My brother at Oslo Intl. Airport Gardermoen
This story is so special that it, statistically speaking, should not happen (less than 30 people in Norway have my family name). Nonetheless the impossible did happen: two persons with my family name, unknown to each other, happened to be at the same place at the same time. And this must be the explanation for why an employee at Gardermoen Airport Hotel made a small mistake, so the two persons in question became aware of each other. And bless her for that! She is unknown so I can unfortunately not thank her. The same goes for the employee who, earlier this fall, dived into an old guest archive (one that will be deleted at the end of this year), and found the date when my brother and I stayed there. We are both in great debt to Gardermoen Airport Hotel!
Gardermoen Airport Hotell (2008)
From this somewhat cryptic introduction to what happened, briefly told. It was 6 September 2008. I was traveling to Romania in connection with a project I worked on, departing from Oslo Airport early the following morning. It was so early that I would not make it to Oslo Airport in time with the early morning flight from Kristiansand, and so I had to arrive the day before and stay over at the airport. I arrived at Gardermoen Airport Hotel and checked in, and decided to settle the bill immediately. The person working in the reception made a small mistake and gave me the invoice for another guest, Arvid Syftestad, who has the same family name as I have. This misunderstanding was of course easily solved. Because of this Arvid and I began talking, and we spent an enjoyable evening together.
I immediately made a connection to the village Kviteseid in Telemark county. Søftestad (or Syftestad) is the name of a local farm there, a name not found anywhere else in the kingdom. My father's father, whom I am named after, moved from this farm at a young age, and eventually settled in Kristiansand. Given this I thought we might be related, that Arvid indeed was "my brother". As it happened, this was however not the case.
The next day we both ventured out into the world, each to his own. My brother Arvid to Barcelona and I to Bucharest.
Kviteseid and Haukelifjell (2019)
The years went by, and in between we both thought about this chance meeting. But it was my brother Arvid who eventually did something about it. He found me on Facebook (should we send a thank you note to Mark Zuckerberg?), and contacted me in January 2019, and we chatted over the next several months. We found out that we both liked to fish, and we agreed to a fishing trip in Haukelifjell, to a cottage a little south of Haukeliseter. This was 5-8 September 2019, coincidentally exactly 11 years after we met at Gardermoen Airport Hotel! The fishing was not much to write home about, but we had a great weekend together, including with Jan Haugen, my brother Arvid's brother-in-law (see Note 3).
My brother Arvid wrote a good article about our chance meeting in 2008 and again in 2019, and it was printed in the regional newspaper "Vest-Telemark blad", on 13 December 2019 (see Sources).
Thoughts and Views
I wrote above that this story is special. Perhaps it is not so special after all. Norway is a small country. Moreover, it is a country where the distance between people is small (even if it can be large in geographic terms). So, my father's father moved from the farm he grew up on more than 100 years ago. Nonetheless, over the years there was regular contact between members of the family in Kviteseid and in Kristiansand. I visited Kviteseid twice myself, once with my family while on a camping vacation, and once with an American colleague I knew in Bangladesh who came to visit me.
This proximity between rural and urban areas, and between people, is a characteristic with living in Norway that I slowly have learnt to appreciate. Actually, more and more so, as I for many years have traveled and lived in even more countries, where such a proximity and connection between people is not available, or else appear differently.
An important part of this proximity between people, culture, and geography are dialects. There is a very large number of dialects in Norway, even if they unfortunately gradually disappear. A person's dialect goes a long way towards identifying her or him, it locates the person to a specific cultural landscape. Knowing which dialect she or he speaks, we feel we already partly know the person. I have a special relationship with a few dialects. This includes the dialects in the northern part of the Setesdal Valley, where I have worked, and hiked the mountain ranges there since I was a kid, as well as the dialects in the western part of Telemark county, which is the dialect my father's father spoke. Thus, listening to Arvid and Jan talking was pure bliss!
When we are young many among us feel that living at home is too closed and transparent. Family, and not the least neighbours, know "everything" about us, and we cannot soon enough get out and away. It was these feelings and thoughts Aksel Sandemose, who happens to be my favourite Norwegian author, coined with his "Law of Jante". As times go by many among us come to conclude that these feelings, and the relationships that mark small-town and village Norway, perhaps were not so bad after all. Perhaps this has to do with age? There is something safe in being known to your fellow villagers and neighbours, and that people know who you are, because it means they can care for you if and when the need arises. I experienced this closeness in Kviteseid of today, just as I am certain my father's father did, and as I am certain that he built the same closeness and proximity to people around him – be it family, colleagues, or neighbours – in the new life he built in Kristiansand.
(1) Photo credit: Lars Soeftestad, 8 September 2019. From left: Arvid Syftestad, Jan Haugen, Lars Tov Soeftestad.
(2) Photos from the fishing trip 5-8 September 2019 (Image credit: Lars Søftestad): URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lars-1/sets/72157710835268536
(3) This article is also available in Norwegian, URL: https://devblog.no/no/article/bror-min
(4) Permalink: URL: https://devblog.no/no/article/bror-min
(5) This article was published 13 December 2019. It was revised 14 December 2019.
Vest-Telemark blad. URL: https://www.vtb.no/
Vest-Telemark blad. 13 December 2019. "Då eg trefte "bror min" på Gardermoen". By Arvid Syftestad. URLs: https://www.academia.edu/41294317/Bror_min & https://supras.academia.edu/Lars/Drafts
Vest-Telemark blad. 14 December 2019. "Då eg trefte "bror min" på Gardermoen". By Arvid Syftestad. URL: https://www.vtb.no/reportasjar/bror-din-i-bulgaria/ (paywall)