Threat or warning?

I always joke about how I don't make threats; I warn. That's because I don't believe in idle threats. I think if you threaten somebody, you should also mean to carry the threat out. So I may as well warn. It's a bit weird to write the above, because I'm a relatively harmless person. But let me give you my own little contribution to #metoo and the time when I had to issue a threat-warning.

Folks think Norway does things so much better when it comes to sexual equality, but there have been and are jerks and abusers here, too. And a lively debate about it, complete with derailing and strawmen. The men I know are good men, men I can trust. I have not attracted the worst of them, and I consider myself extremely lucky.

Then there's the co-worker who one day put his hand solidly on my rump as I was passing by his cubicle. I cannot remember how I reacted. I have a temper and I may well have given him a death-glare. Or just kept moving. Not that he cared. His had a big, self-satisfied grin.

A couple of weeks later, he did it again. This time, I whirled around on him. I know I used my death-glare and matching tone of voice, too. To his self-satisfied grinning face I told him that if he ever did that again, I'd go straight to HR.

To my surprise, his smiling face collapsed in shock, then fear, and he backed away, back into his cubicle.

I was surprised, because I didn't know if HR could help, and I wasn't expecting 161 cm me to intimidate all of 188 cm of him (he was more than a head taller than me, for you non-metric folk).

But I would have done it. I would have gone to HR, and maybe my conviction was what sold it. I still felt safe at work, I still felt I would be heard. I would carry out my threat.

He never touched me again.

With the #metoo movement and the discussion about sexual harassment, I have often wondered why my co-worker backed down instantly. My theory is, he wasn't expecting me to get angry. Because when I read about how women react, they typically have my first reaction. The one where we aren't sure what happened, and we don't want to provoke a larger, stronger man further. We try to defuse rather than defend. But getting angry is a natural and justified reaction. And so we have #metoo.

To my fellow sisters out there: I wish you empowerment, I wish you faith in yourself, and I wish you a death-glare that will serve as an excellent warning.

 

Daily prompt: Warning

Oaths and passports

I have been to the US embassy in Norway only twice. The first time was when I was 13, and had to say an oath in front of some embassy officer in order to get my passport renewed, seeing as how I was living in a foreign country. I remember my first passport, probably lost in a move, and I assume I'll remember my last, currently on its way to the Department of State in Washington, D.C.

My first experience at a US embassy was why I was expecting an office and a massive desk and flags all over when I went in for my renunciation appointment. Instead, I got a typical waiting room, and numbered windows, and some magazines to read while waiting. Basically travel magazines about the US in Norwegian.

I remember getting my first passport. Or parts of getting it. Sometimes, being a child is a lot like being a dog: The grown-ups stuff you in a car (or plane or bus or whatever), maybe first it involves dressing differently than usual, then you go somewhere else, and you don't know why but you go along because you're loyal and you love these humans. And then you find yourself having your picture taken—8 years old, long blonde hair held back with a headband, showing off your widow's peak, your eyes looking slightly off camera and a wee smirk on your face because you're clueless and they just told you not to smile—and then you get a passport and that almost-smirking black-and-white photo with the stupid headband follows you for the next 5 years, making you pray and hope that the next photo will look better.

I sure as hell didn't wear a headband the second time!

I also messed up the oath. I'm not clear on why we went to the embassy, Grandma, Grandpa and I, but we did. (Just doing that dog thing again.) While there, we had to swear allegiance to the US again. I guess it was something like this:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[2]

I don't remember the military part. I do remember tripping over some unfamiliar words, the officer looking a bit concerned, and Grandma quickly saying I meant to be an American citizen even if I didn't understand all the words, I nodded agreement, and so I got my passport renewed.

You should see me now, Grandma!

I swore a different oath on December 3 2017, during the ceremony for new Norwegian citizens. It wasn't terribly formal, though most dressed up. I could invite two people and did, but they couldn't sit with me during the program. There were songs, speeches, restless children running around, and then they called us all up in a group (last names starting with A through M), and then called out each person and gave us a handshake and a book. It was not an obligatory ceremony, just a nice little gesture to us newbies. They served coffee and cake afterwards.

The oath ("troskapsløftet") I read out loud that day reads:

Som norsk statsborger lover jeg troskap til mitt land Norge og det norske samfunnet og jeg støtter demokratiet og menneskerettighetene og vil respektere landets lover.

