Monday, March 31, 2008

Første Dag

Førsten dagen til Eberg var veldig bra. Jeg har snakket norsk hel dagen og jeg kan ikke stoppe... men jeg vil prøve...

First day was a big success! My tongue is tied in knots from speaking Norwegian all day... it is difficult to switch back to English! I was understood and we did some good mathematics – and juggling – today. The kids are absolutely wonderful, so very nice. Today we did juggling, balancing, multiplication, art and number patterns with fractals.

I also gave a slide show about the United States and about life at home. I was most impressed with how many of the kids could identify not only George W. Bush but also Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. They recognized the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty (which they called the Freedom Goddess), and could identify George Washington on Mount Rushmore. Wow! Everything took longer than expected, which was itself expected, and that was just fine. The slideshow, for example, I had planned would take 15 minutes, but we ended up talking for more than half an hour as they floored me with their worldly knowledge and great questions.

Plenty to do for tomorrow...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daylight Savings

It's daylight savings today. I wasn't aware Norway adjusted their clocks, but they do, a few weeks later than in U.S. It was a very busy weekend getting ready for the big day tomorrow. And of course, being the busiest few days I've had, Father Time decided to cut off an extra hour. Thanks a lot, big guy!

I've got my juggling gear, manipulatives, handouts, and teacher instructions ready. I just finished translating instructions for some of my lessons into Norwegian. The kids will help me... we've going to have a great week!

Saturday, March 29, 2008


This visual joke even works in Norwegian.

Friday, March 28, 2008


Today was my day to make waffles at the Matekmatikksenteret. I brought butter and maple syrup to complement the usual array of jellies, brun ost, and sour cream. I'm not sure my colleagues much cared for the flavor. "Tastes like burnt licorice," someone commented. I also had to instruct them as to the proper amount of syrup. They were being so modest, it was funny to me. "No, no, the syrup must be dripping over the edges everywhere!" I coached. "This is American, the goal is to maximize calories so you can chop down trees!"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Meeting the Kids

I spent the morning at Eberg skole visiting with the kids. Wow, they are very nice and very excited about our upcoming week! I am too. There are 57 children altogether, normally divided into 3 groups (next week we'll split them into 2 groups). I sat and talked with each of the 3 groups today, told them about myself and answered all kind of questions... and I did it in Norwegian. I seem to have crossed some kind of language threshold into a minimally proficient zone. It feels like I've learned enough vocabulary, structure, expressions, and listening and speaking skills to be able to communicate "enough," whatever that means.

The teachers at least tell me I can speak very well, and they seem genuinely happy to have an English-speaking teacher next week so that the children can practice English. It should be a very positive experience for everyone, I hope. I certainly expect to learn a lot of norsk next week!

I have tons of work to do in the next few days preparing for the start of classes, including the challenge of structuring parallel activities which my assistants can carry out.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Big Meeting

Sickness is running through the family. Anna was sick on the train to Oslo on Thursday, Peter was sick Saturday night in our hotel room, Maggie was sick Monday night, and it hit me on Tuesday. The timing was very awkward. Tuesday night was my big meeting with assistants and volunteers at Eberg school, the people I'll be working with next week when I teach 3rd grade for the Math Center's Skoleovertakelse (school take-over). How was I supposed to fool them into thinking I can speak Norwegian while battling nausea? I brought a plastic bag with me to the meeting just in case, but I survived withing having to kaste opp. The assistants and volunteers are quite excited to be working with me next week, and they see my language differences as something very positive for the kids. Whew! Dodged another bullet! Still feeling grim today, but I came into work regardless. Might as well be working, yes?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


We've received many packages since we've been in Norway, and want to give a public THANK YOU to those who have sent them... especially since it is so very expensive to ship items here. Norway allows only air post (no boats) and taxes incoming items heavily, so it costs $20, $40, even over $100 to sent a reasonably package from the US to Trondheim. We received books, puppets, clothing, prescriptions, birthday gifts, and many other goodies from friends and family overseas.

