Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ski Weekend 2

Anna and I had to leave skiing early on Saturday because of stomach cramps. Peter battled on through the weekend, eagerly returning for his fourth class on Sunday and coming home with a certificate and a black eye. He's got the scars to show his effort! Well done Peter! (He collided with a fence. They called it a draw.)


Here's Anna's collision with a pole. At least we didn't run into any of the wild clams that roams these backcountry trails, hungry for skiers. Signs warn of the KLÄMRISK.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Syk

The whole family's been sick, one person every other day. It's a 24-hour flu. Pam Friday, Maggie Sunday, Peter Tuesday, and Anna Thursday.

This morning I awoke early feeling sick. It's coming.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fish in a Tube

My new favorite lunch. Fish in a tube -- you squeeze it out onto your crackers. Sounds disgusting, but it's very yummy. And you feel like an astronaut!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Ski 2

Sunday I woke up very sore from the previous day's workout and crashes, but it was back to the ski trails again for second day of skiing. This time I split off from the group and headed off to practice braking. I found hills and worked on ploughing. It was such a shame to use all that energy going up just it all away on the way down. I worked on bigger and bigger hills and found more and more painful positions to end up in. I was exhausted by the end of afternoon, and had trouble moving in the evening.

I think in Norways it's against the law to not love skiing.

A friend tells me conditions were very icy and bad (I don't know the difference), so if I survived I'm doing well and we can expect better conditions soon.

I have until next weekend to recover.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Australia Day


For some strange reason, the international school has a lot of Australian employees this year. And we can't help but like them! Tuesday is Australia Day, and so a couple of teachers had an Australia Day party tonight. After skiing, I was ready to collapse into a bath and go to bed, but we went to the party intead. It's summer in Australia, so we all wore shorts and Australian-type casual dress, withAustralian food, decorations, stick-on tatoos, and a half-dozen authentic Australians, how can you go wrong? The music that decidedly unAustralian but definitely loud, and it was all good. A fine evening!

Ski kurs

Peter and Anna had their first ski class Saturday, and so in our typical last-minute manner, on Friday I picked up our ski equipment from storage where it's been living quietly for 2 years in a friend's basement. We are in luck: Maggie's old skis and boots fit Peter and Peter's old skis and boots fit Anna. They were too excited to wait, and had to try them out in the backyard. They spent most of the time falling over.


Later, Maggie got back from a school dance in a very good mood.

Saturday was ski day! I followed some friends up into the hills of eastern Trondheim. Our city is surrounded by a vast network of ski trails and it only takes a few minutes to be out in nature. You are encouraged to use free parking at the base of the hills and take a bus, 30 kr. for the whole family. Instead, we drive to a parking area very close to the ski lessons, but have to pay 50 kr. for the parking. It seems expensive, but I suppose it encourages many people to park below and take the bus, preventing overcrowded on weekends like this.

We put on our equipment, the kids with excitement and me with a little bit of dread. I had only been skiing twice before, once two years ago on solid ice, and another time maybe 10 years ago. I had psyched myself up for some pain. Good thing, too, because I'd get plenty.

 We headed up to the course area. There were 24 groups of 8 kids each assembling. The area was well organized -- Trondheim ski klub seems to have this course down to a science.

Many of our friends' kids are in the classes too, so us grown-ups went on our own ski tour. I kept up just fine, but we soon came to a big big slope down. I stepped to the side and looked at it thinking "you've got to be kidding." Meanwhile children are zipping down, senior citizens zipping by, even a lady pulling a baby in a polk (a sled-trailer thing that attaches to one's waist) vee-ed her way down the steep hill in perfect control. Finally I went, 5 seconds of sheer terror followed by the first of many spectacular wipeouts during the day.

In any case, I survived. Afterwards we grilled hotdogs in a warm-up hut, drank hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows. The kids loved their lessons and their first experiences on skis. Anna even described the class as "the best ski lesson I ever had!" Which is undisputably true.

Tonight I am pain, and know that the only cure is to go again tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Asking Eva

I'm trying to plan our summer travel. So much to do in a short time! The options are making me a little loopy. The Scandavian Air website has a virtual person you can ask questions to. I tried a few...

