Thursday, September 23, 2010

Kindness of Norwegian Strangers

We have heard how Norwegians can be very reserved and seemingly unfriendly, which made me apprehensive about meeting new friends. I also assumed that the playgrounds would be a natural spot to meet other mothers, only to discover that Norway does not really have city parks with playgrounds. All of the play structures are at the barnehages, where the youngest children (ages 1-6) play all day anyway. The children younger than 1 are with their mothers, who are all on their year long maternity leave, and meeting other mothers through stroller walking groups--organized by the Health Center and the *national* hiking organization.  But I digress. . .

I have had several great interactions with Norwegians who have reached out to a newcomer, and I thought I'd share with you.
  • A Norwegian father in Greta's swimming class asked me where I was from (in Norwegian, which is one of the questions I can actually answer). When I told him he responded, in English, "but you're not a part of the English Speaking Club." There actually is a English Speaking Club, for native English speakers, in Lillehammer that meets once a month. His wife is South African, and nursing a newborn baby on the pool deck. She invited me to come, and suggested she meet me somewhere to show me where the group is.
  • A mother at the barnehage who has a son in Greta's class in introduced herself to me within the first few weeks. Her friend works with Erik, so she was aware of an American family coming to her barnehage. She soon invited Greta and me (and Erik) to come to barnesong (just what it sounds like--kids songs), which was starting up in a few weeks, because she had specifically thought it would introduce me to other mothers, and it would introduce me to Norwegian. How thoughtful!  A week later, Erik and I were going to an open house that was just 3 houses from this woman's home. She invited us over for a light snack after the open house, and we had an enjoyable time with her and her husband and their 2 young boys. The open house sold within 24 hrs, so we won't be neighbors anytime soon. I also just received an invitation to her birthday party in a few weeks, addressed " to Emily, my new newest friend". Very sweet.
  • I belong to an online knitting community, Ravelry, where I contacted a few women who live in Lillehammer to ask them where their favorite yarn stores are. Two responded, and invited me to join their newly formed knitting group that meets every other week. So last week I joined them at a local coffee shop--a Norwegian with a 8 month old baby, a Swede around my age, and myself--mostly speaking in English. But both very friendly (one invited me over so I could practice Norwegian and she could practice Spanish with me). 
So far, so good. I'm not sure I had this kind of welcome to either Utah or New England after just 6 weeks.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Photo Essay: What I did this summer

It takes approximately 4- 6 weeks for a container of household goods to be shipped from Vermont to Norway. We decided that the easiest transition for our little family was to maintain consistency by plopping ourselves down in essentially one location: Minnesota. Minnesota is home to both sets of parents/grandparents, who would welcome all 4 of us for as long as we needed a place to stay. 

Greta and Erik visiting
Great-Oma Stange
After a quick tour of Princeton, New Jersey, where we visited Greta's Great-grandmother, she and I flew from the Princeton area (Pennsylvania, actually) to Minnesota, while Erik and Tika drove the trusty Subaru.

Greta and Tika in the backseat of a very full Subaru

We picked strawberries, 
went canoeing,
played on the beach, 
hung out with Minnesota friends, 

and Minnesota grandparents, 

took side trips to Texas to visit college roomies, 

and to Washington DC to visit Uncle Jeremy and Amber*.   And that is how we spent our summer vacation. 

*My apologies to J&A, as I do not have a picture of us all on this computer. Stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Birkebeiner Løppet and our First Visitors!

Erik ran the Birkebeinerløppet this weekend--the half marathon trail race that is part of the 3 Birkebeiner races. We got a big kick out of what was included in his pre-race shwag kit: men's lotion, diet shake, Floradix magnesium supplement, sardines and. . . . classic brown sauce!

What every runner wants: sardines and
brown sauce, with a little diet shake
to wash it all down.
Erik's parents are visiting Norway for what they declare is the "first of many visits". It's a nice way to think about it, because we don't feel the pressure of doing everything in just one visit. They stayed with us Thursday night through early Monday morning. We were able to visit Greta's barnehage and our local grocery store, see Erik finish a very muddy race and still smile at the end, buy some winter boots and slippers for a growing girl, do the requisite visit to Maihaugen, and eat reindeer and lamb (sorry vegetarian readers: it is slaughter season, and it was good). 

His parents left this morning to visit Voss, where they will stay with one of Erik's former teachers from the Folk School. They will then continue on to Bergen, where we hope it won't rain on them. Next weekend we will meet them in Oslo for some exploring.

