Thursday, December 14, 2006

We are back in the states for Christmas, and I cannot get over how big everything is. The produce section of Stop and Shop would hold the entire grocery store I go to in Oslo. Do people really need that many tooth paste choices?? I also used a shopping cart for the first time in a year and a half. Ill try to remember to report other differences that I discover as we spend time in the states for the holidays.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A white Halloween;
It snowed today for the first time in Oslo. It is not sticking to the ground yet, but the wind makes it look like a blizzard. I got the winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarves down from the attic, so we are all set to start the winter. If this snow fall is like last year at this time, the snow will not stick and it will not fall again until December, but at least we are ready now.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Note on the milk;

Ben will never leave for work without giving me a morning cuddle and a kiss before he goes. Well Ben woke up very early this morning and left for work at 6:30 for no other reason then he could not fall back asleep. As a result I awoke to the alarm at 8 to find him missing. I realized his laptop was also gone, so I determined that he had simply left for work early. When I went to get the milk for my morning tea, I found a note on the carton. I was a very simple message of “ I love U”, but it has made my day. It is a great example of “gifts are always nice, but it is the little gestures that make a wife happy”.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

All in all;

This years Akadamy was such a great time. The weather was great (for Ireland) and the attractions were not to be missed. I did some shopping, and Ben got to code. It was a very enjoyable and I am very glad I got out of the city. The entire trip was well worth it. Next years Akadamy will be held in Glasgow Scotland, and I am already making plans for what I will see there

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

By train and bus, traveling in Ireland;

Taking the train to Blarney-

During the past year of planning our trip to Ireland, I was determined to find a way to get to Blarney to see the Blarney stone. I discovered that I could take a three-hour train to Cork, and then take a taxi or bus to the city of Blarney. The main website for Blarney Castle said that the self guided tour of the property would take about three hours. After checking the train schedule, I realized that I could take an early train, see all of Blarney castle, and still make the train back to Dublin. If I timed it all correctly, I theorized that I could be back by six that same night.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up at five A.M and got ready. I had packed my bag the night before, so I kissed Ben good-bye, grab my bag and headed down stairs. I took a taxi to the train station and found my platform. I had to wait a half hour before boarding the train, but was soon settled in my seat. The train was off at seven and I was able to watch the sunrise as we left the city. The train rout took me through the country and I was able to see the sprawling lands with mountains in the distance. It was a very relaxing and comforting site. I kept waiting for the tea cart to come to my car to get a cup of tea, but for some reason the cart never showed up.

The train arrived in Cork at about nine forty five, and I grabbed a taxi to take me to Blarney. Once at the castle grounds I went slow and took my time. First I went to the castle and slowly made my way up the stairs, exploring all the nooks and rooms (tourists are free to go anywhere inside the castle ruins). The stairs were very slick, steep, and tight. I made sure to stop fairly often to take photos and video of everything I saw. At the top of the castle, I was amazed at the views of the country. The sun was still out, and everywhere you looked resembled a post card. I made my way in to line to kiss the Blarney stone. To kiss it, you must lie on your back, hold on to parallel bars set in to the stone, and bend backwards to get to the bottom of the stone. A man sits next to you to hold you as you “hover” above the hole in the wall that is about five stories high. Although it seems dangerous, in reality there is a grate at the base of the outcrop, which will prevent you from falling more then a foot. For a little more info here is a link, http://www.sparta.k12.il.us/SID/blarneystone.htm.

While you are kissing the stone, a man is also above you taking your photo that you can later purchase at the gift shop. I then slowly descended down the castle again taking photos and videos of areas of the castle. I even climbed up in to window ledges to get and interesting photo. Just as I had finished my exploration of the castle, the sun went behind the clouds. I could not have timed it better my self. Back on the ground I explored the property. There were supposed Druid sites, the wishing steps, rock formations that seem to look like a witches head, and woodland trails. After the grounds had been thoroughly investigated, I returned to the main entrance, picked up my souvenir photo, and ate the lunch I had packed.

I explored the village of Blarney for an hour before hailing a taxi to take me back to the Cork train station. I boarded the three thirty train and headed back to Dublin. It rained for most of the ride however I was still able to see many farm animals grazing in the fields. As we were pulling in to one of the stops, I was able to see a full bright rainbow that was situated very close to the train tracks. On arrival in Dublin I walked back to Trinity and retrieved Ben. We went out to dinner before going back to the hotel, where Ben rubbed my soar feet. I am very glad that the trip was a success, and it was completely worth the time and effort to plan it.

Bus tour to Celtic sites-

On Wednesday I scheduled a bus tour to see the Neolithic sites know as the Hill of Tara, and Newgrange. The bus picked me up right around the corner from Trinity collage. The tour guide was an Archeologist specializing in Neolithic Irish sites. Our first stop was the Hill of Tara, which is situated in the middle of a sheep paddock. You had to be careful of where you stepped due to the amount of sheep dropping, and because the grass was wet and slick. Here is some more info, http://www.mythicalireland.com/ancientsites/tara/. From the top of the mounds on a clear day, you are able to see two thirds of Ireland. I was there on a rainy overcast day, so I am unsure if this is correct.

