Friday, February 29, 2008

Pam to School

Pam went in to teach today. Ja, hun er gal! (Yes, she's crazy!) The gate was locked so we had to park far from the school. She trudged up the hill on crutches, aided by the retractable ice-spikes on her Norwegian crutches. Her kids were thrilled to see her again.

Back at the office, I told everyone they couldn't speak English to me anymore. It made for a long day. Merete, the office manager and my lead Norwegian language coach, immediately began calling me a long list of vulgar names. Yep, I got to add several new entries on my list of Norwegian swear words! Fortunately Allan had taught me "Takk i like måte" (Thanks, the same to you), which worked astonishingly well in this instance.

My favorite curse, by the way, is the joke phrase: inn i svartsvidde granskogen! It simply means "in the black-burnt pine forest," but if said properly (with plenty of venom and hellfire), to Norwegians it sounds like it should be something very foul. Good fun!

The days are getting lighter and lighter. Daylight is now from 07:30 - 17:30 and days are getting longer by 6 and 1/2 minutes per day. Temps have been widely variable -- all last week it was in the 40s (Fahrenheit), but the last few days it has been dumping snow and has gotten quite cold again.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seed Bank Opens Today

Norway opened its global seed bank today, in Svalbard, deep beneath the ice.

Panic can start now

I got my class assignment for our Skoleovertakelse, or 'school take-over.' The first week in March, the primary teachers at Eberg skole will be going away for a week for training, and the Mattematikksenteret will be taking over the classes. I'll be teaching 3rd grade. For the whole week. In Norwegian. In 31 days. Can I start panicking now? Jeg ha mye arbeid å gjøre!


Pam is recovering slowly. She is more mobile, but still having troubles. She's been using the opportunity to do a lot of glasswork.

ThIS has been great -- on Tuesday Megan came over to do laundry and clean, then she brought the kids home from school with pizza that was donated by someone else from school. On Wednesday another teacher brought over a big dish of homemade macaroni and cheese. Anna's teacher Debora cut Anna's and Maggie's hair after school... I paid her two big bars of melkesjokolade (milk chocolate).

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Eagle Has Landed

Pam is home!

It was a long week. The surgery was well done, and the nurses were kind and attentive, but the information we received was terrible. The doctor visited once after the surgery (and Pam doesn't even remember the visit because she coming off of general anesthesia) and not again un til the last day. Pam had many questions during the week, but the nurses couldn't answer them ("Wait for the doctor," they'd say). The doctor didn't have answers either... questions about devices to help in the home, follow-up care, who to contact to arrange for further assistance, etc. It was funny, too, how about half the hospital employees didn't speak English, and several people I spoke too were annoyed that I didn't speak Norwegian. So, it's good to have Pam home, but there are many things about the system that are still a mystery to us.

Physical Therapy

Maggie stayed at Hannah's house last night -- the rest of us took their invitation to join them for dinner. Today, Anna went to SFO and Peter went to Christian's house. I rushed to get to the hospital before 10 hoping to get a chance to talk to the doctor. He was supposed to be there between 10 and 11, but by 12:30 he still hadn't shown and I had to go.

I did get to go along with Pam as she practiced steps, first in the "gym" and then on actual stairs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Maggie and I brought Pam Burger King for lunch today. Here's a sign for the new Whopper at BK. We didn't get her one of these, as one Angry Whopper costs 75 crowns. It's 5.5 crowns per dollar. 75 ÷ 5.5 = a lot of noodles.

Peter and Anna were at SFO, Peter went bowling with the older kids. ("My dad's making me go bowling," he lamented to his friend.) Back at the hospital, Maggie and I helped Pam practice walking on crutches. We found a piano, and they played Heart and Soul for a long time. It was impressive!

Pam's supposed to come home tomorrow, but she hasn't attempted stairs yet, so.... we'll see.

Last night, I let Maggie and Peter stay up late and watch Ghost Rider with me. They felt very privileged!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Peter's been going to SFO the last couple of days and playing games in the computer lab all day... his idea of heaven. Tonight Anna went to Anna-Lola's house for a sleep over. Last I heard they had showered, been read to, and were happily tucked in and chatting away up in Anna-Lola's bunk bed.

Maggie, Anna and I visited Pam this morning and Peter and I went tonight. Pam is using crutches now. Apparently her leg is structurally sound but will be painful to use for 6 weeks so she'll be on cructches for a while. She had a very tough night and bad morning, but Peter and I brought her sushi and miso soup for dinner and she is much, much better.

