Oslo, 15.07.2020

I suddenly find myself in a situation I haven’t been in before. I’m sat in a borrowed fifth floor flat in the middle of the biggest city in Norway, looking out over the sun setting over Oslo, shrouding the parks and the buildings and the castle in mid-July nighttime. This is a fairly quiet part of the city center, but compared to my 2000 people-hometown, everything seems grand and loud. People are wandering on the streets below me, and I am both in the middle of more bustle than I’m used to, and also so incredibly on the outside of it. Not a bad place to be, really.

Big cities are strange. It’s in the cities stuff is happening. Big cities mean life, big cities are synonymous with energy, big cities smell of adventure, new foods and bright colours. People gather in big cities, huddle together in big cities, but people are also incredibly lonely in big cities. Big cities are for dreams and worries and ambitions and nails bitten short.

At the moment I’m so very new to this city. I’ve never lived with the sounds of trams passing outside my window, and it’s a new experience. Maybe the best way to get used to the city bustle is to sing with it. I tried that; a song about how no matter what else you have or haven’t got, at least you’ll always have tomorrow. Maybe the city is a little bit more mine now than it was this morning. Maybe it’ll be a little bit more mine tomorrow. Like I said, I’m so incredibly new to this city. I don’t know it properly and it certainly doesn’t know me, yet. But maybe one day. Maybe this city will lead to small changes that will lead to big changes, maybe this first temporary stay will lead to some sort of personal growth I’m not prepared for and certainly not aware of at the moment. This feels like the beginning of something – I’m just not sure what.

I brought one of my favourite mugs, filled it with tea and now I’m sat overlooking the buildings and the trees in the park. Cars, trams, taxis and electric scooters; meters below me life is going on and on. I can’t wait to join in, but for tonight I think I’m just going to feel oh so very fortunate to suddenly find myself on the rooftops of the capital, to see the city from above, to be in the middle of what feels like everything, and still be a little bit distanced from it. I’ll learn and grow and get to know this city tomorrow. I’m very excited about it.

-Andrea

Dismantling the Postcard wall and getting rather nostalgic about it

I’m moving out of my flat on the 15th of June, which is, objectively, still more than a month away. However, spending so much time inside this flat lately has really made me think about what this flat means (and has meant) to me and what the future will hopefully bring, and in a fit of … not really inspiration and definitely not passion, but in a fit of something, I decided to dismantle my postcard wall today.

I love my postcard wall. When I first moved to Kristiansand I bought my first ever mailbox, and for a couple of moments, I felt like a proper adult. To fill the mailbox with nice things, I joined Postcrossing, and since September 2018 I’ve sent 203 cards and received 202. Every single card has been meticulously pinned to my wall, and today I’ve taken them all down. It took me about an hour – I wanted to have a read through, and properly look at all of them, not just tear them down.

The postcard wall has served as an interesting and unique piece of decoration to make a student flat seem a bit less dull (and orange, that wall is oh so very orange). It was the one thing people always commented on when they entered my flat; there was always a “wow” or a “what on earth is all this?” But more important than that – it made the flat feel a bit less temporary. The postcard wall was “my thing”; 202 greetings from 202 people I’ve never met, 202 people’s handwritings and well-wishes from around the world, and something that slowly built itself up around me. And as I was taking the cards down, I looked at so many of them and I realised that I can remember receiving almost all of them. I remember when specific cards popped into my mailbox, how quickly I ran inside to register them and pop a message back to the sender, before putting them up on the wall, contemplating whether the front or the back should be on show. I do not know where any of the cards I’ve sent ended up, but maybe they’re on someone else’s postcard wall, or in an album or a box that someone flicks through when they need a smile or a giggle. The postcard wall has definitely made me feel safe and at home, like I’m surrounded by these snippets of time, these conversations happening at kitchen tables and desks all around the globe. What a privilege to get to be a part of such a thing.

I’ve moved six times in the last six years, but this is the first flat I’m genuinely sad to leave. Taking down this wall, which I’ve appreciated so much, felt like the first step to taking my time to thank the flat and start moving out of it. Having to rush all of these cards down, while simultaneously trying to pack up everything else just felt wrong; the cards needed their own time and their own moments. Silly, I know, but it just felt right.

So here you go, I hope you enjoy this little snippet of how the postcard wall came to be history. A lot less dramatic than I make it sound, but to be fair, removing the first card felt quite dramatic to me. Then it became a bit meditative, as I read through the kind words of strangers who’ve all given me a little bit of their time on the back of a card, who all helped make this flat feel a little bit more like mine. And without planning for it, the very last card left on the wall, the very last to be carefully taken down, was actually the very first I received. Full circle, and all that.

Here’s to many more postcards, in many more mailboxes to come. I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that you’re staying safe wherever you are.

-Andrea

Journal #14, The sounds of a new home

I’ve gone to sleep in a new bed tonight. I’ve moved houses again; another student flat, another shoebox room. There is something mindful about the process of moving from one space to another – about taking all of your books off of your shelf and putting them into boxes, holding onto some you may not have looked at since you read them and receiving gentle reminders of future reads you may have forgotten about. Folding every item from your closet, and carefully lifting all the pictures down from your walls. Taking a second to really look at all the things you surround yourself with every day, and properly contemplate on what elements are gonna be allowed to come with you to this new home.
That is, until you feel like you’ve done nothing but pack for the last week, and just chuck everything in a big box labelled “unsorted” to finally be able to move on with your life.

I was excited about this move. Tomorrow marks the first day of semester two on this “new” BA, (I’ve got to stop referring to it as new at some point, but today is not that day), and I’ve moved back into student accommodation. It’s nice to be closer to campus, and in a weird way, it feels right to be out of my little house, to be living in just one room again. I absolutely loved living there, but this feels more student-y, more like a cosy little space that’s 100% mine, and suddenly all the things I longed to get away from about student accommodation a year ago, feels oddly comforting.

But this little flat has a lot of new sounds in it, just like all new living spaces do. There is creaking in the walls, and a sort of drone coming from somewhere in the ceiling that I’ve yet to identify. There are new people walking outside, new voices and thoughts, and different winds whipping. Also, I’m back to having a flatmate again, and though the soft sounds of someone moving around in the next room are comforting, it’s also something you need to get used to again, every time you’ve been living without it for a while.

This semester is gonna be good, and living in this flat is gonna be great. My flatmate seems lovely, and in contrast to my last flats that I’ve shared with 9 other people, it’s just me and one other student this time. I also really like how my little room looks and feels, and it’s a nice space to make cosy and homely, but the first night in any new place is always weird.

So for tonight, I’ll put on a playlist with songs that sound like a Tuesday evening at home, get some fresh pyjamas out of a soon-to-be unpacked suitcase, curl up in familiar bedsheets and let myself feel a little bit small for just a moment. It’s not a bad feeling, not like being scared or unsure or really homesick, it’s just the feeling of things changing around you. Nothing marks change like new living spaces; a new degree or a new job, a new city, maybe even a new country. But I’ve made many a flat feel like home before, and this one won’t be an exception.

I’m excited for what is to come.

-Andrea