Our next stop was Newgrange, which is a mound made in honor of the winter solstice. It is built so that the sun will shine in threw a shaft and illuminate the chamber inside on the shortest day of the year. There are more mounds built for the summer solstice as well as other solar occurrences, but the winter solstice mound is the only one that has been excavated. It is the only mound that small groups of visitors are allowed to enter. Here is some more information, http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What I saw and did in Dublin by foot;

On Saturday morning I got an early start and headed out in to the city. My first stop was St. Patrick’s, which is Irelands largest church. I then headed to the Guinness Brewery were I saw how they make their beer. Your “ticket” was a free gift of a clear paperweight that contains a drop of real beer in the center. The tour ended with a free pint, but since I do not drink, I received a large soda instead. My next stop was the Jameson Distillery, where they make whiskey. This tour ended with four volunteers conducting a taste test of the different whiskies produced by Jameson, and other top manufactures. Everyone else enjoyed a free glass of whiskey, or in my case a soda. I then walked around the block to the Jameson viewing tower. The viewing tower is am observation deck nestled atop a tall chimney. I was the only one on this tour, and had the deck all to my self to take as much video footage as I wanted of the city views. I next walked to St. Audens, which is the oldest church in the city. Not much is left of the church, however one small chapel remains around the ruins, and still holds Sunday mass. Next I walked to Christ church, where I found the most beautiful tile patterns on the floors. My last stop was at Dublin Castle. The castle was turned in to more of a state home, and only one tower is left of castle. One the tour we were taking underground, where we could see more of the original breaking walls, and what is left of the moat (still filled with water from the river).

On Sunday I again headed to the opposite side of the city to take a tour of Kilmainham Gaol, a prison built in 1792. It was one of the first “modern” prisons that held people in individual cells, and focused on rehabilitation. It was also the site were many rebellion leaders were executed. Next I headed to Phoenix Park to see the animals of Dublin Zoo. My favorite moment was when I was alone at the Gibbon house. I knelt down as a young gibbon approached the glass and we observed each other from very close up. This exchange lasted only moments when a young girl shouted excitedly from across the path. She ran up to the glass and freighted the gibbon away. My last stop of the day was to see the Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) exhibit. My guidebooks, and online research of this attraction led me to believe it was an exhibit on the life of the famous author. I quickly learned that the exhibit was a long hallway of news articles about the writer, that turned in to a cheesy haunted house.

On Monday I arrived at St. Michans, which is home to four natural Mummies. For those that might not know, a human mummy can be formed in any environment, as long as the weather conditions stay constant. Like a dessert, in ice, in peat moss, or in a constant dry cool place. The crypts of St. Michans created the latter conditions. Some of the coffins were damaged and the remains fell out. The church will not explore the other hundred or so coffins to see if more mummies exist. The tour of the mummies included two priests, one nun, and a crusader’s remains. It is suppose to be “lucky” to gently touch the finger of the crusaders hand. When the group was allowed to touch the body, the Archeologist in me told me not to, but the curiosity in me won out, and I did gently touch the finger. It was a thrilling experience.

I then started to walk towards Trinity College, to meet Ben at Akadamy. I intended to do some shopping on my way back, and was crossing a street when a man about my age said “hi” to me. The people are very friendly in Dublin, so I thought nothing of it and replied “hello” to him in response. I was about to enter a store when the same man ran up to me and started to talk to me. When he asked if I was traveling alone, I started to tell him all about Ben, and what we were doing in the city. He looked at me and said, “Oh, you are married?” while at the same time looking at my hand. I then realized he was trying to “pick me up”. I replied yes, and then asked him if he was going to ask me out. He responded that he was, and then apologized for not knowing I was married. Now it might seem strange that I included this experience in my blog, but this had never happened to me before. I have never been “hit on” or had a random person come up to me on the street to ask me out. It was an interesting experience.

When I arrived at Trinity College, I took a guided tour of the campus, which ended in the old library. It is officially called “the long room” and is the most amazingly beautiful library I have ever seen. There were no paintings, no stain glass, just the two stories high vaulted wood ceiling, with wood bookcases on the main level, and around the balcony of the room. Every shelf was full of old priceless books from floor to ceiling. The best part was the rich deep smell, of old manuscripts, and old wood. I found Ben at the conference site and told him all about my day. The guys laughed as I told them all about the guy that “hit” on me.

On Thursday I went to the Archeology museum, where there were three peat moss mummies on display. I also saw some Viking artifacts, including a small scout ship (about the size of a canoe). It was fun to compare that ship with the ships I have seen on display in Norway. I also went to the national gallery, where I saw some famous Irish paintings and sculptures. I spent most of the day with Ben as he finished the KDE conference, and I got online for the first time in a week.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The ambience of Dublin;

I had an unbelievably good time in Ireland this past week. The country is as green as it is always depicted, which is a direct result of the fact that is does indeed rain (at least a sun shower) every day. The rain never lasted more then ten minutes each time which did not hinder my walking around the city very much. The rain showers also allowed me to view a full bright rainbow on three different days during our seven-day trip.

