota. It’s why we have a Polish fest in Milwaukee (and Irish Fest, and Italian Fest). These places are always a part of you and will be forever. Even longer, in fact, than you are part of them yourself. They live on in families, in traditions, in stories and you pass them on generationally. But there are also the homes you build, the ones you find, the ones who creep up on you unexpectedly and maul you with their promise of peace and light and life. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough that you have both and they’re the same place. But sometimes it’s all you can do to drag yourself from one to the other, reluctantly, painfully, inexorably. It’s hard pulling yourself from one to the other – particularly when they’re so far apart – but it’s worth it if you let it. If you learn to leave off the resistance and just love the space you find yourself in.

Home is where you make it. I choose to make it here.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Tired, Poor, Huddled Mass is Yeeting…

img_0572.jpg

Hold on to your hats because this is a big one. I have no idea how to actually tackle a topic as vast as this except to leap straight into it. It will likely be a series. Or something. Cuz there’s a lot to say.

Starting with the basics – A couple of years ago – 2016 to be precise – i met a fine lass online in a group i was adminning. It was a writers group. For writers. And we met and hit it off. That gal lived in Norway. Oslo, specifically, a country and a city that i hadn’t ever really intended to visit. It seemed nice in pictures and stuff but i am a homebody. One of those folks who dreamt listlessly of travel, but subsided within a life that really should NOT have been comfortable, but was. It’s weird how that works. You get used to things not being ideal and the non-ideal becomes the comfortable and then, by some sort of crappy metamorphosis, the ideal.

Well, it took a little pushing, a little prodding, and a little nudging as well as a bank account that was finally amenable and… to make a long story short, i went out to visit this gal in May of 2017 – for my birthday.

The visit was a little more than a week long. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome and i figured that was a good amount of time to see how we clicked without either of us getting too much in each other’s face or anything. We clicked pretty well.

It turns out, really well. On the second to last day before i was supposed to head home to America, she proposed. Yep. SHE did. We both laugh about it now because we’d both tried to mentally prepare ourselves to head off just that sort of silliness. I mean… we might be fiction writers, but that’s one of those things you hear about in romance novels. I think that moment caught us both by surprise. In fact, i know it did. She said it and i accepted it. Just like that. In spite of both of our respective brains stating uncategorically that such a thing could not, should not happen. That it was basically bonkers.

But then again, we’re a little accustomed to bonkers.

The question of WHERE we would then settle was… well… settled almost instantly. Due to medical complications, there was no way i would permit my betrothed to reside in the medical hellscape that is the United States. Even with a decent job and health care, it would be a recipe for bankruptcy. Her care and medication would have us being permanent residents of the poor house unless – by some miracle – we won the lottery or i suddenly became an amazing best selling author (a feat which could only be accomplished by me actually completing any number of the 3 dozen open projects i had working at the time)

This brings us to the REAL point of this blog…

I’m immigrating.

To freaking NORWAY.

Now, i’m sure i will likely use these pages to blather on relentlessly about the wonders of Norway and Oslo specifically. I’ve been there a bunch of times now and i absolutely love it. But there’s more. There is the unusually frought – emotionally – concept of BEING AN IMMIGRANT which provides a unique perspective on that experience that i never thought i would actually have.

See… we’ve now ACTUALLY BEEN MARRIED for a year and a half. We were married in December of 2017. And since that time we’ve managed to be together for a few months here and a month there. Intermittent and sporadic moments of togetherness that are great for the first week or so, but then take on more and more notes of omen as the time grows increasingly short. It’s a crappy way to live – always bordering on the one foot reluctantly out the door, trying to cram as much living into the time we have together and otherwise relying on the capriciousness of an unstable internet service for things like Skype and watching shows together on Rabbit. There’s a seven hour time difference, so one or the other of us is constantly existing on fumes of energy. But we’ve been making it work. Ish. Uncomfortably and with difficulty, but it’s been working.

So i will be filing my paperwork to get a permanent residence visa in a week or two. I will be there, with her, in a few days and right now she’s here in Wisconsin. So that’s good.

