Friday, October 30, 2009

Teaching and the Big Dance

Big day today. And a landmark day, as well. Gerd had a group of visiting teachers, working on multiple representations of numbers with all kinds of media, and I did a lesson on the abacus. I did the entire 45 minute lesson almost entirely in Norwegian -- a first! I told them I'd probably be switching between English and Norwegian often, and I was quite surprised at the end when I realized I used very little English at all.

In the afternoon I taught two lessons at the international school, 7th grade math and 10th grade humanities (Eastern influences on Western culture), both awesome classes.

After school, I volunteered to be a chaperone at the 7th-10th grade Halloween party/dance, which Maggie's class had organized. They did an amazing job. The class decorated, organized food and drink, got someone's older brother to be a DJ, had contests and games, and stayed afterwards to clean-up completely. What a great night!

The kids, and me, were completely wiped out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Operation Work Day

Maggie came with me at the office today. It's "Operation Workday", a Norwegian tradition for school kids. They have to go get jobs and earn money to send to charity. Maggie folded folders and stuffed envelopes to get 200 kr. (about $30) to sent to Afrika. This is a 40-year old tradition in Norway – everyone at the office was excited to have her and reminisced about the times they themselves did jobs for their Operation Workdays.

Maggie has also learned valuable concepts about work life in the real world. Mainly that work stinks.

Elsa, my random phone friend, called again tonight and we talked for about 10 minutes. She's a great-grandmother. Her daughter lives in Oslo, and her phone number is the same as ours except for one digit, thus the original mix-up. I don't mind at all, and I made sure to tell her tonight that I'm glad she's been calling.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few random pictures

Here's a wine called "Bellingham", the town we live in in the U.S. And here's two buildings: one on the NTNU campus with cool half-horse half-fish design on the front, and the other a classicly-styled Swedish building in Åre.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Anna was sick today so we stayed home. I had a good day of work, even without my favorite coffee machine back at the office.

I got a call from my new random phone friend, Elsa. She called a few weeks ago on Peter's phone, a wrong number. She called 3 or 4 times in a row, and we chuckled over it, struggling with the Norwegian as I explained we had just moved to Norway from the United States.

A couple days later she called again and we talked longer. She is an old Norwegian woman now living in the Netherlands, trying to call family in Oslo. Last week she rang again, and I told her since we were going to keep meeting on the phone, we should introduce ourselves. Her name is Elsa, she comes originally from Hammerfest -- super far north in Norway, but lived in Oslo before moving to the Netherlands.

Tonight, I was quite pleased whe she called once again. This time there was no pretense of a wrong number. She asked about the weather and we talked about family and what it's like living in the Netherlands. She talks slowly on my behalf -- like most older Norwegians she doesn't speak English, but she seems to enjoy talking to me.

It's funny and sweet, and I'm a little bit pleased to have this random phone friend!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Family norsk lessons

Tonight we had our first family Norwegian lesson. One of the kids' friends from school came over to play games with us and encourage us to speak only Norwegian. We've wanted to do this for a long time, and Pam finally took the initiative and started it up. We started with Uno as a good icebreaker. Next week, our Norwegian expert will bring her brother with us. Veldig tøff!

Pancakes & Tent

Pancakes with blueberries... breakfast with the principal. Walking to the university, I passed by the tent in the trees. This tent has been used for the past 3 weeks for night concerts which we could hear from our house. Today, workers were up on it preparing to take it down.

Book & Progress

Finished another Kurt book, "Kurt koker hodet", or "Kurt boils his head". To koker hodet means something like to stew, or to stress out, or to rack your brains, or something like that I think. I'm still working out just how to translate this expression. Once again, an irresistible Kurt book, my third. I've already started the next one...

I'm beginning to catch on to some of the lunchroom conversations, I even participated in a couple of them this week. Progress always seems so slow, and yet... it is progressing. This week past week I had many in-depth conversations in Norwegian. They say I'm quite understandable, but often I think I must sound like an idiot. Well, I've sent off my application for a language course that starts in January. They'll be contacting me for a placement test next month.

Oh – one more piece of good news. The Disney channel on TV has many of the programs fully voice-translated to Norwegian. I watch Kim Possible and the Witches of Waverly Place in Norwegian with my kids, and I'm finding it easier than ever to follow the conversations. It's nice that Disney has enough money to translate their TV shows. Maybe TV isn't all that evil...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Parties continue!

