Sunday, March 25, 2012

On the (job) hunt

My interview at Maihaugen back in February apparently went pretty well, as I received a phone call on Thursday from a Norwegian-named woman speaking Norwegian who apparently works at Maihaugen, offering me a summer job! It is not terribly exciting; in fact, it starts out pretty grungy--"spring cleaning" for one to two weeks in April. I don't know what this involves--pulling up bushes, washing windows, cleaning fireplaces, all of the above? But come summer, I've been offered a position in the museum shops. One of the shops is a pretty typical museum shop, filled with tempting and expensive Scandinavian-designed houseware items, books, clothing, jewelry and the requisite trolls. The other shop is located in the byen, a representation of main street Lillehammer from around the 1900s. In that shop, I would be wearing a costume of some sort. As some of you may know, growing up in Minnesota I was a little obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder, and wore pretty much nothing but long calico dresses and bonnets from the age of 7-11, so wearing a costume from the 1900s. . . well, that actually sounds like it could be kind of fun.

I have not completely made up my mind if I will be working in the shops or not. I have applied for a few other positions through the city--namely nurses' aide positions at the nursing homes and home health aide positions. And, if I can work up the nerve and get my rumpa i gir, I'll visit the local nursing homes personally and drop off my CV. I have been told over and over again, from people not in the know (and where has that gotten me in the past? In Norway, based on uninformed opinions that Norway needs nurses, and it will be easy to get a job!), that the nursing homes always need help. Does that sound appealing? No. Does that sound like they are short-staffed and over-worked? Yes. Reassuring, when it comes to actually getting a job? Maybe.

In the end I think it will come down to money and guaranteed hours. Where can I earn the most. The nursing-aide type positions would probably be much more helpful in terms of language development that  would be most relevant to my field. But, one way or another, I will be working this summer.

On a related noted, we were recently notified that my nursing and midwife cases will likely be reviewed by the license appeals board in late May. (A 3-month turn around. Not bad). On an even more positive note, Erik has been in contact with the head of the Norwegian midwife organization, and she is shocked at the handling that my case has received and has asked him for all the paperwork that we have submitted to and received from SAFH. She could be a really good ally to have.

As much as it's hard to believe. . . life is looking up. And with it brings change, and along with that uncertainty. So although these new developments are good, I'm still feeling a little uneasy about it. As unhappy as I may have been with the state of the world as I knew it in Lillehammer, at least it was familiar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diving in. . .

About this time last spring, I was cramming for a Norwegian proficiency exam (Norsk Prøve 3) that was required of me to take a 3-week long mandatory nursing course for foreign educated nurses. I passed the language test, and although it was the highest level of language class that was required by the nursing authorities, I knew my language skills weren't truly good enough to work as a professional nurse or midwife. So, I enrolled in the next level class, a "studiegruppe" that prepares students to take the highest level test (the Bergenstest) which documents that one is fluent enough to enter university levels courses. I started this class in August, meeting two days a week. Life was nutty back then: every spare minute of my days were spent at the house, insulating, painting, sawing up something or another. Needless to say, I was a terrible student, but I felt justified because my time was more valuably spent working on the house. I attended class hoping to absorb the grammar lessons, hear the language spoken, and make even just minor improvements. After all, I didn't really need to be there, this was all just bonus points. I didn't need to take the Bergenstest. I had passed my required level of language proficiency.

Because of SAFH (nursing license people) dragging their feet on my nursing license paperwork, I was unable to register for the mandatory nursing course offered in November. This, too, prompted a deep valley on the roller coaster of life in Norway, but that was one of many sob stories I opted not to write about. Come late January, as I entered the second semester of my studiegruppe class, I attempted to register for the mandatory nursing course offered this coming May. Imagine my surprise, imagine the gut-sinking empty pit in my stomach, imagine the wave of nausea and accompanying cold sweat that overcame me when I read on the nursing website that they had changed their language requirement and I was now required to pass the Bergenstest.

My language teacher likes to tell us that 1) 60% of random Norwegians plucked off the street would not pass the Bergenstest and that 2) Norwegian high school students take 13 years of studying to get to that level of language competency. She shares these lovely thoughts with us not to discourage us (although they do) but to remind us that mastering a language is not something that comes quickly.

So I am beginning to cram for yet another Norwegian language exam. I thought the last one was a stretch to pass, given my short amount of time studying the language. This one is an even longer shot. I have no other choice than to dive right in, and really hit the books.

And now to get off the computer, and actually do as I said. . .  April 14th is approaching quickly.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are those trees? No. . . not trees. . . .

Around 6:40 this morning, I let Tika out the front door for her morning sniff around. Blurry-eyed myself, and without both my contacts or glasses, I wandered into the kitchen to begin preparing Tika's breakfast. I could hear her growling outside, and figured a neighborhood cat had dared cross through our yard. I squinted out the kitchen window, and something in the far corner of our yard--about 20 meters away--caught my eye. It appeared to be a new collection of long, gray, spindly tree trunks. . . with large bodies on top???