Yes, that's one sentence. My translation:

"As a Norwegian citizen I swear allegiance to my country Norway and  Norwegian society and I support democracy and human rights and will respect the country's laws."

I take this latest oath seriously.

I also hope that the US and Norway never stop being allies.

Renunciation Day

As the man said, as he took my signed papers, when I finally get notification that the Department of State has approved my renunciation in a couple of months' time, the date on all the paperwork will say January 30, 2018. My renunciation day.

All the having to be my own travel agent, map reader, logistician and accountant aside, the big moment was the US embassy itself. I reread a good description of the renunciation process itself before I left home,  and the part about the physical visit to a US diplomatic post was very helpful. I was (as is my habit) confused by where to stand, but a guard called to me and got me in the right place. He was Norwegian. I had to empty all my pockets, put my purse, watch, and belt in a small bin, and switch off my cell phone. I got a number, almost like getting a coat check ticket. Then I went to the sign that said "Wait here" and waited there.

All of this was outdoors, in front of the guard hut or security forehouse or whatever they call it. You can see pictures of it here. Now you know which door me and my bin went through first.

I was called in, handed my bin, and was told by another Norwegian guard to walk slowly through the metal detector. After that I got to select items to bring in with me (I chose wallet, passports, glasses, some papers), and then it was back outdoors for a few steps to the rear of the embassy building itself.

We were two who had appointments at the same time, and nobody acknowledged that I had taken a queue ticket so I was second. When it was my turn no more than 5 minutes later, the Norwegian at the window told me he'd get my caseworker.

It was "Miss Fox" this and "Miss Fox" that. Also, they had American-style drinking fountains in there. (I did not use the bathroom so cannot tell you if the water level in the toilet was US swimming pool deep-end standard. That's right. Cultural differences extend to toilet bowls.)

The caseworker at the window was an American*, and asked me to first go pay at the cashier's window next to her. "How will you be paying, Miss Fox?" said the nice young lady there. "Credit card," I said, and put it in the little metal tray under the glass divider between us. "Oh, uh, I don't know the word in English, but…" "Skal vi ta det på norsk?" I asked. Yes, she too was a Norwegian. I had forgotten to change the "regionsperre" (that was the word she couldn't translate on the fly) on my credit card.

So back out to the guard pavilion, get my purse, stand there and start the cell phone, log in to my bank and change the settings for my credit card to be allowed used in North America—because, duh, you're in the US when you're at the embassy—switched off the phone, put it back in my purse, put my purse back in the bin. And in the most Norwegian way, five guards were loitering around, talking about whatever while I was doing that. In Norwegian. Slow day at work.

I went back to the cashier's window. Whereupon she charged me USD 2,350. Yes, over two thousand dollars to renunciate.

Then back to window 4 where the lady there made me reread all the documents (DS-4080, DS-4081 and an information sheet) and since I'd filled them out, they were still correct, but now a man's name from the embassy had been added. Something that started with J.

Then it was wait until my actual case worker was available. The guy ahead of me was ahead of me in room 6, too.

Room 6 was window 6, but with walls and a door surrounding the two chairs in front of the glass divider with the metal tray.

Mr. J (I assume) was also an American, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Just there to walk me through this.

After a few initial questions, it was on to the documents. Did I agree? Did I understand? Yes.

"Sign this. And the copy."

I could feel my insides shaking. I took a deep breath to steady my hand so my signature would match what I had on the passport. My US passport, brand new just a year ago, never used.

Mr. J had my passport. He compared the signatures.

Another document. Did I agree? Did I understand? Yes. More taking a deep breath. More signing, first one, then the copy.

I found myself wondering if I was doing the right thing. There's always that niggle, the second-guessing, the desire to not make the irrevocable so final, to have a choice, a way out, a way back.

Mr J wanted to know if I would share why I was renouncing. I told him I'd spent 44 of my 57 years on this planet in Norway and I knew I wasn't leaving. He was amazingly non-committal in his response but not unfriendly.

The final document was the actual swearing part. Mr. J made me read it out loud. It did start with "I, Keera Ann Fox, etc." because I'd typed that part in before submitting the forms back on January 2. It's form DS-4080, "Oath/Affirmation of Renunciation of Nationality of United States".