The hotel we stayed at was a small B&B, just a ten-minute walk from Trinity college (the KDE location). The hotel was a typical European hotel, which means the rooms are small and the hallways tight. We ended up having to change rooms three times because the Ryder Cup was also in Dublin this week, and the hotel did not have the same room available for our entire stay. Two of the rooms we stayed in had only a shower and sink. The actual bathroom was down the hall on the landings. This is also very common in European B&B’s and other small hotels.

The people in Dublin were extremely friendly and polite. In fact, they went out of their way to help me if I was having trouble locating a street. One gentleman even walked six blocks with me to make sure I found what I was looking for. After being so used to listening to Norwegian accents, I found myself having a hard time understanding the Irish one. By the end of the week I was doing fine hearing the words, but every now and then I still could not understand what I was being asked.

One great thing about all the attractions and tours I attended, was the history lessons. While on my tours of churches or other monuments, the guides would give the customary history of the property and what it meant to the people of its time. They would then go further and explain how future history would be affected as a result of this particular site both in Ireland, and the rest of the world. As a result I know more about how the world impacted Ireland, and how it impacted the world, then I ever learned from other sources.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Good to be home;
We just got back from Akademy in Dublin. I will blog all about the trip in the next few days, but for right now we are in need of a shower, hot food, and our own bed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dublin

It is time again for the KDE conference called Akademy. This year it is Dublin Ireland, and we will be there for seven days. Of course I made an itinerary of everything I am going to do there while the boys are in meetings. I even got a train ticket and will travel for three hours to Blarney Castle to kiss the blarney stone. I will blog all about the trip when we get back.
Kayaking

Girish and Tahara invited us to go kayaking with them last Saturday. We met them at the last stop on the bus route, and headed for the harbor. None of us had ever kayaked before, so we were all a bit hesitant. The renter of the kayaks seemed a bit concerned at our lack of “out door” abilities, and joked about having a rescue boat follow us. After a bit of effort, we were all settled in out boats and headed out in to the harbor.

We followed the coat line where we had a great view of nesting birds, and the cliffs. The weather was perfect, and the clear skies gave us a great view of the Fords. Sometimes powerboats would go by, creating large wakes. Our boats road the waves, much to our delight at the up and down motions.

After about 45 minutes we headed back to the pier. Poor Tahara (who is not as strong as the rest of us) lagged behind so much that when the rest of us docked, the renter thought we had lost one. Kayaking was not as hard as I thought it would be, and we are already planning on going back next season. We went out to lunch at a restaurant near our apartment and had fun conversation about how the different cultures view marriage. It was nice to talk to another couple about married life, when we are so accustomed to going out with the single guys.
Toys “R” Us

While looking up Toys R Us locations on line, we discovered that there was one “near” us. We decided to go for a long walk and find it. During the walk we found the circus that has been in town for a few months. By looking over the fence, we saw the elephants, and some dogs that had just come out of the ring.

We followed the bike path along the high way for about two hours, until we reached the border of Oslo. We were about to give up out search and head home when we saw a mall. We decided to investigate in a last effort to find the store. As we reached the back of the mall, we finally found the Toys R Us sign.

We found Transformers and Care Bears, but did not purchase anything. The store was as big as the one in the states, and even had the same smell. Although we are still not that good at speaking Norwegian, we recognized the whiney voices of children stating “But I want it!” I think that is one of the few phrases that has a universal understanding.
After thoroughly exploring the store we turned around and walked the two hours home. Ben and I agreed that we never thought we would spend four hours on a Saturday walking back and forth to a toy store.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Today I realized that when you are craving a tangerine, a banana just does not cut it.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A movie in the park:

When we went out for our walk the other day, we noticed a structure set up in the park across the street from out house. On further inspection, we realized that an out door movie theater had been set up. There was a free showing of “Grease”, with movie-goers sitting upon the hills and under the gazebo. We did not sit and watch the movie, but we were definitely impressed that the city set it up.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The end of summer;

Our “two weeks” of summer has come to an end. The sun is setting enough now for the stars to come out. This week it has been raining almost every day and the clouds are always blocking the sun. The fall berries are out on the vines, and it is getting cold enough for blankets at night. We have not needed shorts for a few weeks, and I am currently wearing a sweatshirt to fight off goose bumps. We are hoping that the weather will be nice long enough to have one last picnic in the park. So until then, we will have our umbrellas ready to go.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hedgehogs;

Now that it is starting to get dark again, we have made a discovery when we go out for our walks. Apparently the parks are home to Hedgehogs. We have never before seen one in the “wild” and upon our first sighting were a little surprised. We often spot a pair of hoglets next to the high way. They let us sit near by and watch them until they decide to scurry off back to the safety of the bushes. We always forget to bring the camera with us to capture them, however we know that as soon as we remember it, the hedgehogs will be nowhere to be found.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An old friend;

I have known Rachelle since I was thirteen years old. We were together for every event of our teen years, and she served as one of my bridesmaids on my wedding day. Even though Ben and I had moved to different states then Rachelle, we managed to see each other once a year, and talk via the Internet.

