Saturday, June 30, 2012

Steinhuggerfestival

I like this word, "steinhugger". Looks like "stone hugger". It actually means "stone carver". Today there were 100 of them from all over Europe, gathered in the gård next to the cathedral. They started this morning each with a block of stone, and they will bang on them all day to create a sculpture. Tomorrow there will be an auction and the sculptures will be sold.

We went down with our neighbors to check out the action. Oh, the beautiful noise of 100 stone huggers bonking away with their chisels! We floated about, taking it in. Maggie talked to several of them. Outside of the tent were some large blocks with tools that we could use to try it out. A band played. The army museum inside the gård was open with free admission and so we could check that out too (it was surprisingly good!)

A band started playing David Bowie covers inside the tent at 4:00. The kids ran around the gård playing 'hot potato' with a plastic bottle.

A fun excursion downtown. Now we all want to take stone cutting classes!







Peter and Erik try out artillery in the army museum



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

UDI

09:00. Off to UDI (Immigration office) this morning to turn in our applications to stay another year.

I visited UDI a few weeks ago. The kids' permits expired at the beginning of June because their passports expire in August, and they will only put stickers in the passports valid until 3 months before the passport expires. I'm sure there's a good reason for this, something with sending in passports for renewal blah blah blah, but we first needed to get new passports for the kids (trip to Oslo we did last month) and then I was told to drop off the passports at UDI to get new stickers once we had the new passports. I was told I could do this on a Tuesday between 9 and 11 and there would be no wait, just drop them off.

Awesome. No wait at UDI would be some kind of miracle. So the first Tuesday after receiving our passports, and just a few days before their permits expired, I went to UDI and found that it was closed. There were nationwide strikes earlier in the month affected a wide variety of services, and apparently UDI was one of them. So I had to come back the following week, with the permits now expired. I was hoping there would be no trouble. Were the kids now in the country illegally?

When I returned the following Tuesday my heart sank. The line was out the door. It looked like the old days when we would have to wait the entire day. Was this all business that was delayed because of the strike? Did I have to wait in this line? I went inside to see what the line was for, and the line indeed went all the way to the 'express window' where I needed to drop off the passports. Many of these people it appeared were heading to the express window to sign up for an appointment. Could I cut in at the front to drop off my passports or not? If everyone's business in line is quick, then no I couldn't really do that. I would just wait in line until the window opened and see how fast it went. To the back of line with me, waiting with doubts. UDI is improving every year, but I still get this uncertain feeling every time, a bit of hopelessness, a bit of a nightmare. Maybe it would go quickly.

15 minutes after the window opened it became clear that the line wasn't moving. A woman came by and told us that they would not be able to serve everyone today. I asked her about my passports, and she wasn't sure. She offered to take the passports. When she saw I had six passports, the old and the new for each of my three kids, she balked. 'Make an appointment online' she recommended. I left frustrated, again. At my office, I logged into the website and tried to make an appointment, but found I could not make an appointment without putting in a whole new application. Ugh. So I called, waited 35 minutes on hold, and found out that (a) they're not doing stickers in passports anymore, they're doing immigration cards, (b) the kids are in the system as approved until August, they just don't have passport stickers to show it, and (c) I could go ahead with new applications for next year.

So, I filled out the online applications. Time intensive, but way way way better than the 100+ page application pack I turned in our first two years. I signed us up for appointments – no waiting all day in line like the old days! And last night I took pictures and printed them up.

I now have all of our applications in hand and ready to go. Here's hoping for an easy morning!

12:00. A few problems. I did not bring a copy of my contract, somehow I missed that on the instructions. Thank goodness we were signed up for a series of five 15-minute appointments from 10:00 until 11:15. I had time to drive to the university, pick up a copy of my contract and return while they were working on the kids' paperwork. I also apparently didn't pay the right amount, so I had an additional fee. The total cost for my family is 4100 kroner, about $750. This we pay every year for the right to work and live in Norway.

We were finished at 11:10, it really did take over an hour get our forms in order. Now we will wait to receive a letter in the fall and then we will make new appointments to come back in to get photos and fingerprints taken for the new immigration cards that are replacing passport stickers. We did NOT need to bring in photos this time. I will bring the photos with me this fall when we get called in, I don't know if we'll need them or not. We also did not need the kids' birth certificates or marriage license because this was a renewal. We did need the kids' old passports with the old stickers in them, so I'm glad I brought those. For future reference, it's best to bring EVERYTHING you have that you think they might want to see.

It's getting better every year, but it's still a kind of torture!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Eating a building

A big building is being demolished downtown and we have an excellent view of it from the big windows at my office. I was fascinated to stand and watch, like watching a 'progress bar' on your computer. A big machine with a jaw slowly chews the building away. We'll have entertainment all week!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Selbu

We went to some friends in Selbu last night for an overnighting. They live 50 minutes away, so it's not often we get to visit, and so we decided to all sleep over so we could have drinks and games and stay up late. It was like a vacation! Selbu is lovely and quiet.

