Midnight On the Firing Line

One of Norways richest people was just recently asked a question by a journalist; do you ever regret not having any children?

The 90 plus aged business man gave a politically correct answer. Perhaps he was simply honest and said what he felt about it. But to me, it’s quite simple. It’s not something he is in control over. As far as I know, he doesn’t have a vagina. It’s not up to him. He can’t choose to have children. He can only decide to decline children. And his reasons for not having children may be much more than him deciding not to.

The aging millionaire may have wanted children at one point. Maybe his wife could not have children and he stood with her through the sorrow of not being able to. Perhaps it’s a biological factor on his side. I have a sneaky feeling that in many cases it is not a decision made, but a situation that have to be dealt with.

A WWII veteran was interviewed by his local newspaper once. Also a proven business-man post WWII, he had moved to Copenhagen. He never had children. Why? He went through not one, but two marriages where his wife died of cancer at a young age. How such unluck can be possible? And all this after surviving being shot down in a Mosquito fighter-bomber off the coast of Norway and being dragged out of the sinking aircraft by his pilot literally by his hair. I guess the lesson learned here is; being lucky or unlucky is simply matter of coincidence. Suddenly your run of luck might stop.

All I’m saying, be careful asking men without children why they do not have children. Like it’s their choice. It may be their choice, but often it is not. It is simply not something they can control. Their unborn children are in the hands of the female – if anyone is interested in having your children that is. A female can simply do whatever it takes to have children if she really wants to. A male can not.

Mind War

A friend asked me on FB Messenger the other day; “are you happy?”

It was a simple enough question. Am I happy? I can say I was happy. For several years actually. Very happy. But that was then. I replied with a simple “no, I am not happy”. 

This past winter was the toughest I’ve been through. I balanced on a knife edge of being happy about a new girlfriend and being depressed for the loss of a future. In the end, I think happiness gave in to depression. I went to England in March, and it was slowly another turning point towards feeling better. Slowly. Very slowly. But I am not happy.

I look around me when I write this. The rain is pouring down outside. I am living in a new house. There is no one else here. The TV is on, but I am not watching. I simply like the noise of it. There’s empty Coke bottles, all my books that I’ve written nicely presented on a large book shelf, a sofa I never sit in, in a cabinet there’s a bottle of wine I intended to share with a date that never managed to find the time, and an extremely empty fridge. It is simply empty. I am all alone. I am 36 years old. This is not supposed to be. It’s like I left my life and took over the situation of me in a parallel dimension. I do not belong here. 

Today, for the past four hours, after coming home for a sports event, I have had a mind war going on. One of the individuals taking part met up with her husband and two year old girl after the event was over. I caught myself staring at the family of three playing together, simply being happy. I wished I was him even though I do not know any of his personal struggles. I simply wanted to be him. To have his life. A pretty, athletic girlfriend and a blue-eyed two year old girl.

If this had been four months ago, I would have been in a very dark place by now. I would have lost the mind war hours ago already. At least I am capable of fighting it now and writing about it instead. But I am bitterly jealous of them. Everyone.

I do not want to be in this situation. I am not living the life I want for myself.

I am so jealous, sad and depressed about the lack of having my own family that I can no longer congratulate friends or family becoming parents. My cousin had his first baby a few months back, and I do not want to go visit him. I mustered a “congrats” on Snapchat. A couple me and my ex used to hang out with just had their first child, and I have not once given them my best wishes. No likes on Facebook or Instagram. Nothing. The list goes on. I stay clear of it. I hope you all can forgive me even if you haven’t noticed. Perhaps its not even jealousy, it’s just sadness. Deep sadness.

I am not happy, but I am trying to hang on. I am doing better,  but I am not happy – and I will not be happy until this “is fixed”. If it ever will. And I am terribly sorry to everyone who should have been getting my best wishes for their lucky circumstance. Please understand that I simply can’t manage myself to do it. It is a war with my mind I have yet to win.

 

Chapter 8: Confessions and Lamentations

I had just settled into a new house when I met her. I felt more settled by then. Not so emotionally upset any longer. Trying to focus on the future.