Today we got two packages -- one from Pam's mom Ann who mailed us a package of glass for Pam's artwork, and one from her aunt Mary who sent us a box of cupcakes and Little Debbie snacks. This package had to be one of the funniest -- postage was $45, which makes the value of the cupcakes more like that of filet mignon!

Thanks for the packages everyone! We know that the postage often exceeds the value of the contents, but what a joy it is to receive a gift from home!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Easter is the second biggest holiday in Norway next to Christmas. The bunny found us in the night! In Norway, s/he brings a single gigantic egg filled with candy. The kids were excited. Too bad for us they were excited at 5:30 a.m. Once the sun had moved far enough, we went to the buffet for more gravelaks.

There were some museums open, but we were more in the mood for hanging out. Pam took the kids swimming, we did sudoku, watched a movie and had lunch in our room, then caught the bus to the train. This train had a HUGE kids' play area with climbing equipment, tubes, and a playhouse. Fantastic.

Okay, one more picture from vacation, Mike with King Harald V and Queen Sonja.

Vigeland Park

Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943).

From the Folk Museum we caught a bus to Vigelandparken, a park filled with statues of naked people... a LOT of statues! Old, young, fat, thin, men, women, children... fantastic artwork of all kinds of people in all kinds of action poses. The works are wonderful, not just the poses but the expressions on their faces. Each piece tells a story. The centerpiece of the park is a tower of bodies, but my favorite statue has to be the man being attacked by a pack of babies. Strange and amazing. We were very glad to not have missed this extraordinary place!

Two electric trams took us right back to the door of our hotel for naps. We'd planned on a visit to the Norsk Teknisk Musee, but rather than head out again we opted instead for in-room movies (included for free with our V.I.P. room.) Tomorrow the bunny comes.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Folksmuseum and Eggs

Påskeaften (Easter Eve).

Another fabulous breakfast buffet, then off for more adventures! The snow had snopped, but the mercury fell to –7°C. That's about 20°F. (It sounds better in Farenheit.) We walked past the palace, down to the waterfront and waited for the ferry to Bygdøy, one of the islands that are part of the city.

Following the road from the ferry landing through some lovely neighborhoods, we came to the Oslo Folk Museum. First we went to their Easter Egg decorating workshop and painted eggs, then saw an amazing Easter egg display with the most creative art I've seen with eggs (we have plans for our chickens back home!) The grounds were wonderful: lots of old buildings from Norway long ago, a horse and buggy ride we took around the village, fresh lefsa cooked on a fire, a pancake house with free pancakes for the kids.

Surprise meeting #2: Anna spotted her friend Sophia from school, with parents Evalina and Daniel. Small country getting smaller! Who will we meet tomorrow?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Zoo Museum & Mr. Hong's

The Munch museum is close to the natural history museum complex, part of University of Oslo. We strolled through the "beautiful" botanical gardens (barren this time of year) to the Zoology museum. All of the buildings looked quite old, and the Zoology museum had what appeared to be boarded windows. It didn't look promising at all. Once inside, though... wow! Very modern, with hundreds of high quality exhibits and thousands of beautiful animal displays. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit!

Above: the math and nature room.
Below: the puffin display, Peter getting eaten by a giant mussel,
and Peter with a big ugly Norwegian fish.

Back for naps, which lasted a bit longer than we expected. Our room has an espresso machine, complete with steamer, and we just happened to bring a liter of milk with us, so we made our own steamed milks with sugar. Yum!

We left at 7:00 for a late dinner, strolling down Oslo's famous Stortingsgata (Parliment Street) to Mr. Hong's Japanese/Thai/Mongolian restaurant. The kids liked playing with the goldfish in the trough that ran through the dining room. Our waiter warned us that the meals we ordered were "very spicy," but I should've known that Norwegians have a different spiciness-scale thatn we do back in the States, and the fire was merely a fizzle. The flavor was delicious, but next time I'll need to ask for the hottest they can muster.

Peter and Anna fell asleep in the restaurant after the meal, so it was a cumbersome walk back to the hotel.

