Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are You Joyful in What You Do?

I know I post a lot about learning Norwegian, but I think I've hit a milestone.

Speaking this language has become fun for me. Yep, fun.

I'm not particularly good at it, and have trouble finding words often, but it's still fun. I get joy out of successfully communicating (and isn't that the point?).

In the words of Loris Malaguzzi (the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood curriculums):

"Nothing without joy."

Words to live by.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

'Tis the Season for "Refleks"

Besides looking before you cross the street, have you ever actively taken precautions to not get hit by a car?

Sure, you generally stay on the sidewalk, don't walk in front of oncoming vehicles, and try to use the crosswalks...what else is there?

Well, the darkness is the pedestrians disadvantage, and in Norway where the darkness sticks around and street lamps aren't generally expertly placed every 50 yards, you need to do one more thing so you don't get run over. 

That extra little step is remembering your "refleks". (Husk din refleks! - A sign I've seen around town lately).   "Refleks" are little reflective pieces that you hang on your jacket, or wrap around an arm or a leg. I was most familiar with the kind you put on your bike and never before moving here did I realize that people wore them...and enthusiastically! 

Taken from Norwegian Traffic Safety
According to that website in the caption, wearing refleks reduces the risk of being hit by a car by 85%.

Stian and I were getting ready to go for a walk in the neighborhood (where there are no sidewalks and poor lighting), and took the extra 2 minutes to make sure we both had refleks on our legs and jackets before we left the house. 

My leg with "refleks"
The arm and leg bands are basically slap-bracelets (remember those?)

This is what my refleks looks like without the light hitting it:

My reflective bear is tied to the inside of my pocket so I never forget it. 

And this is what it looks like with light on it:

Stian has an oil platform refleks from work (how appropriate): 

I can't stress how important these are. Walking on a dark street with dark clothes is an accident waiting to happen. As a new driver here, I really appreciate the extra clues as to where the pedestrians are. 

Some people take it a step futher and wear neon vests with reflective stripes, but personally, I'm satisfied with arms/legs/jacket.

Children are often seen wearing the vests (especially on field trips with school): 

There is refleks clothing for animals, too. Horses, dogs, and cats are the most popular. Our cat has a reflective collar (but he's dressed in mostly white so he won't really need it until it snows): 

Sweet little Potet was having a nap on the sofa.
'Tis the season for Refleks (all the way until March or April). 


Thanks Bodø Kommune for the picture

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Because Changing Tires is Exciting.

Well, snow is in the forecast. I'm hoping it's wrong, but I guess we just have to wait and see. But with snow on the way, we have to prepare our car.

Growing up in California, the only time a person changed his/her tires was for one of two reasons: one, you have a flat. Two, the treads are worn out. 

But in Norway (and probably other places in the world that don't have year round sunshine), you change your tires regularly. Twice a year, actually. Once to put on winter tires, and once to take them off and replace them with summer tires. If you're like me and completely naive to this subject, you might ask "what's the difference?"

In short, winter tires are:
 - Deeper in tread depth
 - Softer 
 - Studded (in Bergen, you have to pay extra to have studded tires - approximately 1500 kroner...a little over 200 US dollars - for the environment, apparently. Bergen has a slight pollution problem and the studded tires create more problems, so I'm told).  

Winter Tire!

Today was the day we had to change our tires. We found a big open space that was perfectly flat. I was super helpful by documenting this delightful afternoon (I really did have fun, actually). 

Stian did most of the work (big suprise!), but after watching him do one, I decided it wasn't that hard and that I would do one, too. 

So here I am getting my hands dirty and changing a tire...(and this post is about as fun as watching water boil, right??):

Using the car jack...
(all I could think of was the South Park song about San Diego "jackin' it, jackin' it, jackety jack!")
...and I thought it was super fun, obviously.
Loosening the lug nuts with my cross wrench! (See what I've learned?!)

Success! 1 down, 3 to go. 

Putting on the dirty winter tire.
It took me twice as long as Stian to do this, so naturally I let him do the rest. While raising the car up with the jack, the jack broke, which meant we had to take a little trip to the hardware store and buy a new one before we could put the last tire on. 

But the job is done and we're ready for the snow...

...sort of. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Sunny Sunday in October

It has been a beautiful day, and lucky for you, I just got Instagram (I know, I know...I'm so behind!), so I can show you all the gorgeous pictures from today. 

First, I started out the day by making bread. I've baked many cakes and cookies before, but never bread. It turned out really dense (I guess I didn't let it rise enough before I baked it?) and I didn't put in the pan nicely so here's my "monster bread." It's hideous, I know, but edible! 

Next time it will be prettier, I promise. 

With the weather being so nice, Stian and I went for a walk. A long walk, but a lovely one! 