She was my age. Very pretty. Local. Two kids. At first I was a bit cautious considering her age and my desire to have my own children. It didn’t take long until I asked her about it. Turns out she didn’t understand what I was asking her the first time around, but a month or so later she confirmed her intentions; she was open to have more children. Because of me. She asked me what I would do if she said no. I replied I couldn’t be with her if that was the case. She cried for a wee bit and said she would go through this once again (pregnancy) for me. I couldn’t believe how someone was so caring and warm as to do that for someone else. I was the happiest I could ever be. Why wouldn’t I be? Everything seemed to fall into place – and quickly.

And so, I got involved. I spent time with her son at 17 and even more time with her wonderful 10 year old daughter. We had Sunday breakfasts together. This is what having a family felt like then. It was great.

However, I often had periods of depression. Often every other day. The IVF had not yet left my thoughts, and I struggled with it. However I was cautious letting her in on everything. She was very open about her problems towards me. From what she told me, I understood she had been mentally abused by two very unstable assholes. For the most part we spoke about her challenges with work, education, money and past experiences with men. I tried my absolute best to find solutions to her problems. I turned my mind inside out trying to find ways she could move forward. From her job especially. In the end, she told me she never asked for my help in the first place…

By February she had some form of mental breakdown. I adviced her to get a sick leave from work and try to gather her thoughts. Looking back (even though I asked her a few times if this was the case, or if I was the problem) she had most likely changed her mind about children. A bit before this went down, there was a few days where we thought she was pregnant. She got her period at the last possible moment. I was actually happy if she was pregnant even though it was way too early. You can plan and arrange an family all you want, sometimes it just doesn’t work. So, to hell with that. To hell with planning. I didn’t care if it was too early (which it was) or whatever. She was scared as hell, and during one conversation one night – she gave hints that she would have an abortion if she was pregnant. It broke me down completely. I imagined this being my only chance at fatherhood, and she wouldn’t go through with it (and from her point of view, I can fully understand). So, during one chat late at night using Snapchat, she gave another hint she had changed her mind. She didn’t want any more children anyway.

It put me in horrible situation. I had gotten attached to her and her little family. Something I really tried to avoid by asking her up front. It didn’t look like she actually understood the pressure she put me under. Considering she was so honest with me about her problems, I had also been gradually more honest with her about mine, and openly spoke about the IVF and the fear and sadness of not having a family. While I understood her, she didn’t understand me – and it felt like she was actually using it against me. Her depression and issues was acceptable, mine was not.

One of the last time I talked to her, she sent me nasty Snapchat messages saying I was mentally unstable and finishing a sentance with; “….and all the sick things you do”. That was it for me. Not acceptable. I sometimes wonder what these sick things were. I once drew a person in Snapchat with ponytails. Another one was a joke where I compared three kids to three beers (sometimes the third beer is the best). Best I can think of really.

In the end, if this is what she got from me, I started to really wonder how crazy these ex-boyfriends really were if she thought I was like them. But then again, she once told me she sometimes simply said “things” she couldn’t “control”.

So I decided to break it off. I had to. She had changed her mind about the foundation of our relationship. Afterwards I felt like I had been in some kind of fight. I felt physically beaten up. I was the lowest point I had ever felt. I sat in my chair at home and held up my arms like someone about to be beaten up would do. Begging for mercy.

There’s a few things you have to be rock solid on in a relationship. Children is one. It’s simply not a subject you can change your mind on. I was standing firm. It’s a dealbreaker. I want my own children, and I will break up with anyone who says they don’t want children or a family. Simple as that.

I didn’t deserve this one. Not any of it. It hurt me greatly. Not just that she changed her mine about the most important subject a couple can discuss, but how she used my most personal confessions and feelings against me – accusing me of being mentally unstable.

A request was taken for weakness. So I let it bleed and set it right.

Chapter 7: And All My Dreams Torn Asunder

The chance was 1/3 from each try. We had three tries. I threw a dice three times to see if I got the right number. I got it on my third try. I figured it would go down that route. How we would be succesfull at last. It couldn’t possibly not work. Things like this simply didn’t happen the wrong way. At one point or another she would be pregnant. In all fairness to the Universe, we would be great parents. It clearly had to see this.

