It seems that it was yesterday … but the year was 1995, and I had almost completed my university studies when a colleague told me about a lawyer in Benidorm hunting for a Spanish lawyer who spoke fluent English, or better yet, Norwegian.
Already at that time the summer vacations with my parents and brothers to Benidorm, where my grandmother spent her vacations, awakened my curiosity for the international vocation. The desire to communicate with tall, blond foreigners, so different from me, led me to enrol in a Language school to learn English and French. In those years, the ’80s, the learning of languages in Spain was not of interest to ordinary mortals.
Who would have known that my childhood visits to my grandmother in Benidorm were the origin of what later marked my professional career and, in particular, my immersion into the Norwegian culture?
The lawyer who was looking for a collaborator was Mr. José Luis Ripoll, a Spanish lawyer who for political reasons had emigrated to Norway, during Franco’s time. He came to Norway from Madrid with his law degree just completed, accompanied by what would later be his wife, a young and beautiful Norwegian woman from Skien. Mr. José Luis Ripoll lived in Norway for 25 years. Here he took the master’s degree in sociology and became an Associate Professor in Spanish at the University of Oslo. From his early beginnings at the mother-in-law’s kitchen table, he learned to speak Norwegian better than many Norwegians – and was then also qualified as a publicly authorized translator.
When Franco died at the end of the ’70 he returned to Spain, established his law firm in Benidorm, was appointed honorary Consul of Sweden, and assisted Norwegian citizens until 2005, when he retired. I was so lucky as to be able to work with him from 1995, the last 10 years of his working life. José Luis Ripoll was my “teacher” he taught me everything about Norway, when I still wasn’t sure whether the capital of Norway was Oslo or Stockholm. The only thing he didn’t teach me was Norwegian. But after this many years working with Norwegians my Norwegian is better especially thanks to my good friend Arnfrid that every Tuesday force me to speak about all and everything – in Norwegian.
I have been a member of the Bar Association since 1993, and this year they honoured me with a commemorative plaque as a thank you for my 25 years as a member of the association. 23 of these have been dedicated to assisting Norwegian citizens with interests in Spain. This is something I feel proud of!
And I did not marry a Norwegian, as many clients ask me, but I did get married and had three children. You experience a lot over 25 years! One of my boys just passed his Norwegian exam, after living as a 15-year-old, in Norway for 1 year with a Norwegian family and playing for the local football team – Urædd. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have Norwegian grandchildren …
And 25 years have already passed. It is strange contemplating – and I hope I get another 25 years! Working with the Norwegians has been always a pleasure.