Thursday, May 31, 2012

Behind the Wheel

I'm going to share something I miss, fear, desire, and am currently working towards.

I miss it because I used to do it all the time. Generally, it was a very regular part of my day. 
I fear it because how I'm going to do it here in Norway is different in so many ways for so many reasons. 
I desire it because (I miss it, and) I'm sure it will bring a new sense of independence to my life in a new country. 
I'm currently working towards it, and paying heaps of money to accomplish it. 

What am I talking about? Driving. I need it in my life again. 

I don't mind public transportation. It's very good here and I use it often, but sometimes I just want to drive. I just want to be alone in a car, behind the wheel, music on, windows down, driving. Wandering. Exploring.

I realize that my desire to drive may not be understood by everyone, but I come from a place where driving is a necessity, and to me, a source of independence. 

A few weeks ago, I wouldn't be able to put this into words, but my lovely sister was able to translate my whining into something productive. (I don't know how she does it, but I'm pretty sure she can read me like a book. I would be lying if I said I hated it - she helps me nail down what's bugging me.) Thank goodness for sisters, right?? 

Here's an excerpt from a chat we had: 

but another thing i really miss lately is driving.
  just so i can go other places by myself
  because right now, if i ever want to go somewhere NOT in the center of the city, stian has to drive me.
  or i have to take like 4 busses.
6:56 PM Caren: that makes sense....being in Norway means you have lost a lot of the autonomy that you had...and that you clearly cherished

All I can think is: ahh! She nailed it! That is exactly it. I need to achieve autonomy again.

And so driving has become a top priority in my life right now. So far I've taken 2 lessons and they have been absolutely fantastic. My instructor might be the calmest person I've ever met and incredibly helpful. 

I have to take lessons for two reasons: 1) Norway makes you take lessons when you exchange your license from places other than Europe, and 2) I can't drive stick shift and we won't get an automatic car. 

So far, my dad, mom, and husband have tried to teach me. It's been nothing short of a disaster each time. My mother's advice to me when I said I need to learn to drive stick was this: don't have your husband teach you. Just don't do it. 

Oh Mom, your infinite wisdom never ceases to amaze me. 
You know I like to learn most lessons the hard way though and so I tried it anyway.

I don't understand how the car works, and my husband doesn't understand why I don't understand...and so we argue. And shout. And then get frustrated. And then I stall the car. And panic. And once I get going again I have to pull over and get out because I start laughing uncontrollably at the absurdity of it all - laughing so hard tears are pouring out of my eyes for what seems like hours and my belly aches so bad the only thing it can do next is burst. 

And that was the last time Stian sat in the passenger seat. 

So. Lessons it is. Rather expensive lessons, too. I'm not exaggerating when I say they are $100 an hour and you must do a two hour lesson each time. It's going to cost me about one thousand dollars in driver's training, plus an additional $150 to actually take the practical test. Cross your fingers that I pass because if I don't, it's going cost about $2000 for mandatory theory classes. Yikes.

I believe with all my heart that it's worth every penny (or kroner, I should say). Instead of flipping out behind the wheel while trying to manage the clutch, remember what gear I'm in, and fight every urge to close my eyes and scream when I go through a round-about - I'm calm. I'm collected. I understand what I'm doing (or am supposed to be doing, at least...we learn through mistakes, right?). I feel in control. I am beginning to look forward to driving instead of dreading it. 

Can't wait for the day my Norwegian driver's license comes in the mail. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Today, This Could Be Nirvana

I just have to share my enthusiasm.

It's Sunday and I've been enjoying a 4 day weekend.

The sun is out.

There are no clouds.

It's warm enough to wear shorts. You need sunglasses, too.

We finally have real patio chairs on our balcony where I sat to eat breakfast. I also sat there for lunch. I remained in my chair and let Stian make smoothies for a snack (last time he made them, he put the frozen berries at the bottom and when the blades wouldn't move, he stuck a wooden spoon in there....while it was still on. When I took in a big gulp, I found I had lots of wooden bits in my mouth. Not so delicious. No wooden bits this time, though! Everyone deserves a second chance, right?).

