Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Danish Language

A very funny video with Danes making fun of how the language has degraded to the point they don't understand each other. The only thing they can enjoy together is watching TV in Norwegian.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Violin Concert

Here's a song from the concert I attended in Trondheim in November. This is the first concert of parent-child teams who started class this year. Two of our friends are playing, each with their daughters, both Anna's friends.

This song is called Jeg kan spille fiolin. Nice!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Children's Songs

Treasure for today: children's songs in Norwegian, words and podcasts:

http://loekebergskole.no/podpress/category/podcaster/comenius/norsong/


Kids first read the words, then the class sings the songs. You can read along and translations are given. The first one is Incy-Wincy Spider, called Lille Petter Edderkopp, which means Little Peter Spider. Instead of climbing up a water spout, little Peter spider climbs up on my hat.

Our family favorite is the one about the Troll mother who puts her 11 troll children to bed, ties their tails together, and then sings them a beautiful troll song. When Maggie slept over at Frøy's house, her mother used to sing this to them as a lullaby. The

There are many other podcasts on this site... some good exploring ahead! Thank you Løkeberg skolen!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Venn"

I'm sure this is really cheesy, but this has been a fun language exercise. Searching for norsk videos on YouTube, I hit Norway's version of "We Are The World"; well-known Norwegian artists singing together to raise money for tsunami victims in 2004.



It's a catchy song and the singers look interesting -- famous Norwegian pop artists I'm sure. Finding out about them might be a good way to explore Norwegian music. But what are they singing? On first listen, I can't do it, I can't tell what they're saying at all. Reading is easy, but listening is hard. I can understand when someone is speaking to me carefully, but normal conversation I still can't follow, and this song I cannot understand from listening alone.

So I score a lucky search and hit the lyrics on the first try. Åh! That's what they're saying, of course it is.

"Jeg kan være en venn/Jeg ser at du faller/Jeg ser at du faller/Du vil reise deg igjen."
(I can be a friend, I see that you've fallen, I see that you've fallen, You will stand up again.)

Go on, sing along with the video. You know that you want to!

I notice the singers are pronouncing the words differently. "Jeg" especially (the pronoun "I") has many pronounciation depending on what part of Norway one is from. One of the comments mentions this.

Another quick search and I have the guitar tabs. This morning my exercise is to write all these comments and practice until I understand and can say the comments fluently while the video plays. I'll start investigating some of these artists, too.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Decision

At Thanksgiving I traveled back to Trondheim for a conference. I knew the university would be offering me a contract, so my family had decided that this trip would mark the decision point for whether or not we would return to Norway next year.

My boss picked me up at the airport and we spent the day together, talking, eating, scheming about the future, and indeed she presented me with a very good contract to think about over the weekend. By the time I got settled into my hotel, I had been awake for 35 hours and was running on pure adrenaline.

I stayed at Hotel Britannia, a fancy old hotel in the heart of downtown Trondheim. In the morning they offer a vast breakfast buffet and I feasted on gravelaks (raw salmon) and scrambled eggs, my new favorite breakfast, before heading out on foot to the university. What a feeling to be back in Trondheim! Walking across the bridge into Bakklandet, seeing the brightly colored buildings on the river, the university up on the hill, the spires of the Nidaros cathedral in the low morning light... memories came flooding in and I knew this was where I wanted to be.

The conference was terrific, busy with talks to give and attend and old friends to meet. Sunday evening I spent with Daniel, Evelina, and Hilde. Monday evening I attended a puzzle-dinner with the conference group. Tuesday afternoon I took presents to the international school and was greeted by enthusiastic throngs of children wondering if Mrs. Naylor and the kids would be coming back. Yes, they would, I told them.