"How are you?"
So nice of you to ask, I am well.
"Are you a real person?"
No, I'm not real, even though you might think so.
"How old are you?"
Now you know... ha, ha... you don't ask a lady about her age.
"Would you like to go out for a cup of coffee?"
That would be nice, but of course I have to be here to answer questions around the clock.
"What does SAS mean?"
It stands for Scandanavian Airlines System.
"Would you like to hear a joke?"
I'm really boring, I do not have any funny stories and neither understand nor see the point in others.
"You sound like my ex-girlfriend."

It seems to have a couple clever answers, you can try talking to it here if you like, but you have to ask in Norwegian. If you're want to experiment with an interesting "chat bot", you can try Jabber-wacky instead.



Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Class

Today I taught a class at HiST, my first university class in Norway. It was a 3 hour math class for teachers, and I taught it entirely in Norwegian.

Yesterday I went into work with plans to script everything I planned to say (a big script) and translate it, but I had a surprise meeting with a colleague that lasted until lunch, and then Pam called to say she was sick and they didn't have a substitute teacher, so I went in to teach her 3rd grade for the afternoon. After walking home with the kids, taking care of Pam, and feeding the family, I went back to the office to work on my script, finishing late.

This morning I was up early practicing, and then went to teach the 0830 class. I had my translated notes ready, but I didn't refer to them... the words came. I learned a lot of new vocabulary in the past 24 hours!

One embarrassing mistake: I made a T-chart for the number of toothpicks at a particular step in a growth pattern, and wrote the headings TRINN and TANNPIKKER (for 'step' and 'toothpicks', so I thought). As I filled in the chart, I could hear giggles bubbling up around the room. "Uh-oh", I said. "Hva gjørde jeg feil? (What did I do wrong?)" No one wanted to tell me at first, but finally someone said "You wrote 'tooth-penises'." Oops! It's TANNPIRKER, with an RK not a KK. Thankfully, they were very gracious.

Overall, it went very well, though my brain was very tired at the end.

And Pam is feeling much better today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

World of Frost

The past few days have been very foggy. As the fog lifted today, the sun lit up a world of white. On every tree and every surface, frost had grown in thick crystals like sugar candy. Everything I looked at today was just breathtakingly beautiful. Yum...

Click to see them bigger, they're nice up close.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tennis

Anna began tennis lessons tonight. She played pickle ball in Michigan last summer and pursued it with a passion, so we thought she might do well in tennis. For the past week, she's been practicing with a tennis racket and a pickle ball inside the winterhage, which she has named "the tennis room".

She loved her lesson, and she was actually pretty good. We might have an athlete in the family!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Birthday

It's my birthday today! Peter was sick so I stayed home until lunch, and then went to the office. My door was covered with balloons, there were some gifts on my desk, and in the lunch room a bowl of grapes and candies. Nice! Pam baked me butterscotch brownies to bring in, and my colleagues described them as farlige gode... dangerously good!

At the end of the day, I got a call that our car is finally fixed. Kjempegodt!

Car fixed

I knew gasoline was expensive in Norway, but I really had no idea until today when my car was finally fixed. The problem that had plagued our diesel VW and baffled mechanics for the past 10 days... well, here's a clue:

Diesel pumps in the U.S.: black is regular, green is diesel.



Diesel pumps in Norway: black is diesel, green is regular.


Get the idea? Yep, the morning on the way to Sweden, cold and early with cranky kids in the car, I had rushed and put in the wrong type of fuel. Green is always diesel, right? Well, that turned out to be about $1000.00 tank of gas.

The good news: Putting the wrong fuel type in your car almost always destroys the engine. The mechanics were astonished that the engine seems to be in very good shape. Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, January 11, 2010

HiST


This morning I had my first work meeting at HiST, one of the local universities. I will be co-teaching a course there this semester, so this will be my first experience teaching a university class in a foreign country (and in a foreign language... yikes!)

The day started with navigation of the bus system. The bus website has fine services for getting information about routes and times, but is sadly lacking in giving bus stop locations. OK, so I have to take the bus to Strindheim and then transfer to the Brannstasjon Øst bus stop... but where are either of those bus stops? Google maps and Gulesider don't help either. Finding this information was a nightmare, and so finally I just had to ask the bus driver and have him point me in the right direction. A bit inconvenient and worrisome, but I managed transfers in both directions, different routes, and earned my Level 1 bus rider badge today. I'm so proud!

