Archive for Month: March 2017

Meanwhile in Fargo

Good afternoon!

I’ve spent the weekend with two of my high school-exchange student-cousins in Fergus Falls. For those of you who are not pocket known in the upper Midwest, I can tell ya it’s about four hours straight north from Sioux Falls (and when I say straight, I mean STRAIGHT; I made a total of two turns on my way there.)

After getting all settled in the Hogwarts-like dorm, we asked kindly for permission to leave campus and headed to the “big city” of Fargo. I felt like a rebel, taking these young ladies out of boarding school to hang out with their older (and undeniably weirder) cousin, but oh well.

As the good girls we are, we decided to go bowling. Once we got there, however, we were completely ignorant of the fact that we were about to enter a sketchy redneck bar that just happened to have a bowling alley inside it. We didn’t seem to think that the couple rocking their camo-jackets and Trump T-shirts with matching intoxicated smiles standing by the door indicated any such thing.

Frankly, we thought they were just drunks asking our ages, but later we figured they must have been door guards. The fact that two 17-year-olds and a (significantly) older cousin walked right past them with steps so confident we looked like we had received special invitations must’ve confused them, because they didn’t stop us.

As soon as the smell of beer presented itself, and we saw the camo-couple’s hundred-something relatives polishing their bowling balls inside the alley, we left and headed to a more family friendly alley.

We had a blast, but Rode and Eline should’ve known that bowling with a competitive beast like me meant trouble. I’m a pretty lousy bowler, but I’m always hungry to improve, so with one round down, I suggested the following ultimatum: “If we don’t beat our own score this round, we can’t speak a single word of English the rest of the day.”

Rode, me and Eline. Photo by: Random Stranger.

Long story short, we suddenly became monolingual, so there we were, three non-English speaking Norwegians, in Fargo — of all places. I’m not sure how many foreigners with no English skills look at the map and say “I think I’ll to to Fargo for my vacation!” so the location could not have been more fit for an experiment like this.

The bowling alley didn’t accept foreign credit cards . . . good luck solving that issue in two completely different languages. Oh Lord, the struggle was real, and the urge to speak English was so strong we had to clench our teeth just to restrain ourselves. Besides, it was really quite hilarious seeing these poor Americans desperately trying to read our body language.

Things didn’t get easier when we went to an Italian restaurant and the waitress had to guess what we were trying to say based on where our fingers were pointing at the menu. One thing is pointing at “Lasagna,” and “Spaghetti Bolognese,” but when you try to explain that you don’t want cheese on it, or when you pick the “design your own pasta” option, and have to explain that you want the “long, wide and flat pasta” instead of the thin noodles, that’s when it gets tricky.

And how do you explain “cheese” to someone when the Norwegian word is “ost”? At one point I felt the urge to imitate a mouse, but it all worked out in the end.

We got a little freaked out in the end when we got these in our bill folders:

“Thanks for coming in! :)” “Hope you liked it! :)” “Have a good night! 🙂 – Marghie.

It’s Norwegian!

Needless to say, the waitress received a massive tip, and she was the hero of the day — with our without google translate.

PS! If you feel that “Visiting Cousins in Fargo” seemed awfully familiar, it’s probably because I caught up with another cousin, Adrian, here last year.

 

Thanks for a great weekend, ladies!

Blessings,
Maria

New York Love

I was an overwhelmed freshman with ultra blonde hair and a Scandinavian accent when we first met. Quite frankly, I had more than enough with just keeping my head above the water as a foreign student in South Dakota, and I should have known we weren’t ready for each other yet.

You were so exotic, foreign, and yet so familiar. I liked you, but I was unable to see what you had to offer at the time. I felt so small, so lost and so out-of-place. I know you did your best to make me feel welcome by introducing me to warm pretzels and pizzas so big I had to fold each slice in half to even have a chance at taking a bite, but I still found myself longing for the comfort of not having to jump into something new.

You showed me diversity, eccentricity and what it really means to be free. You acquainted me with people who were on a mission, people with a deeper sense of purpose than I was used to seeing, people with dreams that had to be fulfilled, people with songs that had to be written and stories that had to be told.

Still, that first time, I wanted to leave after just a few days with you. I was overwhelmed. But that was okay, because I knew we’d see each other again. That last glimpse of you at the airport told me that our story wouldn’t end there. We had many more chapters to write, but the circumstances had to be different; I would have to mature, figure out where I was going and get more comfortable with myself, but I knew I would see you again.

Our week in October was amazing, but I must say, you’re just as handsome in February.

New York, I love you.

 

It took me three years, but I’m ready for you now.

