Friday, August 31, 2007

Math...?

Spent the day at THIS again. In Norway, kids don't start formal schooling until 3rd grade. Second grade is mostly play and only lasts a half day, unless you pay for S.F.O. which is the after-school program. What this means is that at the lower grades, the kids are years behind the counterparts in the U.S. in reading, writing, and math. Pam is teaching 5th grade, and some of her students are way behind what she was expecting.

At the university level, incoming freshman do so poorly in math that they start two weeks early and have math intensive classes to help them catch up.

AND YET -- it doesn't keep Norway from being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, one of the most educated and literate populations in the world, and the very best country in the world in which to live.

The math wars in the US continue to rage, one camp calling for stronger basics and skill mastery, the other calling for more conceptual learning and problem-solving ability, and both sides agreeing that US kids need more math more math more math!

And yet the country that produces highest test scores, Singapore, laments that its students are not taught to be creative risk-takers and innovators, and thus Singapore with its high test scores has little to show for it in terms of science, industry, or entrepreneurship. (see comments from Singapore's minister of education at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10663340/site/newsweek/)

And then a country like Norway which scores near the bottom on international comparisons at 4th grade and 8th grade does just fine -- in fact has been rated as the best country in which to live by the United Nations for the past 6 years! (This is based on their Human Development Index which ranks countries according to, among other things, educational levels, material wealth, longevity, cultural freedom, and literacy rates (there's no measurable illiteracy in Norway)).

As a math educator, it gives me something to think about...

McYucks

We crossed over to the dark side tonight. Yep, we went to McDonalds. Had to do it once. A Big Mac in Norway. In fact, this was our first time eating out in Norway. Restaurant visits are rare for most people in Norway, with the fair wages paid, that girl pressing the button with the picture of the hamburger on it is earning a huge salary, which ultimately gets paid by the customers. When was the last time you spent $60 at Mickey Dees?
75 kroner for a Big Mac meal = $13.
This one even had a "McDrive".

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Day at ThIS

We arrived at THIS this morning to this sight:



A good omen for the 29th of August.

The fortress, or festning, is the Kristiansten Festning which was built in the 1600s and repelled the Swedes in an invasion in 1718. It is right next door to Trondheim International School, and when we walk to school we usually walk through the fortress grounds.

I didn't have my camera on me so I ran to Pam's room to get her camera, certain the rainbow would be gone when I returned. I was wrong, not only was it still there, it was twice as bright with a faint double arc, the main arc spilling down right on the cannon and empty flagpole at the festning. As I shot pictures, I wished that the flag were up, and no sooner had it wished it, than up came the flag!

This morning I did math with the 5th and 6th graders, then sat for lunch with Maggie and several of the kids. They taught me some Norwegian phrases, like how to say "I am very ugly and stinky." It's good to have native kids around.

I also sampled some new foods at the school cafeteria: I tried 3 flavors of some kind of spread in big tubes like toothpaste, shrimp flavor, bacon flavor, and caviar flavor. Thumbs up for the shrimp and bacon flavors! Caviar was not to my liking. I also ate brunost, or brown cheese, a sweet caramel-like cheese which was both delicious and disgusting. Hmm.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Offer You Can't Refuse

Walked down to NTNU today. It really is a very nice walk, one I will enjoy many many times. I listen to Norwegian language lessons on my iPod, repeating phrases and answering the voices in my head. I can now say "I think you speak Norwegian very well" in Norsk.

Allan proposed working on a project together, and he did not give me the option of refusing. I couldn't have refused regardless, he has done some fascinating work and there is great potential for this project, so here we go! This is the land of opportunity!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Circus Arnardo

Tonight we went to a one-ring traveling circus, the Circus Arnardo from Russia, playing Trondheim for two nights only. Ahhh, the memories it brought back! It was everything we wanted from a small circus, a two hour show with elephants, dogs, and miniature horses. There was the requisite juggling clown, a magic show, a Taiwanese acrobat troop, a triple-trap act (I used to do double-trap), and some great gymnastics.

My favorite was the "lion" act... the Taiwanese acrobats did one routine with two-person lion costumes. It was beautiful and surprising.



The kids bought cotton candy and the servers were the trapeze performers. Other performers were selling tickets and light-up trinkets... in a small circus everyone does multiple jobs. During intermission, we got conned into paying a few crowns extra to go around back and see the minature horses and elephants up close. You could get your picture taken on elephant for extra. Any way to get a few extra bucks from the public -- the true spirit of the traveling circus!

