Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last minute visit

Tomorrow we leave for vacation in the U.S., but we had a last-minute visit from a teacher friend from Washington. Lisa arrived at in the evening at the train station. We joined a group of teachers from the international school at a bar in Solsiden, then took a driving tour around the city before heading back home. I wish we had more time to spend with her, but we left her with a stack of maps and use of our house. Allan comes at 5:30 a.m. to take us to the airport.

Friday, June 25, 2010

UDI... a yearly hassle.

Time to renew our visas, always a painful experience. Already I have filled out 5 applications, created new photos at just the right sizes, photocopied all pages of everyone's passports, and assembled contracts, work agreements, paystubs, and so on for a stack nearly 100 pages deep. We must apply in person at the police station and sometimes the wait can be very long, so to be on the safe side we decide to come an hour before they open to stand in line to get a ticket. Upon arriving, we found 150 people in line ahead of us. It turns out because of strike, UDI was closed all last week, so now the office was packed with people like ourselves who were waiting until the last minute to get their paperwork.

We got our ticket and went back home. A few hours later we returned but found that only 30 people had gone through. So throughout the day we explored downtown, and kept checking back to see what number they were on. (* Business idea: open a coffee shop near UDI that shows what number they're serving.)  The numbers went by very very slowly.

Finally, it was closing time but they announced they would stay open until we all had gone through. An hour passed. The kids were restless. I clutched my ticket #690, watching as the numbers ticked up through the 680s. Then disaster: a large man entered the room, apologized, and explained that they could not see us all today. We could get our ticket stamped and come back in the morning. Ugh! A few more numbers flipped as he explained. The counter reached 689, only one more to go! Then... nothing. It stopped at 689. We got our ticket stamped and left very irritated.

So at 9:00 a.m. we're back at UDI. It is a day for different services, and the room is already partly filled with folks. There are no tickets on this day, only a loose line. I see a few people from yesterday, milling about not knowing what to do. A lady in front of me is a representative from the university, and as we wait, she gathers a ever-growing group of immigrants. I explain to her that we need to go to the front, we have stamped tickets. "I was here first" she tells me. "We waited 9 hours yesterday and got a stamp to go first today" I tell her. She argues with me but I press up to the window anyways. She's pretty mad, but I have the power of righteousness on my side. I ask the officials to come out and announce that people with stamped tickets should come to front of the line, which they do.

By 9:30 we were done. All our paperwork looked to be in order, and we are free to return next year. Whew.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kittens away!

Found homes for two of the kittens. One more to go! Pam brought them into school one day and there were dozens of kids begging their parents for a kitten. What a cruel trick! Here's one of Peter's classmates with their new adoptee.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Midsummer's night eve

Midsummer's night is a big deal in Norway. In a land so acutely aware of the changes in light, it's easy to see historically how these solstices would be key celebrations. We love 'em to. It's the shortest night of the year, the spot where the earth is tilted so it points directly at the sun. Here it is at 12:30 am, one hour after sunset:

This evening we joined a celebration at the folk museum with some friends. The museum is situated in a fantastic site overlooking the city and fjord. It's populated with original buildings from hundreds of years ago. There was big bonfire, grills for cooking, and a dance floor and band. The kids loved playing with the giant "Lincoln logs" and building their own houses.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rotvoll adventure

Rotvoll is the name of the farm that used to be on the edge of the fjord, now home to a neighborhood, trails, a school or two, Statoil HQ, and the HiST campus where I work this past semester. I saw a little bit of the trails behind HiST last week, and decided we needed to bring the kids down to explore.

Following the trail from the parking area, we quickly come upon a teepee and various playthings in the forest. The area belongs to a nearby barnehage (kindergarten). The kids wanted to stay here and play camp all day, but there was more to discover! The kindergarten building and grounds look lovely – it has a very organic feeling.

Through a gate we follow another trail down to the fjord. The sun joins us (finally!) and we stop to skip stones and hunt for shells and crabs in the tide pool. We then follow a well developed trail along the waterfront, past boathouses, horses, and finally to this interesting sculpture behind the Statoil headquarters building.

It was a perfect-sized slice of adventure. In the evening, the sun is out and it feels warm for the first time in weeks. It's been a very hard year for weather, but we are glad Misty gets a little bit of Norwegian summer before she gets on the train. We are off to the station now... ha det bra Misty!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Busy week, lazy weekend

It's been a full and exciting week. Norm and Ann were off on Tuesday to continue their adventures in Sweden. School ended on Thursday, and Pam and Misty took a day trip to Røros on Friday. Despite the heavy rain and cold weather, they had a great time shopping and enjoying this picturesque village, a former copper mining town still surrounded by piles of copper slag.

Saturday we chilled out at home, working on knitting and weaving and playing music. Finally a nice quiet day. In the evening we watched the Swedish royal wedding on TV (I had misplaced my personal invitation). Crown princess Victoria of Sweden was married to her gym trainer, a controversial choice, but they looked very much in love.

Monday, June 14, 2010


On Saturday, Pam's friend and fellow teacher Misty from the USA came to visit for the week, and on Sunday my American colleague Norm and his wife Ann came to visit for a few days. Here's a few images from our adventures...
Sunday evening we attended the spring performance of the Nidaros boy's choir at the Nidarosdomen cathedral. It's always a treat to attend music performances here, the 800+ year old building is stunning and the acoustics are fantastic.