Anna went to a birthday party while Pam and the kids headed off to Heimdal for a Halloween party. And me? Sleeping on the couch, taking a respite from parties!Halloween is freshly being adopted by Norwegian culture right now, with Halloween parties and trick-or-treating having become popular in the past 5 years. There will be parties at school this week, and then hopefully no more parties. At least for a couple of weeks!


Pam has her studio together and made her first batch of glass jewelry. It's a beautiful studio space she has on the second level, with a gorgeous view over downtown. We weren't sure how the kiln work work on Norwegian voltage with our 2000W step-down voltage transformer, but it worked without a hitch and her first batch came out great. So happy are we today!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Grown-up Party

Tonight was the school's anniversary party for the grown-ups. It was a high-class potluck with lots of wine, the obligatory speeches, a few funny games, and lots of dancing. The party was at the school's gym, so we walked down from our house with some friends who live quite close to us. The weather has been nice and mild lately, so it was a beautiful walk both there and back.

Late in the party, we found a unicycle and many of us took turns falling off of it!

Pam and I had a great time both with our friends and meeting new friends. We feel really lucky to be a part of this school.

The Goblin Trail: Tusseløypa

A boy in Peter's class had a birthday party this morning, out in the woods. Gutsy call by the parents, because we had bad weather for so long, but the sunny weather this week held out and we had a beautiful fall morning as I drove the kids up into Byåsen to try to find this trail. Byåsen is a vast wooded area on the west hills of Trondheim, full of hiking and skiing trails and lakes for fishing and swimming. It's nice to have this beautiful area right in the city.

The trail we were looking for is one called "Tusseløya"... plugging this into Google Translate the night before, Peter and I saw the translation: "Goblin Trail". Cool. Maybe we'd see goblins!

The trailhead was marked with a strange tree root making a portal to the trail. "Watch out for goblins!" I warned the kids as we entered. I didn't really expect to see any, but soon we saw a face painted on a tree. Then another. And another. And another.

Dozens of faces peeked out of the trees! Some friendly, some mysterious, some with baby pacifiers tied to them... how strange and wonderful!

Over rivers and bridges into the forest, the ground still green with thick moss. The outside world was warm and sunny, but the air grew colder as we went deeper into the wood. Soon we came to the party, in an area with a twisty river, numerous bridges, rope swing over the water, money bars, and a small shelter with a fire pit and benches. The kids played while the adults roasted hot dogs and kept warm by the fire. Maggie prompty slipped off an icy log and ended up shin deep in cold water. Shortly thereafter, Peter fell of the rope swing and landed on his back in shallow water. Good thing he didn't have his coat on at the time! Soon, the fire was crowded with kids trying to dry their cold feet!

I learned that the word for 'goblin' in Norwegian is the same as the slang word for 'pacifier' (the equivalent of 'dummy' in England or 'binky' as we called 'em in our family). When kids are ready to give up their pacifiers for good, some parents take them to this trail and the kids give them to the goblins by tying them to the goblin trees. One parent I spoke with said it worked perfectly with her daughter. What an awesome idea!

All too soon we headed back to the car, thankful that the VW heats up very quickly. We were all ready for warm baths by the time we got home.

This was an excellent trail for the kids, a perfect length hike, just over 1 km (about 2 km for the whole loop), with all kinds of fun things to see and discover on the way. The trail is located near Kobberdammen, a dam where water flows over the top from a lake, so there is lots more to see and discover in this area. Maybe when it warms up a little.

Friday, October 23, 2009

5 year anniversary

The kids' school had the 5th year anniversary today, and I was part of the entertainment – woo hoo! The party was awesome! The kids had all brought in cupcakes that they decorated today and put in little flags to show the countries where the kids are from. They're from lots of places! The cakes were in the gym, on tables arranged like a 5. With lots of banners and balloons, the gym looked great.

Anna was a greeter at the door, reading a short message and directing people where to go. The kids were seated on the floor on mats, parents filled chairs in the back and gathered on the side. I've gotten to know a lot of these kids, so it was so much to wave and chat with the kids and their parents. I was part of the entertainment, so I snuck out to an adjacent room to practice. I couldn't find my usual juggling balls last night or this morning, and so I had to borrow some at the very last minute. I had a dream last night that I'd forgotten how to juggle 4 balls, so I made sure I got 10 minutes of warm-up in. Not as much as I'd like.