But i would be lying if i said it’s all rosy and wonderful. And i know i bounced around this issue a lot over the preceding paragraphs but…

NOTHING ABOUT THIS IS EASY.

Honestly, the easiest shit to deal with is the technical stuff – the Visa and all that. That’s a matter of filling out forms, doing stuff. There’s a list. You check it off. You do your best and get it done like it’s a job. It’s the other stuff. The mental stuff. The ‘HOLY SHIT THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING’ stuff. The uncomfortable recognition that you are leaving the only home you’ve ever known. That you will be thousands of miles from everyone you know. That you are leaving a lifetime of stuff behind. That you – at 45 years old – are leaving a lifetime behind and starting with a very terrifying slate so clean you could mistake it for a plate and eat off of it.

It is fucking terrifying.

So… here, in all its yawning Cthulhu-esque glory, is a categorical list of the utter and complete brain freak out that is currently occuring behind my calm veneer:

  • Jesus Shit Holy Fuck I’m TOTALLY ass broke and can’t afford to do this.
  • I need one pair of jeans and a pair of hiking pants
  • how am i going to get all this shit into my luggage
  • how am i going to afford the metro pass
  • how am i going to find a job
  • where am i going to find a job
  • job
  • job
  • job
  • crap can’t even work for months while my visa is processing
  • job
  • money
  • job
  • money
  • what if they don’t let me in
  • what if they think we’re lying for me to immigrate and don’t believe we’re married
  • How the hell did people do this when the trip took five months by boat
  • How did people do this with only pen and paper as communication tools
  • What’s going to happen to my friends without me
  • What’s going to happen to my family without me
  • Is everyone going to be okay without me
  • Is my leaving the dumbest thing i’ve ever done in my life?
  • Is my leaving the smartest thing i’ve ever done in my life?
  • It feels like the smartest thing.
  • But what about my poor cat? When will i be able to bring her over?
  • Why is my country so stupid as to force people out rather than figure out how to help them live?
  • Why is my country so stupid?
  • Oh crap. Norway. That’s right next to Russia. What if they invade?
  • Why is it so damned hard to learn the language?
  • Will i fit in okay?
  • What if i don’t fit in okay?
  • What if i can’t find friends?
  • Where will i find friends?
  • How do i find friends when i haven’t been very good at it before?
  • You’re 45. People don’t start over at 45. They start planning their own funerals. They slog the rest of their way through a dreary life and then die grateful that it’s over.
  • Is my anxiety going to settle down when you get there?
  • Is my anxiety ever going to settle down?
  • OMG this is so wonderful and i can’t believe i’m starting over at 45!
  • She’s the wonderfullest ever and this is all totally worth it.

This is not a complete list, mind you. At any given moment there are 81 flavors of panic going through my brain and i don’t have to even get on a leaking, sinking life raft and cross an ocean to do it. All i have to do is get on a plane and FOR A CHANGE i will actually be getting on a plane WITH MY WIFE. No more leaving her at the airport – i hope. But that doesn’t mean i’m not in perpetual panic mode.

Immigrating IS NOT FUCKING EASY. And i’m doing it the easiest way possible. And we’re doing it the legal – totally above board – way. But don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is not a decision anyone takes lightly. I would like to stay. I would like to stick around my friends, my family, have the life that i thought i would. I would like to build our lives here, together, with my people and everything i’ve always known. And in the days leading up to the grand adventure i find myself staring constantly at the familiar things knowing that it may be a while before i see them again.

No one does this lightly. People don’t leave their home because they are happy. They leave because they must. Because they believe there is something better and they can see glimpses of being happier. And because, regardless of HOW FUCKING HARD IT IS – WHATEVER comes is better than what is.

I’m not crossing a border or an ocean. I’m getting on a plane with the papers necessary to hopefully get me a permanent residence visa. In a few years time, i hope to apply for citizenship. But even so, with all of that, with doing it the ‘right way’ i still know a little – maybe just a tiny little – bit of what those people are going through. I’ve seen it in my own heart and my own head. It’s absolutely terrifying, but somehow the terror of risking is better than the terror of not risking.

And she’s totally worth it.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.