She actually got pregnant while she was “reseting” her body in February 2015. Not from IVF either. It came as a surprise. If she had not been so “aware” of everything, I doubt she would have noticed anyway. She was just a couple of days late. It meant she had to abort her medicine and start all over. It was a chemical pregnancy.  After a couple of more days, everything went back to normal. It cost us another six months. She came to me with her stick that said “pregnant” and her voice was shaking of joy and surprise. I will never forget it.

We went in to Oslo for our fourth attempt in the fall of 2015. Maybe it was our fifth, I can’t remember. I was looking for signs by then. A caravan down the street had the name of what we had planned to name our child if she was a girl. Adria. I took it as a sign. A positive one. The sky that morning before we left for our last attempt was crispy clear, and an a Airbus A340 from SAS streaked across the sky coming in to land at Oslo Airport from New York. I took that as a sign too. I still couldn’t really believe that all of this could be for nothing, so I expected the last attempt to work. But it didn’t. It simply didn’t.

Adria

If it was a girl, we would call her Adria. From Stargate SG-1. We figured a girl might look like her.

We decided to not give up, and went to a private clinc quickly. We bought an IVF package worth 60 000 NOK (excluding medication). The total sum would be about 100 000 NOK. Her mom paid half, I paid half. We tried once. The eggs were developing, but not good enough. They inserted the one which looked semi-promising. It didn’t work. It was perhaps the worst disappointment of them all. She also had a terrible physical reaction to it. The private clinic did things differently, different medication. She got sick. Very sick. We barely managed to get home. At one point I had to take taxis around Oslo to find a specific drug as many of the pharmacies were sold out. I went out of my way. At least I thought so. She was upset because I didn’t tell her “it would be alright”. How could I? It felt like lying. To her, I wasn’t doing my part. I wasn’t saying the right things, and I wasn’t suffering. She was. She was suffering. All I had to to was deliver a cup. Mentally I dealt just as much as her. She just didn’t see it.

My MasterCard bill was growing rapidly, but we still had another two tries left. That was the package deal. If it worked on the first try, we would still have to pay for three. We had gone for three. The clinic was very serious about their work. We liked them more than the state run hospital. They had a different approach to things.

Our next attempt would be in February 2016. I had a trip to England coming up, so she went to the clinic by herself for the usual talks before the attempt started – what kind of dose of medication would work, when she would start and so on. By then we didn’t really work as a couple any longer. The IVF process was consuming us. We talked of little else than IVF and our dogs. It was all eyes on it. All our energy. I read articles online saying it was normal. I took care of the house for the most part. Inside and out. I was doing everything I could.

When I got back from England I found her at home in tears. She had aborted the IVF treatment. For good. She had had some kind of breakdown at the clinic and had decided to not do it anymore. From being “all in” a month ago to completely abort it was a shock to me. It dawned on me she had ideas and issues/problems/thoughts she had not shared with me. About us. She wanted to address our issues. I understood, but replied I always thought it was natural considering how hard the IVF was to deal with. I guess she disagreed. So, that evening – after just being back from England an hour beforehand, everything was off. IVF, children, relationship, marriage. It was all off. From what I could gather she had pushed her body through these tries without actually “being there” any longer. She just went along with it even thought she didn’t want to any longer. How many guys can say they had to deal with a broken up marriage and aborted IVF on the same day?

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I didn’t know what to think. A weight lifted off my shoulders the same night, but I didn’t know what to make of everything. I had been worrying about her for years. That weight disappeared. I didn’t have to worry that much now, she had pushed me away. What now?

It took another six months until I moved out. Simply because we had to untangle our lives and make the best choices. She had to be able to finance the house on her own and I had to get my own place. It was a mess. I bought a car in May with automatic gear change. Not because I wanted one, but because she couldn’t drive a stick, and because my father helped finding the car. He didn’t know anything. No one knew anything, and I had a horrible time telling my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but it wasn’t up to me. I was simply put in a situation where I had to make some choices. I distansed myself from her quickly. I was angry, upset. But one thing kept me going; she couldn’t have kids. This put me in a situation where still might be able to – if I met someone else. That first night after I came back from England I suddenly remembered something she told me once before the third try at the hospital; “if this doesn’t work you can make someone else pregnant if you’d like.” I thought she was joking around. She had actually been trying to tell me something.