We were very glad we went!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mercedes

We got the car! Drove out with Allan and Peter about 45 minutes out of town to get our red Mercedes. It’s a 1983 diesel station wagon 300TD, with sunroof and rear-facing rear seats. Of course theres only two seats facing backwards, so with three kids we’re pretty much guaranteed an argument every day. The car also came with 4 studded tires, which I understand will be a neccessity come winter.



Peter is dying to drive the car. His legs have some growing to do, first.



Pam with the new car. What should we name it?

Allan has been just great. He loaned us his green Mercedes diesel station wagon for the week, hunted down this car for us, and paid for it while we figure out how to get money wired from our account in the US. If you’re ever planning to move to a foreign country, be sure to find yourself an Allan! Thank you Allan!


We went to a rummage sale this afternoon then had a very lazy afternoon -- I even fell asleep on the couch, and normally I hate sleeping. After dinner we went on bike rides exploring the Studentby, or “Student City”, an area of student and visiting faculty apartments nearby. The kids were in heaven with the dozens of different playgrounds in the complex.

Oh -- the skummet kultur? Yep, it's like runny yogurt, a bit tangier than I would like, but in a small quantity on a bowl of granola, it feels like I'm eating a Scandanavian health breakfast, and that's just fine by me!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Folksmuseum


Today we went with a family from school to the Trondheim Folk Museum, an outdoor village showing life from the 1700s. We experienced every season during our tour, the weather was quite wild changing from rain to wind to sunshine and back again every minute.


Pam in the pulpit! Churches were built to be especially uncomfortable so you wouldn't fall asleep during the 6-hour service.

This is the first modern dentist office in Trondheim in the 1800s. The drill is pedal-powered (yikes!)

Allan and his two youngest children dropped by this afternoon and we played Blokus. Tonight we'll make brownies and watch Doctor Who. Life is good.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Teen Milk Hell

Peter can remember what kind of milk to buy now. As he puts it, "Teen Milk Hell." (The brand is TineMelk, the variety is Hel, or Whole). It only comes in 1 liter cartons, so he's been biking to the store every day to buy milk.

A couple of days ago we allowed him to buy gum as well, and he was 1,50 krone short (about 20 cents). The clerk told him he could bring the extra money next time. So the next day we sent him to get milk with the exact amount of money, plus 1,50 kr. He returned with the wrong kind of milk, a variety called "Skummet Kultur", which is halfway between milk and yogurt (I'm going to try it on Muselix tomorrow... I'll let you know if it's as gross as it sounds). So, instead of being paid in full, he was short 2 crowns, which necessitated a trip to the store myself. The clerk was amused that I came down to pay the remainder. "Oh, it's only two crowns," she said dismissively. When I worked retail, it was always a very big deal if the till didn't balance exactly at the end of the shift. I wonder if this is a relaxed store or if Norwegians in general are more relaxed about the bottom line.

I borrowed a guitar, so I have music again -- yay!

Crystal and Grass

I walked down to the NTNU campus yesterday, a very pleasant 30 minute walk from our leilighet (apartment). I listened to Norwegian language lessons on my iPod both ways. I found the matematikksenteret and filled out paperwork, signed up for a Norwegian as a Second Language course, had some lunch and then met Allan at his office. We looked at some of his 400 year old books and played with the goodies -- professor offices are almost always filled with fascinating treasures. Allan is the world's foremost expert on the history of numeric mnemonic systems and he's got some amazing 17th century books he's translated from old German. It's really very fun!

The campus has a lot of sculpture. One of the projects I'll be working on next term is writing curriculum relating to the outdoor sculpture. I met the woman in the department who is interested in sculpture, and she's started building large-scale mathematical sculpture, which is something I'm extremely interested in. I think we may be able to do some good collaborating!

Here's an ingenious sculpture outside the math offices. The crystal globe is filled with ethyl alcohol, and it focuses the suns rays onto a curved metal place. On very sunny days, it burns holes in the metal. On less sunny days, it leaves smaller marks. Each year they remove the plates and hang them up -- they form a kind of graph of the sunshine for the year. Awesome!

Here's a picture of a set of apartments just around the corner from ours. The roofs are covered with grass. There's all kinds of surprises here!

