Archive for May, 2010

31
May
10

today

While I sit at home today I had the luxury of scanning the Internet for my usual time-killing activities. Check email, check blogs, check news, check celebrity gossip. This mindless behavior typically results in the usual quick interest, but fading memory. But today, as I was reading the news, I came across this article, and was both humbled and impressed. Something in this story resonated with me probably partly because I am a woman, maybe also as an American, but I think it resonated with me mostly because of my belief in the importance of relationship.

This is a military tactic I suppose. But at the heart of the tactic lies the central premise that people want to be known. I cannot imagine how these women marines feel on a daily basis. And on the flip side of that, how the Afghan women, who are so isolated, and quite possibly have been told about American women, feel now that they are both meeting face to face.

It is all very exciting to me. I think today on the thousands of men and women who have the opportunity not to destroy, but to build something that may last longer than a few seconds.

Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.  ~Margaret Mead

27
May
10

view from another part 2

This is cool. The previous post that I wrote about meeting the man from Norway and all the little things he shared with me, has turned out to be an entry point for a much bigger conversation. A friend of mine, who lived in Norway with her family when she was a small child, forwarded the blog on to her father and he had some thoughts.  I am posting his thoughts because I am not an authority on all thinking. I do believe we can learn from those with different and varied experiences from our own. So here is what he has to say about living in Norway and some of the benefits and challenges. I think he has some good things to share.

“Some of the things that the Government provides for its citizens in Norway, like the paid maternity and health care, it can do so because of its vast oil wealth.  Most countries in Europe don’t have this wealth, and so they are going bankrupt because of the huge benefits they provide their citizens (unpaid for in spite of high taxes, it turns out).  Norway never joined the EU because they didn’t want to contribute their oil riches to the rest of Europe or have their own economy weakened by the Euro.
 
Yes, Norwegians like to be standardized.  They call it jenteloven (“jente” means “people” and “loven” means “level”).  Everyone is supposed to be the same–not only in their incomes, but also in their peronalities and abilities.  Anyone who attempts to be unique or stand out in any way is ostracised and pilloried.  This became a terrible problem among school children, when we were there, because it led to the phenomenon of “mobbing” (a British term imported by the Norwegians although they had their own Norwegian word for it, too).  Anyone who attempts to express his or her individuality is accused of trying to be “better” than everyone else, and hectored, humiliated, scorned, teased, and bullied by all the other children (“mobbed”), so forcefully and continuously that it becomes psychologically unbearable for the mobbed student. 
 
The Norwegians do speak English and they speak it well.  They know it is important because Norwegian won’t be spoken when they travel from their country, so they emphasize learning English at an early age.
 
Any American talking to a European, whether they are from Norway, Germany, France, England, or wherever, should be aware of how deeply ingrained Anti-Americanism is in Europe.  I am reading a book called, “Uncouth Nation: Why Europe Dislikes America” and have attached the library’s review of this book if you care to read it. 
 
As the author makes clear, Anti-Americansim began long before George W. Bush.  It really goes back to the beginning of America, but in the early 1980’s it intensified because it was openly accepted as the “correct” way for all Europeans to feel about America.  It is not just a dislike of America’s policies, it is more fundamental.  Both liberals and conservatives in Europe (though there are more of the former) have it.  The author, an American, makes clear in the book that he personally is liberal on every issue, but even his liberal friends in Europe dislike him because he is American.  It is a prejudice, directed against anyone who is a member of the disliked group, regardless of what he or she may be like as an individual.
 
I noticed it the first week we were in Norway.  The Norwegian lawyer in the office next to me, after we had been introduced and exchanged some pleasantires, suddenly attacked me with the question, “Why do you call it the World Series?  It’s not a World Series.  It’s only in America, between two cities in America.  Why do you call it the WORLD Series.  The whole world doesn’t watch your baseball championship, so why do you call it the WORLD Series?  Why don’t you call it the AMERICAN Series?  Why do you call it the WORLD Series?”
 
At first, I didn’t understand what he was saying.  When I understood, I realized he had a point, and readily admitted, “yes, you are right, I don’t know why we call it the World Series.”  But after he kept on and on about it, I couldn’t understand his bitterness about such a trivial thing, and I just wanted to throw up my arms and say, “Hey, okay, get over it.”
 
I remember many other times when I felt that bitterness, not only in Norway but the other countries we travelled to in Europe.  Even our neighbors in Lura, such wonderful, outgoing, affectionate people who were so nice to us–I can remember her bitterness whenever she thought about a certain radio show with a hostess from Texas.  She just hated that woman’s slow Texas drawl, making a face and almost gagging when she described it.  She learned English, as all Norwegians do, from the Brits and couldn’t stand any other accent.  But this goes back to Charles Dickens in the 19th century, who made a speaking tour of America, and when he got back to England wrote a book about it slamming many things about Americans, but mainly their Americanized English and ugly accents.
 
It is certainly true, though, that Europeans get along with a lot less than we do in America.  Our lifestyle is excessive compared to them.  It is still incredible to me that they pay three times as much as we do for gasoline ($8 a gallon now); and consequently they drive smaller cars, and they drive less, walk and ride bicycles more.  I will never forget when a woman from Belgium made a trip to the States with me.  It was the first time she had been to the U.S.  After we got in our rental car and started driving, I could feel her apprehension.  She was almost trembling.  When I asked her what was wrong, she just said she could not believe how wide the roads were.  I think she was actually frightened by the size of the interstate highways.
 
