There is a wonderful optimism in Arendal

To Sweden to harvest knowledge: A small hill outside the industrial area was the closest. The Agder delegation came to the battery factory at Northvolt in Skellefteå, Sweden when they visited in June. Photo: Sindre Haugen Mehl

The word “click” appeared on the keyboard and at one, two, three, the intangible combinations of letters in an unknown language changed into something I could read. I continued like this for several months out of pure curiosity. Click. Click. Click. Not primarily a “like” click, but an odd one to see what’s been revealed behind the Arabic letters. on Facebook. With Google Translate’s machine translations, it was done in no time.

• Found memories.

• Associations found.

• I found feelings.

• Find questions big and small about life.

• I found anger.

• I found sadness and joy.

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• I found strange sentences, beautiful sentences and broken sentences many times.

• I read about the life I went through, I read about the life we ​​live, and I read about hopes and dreams. It was a journey into a parallel world that belonged to people I got to know.

• I was surprised and informed at the same time. The sentence that made the biggest impression on me came from a young man who had to flee because of the war in his homeland. It was written on his wall: “All I wish was that I slept in my house.”

I myself have never run away. I have moved. Because I chose it myself or because my parents chose it. I have moved from house to house, from city to city, and from country to country. From one language to another language. From one culture to another. From one nature to another. From one storm to another. From north to south, from east to west and from the back. When I was a kid I lived for a year in America. In connection with the Thanksgiving party at school, I got a friendly question about what I was grateful for. While others were grateful for their family, dogs, cat, and trip to Disney World, I was glad to be home soon.

the smell of life

Right and left and right and left, he shouted like a general, while his arm was stretched out into the field and chicken dung elegantly spread over the fields. He filled the bucket with compost, lifted it to his chest and continued. In his native Syria, he was a farmer. Now he has mentored a group of happy hobbyists in cooperative farming in Hisøy in manual fertilization. Laughter was fading as we moved gracefully but clumsily across the field. Right, left, right, left. There was no doubt that the man had returned to his “home”, although he was thousands of kilometers away from his farm in his homeland. When he was carefully harvesting garlic from the field, lifting it up to his face and taking a deep breath, I thought the onion represented the scent of life – as it was before. For a moment I felt like he was already at home.

The Syrian farmer had to content himself with the smell of garlic and chicken dung to bring back his memories of his homeland. A few weeks later, a Turkish woman, also part of the cooperative farm, stood in the kitchen at Hisøy’s volunteer center and held a course in pickling vegetables. Based on her mother’s recipes from her home country. She is also on a daily basis still new in town. But then and there, that was exactly where she belonged.

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There is a wonderful optimism in Arendal.

Establishing new companies. Exciting jobs are advertised. Delegates from the municipality travel to Skellefteå to collect information on battery installation. Suddenly our city needs more people, and politicians, bureaucrats and other decision makers feel the need to learn more about how we can best welcome people. In 2021, the Welcome Hub Agder Network was created in collaboration between local entrepreneurs, the Arendal Business Association and the municipality of Arendal. The purpose of the network is to create a service center that helps immigrants and their families in everything big and small, when they arrive as newcomers in our region. The center provides information, activities, networking and helps to navigate the Norwegian system. The motto is “Be a local with us”. This is an important and generous initiative, which is certainly also crucial in making people want to stay in the area.

The word “welcome” means that someone has come at the will and desire of the host. A welcome person is someone you welcome with pleasure and who are happy to be able to welcome you as a guest. Some come to Arendal because they got a job. Some come to Arendal because they have found love. Some come simply because the Surlandspians seduced them. Some also come to Arendal because they have fled. The common denominator between them is that Arendal is a place they cannot yet call home.

It’s been a long time since there was a real feeling that Arendal is the ‘right place to be’, and as a result we have to collectively look wisely, so that we can reap the benefits from what appears to be in the process of being established in Arendal. What we do know for sure is that we need more people – and if we want to enjoy the benefits, we depend on welcoming people in a sustainable way. Feeling welcome is about experiencing that there is actually a benefit to you, through the experience and expertise you bring.

To reap as he sows

At the time of writing, there is a message coming from Hisøy andelslandbruk. We were told we were good at harvesting. We don’t let things go to waste. That we have little waste. Weeding is needed in cucumbers and around newly planted cabbage. Then comes the list of what can be harvested; Potatoes, cabbage, cabbage, leeks, celery, Hokkaido, peas, radishes, onions, carrots, beetroot, dill, chives, cucumbers, thyme, beans, parsley and broad beans. If we come across a turnip, chard or Japanese radish, we can eat it and if we find a turnip, it is the first thing to arrive. We remember that the leftovers of vegetables and leaves should be thrown into the row – because they become new food. This week we also planted radishes and lettuce.

Still in the world you reap as you sow. The farmer from Syria knows it, as did Isaac Silanra of Hamsun:

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“See, now these ears of corn will sprout and become ears of corn and more corn, and so will spread all over the earth when corn is sown. In Jødeland, in America, in Gudbrandsdalen–how wide the world, and the little path that Isak took and sowed, was in The middle of everything. Pill fans were radiating from his hand, the sky was cloudy and fine, and there was a sign of an ultrafine mist.”

Field crop Knut Hamsun

Hildy Magus is this week’s columnist. Photo: private

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Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

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