A Walk Downtown

After school, we walked downtown to an area of outdoor restaurants along the water. Bars, clubs, pizzeria, a tapas bar, plenty of atmosphere. We went to a shopping mall with a great grocery store. I think this will become a Friday ritual for us. The trick will be to avoid popping into a pub for a beer!

On the trip we found two playgrounds, an urban trail winding through a hidden field past an ancient building, and a group of students launching dozens of giant homemade kites.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Random Observations 2

FOOD PRICES

Prices here are not as bad as I first thought. The food is very expensive and that's what one tends to notice first. The reason for high food prices: Norwegians pay fair salaries for every job -- harvesting included. US food prices are so low because US farm workers are paid next to nothing. Right now there's a big debate in the US about illegal immigrants. It will be very interesting to see what happens to US prices if reforms go into effect. The immigrant workers issue has been the big white elephant in the room that everyone chooses to pretend doesn't exist. When the workers are all legal and paid fairly, perhaps we'll see corn on the cob for $1.50/ear as it is in Norway!


PLAYGROUNDS

Kids can actually play like kids are supposed to. It's very hard in the US to find a merry-go-round on playgrounds anywhere, they were deemed too unsafe years ago and so have disappeared. Over here, kids climb trees and boulders at school freely, preschoolers rocket down inclines on their tricycles knocking into each other, and yes, kids get scuffed but kids have always gotten scuffed. No permanent harm, no foul.


Here's a picture of Anna's playground at school. There's a huge rock the kids all climb on. It's a little hard to tell in the picture, but there's a sharp 20 foot decline on the face of that rock. In the US this would be screaming "future lawsuit!"


WORDS AND ICONS

I find Norwegian very easy to read. Scan a paragraph, and you can guess more than half the words, which is usually enough to get the gist of something. Or, like the other day when we saw the sign "Volksbibliotheka" and knew that it said "Public Library". What's funny is that devices have icons for every function, presumably so that one needn't know the language in order to operate the device. Take a look at the icons on our oven:

I had to laugh when I saw this. The "0" means off but the rest of them were like some kind of intergalactic runes! Perhaps it should have been labeled in Norwegian instead -- it would be easier!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Utrolige Sunshine

Today was the first day in a month that I got to sit down and do NOTHING all day. Glorious! A month ago as I surveyed the madness in the coming weeks, I realized all I needed to do was survive until we were settled in Norway, and then I could breathe. Ahhhh...

We have telephone service now, I'm trying out Skype. It's going to cost something like $9/month and we get outgoing and incoming phone calls, and voicemail. We have a US number so family and friends can call a domestic phone line, and it seems to work rather well.

Late afternoon the sun came out and warmed up beautifully. We had dinner out on the grass and the kids rode their bikes like crazy.


In the evening we watched "De Utrolige", or "The Incredibles". It was great to watch in Norsk (Norwegian) with Norsk subtitles, as we already knew much of the dialog but now we could hear and read it in Norsk. Tomorrow I may watch one scene over and over and memorize the dialog.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Matematikksenteret and Folksbibliotheka

I visited the Mathematikksenteret at NTNU yesterday and found the faculty outside of their windows on a balcony enjoying lunch in the sunshine. Fall has begun in Norway, and Norwegians are milking every last drop of sunshine from the days. Here I met Ingvill for the first time, and several of her colleagues. What a great bunch of people! We sat in the sunshine, enjoying the absolutely glorious view of all of Trondheim from the top floor. I found we have much in common professionally, and I look forward to some very interesting and valuable interactions in the coming months.


Tonight we went for a walk on the trails behind our apartment, and discovered a public library a very short distance from our home. We checked out many books, mostly children's books in Norwegian, and felt very lucky to have a library so close which the children can walk or bike to without crossing any streets.



The kids' biking skills have improved dramatically. In Ferndale, they learned to bike on flat roads. Here it's been hilly, and it's given me several heart attacks watching them go down hills, but they are doing it without crashing now and they love it!

Random Observations 1

TOWELS

Norwegians don’t use big towels, they use very absorbent towels the size of hand towels. We have five of them hanging up in the bathroom and it takes up very little space. It was weird at first, but it works quite well. Few people have machines to dry clothing; we have a washer but no dryer, instead we use a wide fold-out rack to dry our clothes.

