Good morning

whitby

Well, it’s evening here at the moment, but I like this snap of Whitby I took a few weeks back with the sunrise reflected in our windows. I have been busy teaching and preparing my course outlines for the autumn. Did I tell you that I have a very exciting temporary job for the autumn semester? I’ll be teaching full-time at the University College in my town – English Literature and Culture, and a second year subject in Postcolonial Literature. I’m very excited indeed.

I’m also happy to report that I passed my level two Norwegian tests that I took in January. I’m very pleased and relieved, and am already plotting when I can take the level three ones. They’re offered three times a year. October is probably the best bet but I’m allowing myself to consider May, in order to trick myself into progressing faster. I don’t need to decide till the first week of April.

Already I’m using every spare moment to feed words and grammar into my fuzzy brain. Learning a language is a funny thing. You can’t learn to speak a language without making a million mistakes, because everything hinges together and you can’t learn everything at once. At the moment it feels like I’m laboriously constructing a scaffolding in my brain, upon which I’ll be able to build a more elegant structure at some unspecified point in the future…

This afternoon I was wondering – just how exactly do you say ‘probably’ in Norwegian. I found it in the adverb section of my grammar book this evening: ‘sannsynligvis’. Very good, I thought. But then I read on, and discovered ‘modal adverbs’. ‘Ved’ and ‘nok’ also mean (approximately) ‘probably’, but they function a bit differently within the sentence. To complicate matters, these words mean completely different things in different contexts – I was more familiar with ‘nok’ as meaning ‘enough’. Suddenly a sentence I had been squinting at the day before became a lot clearer, if ‘nok’ could mean ‘probably’ instead of ‘enough’. A lot of the time I feel I’m peering hazily at one of those magic eye pictures, and just sometimes an image emerges out of nowhere.

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Exam day

I’m kicking myself for not packing my camera this morning, though I had two exams, so I guess I had other things on my mind. But my Norwegian exams were held in Gamlebyen, which is pretty at the worst of times, but a winter sunrise while the world is covered in fresh snow is something else altogether. It really is so lovely here. The clouds were dissolving as the sun came up, the sky a warm yellow behind the paper cut-out trees.

The tests went as well as they could have, I guess. The spoken test was fine and quite fun, really. The written test was split into listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and writing production. It’s the last section that I’m most unsure of – I guess it just depends how many little errors they let through. At this level they tell us it’s about communication more than perfection, so I should be ok. I’ll get the results in a month. These were level two tests, which are the end of the beginner’s level. I can’t wait till I’ve learnt enough to come back for the intermediate ones!

Looking at my schedule I thought – oh, good, I’ll have just enough time after the exam to go to a coffee shop and work on some teaching preparation before picking up Felix. And I may take out my books in a minute. But right now it’s so nice just to sit for a moment, amid the increasingly comprehensible conversations going on at tables around me.

You’ll learn a language just to be able to eavesdrop in cafes? A friend asked me while I was in Australia. There are other reasons, but, well, yes, actually. It’s very alienating not to understand the words spoken by strangers.

Teaching last week was wonderful, by the way. We spoke about sonnets, and my students were lovely, and it made me remember that there’s not too many things I would rather do than talk about poems.

36 hours later

We are back in chilly Norway. The house feels small. The snowy expanses were very beautiful when we came in to land. Felix was an absolute darling throughout the whole trip. He slept quite well and the rest of the time was cheerfully occupied observing and commenting on everything that went on. He loves planes. He loves airports. ‘Lady make it dark!’ he declared when they switched all the lights off for landing. When we finally arrived in Oslo after stopovers in Singapore and Frankfurt, he said ‘more plane! More in the big plane!’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘we’ve had enough of planes now.’ He looked out of the window. ‘More plane! Blue one!’ ‘Do you want to go in the blue plane?’ ‘Yeah!’ He was so excited when we got off the plane that he ran all the way to the luggage belts with only one crash. He was still talking about the planes on the train home.

Our good friends picked us up from the train station and cooked dinner for us, which was about the nicest welcome back imaginable. Felix finally and comprehensively conked out about an hour before we arrived in Halden, so we laid him down on their sofa and he didn’t make a sound.

Now we are home and the fire is burning. It is hard to say goodbye to the beautiful light-filled love-filled days in Adelaide. Having a toddler to supervise on the long journey back, I haven’t had a lot of time to dwell on it. And here I must hit the ground running. I have a Norwegian test on Wednesday and another one next Monday; I’m back at work on Tuesday, and on Thursday I have four hours of tutoring at Oslo University, with some preparation still needed. (I’m tutoring an introduction to British literature subject this semester, which is exciting.) When this crazy fortnight is done and dusted, I have a meeting about some other possibilities for the autumn. I take a deep breath. I will do my best.