After school, off to a baby shower for Bruno with faculty of the school, then to dinner with Mauro at an Italian restaurant, and finally drinks at Den Gode Nabo with Mat, Patrick, and Kristina. Wednesday morning I packed up and left, making a stop at a morning concert. Daniel and daughter Sophia, and Teresa and daughter Anna Lola, were performing in their first concert. New violinists playing with experience musicians -- it sounded really good and was a happy send-off to the airport. I headed home feeling like the trip was much much much too short.

Back in Washington, we made the decision we had been thinking of making since the day we left Norway back in July. We will return.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Signing Off

Our basement is nearly finished, we have our cats and our chickens, we are winning the battle with our yard, and we've seen friends every day. It's feeling like home again.

I thought I'd end this blog with some kind of top ten list, and maybe I will do that eventually, but it is time to focus on life in Washington for a while. My mind stayed behind in Norway and I need it here now, so I'm signing off. Thanks for coming along for the journey!

Mike

Friday, July 11, 2008

Adjusting

We finally have internet. Ahhh... We're still not moved back in, though we have new linoleum and carpeting in the basement and I'm hoping to finish trimming and plumbing today and we'll get those sinks and toilet out of the back yard.

So Much Stuff

The first strange thing I noticed being back is the huge selection at the grocery stores. I remember looking at the boxes of instant oatmeal in Haggen's here in Washington, and there were maybe 40 different varieties with all kinds of colorful and sugary ornaments, and I was disgusted with the excess and wondered how could the system could sustain so many different varieties of products. Obviously it can.

I was also disgusted with all of the stuff we own. Boxes of things we've carried around for 15 years and look at only when we move. It weighs us down. In Norway, we made do with very little and found that in fact we need very little. Moving back into our house is the perfect opportunity to make bold cuts in our inventory. We've made one trip to the dump already and our garage is filling with a pile of things to sell.

Driving!

Driving is challenging too. When I first arrived in Norway, I was very impatient driving. No right turn on red, it was very irritating to me to be sitting at a light unnecessarily. But now I find right-on-red stressful... you have to watch the traffic coming and wait for an opening, you must keep alert and focused. In Norway, you get to a red light and you relax and wait for it to change. The light will even give you a red-yellow combo to let you know it's about to turn green so you can put your magazine away. Here in the U.S., you can't relax at a light if you're turning right or the person behind you is going to be irritated.

Distances have stretched too. Driving to the Home Depot seems impossibly far, and the university is nearly 20 miles away.

There are so many cars on the road, traffic crawls. Traffic never used to bother me, but after living in Trondheim for a year, we notice the difference. There is also significantly more traffic on our roads than when we left a year ago and it will continue to get worse. The Norwegian government keeps coming up with ways to make driving less attractive in Norway – I thought at first this was bad policy but they are on to something.

There is a new roundabout near my house, and that makes me happy. So many roundabouts in Norway we have come to love them not only for their efficiency but also for their fun-factor.

The Kids Can Speak Norsk?

As far as we knew, Peter could speak only two words of Norwegian ("Bli død!" which means "Die!") He began speaking Norwegian with his sisters on the plane on the way home. The morning after our arrival he says to me "Se hva jeg fant under sofaen!" ("See what I found under the sofa!") Turns out he knows a lot of norsk.

Prices

Pam tells me that straight up grocery prices have risen 20% while we were away. Everything still looks very cheap to me though. Gas was $4.39 a gallon... so cheap! (I paid $10.26/gallon last time I filled up in Norway.)

Food

One of the best things about being back in the States: the food. Produce is so fresh and delicious. I'll miss my gravelaks, but my palate is very pleased at the return. Now I must find a place to buy brun ost...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back Home

Hei hei! Still getting set up. We have to redo several of our floors and have someone coming out in the morning, so we haven't really unpacked yet. Kids have been grumpy and we've all had a very hard time getting back into sync... it's not just the time zone but also being back in our house which is not quite the same (and has a yard our friends describe as "Jumanji", which is fairly accurate!) We still have no internet, but we'll be back online later this week and I should have some more Norway stuff up, so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

We are back in the USA and thankful we're on vacation because we have a fearsome task ahead of us.

