Earlier this year, my husband and I left our home in North Carolina to spend 10 weeks volunteering in Stavanger, Norway. Stavanger is the fourth largest city in Norway, and its location on a peninsula on the southwestern coast with proximity to the North Sea has made it the center for Norway’s prosperous offshore oil industry.
This was our second visit to Norway—our first extended visit lasted 12 weeks in 2019. Although my paternal grandparents, Sigurd and Bertha Nygaard Wallem, grew up in southwest Norway, they immigrated to the United States in the early part of the 20th century, and until that 2019 visit, I had never had an opportunity to visit the land whose culture shaped my American family. After interacting deeply with Norwegians and experiencing their culture for six months split between these two extended stays, I’ve found myself surprised and delighted by many aspects of this beautiful Scandinavian country. Here are seven characteristics I especially appreciate about my ancestral homeland.
Northwest Africa’s Mauritania often struck me as a true fly-over state, when I flew over it on my way home from greener parts of the continent. Despite my interest in people and places, from the cockpit of the private aviation planes I pilot, nothing I could see down below in Mauritania attracted me. Rather, looking below, I was all the more glad for sufficient fuel on board to continue to Western Sahara or Morocco or maybe even the Canary Islands. Every time I crossed it, the country tidily became an uncompelling memory as soon as I exited Mauritanian airspace.
But that all changed after it became one of my destinations.
Most motorcycle rallies take place in summer and fall, and I’ve been to my fair share of them, from Sturgis to the National Bikers Roundup to local events. Each one is unique, creating its own culture, reflected in the attendees, location, and associated activities. Yet there are also generally crossover points that make them feel more similar than different.
The first annual Black Wall Street Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, though, stood out from amongst all the others I’ve attended. The May 13-14 event consisted of two days of music, vendors, motorcycle competitions, historical tours, and cultural experiences within the historic Black Wall Street area of Tulsa’s Greenwood District.
When I saw Mohammad pick sprigs of an herb from among the rocks, I knew we’d be stopping for tea soon. We had been climbing the mountain behind his flock of goats for an hour and a half, with just two brief stops so far. When we reached a bald outcrop of rock overlooking the canyons and mountains of Jordan’s Dana Biosphere Reserve, I sank down cross-legged, tucking my skirt beneath me.
I hadn’t even stepped inside yet but had already declared Barcelona’s Sagrada Família my new favorite place in the world.
From the stony stations of the cross built into the façade on one side, to the splashes of color in just the right places all over the exterior, to dripping, stony incarnations of gingerbread house icing, to engraved names here and there of characters in the Bible stories the building tells—it was all magnificent. It was a storybook come to life.
“Mum, are we nearly there?” we whine for the five-hundredth time. A tired car, and an even more tired dad, turns off the main road and attacks the last leg of the journey along narrower and narrower high-hedged country lanes down to the familiar holiday home on the rugged coastline of England’s Cornwall.
Third-culture kids—non-Senegalese teenagers growing up in Senegal—aim their lenses around their city, transporting us into the scenes of Senegal they know as high school students in Dakar, the capital of this West African country.