Monday, February 2, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Michelle Connolly on Norway's National Day.

Michelle Connolly does not remember much about her life in America as a little girl, but now, after more than 35 years, she has come back to live, and this time it's for good.

Connolly and her mother, Astrid, moved to Norway from Torrance, California when Connolly was just four-years-old to start a new life.  

Connolly and her mother fishing on the lake outside 
their house in Norway.

Connolly grew up in a small town in Norway, where she said the biggest difference from living in Arizona was the severe weather differences.  Norway is bitter cold during the winter, and for most of the time families and friends spend time indoors to escape.  She also said America has a lot more to offer in the sense of activities and things to do compared to Norway, such as the vast selection of movies, malls,  and skating rinks.  

The biggest surprise was when Connolly told me that, "Going out to eat is almost not an option in Norway," explaining that the reason is because it is too expensive.  She added that there are no fast food restaurants or drive-throughs unless you visit a large city or shopping center. 

Connolly married Jan Svendsen and together they raised Charlene, 19, and Charlotte, 14.  As a family, they would often visit Connolly's father in Anaheim, California, and decided to move out there nearly ten years ago after Jan was offered a job.  However, they moved back to Norway after three years.  A few years after moving back to Norway, they realized as a family how much they loved America and moved to Arizona three years ago for a new life.

She said in Norway, the typical Norwegian family consists of two or three children.  Their normal day would consist of the children going to school and the parents going to work at 8 a.m.  The parents are normally finished with work by 4 p.m., come home, and have dinner ready by 5 p.m.  She said this is the most difficult transition to cope with while living in America.  Connolly's husband, Jan, often does not come home from work until late at night, and has to be at work early the next morning, often making it difficult for them to spend time together as a family.

Family in Norway on the day of Charlene's, then 14, 
Confirmation in Norway.  

When I asked Connolly about her views on border issues between Arizona and Mexico, she replied that, "It's sad that it's so easy and it makes it unfair for people who want to do it the right way."  She said when it comes to border issues in Norway, it is one of the most difficult countries to gain legal citizenship.  

While living in Norway Connolly had to apply to stay in Norway every other year, "But while we lived there it wasn't a problem."  However, when Connolly and her family moved back from California she hardly even got her green card back.  

Connolly is the only one in the family who has American citizenship only.  Charlene and Charlotte have dual citizenship in Norway and America, but Jan is still waiting to gain legal citizenship, and could have to wait another three to five years.      

Once they made their way back to America, Connolly decided to take a job at a local flower shop to make some extra money.  However, after realizing she would not be able to make more than 7 dollars an hour, she decided to open her own flower shop called The Connolly Store.  "I always knew I wanted to work with flowers," said Connolly.    

She said when she moved to Arizona it did not cross her mind that she would not be making as much money as she was used to in Norway.  "When we came back from California I was the only one who worked and we were fine," she said, adding that, "I love it here and I wouldn't move back, but if you have a regular job it's much easier to live a comfortable life in Norway." 

Although Connolly and her family live happily in America, they still go back to visit family and friends every summer to escape the hot Arizona heat.  She said many family members and friends have come to visit them in Arizona, and said, "Everybody who has come here has loved it and we love it too."
A fjord where Connolly's grandfather lived in Norway.

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