“Baby, lock the door and turn the lights down low
And put some music on that’s soft and slow”

– Josh Turner

A perfect example of why I have a serious distaste for country music. Sorry, but we can’t all like it…

Anyway, I wasn’t in Texas for the music, I was there to visit my cousin Katrine who I hadn’t seen for years. She’d had a flash wedding in Norway then up and moved over there because her now-husband, Lars Gunnar, was sent there for work. I’m not the only one in our family embracing adventure ❤

I made it just in time for Valentine’s Day and the US doubled the hell down on it just as much as I’d imagined… My cousin picked me up at the airport (for which I was very grateful) despite hating the drive to and from (which I completely understood after about 3 minutes in the car trying to find the right exit on the massive road machines they call “highway”… I remembered thinking the US was enormous the last time I was on the mainland, but I was still struck repeatedly by the enormity of it all. Texas seemed even bigger than other parts of the US I’d seen…

We went to pick up the kids at kindergarten and headed to the store to get Katrine’s grocery list. Fairly mundane so far, until we entered the “store” and Valentine’s just exploded in my face…

Turned out we had to get some candy (“some candy”) and card making stuff because apparently my cousin’s two kids had to give valentine’s gifts to everyone in their group, included the teachers… So yeah. Valentine’s It’s big.

Before carrying our loot back home we had to go fetch something at the drive thru pharmacy. Yup. DRIVE THRU pharmacy. I was actually surprised and right now I can’t for the life of me fathom why I didn’t see that one coming. It’s the US after all. After this whole debacle Lars Gunnar came home and told us we had a surprise guest for dinner. He grinned at me and I was totally perplexed at what this could possibly have to do with me as I didn’t know anyone in Texas except him and his family – then he told me he was working with Silje Helmersen. We’d been in the same class from about 4th grade through junior high, but I hadn’t seen her in probably 15 years. What an insanely cool surprise, I was chuffed! ❤

My bucket list for Texas included a rodeo and NASA. Lars Gunnar took me to both, (as Katrine said: “I’m just glad I don’t have to go”) *lol*. NASA gets its own post, because that’s how awesome NASA is, but here’s the rest:

For the rodeo Lars Gunnar and I were joined by another colleague of his, one I didn’t know this time, Joakim.

Awaiting the insanity

We picked up Joakim at his hotel and went to the W. E. “Billy” Morgan Rodeo Arena (apparently he was a founder of the Katy Rodeo committee and served as chairman for over 30 years). There were people everywhere, hot dog stands, beer stands, cattle galore and horses… A lot of horses. We found a place on the metal bleachers, popped ourselves down and waited for the show. I was one of those things where it was exactly what I expected, but then also, not really what I expected. (I certainly found out why my cousin lent me her shawl for the evening (takk, Katrine!) because it got a lot colder than I thought it would).

This show really had it all. They started with a bunch of young women riding their horses in various formations across the pitch with flags/banners waving. One of them had gotten the prestigious assignment of carrying the Flag itself, The Star-Spangled Banner. It repeatedly flew by us, apart from all the others, like a starring role in a Hollywood movie…

This was followed by a fiddle playing a somber, nostalgic (almost “Amazing Grace”-like) melody while someone lead a prayer from the speaker (“God, I ask you grant your protection to all the men, women, horses and cattle during the show” etc etc), everybody rising from their seat to bow heir heads. Welcome to the US.

Then came the children’s portion of it all. The smallest kids got the toy horses (horse head on a stick between your legs) and they had to race each other across the short end of the pitch. Some of the kids didn’t even make it across cause they managed to get lost along the way (says something about their age…) and this one kid kept following his mom around not really understanding the concept of racing against others. At least they had fun… Or, their parents had fun… Who knows…

This was followed up by the slightly older toddlers who were gonna rodeo on something their own size, so the handlers got some sheep out, slapped a kid on top, told him to hang on and then we all watched as the sheep took off like a fart out a window trying to get rid of the extra weight on its back. Some of these kids got trampled, not gonna lie, but they all got back up and none of them seemed worse for wear so… There’s a NOrwegian proverb that’s incredibly fitting here (“Den må tidlig krøkes, som god krok skal bli“), but I am struggling to translate it into English. The meaning is that you have to start practicing VERY early to become a master of something. In Norway we tend to use it a bit sarcastically sometimes, especially in situations like these, where we might have found that maybe someone is starting JUST A TAD early…

Third post on the program: Send in the clowns…

No, really, they had clowns. With a clown car and everything. It was a mini-something car, of course, but it was complete with two dudes pretending to be Clown Husband and Clown Wife have a dispute in what sounded like gibberish. I couldn’t make out two words of what they were saying, but I didn’t really care either. It was probably fun for the kids… or tradition or something.

The rest was a whole lotta modern cowboys trying to stay on a horse or racing after a calf or young bull trying to catch it with a lasso and wrangle it to the ground… and cowgirls racing after a calf or young bull trying to get their lasso around its head. Apparently the women don’t get off their horses and wrangle anything, they just get the lasso around the head and then let go of the rope when it tightens, scoring their points that way. The guys are timed for how long it takes them to get the animal on its side and tied up. Equality.

I was disappointed to see that they fastened something on the horses to make them buck for the rodeo. It was obvious when I saw the cowboy fell off and the one of the handlers went after the bucking horse, got along side it and loosened something. The horse immediately stopped bucking and trotted off normally. Made it pretty clear something like a belt with spurs or something is tied to the horse to antagonize it enough to make a spectacle. Not cool. I was actually naïve enough to not imagine this was happening, that the horses picked were just either not fully broken in or a bit on the wild side no matter what… (not thatwuold have made it a-ok)… It’s sad that this is done today.

Anyway, a lot of bucking, wrangling and yihaaaw’ing later we left the arena feeling full up on Texan culture and decided to have a night cap before going home. Lars Gunnar took us to “Mo’s Irish Pub“, because “when in Texas…” I guess ;-D

The rest of my week in Katy was spent watching the new “Joker”-movie over some great whisky with Lars Gunnar, getting a sightseeing and coffee shop trip with Katrine, just basically talking and re-aquainting with Katrine on the whole, getting to know the kids, watching Adrian getting the hang of bicycling by himself for the first time with no support wheels(!), visiting the local, Norwegian church (Sjømannskirken), watching the other Norwegian kids catch tiny gekkos and attaching the to various parts of their hands and face (yes, really) and just generally having an awesome time with family. I loved the week I spent with Katrine and Lars Gunnar and felt like I got a lot closer to my cousin while making some new friends along the way. (My friend Maja’s brother, Svein, is working in the same place and I met his wife at the Norwegian Church, but I didn’t realize it was her until after we’d left… Apparently Svein was prevented from attending and so I didn’t put two and two together in time to get to have a proper chat with his wife… Such is life.

(Just FYI: The reason I’ve put hearts over the kids’ faces is because I’m not comfortable sharing images of them online willy nilly)

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