THE BATHROOM

Why are foreign bathrooms always so interesting? Our toilet is not as exotic as the ones I've seen in Japan, but it does have two separate flush buttons, a regular flush and a water-saving flush. Our shower isn’t in a separate stall. It’s in the corner of the bathroom, surrounded by a shower curtain, and the water runs halfway across the floor when we bathe. I had to change my habit of leaving clothes on the floor when I shower! The bathroom floor is heated to a constant 25° C. At first I thought this was to keep our feet warm in the winter, but in fact I see now that it quickly evaporates moisture. An inflatable kids' swimming pool will need to serve as a bathtub for the children!

POLICE?

We haven't seen any police yet. We're told that the police don't really drive around looking for trouble, as there isn't much to find. Instead they will pick one particular offense they are interested in and go to one area to look for it. Sometimes they may set up checkpoints to hunt to for drunk drivers. The acceptable blood alcohol content level here is very low, 0.02% which you'd get from less than one glass of wine, and the penalties are quite severe. It's easy to walk most places in town, though, and very safe to walk alone at night, even if you've had one entire glass of wine.

KID FRIENDLY

Very young kids walk themselves anywhere, and children are free to roam without parents worrying about their safety. As a parent of 3 young children, that's great. It's a law in Norway that traffic must stop for children who raise their hands.

SEX OKAY, VIOLENCE NOT

There's nudity on the TV here and discussing sex is not a big deal. Violence is not okay at all -- in fact it's also against the law to hit children and one can go to jail for it. It's funny because on American TV you can see people getting graphically killed, but a "wardrobe malfunction" creates a national outrage. One of these two countries has their values backwards, methinks!

NO NEED TO BE FRIENDLY TO STRANGERS

The guidebook warned us, but it is still a strange thing to experience. When walking, I am used to nodding, smiling, perhaps even saying hello to strangers I pass on the sidewalk. Here, no one even makes eye contact. It feels very impersonal at first, but even after just a few days I can feel a difference in my reaction. No longer must I feel obligated to pretend to care that the person I’m passing will feel rejected if I don’t reach out to them. I can just go on my way and take care of business and no one’s feelings are hurt at all. I wouldn’t call it ‘unfriendly’, it’s really more of a neutral attitude. I asked Allan about this, and he laughs that it really is a wonderful blessing not to be burdened with acknowledging folks you will never see again. Huh.

MONEY'S NO SECRET

In the U.S., it is taboo to discuss how much money you make. In Norway, you can go online to see how much your neighbors earn. No one cares much, it's like discussing what color you painted your house.

Thank you IKEA!

We went to the IKEA tonight. Oh, and it’s pronouned “EE-Kay-Uh” here. I’d never been to an Ikea before, even though we’ve got one in Canada just across the border from our home in the States. How relieved I was to find reasonable prices! I bought a coffee press for $15. We bought some corkboards, mugs for school, other necessities, all at about what we would pay in the US (probably more that what we would pay at an IKEA in the US, but I don’t care!) And then we went to the cafeteria and got hotdogs, soda, and ice cream for the whole family for under $10. Yes! We may survive after all!

Actually, we are already getting used to the prices, and if we’re careful we can find good deals. The trick is to not want what you can’t afford, but that’s always the trick, isn’t it?

Monday, August 20, 2007

First Day of School

Drove Pam to school early this morning, then roused the kids to get ready for their first day of school. Sjokolade Weetos for Peter and Anna, toast and jam for Maggie, traditional toast, butter, and salami for me.

School was chaotic, everyone running everywhere, but we got everyone settled and I went home expecting to relax.


When I returned home, though, I found an email from Allan inviting me to his 10 am class. Not much time to decide: I have maps to decipher... how far is it? My ankles are very sore from pulling Anna up and down hills yesterday, and I understand parking is very difficult. It would be safer to stay home and tidy the apartment... I consider this for a moment and then slap myself. What kind of adventure is that? Let’s go get in some trouble!

So here I am, sitting in the back of an auditorium listening to a geology lecture in Norwegian. Allan is very natural with his students, looking very much the part of crazy and happy geology professor.

As part of the start of freshman courses, he needs to teach a week of mathematics, so as part of his introduction to man’s connection with stones, he is teaching the class to use a stone tablet abacus. (This is another surprise -- I am hoping to work on my novel while in Norway, and in my novel some of the people use stone boards, though I have never learned to use one myself. Norway is supplying ideas for my book right away!) Afterwards we will head over to the Matematikksenteret to meet my new colleagues.