I'm getting sunburned, and I'm thrilled about it.

The smell of sunscreen brings about a sort of happiness and nostalgia that I can only explain as a habit of my life in another place.

I've been barefoot all day. (Not even socks, hooray!).

It gets better: it's only going to get warmer this week.

Mr. Sun, thank you very much for making this Californian in "rainytown" a happy girl today.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Hipp Hipp Hurra!

17th of May (syttende mai). Norway's Constitution Day - celebrating the day when Norway signed their constitution and became an independent nation - beginning to sever its ties to Sweden. 

I celebrated my first syttende mai with Stian and friends (both new and old). We were invited to a champagne breakfast in the morning. It was incredible. 

What a fantastic way to start the morning! I loved looking at all the bunads. They have so many intricate details. Bunads differ by region, so a person like Stian from the Sogndal area will have a bunad that looks very different than a person from Bergen or the north of Norway. 

My biggest priority for the day was to go into the city to watch the parade and take in all the action. I wasn't sure this was going to happen as we were in a house pretty far away, and just about everyone was drinking. Luckily, some other people wanted to go, so we ended up taking a bus. 

It was incredibly crowded, but I loved it. 
We tried to catch the parade, but only saw a little bit of it.

The Fire Station

Motor bikes...they did a few tricks

Hipp hipp hurra for syttende mai!! 

Super expensive balloons and bunads everywhere! Many of the strollers were decked out with Norwegian flags too!

My friend Astrid and I near the fish market. 

We spent a lot time walking around, until we found a pub that had somewhere to sit. The whole city looked like walking umbrellas.

drinks all around!
I absolutely love this bunad pin! I want one for next year. 

I just love it!!! On my Christmas list for next year. :)
It was a great first syttende mai. We didn't have any of the traditional foods in the afternoon (namely rømmegrøt -sour cream porridge, and hot dogs and ice cream), but there's always next year! 

Gratulerer med dagen! Hipp Hipp Hurra!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Reflection.

Ahh, college. (Or if you're English/European: ahhh, uni.)

I believe there is one harsh reality that many people face after graduation: that life isn't actually like what you experienced while getting your degree. (I think we all sort of knew that from the beginning, but refused to believe it).

For whatever unknown reason, I've been rather contemplative about my time college (ahem, "uni"). Being surrounded by people mostly your own age with rather similar life experiences isn't 'the real world.' The ability to go out on a week night to enjoy happy hour to it's fullest extent isn't the real world, either. I can't even find the energy to talk to other people after work during the week these days! It's pathetic. I used to be bounding with energy, with outgoing flare, with longer blonder hair and sun-kissed skin.

But things change.

And they always will.

Nothing lasts forever, not really.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to return the old stomping grounds of San Diego. I can imagine driving down interstate 8 and then highway 163, popping into Fashion Valley for some shopping in the gorgeous outdoor mall (littered with sunshine) then grabbing the hands-down best chicken salad sandwich from Boudin's and taking it to the beach.

Gone are the days in summer when I practically wore my swim suit as underwear and always had a beach towel in the trunk of my car because I just never knew whose pool I might be swimming in that day or if I'd end up on Garnet Ave in Pacific Beach for a taco, a beer, and some beach time.

On Garnet. source

Gone are the days of my Reef sandals worn with everything. (I'm pretty sure I didn't own a real pair of shoes while I lived in San Diego). I bought a new pair every year because I had worn them down to paper-like thinness.


I miss the San Diego Zoo and my annual pass so that I could visit it at a moment's notice. On bad days, I would go by myself and take in all the things that are bigger than me. On good days, I would go by myself and take in all the things are bigger than me with a different perspective. My favorite spot was on the bench facing the giraffe's. They are magnificent, marvelous creatures. On really good days, I would go with friends and we would laugh our way through the place.


