Friday, August 30, 2013


Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Everything begins with rhythm"

I've done quite a few shows on Mathematics and Rhythm with Carol Haakon Waderland, one of the best known drummers in Norway and professor of music at NTNU. We met again today to rehearse our upcoming show. This time we're not holding ourselves strictly to mathematics, we're exploring rhythm and it's connection to *everything*. We always have a great time practicing and performing together.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Aker Brygge

In Oslo today. I've only been in Oslo during the winter, when it's dark and cold and ugly. I've been wondering why people like Oslo when it seems to me like such a dreadful place. Well, this time it was sunny and beautiful, people were out, flowers everywhere, and the city was an entirely place from what I've experienced.

During a free hour my colleague showed me around Aker Brygge, an area with a lot of restaurants and artwork on the waterfront. Every passageway in this part of the city led to some kind of secret courtyard with artwork and fountains and wonderful things.

Here's two of my favorite discoveries in this part of town:

Kind of like Muppets meet Jurassic Park. This guy is awesome!
Does this look like giant boobs to you, too? I think that's what it's supposed to be. Ahhhh... Oslo!

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I suppose after a blå-tur (mystery trip) a blå-bær-tur (blueberry trip) was an appropriate followup. Our friend Daniel invited us to join him on a trip to Ringvål, a forested area to the west of Trondheim. We've had mixed results with our berry-hunting trips in the past. Sometimes we find a lot, sometimes hardly anything. When we ask folks where to go to find berries, the answer is always the same: "oh, just go in the woods anywhere!" It was nice to be invited by a friend to an area he knew was full of berries... and we were not disappointed!
First we hunted for mushrooms. I like mushroom hunting, mostly because the areas in which you look for mushrooms are so magical, under the trees on soft spongy forest floor, light streaming in shafts, green moss and such variety of beautiful mushrooms. I always expect to see fairies sitting on one of these.

Unfortunately we don't know our mushrooms too well, and the wrong choice means a toxic meal, so we stuck with hunting for steinsopp and cantarella. Anna and Pam found some giant steinsopp and clusters of cantarella.

Next we headed deep into the forest and up a hill to an area that was cut a few years ago and now populated with countless raspberry bushes. Around the perimeter partly in shade were thousands of blueberry plants. We ate and picked until our fingers were stained purple and our faces red from the sun.

Last night we ate steinsopp with dinner – delicious! – and then Pam and Anna made raspberry and blueberry scones for breakfast this morning. Gifts from the forest.

Maggie and Peter find a magical spot to rest and read a book
Peter finds a forest friend
Pausing for lunch
Tongue flapping, Indy races down a trail

Saturday, August 24, 2013


 Our work went on a blåtur last night to kick off the start of the new academic year. A blåtur is a mystery tour. We met up at work and started with puzzles, then onto a bus for a circuitous route that kept us guessing. Our first stop was a colleague's house decked out like a western saloon. Beer and hotdogs and country music and line-dancing and bandanas and cowboy hats. A fun start!

Next stop, another colleagues house for a luau. Tropical drinks and pineapple and a visit from a surprise guest who put on a comedy sketch for us. We danced to Hawaiian music and reluctantly left for our final destination.

We were thrilled when the bus dropped us off downtown at the docks. We got on a boat and went out to Munkholmen, the island out in the fjord that was an medieval monastery amoungs other things. A monk greeted us on the dock and took us into a tunnel, where the abbot entered with a torch. He was made up to look like he was drunk and delivered a hilarious speech where he joked with most everyone. Then we held hands and sang a silly song as we were led into the monastery to our dinner table.

A robed and hooded monk waited for us on the island

The "drunk" abbot welcomes us to Munkholmen
We had a fantastic three-course meal with halibut and wine and akvavit, and then a long evening of dancing and celebrating under a full moon. The abbott returned later in the evening to play guitar and sing funny songs. We returned to sentrum long after midnight. What a night!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

School year off to a good start

The kids are adapting to their new schools well.

Anna had a lonely first day and felt lost, but the second day she made some friends and is much relieved. Her school is being renovated, so the kids meet at the school and then take a bus to a school the community uses as a temporary school. She likes taking the bus. On Monday, she started in an after-school visual arts class (she loves extra-curricular classes) and the teacher promoted her to a class with older kids because she's rather advanced. She and Maggie are good artists.