I can never name my child Adria. If I am lucky enough to find someone and have a child that is. The name Adria is a symbol to all those six tries which did not go the right way. They were just five or six cells, but in my mind I can picture what the child would have looked like. And that is Adria. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s like missing someone you’ve never met. I can imagine her in my head. She actually feels real, although disappearing more and more now that I have some distance. I’ve met people who simply do not understand the despair and grief of something like that can give you (it’s another story). It is very real. Just by writing this I can feel my face tightening up. Having children is a unfair game. It is simply unfair. Nothing to do with education, being smart or anything. It’s just about luck.

It’s at these moments I am usually putting on Butch Walker’s melancholic album “Afraid of Ghosts” and I think I will now. I could have written this more personal or with more feelings, but I simply can’t. It is simply too hard.

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Signs and Portents

If you have challenges in your life, and most people do, here’s something you might find soothing. Be creative! I created art. Posters on my wall. Framed.

I find being creative comforting in trying times and situations. Many people find comfort in music or lyrics. Perhaps books, movies or art.

For many, playing an album and reading lyrics might be enough, but I found combining lyrics to my own art or expressions to be a very positive experience.

While not all of these posters are my own art, some are. I will explain more below each photo and what they represent. The peculiar thing with lyrics is that they can mean anything to you – even though the original writer meant something else. I am confident that most of these lyrics means something totally different to the writer itself – but to me, it’s about specific situations or life experiences.

This idea came to me after being sent a photo of a friends wall in his house. It was a photo of a certain lyric written by Axl Rose. The song is Estranged by Guns N’ Roses, one of the songs by GNR which means a lot to the hardcore fangroup. So I decided to do something like that myself, but adding more of my own creativity and also including several other bands that I keep close. This whole collection is now on my wall in the second floor – and one of the things I am most pleased about in my house.

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AEROSMITH: Seasons of Wither.

One of my fave Aerosmith songs, “Season of Wither”. Much better than any of their other ballads in my opinion. For me, this represents my ex-wife. While not everything is something I can relate to (I do not feel I am any devil really). However. My ex was always sleepy. She slept until noon sometimes. Maybe hours longer. I would always get up early, walk the dogs and spend the next hours writing on a book while she was sleeping. She was always blues hearted as she was perhaps more depressed than I understood her to be. She often said “this year has been the worst for me” and she kept repeating it every year. I reacted the wrong way, by being annoyed, upset or even angry. I took it as a personaøl insult as I went out of my way to make her happy. I often replied to her that I had had a great year and didn’t understand why she felt like this. And this kept going on for too long. We fell into decline. Our relationship dwindled. Wither.

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GUNS N’ ROSES: Estranged.

Almost self-explanatory. It covers everything. From trying, failing and trying again. Maybe Next time I will get it right. Every persons life has certain Seasons that keeps changing. Nothing is constant except change. Axl Rose have a way with lyrics which most lyricists can’t compete with. It’s depressive, but yet optimistic. Never give up hope that next time you will get it right. Whatever that may be. That being a relationship and exploring why it fell through or whatever it may be. Do some soul-searching, and try again next time. Maybe then you will get it right in the end. The image itself is one I am very proud of. Axl on the rail of a big oil tanker about to jump off. Taken from the video. Axl and GNR was very hooked on symolism back then. I think he still is. This sole lyric means a lot to me.

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WESTWORLD: Limbo

An almost GNRish epic ballad by Tony Harnells Project called WestWorld. To me it deals with loneliness, being in a limbo. Not either here nor there but simply waiting for the next chapter in ones life. I think this is where I am right now. The song is extremely personal to me. And it must be to Tony as well. It’s a wonderful song of what I believe is about his first divorce. I can feel like I have nothing to show. I have no girlfriend, no wife, no children, no family. I keep myself up and I get tired of it because I have nothing to show and feel below everyone else and their more fullfilling lives. So for me, it’s about both my divorce and not being where I am supposed to be – but in the middle neither here nor there.

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SISTER: Let it bleed.

