For the third year in a row, we have lent our mountain cabin out to families we don’t know. Single moms, parents who’ve gone through a rough period, families from other countries who wants to get familiar with the Norwegian cabin culture. This year, families from Iran, Georgia, Norway and Pakistan got the opportunity to experience a piece of our old-fashioned and tranquil childhood heaven.
But we wanted to do something extra this year. Travelling a lot for work, I often enjoy the hospitality that many other cultures are known for. I’ve spent a week living with a former colleague’s family in Mumbai, been invited to a wedding in Nigeria less than two weeks after meeting the bride, and spent a week in an Italian shipping family’ summer house. Not to mention the countless home made meals and visits into the homes of people that I only know briefly, and sometimes just met the same day.
Due to my busy travel schedule the rest of the year, we decided not to travel abroad this summer. But there are still opportunities to experience other cultures – without leaving your home country…
Through Refugees Welcome, I shared a post looking for families with young children who might want to join us going to the mountains. One of the volunteers contacted me and put me in touch with a family she knew. And some weeks ago we visited them where they stay, so that we could get a first impression and decide whether both families found a good connection.
That first Sunday was so much fun! The kids instantly broke the language barriers, and played non-stop. During the afternoon, I got to know the parents a bit, and we decided this was definitely thumbs up.
Since the family has 3 kids, including a baby, my car wasn’t big enough. So I got my sister to volunteer as extra driver, reached out again to RF, and ended up car-swapping with the same woman who connected us. She drove my GLK, my sister drove her car, and I used Espen’s car. Sharing economy in practice!
They arrived last Sunday, and throughout Thursday we had such a good time. The kids explored the 20K M2 around our cabin, played in the tree-hut, visited the cows and calves, chased sheep, inspected bugs, picked up words from each other, cuddled, played ball and ran wild. It felt as they were all brothers and sisters.
And as for the parents, where do I start! They met each other while they were both working in a kindergarten, and are such a strong and caring couple. Way more patient with the kids than me, and with such an amount of compassion and care for each other. We took turns cooking and doing the practical chores of a cabin without tap water. We enjoyed talking and sharing views and reflections on everything from kids, society, life lessons, funny stories, religion and politics. And we share a lot of the same values and mindset. As an example, this couple has a more equal balance of taking care of kids and chores than many of my Norwegian friends; it’s rare that I meet men who are as good at and dedicated to house-work and cooking as my own partner, but this family’s dad baked bread twice, took care of almost all the dishes, and in other ways was such an example of equality that many of my Norwegian friends would’ve been jealous.
The mother of the family is a geography teacher, and with her warm heart and patience, combined with an inner strength and passion to practice her profession, she is just the type of dedicated teachers that we currently don’t have enough of in our society. I tasted some completely new flavors, and her traditional Egyptian cabbage rolls were so yummy, they cannot be described without tasting!
Our 5 days together were an optimal hybrid of Arabic and Norwegian, where we learnt from each other and explored new meals and traditions. Both my kids and their kids loved this experience! I hereby encourage and challenge my readers and friends to try a sharing vacation – whether it’s a weekend or more. Or simply invite a family (or whomever matches your age/situation) over for a dinner or play date!
To Noor and Moshaab; shukran! Thanks to your warm and lovely family, this was a vacation we will keep in our hearts.
Happy Saturday! // Birgit