Peter has been excited both first days. He like the kids in his class, he likes his courses, and he likes that it's pretty easy and hasn't had any homework yet. And that he's done at 2:30. It's like a dream for him!

Maggie declares that she has found "her people." Her fellow pupils are weird and cool and nerdy. She's made friends with all of them and it's going to be a great year for her socially.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First day of school

Today is a really BIG day for everyone. All of the kids begin at new schools and Pam has her first day with her new pupils as well. Since Maggie is beginning in high school and Peter is starting 8th grade which is the first year of middle school, we thought this was the perfect time to make the jump to public schools. The kids have been at an English-speaking international school since we came to Norway and now we're jumping to Norwegian public schools. That's exciting and scary.

Our reasons for changing schools were many. We'd like the kids to be better at speaking Norwegian for one thing. Also, they haven't met many kids in the neighborhood, language being one barrier. At the public school they will make friends who live on our street. As an added incentive for us, tuition at the international school has gotten very expensive and the price is set to jump up again this fall. It was pretty much the perfect storm of circumstances to make the change. The kids have responded bravely to the challenge!

Anna will be in 5th grade at Bispehaugen, a school famous for their music program. Many years ago it was the premiere music school in Norway and the tradition lives on. This past weekend we found that 5th graders take guitar class, and they have lots of interactive lessons on the school website for kids that want to begin early. Anna started playing on Saturday, eagerly going through the online lessons, and by Sunday she knew several chords and was playing many songs.

A girl who will be in her class lives across the street from us, and we never got to know this family, so Sunday evening we invited them over for coffee. Anna and the girl hit it off great, and Anna decided she'd ditch our plans to have me walk her to school this morning and she would walk with the neighborhood girls instead. A good start, methinks.

Peter starts at Rosenborg, the new middle school just down the road. Kids from 5 schools feed into this school, so it's a great time for him to begin when all the kids will be surrounded by strangers. They have 3 eighth grade classes, each with 47 pupils and two teachers. The first week will focus on getting kids to know each other and feeling secure. In a couple of weeks they will attend an overnight camping trip, which will be fun. Peter knows a few other boys from the neighborhood who will be attending also, so that will help.

Maggie begins at videragåendeskole, which is secondary school, grades 11-13 (kids go to school until age 19 in Norway). These schools are all different, with different focuses such as engineering or film or aquaculture or music, etc. The schools are competitive also, so it's a bit stressful for 10th graders to apply and hope they get into their schools of choice.

Maggie will be at Katedral VGS downtown, next to the cathedral (thus the name). She has gained admittance into the International Baccalaureate program, the most selective and academically challenging program in the city. We're pretty proud she's chosen this program and made it. There will be four other kids from her class last year who will be starting in the same program with her, so she's happy about that. Also, her best friend and neighbor will start at the same school in a different program, the media and communication program, so although they won't be in the same classes they will still see other at school.

Anna began at 8:30 this morning, Peter at 9:30, and Maggie at 10:30. I think Norway has figured out that teenagers need a later start time for the first few days of classes after summer. Smart!

Everything is in order and the kids are at school. We're excited to hear all about their first days.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Pstereo Maker Fair

A friend in America alerted me to Maker Fair happening today downtown. This weekend is the Pstereo music festival in Trondheim (the "P" is silent in "Pstereo"), which we have never been to but can hear from our house. Pam went to her school to make final preparations for the new school year that starts Monday, while I took the kids and several of their friends to see the events happening by the river next to the cathedral.

It was very pleasant surprise! They had free kids' concerts, hula hoops and games, climbing equipment, a giant xylophone, booths and food and our main target: Mini Maker Fair.

At the Maker Fair, kids (and grown-ups) could build and race cars and boats, make parachutes, and play with robots, 3d printers and virtual reality machines. It was really very cool and all of the kids enjoyed it very much, as did I. And it was all free.

Free kids' concerts
Cool Hollywood-style sign at Pstereo
Peter plays 3d Snake
Anna builds a car

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Røros overnight

Pam goes back to work on Monday to prepare for the new school year and she was eager for one last summer trip, so we threw together a short vacation: two days and one night in Røros, a historic copper mining town about 2 hours from Trondheim.