The Royal Palace and icicles outside the National Theater.
Below: Mr. Hong's and The Hard Rock Cafe, Oslo.


Langfregad (Good Friday) in Oslo.

We were warned that traveling to Oslo for Easter break might be a bad idea as many businesses will be closed for the holiday, but we've found plenty of things still open.

Friday morning we started with a fabulous breakfast buffet, included with our hotel package. The buffet was pretty much all-encompassing: a pastry table, fruit, cereal, yogurts, meats, cheeses, breads, hot American-style dishes such as potatoes, eggs, and bacon, as well traditional Norwegian breakfast items like liver paste and gravelaks (thin-slice raw salmon). I've developed a taste for raw fish for breakfast, especially when eaten with scrambled eggs. My doctor will be pleased.

We had quite a breakfast to work off, so we went swimming followed by cooking ourselves in the hotel sauna.

Outside the snow was snowing, so we bravely bundled up and headed out. Past the royal palace to the national theater and on to the subway, we resurfaced outside of the Munch museum. Edvard Munch is the Norwegian artist who brings us "The Scream." Turns out he made other paintings as well, and they're pretty good!

Outside of the museum we ran into one of Anna's teachers, Mr. Bruno. It was a surprise to see someone we know so far from home... small country!

Below: three views of The Scream and one of Cupid and Psyche, my favorite Munch painting. By the way, "Munch" is pronounced "Munk." I know, I really want to pronounce it like it's spelled, too.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


We're off for a mini-vacation in Oslo. We want to be sure to see some other places while over here, and because of Pam's broken leg we've canceled a family trip to Zurich, Switzerland and Pam had to cancel a teacher trip to Lisbon, Portugal. She's doing so much better now, though, that we scheduled a last-minute trip out of town for Easter holiday.

Thursday we took the train for a 6.5 hour ride to Oslo. We sat in the family car which has a special separate play area for the kids with toys, books, and a video screen showing cartoons. What a great idea! The kids were occupied and happy, and Pam and I could relax and watch the beautiful mountainous scenery. In order to get exercise, Pam insisted we hop off the train at every stop and run around. (Can I now claim to have visited Støren, Røros, Tynset, Koppand, Elverum, Hamar, Stange, Tangen, and Eidsvoll?)

We met some nice people on the way. Sitting next to us was a 19-year old soldier coming back to base in Oslo after a one-day vacation. It was fun to talk to him about life in the military, and he helped me with some of my Norwegian homework as well. We also met a couple from Pakistan who live very close to us in Trondheim. Umer is using the same text book in his Norwegian class (the one I tried unsuccessfully to get into), and I was pleased to find out that I'm 3 chapters ahead. We traded phone numbers and they want to have us over for a Pakistani dinner when we get back.

Anna was sick near the end of the trip and Daddy got vomited on. Yup, the good stuff of parenting. She recovered quickly and we survived the bus ride from the train station to our hotel.

We checked into the Radisson SAS Scandanavia at close to 11 pm. Our small room was supposed to have a roll-away bed in it but it didn't, so I called to the front desk. Rather than give us an extra bed, they decided to instead upgrade us to an executive suite! We are now in a two-room suite. The kids have the living room with hide-a-bed and their own bathroom, and Pam and I have our own room as well. It's fantastic! We have a good view out on downtown, including a view of the palace (the royal family are our next-door neighbors). This is a good start to our vacation!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Quiz of the Week

What does this sign mean?

Norwegian Mexican

Vacation! We splurged and went to a Mexican restaurant tonight, Grønn Pepper. It was okay, but didn't really compare to the Mexican restaurants back in Washington. Norway it seems is just too far away from Mexico. The salsa was thin and not very flavorful, which is very nearly a deal-killer. The margaritas, too, were small and weak. There were some nice elements of the meal, however:

The decor and atmosphere were festive and it felt very good inside. They had menus in English as well as Norwegian which was nice. We had "iguana eggs" as an appertizer (stuffed chili peppers) which were yummy.

