June 22: And then she was 10!

Gratulerer med dagen til vår Nora! Double-digits today!

You will always be our strong punk rock star girl. Nobody gonna make you eat borscht.

Today was the first day of summer vacation, no school, no schedules, no plans. She tried to contact her friend Kristin in the morning, then ended up going with her to an indoor play place, then back to our place to play, then we agreed to a sleepover! A sign of a new era in her life, shifting focus to friends and growing independence.

She got the blue glass heart necklace, a souvenir she wanted from our visit to Sorrisniva, the ice hotel. When we were ready to check out the necklace was gone…and guess who had bought it and kept it a secret! She is slowly uncovering my tricks.

Our trip to Harry Potter Studio in London next week is also part of her gift (quite a gift), and she got Luna Lovegood’s wand as well, along with a Wonder Woman swimming suit! That will be good for trips to the pool back in Oregon this summer.

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June 21: Sommer blåtur

My colleagues at Ruralis have been extremely inclusive and friendly to me. The stereotypical taciturn Norwegian isn’t so common here, they are cheerful and social.

Two of them organized a “sommer blåtur” for everyone who wanted to come. “Blå” literally means blue, but in this context it means “blind” because the destination and activities were a secret–like into the great blue sky, maybe. “Sommer tur” is a summer tour or excursion. We were told to dress for the Norwegian weather (very common in any outing instructions, klær for norsk vær).

The afternoon started with snacks and beers in the conference room at 3pm! Everyone had a few and even brought one on to the tour bus, and of course it is good practice to eat, and dinner would be much later. Although they are already a cheerful and social bunch, the alcohol really improves the mood. Then a long bus ride, but intentionally longer than necessary so that we were guessing about where we were going along the way. At one point the bus entered a tunnel (there are lots of tunnels), and this particular tunnel has a traffic circle inside–then the bus went around the traffic circle twice, and went out the way that we came in! Norwegian traffic circle humor! I was glad that I wasn’t drinking yet, because I didn’t want to be the one to get bus sick!

Finally we arrived at a farm that is known to be one of the first human settlements after the ice ages passed. We had a little welcome from the owner and he took us up on a short hike that had signs posted where water levels or ice levels were at various points in human history.

We arrived at a gathering space with covered tables, a wide open courtyard with a huge fire, and a big deck looking out toward the fjord (pics farther below of the view). 

Then the games began! They hired a kind of comedy/music/group teambuilding duo that are elementary school teachers by day. They lined us up by “original” hair color, then made the blonde team and the dark team–with such a high proportion of blondes, I made the dark team. First, we got these foam puzzles–we had to make a cube out of the pieces, show the judges, then put them back together in the puzzle again. I made mine in the nick of time!

Then we went into the forest to do some physical challenges–moving from one platform to the next by only stepping on wooden planks that we could put down on the ground, but there were not enough to make it to the other side without picking one up from behind you. Heidi had good technique. I made it, but not at a record pace. After several more silly games, we had a delicious dinner of several types of salad and protein options, most from the Trønder region, with wine, beer, or other drinks.

Then our musical duo entertained us with Trønder music from yesterday and today. I didn’t get all of the references and couldn’t sing along like everyone else, but they were darn good and funny (from what I could catch, anyway!) We even got lighters with their logo to hold up during the slow songs!

The guitar player fired up some back-up music and his electric guitar to play pop/country songs, lots of people danced on the deck as the summer solstice sun shone on it. Most of us stood around and chatted. We got so lucky with the lighter cloud cover, it had been cloudy and rainy all week. But it was darn cold out there, outside for about 6 hours. The first and the dancing kept people warm.

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June 16: Tautra Island

Trond and Sylvi treated us to a day trip to Tautra, an island about 1 hour away from Trondheim. It is a wildlife and wetlands sanctuary, home to the ruins of a monastery from 1200, a cafe and gift store, and a brand new cloister. There are also small towns and farms right on the fjord. It was a delightful day and evening with friends, one of the last outings on our trip.

A long narrow bridge connects the mainland to the island. There is a large automatic gate half way across to stop animals from the mainland from entering the island via the bridge, to protect the birds and other species there.

We started at the monastery, and were thankful that the rain cleared up, the sky was richly blue, and the clouds were majestic.