With Oma (Cyn) and a muddy Erik at the
finish of the Birkebeinerløppet 

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Appliances: Updated List

When we left the US, we had to leave behind loads of electric appliances that we couldn't use in Norway (TV, DVD, stero, alarm clocks, microwave, blender, food processor, slow cooker, toaster oven, hair dryer). Some we were happy to leave--our vacuum cleaner, for example. Others, like our trusty $20 garage sale coffee/espresso machine, were harder to part with.

We've been lucky that the home we are renting has a number of appliances in it that we can use, so we haven't had to rush out and buy a TV, stereo, toaster, washer/dryer, vacuum cleaner.

But, in case you wish to psychoanalyze our priorities and deep-seeded needs, here is what we felt we needed to buy, in order of their purchase.
  1. Hair dryer and Alarm Clock (3 days into our stay)
  2. Baby monitor (1 week into our stay)
  3.  Cell phones (we don't have a land line)
  4.  Espresso machine (used, and not working well)
  5.  Microwave (5 weeks into our stay)
  6.  Electric toothbrush, iron, and. . . anyone care to guess what this is?

To be continued. . . .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Norwegian alphabet: Æ, Å, Ø

Greta's Norwegian alphabet crackers: Æ, Å, Ø
Norwegian has 3 extra letters, which I was amused to discover were included in Greta's box of "letter crackers".

They are Æ, Å, Ø.
I think I have pretty good mastery of their sounds, although I'm struggling to find an English example.

Greta is beginning to identify some letters. They are, thus far: G, C, M, O, T.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mesna Dam Opening

A few days ago, I wrote about a little hike that Tika and I did along the banks of the Mesna River. I even posted a photo.

Once a year, the dam at the top of the river (is "top" actually a geographic term?) is opened to allow the river to flow down at full volume and velocity and "clean out" the river. That day was today. (Erik was out of town, very bummed to have missed it).

It is apparently, quite the Event. People line the sides of the river to watch huge waves of water rush down the falls, all the while drinking coffee from Thermos bottles and eating what look just like hamburger buns, but have to taste better than that. . .  One gentleman in his 30s was dressed up in a suit jacket, tie and dress shoes, because people in Norway dress UP on Big Occasion Days. A small middle-school band played Norway's version of John Phillip Sousa marches and marched across the bridge and up the rocky, wet, slippery trail. And two enthusiastic people dressed up as trolls. Yes, trolls. Norway's kind of obsessed with them.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Four Weeks: The Day to Day (part to)

It is really hard to believe that four full weeks have passed since Greta and I arrived in Norway. The sun sets at a noticeably earlier hour than it did a month ago, and it also seems considerably cooler. However, we did see 70 degrees today, which was delightful. It was 35 degrees this morning. I don’t believe there has been a day that I have woken up and immediately put on shorts or a skirt. I rather sadly packed away Greta’s summer clothes a few weeks ago; sad both because it meant the end of summer for us—a little too early, in my opinion, but also because I won’t see my little Greta wearing those sweet things again.

Greta is settling in well at her barnehage, and her Norwegian is coming along. She said her first full Norwegian sentence after just 3 weeks there: “Jeg skal leke litt til.” (I want to play a little more). Since then, she’s been combining half Norwegian/half English sentences, and reportedly adopting some of the regional dialect when it comes to slight differences in the word for “they”. She also is rather fond of the word “bæsje”, or “poop”, which is only appropriate, as we are spending a lot of time talking about--and making--poop in the potty. Rather successfully, I might add.

My Norwegian is not coming along quite as easily or naturally, no thanks to the local adult learning center. After registering for a beginner class, I was told the class had started 2 weeks earlier and was completely full, as was the 2 nights/week evening class, and I would have to wait until November. This doesn’t really work so well with my Grand Plan to immediately immerse myself in language courses. But to be honest, I don’t feel “immersed”. My exposure to people speaking Norwegian is actually rather limited. I bring Greta to the barnehage, where her teachers will kindly speak in English (perhaps this need to change), and aside from a few trips to the grocery store or post office, and one Norwegian work party, I can lean very heavily on Erik. 

As I wrote to a friend, at times it's a little overwhelming when I give it a moment to sink in, and I realize "we're actually in NORWAY and this is my Reality for the foreseeable future!" It's the No End Date in sight that can be a little nerve-wracking. I can't understand a lick of what the children's cartoon characters are saying, but my plan it so eventually get a job here?? What was I thinking??