My big accomplishment: I went to speak to an administrator at the hospital and when I asked "Kann vi snakker engelsk?" he replied, "Mmmm... kann vi snakker norsk?" So I had a complete conversation with him in Norwegian and we understood each other.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Walking already... sort of

Pam had a rough night last night. She was pretty sick. She's feeling better this morning. I took Peter and Anna to SFO (after school program) today, it's a school holiday but some kids still come to school this week to play while their parents work. I then dropped off Maggie with Pam. Maggie read her a book, Whittington, while I ran some errands (groceries, wood glue, and hamster food). When I returned, Pam was using a walker to go down the hall. Progress! It still hurts a lot.

We played cards for a little while, then I brought Maggie home for lunch. Soon it's time to pick up the other kids.

Monday, February 18, 2008


In Norway, the most common cause of hospitalization is broken bones caused by slipping on ice. Why do I mention this? Because Pam is currently in St. Olav's hospital having another authentic Norwegian experience.

Pam, Anna, and I were walking back from the Bunn Pris yesterday, when Pam slipped on some ice and fell down. It didn't look like a bad fall, but she was in a lot of pain and knew something was wrong. When she couldn't get up, I left Anna with her and went home to get the car. By the time I returned, an ambulance was there. They loaded her up and took her to the Legevakt.

An x-ray confirmed the worst: she had cracked her femur up near the hip. Can you spot the big fracture in her bone in this picture?

It is a school holiday this week... yeah Pam gets to have her holiday in the hospital. The good news is the hospital is deserted. She was the first bone surgery of the day, whereas usually there would be 10 surgeries lined up. Also, there are 12 nurses for 19 patients in her hall, so service has been excellent.

She went into surgery last night and they inserted a plate and a pin. The surgery went well and she is expected to be able to walk on it soon, maybe a few days, maybe a week. She'll be in until Friday.

We have tickets to Switzerland tomorrow, but.... looks like Pam will be "relaxing" in a different kind resort and the kids and I will be having a whole lot of togetherness instead!

I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, February 17, 2008


We got tagged by a robo-cop a couple of weeks ago, and they finally got around to sending the ticket. I was driving the equivalent of 59 mph in a 50 mph zone (95 kph in an 80 kph zone). In the U.S., I don't think you'd get pulled over for that. In Norway, it's a $500 offense. They say I'm lucky, if I had been driving much faster it could be thousands of dollars and loss of license. I guess the moral is, when you're living in one of the richest countries in the world, beware of the fines! The natives can afford much more than you can!

Incidentally, the name of the tunnel is Helltunnelen, or "Hell Tunnel." No kidding! Apparently, the radar camera brings in millions of dollars each year in fines. Helltunnelen is a few meters shy of 4 km (2.5 miles). The longest tunnel in Norway is the longest tunnel in the world... a whopping 24 km... that's 15 miles long! Here's some data on the tunnels in Norway, a public education service of the Naylors in Norway blog.

Saving Money

Norway is one of the most expensive countries in which to live, so it's important to find ways to save money. Here's our latest idea!

Impressive, no? Do you think he has a future as a hairstylist?


Thursday morning the Flytaxi picked me up very early to start my trip to Gjøvik, a city about 125 km north of Oslo. I flew with Ingvill and May, and again we did math puzzles the whole way there and back. We took a 2-hour bus ride from Oslo along Lake Mjøsa, the largest lake in Norway. A bit further north is Lillehammer, famous for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

I was struck by how very much Mjøya looks like Lake Whatcom. We very well could have been driving along Lake Whatcom Blvd. on our way back from Sudden Valley.

We arrived at the Vitensenter (Science Center) and met a group of 20 teachers from the area. We gave math talks and activities about math clubs, family math, outdoor math, and math games. One activity we did involved a ski-jump with bottles of water... a very Norwegian activity!

After dinner on the first day, we were treated to a show: a drama involving an astronaut meeting Copernicus followed by a planetarium exhibit. It was all in Norwegian, and I delighted in trying to follow the stories and pleased with how much I understood. I am really starting to know quite a bit of the language.

The next day the teachers had time to work on an implementation plan to ensure that they would use ideas from the seminar, and so I had time to work on a new book Ingvill and I will be writing.

Here's a picture from the museum of a mental challenge. The names of colors are written in different colors which don't match with the word. The challenge is to name the color in which the word is written without being confused the word spells another color. I've done these in English and they're very difficult. I thought it would be easy to do in Norwegian, but turns out I was wrong. I found myself saying "Yellow" when looking at the word GUL written in green, and then everything went wrong. I was surprised to fail this test even in a language that is very new to me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Coming back from Gjøvik with May and Ingvill, they showed me their driver's licenses at the airport. May's driver's license says "Noreg" at the top, Ingvill's says "Norge."

"Typo?" I ask. Nope. When young, a Norwegian may choose his or her language: bokmål or nynorsk. Ingvill is bokmål, May is nynorsk, and so their licenses are in slightly different languages, or rather different versions of Norwegian.

About 10% of Norwegians are nynorsk. All official documents are in both languages, and all school textbooks must be published in both languages so students may choose in which language they want their books to be. Crazy -- and expensive!