We did a driving tour of Trondheim, stopping in the pier district to look at the fjord. The sky was brilliant and I caught this picture of Munkholmen out in the fjord. I still like saying the word 'fjord'.

No visit is complete with a trip to the Hegra festning...

... and a visit to the see the Bronze age viking carvings at Leirfall...

... and a picnic at Steinvikholmen. This place is a medieval DaVinci inspired fortress on a small island. It's accessible by a footbridge. Today, a kindergarten was also picnicking, and those kids were excited to show us an old fish head they had found and were now parading it all about on the end of a stick. We grilled fish and played a game of Kubb (also called Kongespill), a Scandanavian wood block throwing game.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Spring Fest!

Time for our end-of-the-year party at work, a time for us to let down our hair and relax and be a little bit silly. We were all assigned roles for the party and given one week to prepare. My colleagues engaged in puzzles, rapping, songs and dance. I was part of a singing-dancing group, and I fulfilled a life-long dream of singing and playing guitar for an audience. (No one said it had to be good!) I performed a Trønder-Rock classic, a Norwegian party song from this area of Norway.

It was a fun night at the end of a long stressful week.

Pictures from hytte hunt, up past Leanger

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Oral exams and Juggling at the Nordic Math Competition

Tuesday was the first day of oral exams... We teamed up with external censors, which in this case were math education professors from Bergen. Students randomly drew two topics, prepared for 45 minutes, and then presented. I was surprised at how easy it was to understand and question students, and the day went very well.

I hurried home afterwards to get ready for another event. The Nordic Math Competition is being held in Trondheim this year. It was originally scheduled to take place in Iceland, but was changed last month because of uncertainties over air travel with the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The competition rotates from country to country, with teams of four 8th graders coming from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finnland, and Iceland to present projects and have a group problem-solving competition.

I wrote the questions for the competition and was asked to be a jurist, but I could not because of oral exams this week. I was however able to join the teams this evening for dinner and to give them a math of juggling presentation. We met at Kvilhaugen, the restaurant very close to our house that we "discovered" last month. It was fun to see old friends from the other Nordic countries, the organizers whom I had met two years ago when the competition was in Copenhagen.

It was nearly 11 pm when I got home, and I went straight to bed. Wednesday will be another long day -- oral exams from 9 to 5 and then a working meeting in the evening back at the matematikksenteret.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oral exams

Speaking of oral exams, it's funny timing that Pam had her oral defense tonight. Tomorrow, I will be an examiner for HiST students who are giving their oral exams this week. All week long, I will be hearing oral presentations and questioning students on their knowledge, all in Norwegian. Yeah, I know – I don't know how I'm going to do it either. But, do it I will, and faktisk I'm quite looking forward to it.

This will be the first oral exams I've participated in. In the US, we have comprehensive written final exams. Instead of that, students here study a list of topics they may be asked to discuss. When they arrive at their scheduled time, they select an envelope containing a main theme and a minor theme. They then have 45 minutes to prepare presentations, after which they give a 20-minute and a 10-minute presentation on those topics to an instructor and an outside censor. The two examiners ask questions and have dialog with the students, and at then end the examiners discuss the student's presentation and determine a grade.

I observed several sessions today, and it is interesting how much you can tell that someone knows. It is also interesting that in a country that takes fairness so seriously, that there would be a random element in the final exams. Also interesting also is that grade inflation is hardly existent (at least based on what I've seen of this one class in this one university). In the US, many students expect to get As or Bs just for showing up, but here C really is the common grade given out. As are only given for truly exceptional performances.

So, tomorrow morning I attempt a grand feat. We'll see what happens!

Pam passes!

After 1.5 years in the program, Pam has her second master's degree, this one is in special education. Yay Pam! clap clap clap! She had a superb research project and got very high praise from her supervisor.


Pam is defending her masters degree right now! She's doing an online presentation via Skype with a university back in the USA.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Met some colleagues at Kieglekroa, a bar downtown. I loved the atmosphere there. The building is very old and so full of interesting levels and cobbled together parts.

We played sjoelbakk in the cellar, a shuffleboard game originating in the Netherlands. The goal is to slide 30 wooden disks down a track and try to get them into four different columns at the end of the board. It's instantly easy to be good at, and the scoring system helps make it very exciting. It's kind of bowling for lazy people. One thing I quite like about the game is it can sit along the table and you and your friends can sit around it and talk and drink beer while someone is having a turn, making it a very social game.

I managed to edge out Øistein on the final game and take home a win. It was strange walking home from downtown. Even though is was nearly midnight, the sky was bright and the sidewalks crowded, making it feel just like day. And I find I can now walk 30 minutes uphill without it hurting!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Moose Parade!

Pam saw two moose walk across the festning grounds after school. As we were fixing dinner, the two moose walked right past our window. A following of a dozen people of all ages followed, on foot, on bikes, in car, most with their cameras or cell phones out. It was very exciting! – but still I couldn't help but think how close people were to these powerful and aggressive animals. I hope these moose find their way home without anyone getting hurt.

A couple of random pictures

Four readers in bed. Where am I gonna go?

Peter sets a trap for a donut.

Peter and Anna watch Doctor Who from behind the protection of tipped-over footstool.