We brought a grill with us to find a place for a picnic en route, and pulled off near a river, only to discover that the spot we found was our long-lost fool's gold mining location! What a nice surprise! We walked through the woods to the river, a rocky spot under an old railway bridge. Because of rain, the river was raging today, making an exciting backdrop for our picnic. Maggie took Indy off to gather raspberries while Peter and Anna used rocks as hammers to bang out pyrite crystals from the shale. "It's like MineCraft in real life," Peter observed.

Finding this spot again was a nice bit of luck, and a good start to what would be a lucky weekend.

We proceeded to Røros where I had booked us two rooms at the Røros hotel. Dogs are allowed for an extra fee. We had a lovely walk through a charming old neighborhood downtown to find some food. We found a restaurant with very excellent pizza – maybe the best I've had in Norway – and all of us were very pleased.

Back at the hotel we had time for a swim in the indoor pool and then to bed.

In the morning we enjoyed the hotel's vast buffet with local food. Mmmm... Then Anna and Peter went swimming while the rest of us checked out some kind of antique car event happening behind the hotel. Here you can see the cars through the windows of the swimming hall:

We lucked out again. Antique car enthusiasts from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark travel around for several days each year, driving from one city to another, about 50 km each day. Last night they came to Rorøs and stayed at our hotel. This morning we walked around, looked at the cars, and talked to a lot of car folks who were excited to show off their cars and tell us this and that.

The cars started and left in an orderly fashion as they headed off to the next event. We waved them goodbye.

I think I'd like a Bugati someday, maybe like this one:

After checking out of the hotel, we went just outside of town to a farm, Galåvolden Gård, to get some homemade ice cream. They had a big egg-packing operation and the young girl packing the eggs was happy to show us around inside the chicken house. We bought eggs and ice cream which we ate while the kids petted calves. The ice cream was fantastic!

Driving back into town, we stopped at a big sandy hill that looked out-of-place and interesting. It was a nice hike up the hill, and visitors had made all kinds of fun figures from the stones, including a giant labyrinth.

Then we came back downtown. Pam went shopping while the kids and I went to play on the slag heaps. Røros has mountains of waste material from the copper smelting, and I promised the kids they could have as many chunks of slag as they wanted. Oh, what fun! The bits of stone and copper melted together make fantastic and weird forms and we spent a good hour and a half finding treasures on these hills.

We ate lunch downtown, and then made one final stop at an activity center called Doktortjønna. They have parks and playgrounds and a small lake with canoes and rafts and fishing. A day pass was fairly inexpensive and we had a great time boating and fishing and playing around. It was a lot more fun than we had guessed!

Here's a sign in English with their activity list:

Finally, back home to Trondheim. I should mention the drive itself to and from Røros is spectacularly beautiful. This mini-vacation was very good for the soul. We're ready for autumn now.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Back to UDI for our residency permits. They've been really nice and helpful this year. I remember our first year when the whole family would come down and wait all day long. Now we can reserve appointment times online and it is much much much better.

Our surprise this year was a good one – we've been granted residency permits for two years, so we don't need to renew next year! Excellent! This time I have a permanent job instead of a one-year contract, so that's getting better too.

They have machines that were new last year, they take your picture, signature, and index finger print. In the past we had to bring in pictures printed to exacting specifications like passport photos, and that was a pain also.

We'll receive ID cards in about a week.

Maggie and the machine

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New camera

We got a new camera. This does much better justice to the view from our house. My photo library is full of pictures of sunsets and rainbows that don't look like much. It's nice to get some pics like these finally.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Taste of Trondheim

There is a big food festival downtown this weekend, "A Taste of Trondheim." There were lots of fun things to look at, try, and of course, taste. The kids made smoothies on a bicycle powered blender, and we got to try this old fashioned stone grinder. Put wheat in the top and gather flour from the bottom. You could then use the flour to make your own flatbread.

We enjoyed ourselves downtown while dodging the on-and-off rain today. It was exciting but a bit too crowded.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Some kind of fest or something

We went downtown to catch a jousting show, but we arrived a few minutes too late. So we poked around the medieval booths and bought some stuff. I was kind of sick today so I'm not even sure what the event was, but these pictures were on my camera and it looks like it was fun.