It is also summer solstice. According to some kind of tradition (don't know if it's Norwegian or not), if you make a crown from 7 different kinds of flowers and wear it to bed on this night, you will dream of your future spouse. Pam took the kids out to find 7 kinds of flowers. There were many many more kinds than that!



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Peter's graduation from 6th grade

Almost immediately after returning from camping, we reported back to school for Peter's graduation ceremony. He's graduated from the primary years program to the middle years program – from 6th to 7th grade. I was feeling cynical (recalling Mr. Incredible's line about celebrating mediocrity), but the event was actually quite nice and I was pleased.

In the evening, we met on the NTNU campus for a family potluck/dance. The kids demonstrated a dozen styles of dancing... I was impressed that Peter could salsa, waltz, swing, polka and lots of other dances. We ate and socialized until I couldn't stay awake any longer (about 9 p.m.)
Peter gets his diploma
Peter proudly dancing with his mom
Pam, Anna and our friend Andre

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Camping with the 3rd grade

What was I thinking? Pam organized an overnight trip for Anna's third grade class at a hytte out near Selbustrand, about an hour drive from Trondheim. We left the school at 9 a.m. and despite some sketchy maps we found the hytte, with a few surprises. The good surprise was that the hytte was huge, with full kitchen, dining hall, two living rooms, three sleeping rooms with 30 beds. The bad surprise is that there were plenty of patches of snow and the lake had large sheets of ice on the surface. So much for using my swim trunks I brought along!

After set up and spaghetti lunch, we took a long hike around the lake and up in the hills. The kids did lots of sledding on the snowy hills, climbed rocks, bounced on the springy marsh moss and enjoyed some great views. Back at the hytte we played games, went fishing, carved whistles and filled cups with pollywogs. After taco dinner it began raining, so we lit a fire inside and roasted marshmallows in the fireplace. The boys went fishing again while the girls did Zoomba in the rain. A few more games and snacks and singing a few songs while I played guitar, then off to bed.

7 a.m. the next morning we were at it again. Great breakfast, running around outside, their teacher organized a team photo shooting hunt, and then we cleaned and packed and headed back to the school.

I haven't been this tired in a long time! It was a very nice trip, Anna was very pleased.

Frog eggs! The kids also found zillions of tadpoles
Icy lake. Brrrrr.... It's June!
The camp hytte
Sledding in June
The camp from across the lake. Radar tower on the hill.
All kinds of interesting colored lichen

Rock climbing and sledding
Anna and friends on a rock ledge
Brilliantly colored moss
Anna burning marshmallows, her favorite way to cook them
Zoomba in the rain
We passed these sheep on the road on the way home

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pam's polar bear wins prize!

Last month Pam directed an art project with a group of eight 6th graders at Birralee International School. On a Friday she was assigned the project to be started on Monday. She was given two saw-horses, chicken wire, cloth, paper and glue and told to direct the kids building a life-sized polar bear. She could only shake her head and laugh and say she had no idea how they were going to pull this off. Well, they built a superb polar bear. It was part of a superb recycled material art show at Birralee. Last week they found out the event had been nominated to win a prize from the art council for their work, and today...

 they won! The school won a 20.000 kr prize (about $3500) for the event. Congratulations Pam and everyone else involved! (See the original post here).




Saturday, June 9, 2012

Picnic at Estensted

Fine weather today called for an outing. In traditional Norwegian fashion, we headed to the forest, this time to Estensted up behind the Dragvoll campus. We went here a couple of years ago for berry picking and fondly remembered the beautiful forest and lakes. We weren't disappointed this time either.

It's about a 2 km walk from the parking area, up the hill, past Estensted Hytte and the first lake (popular swimming area with diving platform) to the quieter second lake which we prefer. A family had set up in our intended picnic spot, so we continued farther along the lake shore and found an even more beautiful private spot with a picnic table.

The kids hit each other with sticks, Indy chased birds, Pam lay on a blanket in the sun, and I grilled hot dogs and hamburgers on our one-time grill, a must-have picnic accessory in Norway. We stayed for hours until Anna fell in the lake, and then packed up for the long walk back to the car.

The kids couldn't believe we'd been there for 3 hours, it went by so quickly. We had a lovely outing, and gentle walks in the woods is exactly what I need right now. Welcome, summer.




Friday, June 8, 2012

Maggie's sword

Maggie's favorite thing she did in school this year was making this sword out of chicken wire and paper maché. It's an actual size replica of a Viking sword, and it gives you a very good idea of how big and heavy some of these swords could be. Swords in Viking times were rare and expensive, a sword could cost as much as 16 milk cows, which is a fortune! They'd be handed down generation to generation, and loss of a sword would be a tragedy – it would be much better to lose a wife or child. Swords would have names, too, usually violent names. Maggie's is called Russemølnar, the Russe crusher!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Scenes from around town and home

Cleaning up the desktop and thought I should scoop up these pictures worth mentioning...

Here's a couple of shots of the gargoyles outside of the cathedral restoration workshop downtown. The crew here uses only authentic tools from the era to build replacement parts for the medieval cathedral in town. Some broken gargoyles sit on the sidewalk outside. My favorite is the gargoyle with its butt hanging over the edge; rainwater flows through the gargoyle and out of its rear end. Who says church designers are serious all the time?