The simple drive to the zoo on highway 163 (in the other direction from the mall) was enough loveliness for a day with it's dappled shade and pretty bridges.


I miss Balboa Park with all it's beauty. I could quite literally wake up and go smell the roses in the rose garden. I could bring sunscreen, a bottle of water, and a book and sit there for most of the day amongst the color, the aroma, the bees, the sun. I could look up from my book and see someone else appreciating the beauty of it, too. I could listen to the chit-chat, the fountains, the wind, nothing. I could go home to my cool tiled floor, open the sliding glass door of my old bedroom, flip on some music, and write my paper in the shade of the covered patio in my backyard before heading off to class in the welcome coolness of the evening. 

source - The Rose Gardens. 

Balboa Park

If my life hadn't led me where I am today, I believe I would have ended up back in San Diego. But here's the catch: it wouldn't be the same San Diego that I knew. There are no more papers to write. There is no one to laugh with at the zoo or have a drink with at the beach. The people have all moved on and away. They are all somewhere else, doing something else. They were what mattered most and it wouldn't be the same without them. 

My sweetest memories of San Diego? My final year, living in that house with the ever-cool tiled floor. Because in that house, friends came to visit often, and I began to walk the road that led me all the way to Bergen. When I lived in that house, I was preparing to move on and didn't even realize it. I met the man I was going to marry and all of his wonderful friends, and learned more about myself than I had ever anticipated knowing. I was in a perfect state of autonomy. Life was good. 

Life is good now, too, but for reasons completely different that I can't quite explain yet (maybe because I don't understand). In time, I will. It's all part of this transition, part of this journey that I knew I would be experiencing...this trip From Freeways to Fjords. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Paris - The Very Last One

I am so happy to be finishing this mini-series of blog posts! In the past, my family (mainly grandma and mom) have handed me journals before leaving for a big vacation, instructing me to write down anything and everything because I won't remember it later. While I toted those journals along, I don't think I ever once wrote anything down. In a way, I wished had, but we can't go back in time and change the things we didn't do, now can we?

So this is my journal. My goal is to eventually turn this blog into a book (not a published piece of work, but more of a coffee table collection of personal experiences). A journal (this journal) contains the pictures, memories, feelings of excitement/frustration/gain/loss/and happiness of a girl in a country that isn't her own.

These are memories of my first 'grown-up' trip. In the airport on the way home from Paris, I told Stian that I really felt like a "grown-up": we're married, we're taking our first "real" vacation together that we paid for with some of our savings from our full-time jobs (after, you know, paying the mortgage, the bills, setting aside money to replace our rusty little car, etc.). We're grown-ups....on a budget. It's not all it's cracked up to be, folks!

Our last day in Paris was actually just our last morning in Paris. We got up, stored our bags, checked out of the hotel, and got our last cups of coffee and croissants (and with great relief - do people really eat a croissant every morning there? I was so excited to come home to my boring boiled eggs breakfast - full of protein and lacking in sugar).

We had read about a little spot tucked away near our hotel called the Luxembourg Gardens. It wasn't a far walk and I wish we could have spent more time there. The sun was shining on this beautiful Sunday morning in Paris, and there seemed no better place to be than in the vast and beautiful gardens hidden in this part of town.

It was apparently part of the locals running routine - if I lived near there, I might take up running through there as well! It was beautiful. Interesting statues everywhere and lots of flowers in bloom.

What I really loved about this place was that it seemed that the locals brought their mini sail boats to float around in the pond:

And there were ducks! 

I could have stayed in these gardens for hours. What a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning in the Spring. It was quiet, it wasn't crowded, and people were amusing themselves with something other than a computer or phone. How refreshing!

We couldn't stay long...after all, we had macarons to buy before we hopped on the train to the airport!

The perfect airport snack. 
That was it. A short but sweet morning in Paris before heading home to Bergen. 

I just have to share this quote from Betty White: 

"Facebook just sounds like a drag. In my day, seeing pictures of people's vacations was considered a punishment." 

