Monday, July 21, 2014

Skien. Henrik Ibsen; and the Fine Hotell Dag Bondeheim

Henrik Ibsen, the great author and playwright, 1828-1906, was born here.  He towers by statue in a central park area in Skien.

With the main Ibs enmuseum area outside town, however, the mere fact Ibsen's birth here is eclipsed by other dominant impressions:  Immigration here., the labor pool; multi-ethnic. And the transposition of cultural values:  Finding luck. Our hotel was just around the corner, the comfortable and traditional Hotell Dag Bondeheim -- fine example of 1920's grandeur, with options as to price. Just ask. Norway is expensive.  Get around it.

1.  Demographics in Skien: Shifts.  Wiki and other general sites note that only some 60% of Skien's population is ethnic Norwegian, and 20% are immigrants of the first or second generation.  African Norwegians comprise the largest minority among those more recent immigrants.  From walking streets, we found persons of African and Oriental origin, as anywhere.  A nearby Thai fast-food meal was excellent. 

2.  Cultural differences. Immigration in action.  How to deal with touching? This was sudden, unexpected, and I told Dan to wait until I could get around the driver's side of the car to cope.

Adverse reaction to the unexpected is not necessarily necessary. For example, consider the concept underlying an act. Is there a cultural ground, and not intended harm. Here, the belly rub. Yes. Belly rub. Before recoil, consider:  belly globally has been, can be seen, as center of being, the way of good fortune. Dan has Down Syndrome, and, incidentally, a fine pear shape he is working on. It did not escape this inebriated gentleman's attention.

  • Not every approach is a threat; not every touch, even if permission is not given, need be an affront. Relax, assess, take a firm and affirmative step to terminate, and move on with a firm wave.  
  • Here, we encountered intoxication combined with a mild demeanor, and delight of this stranger at meeting Daniel. And getting some luck. 
  • Others in Europe have recognized Dan, as part of a global community of fine folks, and stop to talk or smile and nod. This, however, was the first get-in-there-and-touch. 
  • What to do, as a parent. Is this molesting or benign? What is in the mind of the gently drunk man?  Luckily, You, the Parent, are There. 

3. In situations like this, weigh carefully responding with direction or indirection -- and choose indirection if that accomplishes the goal as well as making a scene. Like British military historian, Liddell Hart, bio at, you as any military leader in charge of your family, you have choices.  So, mom here suggests you follow a wise man of indirection.

  • Liddell Hart. Overview:  the seeker of a goal* (safety, exit, respect) assesses first, before acting. Avoid confrontation whenever possible, slide this way or that to get what you need to get, safety and exit, and do it. Ideology is more harmful to a lasting resolution.

Here, relax, use the camera to get attention focused elsewhere, and move in to gently move #1 son away.  This was a short, surprising but not sinister, encounter.  Belly rubs.  Consider the topic, once down the street. From pups to people. FN 1

4.  Now: the purpose of the encounter.  What is it with stomachs?

4.1  Stomachs. 

What are cultural traditions of prosperity signed by a generous abdomen. What are the origins of humans acting in this way.  It is not just this particular black Norwegian man. Think of Buddha, of statues of saints with their bronze toes rubbed to a sheen, the statue of Juliet in Verona with her ahems similarly shiny.  Rub and get the good stuff. Your own puppy. The activity does not stem from just drinking.  The rubbing of a "blessed" one's stomach, the sense that some people are closer to universal benevolence than others and we can some good fortune from getting close to the energy, letting it rub off.

4.2  Buddha and the belly. 

 In the east, the cultural idea of  rubbing the stomach of the Buddha, or other specially gifted or sensitive person, such as a Down person causes the good fortune of the tummied one to rub off.  Is that so?  The laughing Buddha's belly:  plenitude, fortune. See  

4.3  Hindu god Ganesh: just a reference here, research on significance needed.

Elephant head, rotund belly, see

4.4  Hara. 

Belly button, and behind. Center of balance; see the occult at

4.4  Africa and the belly.

What parts of Africa, if any, focus on an ample belly as a good thing?  Or the islands off Central America? The accent of this man sounded Caribbean, even as he spoke Norwegian.
5.  Meanwhile, back at the hotel....

Business Hotels.  Our first choice for clean, reasonable, safe, central location.

Our Plan A is to drive right into town, to where we would like to walk around after supper without having to move the car.  Then we look for a place to stay.  Here, in central Skien, older hotels (this Hotell Dag Bondeheim was built in 1927) faced directly on the street, no parking.  Double park, run in, and if there is room, whip around the block to a back old-carriage entry and there is a lot. Fine.

Chain fancy hotels die of repetition.  Here, in a unique twenties hotel, we had two rooms, sink in, and a handy bath down the hall. I sleep in a double-weight black T-shirt dress so forays down the hall at any hour are in street clothes. Add belt, act confident. Lock doors. Listen. Use wits.  This was on the upper floor, at our request.  Pay more, get more, obviously. Enjoy their website where our suite, of course, is not highlighted.  This was fine for us.  We have yet to feel unsafe.

FN 1. 
  •  Dan does know to say no, and to follow up any stranger's unwanted touch with firm arm-downward motion and a fast exit.  
  • Here, he was caught in a drape-hold by suddenly intent person, and this grab and rub happened between the time a) Dan got out of the car and b) I could whiz around it, from the driver's side to his. I told Dan to stay put, I would move right in, take the picture to distract the man, and ease the gentleman away.  
  • Indirection works, take note, ye force-obsessed politicians.'
  • The indirect approach worked well here, as it does in global issues, so thank you Liddell Hart. 
    • If a confrontation is not needed, don't do it. Accomplish the goal with minimal casualties to ego and related humiliations. 
  • Wave, smile, laugh a little in mutual humanity, and leave.


* Read Liddell Hart's Strategy of Indirect Approach online at

No comments:

Post a Comment