A Kenyan friend working at the UN in Nairobi called me yesterday and asked “Hey, how do you survive with the Norwegians? The ones working here are so cold and boring, they are so hard to make friends with” she retorted. I laughed and told her, “Just take time to understand them and make friends with them. Get to know them, Norwegians are “crazy” crazier and wild than most of us will ever think of.” This is a claim that I can justify by citing an example of what is happening now and in the next few weeks to come. I am told all Norwegians pass through this so-called passage of rite, then I am justified to say most Norwegians are “crazy”.
Norwegian students are celebrating rødruss. The Wikipedia has it defined as-The russefeiring (russ celebration) is the traditional Norwegian videregående skole (equivalent to high school) graduation ceremony. Participants in this ceremony are known as russ. The russefeiring traditionally starts on the 1st of May and ends on the 17th of May, the Norwegian national day. Participants wear coloured overalls, drive matching cars, vans, or buses, and celebrate almost continually during this period. Promiscuous sex, drunkenness and public disturbance on a mass scale has been the most prominent impact of the celebration in recent decades. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russefeiring
Two weeks back I was at a city called Stavanger for a field assignment which upon completion I had around 5 hours before I could take my train back to Kristiansand. Being very new in Stavanger, I really did not know where to go. So I took time to window shop around the malls, visit the oil museum and then to the big state church.
As I headed out of one of the malls I couldn’t stop but notice these rowdy young people yelling and shouting at on one statue in Stavanger. I stood there just watching before I made a decision to join a group of four, 19-year-old beautiful girls, sharply dressed in colorful uniform and caps. I am informed there are several different types of russ differentiated by the colour of the caps and the traditional uniforms most students wear during the entire russ period. The colour usually reflects what type of study the person is completing however in some cities like Stavanger, the colour is determined by the school.
I introduce myself and ask if I could join them for a chat. A few minutes later we were good friends and now we are actually Facebook friends. What I am about to write here shocked me. I explain to them that I would like to use this information on my blog and ask if I could take photos which they let me do. With my recorder in my bag, I ask if I could record our conversation because I never wanted to miss a thing. Therefore, this is transcribed information from my four girlfriends in Stavanger, Susann, Ida, Tina and Bodil.
Seated under Alexander L. Kielland statue, a famous Norwegians writer, they tell me they shout and yell at him, because they have read too much of him, heavy books which is really awful and by the time they are done with school, all they want to do is shout at him. So, I ask “What´s the celebration all about?” “We are russ and we are celebrating 13 years of school, so now it is one month partying, drinking, having sex on top of the trees and just doing crazy stuff, that’s one of the traditions of rødruss,” said one of the girls amidst my shock.
“Traditions?” I ask. “Oh yes, we do all the crazy things you can think of. We wear skis and go skiing from one mall to another with no snow and even exciting, sex up on the trees, drinking as much as we can, then we wear a red hat and we have to keep tying this rope all the time we do something crazy. This is how we do it. (They take time to show me how it is done.) The hats are somehow similar to those that graduants put on in Kenya during graduations, only that the rope is long enough for many crazy knots, and the students have nicknames painted on their caps.)
Mmmmmm, great lessons. In my head I am wondering, honestly, what is there to celebrate after high school or secondary school? The road has just started; there is still university life or even college life and even the hustle of looking for a job and fending for oneself.
“The kind of crazy things you are talking about, for example having sex anyhowly, don´t you think that you are risking your life for just a mere celebration?” I ask.
“No no, it has to be protected sex to be legal and we have condoms with us. (And of them who is in charge of protection, shows me packs of condoms she has for her fellow students). Our parents know about this and many of them will always give us advice and ask us to protect ourselves and that we just need to take care of one another. They have been there, so they know everything that happens during this month. It is just one month where we feel we can do anything we want and we have the freedom to do so. Note, not everyone is having sex, no no, you can if you want, this is the only month you can have sex without anyone judging you. We are doing childish things and we love it, we are just stupid at this time.” said another one.
Still shocked, I am reminded about this “ We are not very crazy, only this month. We go to the malls and lie down for a few minutes and pretend to be dead, then we wake up and tie our hats. Today we will get baptized, there´s is a priest at school and we will assemble there and have our hats painted with our names and after that we will have to drink beer in 15 seconds and the rest that you do not finish will be poured on your head and it will drip into your hair. Once that has been done, you are officially baptised, and then you can be a russ and you can begin to celebrate and have fun,” continues our conversation.
In between our conversation we have children passing by and I see these girls giving them some red cards that look like business or contact cards. I am then informed that every student has a bunch that she or he freely dishes out especially to young children who love to collect them.
“We will give you our cards. These have our photos, contact address and a joke. The children love to read the jokes. You can write any crazy jokes in any language.” Said Tina.
Oops, one plastic bag is lying on the ground, it has bottles of beers and wine. Unfortunately, we knock it by mistake and a beer bottle gets broken. I see the disappointment in Sussan´s face and comments “nei, nei, nei, what a loss”.
A few meters away, their male counterparts are coming to join us. This is only but a tip of the story. On the 17th of May, I am told in Kristiansand, they will be running naked from one stop all the way to the main beach, I can´t wait to see this drama. Read part two of this crazy celebration on my blog next week on Tuesday.
Do have a pleasant weekend.