Monday, April 30, 2012

Parents in the News. . .

When Erik and I announced that we were moving to Norway, one of the most common questions was "what do your parents think of this?" The truth is, my parents have been bitten by the travel bug themselves, so I blame them in part for the desire to get out and see a bit of the world. After their retirement in 2008 from 30+ years in academia, they bought a small RV, shipped it to Europe and have spent 3 months every summer since then exploring various regions of Europe. 

Mom and Dad at Stonehenge, 2011

When my mother first mentioned this crazy plan to travel around Europe in an RV that they had yet to purchase, I was skeptical. Ok. . . picture in your minds a "typical" retired American RV'er. I don't know what comes to your mind, but whatever it is--that isn't my parents. So when I kind of scoffed at the idea, my mom responded somewhat forcefully, "Oh, we're doing this, Emily!" 

And do it, they have. The first fall they visited Holland and parts of Belgium and France, second summer was France, third summer was Italy and bits of Austria, fourth summer was England, Scotland and Wales, and this year will be Norway! They have a blog of their own, and they recently attracted some attention from the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper, who interviewed them recently for an article in the Sunday Travel section.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Greta's First Ski Race

All smiles before the race
Back in mid-March, on a sunny Saturday morning, my phone rang. It was a friend and mother to Greta's beste venn (best friend) at the barnehage. The little boy proudly told Greta he was going to do a ski race that day and would she like to do it too? With a personal invitation like that, how could she resist? She eagerly shouted "JA!" and we were off to the races. . . 

I was, myself, both skeptical and a bit worried about how the day might turn out. But the race was on our "home course", located on a farm a kilometer or so from our front door, and sponsored by the neighborhood ski club, so we felt compelled to get involved and perhaps meet some of our neighbors who had been hiding in their homes all winter long. Well, when they weren't out on the ski course, that is.

A little background before I continue. . . you may or may not know that Erik was, once up
A little chocolate and verbal encouragement
midway through from Pappa
on a time, a talented and competitive ski racer, training full time for over half a decade after his college career was over. And while I briefly competed in high school, I would never call myself a competitive nor talented cross country skier. That said, getting our 3 year old daughter on skis has never been with the intention or hope that she would someday be a superstar skier. Greta was a late crawler, a late walker, and even today struggles with tasks that demand leg strength, like climbing stairs. The fact that her barnehage focuses so much on outdoor play and activity in nature has been one of the things we appreciate most. Kids in other barnehages are outside a lot, too, but this particular barnehage takes the kids out hiking, skiing and biking nearly every day, in addition to regular outside play. And there is something about group mentality and being encouraged by a teacher (and not a parent) that encourages a 3-year old to ski/walk/hike/bike longer, farther, and more often than that 3-year old might be willing to do at home. 

At least the view was nice!
Greta had been skiing several times a week since the first snowfall in December, including an entire "ski week" at barnehage, where the kids learned how to get their boots into the bindings, how to stand up when they fall down, how to untwist their skis when they get crossed, how to go fiskebein (herringbone) up a hill and how to crouch and balance their weight down a hill. (Keep in mind that her barnehage is located next to the 1994 Olympic ski trails and continue to host elite level skiers from all over the world). However, the focus has all been about having FUN and the teachers emphasized that ski sessions with Greta should be short--10, 20 minutes max--and positive experiences. 

That's why I was worried about this ski "race" for our 3-year old. Would it be fun? And would it be short? 

Encouragement and company from a best friend
Thankfully, it was a short course: just 400 meters for the youngest kids. Unfortunately, it was not flat. After a brief flat start, the course gently sloped downhill--just enough to make Greta very uneasy, require physical support from her Pappa, and still manage to crash and burst into tears within the first 50 meters. The downhill continued for another 50 meters before it began to (gently) climb for the next 200 meters. Tears and complaints were met with encouragement and short goals rewarded with bites of chocolate. She was given the option to stop, telling her it should be fun. But she wouldn't quit. She knew if she didn't finish she couldn't "win" (her goal, not ours!!!). Her best friend, now finished with his 400 meter race, came to provide a little company and cheering half way through. After about 300 meters, the trail dropped quickly, twisting and turning back on itself before heading to the finish. By this point, the elementary and middle school kids were finishing their 1km and 3km races, sprinting past us (classic style). Even some adults, racing a 5km loop, were finishing. Greta finished in 35 minutes. (Or at least that's what the final results said. We actually think they stopped timing.)

Approaching the finish line with determination and a little help from Mamma
The organizers didn't hand out any prizes or even finishers ribbons that day, which I thought was really unfortunate. Greta was wiped out and brittle, and a medal or ribbon could have boosted her spirits immensely and really ended the whole experience on a high note. Instead, little shot-glass sized "trophies" were handed out at the annual awards night several weeks later, which we did not attend. A hug from her best friend and plenty of pølser (hot dogs--a staple at any event hosted by Norwegians) would have to suffice for her reward.