Rachelle and two other guys we knew in high school planned to back pack threw Europe for the summer. To my ultimate delight, they were planning on coming to Norway for five days.

They arrived from Copenhagen by ferry to the Oslo harbor were I picked them up. Rachelle stayed with me on the couch, and the boys stayed at the local hostel. Unfortunately Ben had to go up north with Trolltech to work on KDE, so Rachelle and I had the apartment to our selves.

We spent the week visiting the major tourist destinations like the Folk Museum, the Viking ship museum, Vigeland Park, and a few others. I also took them to see the near by Ford. Although the views are beautiful, the boys spent most of there time looking for topless sunbathers.

Rachelle and I had lots of time to walk around, shop and talk. I do know a few girls that I talk with, but having Rachelle to converse with was different. With people you do not know well, you will often have to deal with that uneasy silence when everyone is trying to think of something interesting to say. When Rachelle and I would finish a topic, there would just be the comfortable silence of old friends. We could talk about old friends, or current events. She is recently engaged so we talked about how relationships change with marriage. We talked about about `children and how we feel about them. She vented about the boys she is traveling with, and I vented about life in Norway.

I saw them off at the train station early Saturday morning, and then took the long walk home. It was refreshing to have Rachelle around to talk or to just be with. Even thou our time was short, I enjoyed being wrapped in the loving sweater of a old friendship built from years of trust and respect.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

All in All;

Abolishing false stereotypes and accepting true ones is something I deal with a lot. It always amazes me what I think I know, only to realize my knowledge is based on a stereotype.

Pairs has been featured in countless movies and television specials. For this reason, there is no way any city could live up to the expectations that have been placed upon it. I found my self a bit disappointed when I would gaze upon a monument or work of art, and realize how small it was.

I found Notre Dame not to be the dark gothic “sanctuary” I have seen in film, but a light colored beautifully decorated cathedral. Mona Lisa was smaller then her posters in the gift shop, and the Eiffel Tower was just not tall enough.

I expected a more romantic atmosphere like music playing, or people kissing everywhere. Part of me even realized I was disappointed that the air smelled like a city and not like perfume.

I know the difference between reality and fantasy; I just never realized how much of my “reality” was built by a fantasy. So all in all, Paris was a great trip with my husband. We spent lots of time together, and saw amazing things. It was relaxing yet tiring, as all vacations tend to be. I learned that Paris is just another city, and to check my expectations of what is real, and what is fantasy.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Food;

Like I have said before, Ben and I are not very experimental when it comes to the foods that we eat. While in Paris we did bow to the stereotypical experience of eating a croissant on a park bench, and we did share a flute of bread when we were at the airport. However as far as every day eating, we visited a grocery store and bought a few non-perishables to have in our hotel room. We got some snacks to keep in our backpacks, and some breakfast buns and rolls.

As far as dinner was concerned, we found a nice little restaurant that had a fantastic chicken dinner (Kentucky fired chicken). We also ate a little café that made great burgers (McDonalds). And we had pizza at busy lunchtime bistro (Pizza Hut). We know how bad it is to go to other country’s to obtain cultural experiences, but not try the food. It was our vacation and our decision how “cultural” we wanted to be. I do not regret not eating more French cuisine, and the chicken at KFC was the best we have had in a long time

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where we went and what we saw in Paris:

Eiffel Tower- Built in two years, the tower was the most important monument of the 1889 World fair.

We rode the trolley at the north end to the 2nd floor. From there we traveled by elevator to the 3rd and highest floor. We took many photos and visited the shops at the top of the tower. Since the Eiffel Tower can be seen from any other monument in Paris, by the end of the week we found ourselves saying, “there’s the tower again”.

Arc de triomphe- The Arc was built from 1806 to 1836 and its purpose was to commemorate the military exploits of France under the Revolution and the First Empire.

The Arc stands in the middle of a rotary. To reach the middle the city has built a tunnel that runs beneath the street, eliminating the need for pedestrian stoplights. The tunnel also diminishes the frequency of tourists being injured trying to cross the busy street. There were over 200 steps to climb to the top of the Arc. From the summit, there are amazing views or the entire city. Even more fun, was watching the traffic circling below you.

Notre Dame- The cathedral was under construction from 1163 till 1245. After the revolution the monumental and decorative statuary of the portals and towers were badly damaged. At the beginning of the 19th century, the towers, like the rest of the cathedral, were in very poor condition. After the success of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, a campaign was initiated to restore the cathedral to its original splendor. The renovations took place in 1845.