At the meeting we set curriculum, teaching dates, I got the tour and my keys and parking passes and computer account, and met some very nice people I'll work with this semester. A new adventure!

OK, this is kind of cool. I'll be working a side job at Høgskole i Sør-Trøndelag, abbreviated HiST, while Pam is working at Trondheim International School, abbreviated ThIS. Check out the names -- a one character rotation with matching letter capitalization patterns!

  HiST
  ThIS

Oh, the weather turned today, currently –8°C (17.6°F) which feels so very warm. Aaaahhhhh!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Knerten

Friends invited Anna to join them at the movies today, and Anna graciously allowed me to come as well. The film is "Knerten", the story of a boy whose family moves from Oslo to a rural town during the 50s. His father is out all day selling underwear while his mother works in a small shop, so he has to fend for himself during the day. He has trouble making friends, until he finds a piece of wood in the shape a person, and the stick becomes his friend.

The film is based on a series of successful books written by Anne-Cath.Vestlys in the 60s. I found the film to be a charming glimpse into rural life in Norway a half-century ago. It certainly didn't flow like a Hollywood movie, but throughout the film I was slowly drawn into these people's lives and community, and found myself wanting more when it suddenly ended. Well, they're making a second film now, "Knerten gifter seg" (Knerten gets married), so there's more to come.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Car still out

Still miserably cold. Holding steady below –20°C. Our car has been out of commission since the weekend, and they've fixed the glowplug system but there's still something wrong and we have no car at least until Monday. We've got all heaters plus an extra heater running full tilt in the house and while it's not keeping the house warm it is keeping the temperature inside bearable, and we are thankful for that.

I had a couple meetings with a local university and I'll be teaching a class this next semester. A new adventure awaits!



Thursday, January 7, 2010

Not so amazing

I continue to be amazed that I can hold conversations in Norwegian now. Real conversations, about real topics. Make jokes. Express myself. Understand a lot, definitely not all but sometimes more than half. I've still got a long long long long long long way to go, but I now believe that I'm gonna get there.

Pam tells me it's not so amazing anymore. And maybe that's the most amazing part for me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cold Cold Cold

The cold weather didn't come Monday. Or Tuesday morning. But Tuesday afternoon, the mercury began plummeting. We needed to wear shoes in the house to keep our feet warm, and the heated floor in the cosy warm winterhage began to slowly lose the battle with the chill. I moved a heater into our bedroom which helped, but I slept poorly thinking about cars. Daniel and Evelina have been driving us to and from school because of our car difficulties, and my appointment with the repair shop would be first thing in the morning. I knew it would be questionable whether or not the car would start at all, especially considering the cold.

This morning the temperature stood at –20.3°C. I was outside at 0730 to get it warmed up. Nope. It cranked over once or twice and died. Soon the whole family was outside helping to push it up the driveway so we could put jumper cables on it. Eventually we needed Daniel and a 2x4 as a lever, but we managed to move it up the incline so he could get his car in position. Finally, we got it started. It ran poorly, but well enough to get to the shop. I arrived at work a little after 0900, sore from pushing the car and sorely in need of thawing out. There were 3 taxis outside of my office building dropping off people, I presume others had trouble starting cars today as well.

All the talk at work was of the cold. People could not remember a time of such cold in the past 15 years, and it will stay this cold the rest of the week. One of my colleagues slipped on ice last night and broke his ankle. Three others are home sick today.

Good news for today: I followed and participated in the lunchroom conversations, I had many conversations with colleagues in Norwegian, and I talked to the dentist office and the car fix-it shop several times on the phone and in person, all in Norwegian. I feel like a switch has been flipped this week and I'm really starting to function in the language.

The car won't be ready until tomorrow, but the problem is the glow plugs, which is just about the least expensive thing I could hope for. Oh, I also learned to say glødeplugger. I like that word.

Miserably cold day, but are still things to be happy about!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Class 10 B

Tonight, my friend and former head of the matematikksenteret had her TV debut on a show called "Klasse 10 B". It is a documentary about a 10th grade class in a town near Oslo with the lowest scores on the national exams. The school brings in a group of expert teachers to work with the students for 5 months. Ingvill is the math teacher they bring in. They filmed the show last spring and now it is airing on NRK1 -- it will be fun to watch the class develop over the next 10 weeks!