I’m not the intimidated freshman girl straight from Norway anymore. I’m a woman now, a woman looking to tell stories, and, New York, I think you may be able to help me on my mission.

My freshman-self vs. my senior-self in the City of Dreams.


Hopefully, you caught the fact I wrote the love letter to New York City, and not some strange mesmerizing guy with exotic looks. I wouldn’t want any of my relatives to get their hopes up about a potential new family member just yet — I can assure you that my actual love life is still non-existent, so don’t worry.

I was in New York for the second time in a few months for some errands that I’ll tell you more about later. But before I wrap up this post I want to share a funny incident:

A week before I left, Elisa Stokka, a traveling Norwegian student priest, was at Augustana to make waffles and talk with us. I’d never met her before, but we started talking and I told her I’d be heading to New York the following week. She then invited me to join a student dinner at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church on Manhattan that just happened to be the Monday I was going to be there! Funny coincidence? Well, it gets better! As soon as I get there, the first guy I meet is from my hometown in Norway. A couple of minutes later I stumble upon another lady with an accent I recognized, and guess what?! She was from Haugesund as well! Yup, that little village-like town in the tiny Nordic country called Norway. It’s a small world!

 

The Seamen’s Church’s mission is to create “a home away from home” for traveling Norwegians, and they certainly did that for me. It was an amazing night with lots of Norwegian New Yorkers and traditional Norwegian tacos. 

God is good.

Bless you,
Maria

That was awkward.

Do you ever crack yourself up by just realizing how totally ridiculous you are? I think it’s a gift; being able to laugh at yourself. I just wish I had the ability to see the humour as it happens, not after I’ve already swallowed a load of frustration and humiliation.

You see, I’ve been down with a flu for four days, enduring 102-degree fevers while watching castles of Kleenex build around my bed. I felt horrible, and I looked horrible. Today, however, I had to defy my body’s advice of staying in bed because I had a very important errand to run at the grocery store. If you’re a woman you’ll understand what could possibly be that important; it starts with “tam” and end with “pons.”

(Thankfully, I did not have any pictures from todays incidents. This will have to do.)

As I staggered my way into HyVee with hair so greasy I looked like I was trying to pull off the “wetlook” and wearing my less fashionable winter coat and uggs, I picked up a box of Ben & Jerry’s and a bag of potato chips on the way; just to add more weight to my already sloppy appearance, you know. And yes, I just realized that “add weight” has a dual meaning in this context.

After being discretely judged by the freshfaced cashier with a fancy updo, I withdrew 6o dollars that I put in my pocket.

As I exit the store, I choke so badly on the wind that I have to turn around just to breathe through my useless nostrils. Then, my baseball cap flies off and nearly gets run over by a truck, but my head was no longer in the cap at that point, so it could’ve been worse.

Relieved that I made it all the way back to my car, I suddenly see a 20-dollar bill glued onto my door. (At the time, I didn’t realize it wasn’t actually glued, but rather held in place by the extreme winds we’ve had in Sioux Falls this week) *Hey, lucky day! I found 20 bucks!*

Then, as I reach down into my pocket to introduce my newly adopted 20-dollar bill with my other 60, I’m mortified to discover that my pocket is empty, and that the bill I found on my car was the lone survivor of the 60 I had just withdrawn. The other 40 were taken by the hurricane.

*May you rest in peace* or, preferably, *may you be a great blessing to whomever finds you.*

Clever, Maria. Truly clever.


This situation instantly reminded of that time I had to check into a sketchy small-town-Minnesota-motel at 2 AM, wearing nothing but my pyjamas under that same unfashionable winter coat, and the receptionist repeatedly asked me if I was planning on staying alone the whole night, or if I was expecting any guests at any time during the night? He clearly thought I was a prostitute. Or a victim of domestic violence. Or just high. Or all of the above. Showing up in PJs with bloodshot eyes, and no luggage — at two in the morning — did perhaps not diminish those stereotypes.

Little did he know that I had just escaped from my friend Rachel’s apartment because of a SEVERE allergic reaction to her adorable cat. I didn’t want to wake the whole house, and with my rapidly constricting airways I simply could not stay long enough to pack my suitcase. I had to prioritize breathing.

After the receptionist’s interrogation I went to my skimpy room, laughing. Dear Minnesota, what an adventure.


My point with this is that you’ll have so much more fun once you stop caring about people’s perception of you. Wear those PJs, let your dollar bills fly in the wind and rock that wetlook in public.

Liberation, ladies. Liberation.

Photo: Naras Pramswari.

Blessings,
Maria

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