Here's a big sculpture outside of the Oslo airport: a person throwing a paper airplane. Notice how big his muscles are, appropriate for an international airport!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hytte Adventure

Saturday we packed up to spend the night at Allan's hytte in Bymarka. We arrived at the parking lot at 3 pm and then hiked for a hour up to the cabin to meet Allan and Max. Allan showed us the ropes and then left us with the hytte for the evening.

The small cabin is just off the main trail up into Bymarket, near an old farm that now serves pølse and sjokolade (hotdogs and hot chocolate) to skiers. There is no electricity or water, heating is provided by a wood burning stove, cooking is done on a propane range, and oil lanterns provide the light.

The cabin is decked out with supplies. We relaxed with coffee, games, and old Mad magazines, then cooked a dinner of noodles and hamburgers. The meat is called familiekjøpp, or "family meat," and is a blend of beef and pork. It's quite delicious we were surprised to find -- better than beef-only hamburgers.

It was soon dark. We filled up oil lanterns and each carried one as we set off with sleds to a field a short hike away. Setting the lanterns on the slope we made a lighted course for sledding. Beneath a brilliant sparkling sky we slid down the hill again and again, Orion looming immensely overhead. Peter ran back to the hytte to get a steerable ski-sled. Pam gave it a try and whoosh! She went well beyond the range of lights, and we could hear her disappearing into the distant darkness, lauughing and screaming all the way. Eventually she returned, and Peter and I decided to give it a shot. Just like Pam, we too sped far beyond the lights and were speeding through a world of darkness. Sheer terror and exhiliration! I could see only a few meters ahead, the surface pitching and dropping unexpectedly. Faster and faster we flew, guessing at our heading, hoping to stay on the groomed path through the field. Suddenly -- a fence! I twisted the sled sideways and we tumbled out, crashing through the icy surface and burying ourselves into the crystal snow!

It was all very surreal! Awesome!

In the morning, we made pancakes for breakfast -- Norwegian-style panekakker, which are more like crepes. I had mine with jam, Peter ate his with sugar.

After breakfast, we headed out to go skiing. Peter and Maggie decided to go sledding, but Anna was very keen to ski. The snow was very icy and slippery, though, and Anna soon decided to snap off her skis and join her siblings sledding. So Pam and I explored the trails a little. This was only my second time cross-country skiing, and the snow was better suited for experts, so it was rough going, but I can see how this could be addictive! I switched to sledding after a little while, Pam lasted a lot longer!

We packed up, and rather than carry all of our things on our backs and in our arms, this time we used Allan's sled-thing... I don't remember what it's called. It's a sled that I could strap to my waist and pull behind me. We filled it with 5 pairs of skis and boot, a backpack of clothing, a bag of food, assorted snow pants, and for the last part of the trip, a tired child. All in all, an excellent adventure, good family time, and a most memorable weekend!

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Week So Far

Anna turned 5 on Tuesday. She came home from school with a princess crown and opened a few presents. We had cake and she was very happy.

Wednesday was a big day at the office. I met with colleagues in the morning, went to Eberg Skole in the afternoon to watch lesson studies, then back to NTNU for our first Math Klubb. 16 high school juniors and seniors showed up. We were very pleased with the attendance, and the evening went extremely well.

Today, Pam and the kids are on a school skiing trip. It has been warm (7°C) the last couple of days so everything is wet and icy. I hope they have better conditions up at the ski area!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Back to "Home Home"

No $100 taxi ride for us! We pack up and clean the apartment and hauling all of our bags, set out across town to find the train to the airport.

Along the way we see this statue, which is the funniest statue I'd seen all week. That poor man!

Now, according to two guidebooks we should board at Catalunya, according to another we need to board at Passeig de Gracia. 2 beats 1, we go to Catalunya, get all the way down, and I can't figure out how to do it looking at the signs so I ask a Metro worker: "¿Tren aeropuerto?"

She answers: "¡Metro, Passeig de Gracia, Tren aeropuerto!" Minimal Spanish language skills have certainly come in handy on this trip.

So we haul our stuff back up to the surface and walk 2 blocks to the next Metro station. This time is no one at the information window. I don't know what ticket to buy to let us in through the gates. Pam finds a call box with an Info button and we push it. "¿Tren aeropuerto?" I ask the voice on the tinny speak.

"Plaça Catalunya," he tells us.

"We were just there. They said to come to Passeig de Gracia!" I protest. He hangs up on me. Dang, bad memories of travel trauma from my previous trip to Spain begin to surface.

A friendly pedestrians happens upon us, and Pam asks him what to do.