NTNU has free wireless for anyone... I understand much of Trondheim is wireless, and Norway has the greatest per capita number of internet connections. Go figure.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Magical Mushrooms

Allan took us to his hytte (cabin) today with his son Max. We arrived at the trailhead about 13:00 and unloaded the kids’ bikes. Off they went! We attached a strap to Anna’s seat so that I could be her brakes while going downhill, and her engine when going uphill, but generally she was a good peddler and a good braker.

The hike was pretty long for the kids, Maggie and Peter wiped out several times and each ended the day with multiple bloody wounds. The last half of the trip back, we pushed the bikes, but by the time we got back to our leilighet (apartment) they were eager to get back on their bikes.

The trail was 2 miles long, ending at a farmhouse which was now a business catering to hikers, selling hot chocolate and hot dogs. Just before the farmhouse, immediately off the trail, is the Krill’s hytte. They feel very lucky to have bought the cabin in the woods so close to Trondheim. Many Norwegians have winter cabins to use as their bases for cross-country skiing, but most feel their cabins should be far far from town. Maggie, Peter, and Max busied themselves outside making swords: sawing off branches from fallen trees, whittling points on the sticks, and nailing crossguards to the blades.

Allan, Pam, Anna, and I went mushroom hunting, and it was sheer magic! We left the trails to walk among the trees, the ground was covered with a pad of thick moss that was like walking on a giant sponge. The filtered light seemed glow off the soft greens, like a scene from a fantasy tale -- I expected to see fairies and elves hiding beneath the leaves.



Padding beneath the trees we found pockets of mushrooms in great varieties -- browns and yellows and reds and grays, all sizes, many shapes. Allan knew which were good to eat, which were poisonous, which ones were pretenders. He showed us how to check for bugs, how to identify good mushrooms and bad, as we filled bags with the soft jewels from the forest floor. We spotted a cluster of bright red mushrooms with white spots, looking exactly like the mushrooms which house tiny blue Smurfs.

Blueberries were in abundance as well, smaller than we are used to in the States but very sweet. Allan led us to a secret berry patch where we found cloud berries, a very rare and expensive berry costing 100 Kr/kg at the store. An acquired taste, he tells us. I ate 4 or 5, trying to get used to them, but they tasted a bit like sweet mushy pickles, and I decided 4 or 5 really was quite enough for me.

On our way back, Allan stumbled upon the prize: a hexering (witch’s ring, or fairy circle) of bright orange chanterelle mushrooms. Earlier during the hunt we found many lookalike mushrooms, very close in appearance to the chaterelle but Allan was not fooled by the imposters. Here was the real deal! This find was exciting, and we filled an entire bag with these treasures.

This evening, we steamed a panful of chanterelle mushrooms for dinner. High in fiber, B vitamins, and selenium.

I am deeply exhausted tonight.



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Found a Car

When I checked email last night, Allan also wrote to say he has purchased a car for us! It is a red diesel 1983 Mercedes station wagon just like his with a low odometer reading of 240,000 km. He got it for 13 000 Kr, which is about $2200. We’ll be able to pick up at the end of the week and until then we can use his car. He really is a genie!



We were planning to bike up into the blueberry hills this morning (Sunday), but Allan has invited us for a two-mile bike/hike on a trail through the woods to his hytte (cabin), where we can make pancakes and pick wild mushrooms. He’ll pick us up at 11:00.

We still need to figure out banking and telephone, but many of our problems have been no problem at all. I’ve been here less than 48 hours, and am very very happy. This will be a great adventure!

School Party

Last night we attended a potluck at the school board’s chair’s house, a very beautiful house near the school. We met a group of teachers in the school parking lot and walked to the house along a ridge giving a good view of the city below. We feasted on fresh crab and fish -- oh so much crab! -- and drank plenty of wine and fancy desserts. I met most of the teachers at the school and they are mostly young and adventurous travelers from 14 different countries. They are a great bunch of folks and I look forward to claiming many of them as friends.



We walked back at 10 pm and it was starting to get dark. The lights of the city were gorgeous. We walked through the park and there were several separate groups of people hanging out, teenagers and older people as well, playing the radio, laughing, having a good time.


