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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

the sun, she no go


The sun refuses to leave now. It’s always up and then its twilight for a few hours,  dawn breaks open the day with its insistence that we must get up and enjoy the never-ending rays. Games of basketball and beach volleyball end at 10 pm and then we make the walk home, wolf down whatever we can, dress, shower and head out again. Working is hard because am always tired, always exhausted, always looking out with yearning at the beautiful rays of yellow dotting the landscape now. Getting home at 3 in the morning is usual now. In most countries that’s early but in Kristiansand all the clubs close at 2 so this is the Norwegian version of partying all night.
not showing off the phone just the time on its screen and the sky behind it

On Friday we went to an after party at the beach. When the sun went down just 3 hours ago it feels too early to be heading home, too much energy and too much hope for what might still happen courses through our bones so when someone suggested a beach party we were all ears. We had some beers and while it’s technically illegal to drink in public technicalities disappear with the last snowmelt.

It’s illegal to fight in public too but vitamin D does something to people. There is so much passion flying around the air now. Friday one girl knocked over a glass of beer by mistake and it spilled on this other girl. The first girl was sitting on a staircase talking to her friends and to me it really did look like an honest mistake but the other group did not see it so. A shouting match ensued and the wet girl grabbed her own glass of beer wanting to throw it but not really sure if she should. She threatened and then she finally just did it sending beer flying over the first girl and her friends. I stood by to watch what would happen. A helpful by-stander gave girl number 2 another glass of beer and I saw 66 kroner (about 11 dollars) going to waste on a stain. By now girl 1 had given up she sat down and looked miserable maybe she had been having a bad day all night because she began to sob and shake all the fight washed out of her, all the flight tossed away.

Next day there was a real fight. Am not sure what the genesis was, I was just in time to see the exodus though and that’s what I’ll chronicle. There was shouting, there was testosterone and there  was holding. It was one of those where his friends kept trying to hold him back, the bouncers kept trying to keep the peace and the man who felt wrong kept showing them all how weak they really were. He broke their grip over and over and rushed at his opponent, I was standing around like nothing was happening as all around me a maelstrom of violence whirled. Three guys held him back then he would get angry, break their grip and rush at his opponent. The fence in the club opened up and the bouncers still didn’t throw him out, or couldn’t. They were impossibly ineffectual, patting instead of tapping.

Later as we walked to the beach party there was yet another disturbance. The police were involved in this street wide melee. One man went to a glass display and began beating it in anger, shouting and hitting, it sounded like it would break from the pressure he was exerting and this wasn’t the most pressing concern. Instead they handcuffed this girl who had apparently kicked a police officer when he was on the floor. He was on the floor wrestling one of the combatants to submission holding him in a complete headlock. The arrested girl was caught by one of his colleagues and one of her friends came to pull her away with a quick jerk that didn’t work since she wasn’t made of butter.

 One of the policemen was in red trousers.

In the backdrop of all this a few beers at the beach made perfect sense. It was 3 by the time we got there. We sat down and began the party. The sun was almost coming up and when someone suggested we wait it out we quickly agreed. There was a guitar and melodically gifted people among us. They strummed out line after line of what sounded perfect. Then he began to play a chord that I won’t pretend was familiar and this one girl began to sing,
“Jambo, jambo bwana? Habari gani?
Mzuri sana, wageni wakaribishwe
Tamasha yetu, hakuna matata.”

that folks is Swahili. She had no idea what she was singing or that it was in my home language. She had no idea why I was shouting hysterically to my roommate that he had to come hear the song or why I insisted so much on an encore.

The song is usually used to welcome tourists to Kenya and I never felt more welcome in Norway than when I heard this song on a beach thousands of miles away from home.

One Norwegian told us that the police were planning to strike for more money. All of us foreigners stared with incredulity. We had met this American and he shared our sentiments about what kind of economic paradise Norway is. The salaries are huge. So large that unemployment benefits put any country’s salaries to shame. 20,000 kroner is normal for almost anything, that’s a little over 3,000 dollars. Sure things are expensive but not too bad if you’re making all that and the American asked,

“so, what do they put on their placards? We’re making too much money and we don’t like it.”

Another Norwegian on hearing I was from Kenya told me (and this deserves a quotation.)
“I know one guy from Kenya in Arendal, he’s a nice guy and I like him even though am an undercover racist.”
“you’re not very good at being undercover.”

Am not sure if he was joking or not because we ended up on the same volleyball team and he was one of those people who bring life to any team. Encouraging the fuck ups, talking shit to the other team and generally jumping all over the place. The stakes were high. The losing team had to take a swim in the sea. And that water is cold. When it came to the racist’s turn to serve he began talking as usual and then served one of the worst volleys I have ever seen. He repeated this performance several times. Well our team lost and we did not go in that water apart from two crazy Norwegians. Who "did it for youth."

By now the warmth of the sun had begun warming us too. There was a swan who looked in pain and stole our attention away. He was on a bridge and couldn’t move. His feathers looked grey with age and he was all alone on the wood. He looked about to die and we were told he was. It reminded me of all those stories about animals being cast out to die by their own, finding solace in solitude. Well, there’s no solace and though everyone dies alone at least humans pretend not to. It was strange for me. I felt so full of life at that moment and then I was sitting watching something that was not full of life that was pattering to its death bed and leaving the world. Another living being that was not living any more just being. 

Then it turned out we were being lied to this was not a death dance, this was the end of youth and the beginning of a new life for the swan. He was becoming a man and what we took for the tottering of death was actually just the awkwardness of teenage. He shook off his lethargy and found the sea; he settled in it and swam away into the sun. Sometimes life looks like death I guess.