Sunday, 24 July 2011

I have been to Utoya island

It was part of a trip to Norway and Sweden to see some schools and youth organisations at work. Along with the rest of the study group I saw the facilities and walked down to the water. It was, like other places without traffic, a quiet place. It will never be quiet again. There will always be the memory of those who were murdered there. I could not visit it again.

There were some boys there making an ice-yacht ready for the winter. They were friendly. All of them spoke good English - although I think they were pleased I had bothered to learn a few words of Norwegian with which to be polite. Most people, they told me, did not bother with their language. Perhaps we should.

More than a thousand years ago my far distant ancestors sailed from Norway to Scotland - and stayed there. Maybe it was because of Norway's geography. It is such that it should perhaps be a fractured society. There are still many quite isolated communities. Communication is sometimes difficult, particularly in winter. Despite all that Norway has been an outward looking country too.

Norwegian aid workers, and there are many of them, tend to work in English. Norway has a proud tradition of helping out in complex humanitarian emergencies. I have seen Norwegian doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers off to everywhere from Albania to Zambia. Like other professionals who volunteer they have gone in, done a job and then left again - and almost always managed to leave behind a lasting, positive legacy for the people they went to help. Many of the Norwegians I have had contact with said very little about going to help. They just went and did it. I have often admired them, especially the two elderly doctors who spent three years working in Albania. Their lives were threatened when they tried to prevent some of the rampant corruption there so that their patients could get basic services.

I do not know any of them well enough to ask how they are. My friend Kari has left an e-mail message. Her usually excellent English sounded strained. Her students are too young to be involved but she was waiting to hear if any of their families were involved. I hope not because these are families who already have problems of another sort. If they are not involved though then other families must be. I wish I could help.

I cannot help them but today I am going to try and find something extra I can do for someone else. It is purely selfish. It might help me feel a bit better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I think I will go and try to do the same thing right now.