Inside the cathedral is as breath taken as the out side architecture. The stain glass images that line the church give a off a soft glow that bounces off the conclave ceilings. Standing outside on the bridge between the towers makes you appreciate the silent calm that comes from being high above the traffic and crowds.

The Louvre- The construction of the Louvre began under the reign of Philip Augustus in 1204. The construction took some seven centuries to complete. Originally used as a palace of the kings of France, it became a museum in 1793 and is now, one of the largest museums in the world.

While at the Louvre we saw many famous works, however we were surprised at how small most of them were. People seem to associate size with importance so I was surprised when I saw that the real Mona Lisa was smaller then the posters of her sold in the gift shop. We also saw “The Winged Victory of Samothrace”, the “Venus de Milo”, and masterpieces from all four teenage mutant ninja turtles.
Pantheon- Built from 1764 to1790, the Constituent Assembly decreed on April 4th, 1791, to turn the basilica into a temple destined to accommodate the remains of the great men of the Nation. Later the great women of the nation also found a final resting place within the Pantheon crypt.
Along the walls of the Pantheon are murals depicting French history. In the center of the room is the enormous Foucault’s pendulum guarded by a black cat. Ascending to the top of the dome, you have a 306-degree view of all Paris.

Boat Cruise-

After walking for four days, we took a boat cruise on the river. The cruise took about an hour and featured seating on a double decker, open top boat. The tour took us passed all the major sites that we had just spent hours walking to. I was a nice break for our feet, and the tour was given in English.

Moulin Rouge-

We did not sit in for a show at this famous landmark, but we did walk past it. As with so many other monuments and works in Paris, The Moulin Rouge did not seem to measure up to the size expectations Hollywood has placed upon it. Seeing the height of the windmill was a bit of a disappointment.
Cimetiere Montmarte-
During our walk to the Moulin Rouge we literally stumbled upon this famous cemetery. The graves and tombs are all above ground, and is the resting places of some well know celebrities including Jim Morrison, and Dumas.

Flee market-

As we were walking back to our hotel on the last day, we spotted flea market spanning the length of five blocks and two streets. We were hoping to find care bears only sold in Europe during the 1980’s, but to no avail.

Candid camera-

While we were walking down the street on our first day in Paris, a woman approached Ben and hit him with the bouquet of flowers she was carrying. We kept walking, assuming it was a case of mistaking identity, when we heard clapping and laughing. A man came up to us explaining that we had just been filmed for a candid camera type of show. We gave him our information and consent for the footage, and they will be sending us a DVD of the show our segment in on.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Paris in general:

We did a lot of walking while we were in Paris. We could have just as easily taking a bus, subway, or joined a tour group. We felt that if you are going to see a city, you might as well walk it and see all its aspects. This approach allowed us to visit a few tourist traps we might have over looked from a bus window.

Not only did we walk a lot, but we also ascended around 1,000 stairs. When we visited the various monuments and structures, the only one that offered elevator service to all was the Eiffel Tower. The Arch of triumph and the Louvre had elevators for the disabled only, while Notre Dame did not have the space for an elevator. All of the stairs we climbed were constructed in and continues circling ascension, which created a high sense of vertigo.

All the buildings we entered had an amazing architecture inside and out. Both Ben and my favorite part of many of them were the ceilings. Every ceiling we saw was as ornately detailed as the walls. The passages and stair wells were from a different time. They were very narrow with only recently installed railings and safety measures. This was mostly evident at Notre Dame, where to cross the bridge between towers, only the ten year old did not have to round the corners by walking side ways.

The people were not the rude pencil thin creatures personified in art and print. They were very polite and helpful, especially in restaurants when we were a little lost. The one stereotype that seemed to be true was the amount of people carrying flutes (long thin loaves) of bread home for lunch and dinner. There were also many people sitting in out door cafes enjoying coffee and pastries at every corner.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring trip:

Last week Ben and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We decided to take a trip together to celebrate, and see a new country. For our anniversary where else could we go but Paris? I know it is cliché, but why not? When would we be able to take advantage of being a two-hour plane ride away from France?

So last Wednesday we got up very early and headed to the airport. We spent six days and five nights in Paris, and saw as much as we could. We were able to get to everything we really wanted to see, and a few things that happing to be in the direction we were walking. I will blog about everything we did and saw while in Paris in the next few days, but for right now……..time to sleep.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An “interesting” movie:

We went with some of the guys to a movie down town. The theater is presented as an “artsy” type theater. No food or drinks are allowed in order to preserve the appearance of the theater. They show a lot of older movies and unlike many other theaters, there is no assigned seating. We went to see “Zardoz”; a movie from 1974 that, stars Shawn Connery, and takes place in the future.

It was an interesting movie, but not what we expected. There was a lot of nudity and tons of sexual innuendoes. I am not very familiar with 70’s film so I was very surprised at the content. At the same time the movie was hilarious as a direct result of that same content. It was a good experience to not be disturbed by the graphic scenes, but to laugh them off in the humorous mood as it was intended to be.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

God Paske! (Happy Easter)

Even though most people in Norway are not very religious, Easter is a very big deal. It kind of feels like an extended Thanksgiving because many people travel home to spend the week with their families. We are enjoying Ben’s time off by going on walks, sleeping in, and spending time together.