A job well-done pat on the back from a best friend
Despite the tears and complaints on her end, and that nagging feeling of did-we-push-too-much on my/our end, she was quite proud of herself afterwards. On Monday morning she proudly announced to her barnehage teachers that she had done a ski race, and being the professionals that they are, they responded with the appropriate level of surprise, praise and admiration.

If anything, it was a beautiful sunny spring day in Lillehammer. We met neighbors and folks who we'll likely be seeing in the school yard, at birthday parties and at the grocery store--not to mention the ski trails--in the years to come. And perhaps most interesting of all was participating in the most Norwegian of all possible activities--a ski race, this time on the local level where the indoctrination begins!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The work, party, test update

Last week's three biggies are behind me: first day of work, birthday party, and the Norwegian language test. All went about as well as one could have expected. 

I began working last week as, essentially, a nursing assistant in an assisted living facility. However, seeing that I am not licensed as a nursing assistant (guess what lovely agency I'd have to apply to for that? My favorite Norwegian bureaucratic agency of all: SAFH!), I am paid an even lower wage. I was hired specifically to work in a one-to-one patient assignment with a dementia patient. I, of course, cannot elaborate much more than that, due to patient taughetsplikt (confidentiality), but I am learning a bit here and there about the Norwegian health care system (pros and cons), employment (pros and cons), and dementia (all cons). And just what my priorities and limits are. More on that later. Like 6 weeks later.

Today I also began doing a little "spring cleaning" at the local museum, which was advertised as being a one to two week job, but will more likely be four weeks. I frankly don't have four weeks to give them. But it also looks like I might be able to work a few days here and there with them this summer, and perhaps a bit into the fall, as well. So I haven't completely lost my opportunity to dress up in period costume!

The party's starting!
We had a fun little belated birthday party for our newly-minted four-year old last week. Greta's birthday fell on the day before the barnehage closed for Easter vacation (what do you mean your daycare doesn't close for four days surround Easter? What kind of heathen country do you people live in?), so we delayed the party by 9 days so she'd actually have some friends in town to celebrate with. Four other 3- and 4-year olds joined us for homemade macaroni and cheese (no norsk pølse at our birthday parties!), chocolate cupcakes and Rice Krispie bars (which the children ate with great suspicion).

And then the Bergenstest. The five-hour long, five part written test of Norwegian language, designed primarily for those foreigners who wish to be admitted to a Norwegian university. I do not, in fact, wish to be admitted to a university, but I do wish to take a month long required nursing course in November, and to do so I need to pass this test. 

I believe the test went well, but not well enough. It consists of 5 parts--a reading comprehension of 3 different texts with both multiple choice and short answer, a listening comprehension of short 15 second conversations/newsreports/telephone messages, a listening comprehension of a 5 minute interview that you then turn around and write a 30 minute "report" on, a 350 work essay (this time on whether or not drivers licenses for new, young male drivers should have more restrictions on them or not), and the cursed A-B sentences. . .  

What are A-B sentences? 
A: Mari said, "Pappa can drive us to the theater".
B: Mari said that Pappa could drive them to the theater.

A: I shall not pass this test, although I studied very hard.
B: Although I studied very hard, will I not pass this test. (according to norwegian word order).

A: She has it like the yolk in an egg at her new job.
B: She really has it good at her new job.

The first two examples are (relatively simple) grammatical sentence switcheroos. Those I can handle. It's the third kind--the idioms--that throw me because you just can't study for them. You just have to have heard them once, twice, a dozen times. 

At any rate. . . that's my prediction.  
(A) I'll have my results in 6 weeks. 
Or. . . . 
(B) In 6 weeks, shall I have results mine. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No April Fool's: I got a job

When it came down to it, I had 3 job interviews, and 3 job offers. Nothing terribly exciting, but job offers nonetheless. First, there was the Maihaugen museum shop position. Then I interviewed with the kommune (municipality) for a nursing assistant-type position for a one-on-one patient assignment at a local assisted living center, and was essentially offered the job on the spot. The third position was in a nursing home, but on a short-term floor with patients who are in-between the hospital and perhaps another nursing home, or between hospital and home. This third position would likely have been the best position in terms of speaking Norwegian, learning medical terminology and being in the most "nursing" type of environment. However, since my main goal right now is to Make Money As Soon As Possible, job #2 fit the bill. Job #3 didn't start until June. Job #2 starts. . . . drumroll please. . . the 10th of April. 

The next two weeks will be busy: we have two birthdays here in the next two days--a Pappa and a Greta, so the kitchen will be put to good use. I already put in a solid afternoon making going a little Martha Stewart for Greta's barnehage birthday treat: 30 frosted Winnie-the-Pooh sugar cookies, about the size of the palm of my hand. 

Greta was hurra'd, crowned, cloaked and tossed in the air and sung two birthday songs this past Friday. She celebrated early, seeing that next week is påskeferie (Easter vacation) and there will only be 6 kids at barnehage on her actual birthday. This seemed to be fine with her, as now she has "three birthdays" (barnehage, home and a small yet-to-be-determined-when friend party). 

April 10th, job starts;  April 14th, enormous Norwegian test, which I should be studying for right now. On that note: vi snakkes. (We'll talk).