Steve and Marcia picked us up at SeaTac. We were the last ones out because one of our bags went AWOL, just arriving at our house this morning. We went for Taco Bell on the way home. Mmmmm... The yard was a fearsome sight to behold, our yard just got mowed for the first time a day or two before we arrived and it's looks like a harvest happening out there. Our house and our stuff is in good order, and Steve and Marcia had set up our house with groceries and wine and coffee and all kinds of things. That was a nice surprise.

Our phone is back on and our phone number is the same as was before. I like that phone number, so we feel lucky. We won't have home internet for over a week, so we're checking email in a McDonalds this morning.

We were up for over 24 hours when we finally crashed Wednesday night. The first thing I did Thursday morning was clean up the hot tub, and while it was filling I took clippers to a blackberry bush which had eaten a row of trees. It will be a slow recovery moving back into the house and getting used to being able to turn right on red, but we're in no hurry.

More pictures coming soon when we get settled. It will be interesting to see how it is getting reestablished here!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ha Det Bra, Norge!

Monday we packed and cleaned all day, with an intermission to go to dinner at Paul and Hilde's. Paul cooked us an Irish meal while the children played and Anna put on shows with friends Eva and Elinor. Then back to cleaning. Pam and I were up until well past midnight. Allan will come in 2 hours to take us to the airport with our 15 bags.

Goodbye Norway! You've been very good to us. We've felt very welcome and wanted in this country, and I'm certain it has affected us in ways we don't yet understand.

Tonight we sleep in our house in the USA.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Final Fjording


More packing, packing, packing. This afternoon we went to Ingvill's house for a cookout, then walked down to the shores of Lade with a kayak. Ingvill swam, I skipped stones, and the kids took turns paddling out in the fjord. It was a beautiful evening, and it's hard to believe we now only have about 36 hours left in Norway. Tomorrow will be very busy, doing our final packing and cleaning the apartment.


Here's Peter trying to walk Zeta. That's quite a spirited dog!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mikrobryggeri og Den Gode Nabo

Spent most of the day on Saturday packing, deciding what to keep, what to donate, what to discard, what to store. We sent the hamsters off to their new home.

This evening we joined friends at the Trondheim Mikrobryggeri (microbrewery) downtown. I ordered the Tiger Wings, and finally had something spicy in Norway! We handed out presents to everyone wrapped in colorful foil with tiny bows. What could it be? It's... bacon!


Afterwards we headed over to Den Gode Nabo (the good neighbor), a pub in Bakklandet right next to pedestrian bridge. I love this neighborhood. Den Gode Nabo has a floating bar out on the river Nidelva. It was here we said final goodbyes to Mat, Simon, Luke, and Karin.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stop 4: Steinvikholmen



Inspired by a design by (stolen from?) Leonardo DaVinci, Steinvikholmen is a two-tower fortress on a small island. Once upon a time, you could walk out to the island during low tide, but these days you can walk across a bridge. Although the fortress is currently closed for renovation, the kids loved finding spiral sea shells on the beach and we loved the fabulous scenery, which includes cows. This was a beautiful end to a perfect day.



On the way back home, we managed for the very first time to avoid the toll road! The trick: drive to the main entrance of the airport and take the Hell Bridge into Hell. You've got to go through Hell before you get to Trondheim.

Stop 3: Forbordsfjellet

Forbordsfjellet means "before the foot of the mountain", which makes this an unusual choice of names for the mountain itself. It's an example of a place name changing over the years. Merete at the office recommended this drive. It's a bit tricky to find, if we hadn't had explicit directions we would've missed it. Driving north on E6 from Stjordal, you cross the railroad tracks and the road jogs to the right. Watch for this church:



Turn into the church parking lot, then down the driveway of a farmhouse. There's box to deposit 20 kr. which goes to the farmer who lives there. He maintains the road, aparently. Just like the drive to the rock carvings, there's a distinct feeling that you're not supposed to be driving on this road. Try to keep in mind that Norwegians are much more relaxed about private property than in the U.S. and keep driving.