Starting Wednesday afternoon, everything closes down because of the holiday, and they do not reopen again until the following Tuesday. The grocery stores open for a few hours on Saturday for those people that run out of food, but other then that they remain closed.

As a result of this I have a weeks worth of groceries in my kitchen for the first time in nearly ten months. It is strange when I realized how acclimated I have become to shopping for food every two days. On Thursday I was sure that half of the food I bought would spoil before we had a chance to eat it. It then occurred to me that I used to have this much food in the kitchen all the time back in the states. That realization showed me that I am integrated more in to this life then I had previously thought.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New place, again;

Well for the most part we are all moved in to our new apartment. After one more trip to Ikea, the apartment is no longer in need daily used items. All that remains is the spontaneous personal touches takes years to place, such as photos from travels, and sentimental items from experiences not yet had. The apartment is on the first floor which means no more “soft feet” out of respect for the down stairs neighbors.

We are enjoying the fireplace / stove in the living room, and have lots of wood stored in our basement storage room. We have used our attic storage room for out of season coats and clothes, and some under utilized computer equipment. The dryer in the laundry room dries the cloths in an hour, instead of the two days it used to take on the drying rack.

Besides the amenities, the apartment was recently updated for a clean and modern look. We are really enjoying this place and are relived to no longer have to worry about moving. We are still waiting for the Internet to turn on, so until then, we are doing all our Internet activities at Trolltech.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Moving;

We officially move to the new apartment on Friday. We have been staying at our new place, although we return to the last apartment to use the Internet. The connection at the new place has not yet been activated so this will be my last post for a little bit. Ha det bra! (Good-bye in Norwegian)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ikea;

We have made two trips to Ikea so far to purchase items for the new apartment. The Ikea is about a twenty-minute ride from center of the city. Ikea has a wonderful bus service to bring customers with out cars to the store. Two special “Ikea buses” takes turns going to Oslo every half hour. The buses are fitted with lots of shelf space to accommodate all the boxes and bags.

The Ikeas here are just like the ones in the US. They are big and have everything from furniture to household needs. Ikea’s style is affordable, good looking modern furniture that you assemble your self. The items are also meant for setting up your first house, which means that they are not meant to last a lifetime. Since we were looking for items we can dispose of in four years, Ikea was a perfect fit.

We found everything we needed for the bedroom and the kitchen. The best item we found is called the “Ikea kitchen starter set”. Literally this set contained everything you need for cooking in your new kitchen. The set had pots, pans, casserole dishes, a timer, cutting boards, hot pads, potato peelers, scissors, a cheese grater, mixing bowls, Tupperware, every cooking utensils needed, and even a set of knives. Best of all, you got all this and more for about a quarter of the cost of buying the pieces separately.

Besides the obvious convenience of Ikea, the store is a nice destination for a day trip. It takes us about an hour to walk to the center, and then about fifteen minutes for the bus to take off. Walking around Ikea takes another hour at the very least, then the bus ride back to Oslo. After the half hour ride on the city bus and the walk home, we are pretty much done for the night. Just like in America, you never go to an Ikea on the weekends. This means that I go by myself during the day, or after Ben gets home from work.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bread;

We have been doing a good job with the food. We have figured out almost all cooking instructions, and the words for most foods. There are times however when we feel extremely stupid. A great example of this is rolls. When we first arrived here I bought some pre made packaged rolls to go with dinner. When we tasted them, they were not quite right. They had a strong yeast taste, and were a little moist. We figured that it was a bad batch and fed them to the ducks. When we tried the rolls again later that month, we had the same problem. So we added them to the list of things we did not like.

Last month at lunch, Trolltech served hot rolls. Ben asked Marius if the kitchen staff often makes fresh rolls. To this Marius explained that you can buy rolls that are ALMOST cooked, and you just put them the oven to finish cooking them. This way you can have fresh hot rolls whenever you want.

We quickly realized that these must have been the rolls we thought tasted like yeast. So we went to the store and found those funny tasting rolls. Now that we are able to read more, we clearly saw the cooking instructions for the “pre made” rolls. So we tried again and cooked the rolls. This time they tasted extremely good. I would choose these rolls over the “Pillsbury” instant rolls every time.

Monday, February 27, 2006

New Place;

We were really lucky and found a great place just down the street. We are subletting another fully furnished apartment from a young couple. This time the owners are sailing around the world, so they will not be returning before the end of the lease. The apartment is located right off the main street on a quiet side road. It is also just a half block from one of the many parks. There is a courtyard in the complex with a playground for the kids. There is also a laundry room complete with dryer! Which means that our clothes will be dry in an hour, and not in the two days it takes on the drying rack.