Here's a couple of pictures, from my TV to my camera to here. Yay Ingvill! Those are some lucky kids.


Back to School

Exciting couple of days. Experienced car trouble in Åre, very hard to start there and again Sunday morning, but managed to get it going and got Kent back to the airport yesterday. The car will need professional help I'm afraid.

Sunday night we had the Sollie's over for games. Lots of Catan action! Then I went back to the airport late night (in a different car) to pick up Daniel and Evelina, back from Switzerland. Finally in bed late, after a lot of driving and late nights the past few days.

Then Monday morning, everyone is up early early early for the first day of school after break. All break we had slept in late until 9:30 or 10 or so, and despite trying to get the family to bed early Saturday and Sunday, it was still a shock to the system. Fortunately, our friends loaned us their car to use today, which I needed especially to get to the local teacher's college where I had a meeting with the faculty there. I may be doing some things with them this spring.

Called the car dealership's shop and they can't get our car in for 9 days. The weather was forecast to be –23°C, but it was more like –8°C, kind of "warm" really. The low low temperatures are now forecast for Thursday, –20°C in Trondheim, and –40°C in the east. Yikes! I can't wait 9 days for a car appointment! Another call and I booked an appointment for *this* Wednesday. We can handle that.

Tonight everyone is very very tired, me included. But I need to stay up to watch a special TV program... which is starting right now!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day Trip to Åre... and Ha det Bra to Kent!

Early day Saturday, we went to Åre with Kent and the kids for a day at Holiday Club. It was fun to be out and moving and getting exercise. Swimming, saunas, and shopping. The kids were in paradise. It was kind of a long drive... next time maybe we'll take the train. Also it was very cold and there were some difficulties with starting the car, especially in Åre. I think there's air in the fuel system, which is difficult to deal with in VWs. Ugh.

Games in the evening, then took Kent to the airport early this morning. Ha det bra Kent! 

I was a little worried his visit comes at a time when it's cold, dark, not much to do, and many of our friends are out of town. However we found plenty to do and it was just about a perfect visit. Now we need to convince him to come back in sunnier weather!

Tomorrow calls for extremely cold temperatures... a low of –27°C = –16°F! And as you can see from this forecast, the Fuktighet stands at 93% as well. You can say that again!


Friday, January 1, 2010

Norway is the most infection-free country in the world

For 30 years Norway has been agressively anti-antibiotics. As a result, there's no superviruses like the ones that are causing troubles around the world. In the U.S. alone, MRSA infections killed 19,000 people and cost the U.S. $6 billion last year. 19,000 people! 63% of staph infections in the U.S. are these resistant strains. In Japan, the rate is 80%. In Norway it's less than 1%.

Here's an article worth reading. It's really cool to see how Norway handles infections. Instead of prescriptions, they tell you to stay home and rest. That way, the population doesn't develop immunity to the antibiotics. They also aggressively track infections by strain, hunting down people you've been in contact with and asking them to stay home as well. It works. Here's one article.
 
http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/how-norway-beat-a-bad-bug/1062228

... 19,000 people a year. That's more deaths per year than from AIDS. And Norway is showing that this is preventable and inexpensive!

Godt Nyttår!

New Years! We took the kids to the festning for the children's firework show. The paths leading up to the festning were lit with candles, drawing us to a central area where at 6:30 a big bonfire was lit. A couple hundred people, families mostly, gathered with torches and sparklers, lighting up the festning grounds with points of light. The show started at 7:00, fireworks launching from within the fortress, exploding right overhead. Great!


Then off to Flakk for a New Years party. Anna had been sick all day, but felt better at the fireworks. Unfortunately, she started feeling bad again and I had to take her back home at 10:00. Kent and the rest of the family stayed, lighting off fireworks and watching fireworks across the fjord while standing on viking burial mounds. That's pretty cool. I'm envious!


But meanwhile, I watched fireworks over the city. Our house has a great view of downtown, and for 45 minutes fireworks exploded in all directions. What a show! Norwegians are firework-crazy.

Ha det bra, 2009. Hallo, 2010!