The true stand-out of the experience was what the kids ordered: hot dogs which arrived at the table looking like little octopi. The pølse was small sausages, halved and partially split on the cut end into four sections then fried so that the cut bits curled outwards like octopus legs. So very cool!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


A couple of tools I've moved to my browser toolbar and use quite regularly are:

TriTrans Translator which simultaneously translates between English, Spanish, and Norwegian, single words only with suggestions for "close" words.
Verbix, a verb conjugator (also many languages) which helps me significantly with irregular verbs and different verb tenses, and
InterTrans, a very handy translator which works with an entire block of text (like an email), also in many languages.
• Also there's this site which links to the InterTrans webpage translator. It's nice to use with webpages when trying to hunt down local information.

It's a bit tricky to use translators, though, it's a bit of an art really. They often translate foreign text into mysterious and amusing riddles. For example, here's an email message I received today and ran through a translator:

"We bulldoze and washing as mere fact that! We stake at class 17, but am not becoming earnest crestfallen about facts becomes a bit seinere. Courses at Frøya am enormous band. Newspaper draw up that 8 cars went at autobahn only yesterday at Hitra (autobahn at Frøya.) We defer at spring, and saw grasping we a good deal weekend there at one time."

Did you follow that? For fun, I tried translating a poem from English to Norwegian and back again. Do you recognize this?

Blink, blink, a little asterisk
How I wonder what you're
Up above the world saw hay
Equal a diamond at blue
Blink blink a little asterisk
How I wonder what you're

Not too bad, hey? Okay, one more. Here's the preamble to the United States Constitution, both the original and then put through the translator and back again.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We people at facts The United States, for that blank form a more perfect Association, beat out Justice, assure domestic At ease, provide for facts be prevalent advocacy, assist facts general Welfare, and competent facts Blessing at Liberalism to ourselves and our Backside, do ordain and beat out this Constitution for USA.

Yes, we can all use blessings on our backside, especially when beating out this Constitution for USA.


That was so much fun I tried a couple of other languages.

The Welsh insure heartburn. Be sure that "He Drives":

We group People with the United States, for I form more perfect Union, I strengthen Justice, I insure heartburn I come Tranquility, I prepare because group common defend, I facilitate group general Welfare, I go I make safe group We Blessed with Freedom to ourselves I go heartburn Race, do I order I go I strengthen this Composition because the United States with America, He Drives.

The Japanese "steady the base umpire swamp of freedom attached to ourselves":

We the people of the united nations, good form atto- yet perfect league, establish fairness , certain peace, proverb for the common explanation , promote the general welfare , again steady the base umpire swamp of freedom attached to ourselves again We the future do ordain again establish pulse the body for the United States of America.

The Spanish are looking for the "dark-haired perfect Union":

We the People of the United Statesman , in order to organize libel dark-haired perfect Union , settle Justness , insure domesticated Tranquilize , provide by the ordinary surmount , promote the across-the-board Well-being , and secure the Boon of Liberty until ourselves and our Posterity , do sort and settle this Constitution by the United Statesman of America.

And the French aren't worried about a Perfect Union. A "That's all right Union" would be sufficient, provided they have enough elbow room:

Ourselves the People about the estate - unison , in order to formal a more That's all right Union , ascertain Equity , insured , domestic Calmness , provide for the day common advocation , forward the broad All right - be , and certain the Benedictions about Elbow-room at ourselves - even and our Posterity , do decree and ascertain thanksggiving Constitution for the day Etats - Unison about America.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


I'm used to seeing strange labels on things, but the name on these candy-filled Easter eggs is, I must admit, beyond me. Is something lost in translation? (Click on pic to make it bigger if you can't read it.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Today starts the week-long Easter vacation. Pam was going a bit stir-crazy so we went downtown to have an adventure. We parked by Nidarosdomen and walked into the old part of town. Here we discovered a small restaurant I had heard about, the Bakklandet Stasjon. This used to be a stable and inn a few hundred years ago, and was also one of the few places that a women traveling without a chaperone could get spend the night and uphold her reputation. The restaurant had the feel of an old Bellingham coffee shop, place your order at the counter and find a seat in one of the small rooms filled with old furniture. The kids had fry bread with cheese and Pam and I had the fiskesuppe (fish soup).