The apartment is a little smaller then our current one, but it is much nicer. It is an older building, however the apartment has been totally renovated. The original stove that was used to heat the apartment is still in working order and can still be used to heat the apartment. There are also electric heaters in every room including the bathroom. There is the same set up as our current apartment, of one room for the shower and another for the toilet. The best part is a huge storage area in the attic, which makes up for the lack of space in the apartment. Even though we have very little to store, it will be the perfect place for the bulky suitcases.

We are planning on buying a few things for the apartment to decorate it and add shelf space for books. We also have to buy new bedding and cook ware, which are not included with the apartment. Out of coincidence, we will have the new apartment the first of March, but do not have leave our current place until the first of April. So we are planning on taking our time moving in. It will be much more relaxing then trying to do it all in one day.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

“Life happens when you are busy making other plans” J. Lennon

I do not expect life to be easy. I expect it to be full of hard choices and decisions you just do not want to face. I know the difference between fantasy and reality. That life is not a scene in a movie, and that “Seventh Heaven” is not a reflection of the world. When a negative event happens, people are tend to ask, “why me?” I try to keep the position of “why not me?” What makes me so great that I am above suffering, and that for some reason there is another soul that deserves this hardship over me?

When Ben and I made the decision to move to Norway, we knew it would be hard. We expected confusion and the frustration that is inevitable when trying to acclimate you self to a new culture. What we have encountered has been harder then we could have predicted. The biggest issue we face on a daily basis is the language. Even though every one we encounter speaks English, all documents we get in the mail or have to fill out, is in Norwegian. It is frustrating when you feel you cannot function in the world you are living in. Even though it takes time and effort, we are slowly able translate a lot of words using a dictionary. We are stating to recognize common words, and we get help from people at Trolltech.

We have been living here for about eight months now, and things are getting easer. We sorted out a lot of bank confusion, I can use the Celsius stove with out effort, and we can read enough to be sure of our purchases at the grocery store. We were settled in our apartment and were starting to personalize it. However just as one difficulty was conquered we were informed that the woman whom we sublets the apartment from, needs to move back herself. So we had to rekindle our search for an apartment. This is also more difficult then it would be in America because the listings are all in Norwegian. Thankfully it is a bit easer then the first time we searched for an apartment simply because we now know more of the area. We also know which “buzz words” to look for. Such as the Norwegian words for, furnished, stove, storage, laundry room, and bedroom.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Skating;

A small group of us took advantage of the “warmer” cold weather to go skating. I met the guys at Trolltech and to my delight, one of them had a car that we would be using to get down town. I realize how silly it sounds to be excited over a car ride but the last time I was in a car was a German taxi. Considering we use public transpiration about once a month, and walk everywhere else, a private car ride is indeed a treat.

Near the center of down town there is a very shallow square shaped man made pond. It has an “island” near one end that is inhabited with iron deer. There are little restaurants around the pond and little sculptures of children. It is a great place for the tourists to stop, have lunch and feed the ducks.

In the winter, the pond it turned into an outdoors skating rink. There is a little shop for skate rental, and a massive bench/light pole had been erected on the center of the rink. There were only six of in our group, and only half of us could stay vertical on the skates. Two of the guys had been skating twice before, but it was the first experience for the last guy.

There were only about ten other skaters on the rink so there was plenty of room to help the non-skaters, and for the rest of us to go at our own pace. The best part about the skate was that as soon as we got there it started to snow. It was the kind of snow that looks like feathers, a big flat slow snow. It made the skating a bit harder, but the ambiance was so peaceful, that is was worth a little trouble.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dinner and a movie;

I walked up to Trolltech so that we could go on an outing with a few of the guys. The nine of us took the subway down town to an Indian restaurant. It was located in the middle of the main tourist street, just in front of the palace. We were able to ascertain most of the items on the menu, but the waitress brought us some English menus just incase. Even though we have been attending the Norwegian classes, and I know my numbers, I still felt uncertain when ordering “number 56”, so I resorted to English. Maybe next time I will feel more confident.

After dinner we walked about five blocks over to one of the theaters. We had ordered the tickets on line, so we only had to pick them up. In Norway you pick the seats that you want to sit in when you purchase the tickets. The seating is all assigned, so you have the ability to sit in just the place you like the best. One interesting “tid bit” about the seats I noticed was that there was no cup holders in the armrest. I have no idea why this is; I just found it an interesting fact.

It was nice to go to out to dinner and especially out to a movie. We have been watching the movies we have, in the living room on our laptop. At the theater we watched “King Kong”, which was a good movie to see in the theaters due to the nature of the film. It was fun to compare this new release to the original feature from 1933. On the walk home, we also had discussions about the graphics and the effects of the movie. We also learned from this movie that an enormous bug is always “scarier” then the large hungry dinosaur just out side your hiding place.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Classes:

We have finally been able to start Norwegian lessons at the new Trolltech office. There were a total of twelve people (employees and spouses) that wished to take a Norwegian class. Because there were so many of us, Trolltech decided to hire a private teacher to come to the office instead of sending us to a local college. Every Thursday we meet in one of the conference rooms, and have our private lesson.