The kids in the Student Council gave short speeches – very nice speeches! – then all the kids sang the new school song (which is totally awesome – will post about it separately). After cake, Anna read an announcement to introduce me for the juggling show. I didn't know she'd be the announcer, and she did a really good job. A fun party!

We have several parties coming up this weekend... it promises to be fun!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ThIS is right for me

I heard the new school song for Trondheim International School. Anna was singing it at home all week in preparation for the school party on Friday for the school's 5th anniversary. It's a very good song. Today I found out why -- it was written by a local producer and songwriter who also works in New York producing pop songs for stars like Rhianna.

Here's a nice article about it in a major Norwegian newspaper. There's a video, too. You can hear the song and see the group of kids from ThIS that went to his studio last year to record it.

The article that "det som må være verdens beste skolelåt: «This Is Right For Me»."
or in English "It must be the world's best school song: «This Is Right For Me»."

Very cool. Two of Maggie's good friends from her class are in the studio. We were back in the United States when it made it's big debut last year, so we missed all the excitement. Kjempebra!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


My father went to King's College in England in the late 50s. His best friend was Sigurd, a Norwegian venturing out into the world to attend college in another country. As friends in college, Sigurd was always trying to get my dad to go to dances but my dad never wanted to go to those kind of things. So one day Sigurd bought 2 tickets for an upcoming dance and insisted that my father go with him. "Let's meet some girls!" My father reluctantly agreed. It was at this dance that my father met my mother. Had Sigurd not bought those tickets 50 years ago, I might never exist!

I only met Sigurd once. When I was 15 years old, he tracked down my dad (by spending a lot of time on the switchboard, doubtless charming the international operator) and came to visit us in Michigan. I remember he gave me a pocketknife with a Viking ship on it and filled my head with visions of sailing on the cold seas.

Sigurd called me here in Norway. He had tracked down my father once again, found out I was in Norway, and gave me a call. He lives in Sweden now, but was taking his granddaughter to Hitra, an island near the west coast about a 3 hour drive from Trondheim. He decided to drive her most of the way to her island, dropping her off onto a boat in Trondheim, and then visit with us!

He took us out for pizza. What a delightful evening in the Sentrum (downtown) on the Nidar river, hearing stories of the old days and the new days, eating Peppe's pizza while the kids slurp down Villa soda and get spoiled with Oreo icecream cake desert. We talked of family; after college Sigurd met a woman in Sweden but in those days there's weren't many jobs and they couldn't live in the same country. Sigurd worked in Oslo, so she moved all the way across the Sweden to take a job in the town closest to the border so she could be near to him. They were married and eventually moved to Sweden where it seems they were very much in love until she died a few years ago. He continues to live in Sweden and is very active with his children, grandchildren, and church.

It was so nice! I feel like I have a Norwegian uncle I never really knew I had. And now we have an excuse to visit the heart of Sweden.

Tusen takk, Sigurd!

PS: You know I like my spicy food, which can be hard to find in Norway! The spicy chicken pizza is the only pizza at Peppe's that's rated "3 chili peppers"... and it's great.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wild Things

I want to go see "Where the Wild Things Are", but it doesn't open in Norway for 2 more months. Arrrr. At least we have a TV now. Complete with 17 channels of bæsj to choose from.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Making good on the final piece of our vacation package, we bought a big TV today. Oh, the evil! Still, nice to have Norwegian programming... I think.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back from Åre

What a great trip! We will definitely return to Holiday Club, the best swimming pool experiences I've had.

We met a family from the international school at the Holiday Club, and did quite a few things with them. Peter and Anna played with their children, we went to the chocolate factory with them, and on Thursday evening we all went out to eat at a local restaurant. It's so fun to make new friends!