To me this is about my last, short relationship. My request of wanting children, and she agreeing to it – but later changing her mind. It was an absolute turmoil in my head. My request of children turned into weakness in her eyes as she thought I had mental issues dealing with lack of fatherhood. I was very depressed then I must admit, and with the season being dark and cold – it truly felt like darkness was covering me. With her changing her mind over what I call “a dealbreaker” (children) I broke up with her. I guess she broke up with me too. She thought I was weak and sent me some nasty accusations my way. So instead of going along with something I couldn’t do any longer, I let her go. I mentally bled for a week or so, but I set it right. If I am to go be with someone, they have to open for children. I let it bleed and I set it right.

There are a few others as well, but I thought these were the best.

 

Chapter 6: A Race Through Dark Places

07.12.2016 

“Can you tell me why you are here?”
I thought about it for a bit before I replied.
“I need to do my job properly.”

Such was my introduction to my problem to her. It was the short version. It was more than that, but I had to start somewhere. I had been advised by a good friend of mine to talk to someone about my challenges. I had been there before. With my now ex-wife. A place where people goes when they want to divorce in this country.  For free. Sometimes Norway can show itself from its absolute best side. Free professional assistance and guidance. A place where you can pour your heart out and no one can judge you for it. It was the kind of help Americans pay hundreds of dollars for.

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I didn’t really know they accepted individuals (thought it was just couples), but they did. She was a pshychologist, and about my age. She simply said her name was Mari. She was an attractive woman with a wonderful, welcoming smile. Her dialect suggested she came from Oslo. I wondered if it was work or romance who brought her up to these parts of the country. I bet it was the latter.

And so I told her my problem. I told her I’d been in meetings with young mothers or mothers-to-be at work where I simply did not function properly. How personal feelings got in the way of doing things right or simply paying attention. I assured her no one in any meetings noticed anything as I kept my cool – but after the meetings I was a mess. I was overflowing with jealousy, bitterness, and anger. Some of these babies were born when I should have become a father myself, but didn’t. I saw my own children in these babies (even though no one had ever existed). Poorly prepared fathers and mothers. Parents-to-be that were not prepared for what was to come. Inside I was the same as when I was a teenager and heard of friends going to England to see football. I was fuming on the inside then too; they didn’t know SHIT about England! They never studied maps of English cities! They didn’t know squat about English history! They didn’t even know which team played in which English league division! They didn’t DESERVE to be in England! I did! Not them!

I had to admit one thing. I was depressed, and I had not been depressed before. Not like this. Co-workers noticed a change in behaviour in me. I had a blank look in my eyes. I had to leave lunch when children came up as a subject. I was in tears every other day (at one point I kept count). I had never felt so alone ever before. I felt like a failure. I talked myself down. Everything I had buildt up the past 10 or so years came crashing down.

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All in all, it felt like a house of cards. I was just about to put that final card on top and declare victory when everything fell apart. My confidence, my life, my future, my hobbies. I wasn’t where I was supposed to be, and I couldn’t think of one step I had put wrong.

When I had finished that first conversation with her, I walked somberly back to my car and drove home. When I came back home it was all quiet. Not a soul in the big house. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I had a good job, a great, big house and all this care and love to give and there wasn’t a soul around I could give it to. I sat down for a moment and thought; “what the hell happened?”

The next day was my birthday. I would turn 36. I curled up under a blanket with my entire body and stayed there for half an hour. Fetal position.

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But anyway, I’m jumping ahead of myself. I need to backtrack a year or so. Perhaps this blog was just a way of avoiding to write about what happened between this and those first IVF visits.

Chapter 5: No Surrender, No Retreat

I can only speak for myself, but I was always of the impression that pregnancies could happen at any time – anywhere as long as your penis circulated a vagina area. Fine, I exaggerate a tad, but it was to prove a point. Babies happened. It was all over the TV. Soaps showing unexpected pregnancies in all ages, and shows on MTV about teen pregnancies. A friend of mine got pregnant when she was 16. To me, this should have been one of the easier tasks in life. What would come later would be hard part – the upbringing. I expected babies to happen as soon as we went for it.

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Most people have one or two things they struggle with. Physically or mentally. Perhaps you were raped as a teenager. Maybe your mother was an alcoholic, or you lost your significant other in a car crash. Maybe your father died when you were young and always longed for a father figure. Maybe you have no self confidence, maybe you are under-performing in life and know it. Humans always seem to have one or two “soft” spots. I often wondered what mine was – now that I had broken free from a shaky start of adult life to excel in what I was doing, I almost expected something to pop up.