In our back yard we have a steep (slope = 1) hill up into the woods. I cut a zig zag path up the hill and it's very nice to walk up. I'm planning on building a deck at the forest edge where the view is breathtaking.

 A path near our house, a shortcut home. On this day a few weeks ago, soft green newly sprung leaves mixed with gentle pink and purple wildflowers and the light added so much color to everything. It was like some kind of fairytale trail, right in our neighborhood.

I joke to myself that I take zillions of photos of the view from our house and they never look like anything. Well, this one looks okay, still not as good as seeing it for yourself. I just love our view, different every hour. Better than TV.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chasing the Transit of Venus

5:30 a.m., hunting for the sun
The last sliver of the sun disappeared over the mountain across the fjord at a few minutes before 11 p.m. last night. The transit of Venus started a few minutes later. We realized that we were at a rare point in time, where a straight line passed through the sun, Venus, that mountain and us. Perfect! Except for the mountain.

Sunrise came at 3:15 a.m. this morning and the transit continued until 7:15, so Maggie, Anna and I got up at 5:30 a.m. and went up the hill with Indy to a small park where the sun could be visible. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy morning. There were a few small holes in the clouds here and there and on the way up I hoped we would get lucky and be able to see the disk of the sun through one of them. The next time Venus "eclipses" the sun will be in 2117, a rather long wait, so despite the cloudiness we had to try. It is unlikely we will get another chance in our lifetimes to see a little black dot of this particular size.

Trying for an image of the sun despite the clouds
Unfortunately, there were no good holes in the clouds anywhere near the sun. We used the lenses of our binoculars to cast an image of the bright light onto a piece of paper, but all we got was a blob. Maggie thought the experience was like the episode of Big Bang Theory where the guys set up all kinds of equipment on the rooftop of their apartment building to measure the length of time to bounce a laser off the moon. Lots of effort, tiny result.

Instead we came home and found a live video feed online where we could see the transit as it happened with an image much bigger and clearer than we could make ourselves.

So, our outing was not entirely successful, but we still were aware of and felt like a part of the event anyways. We can always try again in 105 years.

Watching the transit live on the computer instead. Venus is the little black dot at the bottom of big circle.

Job offer, strike problems

Pam got a job offer from Birralee International School today. She will be teaching 7th grade and doing some of their special needs program. Yay Pam!

We received the kids' new passports from the embassy in Oslo and Pam took them to the immigration office today to get them processed for their residency permits. However, the office was closed because of the national strike. Hrmph. Their permits expire very soon. I suppose they'll be understanding. We'll see what happens...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Orthodontics in Norway: Peter's teeth

Peter had an orthodontist appointment. He's got two teeth coming down where there's no space for them. The orthodontist called them "hjorne tenner," or "corner teeth," which I think is a pretty cool name for these teeth. His upper jaw is a bit too narrow and his teeth are broader than normal, which means a mess is about to happen. We need to make space for these corner teeth, and the options are to have two teeth pulled on the top or have him braces now and hope that enough space can be opened. With no guarantee that braces will work, he and I decided that we will go through life with 2 fewer teeth on the top than on the bottom. His bite will need some tweaking in the future as the teeth may line up strangely once everything is in place. He will have a little less to brush, in any case.

I'm amazed that these kind of things can be foreseen and handled before they become problems. And I'm glad we took him to the orthodontist early.

Orthodontia in Norway, by the way, costs about $2000 flat fee. It's expensive, but about half the cost in the United States. Regular dentistry for kids is free until age 19, after than you have to pay your own dental fees.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Juggling and Rock at Lademoen park

We had a hail storm this morning. Not so unusual for summer. But the sleet storm just before lunch was uncalled for. Afterward the clouds broke and the sun took over and it became a beautiful day.

After lunch we heard a concert coming from somewhere nearby. We set out to find it, and found a wonderful festival at Lademoen park. A stage was set up with bands playing and there were about 10 tents with food and crafts. Two jugglers appeared with big bags full of equipment and began playing with the children. It was Maggie's former circus teacher, Christian, and another person. Christian recognized me and I joined in. It's been a long time since I had a serious juggling session, and this was fun fun fun. Nice gentle weather and live rock. Christian is an amazing juggler, he can run 100s of throws in a seven ball cascade and do long series of tricks with 5. Truly world class. And a heck of a nice guy to boot. We had some good runs passing 7 clubs, something I haven't done in years.

Peter went to the shop and found Mountain Dew! We hadn't seen it in Norway before.

Anna and I worked on doing the butterfly, a club-swinging pattern. She's nearly got it.

The fountain was filled with bubbles, perhaps a remnant of a Russe prank. Peter and Maggie, and later Anna and Pam had bubble wars.

It was a beautiful and serendipitous afternoon. I hope we have many more like this!

Mountain Dew! It's getting better all the time!
Anna and Daddy working on the Butterfly

Rock bands played all day, from 13:00 until maybe 20:00

Bubble wars!
Maggie bravely standing in the middle waiting to get a stick knocked out of her mouth.