Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The A4 Envelope

I received another A4 envelope in the mail last Friday.

A4 is the European "standard" size paper, the Euro 8.5"x11". As my Norwegian class read about the "typisk Norsk" who goes skiing, eats brown cheese and lefse, and only dresses in wool, my teacher referred to the "A4 Norwegians"--the standard family with 2 kids, a Volvo station wagon, a labrador retriever and a "rekkehus" (row house). I was secretly pleased to have caught the cultural reference to the standard "A4" Norwegian, but then also rather struck by the similarities between the American Dream and the A4 Norwegian dream. (Although the typical American would probably consider the average Norwegian row house to be a little small.)

So, I received my A4 envelope. From SAFH. Informing me that, again, I do not meet Norwegian standards for nursing or midwife education, and that both applications would be sent on to the independent appeals board for review. I was not surprised by this response, at least not for the nursing application. Erik and I felt I had submitted a very thorough response to the deficiencies SAFH stated I hadn't addressed on my midwife application, but apparently not so. Their complete refusal to acknowledge that any of my points had any validity at all was rather stunning. Enough to get my thoughts swimming back across the Atlantic, back to where the grass is greener.

But the roller-coaster ride continued. . . In tears after reading through the double refusal letter from SAFH, I  "got my shit together", so to speak, and went to my first job interview that afternoon. Maihaugen is hiring summer employees: ticket sales, museum store employees, tour guides, "actors" in the exhibitions. If I understood the interviewers correctly, they had over 250 applicants, and our group of 7 interviewees were the "cream of the crop". I did it all in Norwegian, and apparently well enough that one of the interviewers said, "you are speaking Norwegian very well for only having lived here 18 months". Her comment, combined with my nervous adrenaline, elevated my mood for the rest of the evening.

I rode that high through Saturday, a beautiful sunny spring day, which also happened to be my birthday. Home with my family the whole day in our nearly completed living room, Skype calls with loved ones, out for a sunny walk to a cafe for lunch, and home again for homemade chocolate cake, were more high points on the roller-coaster.

On Sunday, my mood came crashing down again. Still sunny and warm, but the reality of more waiting--the appeals board says the average waiting time is 3-4 months--combined with the realities of a job search in Norway and the slightly depressing reality of another birthday, made for a difficult day.

I long for the days when I knew what the day would hold, what my life would hold, or at least felt like I had the emotional capacity to handle what was thrown my way. That A4 envelope sat on my dining room table, and I thought "do I dare open it, and have it ruin my weekend?" But then again, could I really let it sit there all weekend long, taunting me with its contents? The roller-coaster was inevitable.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


It's been a bit on the chilly side in Lillehammer lately. -28C/-18F at the barnehage the other morning, but a balmy -23C/-9F down at our house. We've been so pleased with our new soapstone wood oven that we installed a few weeks back. The stone retains heat for hours after the fire has burned out, and we're able to turn down the radiant floor heating. Tika's lovin' life, snoozing away in front of her new altar.

As for keeping the rest of us warm, I was greeted with a note from "Greta" at the barnehage that read "Jeg trenger en ull genser" (I need a wool sweater). I was mildly annoyed, maybe because it had been only just the day before a teacher had said to me, "Does Greta have a wool sweater? She gets cold outside." I thought, "the kid has a bucketful of fleece sweatshirts, vests and wool long underwear. Is this not enough for you people?" But my annoyance was also, "jeez, how quickly must I respond to these demands? A day is barely enough time to dig through storage boxes, as if I had a dozen wool sweater packed away for a rainy day." But, if I've learned anything in the last 18 months, it's that Norwegians love their wool, so I stopped in to the local Salvation Army (on the tip of a Norwegian friend) to search for a pint-sized wool sweater. No luck. 

So. . . I rose to the challenge. I picked up some thick Aran-weight wool, and on Friday night I began knitting a pink and pink striped sweater. (Yes, you read correctly: pink and pink). Roll-neck, raglan sleeves, roll hem, using an 18 month size pattern with thicker yarn and bigger needles. I knit and knit and knit til my fingers ached and my hands were nearly permanently curled. I hoped to be finished by Monday morning, to triumphantly return to the barnehage with a handknit wool sweater ("oh, she needs a wool sweater? here, I just whipped this up over the weekend"), but it proved to be a bit too much. Instead, I will almost as triumphantly return to the barnehage on Wednesday with one.