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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Our Own Personal Genie

Allan brought us his other car, a diesel Mercedes station wagon which he is most generously letting us use for the week. He gave me driving lessons and taught me what the signs mean. The strangest part of driving in Norway is that you must yield to cars on the right at intersections. That means if you’re cruising along at 50 kph on a main road and someone approaches on a side street to the right, you stop and let them go. It’s a little disconcerting both ways, it feels weird to have someone stop to let you enter the road, and you better be prompt about it or you’ll irritate the other drivers. Some roads are right-of-way roads marked with signs in the shape of yellow diamonds – on these roads you needn’t yield to cars on the right, and if you are approaching a cross-street which is a right-of-way road as there will be a yield sign.

We dropped Pam off at a major grocery store and then went to drop Allan off at his home. I mentioned we needed to find used bicycles, and he went through his garage seeing what kind of spare bikes he had. Allan has 5 children and so has gone through a lot of bikes. He had extra bikes for all three of my kids! We adjusted them and filled the tires, and he even set up with locks and bike pumps... WOW! He just so happened to have a converter from 220 to 115 volts with an American socket on it so I can charge my camera batteries.

When we picked up Pam she was shocked to see the bikes. “Where’d you get those?” she asked. “From our own personal genie, Allan!” I told her.

When we got home the kids couldn’t wait to go bike riding. We are right on a trail that goes to the grocery store and further on to the university in one direction. The other direction the paths go through a cemetery and up a hill into the woods where our neighbor Steena tells us there are millions of blueberries in season. The walkways in the apartment complex are nice a flat and make an interesting ‘city’ for the kids to drive about in.

Later, all three kids walked to the grocery store to pick up milk. Norway is extremely safe, and it is quite normal for kids as young as 5 to walk themselves home or to go exploring on their own. Maggie, Peter, and Anna absolutely loved the adventure of taking themselves to store to buy groceries. This will be very handy, I’m sure!

Exploring Downtown

Saturday morning we walked to THIS (T.rond.H.eim I.nternational S.chool), and the walk is longer than we were anticipating. It is only one mile away as the crow flies, but as the crow walks it’s quite a bit more. Nonstop it takes pam 45 minutes to walk, and with kids quite a bit longer. We had hoped to not need a car while in Norway, but the walk is too much for the kids. Bus passes for the year would cost us thousands of dollars and with no direct route from our apartment to the school, bus rides would take the same length of time as walking, so we will need a car.

We stopped at a 7-11 on the way (yes, they’re everywhere), got coffee and donuts and carried them up to an ancient fortress where we ate at tables overlooking the city. The fortress is situated in an old growth forest right in the city. We walked through the trees to complete our trip to THIS.

The school is terrific. It’s in a converted military barracks, and has classes for 3 year olds up through 10th grade. There’s a music room, cafeteria, a “soft room” full of mats and foam shapes and crawling tubes for the young kids, and plenty of outdoor fields and play structures. The schedule is such that the kids will have about 2 hours of play time each day, and they are very excited to start on Monday.

We worked for several hours getting Pam’s room in shape, then walked a very short distance into the downtown area of Trondheim... and WOW! The houses and cobbled streets are very charming and European. The cathedral in town in amazing, and history is beaming from every direction. We had a snack at a small cafe, dodged a few raindrops, and then Allan picked us up near the cathedral.



There's postcard views everywhere! Here's a scene from the bridge downtown.



This is the Nidoras Cathedral, the northermost medieval building in the world. "Nidoras" was the name of Trondheim during the Middle Ages. There was a wedding going on at the time, the wedding party was dressed in traditional wedding clothing.


Here's a few of the figures on the side of the cathedral. Juggling human heads was popular in medieval Trondheim.



On the top of the cathedral is a statue of Archangel Michael. The sculptor was irritated that he was asked to add a statue to a perfect building, so he gave Michael the face of Bob Dylan. How cool is it to be Bob Dylan?

Here's a guide to all of the statues on the cathedral:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk: ... g/sandbox1

Life imitating art.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

The First Evening

Trondheim is on the largest fjord in Norway, which I’m told makes for the least spectacular scenery. You could have fooled me. It’s gorgeous, looking a lot like Bellingham Bay but larger. The city rises on hills on both sides of a river that winds through town, and a lake stretches out to the north to the convoluted walls of the fjord that look remarkably like the San Juan islands we see in the sound back home in Washington.