We had three large moose standing in our backyard!

I yelled up to Erik, who had a fantastic view from our bedroom window, and I ran to the bathroom to grab my glasses. If I had mistaken three moose to be trees, I obviously hadn't seen them very clearly! I returned to the living room just in time to see them turn and prance out of our yard, over the fence and down the hill between our neighbors' homes. My camera was in my hand, but not quite fast enough with the lens cap.

It is a bit surprising to see them this far down the hillside. Our neighborhood is rather quiet, and on the edge of town, but not terribly close to the woods. Tika seemed quite happy to return inside to the safety of her home. I don't think she returned to the backyard this morning.

I find it a little ironic that moose have notoriously bad eyesight, and that they perhaps see people as clearly as I first saw them this morning. "Huh. . . what are those new brightly clad talking bushes doing in my path?  Oh. . . they must be people! Ok then, time for me to go. . . "

Monday, March 12, 2012

Copenhagen: Flashback to December

Copenhagen in December
In an effort to remind myself just How Damn Good Life Really Is, I'm reflecting back a few months. We were very lucky this past Christmas to have been invited to escape the construction mess and instead spend the holidays with my in-laws for a week in Paris. We decided to take the opportunity to have an 8-hour layover in Copenhagen and spend the day enjoying another Nordic capital in the days leading up to Christmas before we headed further south.

Overlooking a canal with quaint
buildings behind us
It was hovering around freezing and overcast, but we were prepared with stroller, snowsuit and layers of wool (like any good Norwegians). We spent the majority of the day walking around the center of Copenhagen, window shopping and enjoying a tasty lunch accompanied by a strongly alcoholic mug of gløgg, a specialty Nordic holiday drink of spices and wine and rum. I had only had the norsk grocery store bottled version, which I now swear to never drink again 'cause the Danish version was killer.

As darkness approached around 4pm, we headed to the Tivoli--the permanent carnival located in the center of Copenhagen. It was filled with Christmas trees, and covered with lights. We were quite shocked at the entrance fee to even just walk around (slips my mind now how much it was, but maybe $30 for the family??) and we limited our rides to a single carousel ride and mini-ferris wheel. It was enough. We had all woken at 4:30am to catch the train to the airport and Greta had napped all of 30 minutes in the stroller. And the day was young: we wouldn't be arriving into Paris until nearly 10pm.

Double-decker carousel at night in Tivoli
I was surprised, impressed and charmed by the grandeur of Copenhagen, even in the bleak gray daytime. It still had a very sensible Scandinavian feel to it--hordes of cyclists commuting through the streets and everyone bundled up against the cold--but it felt different from Oslo. Oslo lacks much of the truly old, ornate, impressive architecture that gives European cities such a distinctive feel, but it wasn't until I visited Copenhagen that I really was able to recognize that myself. When the grand stately buildings in Copenhagen were being built, Norway was the poorest land in Europe and Denmark owned it. That explains a lot.

We hope to visit again, hopefully in a brighter, warmer time of year, and with a little more than 8 hours (and $30) to spend.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Spring has Sprung

Dare I say it? Shhhhhhhhhhhh. . . . . . 

Spring is coming! 

We had a snowstorm last week and received a fresh 8 inches of snow, making the town pretty again, and the skiers for the upcoming Inga Låmi and Birkebeiner ski races very happy. But today the temps soared into the mid-40s and those 8 inches were gone like that.

Can't you just feel the warmth?
Basking in the golden glow of afternoon spring sunshine.
I can't say that I'm going to miss the snow much. This winter--much like last summer--has been a bit of a bust. We have been so occupied with house projects, that we've had essentially no free time for fun time. We've had zero balance in our lives the last 6 months. I've been reading through my blog entries from last year at this time, and was struck by how. . . . happy I sounded. On this weekend last year, I completed my first ski race in 18 years and the adrenaline was palpable in my blog entry. This year, I've been on a single 1/2 kilometer ski tour with Greta. Maybe I was just choosing to write about the new, culturally interesting experiences, and now the novelty has worn off and nothing is fresh and shiny and new. . . but I just don't have that same "glow" about life in Norway right now. It has been downright hard. 

Friends and readers alike have kindly reminded me of just what an amazing experience this whole thing is. A very dear, intelligent, amazingly successful and down-to-earth friend wrote, "I spent Christmas in Rochester, Minnesota and have never even been to New York City. You had Christmas in Paris and live in Norway." 

I do need to keep this in perspective, but I also need to accept the fact that all the good things that Norway has to offer me aren't going to be handed to me on a silver platter. I'm gonna have to really dig deep and work hard for it. (Reality kind of sucks, doesn't it?) We are hoping that spring brings a little more sunshine into our lives, fewer house projects, and hopefully more time to enjoy Norway. . . and not just curse it.

I'm basking, too.
Now throw my ball.