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What do you do when the ambassador comes over for a chat?

Published: August 3, 2017

By Tove I. Dahl, Elsebet Elizabeth A.M. Curtiss and the Skogfjorden High School Credit Villagers
 villager asks his question—in
Norwegian!—of Ambassador Aas via Skype

What do you do when the ambassador comes over for a chat? That’s what the Skogfjorden high school credit villagers asked themselves this summer when they learned Norway’s Ambassador to the United States Kåre R. Aas would join them one afternoon.  As one villager admitted, “I anticipated the ambassador to be very professional and mostly serious. I was expecting neutral answers from him, and for him to be fairly hard to understand.”

With the visit imminent, the villagers worked hard in their two-week humaniora course that was all about how Norway abruptly evolved from a developing nation to a wealthy oil nation in the 1970s.  With their newfound wealth, a lot of new things became possible for Norway. Those same things, though, raised significant ethical and political questions about how to manage it all.

All summer long, Skogfjorden villagers have been playing with the idea of what one could do with unlimited resources… and then what one actually does when realizing nothing is forever.  How would we set our priorities? How does Norway?  Meanwhile, what are villager life priorities? How do villagers engage in setting and enacting priorities for how to live in the communities they identify with?

These are big questions, and batting them around made it progressively easier for the villagers to then imagine what they would like to ask Ambassador Aas when he came over.  And “come over” he did -- via Skype on Skogfjorden’s large screen TV.

The ambassador had been prepped about the four-week high school credit session. Still, is it really possible to imagine that there are teenagers tucked up in the North Woods of Minnesota who have come to really understand Norway’s big wealth-related questions and how Norwegians have been answering them through their political choices all these years?

After a short welcome to Skogfjorden, Ambassador Aas spoke for 20 minutes about Norway’s history in the U.S. and its current role in national and international issues related to peace, stability and security; Norway’s use of its natural resources (especially marine resources); and Norway’s role in preserving our natural environments and climate change.  He also talked about the unique resources of The High North where things are really happening in Norway these days.

He spoke, of course, bare norsk (only Norwegian).  Although he was ready to supplement his Norwegian with English where needed, he never had to make the switch as the topics were all familiar to the villagers!  And the villagers posed all of their questions to him på norsk, of course!

As one villager commented afterwards, “I was quite energized by the experience. This is because I was able to understand him very well and I was surprised by that and also because it was exciting to meet someone who knows so much and actually makes a difference.”

Ambassador Aas had a plane to catch, but he stayed on a little longer than planned, eager to answer questions and share insights about embassy work.And what did Ambassador Aas think of the experience?  “The students asked really good questions (in Norwegian!) and it was great to see their interest and enthusiasm in learning about other languages and getting to know different cultures. Concordia Language Villages gives these students new perspectives in life that they will always carry with them. This is an excellent program”

We thoroughly enjoyed having Ambassador Aas “over”, and we hope that this is the first of many more chats with friends from the Royal Norwegian Embassy.  We are ready to host the ambassador and friends “live”, too -- just as we did when Ambassador Knut Vollebæk visited us so many years ago. After all, Skogfjorden is all about ambassador training for Norway. We dig into issues that matter to Norway every summer while going about learning Norwegian.  Who, then, to better represent Norway past, present and future than the villagers and staff who devote their summers to building solid and long-lasting bridges to Norway from right here in the North Woods of Minnesota?  Our parting words to Ambassador Aas -- Velkommen igjen (Welcome back)!

Questions posed

  • Siden du var Norges ambassadør til Afghanistan, har du sett filmen Exit Afghanistan? Hvis ja, hva er din mening om den? (Since you were the ambassador to Afghanistan, have you seen the film, "Exit Afghanistan"? If so, what is your opinion?)  (Stilt av Jonatan)
  • Hvorfor er det viktig for Norge å ha to forskjellige definisjoner på individuell- og gruppe terrorisme? (Why is it important for Norway to have to different definitions for individual and group terrorism?) (Stilt av Else)
  • Hva er den mest stressende ting om forhandlinger med andre land? (What is the most stressful thing about negotiations with other countries).
  • Hva inspirerer du til å gjøre det du gjør? (What inspires you to do what you do?)  (Stilt av Hjørdis)
  • Hvordan ble du ambassadøren til USA? (How did you become the Ambassador to the US?) (Stilt av Edna)
  • Har det blitt endringer i Norges forhold til USA etter valget? (Have there been changes to Norway´s relationship with the US after the election?) (Stilt av Finn Einar)
  • Hva er den største forskjellen mellom USA og Norge? (What is the biggest difference between the US and Norway?) (Stilt av Ingebjørg)
  • Hva gjør du når du må representere en mening som du er personlig i mot? (What do you do when you have to represent an opinion that you are personally against?) (Stilt av Halvor Egon)
  • Hva er viktig å vite hvis jeg vil drive med global politikk? (What is important to know if I want to go into global politics?) (Stilt av Eira)

This article was originally posted on CLV’s WorldView Blog.  If you are interested in subscribing to this thought provoking blog full of information about the importance of language and culture learning, click here.

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