Monday, January 30, 2012

Greta in the News

From our local newspaper, a few weeks ago:

"Hiking buddy in the snow"

 The kids at Birkebeinerfrilufts barenhage have gotten a new hiking buddy: “Unbelievably fun” thinks retiree Karl August Haslestad.

Last spring the barnehage listed an job opening: “Seeking hiking companion”.
Winter Happiness:
Out in the woods by the
Birkebeiner Stadium, kids enjoy
themselves in the snow. Greta
and Tora Kristine dig and relax
with each other.
“I have a type of grandfather role and are with the kids on their hike one time a week,” says retiree Karl August Haslestad.

The teacher, previously at Smestad middleschool, appreciates being with children. “They inspire me and make me a better grandfather for my own grandchildren.” Says Halsstad.

Out in the woods, the kids have romped their way through the deep snow and taken a tour to the tee-pee. Some went by skiing, others by walking.

“It is so fun with snow! Hurray!” shout Peter and Alberte.

A bit more in, we hear the sound of children’s songs “Frosty the Snowman”  and “Its snows, it snows”, goes on repeating.

While their hiking buddy and grandfather Haslestad pushes the swing faster, the kids sing in full voice.

“We will travel to Spain!”

“ No, Africa!”

“Ok then.”

They also sing “Africa, Africa” to the melody of “Michael Fox”.

Why did you look at the job position? Asks the reporter.

“I really appreciate working with children and outdoor life. And it’s good to use the retired existence for something meaningful.”

You do this of free will and without pay? Asks the reporter.

“Yes, my pay is happy and satisfied children who give me unbelievable more happiness in life.” Says Haslestad and smiles.

“Yes, Karl August, faster, faster!” shouts Isak.

The now retired teacher had taught at Smestad since 1973, but now is done with work life.

“I recommend other preschool/daycares do the same. This is a super arrangement,” he says.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Here's what happened. . .

In my Everything-Falls-Into-Place dream, I walk into my meeting with the SAFH official, and he says, apologetically and graciously, “I looked over your nursing application that my underlings denied, and considered your well-presented points, and have overruled them. You are now certified to work as a nurse. I would have emailed you this information, but wanted to tell you this in person.”

That was my dream meeting, and it didn’t happen. I’m not sure what my nightmare meeting would have been, but it was pretty darn close to the reality meeting that we had last Thursday in Oslo.

Erik and I took the 2.5 hour train ride to Oslo, arriving a few hours early. I rehearsed my argument/speech/conversation on the way, and we discussed our tactics as we walked through Oslo.  If he says this, I’ll say this. . .

But I wasn’t expecting his opening statement (nor was I expecting the western Norwegian dialect, making me look like a deer in headlights. I also had rehearsed saying, “Excuse me, but I had hoped we could talk in English because there are some technical terms that I just don’t know yet. . .). Anyway, he said, “So. . . you’re here to discuss your midwife application, right? Because the time to register a complaint on your nursing application is over. That application is dead.”

Erik told me later his heart sunk to his stomach with this remark. Not a great way to start off a meeting. I wasn’t quite so sunken, but rather annoyed. We had made it very clear in our email exchanges that we first and foremost wanted to discuss the nursing application, in hopes of avoiding filing a formal complaint. We pointed this out, and he diplomatically said, “you can file the complaint, and include the emails, and state you want the complaint time extended. And if we deny that, you can complain again.”

This was his refrain for the entire 50 minute meeting: you can reference that and put it in the formal complaint. And if we deny the complaint, we’ll send it to the higher up complaint people, and you can file another complaint.

And that was that. He was not in a position to reverse any decisions, at least not on-the-spot, and he was very clearly a by-the-books guy. We were so hoping—believing--that once we could talk face to face with someone, we could reason with them; “look at these degrees, look at my work experience, let me tell you what I’ve done, let me tell you what I want to do, and then tell me why this doesn’t work!” But there was none of that. Every point we raised was met with bureaucratic indifference.