Our apartment is an area with plenty of green spaces and a playground right outside the door. We went for a walk to the grocery store Friday evening, only about 5 minutes away on a bike path that tunnels under a busy road to a small shopping plaza -- the ideal route for kids to run errands to the store unaccompanied.



Prices at the grocery are steep. According to our guidebook, we should never tell Norwegians that we find things expensive as they are tired of hearing about it. Most groceries cost about twice as much as at home, but fresh items are three times as much. Milk is about $8/gallon, and eggs are $5.50/dozen. I’m sure we will get used to the prices quickly, but these first few days it’s difficult to buy things. Of course we need to eat, and we will need to keep our fridge stocked. I imagine we will be very careful about what we buy and not let any scraps of food go to waste! Certainly, Norwegians earn the same as at home and seem to live in high style.

Friday night we slept for 12 hours.

Arrival

8 large suitcase + 4 carryons = 12 bags of pain. To the shuttle bus in Ferndale, to the baggage counter in Seattle, to the hotel in Orlando, to the cruise ship in Cape Canaveral, back to the airport in Orlando, and finally from the baggage claim in Trondheim, it was far too many rented carts and baggage handlers to tip! People on the cruise ship were looking at me thinking "That's an excessive amount of luggage for a 4 day cruise..."

But at last, the kids and I were greeted at the airport on Friday by Pam, Allan, Allan’s youngest son Max (7 years old, Peter’s age) and Max’s hamster. Finally, after a year of emailing back and forth with Allan, I got to meet him in person. He is very easy to talk to, and we were instantly like old friends. He drives a diesel Mercedes minibus -- quite large! The odometer rolled over 400,000 km on the 40 minute drive from the airport to the city.

He offered to take us to his summer home on the isle of Froya, a 3 hour drive to the west coast of Norway in spectacularly beautiful country (actually, the ‘o’ in ‘Froya’ has a slash through it, it is one of three vowels we don’t have in English and it feels weird to pronounce these vowels). The offer was a great honor and very very tempting, but the kids were quite exhausted after being awake for 24 hours, 20 hours of which were spent in transit, Pam needed to get ready for school, we had a school potluck to attend Saturday night, and we needed very much to settle into our new apartment and wind down, so we reluctantly needed to decline.

Dinner at our new home

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Orlando to Trondheim

A harrowing start to the trip from Orlando to Trondheim: Travelocity had charged me for 4 tickets, but only purchased 1. There were no tickets for the kids when we got to the airport. For once in my life I was 3 hours early for a flight -- thank goodness!

It took 65 minutes on a phone with an agent. "We can't get you a flight today, is it okay if you fly tomorrow or the next day?"

"Uhhhh... no. No it's really not okay at all."

They eventually found us flights, so it was off to Chicago, Stockholm, and then Trondheim. The kids were real troopers during the flights.

Here they are on our 9.5 hour Scandavian Air flight to Stockholm.

When we reached Stockholm, they'd hardly slept in over 24 hours...

...but when we landed in Trondheim, they were full of energy again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kids Swimming with Stingrays

Disney Parties

There were several parties on the deck which were very high-energy. Here's a clip of the launch party on our first afternoon...



And here's a bit of the pirate party on our last evening...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Cruise

After a much-too-early trip to Orlando, the kids and I spent a happy
and (mostly) relaxed 4 days on a cruise ship in the Bahamas. I would
highly recommend Disney cruises -- food and drink is available at any
time for "free" (included in the price) which is very nice for the
kids to be able to run up to get drinks or ice cream whenever they
want. The stage shows were topnotch, and we saw a couple of first-run
films in the spacious movie theater (Underdog and Ratatouille)

In the Bahamas, we went swimming with sting rays which was quite
extraordinary. 14 members of my family were aboard for our annual
reunion, and this was a great way to catch up with everyone just
before leaving for the year. It was a shame that Pam couldn't be
there, but we emailed each other and she was having a great time in
Trondheim, very happy and very excited.


Anna with Snow White. She wore special sparkle shoes just for the occasion.

We went swimming with stingrays!

Castaway Cay is home to the Flying Dutchman, the haunted pirate ship from "Pirates of the Carribbean."

We excavated whale bones. Maggie found a tooth the size of a banana!

One night we all dressed up as pirates!

Me with Experiment 626 ("Stitch").