Saturday, 26 September 2009

Activity Day

Today our school had an activity day. I haven't participated in such arrangements for ages, and had actually mixed feelings about it. But when we got started, it turned out there was no need to worry. On the contrary. The committee had prepared various fun activities, such as football, volleyball, potato races, darts, barbecuing and lots more.

Me, I ended up playing frisbee with the students. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. For the first time in a long time I was totally careless and happy. For anyone who thinks life seems dead boring and utterly pointless, I really recommend some rounds of frisbee. I promise it'll make them change their minds.

Still, the climax was probably the soccer match between the teachers and the students. Even here I was originally a bit reluctant to participate. After all, I haven't touched a football for twenty years, and traumatic memories of my gym classes reappeared. I was clumsy with the ball back then, and I'm hardly less clumsy now...

Since the teachers' team had problems recruiting players, however, I eventually decided to join in. The result was some rough rounds of good, old meadow football. Extremely exhausting. Extremely fun. And although we lost disastrously, I actually think we played rather well. Our tactics only failed on two points: Our ability to make goals. And our ability to save them.

All in all, I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. This day really was a refreshing change in an everyday life that often tends to be dominated by routine. A reminder of the fact that happiness can often be found in the little things.

(Photos courtesy of Peter at Skd VO)

Saturday, 19 September 2009

UK vs US

Norwegian popular culture has "always" been influenced by the Anglophone cultural sphere, especially the US and the UK. When pop music is concerned, my impression is that these two countries have been more or less equally dominating through the years.

Personally, however, I've always felt much more attached to the British music scene than its Trans-Atlantic counterpart. This may be an after-construction, but I would say that the music I mostly associate with my "musical awakening" (post punk, new wave, and various kinds of indie pop), in 9 out of 10 cases would be British. I wouldn't dream of dissing Devo or the B-52s, but the great majority of post punk bands to which I feel a relationship seem to come from the British Isles.

There may be various reasons for this. One of them might be that Norwegians (or at least I) were more exposed to British than American artists in the early 80s (at least when the genres discussed here are concerned). This may have made me feel more at home within the British cultural sphere later on as well. (The fact that I was a fan of the English indie label 4AD until well into the 90s probably didn't hurt, either...)

Another reason may be the fact that many American bands seem to be more "rockist", hanging on to "authentic" rock ideals (or clich├ęs). And since my personal taste in music is more "anti-rockist", preferring music that's not necessarily a direct result of old skool r&b, I tend to prefer artists promoting a similar attitude. And most of these seem to be British.

Or maybe it's just as simple as the fact that the UK was the first country I ever visited outside Scandinavia, resulting in lots of memorable experiences, such as left-hand driving, double-decker buses and meat pies (not to mention the buxom receptionst Janet at Hotel George, unknowingly giving nine-year-old Torgny his first erotic experience...) The US, however, I first visited as a grown-up, no longer with such an impressionable mind. In any case, the conclusion is that I simply feel more at home in British culture, and not least in British music. Rule Britannia, Britannia rule New Wave!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Meetings and Re-encounters

O, happy days! Berlitz 2005

After a long, relaxing summer it was quite nice returning to my work, colleagues and not least students. I've had my new class for a few weeks now, and it turns out they're a great gang (as always). Some I knew from before, and it was great seeing them again. Others came from other classes, but getting to know new people is also nice.

Actually, it's a bit of a coincidence I ended up just here. Looking back, I've probably been more lucky than I deserve. It all started eight years ago, when I, acting on a sudden impulse, applied for an engagement as a freelance at the private language school Berlitz. The company offers pricey language courses to companies and private individuals (I would never be able to afford my own classes...). Consequently, most of the students are well off European and American business people (primarily Dutch who learn perfect Norwegian just by browsing the text book, and Anglophones who never learn anything no matter what...).

I enjoyed working with this clientele. And since the classes usually were on a one to one basis, I also got rather well versed in the noble art of conversation. In 2004, however, we experienced a rather dramatic change in our clientele, as the public adult education started outsorcing some of their courses in Norwegian for foreigners to private companies, such as Berlitz. As a consequence we suddenly got lots of "culturally distant" students (a horrible word, but great people!).

This was a kind of students with whom I had little experience from before, and the education also became rather different (bigger and more diverse classes...). But it didn't take long before I realized I liked these courses (and students) just as much as clever Dutchmen. Naturally, the cultural differences were bigger than the ones I experienced with my traditional Berlitz students, but at the same time this made it all even more interesting.

This is what made me to go the whole way four years ago, applying for a job as a Norwegian teacher for foreign learners in the public adult education system. The students and colleagues are great, and in addition the administration are of a sound mind. Now that I've even got a permament position, I look forward to an inspiring and stimulating future at Skullerud Adult Education Centre. As I said, I think I've been really lucky.

When we started a new school year three weeks ago I got a pleasant surprise: At Berlitz in 2005 I had the pleasure of teaching a group of particularly clever Latin American beauties. We got really well along - and we've also stayed in touched afterwards. Now it turns out that one of them has decided to resume her Norwegian course. When I met the charming Ana Paula in the corridor last week, it definitely was a surprising and pleasant re-encounter! :-)

PS. I might add that it's not JUST because of the pretty girls that I enjoy my job so much. It also gives me a welcome opportunity to pass on the fascinating subtleties of Norwegian grammar... A language geek and a ladies' man - Torgny has many sides... ;-)

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


The sun shines high above
The sounds of laughter
The birds swoop down upon
The crosses of old grey churches
We say that they're in love
While secretly wishing for rain
Sipping coke and playing games
September's here again
September's here again

(David Sylvian)

Monday, 7 September 2009

Bye-bye, Summer!

We've entered September, the first month of autumn. I like marking occasions like this in a proper manner, so last weekend I decided to bid summer goodbye by taking this year's last dip! (To me, summer and swimming have always been synonymous.)

In the afternoon I was by the beach. Even though it was rather cloudy, the air was quite mild. But as I approached the sea and was no longer sheltered by the pines, the wind came on, and the greyish waves didn't look too inviting. When I eventually got into the water, however, it wasn't that bad. It was a refreshing and worthy farewell to a nice summer. We'll meet again next year!