So, sorry if these posts have been torture...but you didn't have to read. With that, I leave you with "Jubilee" from a night walking around in Paris. Watch the dancer. (To be fixed soon: the video is not uploading correctly!). 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Paris - Part 4 - The Last Full Day

I nearly forgot to post about the end of the trip in Paris! Whoops.

Our last day and a half in Paris included jumping in front of big tourist attractions to snap a picture or two and say we've been there, unknowingly buying 6 pieces of string at a ridiculous price, eating cheap at McDonald's (really, the string was expensive), having a credit card declined (and then later finding the 300 Euros you were looking for in your wallet at the hotel), feasting on crepes, and watching French music videos. 

It was tourist day for us. We hopped on the metro and headed to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur after our coffee and croissant breakfast. 

The walk to Montmartre showed us the not so glamorous side of Paris, but that all changed as we climbed the steps to the Sacre Coeur. What a stunning place!
Those stairs were a nice early morning work out!

The view. 

When we got to the bottom, some friendly guys were there and reached out to shake our hands. Then they said "oh, let me see your finger!" and immediately started tying a string around it, all the while being incredibly distracting spewing stupid English phrases they could have only learned from movies. It was entertaining, I'll admit, but we knew what they were up to. Stian and I were both chatting to them, all the while thinking that we didn't have any small change. There was a kitschy souvenir shop just nearby, and I had planned to pop in there to make change for the big bills I had and give them maybe a euro for the bracelets they had made (that we didn't really want...). I started to walk away, and turned around only to find my dear husband had just handed over 20 euros. 

I won't tell you what I was thinking, but this could be lesson # 1 in communication with your significant other. 

They got 20 euros for 6 pieces of string they tied around our wrists. We, stupid tourists, fell into the trap they set at the bottom of Montmartre. Not a great start to the day for us, but they did quite well! 

We moved on, and headed for the Champs E'lysees with our first stop being the Arc de Triomphe. The lines were too long to care so we just looked at it (like most things in Paris, it's massive!) and snapped a few pictures. 

The biggest roundabout ever!

From here, we walked the entire length of the Champs Elysees...all the way to the Louvre. That wasn't exactly our plan as were really hoping to find a bicycle kiosk, but we made it. (I'm quite proud actually...walking the entire Champs Elysees AND the walk from Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., to the Lincoln Memorial are two major life accomplishments in my book!). We took a little rest in McDonald's for lunch, and attempted to buy a new watch from Swatch. Attempted. We couldn't seem to figure out how we had spent so much money (only to realize later that evening that we had nearly 300 euros in cash back in the hotel), and our bank cards were declined. Slightly embarrassing, but it happens. 

On our stroll (hike?) down Champs Elysees: 

The Concorde (I couldn't tell you the significance...) with the Arc de Triomphe in the background: 

And we made it to the Louvre: 

We were there!

We didn't go in because the lines were horrendous here as well. And that was really no problem - after a walk like that last thing I wanted to do is drag my aching feet through a crowded museum.

We popped back over to the Eiffel Tower to snap a few pictures in the during the day before heading back to our hotel. 

The sun was trying so hard to come out!

Goofin' around: 

Enough of the Eiffel Tower...we moved on to behind the Notre Dame where we devoured some delicious crepes: 

I got sweet with nutella and bananas, and he got savory with ham and cheese. yum. 

We spent about 20 minutes looking for the lock we put up the day before (it's 19 or 20 fence posts over from the Notre Dame side of the river, fyi) - there are too many!

I got sucked into an children's act with a street performer, and he gave me a heart-shaped balloon when it was over: 

That night, we went to a few cafes for some popcorn and wine before deciding it would be way cheaper to buy a bottle at the grocery store, plus a few French goodies. 

So on our last night in Paris, having walked many miles and seen what we came to see, we sat in our hotel room drinking a bottle of wine, eating chocolatey dinosaur cookies, packing our suitcases, and watching French music videos. 

There's one final vacation post to come!