We’ve been in Norway for a week and are now settled into our dorms at the University of Oslo (they’re so cute and yellow!). I’ve also taken on the important duty of Fire Marshall, we take fire safety seriously here. Coming into the program I had a very basic idea of what to expect in terms of who I would meet and what exactly I would be doing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and am excited for the next six weeks!
The first six days of our journey were spent in Lillehammer, a city to the north of Oslo. We stayed at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue where we met students from the Balkans and the rest of our Peace Scholar crew. Despite some complications with transportation due to weather and construction, we all made it and had a fantastic time getting to know one another. We’ve formed quite the group with our friends from the Balkans and go practically everywhere together. The great thing about Norway during the summer is the sun hardly sets. This trend lends itself to our staying out until midnight, one, two, three…there is so much time for activities (and lots of coffee).
A very brief overview of our time at Nansen… Our days in Lillehammer were spent in morning and afternoon sessions discussing what dialogue and negotiation are, learning about each other’s respective countries and backgrounds, meeting the Deputy Minister and Minister of Veteran Affairs in Croatia, watching the film Reunion, and so much more.
As we wander together, we have learned to make ourselves vulnerable, an important component of dialogue. We shared and enlightened one another not only during dialogue sessions, but as we wandered in Lillehammer. Our group attended Lillehammer Days, walked down 1000 steps at the Olympic Ski Jump (which is quite difficult), swam in the lake, drank “coffee” in the park, played lots of soccer and volleyball, and cheered on Bosnia and the USA in the World Cup.
As someone who is constantly on the go, this has been a great exercise in learning how to sit still. Hooray for not having to schedule my life with Google Calendar!
Our dialogue sessions at Nansen focused on group discussion, listening, and sharing our stories and perspectives. I did not have extensive knowledge of the conflict in Ex-Yugoslavia and it took some time to understand the core issues that still affect the Balkan nations. We began questioning why our history and geography classes in the states often skip over the war and conflict in the Balkans. The leader of our seminar, Steinar Bryn, is one of the most inspirational individuals I have met. He also has an impressive beard. Steinar has dedicated his life to engaging individuals in dialogue to break down the barriers between “us” and “them”.
During our sessions he shared with us his thoughts on what it means to engage in dialogue… Dialogue is a process of sharing stories to understand one another, a process that can lead to negotiation. In more concrete terms, dialogue is movement, visibility, and relations. We move through our days asking questions to gain understanding thus making ourselves visible to the world and the world visible to us. Dialogue enables us to build trust and recognize that it is okay not to know the answer, but rather explore an issue further. Steinar made it very clear that dialogue is a relation, not necessarily a solution. This is an excellent reminder. Our work toward more peaceful relationships and understanding within our countries and communities cannot happen overnight. It takes the hard work of many to achieve understanding and peace.
What I have found most interesting during the past week at Nansen is the concept of historical narrative and if it is possible to have a standardized history. How can we make those histories that are hidden, visible? Education plays such a key role in this discussion. We take away a child’s innocence when teaching and reinforcing a one-sided history never stopping to engage with “the other” and build a common language. We must begin by asking more meaningful questions to truly move through each day.
Our classes at the International Summer School start on Monday, but for now we are enjoying some extra free time getting lost in Oslo.
Livert er herlig!
Now you’re probably wondering what that means…good question.
The beautiful view in Lillehammer
Loving our nightly walks!
Dialogue session with Steinar
Eric and I, Augustana Peace Scholars
Amy and Aimée in Norway, the title of our next blog.