Blue sky! Amazing!
I think I've seen more sunny days in October than I did almost all summer. I still can't believe how beautiful autumn is here! All I remember from last year is hail. Lots and lots of hail. Luckily for me, that's not the case so far this season, and we've been blessed with good weather.

Hoping for a hand out!

I love taking pictures of trees, especially in autumn. I have so many tree pictures on my hard drive from when I got my first digital camera in 2005, and actually, I've ended up framing some of them. Maybe I'll frame one of these one day, too:

That tree dropped these leaves:

My favorite!

En gamle mann ut på tur

I think we walked through 3 parks today, and I took loads of pictures in each one.

Lovely, huh?:

Bonus with Stian in the picture
I hope you're enjoying some good autumn weather wherever you are!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Ahh, Autumn.

Autumn has arrived after the mildest summer I've ever experienced. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't San Diego or my hometown at the beach. But, such is life - things are different now.

Autumn is here. With all it's color, and all it's beauty. 

Stian and I (and my brother-in-law) took at little drive up to the fjords this weekend to meet our newest nephew:

I couldn't get enough of the little guy!! Such a sweet baby. We're already making plans to go back in a few weeks to see how much he's grown, and also visit more with our simply darling niece. 

Finally warmed up to onkel Stian, who adores her.

Not quite two, she's bursting with energy and figuring out how to live with her new brother. I can't tell you how much it melts my heart to hear her call me "Tante!"

Besides taking in all the love radiating from the in-laws' growing family, I can't help but notice how beautiful everything is this time of year. 

The snow is already on the mountain tops (the last of it finally melted at the end of July...and here we are again!), and everything is starting to turn golden, orange, and red. 

These are just a few pictures I took from the car on the way up to Stian's hometown:

And then waking up to this in the morning took my breath away:

From the living room window at Stian's parents' home.

I've seen more rainbows here in Norway (and especially in good ol' rainy Bergen) than I think I have in my entire life in the last couple months. I feel like such a kid when I see one - it still brings me so much joy!

As if new babies, beautiful weather, and plenty of rainbows weren't enough to satisfy my soul, there is more to celebrate in the upcoming months. My mom, grandma, and niece all have birthday's coming up, and I am currently enjoying høstferie (autumn break...gosh, it's good to be a teacher!) so don't have to work all week. Also, I can start pulling out my Halloween decorations and start hunting for the perfect pumpkin to carve. 

We will be installing a new fireplace this week, just in time to cozy up as the darkness and cold and crispy autumn air settles in.

I hope your autumn is turning out to be as koselig (cozy....a really important Norwegian word!) as mine. 


Friday, September 28, 2012

How I'm Learning to Speak Norwegian

Living as an expat comes with plenty of challenges and experiences that develop a part of your personality you didn't know existed.

A challenge that we all share when living abroad is learning the language of the place we are residing. I consider myself one of the lucky ones: I'm living with a Norwegian. (This can be a blessing and a curse - I don't have to look up every little thing, but then I don't ever remember what something means even if Stian has told it to me one thousand times).

Stian and I don't speak Norwegian at home. We should. We've tried....sort of. But at the end of the working day, the last thing either of us want is to be frustrated because we can't express ourselves.

So, being the teacher that I am, I had to get a little creative. I made up a game and I call it "Det Norske Spillet" (The Norwegian Game).

It's simple, really. Because I'm taking night courses again (which means I'm also drinking quite a bit of coffee to get through my 3 hour class), I was made very aware of how limited my vocabulary is (my pronunciation is not bad, though...I mean, I sound like a foreigner, but it could be worse!). So, I started putting words and phrases in a jar with the English translation on the back.

When Stian and I eat dinner, we try to speak a little more Norwegian. Conversations can be quite dull, but if we pull a word from the jar, we can each make up a sentence with that word. I want to keep it simple and carefree, so we don't do too many per week. It's actually kinda fun.

Er du fornøyd? (Are you satisfied?)

I've also decided to allow myself a little money to spend on magazines. I know that sounds a little silly, but there are 2 Norwegian magazines that I like: Det Nye, and Tara Smak. One fashion, one food. A semi-ironic combination, but learning words about clothes and food comes in very handy, and it's always good practice to read recipes in Norwegian.

Of course, I have to throw in an English magazine as well for easy reading and my sanity: In Style (I can't get the American edition, so British it is, but I'm enjoying comparing fashion trends from the two places!).

