Sanita (36) first went to Norway in 2004 to visit her sister who was studying there. Soon after, she returned to Norway, this time with a one-way ticket, but with no concrete aims or plans. She had had a well-paid, but very stressful job, which took up all of her time and energy. She often had difficulty sleeping. In addition, her family had suffered a misfortune. Sanita realised she needed a break, it was time for change.
Shortly after her arrival in Stavanger, Sanita found a job at a pizzeria, but this was a very short experience. The pizzeria owner turned out to be a real fraudster. He said to her: “Give me your passport and I’ll fix things for you!” “The fact that I need a job doesn’t make me a total idiot!” Sanita laughs. The next job opportunity came through one of her sister’s friends, who, in addition to her studies, was working as a home cleaner. In no time, Sanita was in charge of eight houses. She loved that job: “I go there, nobody is home, it is so quiet. I clean everything, put on music, have a cup of coffee and a banana. And that’s it, my work is done. It was so relaxing!” So for about a year, she was cleaning two houses per day, a few days a week. Then she enrolled at Stavanger University to study art history.
Sanita had to interrupt her studies because of health problems and returned to Latvia. As her further plans were unclear, she started to settle down in Riga – found a job and an apartment, but then something unexpected happened. Not long before her departure, Sanita had met a Norwegian man, a very special man, at a party. Even though there was a magic spark, Sanita wasn’t sure how serious this relationship was and what future it might hold. But just few month after starting her new life in Riga, her Norwegian boyfriend came to Latvia to propose to her. He proposed in Latvian, asking Sanita’s father for her hand. Sanita’s dad was delighted. And so Sanita went to Norway once again, this time because of a serious relationship and having taken a conscious decision to move there.
Sanita’s new husband had a job in Stord, so that was where they started their life together. Since then they have changed location several times, but have been living in Oslo for the last couple of years, on one of the islands just outside the city. The daily commute takes around an hour by ferry and twenty minutes on a bus. On the ferry home, Sanita usually buys a sausage wrapped in traditional Norwegian lompe bread, similar to lavash. She also buys sausages for us. Not particularly appetizing in appearance, but actually quite delicious.
Both Sanita and her husband love to travel, so they spend all they earn on travel. Mostly to music festivals, because they both love music. Sanita composes songs at the piano, whereas her husband prefers guitar. They even have a small recording studio at home. They have also created a children’s book – Sanita illustrating her husband’s story. It is fundamentally important for Sanita to express herself creatively, so she is happy her workload allows her enough free time for her hobbies. She has been working longer than usual for the last six months though, as she had to substitute for her colleagues. During this time she hasn’t composed any new songs, and that makes her sad. She is no longer willing to tolerate work taking over everything.
At the time we visit Sanita, she is still working at a small clothing store, selling clothes and accessories by select designers, and she really enjoys this job. Yet just a day before our departure, she hands in her resignation. The couple have decided to move back to Stord, since they don’t like Oslo. They will rent a place in Stord, but plan to buy their own house, on one of the islands next to Stord, since houses there are much cheaper. And they will have a cat and dog. They have even already decided names.
I asked Sanita if they had ever considered living in Latvia. She says not really. They have discussed it few times, but it would only be possible if “salaries were the same as here in Norway”, since both of them still have to re-pay study loans. That would be impossible with Latvian salaries. Besides, Norway has become Sanita’s home. Latvia is where she comes from, Norway is where she lives and feels good. She calls both of them home, each of them equally important in their own special way. It would be just perfect if they could have apartments or houses in both countries and they could work from home. Then they could live in Latvia for half of the year and in Norway for the other half.
Comparing her life back in Latvia to now, here in Norway, Sanita sees a great contrast. In Latvia, you have to have a job, no matter what. If something goes wrong, you are completely without support. So people are in a constant state of stress. Sanita only works half a week, yet she is able to live a good life. People can really live here, not just work feverishly to be able to cope. Here she has a totally different quality of life, not measurable in terms of money. It is peace and the feeling of being secure that have become priceless prerequisites to her emotional well-being.