Norwegians in Costa Rica in shock over massacre

July 28, 2011

Thomas Davis reacted the way many people do in the face of tragedy – he didn’t believe it. He had good reason: The attack took place in Norway of all places, a country where the police don’t carry guns, the maximum sentence for murder is 21 years and the cushy prisons look like Ikea stores.

In Norway, criminals don’t explode bombs or shoot kids.

”Nothing ever happens there,” Davis, 38, said. “This politician maybe stole a little money from somebody. Nothing ever happens. And we’re following it on the Internet, and we see there’s a shooting going on.”

Davis, and his wife Vigdis Vatshaug, both of Norway, spent last Friday calling family members back home and scouring through Norwegian newspapers on the Web trying to gather what happened. The couple moved to Costa Rica in 2007, where they opened a sportfishing and kayaking lodge on the Gulf of Nicoya called Bahía Rica. Ninety percent of their guests are Norwegians. The hosts enjoy cooking homemade Scandinavian breads and cakes and traditional lamb recipes. A group from Norway checked out of the Bahía Rica cabins Thursday, a day before the unfathomable act occurred.

On July 22, a 32-year-old Norwegian man named Anders Behring Breivik allegedly set off a bomb in downtown Oslo that killed eight. Afterwards, the suspect entered a Labor Party youth camp on an island covered in dense pine trees, called Utoya. He dressed in a police officer’s uniform and carried an assault rifle and a handgun.

The massacre left at least 68 dead. Many of the victims were children between the ages of 11 and 19. Breivik, a Christian nationalist, voiced extreme right-wing views and anti-Muslim views in the liberal European country. He sent out a 1,500-word rambling manifesto before his rampage started.

A Norwegian expat delivered a bouquet of flowers to Costa Rica’s honorary Norway consulate in Los Yoses, in downtown San José. Approximately 100 Norwegians live in Costa Rica, General Consul Arnoldo André said.

In addition, a couple dozen children from Norway come here as part of a cultural exchange program. They live with Costa Rican families throughout the country for one year, André said.

The alleged shooter grew up in a wealthy suburb in west Oslo, near where Davis lived. Davis’ grandmother, who lives 15 kilometers from downtown Oslo, heard the bomb blast. A friend sent Davis a Facebook message saying he watched the walls of their house shudder, unaware of the source.

Davis and Vatshaug plan to visit Norway in August or September. They expect to encounter a new environment in a country considered one of the safest in the world.

“It just won’t be the same to go to a place where you most likely will see security at the airport beefed up and you’ll have armed police on the street,” Jones said. “We’re just not used to it.”

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