Copenhagen Air Terminal
A few hours ago, Elisabeth and I were lounging in the Copenhagen air terminal, sipping coffee, connecting to wife, and generally getting our footing in Denmark. Our illusion that the Copenhagen Airport was quite a small place was WRONG!
Soon, we made the move to find our gate and the plane to Oslo, which will be our first stop in Norway. Our gate, we discovered, lay on the other side of an immense, opaque glass wall. It was lined with kiosks and inhabited by stern-looking men with giant rubber stamps balanced ominously in their hands. Once past immigration (phew!), we entered a lavish mall of shopping luxury, filled with every possible fashion accoutrement, all being peddled by exceptionally lovely young women with coiffed blonde hair, wearing long white coats. Each smiling face eagerly offered us samples of Danish butter cookies. I felt we must have made a good first impression – or maybe we had just landed in heaven!
A Southern Boy in a Norwegian Land
So far, our Norwegian journey has been a blur of airport terminals, food bars, lots of people in official-looking navy blue uniforms, and slick advertising with photos of beautiful Scandinavian women.
Not so bad.
Despite our airport surroundings, the feel of a new culture surrounds us. But the hip-looking people in nice shoes and stretchy pants make vowel sounds that stretch our imaginations – and would stretch the physiology of our own voice boxes, if we were to try to speak their language.
Wait. I should amend that statement. Make that “my voice box,” because, as you know, Elisabeth is French. It is miraculous, really, the transformation that takes place when she steps onto European soil. She instantly becomes a magnificent songbird, tweeting a wide array of new language sounds. The delicious-sounding words and phrases roll off her tongue, as sweet as the French chocolates she secretly loves to nibble. I have to marvel at the change which overcomes her. It’s like her innate French-ness taps into something deeper, a collective European-ness.
I, on the other hand, instantly stand out as her rube of a husband, the one whose Southern twang demonstrates his lack of her genetically programmed sophistication. Given my dilemma, I do what any good Southern boy would do: I fake it.
Which means, of course, I smile more and say, “Howdy,” to everyone who looks my way. Women smile back, and Elisabeth accuses me of flirting. (“Honey,” I tell her, “I am treading water here. Have pity on your uneducated husband. I am simply attempting to hold my ground.”)
If I get a response to that first “Howdy,” I roll out my international welcome phrase: “How y’all doing today?” I get a few raised eyebrows, but, more often than not, I connect. It’s amazing how many people in this world speak Southern!
A Multi-cultural Bird Bath
The truth is the whole multicultural bird bath I have immersed myself in leaves me feeling a wee bit inadequate. I find myself asking, “What does a European songbird like Elisabeth see in me? How is it possible to rise above my obvious limitations?”
And so my struggle continues, but I am committed. I will learn to connect with these Norwegians and their North-dwelling compadres. More than anything, I want to hear their tales of life from the top of the world. I want to know what happens between the precipitous fjords that dot their beautiful country. I secretly desire to own a pair of those stretchy pants and drink coffee like they do – sipping dark elixir from a tall cup as if it were an act of love. (Secretly, when no one is looking, I am practicing how to do this and soon hope to report on my success. A video, maybe?) To fit in while in Norway, I shall also learn a few Norwegian phrases: “May I please have a glass of bourbon?” or “Biscuits and gravy, please?” or “May I have a bowl of grits with my smoked herring?” Stuff like that.
It is my fervent hope that during these next two weeks I can bridge the gulf that separates this Southern boy from the welcoming smiles of these elegant Norwegians – and my equally elegant wife!
> Lutefisk While in Norway