Up, up, up, up. This road leads to the highest point in all Sør-Trøndelag. Finally, we reach the top of and it's yet another WOW! on this trip. We can see east to Sweden and west to Trondheim. We can see the entire route we'd driven to get here. Far in the distance we can make out Munkholmen, the island just off-shore from Trondheim. Nearby we can see Steinvikholmen, our next stop on our voyage, and beyond that we can see Tautra and the long long bridge leading out to this island.

We find a nice spot overlooking Åsenfjord and Trondheimsfjord to the east and light up the grills. Pølse, chicken, salmon with pesto... we eat like kings. Afterwards we walk all around the peak of this mountain taking in all the views. Glorious scenery, and we didn't even have to hike to get here. Not a bad deal.


Above: the small island to the left connected by a short bridge is Steinvikholmen, the next stop on our trip. Behind that is a landmass, and in the body of water behind that is a long very skinny island which is Tautra, home to a monastery.

Below: a dark dark mountain to the west, very mysterious. Two views to the south, including Værnes airport, and a mysterious UFO which landed on this mountain.


Stop 2: Hegra Festning

Pam and I had visited the Hegra festning on our trip to Sweden last month and decided we needed to come back with the kids. After visiting the runes, it was a short trip up the mountain to this fortress hidden in the woods. As anticipated, the kids loved it. Last time we were here, it was raining which gave the woods an otherworldly feel. This time not only was it sunny, but the tunnels beneath the festning were open, and... WOW!

The tunnels are extensive, room after room, stairs and ladders up and down, each of the five or six turrets linked by underground passages that make unexpected turns and lead to surprising places. There were sleeping rooms, common rooms, headquarters, fireplaces, a kitchen, a machine room, and even a half-dozen saunas in true Scandanavian style. We played and explored for over an hour, and for some members of our group this visit was not only the highlight of the trip, but the highlight of their Norway visit.

The pictures below just don't capture the sheer awesomeness of this place. If you're visiting Trondelag, put this on your must-see list. Here's the link to our last visit with a lot more pictures.


Stop 1: Stone Carvings at Leirfall

Past the airport, through Stjordal, and just a few kilometers past Hegra is the largest collection of Bronze Age rock carvings in Scandanavia. The road to the carving is a single lane track through a field that looks like someplace you shouldn't be driving. It ends in a parking lot with a nice information booth and a guide who was happy to show us around and tell us about the carvings.


Here's some of the carvings. This first on shows a rider on a horse and some footprints. The stones are covered with pictures of shoes, ovals with a line through them showing the strap that holds them to the foot. There are many theories about what the feet mean, from as simple as an individual leaving their mark (a permanent footprint) to as far-fetched as a representation of gods of the underworld walking on the other side of the stone and we can see only the bottoms of their feet. As appealing as that idea is, it's probably just the Bronze Age equivalent of carving your initials.



This second one shows a procession to a line of boats. The carvings are reddish because at one point they had been painted, but they found this makes them erode faster. Also on the site was a replica of a Bronze Age building. We were very pleased with this visit – we hadn't expected much and were very surprised with how much this area offered.

Road Trip!

Just a few days left in Norway, time to see some sights in Trøndelag we hadn't seen. On the agenda for today, from right to left on on the map below, stone carvings at Leirfall, the festning at Hegra, Forbordsfjellen, Steinvikholmen, and Tautra (time permitting).



I told Anna we'd be going to a very cool fortress today.
"Fortress? What's a fortress?" she asked.
"It's a festning," I told her.
"Oh! A festning! Yay, we're going to a festning!" Bit by bit, the English slips away.