It’s hard to explain what my first reactions were leaving that meeting. I was disappointed, yes. I was shell-shocked, but on the other hand, not at all surprised. I will admit that I went into the bathroom to change back into my wool long underwear under my cute skirt that I had so carefully chosen to portray professionalism and individuality, and I did not cry in the solitude of the bathroom, but was instead mentally selling our house, packing our boxes and moving back to the US. I was completely disillusioned.

Seventy-nine hours and several tearful conversations later, I will say this: we are not packing our bags, and this is, in part, why not: we can’t go back to what we had. (I don’t think I can have two colons in one sentence, but I just did). We had wrapped up our time as grad students (me employed) and life must move on. So the reality of our life back in the US would be this: Erik would fight against hundreds of other applicants to get a post-doc, and be underpaid and working 60+ hours a week, only to have to move on again in a few years to another post-doc. Midwives in the US deliver 10% of the babies; if I could find a job in the same area as Erik’s job, I’d also be working a full time job of 50+ hours a week, nights, weekends, etc. Even my own 90% position of 36 hours a week at my old job no longer exists.

In Norway, Erik (officially) works 37.5 hours a week. Midwives deliver something like 90% of the babies. Their full time work week is 36 hours a week.

Looking at the big picture, the hoops seem worth it. Looking long term, the hoops seem worth it. Looking at our home, our thriving daughter, our community, the hoops seem worth it. But looking at every single individual hoop. . . that’s when I feel like packing my bags. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Heading into battle. . .

The nursing and midwife license battle continues. . .

The letter in the newspaper brought a quick response on my nursing license, which was quickly followed by a judgment on my midwife license application, too. (In short, for both: no).

It was sometime last month when it hit me—I mean, it really hit me—that I am the only American midwife who is trying—or has tried--to work in Norway. I may not be the first one to have tried. . . but there don’t seem to be any others currently working here, so that leads me to believe that I might be the only one who ever has tried. The magnitude of that hit me. ME. ME. The first one, the only one. The trailblazer. Essentially fighting this alone. No rule book. No advisor. No one (of consequence) on my side.

Completely by chance (and the world of Facebook), I discovered that a guy from my high school (just a year ahead of me) graduated from an American med school, finished his American residency, and somewhere in the process married a Norwegian woman. He is now living and working in Norway, the only American educated physician working in Norway as a physician. Honestly: what are the chance of that??? We come from a high school of, what, 1200 students in a relatively small town in southeastern Minnesota, and it produces the only American physician and potentially only American midwife in Norway???

He, too, faced years of fighting with SAFH over his education, his internship, his residency, his specialty. What finally made it happen for him was that his wife was an advisor to the Prime Minister of Norway, and at some point she met the Minister of Health. “Hey my husband. . . an American doctor. . . can’t work here. . . how dumb is that???” A little this, a little that. . . and his license was approved.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the Minister of Health on my side.

On January 18, Erik and I will travel to Oslo to have a face-to-face meeting with a live human being at the nursing/midwife license (SAFH) office, and discuss the continued disagreements over my nursing education. It’s basically come down to that 15 years ago, I was 2 weeks short on psychiatric nursing clinicals, and a few more weeks short on medical/surgical clinicals, and need to make up that time. (No, 15 years of professional experience doesn’t count). But recently, I’ve spent days assembling page after page of documents (95 and counting) to formally log my complaint on their judgment on my midwife application.  Fight #2. To be fair, my original application did not have pieces of information that would have been helpful—namely, the number of patients I had contact with in a variety of settings as a midwife student, yeh these 9-10 years ago.

In some disturbing ways, I like the process of digging up information, mounting an argument, an assembling the documents; it’s the part of me that enjoyed the research process for my master’s thesis, too. We found a quote in an ACNM (American midwife) document that is golden, my home run of quotes: “ACNM competencies and standards are consistent with or exceed the global competencies and standards for the practice of midwifery as defined by the International Confederation of Midwives”. In short: American midwives are educated according to these international standards, and Norwegian midwives are educated according to these same international standards.