"Oh -- don't take the Metro. The train is crap and drops you far from the airport. For 2 euros you can take the Aerobus!" He tells us how to find it -- in Plaça Catalunya. And find it we do. Funny that we had walked right by it on our way into the Metro, but of course wouldn't recognize it or know about it. This was an instance where it would be nice to be at a hotel with a conceirge. Having our own apartment was excellent, but we were on our own for figuring things out.

Here's me and Anna on the bus. Kids 5 and under ride free. Instead of a $100 taxi ride, we had a very comfortable $15 bus ride. Score!

At the airport, Anna was on the books as leader of our party (I guess they sort it alphabetically) so she got to use her finger on the fingerprint scanner. Here she is with her magic finger:

And here I am contemplating the perplexing Barcelona fashions. Ummm... I don't think so.

Last picture of the trip, beautiful ice on the airplane window. Finally, back "home home."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Art Day

Sunday we headed off to find the Miro Museum in the same part of town as the the Magical Fountain. There was not a clear Metro line nearby, so we took the subway to the nearest stop and walked. It was a long uphill walk... we couldn't see the hill on the map! The kids were beat by the time we reached the museum.

Very fun museum! Some of work is inspired, other works make me wonder why everyone isn't an artist. Here's Peter with a little creature outside the entrance, and Maggie and Peter with some art inside. Don't you think Miro's work is greatly improved with the inclusion of a Maggie or a Peter?

Our plan had been to head to the beach and dip our toes in the (chilly!) Mediterranian Sea, but it was raining on and off and a cable car beckoned to us. So we rode up to the top and discovered a very old fortress in which to play hide and seek. There's a lot of naked statues in Barcelona (I love this city!) but I surprised to see one next to the big guns on the fortress. Strange juxtaposition of images. If you look closely you can see Peter in the background attempting to plummet over the cliff.

The kids were beat by the time we got home, so Pam and I set out on our own for some late-night sightseeing. First we went to the Sagrada Familia, which is the cathedral designed by Gaudi. It looked ugly in the pictures and is requires switches Metro lines, so it was low on our list. My one regret for this trip is that we didn't visit during the day when it open. Oh my... truly an awesome spectacle in a very real sense of the word "awe." The cathedral is not finished as you can see by all the cranes, and when it is done it will be twice as tall. Strange strange bizarre natured-inspired architechture. The pictures don't do it justice, you have to be in the presence of this massive building to appreciate the impact. Wow!

Afterwards, we went to a house that Gaudi had built for a wealthy architect in the 30s. Admission was steep, 18 euros or something like that ($27 each). The building is a treasure. Not a straight line anywhere. Very weird designs, but designed to be very functional. Worth seeing, but it should be half the price.

Math Interlude

There are all kinds of interesting mathematical sculpture and architecture in Barcelona. I could move here.

Here's some accidental math:

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Magical Saturday

Strawberries wrapped in a paper cone... part of breakfast. We set out to find Gaudi Park this morning. Gaudi was a modernistic artist whose bold visions and bizarre architecture helped shape Barcelona. He was regarded by many as a nutcase, and his name gave rise to the word "gaudy" meaning garish. He is now seen as a genious, and his many works throughout Barcelona are breathtaking.

According to our guidebook, there are two subway stops we could take. We bought day passes for the Metro and ventured into the tunnels. The system is very easy to use. When we reached our stop, we waited for the door to open... but it did not. We stood there befuddled, and the train started moving again. Oh well, to the next stop then! We were supposed to twist a handle to open the door. This next stop was off our map, so we weren't sure how to get to the park, but a sign in the station pointed us to the "mechanical staircase," which sounded too exciting to miss.

My were we glad we got off at the wrong stop. A series of 5 outdoor escalators took us up a long steep hill. Here's the view from the top of the fifth escalator:

The park was weird and wonderful, but a bit awkardly arranged. It was a financial disaster in the 30s before it was bought by the city. It felt like being in a Dr. Seuss book, including Truffala trees. The only thing missing was Sam I Am. A classical guitarist was playing in a hall of columns, the music echoing beautifully. We sat for a long time listening to the haunting music in this otherworldly space.

We walked down the hill to the other Metro stop ... a long walk of nealy 2 km. We had planned to visit Gaudi's cathedral, but went home for naps instead.

In the evening, we hopped back on the Metro and went to Placa Espanya to see the "Magical Fountain." The fountain is in front of the big art museum in the art museum part of town. The fountain is stunning. Lights and music coordinated to the water show. The fountain was built in 1929 -- absolutely incredible that this kind of thing could be build so long ago! At the time, critics said it was impossible, but 3000 workers managed to finish the job in only one year.

Check out a little bit of the show:

We watched in awe and could have stayed all night, but were getting hungry, so we found a pizza place and headed "home."

(The kids had now taken to calling our Barcelona apartment "home," our apartment in Trondheim "home home," and our house in Ferndale "home home home." Because Pam sometimes gets confused, they decided to call Michigan "home home home home.")