Mat's parents and his friend Simon are in town, and they decide to follow us out on our grand tour. Simon has just returned from China doing conservation work on a Panda reserve. How cool is that?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Stina and Petter

These are our neighbors Stina and Petter. We share an entranceway with them. They had us over for dinner tonight. Stina is a 6th grade teacher and Petter is in the math department at NTNU, which is funny because Pam is a 5th grade teacher and I'm at the mathematics center at NTNU. Stina teaches at Eberg, which is the school I taught at also for a week. Connections...


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

End Days

Tuesday was an exciting day at work as we wrapped up our projects and talked about future collaborations. I packed up most of my office.

In the evening, we had dinner at Martin and Elisabeth's. It was a traditional meal of kjøttkake (meat cakes) and cabbage soup. Absolutely delicious! Maggie stayed overnight with Frøy for one last hurrah.


Wednesday morning, we started by picking up Pam's passport. She FINALLY got her work permit, 6 days before leaving. (My permit I arranged through the Norwegian consulate in the U.S. before we left, Pam arranged hers locally here in Trondheim. I got my permit in 3 weeks, she got hers in 10 months. Hmmm...)



On Wednesday, we went to Martnan, a special open air market downtown, this week only. The weather's been dodgy the past couple of days, raining one minute, sunny the next. We dodged raindrops as we navigated endless booths of cheap junk and food vendors. As one of our friends described it, "It's crap that is made to look like gold by all the crap around it." We did have a good find as we were walking back to our car: a kebab restaurant downtown called Mona Lisa Kebab. We got a very tasty kebab roll, which had an incredible amount of meat in it, enough to feed the whole family.




Afterwards, we went to Evelina and Daniel's for dinner. We had spaghetti, and feeling adventurous, Evelina and I grated brunost on top of our pasta. A dangerous move – brunost, or brown cheese, is a sweet caramelly weird substance that is not cheese at all. Surprisingly, spaghetti, tomato sauce, and brunost is actually very good. We said another round of goodbyes to our very good friends. Anna decided to stay overnight for one last visit with Sophia.



At 8:30 we picked up Maggie. A lot of tears were shed as the girls said their final farewells. They have been best friends all year. Frøy is leaving on vacation so they won't see each other again for a long time.

We also picked up Lise and Soniva and brought them back to our place. We played games, ate cookies, and watched Eddy Izzard, an English comedian that Lisa is particularly fond of and insisted we see. I don't often watch stand-up comics, but he was very very funny. It was a delight to get to know these two, even though we'll soon be gone.



Our neighbors Stina and Petter have invited us to dinner this evening to say goodbye.

This past week has been a series of goodbyes and we are feeling more and more empty. Five days remaining in Norway... time to get packing I suppose.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Romeo og Julie på Munkholmen




Pam went with Patrick tonight to see "Romeo og Julie" on the isle of Munkholmen in the fjord very near Trondheim. They caught the 6:00 ferry (55 kr. round trip, about $11) for the 6:30 showing. Munkholmen was settled in 1105 and in the mid-1600s a fortress was built on the small island. Today it hosts a museum, sunbathers in the summer, and Shakespeare plays.

Tonight it was cold and raining, but the play was indoors so far as that went. Inside the old fortress it was cold and drafty, and patrons huddled beneath wool blankets to watch the performance. The plays in Munkholmen are put on by an amateur troop composed largely of young performers under the supervision of a brilliant director who has been doing this for 25 years. Pam says that it was just wonderful. It was entirely in Norwegian of course ("Romeo, Romeo, hvor er du, Romeo?")

Here's some Munkholmen pictures from Wikipedia, showing Munkholmen on a sunnier day.

The lights!

In my building on campus there are several interesting sculptures. Hanging in three different areas on the main level are boxes containing neon lights. In response to the movement of people in the areas, they light up and make pleasant and mysterious noises. The lights haven't been working all year, but last week they fixed them and we now have light to accompany the sounds.