Since we only meet for two hours once a week, most of our learning is done at home on our own. We were all supplied with a text book that included a CD, and a workbook. We have a lesson for homework, that we go over in class. The point is to work on the oral pronunciations, and have the grammar explained to us while we are together in class. We are then able to work on the translations at our own pace. The CD also allows us to listen to the pronunciations, to improve our speech.

Like any language class, it is hard and frustrating work. Ben and I are already seeing a difference in the amount of words we are able to pick up form television and the grocery store. At times we are even able to hear some spoken words, and understand the meaning. Of course we can only say simple sentences like “My name is” and “what?” but it feels good to know we will soon be able to get around in the verbal part of living in a foreign country.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sledding;

Trolltech has internal mailing list dedicated to certain interests that the employees can interact together in. On the sports list a message was left for an outing to a near by sled renting lodge. The idea was to take the new employees out to experience a Norwegian winter “sport”.

It took about thirty minutes to travel by subway to the mountain sledding resort. We obtained our sleds at the rental office and preceded to carry/pull them to the start or the run. The sleds consisted of two wooden rails with a metal strip on the bottom. The rails were attached to wooden framed square that housed a nylon fabric square attached with rope laces. The result of the construction was a heavy, sturdy sled that cushioned the rider from the bumps of the run.

It took about ten minutes to reach the bottom of the sled run. In that time you tried in vain to control the path the sled would take. Even though in some places the edge of the run had a curved wooden wall to herd sleders on the path, at times there was nothing to keep you on the track. I found myself approaching turns with nothing to keep me from going over the side of the cliffs. Other times the lack of sled control produced my appearance beneath the bushes of the forest surrounding the route. It felt like a ski run that had been “let go”. It was several miles long of mostly un-maintained hills where you could get up to twenty miles an hour. Portions of the trail curved around the side of the hill where there was vistas views of Oslo to your left.

When we arrived at the bottom of the “hill”, there was a platform to wait for the city tram to stop and pick us up. It took the tram about twenty minutes to return the sledders to the lodge next to the run at the top. Two members of our group were Girish and his wife Tahara. They are originally from India, but came to Oslo from Texas. It is hardly surprising that this is the first year that they have seen snow. They have been making the effort to try winter activities such as ice skating. Tahara was a little nervous about the sledding, but quickly got the hang of it. I could hear Girishs’ excited yelps the entire way down the run.

After sledding down the hill twice, we were all wet and cold. Most of us could no longer feel out toes, and fingers. We went to the lodge for coco and snacks. We all sat by the fire talked and ate. We took a few group photos before we headed back to the subway station. When Ben and I got home, we quickly changed in to our warmest pajamas, and sat together drinking one last cup of coco before heading to bed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

New Years;

We were invited to Frank’s house for a new years party. Frank does not work for Trolltech, but is friends with many of the people who work there. When we arrived Marius, Simon and Jason had already arrived. Also present was another friend of Frank, his sister, and two of her friends. At about eight o’clock there was a buffet style dinner. There was an assortment of cold trays with pasta, shrimp, and meat entrées. We ate in the living room, talked and listened to music. Mostly we talked about our Christmas’s and the different cultural experiences that goes with every ones respective holiday. While talking the group broke up in to two sub groups. Those that can speak Norwegian, and those that cannot.

After dinner, a cheese and fruit platter was served to go with the wine that had been consumed all night. At this point Jason was a little tipsy, but was having more fun for it. An assortment of chips and sweets were also at hand to wait out the clock till midnight. At about ten till midnight we bundled up, retrieved some plastic glasses and champagne and headed out side.

There was no ball dropping on any of the buildings, and there was no count down to the moment of midnight. Instead the sky over Oslo was on fire. We walked to the closest park to watch the fire works. The displays were not put on by the government, but by hundreds of regular citizens. People were set up all over the park with all kids of fire works. They ranged from small sparklers to huge multi colored rockets. It looked like the types of displays you would see on the fourth of July in the US, only multiplied by ten. The rockets were going off about ten feet from where we were standing. A few rockets exploded on the ground and although we all new that it was dangerous; the effect was still pretty cool.

Our group each had a sparkler, and champagne as we watched the spectacle. We walked up the hill for a better view, and we could see more fire works in all the different parks through out the city. The noise was immense and reminiscence of thunder. The smoke in the air seemed to magnify the brightness of the explosions. The seen was amazing and can just not be described short of it was the most amazing thing we have yet seen.

On the walk home, the men in the group amused themselves with sliding down the hills, which were ice slicks. Back at the apartment, we continued to eat and talk. Then there was the “cheese shots”. One of the cheeses served had a funky taste so the boys decided to mix the cheese with alcohol and grapes in a blender to make shots. Simon and Frank had the idea and only they partook of the creation. Surprisingly Simon found the concoction palatable.

We had a fantastic time at our first Norwegian New Year. We are thinking that next year we will either join in the setting off of fireworks, or travel to the fordge to watch from the cliffs.