I'm no longer bothered by entirely Norwegian evenings with friends and family (which at the beginning, made me cry because it just simply wasn't me to sit back and not  participate in a conversation if I wanted to). After being here over a year now, I understand a lot, and generally can follow along with most conversations. This helps to take the edge off, though, if I'm going to try speaking:

I'm speaking a bit more Norwegian at work this year, and talking to the cat in Norwegian as well. Both children and animals are easy audiences, so it's good practice. I'm stuck on the appropriate use of possessive pronouns (yours, mine, his, hers, theirs), but the more I actually speak those words, the easier it's becoming. Some of the parents at the school that I work at have complimented me on my Norwegian - which was very sweet, but triggered a hefty belly laugh from me. I can make myself understood at the very least, but I would never consider my Norwegian abilities "good."

It's a start at least, and I appreciate the encouragement!

My goal is to keep it stress-free, as well as sincerely fun, as learning a language should be.

Cheers to others out there who are forcing themselves out of their element to communicate in a different way! Don't give up because you can do it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I'm back!

We got a new computer, thank goodness, and now I can start blogging again. I have so much to tell you, but for fear of a ridiculously long post, I think I'll start with the most recent thing first.

Perhaps most important of all is this: last Wednesday morning I took my driving test. I had been simultaneously loathing and looking forward to this moment. It stressed me out to the point of tears on more than one occasion, and I think I learned a pretty valuable life lesson. Failure happens. Facing the fact that you may actually fail at something you've tried so hard for and wanted so much is a very real possibility. I had to prepare myself for disappointment.

I cried over the idea of failing because I needed this. (My marriage needed this - we simply could not go on spending our free time together trapped in a car agitated with each other's actions or words - all of which were driving related, don't worry too much).

On the morning I took my test, I spent 3790 kroner ($660). That was to just to take the test. Nevermind the thousands of kroner I'd already invested in driving lessons up to this point. Then there was the added pressure that if I failed, I would not only be required to spend more money on lessons, but also pay this ridiculous fee the next time I attempted to get my license.

Shall we say, uff da?

I feel like maybe this a good moment for the old Mastercard commercial:

Driving Lessons: 9600 kroner ($1672)
Car rental for test (required): 2600 kroner ($453)
Test fee: 895 kroner ($156)
Driver's license photograph: 295 kroner ($51)

Passing your test on the first try and getting that Norwegian driver's license (førerkort) in the mail:

I'm so relieved.

So happy.

And so proud of myself. 

I have my independence back, and I know Stian and I are quite happy to put this experience behind us.

Next on the agenda: learn Norwegian and pass the fluency test. I refuse to stress about it now though as I am still basking in the glory of this personal triumph.

Hipp hipp, hurra!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

harumph...I'll be back soon!

I was half way through my summer recap post, loaded with some great pictures of family and friends that came to visit, when I had to take a break (which lasted a few days). When I went back to finish it, I noticed my computer screen wasn't turning on.
Stian's computer stopped working months ago, so we've been sharing, but now that mine is no longer working, we have only these options: our phones and our tablet (Samsung's version of the ipad). Neither are great for blogging or checking email and writing long replies, and all my pictures are currently inaccessible.

It's likely I won't be blogging for awhile, which is unfortunate because I have lots to share!

I will try to blog when I can but frankly, it's really annoying typing things out on a touch screen so I can't imagine I'll do it often.

For the time being, I hope it's enough to say that all is well in Bergen! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet."

- Bob Marley said that. I don't think he knew what it was like to live in Bergen, but this statement might just define those who have learned to live with the rain in this Norwegian city, and those who haven't.

On one of the rare sunny days here in Bergen, I was practicing driving when something unexpected came out of my mouth:

"I think I really love it here."

I never really gave it much thought one way or the other, so the words actually surprised me. Thinking about it more, I realized how much I liked the mountains that surround the city I live in, and I've only been on top of two so far.

The two biggest mountains in Bergen are on the left: Fløien first, then Ulriken.
This is the view of Bryggen from the Rosencrantz Tower.

A few months ago, probably during my bought of winter blues, I read an article in a series called "city smackdowns," which compares rival cities to decide which one is better (this particular one was New York vs. Los Angeles). There was a quote in the article that struck me as I was a new soul to Bergen. I'm paraphrasing, but basically it said you can't (or shouldn't, rather) come to a conclusion about a place before you've lived there for at least a year. Suspend your judgement.

Personally, I believe there is a lot of truth to that statement. I felt so indifferent about this city, that is, until I suddenly felt love for it (and how strange that was almost exactly a year after I arrived!). After this epiphany of mine, this city has become even more charming than I thought possible. Perhaps it's because I've been playing tour guide (and not a very good one as I'm learning as I go), but I'm finding more and more interesting things and thinking: there's another thing I love about this place.

I love the rich history Bergen has to offer, especially Bryggen. I'm actually fascinated by Bergen's place in European trading and it's contribution to the story of Norway.

