Salsa! The Grand Finale of Musical Bridges’ 14th Season was a fascinating weekend with Gibaro de Puerto Rico. Beside many beautiful performances they introduced me to the way they relate to the world. Puerto Ricans are very warm people. If they know you for a few hours and they like you, you instantly become Mi Amor! They love you, they hug you, they laugh all the time, whether they have a reason to or not. Their sunny culture is infectious and all-inclusive. Their music to a great extent represents their live-loving sunny island personalities.
My husband Robert is of Norwegian descent, sixth-generation, but still proud to be. When we got married about five years ago we went to visit his family in Iowa. I was very much surprised to see how Rob and his older brother greeted each other after a long time apart…”Hey, how are you?”… they said to each other, avoiding any kind of body contact. When I asked Rob what is going on and if he hates his brother, he said… “not at all , we are Norwegians, we are not a hugging people.”
Thank goodness Rob has a good sense of humor because from then on Norwegian jokes have been dominating our household.
When we have people over and I cook enough for an army so that there is no room left at the table, he asks for the ball of mixed nuts – the symbol of Norwegian frugalness. When we watch Antiques Road Show from Minneapolis and someone suddenly bursts into tears or laughter Rob calls him or her a traitor to a great stoic Nordic tradition. A few years back I judged a children’s competition in Austin and Rob went with me. Two of the children, a brother and sister, played the violin very well but were absolutely not emotional. Rob did not share my opinion… “They are Norwegian… they were all the way out there… very emotional!”
I bet you weather has a lot to do with it. If you wake up on a beautiful island that is flooded with sun, 360 days a year, when you raise your hand and grab whatever is growing there for lunch and dance Salsa in your spare time, your heart is filled with joy and everything looks friendly and you love everyone. On the other hand if you wake up 300 days a year with the gloomy sky, snowy, windy and cold landscape with no fruit to pick above your head and no Salsa to dance… you feel a little bedazzled (or confused) and you do not really feel like loving total strangers you just met a few hours ago.
There is a different beauty in the north; it is subdued reserved and very familiar. Norwegian fiords, tall pines, grey hilly landscapes, reserved emotions. I remember my trip to Bergen with concerts and an unforgettable visit to Grieg’s house, the pride of the country. I love the Puerto Rican happy culture but I am from northern Moscow with 300 gray days, snowy weather and gloomy people. To me it makes it extra special to be called Mi Amor by someone who is not a natural hugger, who chooses to say it only to me and not because the weather is good, fruits are ripe, Salsa is hot, or he likes me, but because I am THE ONLY ONE.
Anya and Edvard Grieg in Norway in 2002