Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Migration and alternative identity

The stories of two non-traditional Norwegians:


My name is Rachel. I’m 30. My father was from Morocco and my mother was Norwegian. I was born in Norway but when I was two, my parents split up, and my father took me back to Morocco. He kidnapped me actually, because my mother chased after him and tried to get me back. She had two attempts, the second time with help from the Norwegian embassy and her brother, and finally she managed to grab me while everyone was napping and escaped back to Norway. She had to change her name and her address and I grew up with her. But recently I found my family in Morocco. They are Muslim. They treated me very kindly, especially my foster mother. I stayed for three months and although it would be difficult for me to be a Muslim, I wonder now what my life would have been like growing up in that big extended Moroccan family.

My name is Nguyen. I’m 52 now. I was born in South Vietnam but my parents were killed when the North Vietnamese took over Saigon. My brother and I wanted to escape but it cost more money than we had to become boat people. Anyway, we heard there was a good chance we would drown because the boats often sank. So we learned how to build our own boat. We learned about sea-worthy design and engine repair. Finally we could escape to Hong Kong and a refugee camp and enter Norway. I work here as boat builder now, it’s good, but I sometimes like to go back to Vietnam.


You might think that Norway is populated exclusively by Thor Heyerdahl type men and Liv Ullman type women. But Norway seems receptive to migrants. There is an intercultural museum including artifacts from immigrant groups, in fact at present, there is an exhibition of six world religions: Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, brought to Norway by migrants. Rachel feels lucky she did not grow up in Morocco but is learning Arabic and dreams of having another life. Nguyen created for himself another life and speaks Norwegian but sometimes thinks of where he came from.


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