A wish fulfilled
Kari Tauring embraces her Norwegian roots on the “Alt for Norge” program
By Gary Erickson
Norwegian American Weekly
Kari Tauring of Minneapolis, Minn., had been trying to find a way to travel to Norway for the longest time. She pursued grant and program monies to fund her travel dream. Application after application was completed with no luck. At Christmas time in 2008, Tauring’s older sister provided her with a simple, creative opportunity by which she might finally achieve her travel dream. Tauring’s Norwegian past could become unified with her present.
In a recent sit-down interview with the Norwegian American Weekly, Tauring described the serendipitous event that allowed her to travel. A Minneapolis newspaper article had been noted by Tauring’s sister, in which a Norwegian reality television production company, “Alt for Norge,” [All for Norway] revealed it was searching for 10 Norwegian American participants who were interested in their heritage. Rules were simple: the 10 could never have been to Norway before; they must be willing to participate in fun-loving competition of all sorts and do so in a variety of Norwegian locations and settings. They would have an opportunity to win a $50,000 grand prize, and meet their Norwegian relatives.
Tauring said her thoughts were, “Why not? I’ve been applying for everything else. I might as well try this.”
Having completed undergraduate work at a Norwegian Lutheran college, Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and having enrolled in graduate school, studying Scandinavian runes at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn., Tauring felt well-qualified.
“The only Norwegian in a field of Irish Catholics,” said her graduate school advisor at St. Thomas. Tauring immediately sent in her application and video. Tauring’s successful, creative preparation brought program selection, then delivered her to Norway, and eventually garnered international publicity and precious self-understanding.
Tauring experienced a good portion of what it is like to be a Norwegian in Norway. She had created a list before she left for Norway, a list of things she hoped to do and see. Once there, her program competition took place over several weeks in outdoors events. She ate Norwegian foods, rowed boats, hiked in the mountains and lived very much within the context of rugged Norwegian friluftsliv, living and being recreational in the outdoors and being one with nature. She was comfortable. She was expressive. She was exuberant. She wore her heart on her sleeve.
“I cried a lot [on the show],” she said. The show quickly became a top-watched, talked-about hit in Norway.
When queried about her Norwegian experience in totality and what may have affected her in a lasting manner, she replied. “You know, it was the nature, the nature and the landscape… the land really spoke to me. It was such a pleasure to be on that soil, being on that homeland.” Nature and the environment were things that had always interested her. “We have this spiritual reverence for nature within our family,” Tauring reflected, something stemming from the spiritual values she learned growing up, in part on her Norwegian maternal grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin.
She recalled that as a small child on one of her many visits, she told her grandmother, “I have a hard time praying in church. I get so wiggly! I just want to stand up, and just want to dance and pray!” Her grandmother took her to the picture that always hung over the couch in the living room. It was a painting of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. “Now, Tauring,” she said, “when you want to pray loud and sing loud and jump around, you go pray in the nature, because that’s where Jesus went to pray every time it was so important.” “I grew up a little bit, running through the woods, and leaping and praying and being with nature and all of these things,” mused Tauring.
Tauring competed diligently and compassionately. She was the first recipient of the show’s Norwegian Spirit Award, an award recognizing her competitiveness, but yet mitigated by compassion for her fellow participants. In the end, Tauring, unfortunately, did not win the ultimate prize. She did not meet her Norwegian family. She did, however, have the opportunity to visit the small Bakka church near Gudsvangen in Sogn og Fjordane, a church in which her great-grandmother was baptized. The production crew recorded her visit and her walk up to the small, white wooden building. “I walked into the church, and there, hanging over the altar, is the painting of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. I just burst into tears,” said Tauring. “I felt her there. I felt all of my ancestors around me. It just felt like an embrace of deep, deep proportions. . . I felt my list was pretty well done.”
For more information about “Alt for Norge,” visit www.tvnorge.no.
This article was originally published in the June 24, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.