Turns out it was lack of pregnancies. She simply did not become pregnant. We tried for a couple of years, nothing happened. Perhaps it something physically wrong. Maybe it was her mental state of stress. She was always stressed out. Perhaps it was hormonal. More than likely a mix of all. We just didn’t know. All we knew was that it wasn’t me that had a problem.

We were referred to IVF treatment. First three times are free in this country. I didn’t know much about it, but figured this would be a safe bet. Considering it was a 30% chance on each try, the math was good. A 90% chance. In theory it would work. We talked about children names and prepared like any other couple. First try didn’t work out, and I started to calculate the chances in different ways.  By each step in the process, 50% of the eggs would disappear. The Norwegian approach is also to be very conservative and not insert many eggs – compared to Israel where it was more of a “go flat out” approach with many eggs and considerable amount of twins being born. I read articles online saying it was mentally demanding. Physically as well – for the female.

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First try was a failure even before got to the insemination part. She made a mistake with her drug injections prior to the date we had at the hospital. It didn’t cost us a try.

Second one went alright. Six eggs was taken out. Three  didn’t evolve. Three was alright, but two of them did not develop properly. We had one left, which was inserted. The nurse talked about “the golden egg” which I found odd. Why bet on a “golden egg” when chances would increase if you bet on several of them at one try? Their response was that they didn’t know her body well enough to know how things would go. They were simply being cautious, but in my world that cost us two tries before they found the right dosage of drugs and what not. It was like putting your hand out in a dark closet and hoping to find that shirt you want to wear on that particular day. Among so many others. The more I calculated based on how they were doing things, the less positive I got. And it took months and months between each try. It was all a process. And a painful one at that.
Second try was aborted while we were halfway to the hospital by train. It was a two hour ride. None of the eggs had developed. We jumped off the train and went back home with our hopes shattered for a second time. I realized at some point that this may as well not work. I could end up not being able to form a family at all.

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I thought it to be very ironic. Of everyone I knew when I was growing up, I always considered myself as very capable with children. I adored children. My confidence in fatherhood had not even gone down when my self-confidence was low and I was insecure. If it was one thing I was good at, it was professional and personal care for others.

And in the midst of this painfully slow and tough process, we were growing apart from each other.  Or maybe she had already disappeared from me, she just couldn’t find a way out.

What goes up….

My ex-wife had a poster in her bedroom that said exactly that. A picture of a hand drowning in pills. What goes up, must come down. It’s funny how something sticks to you. That poster stuck to me, and I still remember it vividly. I often picture it, and those excact words. 

It was those words that stuck to me when I was walking down one of England most historic airfields, minutes away from reaching another personal pinnacle I never thought would happen to me. I somehow had managed to manouver myself in a position to fly for free in a P-51 Mustang from the second World War. Something every historic aviation enthusiast dream of, but for most people can never be achieved. My father had spoken of trying to be given such a chance for three decades. He never got close. Suddenly, before even being 35 years old, I was about to go on that ride. And I would be doing it over the English countryside pulling 5 G’s in the backseat of one of the most famous aircraft ever made. It was at that moment I thought; “when will I ever come down?”

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In all honesty, looking back, it feels like anything I wanted between 2005 and 2015 came true. I always wanted to travel the world. Suddenly I had racked up 24 trips to England, three trips to the USA, 11 to Israel as well as all of Scandinavia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland and more. I finally got to see my fave football playing live, I wrote books and published them with ease. Further; I befriended a childhood rockstar-hero of mine, signed books in England sitting beside WWII veterans, held lectures on historic aviation, got tenure and married a knock-out dark haired exotic girl. I turned 30 and didn’t think one bit about it. I felt at ease with it. I wasn’t an insecure 20 year old. I was reaching beyond anything I could have imagined within my hobbies and interests. All this may not sound much, but for me it meant the world. Everything I hoped when I was growing up was coming true. If this was getting older, I had no problem with it.

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With my head slightly banging on the canopy, upside down over Duxford Airfield, the thought of coming down came creeping to me again. Reaching this level of what I considered personal success; what will come next? Could I possibly continue on like this with what I felt was never-ending success?