The first part was just personalia, confirming my identity and such, but reading it aloud also reminded me of my very American past, and my niggling doubt had become more keen as I got to the oath part itself on the page:

I desire and hereby make a formal renunciation of my U.S. nationality, as provided by section 349(a)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, as amended, and pursuant thereto, I hereby absolutely and entirely renounce my United States nationality together with all rights and privileges and all duties and allegiance and fidelity thereunto pertaining. I make this renunciation intentionally, voluntarily, and of my own free will, free of any duress or undue influence.

But as I starting saying the third sentence, something shifted. By the end of that sentence, I was sure my decision to give up this citizenship, to become wholly and only a Norwegian citizen, is the right one for me.

I signed the oath, too, in duplicate.

It'll take a couple of months before I hear from the Department of State via the embassy. They will most likely approve my request and issue me my "Certificate of Loss of Nationality of the United States". (Which I have read I should always bring with me when traveling to the US in future.)

There will be no follow-up meeting. Everything will be done via e-mail.

***

I left Mr. J. and the American water fountains. Back to the security cabin to retrieve my bin and my other worldly goods. I told the guards what my errand had been. The most talkative one was from Tromsø. We quipped back and forth about Bergen, its less than stellar soccer team, the problem with Drammen (he thought it was the worst place in Norway; I have no idea if he's right), and his fondness for snow. He pronounced it "sny" (try to say "snee" with a disgusted sneer or an Elvis lip to approximate that). From what I heard from the others, all the nice embassy guards were from all over Norway. Made them laugh when they questioned what a Los Angeleno was doing in Bergen: "Meh, one west coast city is like another."

And then I handed back my coat check ticket and left.

I took no picture of the embassy. It has never been nor will be my embassy. I was there for just over half an hour. When I left, heading back to the subway to go back into the city center, all I wanted was to go home. Home to Bergen.

And I wanted someone to hug me. Even Mr. J.

Because I got a divorce. I signed the papers. And it does make me cry.

 

*) I know embassies hire natives (that's part of the deal of getting to squat in another country); I was just wondering when I'd encounter an American as I went through all the processes. I was also surprised at how many guards there were.

Dethroning 1964?

We've had one of the wettest and coolest summers ever in Bergen in Norway this year—rainy enough to have us wondering if we will break a record. The current record for the most rain in one summer is from 1964. That's the record we're trying to break this year. Actually, we've been very against breaking the record, but once we got to mid-August after a wet and miserable "summer", we all thought "Oh, whatever, may as well go for broke".

I know about the rain in 1964. In 1964, my grandpa ordered a Mercedes 190 D with a diesel engine direct from the factory in Stuttgart, painted in a shade of blue picked out by my grandma. He took my grandma with him to Europe to pick the car up and they drove it around in Germany and then up into Sweden, all the way up to Kiruna (I assume). There they put the car (and themselves) on a train and went to Narvik in Norway. (There is still no road between Kiruna and Narvik.)

From Narvik they made their way down to Bergen and visited relatives. While on the coast of the Osterfjord, visiting the farm of Mundal Grandpa grew up on and got his name from, my grandparents enjoyed three sunny days. They were told those were the only 3 days of no rain the Bergen region had had that whole summer.

We are not going to break 1964's record, when 810 millimeters (31.89 inches) of rain fell in the months of June, July and August.

As of last Wednesday we were short 75.1 millimeters (2.96 inches), and on Friday the weather gods blessed us with glorious sunshine. I actually broke a sweat on Saturday. Today it has rained heavily, but not enough to dethrone 1964, and the forecast is for no rain the rest of the week.

The weather gods have a very, very wicked sense of humor.

Willy-nilly

I've never eaten at McDonald's as much I have in Norway. Ironically. You'd think I'd be a regular when I lived in California, but no. Meanwhile, in Norway, McDonald's has been vote Best Employer for 2016. If Burger King had moved into my local mall some 20 years ago, I'd be eating Whoppers. But it was a McDonald's, and Quarter Pounders. And I am now admitting my guilty pleasure: I do eat McDonald's stuff often—up to once a week.

One reason is that the place itself fascinates me.