Any dear readers who are still with me. . . bless you.

So while I feel like that should end all squabbling over whose midwives are better educated, and can’t we all just be friends (and colleagues)???—deep down a part of me knows this won’t be good enough. Hence the other 94 pages of supporting documents.

Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Say it!

The back page of the local Lillehammer paper is called “Say it!” or “Si det!” Along with the weather report, and sunrise/sunset time (currently at 9:25am and 3:24pm), there are letters from readers to other general readers, or perhaps a specific reader. It’s not the personal ads, no lonely bachelor Norwegian farmer looking for love. Instead they are little random thoughts, that someone either thought was so brilliant, or was so angered, or so touched by, that they just had to share with all the other readers of GD newspaper.

Often they are complaints about dogs barking in a particular neighborhood. These are often followed a day or two later with letters from the dog owners in those neighborhoods who say, “look, if you have a problem with my dog, please come talk to me personally!” Sometimes they are simple lost and found notices, usually for sleds and cell phones; the other day an old man told the story of how he and his wife were almost hit by a snowplow, had they not dived into their neighbors snowbank. I’ve mentioned the complaints of Halloween before. One of my favorites was someone suggesting printing stickers that say “Yes to dog poop!”. And you could put the sticker on your garbage can, indicating you’re OK with dog owners dumping their doggy-doo-doo bags in their garbage. Brilliant! One of the more random letters was someone complaining “why did the milk company stop printing the little arrows on the milk cartons? I’m having a hard time opening my milk!” I myself have been tempted to rant about the insanity of four-way intersections, and the lack of rules when four cars are at all four corners (it’s not a first come, first go), because no one seems to know what the hell to do. But I digress. . . .

Because these letters can be rather amusing, and because much of my blogging in the past few months has been house related, and not so much “life in Norway” related, I’m tempted to translate a few of the letters as a quick little insight into our life here in Lillehammer.

So without further ado, here was today’s winner: “Thanks to whoever took my jacket home with them by mistake from the two-days ball at Kvam city hall in the after Christmas-time. But it was delivered back newly washed the day after, with everything in place, even including a receipt from the Christmas dinner I had been to before Christmas. I really want to know what laundry detergent you used, because my jacket smells so good!” 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finally, some home cookin'

Our oven, cooktop and hood vent were hooked up yesterday, so today I was ready to start some home cookin’.

Or so I thought.

We’ve been existing off of takeout pizza, deli-baked chicken, and microwave dinners for the last 3 weeks, so the idea of a soup simmering on the stove sounded delightful. And since I was denied any opportunity to bake Christmas cookies this year, I added that to our to-do list today, as well.

First off, check the ingredients: We’ll need eggs, 2. Hmmm. .  . we actually have eggs in the refrigerator, but since we have had no way to cook them since December 9th. . . probably not good. Add eggs to the shopping list. Other items: flour (doubtful), and oh yes, molasses? Vanilla? Where on earth are those. . .  Suddenly this baking idea has morphed from baking, to baking, shopping and digging through boxes. But there’s no backing out now: Greta is all fired up about making cookies.

Several trips down and up from the basement to dig through boxes labeled “kitchen” , I locate baking soda, baking powder, salt, molasses and vanilla in Box 55. But no flour.

Our car refused to start last night, rather ironically, at the grocery store, where we needed to head again. Thankfully, the grocery store is a short 5-10 minute walk from our house. Not so thankfully, it is about 10F outside. Greta is bundled up, as is Tika, and off we go.

Once home, we begin the cookie baking and soup making. But first, mixing bowls. Haven’t thought of those lately. According to my reference notebook, they are in box 56. Down to the basement, located, up again. Ahhh yes. . . mixing spoons.  And, huh. . . measuring spoons. And cups. Box 53. Down and up again. This is getting a little tiresome. But whaddya know? Here are cookie racks—those will be handy! A spatula. . . that’d be nice. .  . but at this point, not necessary. Can do without. Not worth the trouble.