It is also true that Europe suffered greatly in WWII and for many years afterwards, trying to recover from all the devastation. (Imagine hundreds of 9-11’s all over our country.) When WWII began, the choice between living under a dictatorship and living in a democracy must have been stark, almost no choice at all, making the war and our help in it absolutely necessary.  But it was so devastating, and America did probably make a few mistakes that made it worse (same with Korea after WWII) that in the years that followed many people must have wondered if it was worth it, and blamed America for helping them fight the war. 
 
I’m not saying to be defensive or bitter about Anti-Americanism, I just think it is important to be aware of it.  The author of the book I’m reading says it is inexplicable, like all prejudices; just an involuntary, pathological illness.
 
Just thought I’d add my kroner’s worth.”
 
Conversations in the blog world are very exciting. Thank you for all being a part of it.
25
May
10

thoughts from another

It is strange – the places you find yourself learning something. Sitting today, at Ben and Summi’s swim lesson, I met the father of the boy who takes lessons with Ben. We chatted some and I learned that he and his family is originally from Norway. We chatted more and I’m not sure how we got on the topic but he began to mention how Norway differs from the United States. He was not complaining about the policies of the US but on the same note he was not praising them. It was interesting to hear him talk about some of the things that make Norway unique as a country, aside from the freezing dark winters.

-Most Norwegians take home on average about 60% of their income and 40% is taken as taxes. (However, taxes are similar to the US in the sense of – the more you make, the more you are taxed)

-These taxes go to several things (he says) but the main thing is the health care system that they have in place (yes, it is socialized). But there are also private options.

-He said, in that socialized health care system new mothers get a maternity leave of 52 weeks – paid. Fathers can apply for leave also.

-In terms of medical care – virtually everything is free – obviously these are the basics, but they are the necessities. (Yes, he said that.)

-In terms of children (he has a 4 and 2 year old), they go to school, but it is strictly play until the age of 6. He mentioned that in the US, this was very difficult to find.

-He also said it was unheard of for parents, despite their wealth, to have a college fund for their child. The expectation is for the student to take out their own loan, pay back their own loan (to the government, of course), and therefore to take college a little more seriously. 

-He made mention that really, people in Norway tend to have a more standardized level of living. That is, there is not as much disparity between socioeconomic standing.

-Also, that although the taxes in Norway are high, as well as the bills (think grocery, restaraunts, shopping) so are the salaries.

-The sales tax in Norway, I learned from him, is 25%.

-Most Norwegians speak English, according to him.

-Also, Norwegians work maximum each week, 37.5 hrs. Anything over that, he says, is considered overtime.

-Also, vacation, 5 weeks, is recommended he told me.

-Oh and yes, he shared also, that despite foul weather, children, rain, snow or shine, spend a great deal of time outdoors.

-He said a lot. 

-He was a super nice guy.

-And obviously he loves his home country.

-But some of the things he described sounded very nice. 

-Like he said, though, it takes a big shift in mind to live in a place where things are more standardized.

-Made me wonder what we do well here in the US? (I am not being sardonic, but being genuine)

-If Norway has things that are really amazing, like the maternity leave option, 

-what is it that we here in the United States do so well? What are we known for? (I am being serious, not angry or expectant).

-He said there were some great things about living here. What do you think those amazing things are?

P.S. I fact checked him, he’s right on most of it. Plus I learned why some people HATE Norway. I however, think that any country that has a slogan that “Children are our national treasure” might have something right.

25
May
10

this is what is still bothering me

I am pissed about it. Royally to say the least. Why, when the government says that there is a moratorium on all new wells in this area of the Gulf, have there been seven drilled in the past month, with environmental overrides? Honestly, what is this all coming too. The oil industry is too greedy to take care of the monster they created and now that same monster is tainting and killing the innocent life, yes life, that inhabits this region. It just makes me so angry.

 

images credit: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_sc2199

20
May
10

holy t

Are fountain drink sizes proportional to level of exhaustion?

In my case, this would mean that my inability to deny the largest size possible indicates a need to sleep more.

Holy tiredness.

Note to self: Three nights of being up past 2 and up by 7 is not as easy as it used to be.

17
May
10

“what am I to do?”

I returned from an amazing weekend away with friends and the family to this on my desk in my classroom.

“Dear Mrs. B,

I’m very disappointed in you for leaving again! What is I needed your help and your(sic) not here? Then what am I to do? You’re always gone. But it’s ok, I know your(sic) coming bkk. lol. much love. D”

For the record, I have only used 4 sick days this whole year.

I guess they love me. Or they need me. Or something.

All I know is that I was grinning from ear to ear as  I read that.

I guess they do depend on me.

12
May
10

hand picked

People like to complain. 

I thought becoming an adult might eliminate most of the complaining that took place, particularly in the adolescent years.

But, no, people still like to complain. A lot.

I complain too at times. Of course, we all do.

But teachers are the worst. (I being one of them.)

We…

Complain about parents.

Complain about students.

Complain about administrators.

Complain about testing.

Complain about the system.

Complain about meetings.

Complain about each other.

It is hard to eat lunch in the teacher workroom in the month of May, can you tell?

For whatever reason, today I just kept talking about how good my blueberries tasted. I told them they tasted like they were hand picked. Silence.

Then complaints about how that was impossible, you can’t taste whether they were picked by hand. To which I smiled and said that I could. And round and round we went. Lots of fun… really.

Tomorrow I think I will talk about how underarms smell like a freshly fallen snow. We will see how long that will keep them busy.