< Patience Nyange, Nairobi – Kenya
When I got a mail from African Press International asking me to write about my stay in Norway, I went blank. This is because I tend to imagine I have so much to write about concerning my 16 months stay in Norway, the land of the Vikings.
I went to Norway as an exchange participant under a journalistic program funded by Fredskorpset Norway, FK. I was selected to represent Association of Media Women in Kenya, AMWIK where I have been a member for the last 4 years. In Norway, I worked for two organizations, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK, where I did English features for Jungeltelegraphen, a weekly show broadcasted on NRKs P2. I worked with the show hosts, Sigbjorn Nedlad and Arne Berg, my two great colleagues, who came to Kenya, just two month after my return home. “You know we miss you so much and your absence is highly felt in our office” said Sigbjorn. I totally believe him. NRK Kristiansand is very special to me. I miss it and Sigbjorn remains the greatest boss I have ever had this far.
I also worked for Gimlekollen School of Journalism, and Communication, GSJC in Kristiansand where I worked as a teaching assistant. Here, I had specific assignment, to teach the communication students concerning media, politics, lifestyle and generally more about Kenya. I loved every bit of this teaching experience; it gave me a chance to learn more about the education dynamics that exists between Kenya and Norway.
Now, I am sure you are asking, so how was life in Norway, Europe. I have to mention that, given another chance, I will gladly do it again. Initially my program was meant to be 11 months. I left Nairobi, Kenya for Norway in July 2010 and I was expected back in Kenya in July 2011. That did not happen. Instead, I went back to Kenya in early July for a month’s holiday and went back to Norway. This is simply because, after my one year stay, I got a six months extension together with my colleague from Uganda, Annete Muwanga whom we shared an apartment, both of us being in the same program.
My life in Norway, seems like a dream. I wake up in the morning and I am not so sure if I spent all that time in Norway. Our two bosses in Norway, Pamela Melhus and Sigbjorn Nedland of NRK definitely did all they could do to ensure that we spent more time in Norway. It is very important to mention that we did great job at NRK as well as at the Media School. Life moves so fast and all I have with me are memories in my head and memories in form of the many photos I took while in Norway. I realized I have over 20,000 photos that I took during my stay in Norway. I have many videos too. I have done a back up of all my photos because most of these memories to keep.
As I left Kenya for Norway, no one told me anything about Norway and Norwegians apart from the fact that many Kenyans were worried for me, telling me how racists Norwegians are. On my part, all I knew was, Norway is a cold country with cold people. “Please carry very warm clothes, it rains and snows almost all year round,” advised a Kenyan friend who visited Norway in Winter.
I must say, that was a lie. One of the greatest memory and opportunity for me was to be able to experience the four weather seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. I had read about the seasons during my geography classes in my primary and high school life. In Kenya, we have tropical climate, therefore, we do not experience these four seasons. Getting to experience this first hand, was quite something. During winter, the last thing I ever wanted to do was to leave my bed. I was scared of falling on the ice, I longed for the sun, I hated the long hours of darkness and I clearly did suffer winter depression. At one time, I longed to go back home, it was too much for me. I finally changed my attitude towards it and enjoyed making snow balls and went for skiing with my friends, at least four times before the winter was over.
I loved the spring and summer. To be able to see the trees come back to life after a long winter season, to be able to see the snow disappeared and behold, there came the green environment, it was spectacular. I enjoyed being outdoors and the last thing I ever wanted to do was go get back into the house. I loved spending my days by the sea during summer time with my friends, to experience the midnight sun, to barbecue, to go for biking expeditions and nature walks, it was splendid.
Getting to know and living with Norwegians was not a bed of roses. I was forewarned, “Patience, you have to go out and make friends, Norwegians do not care looking for anyone, that’s just how they are”. Said my former colleague from Uganda. This scared me. Here I was, with no one to call a friend, in this country that was so far away from my beloved home, where I left my lovely family, relatives and friends. Then I consoled myself, “I am here for a short while, I will make the best of my time here, friends or no friends, I will maximize my time in Norway.
I am a very outgoing person, very talkative and very open-minded. These traits helped me get along quite easily and within a short period of time, I had more friends than I could handle. “In Norway, friends are hard to come by, but once you make friends, be assured you have lifetime friends,” remarked a Norwegian friend.
I made friends at NRK, GSJC, in church, Misjonhuset in Kristiansand, which is an international church, so I met people from different parts of Europe as well as different parts of Africa. By January, I had made many Norwegian friends and we were doing lots of travelling together. We travelled to Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Germany and many different cities of Norway, Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo, Arendal ,just to mention but a few. I bought souvenirs from all these places, therefore, I still have great memories when I look at each of them.
Norwegians, are funny people. Their cold nature shows mostly during the winter seasons, I guess most suffer winter depression just like I did. I would meet them today at party in town, chat with them and imagine we are now friends. This is how we do it in Kenya. But in Norway, I would meet the same people two or three days later and trust me, they will behave like they had never seen me before. This was a bit boring for me. This is the country I spent 6 months without knowing my first neighbours. It troubled me. When I asked my Norwegian friends about it, they laughed. “Why do you really want to know about your neighbours?” Asked Solveig Omland. My reply was, “In Kenya, we always tend to keep in touch with our neighbours, they are always our first call in case of emergencies. I justified my interest. “If that is why you want to know about your neighbours, the best thing to do is to save the Police number. In case we have a problem, the first people we contact is the police, not our neighbours.” There came the reply and that served as the end to my quest of knowing who my neighbours were. Many a times, I experienced lots of cultural clashes with the Norwegians. Talk of Rødruss, the celebration by the Highschool students upon finishing their course work. Why do people take a whole month party time when they haven’t done their exams yet, incredible? Trekant, the explicit TV show that showed on NRK P2, that was one show that will never show in Kenya, at least not when I am still alive.
Then, there was something that I finally got used to. It was the discussion about the weather. I realized that weather as a topic always formed a huge part in any discussion. We rarely do that in Kenya. I always wondered, why will these Norwegians ask me about my take on the weather and yet they never bother asking me about my welfare? At least this is how we are oriented in Kenya.That aside, I loved all the Norwegians that I interacted with. On returning home, many people ask me if I was discriminated against, mistreated or looked down upon during my tenure in Norway, but my answer has been, “That never happened, never.” Many people do not believe this, but the truth is, I think I was extremely lucky. I meet people I could call mum, father, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, friends plus my bosses were extremely good.
As I packed my belongings to come back home in December last year, I spent weeks of crying. I had made another family in Norway and saying goodbye is always a challenge for me. I was in dilemma. I really longed to be back home, join my family and clear my masters degree which I had differed on my last semester. But, part of me really wanted to stay longer. I broke down all the time I had to make a goodbye speech. Together with my friends at Kristiansand, we organized a farewell party which also served as my birthday party, a day before I left and again, I broke down. The reality had finally dawned on me, I was going back home, to the land where I belonged. Within me was a deep conviction, “My country Kenya needs me more that Norway.” I therefore chose to come back home and I am loving my stay. Norway remains my second home and my promise to all my friends in Norway, “ God willing, I will visit home, at least once a year and they are all welcome to visit me in Kenya anytime.”