Most of the time you can find me on one of my islands writing and coming up with far too many ideas for my own good. During the past three days, however, my life has been turned outwards, to the great wide world that I once lived in before my twins came along and localised my life. Now, don’t get too excited. I’m in Oslo, where I can still speak Swedish and English and be understood, and where people stay up 22 of 24 hours in the high summer in order to get enough light stored up for the rest of the year (view of an Australian friend of mine).
I have to admit that I don’t like being a tourist. I would rather blend in with the locals – be a part of the greater permanence of things – or at the very least carry an iPhone and a briefcase in order to give that sleek, above-it-all, business traveller impression. However, with a shoulder sachel loaded with bandaids, water and bananas slung over my shoulder to keep my two 10-year-olds happy, I am unmistakably a member of the bewildered-looking tribe of foreigners unflatteringly called tourists, which invades the enchanting capital of Norway each summer. I try to blend in with the natives by throwing in the occasional “ikke” (NOT in Norwegian) and “greit” (OK in Norwegian) but, time after time, I am discovered within seconds and given that sympathetic ‘can I help you’ sort of smile.
My twins are immune to my travel snobbery. Everything is new and full of wonder. We stumble upon the assume vivid astro focus exhibition which is housed in a zeplin-like structure in a city square (an exhibition of the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo). We walk through a crazy maze of color and pattern, and the children eventually find the reward for getting through it which is to exit by going down an enormous slide. Despite my aching tourist’s feet, I take the stairs and wait, holding the children’s shoes as I stand at the base of the slide. I’m tired but I wake up quickly as I notice that the children are sliding down a grotesque green blow-up structure emerging from the middle of two legs.
I’m wide awake now and looking into the brochure. The objective of this flamboyant project is to get the audience to “undergo a role change” and instead of having us just looking at the picture on the wall, letting it draw us into a new realm. Whatever my reservations about being a tourist (and about the avant-garde slide my children have just gleefully gone down), I reflect that the best of being away and traveling is about exactly this. It presents you with the possibility of expanding your personal space and becoming a part of something new.