There are five cash registers, but rarely are there lines in front of them. Because the registers move at different paces, and people don't remain at them to wait for their food, people don't line up in front of them. Instead, they hang back in a loose group and wait for an employee to call out "Next customer" (actually, they call "Available register"). Whoever was first (as defined by everyone else literally watching each others back) moves to that register. Because the people waiting for their food and the people waiting for a register tend to stand around willy-nilly on the same part of the floor, people often have to ask if you are waiting in line to order or to get your order. There is no "fast food" in the American sense, i.e. all ready and handed to you while you are still at the register.

The employees are friendly and smiling, and very, very often not Norwegian, and mostly young. If I want to know what ethnicity has moved into my neighborhood lately, a trip to my local McDonald's will reveal all. It delights me to see so many different people, some more fluent in Norwegian than others, all getting along and all giving the same good service. And McDonald's has won Best Employer due to its focus on and promotion of diversity in the workplace, under the motto of being a "good neighbor" in their neighborhood. (Their own comment on this in Norwegian.)

So today, the smiling cashier who represents one of the other 79 ethnicities besides Norwegian that McDonald's has hired, served me while wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Great Place to Work". It's also not a bad place to be a customer.

Daily Prompt: Willy-nilly

Lush

In school we learned that what makes a rain forest a huge and dense forest is, well, the rain. Alaska actually advertises its soggy and mossy pine forests as northern rain forests. I've wondered why Norway doesn't do the same. In the summer, this wet country is as lush as a tropical rain forest. Anywhere from 18 to 24 hours of daylight in the middle of summer and a lot of rain makes everything grow incredibly fast. We don't have the tall, dense canopies of the tropics; our denseness tends to be closer to the ground. But the huge number of trees, the millions of leaves, create a solid green along roads, up mountainsides, across vistas, and around my local pond.

Summer where I live has been cool and wet. Nature seems not to care. The moment the ground thaws and temperatures stay somewhere above 10 C, stuff grows. Norwegians with lawns find themselves a bit frustrated: All the rain makes the lawns grow fast, but all the rain makes it impossible to mow said lawn. What we learned early in school about plants thriving on sunlight and water is never clearer than when looking at the lushness of my local pond.

The combination of blue and green, of water and leaves, is always attractive and calming to humans. Never more so during an undisturbed moment, viewed through thick foliage on a late summer's day.

A lush spot in my local pond, Ortuvann

A lush spot in my local pond, Ortuvann

Heralds

Gulls herald spring for me. They head for open sea during winter, and when the snow disappears from the land in April, they come back and start screeching at each other at 4 am in the morning. I'm one of the few people who can sleep through that racket, so I welcome the noise.  Gulls, in spite of their seemingly huge numbers, have become a protected species in Norway. They've lost their habitat by the ocean, and come into cities to build nests on our office buildings which often have gray gravel on the flat roofs and provide perfect camouflage for baby birds. The roofs of my apartment buildings are black asphalt but the gulls build their bowls of sticks there, too.

Since April, I've seen a gull perched on the corner of the neighboring building every morning, as I go to shut my bedroom window (yes, I have the Norwegian habit of sleeping with an open window). Often the gull starts calling in a voice meant to carry across the Atlantic. I have been aware of gulls on the roof all spring and summer. Until today.

This morning, the bird with a 360 degree of my co-op was a crow. Crows are as big as common gulls but this one seemed even bigger. And with its dark coloring it was a startling contrast to the morning view I've had until now.

I knew it wouldn't be sitting there if the gulls still had flightless young on the roof. The lack of any calling from any gull confirmed that there was nothing to protect from crows (or magpies) any more.

A city girl takes her nature where she finds it, fascinated by and grateful for the life that insists on existing in an urban setting, and delighting in still discovering subtle changes as the days move on.

The hectic growth season of summer is over, heralded by a hooded crow.

Junior update

Junior Gull has been spotted again, in good health and twice as big since last we saw the little one. An adolescent magpie was hanging out on the balcony outside my office window, and an adult gull was quite upset at the corvid's presence. A behavior the gull would have only if it had babies.

Maybe Junior is fine after all?

I assume so. A gull chick twice as big as Junior was when last seen (a week ago) was out on the mossy roof, oblivious to its parent's worry.

So Junior's grown a mile or that's another gull chick.

Whatever. There's a baby out there to watch!

They do blend in with the gravel roofing

They do blend in with the gravel roofing