A couple months have passed and we have settled in quite nicely. We found a lovely apartment in Drammen, which is perhaps not the most happening town of all, but it has everything we need and it is right in the middle between both our places of work. And about that; yes, I found work! I am happy I was able to, since nearly all vacancies require fluent Norwegian. There are not that many human rights jobs for my profile either. And while I want to move towards aviation, my legal background is not helpful in this process. In the odd event I do find a vacancy that I am enthusiastic about and for which I meet all the requirements, my applications have proven not to be very successful so far. So now, I am working fulltime in a restaurant by the harbour in Oslo.
Of course it is a bit of a strange reality. I have worked in hospitality while I was still in school or after graduation before I could find a job or internship in my field. But now I just turned 35, after having worked in human rights for about ten years, and the context is a bit different. There are two sides to this.
On the one hand, I am happy to have a job and the restaurant is very nice. It is not only a restaurant, it is also a cocktail bar and rooftop bar. The food is delicious and the vibe is great. Often, there is a DJ or there are musicians playing live music. Most of my colleagues are pretty great, working hard and as a team. We host special events as well, for companies or (very) rich people who have it transformed into a place of their own for a day or night. Without being aware of it, I have worked for Norway’s rich and famous… The pay in Norway is rather high compared to other countries in Europe and I am earning more than in my last job in the Netherlands, meaning I still get to save up a little each month for my future flight training. I don’t have ethical dilemmas to deal with and in that sense, it’s easy on the conscience. It is hard, but honest work.
But in that also lies the downside to it. It is hard, very hard work. At the end of a (double) shift, everything aches; my feet, my legs, my arms, my wrists, my back, my shoulders, my neck and half of the time, my head is aching too. I used to think my office posture caused a bad back; this job is breaking my whole body. (But then I do walk and move a lot, which must count for something?) It is heavy work, manual work and I am still not completely used to that. My hands are so dry that my skin keeps chapping. My phone does not recognise my finger print anymore as my hands are ruined. My parents used to say I should study hard so that I can have an “easier” job. But while I have studied hard, the “easier” job is not that easy to find in the current situation. Sometimes I see customers having a meeting or business lunch at our restaurant. In those cases, I may think back to my time at the UN or other organisations; had I made other life choices, I could have been the one on the other side of the table. Most often, customers are friendly. However, sometimes customers can be downright rude and essentially treat you like dirt. And speaking of dirt, people can leave a lot of it after a visit – especially when drunk! The late shifts are challenging too. Living in Drammen with not the best public transport options close to midnight means you’re dead tired and are in for a long commute. It really is not an ideal situation.
Norway is the first country I moved to that was not my own choice and while I had to get used to not being the one in the lead, everything worked out pretty well. I love living together with Pachal in our beautiful apartment with our two cute little hamsters, we eat like royals, we have lovely friends in Oslo, I found a job and I like most of it.
We are not entirely sure how long we will be here for and that is why I have not yet taken official language courses. In order to become fluent enough to work in Norwegian, I would have to invest about half the cost of a Private Pilot License. Is that worth it for a ‘better’ in-between job? And investing in a language that I will most likely not be using during the next chapter? I’m not sure. I might as well just put my back into it and keep on going this way.
It’s hard work, a pay check and a broken body.