Fact is, coming down again was creeping up on me. I just didn’t know it yet. A year later down the road, and my world would look very different.

Up-and-Down-Plan-Crash

 

 

It’s culture issue

No, it’s not actually. I often told a few trusted friends the situations I ran into during the first years with together her. They kept saying it must be a culture thing. It wasn’t really a culture thing. It was a personality thing. She just had some quirky personality traits I couldn’t wrap my head around.

However, her home country had some drastic differences to mine. Security issues, density in population, massive traffic, pollution, extreme heat. Perhaps the biggest difference of all; communites so vastly difference from each other to the point you wouldn’t really think you were living in the same country at all. The diversity was something alright, and it’s not all positive. But then again, she could pick friends totally to her liking because there were so many to choose from. She always said that in Norway, you just had to become friends with whatever because there would be no one like you around anyway. She had a point. Her friends were all highly educated people. Bordering on nerds, but not in an obvious way. I was a nerd as well, but not like that. I never excelled in school and never had a lifegoal of becoming a doctor. My nerd factor came from my hobbies, not academia. My friends came from all sorts of places. None of my friends had anythying in common except knowing me. Her friends seemed to have lots in common. She had hand-picked them. I was just pleased I could make friends at all.

Mass-immigration from Russia combined with a growing Arab community made for natural segregation as people tend to seek out their own kind. It’s definetely a warning signal to countries like Sweden who have basically kept an open border policy for cultures so different that they could be from another century. Her country had communites within communites, and none of them really spoke to each other. To me, it felt like 10 or 20% of her countrys population, (mainly the secular, highly educated part) pushed the country forward while the rest simply went along for the ride.

However, all of this didn’t really give us problems. I can point to one important factor why; religion. We were secular. I was more athiest than agnostic. She was perhaps more agnostic than athiest, but it worked. So, no, it was never either about religion or so much about culture. The difference between western countries are really not that huge. We surf the same web, watch the same TV shows and follow the same football teams.

The differences may be in each countrys wealthfare system or how doctors do their job. How you send in your tax report. How much or what type of groceries a small town supermarket got, or whether there are pubs around or not. Whether or not you can go out on a Saturday night depending on the cost of a fancy burger. Coming from me, this is one of the things I’m quite proud of. We never had issues about culture differences. Perhaps it was easier for me since she came to live here and not vice versa. I would definetely have had issues living there, but this also because I’m not keen on living in large cities. I’m not keen on steel bars on your windows either. Speaking of burglaries, she was scared of being alone in our apartment for some time so she even locked the bedroom door with a key at first. Is this culture or personality? I think it’s the latter.

While working at a school she was shocked that the school did not have a fence around it. Most countryside schools simply don’t around here. It’s just nature that surrounds it anyway. She was surprised children stayed out and played in almost all weather conditions while in her country the kids were rushed inside once a spot of rain appeared. Yes, this is culture. But, all these differences were easy to get used to once she knew the system of the community she lived in. The nature and level of trust people had between each other. In her country, it didn’t feel like anyone trusted anyone. But who does in large cities?

It wasn’t about culture.

 

Chapter 4: And the Sky Full of Stars

I made over ten return trips to Israel between 2006 and 2012. I often photographed a lot of it, videotaped some of my travels as well. While the destination was always what I was looking forward to, I often found the travel itself an added bonus. I loved flying. The photos on this specific blog post are all mine. Often taken with a low quality cell phone camera, standard of 2007-2008.

You can decide to hate airports and air travel, or you can decide to embrace it and make your journey a bit more fun. An airport is the modern day roadcross. From airports, people will travel to all destinations of the world. Being at an airport made me understand that I can travel to any of the destinations on the board. It is a feeling of freedom. It is at an airport I feel I am most in touch with the world.

My journeys to Israel took about 15 hours, give or take. That included all legs of my travel. It would often start with getting a lift to the bus stop by my parents. From the bus I would often send my girlfriend a notice I was on my way. I often seperated my journey into four parts; bus to airport, flight to Prague (I often used Prague as my transfer), flight to Tel Aviv and the train ride up north.