Friday morning we went grocery shopping. Some things are much cheaper in Sweden, meat especially, so it helps pay for the trip a little if we stock up on food

I took the kids swimming one last time while Pam shopped downtown, and then we checked out and headed back. The Passat is a dream to drive, and with some warmer weather moving in we had no troubles with snow or icy roads.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I explored the saunas here at holiday club this morning. Wow! Beautiful organic layout of the sauna center, with low mood lighting. A large lukewarm Roman bath is in the center, with a very hot wet sauna (80°C), a hot dry sauna, a eucalyptus steam room, and a sanitary sauna with various types of UV light. Then there's the weird features... a cylinder of icy water oh so very cold that Pam and Peter ventured into (no thank you!), a blacksmith steam room where a wrought iron device tips a pot of water into the fire every 15 minutes, a cold room that looks like an icecave under the stars, complete with snow on the floor, a relaxation room where you can look out through a waterfall into the pool area. My favorite though is an oval walking track where you walk though shin deep water, the first half icy water and then hot water. It is nearly unbearable the first couple of times around, and then after 5 or 6 turns the cold doesn't seem as cold and the hot doesn't seem as hot, and after 10 or 12 laps you cannot tell the difference. I like it, but it worries me too, as it seems like some kind of strange physiological/psychological experiment. Can it really be good for you? Or is it just those crazy Swedes having fun?

We had a fabulous breakfast buffet, followed by 2 hours of swimming and sauna, then lunch and a trip to the Åre chocolate factory. Then naps and a walk down to the wine shop for cheap liquor. Tonight we'll walk about the town and find someplace to eat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Taking the new VW to Åre

Vacation time: do we travel to Paris, Legoland in Denmark, or a short drive to Sweden? If we take the Sweden trip, with the money we save we can buy a car. So Sweden it is.

Some friends of ours decided to sell their car, and it couldn't be much more perfect for us: a VW Passat wagon, turbodiesel manual transmission, the kind that gets amazing gas mileage like our previous VW. Our Mercedes has been having problems, including most urgently the defrost not working with the frosty weather already here. Yep, it's become very hard to drive hanging our heads out of the window... not to mention probably illegal too. The Passat came available from a friend of ours at a very good price, and it seemed like perfect timing.

I test drove the car yesterday and loved it. We'd take it. Our friends needed us to pick it up quickly, so we decided we'd get it this morning and leave it at home while we drive the Mercedes to Sweden, then figure out insurance for the VW when we returned. However, the Mercedes wouldn't start this morning. First time ever it wouldn't start for us. Did it sense that its time was at hand?

So we walked downtown... it was a beautiful morning and the fall colors were shining through. We drove home in our new old car, and there I was, one hour before we needed to be on the road, calling insurance companies trying to find a good rate. Thankfully, it was extremely easy to get insurance over the phone, and we were on the road right on schedule, in our "new" car. Vroom vroom! It's so fun to drive!

We're staying at the Holiday Club in Åre, a hotel/water park/sauna that also has a bar, restaurants, minigolf, and bowling. It's also on the beach, which doesn't matter much to us in Oktober. The club looks like nothing interesting from the outside, but inside it is luxurious. We checked in, had a quick lunch and a game of minigolf, then relaxed a bit in our room before heading off to swim.

The changing room for the pool was very funny. A large space with many lockers, the women's area is to the right, men's to the left, and the middle area is designated mixed. Doors to the men's and women's showers are in the center right next to each other, and folks go about their business not seeming to mind that naked people of both sexes are moving through the same areas. Ah, Sweden!

The pool was very fun! Organic layout... lots of 'rivers' to swim down, bridges, 2 hot tubs, 2 kiddie pools, big waterslide, plenty of buttons to push to turn on water sprays or jets. There's a lap pool and a pool that starts indoors and is mostly outdoors, heated to a reasonable temp for winter swimming. Some people were even running down to the beach to jump into the freezing water and rushing back to the pool. A wall of windows gives a great view ontot the lake and mountains. I stayed with the kids while Pam checked out the variety of sauna activities. Hot saunas, cold saunas, Roman baths, Swedish, Finnish, and Blacksmith (?) baths... I'm quite looking forward to trying these out tomorrow!

A walkway from the hotel crosses over the railroad tracks to a shopping mall with a big grocery store. (This also connects to the train station, making a nice way to travel to Åre from Trondheim.) It's so much fun to shop in a Swedish grocery store -- so many new and different products, and the prices are very low. We'll do a big shopping trip on our way out of town. Mmmmm... bacon.

Here's the view from our window... a rich sunset over a Swedish lake. Nice!