Afterwards we scouted out a promising alley and found a "secret beach" on the river. The kids threw stones and tried to commandeer a row boat. We then explored the specialty art shops along the street before heading back home. In the second picture below is Trondheim's famous bicycle lift. Standing on your bicycle, you can place a foot on a pedal coming out of a slot in the pavement and it will push you and your bicycle all the way up the hill. I have yet to see it in action, I understand it is difficult to use.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ski Mania

Back home, Pam is hobbling about without crutches now, and has found that she can now drive, so she took the kids to school and back while I was gone.

Walking back to the hotel, we saw the following famous local site. Look very closely at the picture below, and kind of squint, and you may be able to convince yourself that you can barely see a red line painted on the ground. After a long harsh winter it's very nearly worn away, but it will be repainted in the spring. It's a 216 meter long line, painted on the street in Mosjøen to show the length of the world-record longest women's ski jump, accomplished by a skier from this town.

At the airport, ski-jumping was on the TV. It was time to board and the line had all disappeared out the gate, except for this group of people gathered around the screen cheering. "232 meters on his first jump! That's fantastic!" Svein explained. To my amusement, the gate agent had to ask them to kindly board the plane.

Here's something I ate at the airport, a lefsa. Svein explained it as a strange Norwegian food, a kind of potato bread with some other things. People either like it or hate it. I had to try it of course... and it was good, filled with butter and sugar.

Back at our home airport (25 minute drive from Trondheim), Svein helped me find the flytaxi and told the driver, "Han er amerikansk, men han kann snakker norsk!" Thanks again, Svein! The driver was wonderful – we spoke Norwegian all the way back.

Man in Mosjøen

Last night I flew to Mosjøen (pronounced like "motion") a small and pretty town (population 11,500) one hour's flight to the north of Trondheim. The surroundings are just gorgeous!

The town is situated on an inland fjord with a striking 800m mountain rising dramatically upwards from the town’s edge. This afternoon I will be the plenary speaker at a math teacher conference. I flew in with Anne-Gunn and Svein, two folks from the senteret, and they are quite fun. We stayed in a historic hotel last night, and today the conference is being held in the town’s movie theater.

Norsk, norsk, norsk. Everywhere I go, everything I hear is norsk. I go to math talks, I try to listen in on conversations around me, I read signs, watch television i norsk, listen to Norwegian radio. I speak no English in shops preferring instead to struggle with the language and make the merchants guess at my native tongue. The exposure is constant and my effort is unceasing. I must learn! I find I can read many things quite well, understanding normal conversation is still difficult, there are too many words I don’t know, or words that I do know but don’t hear them correctly.

Two days ago my brain snapped. For mye norsk! Too much Norwegian. I thought of my French friends whom I lived with 20 years ago, the days they felt so frustrated with trying to understand English all the time. I gave Emanuel a call yesterday – he’s living in London now and we haven’t talked for many years. It would be nice to comiserate. I tried to remember French so I could speak a little with him, but it was gone. Completely gone. I couldn’t even remember how to say “Hello, how are you?” Any phrase I tried to make in French came out Norwegian instead. Je suis... bra? Nei, det er ikke riktig. Je suis... je suis... how can I forget how to say “good”!?

So last night I took a break. Kept my norskbok closed. Watched a movie in English, no Norwegian subtitles.

I met my friends at breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and some of their acquaintances were there. Svein tells them, “Hun kann snakker norsk!” (“He can speak Norwegian.”) Turns out he’s been doing that all day, setting me up! However – and this is the cool part – I just had two lengthy conversations with strangers, entirely in Norwegian. I’m quite sure I slaughtered the language, but I was understood and I understood what they were saying as well. The topics were expected of course (How long have you been here, is your family here, what does your wife do, etc...) but it felt really good.

OK, time to get my overheads in order.