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Blurry photo of boarding a CSA flight in 2009

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Gate at Oslo Airport

From the bus going to Oslo Airport, I would often gaze at the outside surroundings of often melting snow, a foggy landscape slowly waking up to spring while knowing Israel was already in full summer mode (I rarely did the trip in summer or fall). At the airport I would check in my bag at a counter still manned by people. This has now for the most part a disappeared from most airports with all the self-service check-in counters popping up. I would often study people around me, I spotted Israeli-Norwegian couples, business travelers or holiday-makers simply off to Prague. The Oslo-Prague-Tel Aviv route with Czech Airlines was at the time (a decade ago) one of the cheaper and easier options of routing down to Israel. I could often identify people going all the way and seperate them from those only flying to Prague. Nowadays, the route is operated from both Arlanda and Kastrup by SAS and Norwegian, but theres still no direct flight from OSL. Other carriers I flew (with transit) were KLM, Austrian, Swizz, or a mix of carriers within Star Alliance. Other carriers with a connection somewhere would be Lufthansa, British Airways and Air Baltic which I never tried.

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CSA dirty 737 wing flying over Norway

Having good time at an airport is essential for me. I often settled down somewhere with a pizza slice or two and looked at 737s arriving and departing from gates. Perhaps going for a pint of beer if I had the time. My flight departed around 15:40 and arrived in Prague two hours later. From there, there was a good six hour wait for the midnight departure at 23:55 to Tel Aviv. I never thought of those hours as boring as most people would have. I used to sit down in a pub somewhere with my laptop, a Czech beer in hand and surfed the web while the aircraft were passing by outside. During the last years I often used www.flightradar24.com and track incoming traffic on my computer while keeping an eye out for the aircraft outside. On a budget, I often used the KFC restaurant in the departure area for a late dinner. Czech Airlines operated a check-in counter inside the departure area for connecting passengers to Tel Aviv. Here, to handed out boarding passes.

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Laptop and a Czech beer makes for a good time

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Prague Airport getting more and more quiet as night falls

All through the evening, the airport got a little less crowded as each flight left to its destinations. I noticed Prague often had obscure destinations for holiday goers. For example Bournemouth in Britain. It was obviously meant for Brits to come to Prague to party. By 23:55, the airport was usually entirely empty except for those people going to Tel Aviv and the security guards walking around.

The flight to Tel Aviv was usually never fully booked. I could often use all three seats to stretch my legs and sleep for most of the time. One time, I woke up after a short nap, and looked straight down at a major European city, shining in the night. I believe it was either Vienna or Budapest. I often used my MP3 player and tunes in to whatever FM signals it recieved – and by the language I could pinpoint where I was. However, Czech Airlines often used a rather new Airbus on this flight with small screens for each row with the complimentary live flight tracker.

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KFC to go at Prague Airport

After having done several flights, I knew how to ask for certain things to get the most out of their service onboard. Like two cans of Coke and extra water, or other gems they might offer but you need to ask specifically for. Later on, most of Czech Airlines trolly service went all “pay”. Too bad.

The most interesting part of the flight was the last 20 minutes or so approaching Tel Aviv. I could clearly see the lights from the shores of Israel from some distance away. If I was seated on the left side, I could almost see as far as Haifa. Coming in to land, the highways below were often empty, but for a few cars and trucks.

Already slightly jet-lagged, I had to stand at passport control in front of a young Israeli girl in uniform asking me questions she had done thousands of times before – totally uninterested in her line of work. “What is your purpose of your visit?” “Where do you live?” “What is your girlfriends name?” Regardless of these young girls unimpressive approach, I found Ben Gurion Airport very safe due to all the checks they did. Especially when departing.

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Czech beer for this first flight down to Prague, ca 2007

Sleep deprived, I found my way through the final checks, picked up my baggage, and met up with my girlfriend waiting in the terminal. The clock was often around four or five in the morning which meant she had been taking a train down to Tel Aviv in the middle of the night to meet me. Both lacking sleep, we often hurried to the train for the last part of the journey up north. Usually, we went to sleep at eight in the morning. A long travel, but I always enjoyed it. I was traveling the world, had a girlfriend from abroad and had stars in my eyes.

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One interesting incident in 2008; the captain of this CSA PRG-OSL flight forgot to add flaps before take-off, subsequently aborting take off halfway down the runway