Spring in Bergen is a treat, and it was only then that I started to really explore this place. Once my glorious summer vacation started, I was spending my days going into the city center and wandering around, in and out of shops, attractions, and taking in the general happy atmosphere around me.

I finally started to pay attention to the city I live in. Warm, fair weather is a big help. I can hold my head up high and see the architecture, statues, parks, fountains, and buildings (as opposed to keeping my head down with my hood/umbrella pulled over my face in an attempt to shield myself from the horizontal rain that happens so often here). In colder months the object of the game is to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible, and not linger to "enjoy the scenery."

Thankfully, I've been lingering lately. And that lingering has led to love.

I was pretty sure I was in the right city....and then I saw this out my living room window late one evening:

10:15 at night!!

Double rainbow in a city I just discovered I might actually love?

Well, if that's not a sign of love, happiness, and good fortune, I don't know what is.

Friday, July 27, 2012

365 Days of Norge

One year ago today, I stepped out of an airplane in Bergen and into a new life as a young married woman living 5200 miles from the comforts of my sunny home in Southern California.

With the exceptions of a death in the family in November and a small bought of the winter blues at the end of February, it's been a generally happy year. Of course I've had my share of ups and downs, but I'm looking forward to another 365 days of Norge.

For now, I'm celebrating this anniversary traveling around Norway with my husband, parents, and in-laws.

I'm keeping this short and sweet, but will write another post soon with pictures of what I've been up to and where I've been. See you soon!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hooray for Preschool Teachers!

Sometimes I wonder what life would be like had I chosen a different career. Don't misinterpret that - I love what I do. I'm a preschool teacher and the variety show that is my daily job brings me great joy.

I wipe gobs of green goop from children's faces with love. I get daily hugs and odd little compliments, but I also get spit on and sometimes kicked or hit. Life's not perfect, but it's awfully sweet to work with innocent minds that have no concept of tomorrow. Sometimes, I even get surprise back rubs from loving little hands, or my personal favorite: letting them drive cars on my back while helping other children put together train tracks.

On top of that, I get to sing often (which I'm terrible at), read often (and create interesting voices - which I'm also terrible at), paint often (also not a strength of mine), and even bake often! Not being a gifted singer, storyteller, or painter actually has it's perks: I can't get any worse so I might as well make the best of it!

There is a lot of freedom and very few rules (except, you know, don't hurt them). I love that about what I do.

I often think about how I would do in an office job, and I always arrive at the same conclusion: I would hate it. I don't like sitting in meetings, or not being able to snack all day. I like that I can wear whatever I want to work (within tasteful reason, of course), and can take my work outside for awhile. I like that I have fun during the day and most of the time it doesn't feel like "work." I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but in a good way.

I don't do well with deadlines and once turned down a really cool volunteering job in Germany because I had to keep my fingernails short (I don't keep them long, anyway, but the fact that this was a specific rule in the information packet turned me off to the possibility completely). Besides, there's no greater satisfaction than watching a child master writing his/her name for the first few times, or even speak those first few English sentences. I love their obscure pictures they present as gifts with love, and the way they unknowingly skip over numbers when learning to count to 10.

It's hard to imagine a job that's better for me than what I already do and the fact that I can do it in Norway (or anywhere else in the world, really, there are small children everywhere) is even better.

Now, the thing I need to do is challenge myself to do all this and love all this in Norwegian. I'm not brave enough to make that leap yet, but the calling is there and I think that's where I need to draw my motivation to really learn this language.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy 1st Wedding Anniversary!

What a happy year.

We've set up a life and home together, finally spent the entire Christmas and New Year holidays together, and learned how to really get under each other's skin. But we've also really learned how to enjoy each other, too (not that it was ever a problem in the first place!). 

It's fun to think that a year ago we were surrounded by friends and family, celebrating our love for each other, eating cake and drinking champagne. Now we're alone (well, plus the cat) in our sweet little apartment that is feeling more and more 'ours' everyday. 

I can't believe how fast the time has gone by. The past year has brought about so much change for both of us, but all of it seemed "right."

Here's a glimpse of our first year as Mr. & Mrs. : 

Wedding Day

Leaving Los Angeles

Hiking just a few days before moving into our apartment. 

Moving all our stuff to Bergen.

More hiking in Bergen.

Fixing up the apartment (stage 1 of many)!

What a goof.
Our first Christmas tree

Christmas in Norway!

Potet came into our lives just in time for my birthday in January! 

We took our first "grown up" trip to Paris

Celebrating 17. mai together!

Enjoying the Norwegian summer....

...even if the water is so cold it takes your breath away and gives your husband a good laugh. (Please excuse our pale, pale bodies - it must be obvious we live in Norway!)
Our first year was a happy one. Happy Anniversary to my love!!!

An engagement photo (credit Sheila Arkee)