Moving on to the soup. I need our large soup pot, last used in. . . Vermont. This means old, unlabeled boxes that haven’t been opened in 16 months. Good heavens, what was I thinking???  But wait! I remember I did open some of those boxes in our rental house and repacked them, and the pot is in a box that includes the instruction: WASH. Because when they were repacked, I discovered chewed up  cookie decorating candy boxes and mouse poop. How fun. Just what I want to deal with at this moment.

But, it just so happens that while I was running down and up from the basement a dozen times, our plumber was installing the faucet to our kitchen sink. While just this morning I was washing dishes in our laundry room, this afternoon flowing water “completes” our kitchen.

And ohhh. . . heaven is washing a huge soup pot in our new sink. Deep and extra wide with a high arching faucet, even washing away the possible remnants of mouse doo-doo is fun.

Until the alarm rings on the cookies, and I realize I have no idea where my oven mitts are. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We escape!

A foggy view up the Tower
 Still no internet access at the new house, so I try to squeeze in an hour or so at the library cafe, with a cappuccino to keep me company. 

Many friends have remarked how fun it must have been to spend Christmas in our new house, but the truth is we celebrated a very different Christmas this year. . . by escaping to Paris!

My in-laws wanted to spend Christmas with us, and luckily we came to our senses early enough in the remodeling process to realize that our home would not be very welcoming to guests by Christmas, even though we ourselves would be living there. Instead we opted to meet in Paris, joined by Erik's sister and her friends. It was perhaps my first Christmas ever without snow, aside from my first year of life in sunny Santa Barbara, California. But I must say, 45-50 degrees and sunny was a welcome breath of fresh air. 

We had a 9 hour layover in Copenhagen, which we took full advantage of, taking a 10 minute train ride into the center of town to take in the pre-Christmas atmosphere of a bustling Scandinavian city. We spent six days in Paris, and while it wasn't exactly relaxing in the poolside-vacation sense of the word, it was a welcomed break from the chaos of remodeling and moving that we've been immersed in for the past 7 months. 

I found it incredibly difficult to even utter simple French words like "merci" or "au revoir" or even "non". As I opened my mouth to respond, Norwegian words came out--not English--Norwegian! If I bumped into a person in a store, I wouldn't say "excusez-moi", I'd say "Unnskyld!" A waiter in a restaurant asked us (in English) what "other" language we spoke, after I responded "nei" to one of his English questions. It was quite amusing, actually, and even rather reassuring. I am so deeply immersed in Norwegian it is, in many cases, the first language that comes to my brain. I would read French signs, or rather see signs in French, and realize that had they been in Norwegian--I could understand them. My confidence in my language skills was boosted, and all it took was a trip to France to do so. 

We spent our New Year's Eve with the same friends that we celebrated with a year ago. It was very comforting to feel that we have established such good friendships in just 16 months that we have now spent two consecutive holidays with one another. And after spending the entire evening speaking--and understanding--Norwegian with each other, I realized once again how far I have come in the last year. 

A Norwegian tradition: Kristoffer smashes the
gingerbread house on New Year's Eve,
while Greta and Sebastian duck!
A year ago I was just beginning my formal Norwegian classes; classes that would prove to be both challenging and disappointing in their level and quality of instruction. On Thursday I will resume my classes again, meeting two days a week as we did throughout the fall. I was incredibly distracted and busy this fall, and felt like I neglected my studies like I have never done before in my life. I'm hoping that I can recommit myself to mastering this language this semester. The trip to France, in some ways, gave me extra motivation and encouragement to do so. 

I am also assembling material and letters to bring to SAFH (nursing license organization) in regards to both my midwife and nursing licenses. After the newspaper article, SAFH kicked their efforts into full gear, and responded to my midwife application within 3 weeks. Their judgement/assessment was not entirely satisfactory (in my humble opinion), but after some clarification about my experiences and qualification from my student midwife education, I am hopeful the application will be viewed more favorably. Ever hopeful, I am.