The cafe was just steps away, so we stopped for a delicious lunch of monk soup (tasted like mushrooms, as one would expect a monk to taste), quiche, roasted pork with vegetables, waffles and cakes. The kids explored the grounds. Then we went to another part of the island that has a convent with a beautiful new building, built by some fancy Norwegian architects in 2006. The chapel is a beautiful sparse open space with intricate latticework in the ceiling so that the shadows shift as the sun moves across the sky through the day. The nuns there are part of a order that is dedicated to dialog between religions and host retreats, have a peace garden for meditation and contemplation, and many of the nuns come from the US and other countries. They raise money by selling soaps in the gift shop.

On the way back, we stopped for a bit at the fjord so that the kids could play in the water. When we arrived, we noticed a large group of girls in bikinis not far away…then they started migrating as a flock toward us! As they got closer, they were heard saying “it’s the wrong boy.” Haha! They alighted on an outcropping beyond us, then migrated back to their original party spot.

Then, of course, our kids had to get into the water! It was cold, and there were jellyfish, seaweed, and little crabs around. They didn’t go in too far.   We went back to Trond and Sylvi’s house. The kids were thrilled to get to play on a trampoline! And a homemade pizza dinner hit the spot at the end of the day.

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June 18: 4th Grade Year-End Party

We celebrated the end of the school year with Nora’s class–BYO picnic, parents v. kids fotball (I was one of only 2 moms out there, and only tried to get in the way), and performance in the gym. Fun times!

Leaving at the end of the school year worked out very nicely. It gives them some closure with school, everyone wrapping up and leaving for the summer break makes it easier for them to feel like it’s the right time to go too.

Nora and I were out there playing soccer, in the back here, just trying to get in the way…I mean…playing defense! Nora is rushing up to make an effort though (gray shirt, mid-left side of picture in back).

Nora and one of her good friends, Kristin.

All of the 4th graders!

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June 14: 7th grade Finale

Here in Norway, elementary school (barneskole) goes until 7th grade. Anders is in class with kids who have mostly been together for 7 years of school, and now they are graduating from Steindal and going on to middle school (ungdomskole) next year (which is conveniently right next door!).

The end of year, end of barneskole celebration was a performance by the kids–there are 55 kids in three 7th grade classes. Each class did a musical rock band performance and kids organized themselves into other small groups. They produced 15 different dances, skits, and songs for about 1.5 hours of entertainment.

Anders played bass in his class band…

Performed a dance number with 7 other boys–they were so great! He’s usually pretty shy about this stuff, but he resolved to go ALL IN! It’s better to be totally into it than to be timid–such a great lesson. Here’s a video of the dance!

He and his friends Jonas and Robin (the other 2 in the first part that are doing soccer tricks) also created a little movie–I had to take a video of the video 🙂

I have never experienced such a strong pull for a crowd to clap in unison, even in general end-of-performance applause!

The principal then gave a speech to the students about their time at Steindal and moving on to the next stage, then to the parents, then each child received a diploma and a flower, followed by speeches and honors for teachers. It was a long evening.

Then a potluck tapas feast provided by parents, and more honors for their teachers. Anders got his hair cut in one of the standard-issue Norwegian boy cuts, he considers it a souvenir 🙂

It is an honor for Anders to be included, after only 6 months with   them. Norway is a welcoming place. Kids from 22 countries are in 7th grade of 55 kids, although the US flag didn’t make it on the list because Anders came halfway through the year.

Norway, Sweden, Greece, Vietnam, Somalia, Germany, Myanmar, Thailand, Bulgaria, Russia, India, Sri-Lanka, Finland, Columbia, Austria, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philippines, and Italy! Everyone is all in.

 

During “culture time” the kids choose between music, crafts, or sports. The kids that chose crafts knitting blankets for premie babies. They were soft and sweet

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June 10: This week in Trondheim

Back to regular life in Trondheim, now that the holidays and visits are done. Kids are going to school until June 21, Ted and I are going to work most days, although things are slowing down now that Ted is done teaching. We are going to make the most of our last month here, enjoying the every day activities and making time for special experiences.

I found a cheap ping pong set, so we’ve had a Sunday morning ping pong ritual for the last 2 weeks. The outdoor table is fun and challenging–a slight breeze gives the ball some extra movement! There is also a ping pong table at the kids’ school, so Anders has played with friends there too. He’s getting to darn good. In addition to playing a traditional game, we now play “Skinner,” where we see how many volleys we can get in a row, then try to break that record (from Principal Skinner from the Simpsons, trying to convince Bart that licking envelopes can be a fun game). Ted and I are the champs, with 87 volleys. On Monday, Ted and I went downtown to return the library key and retrieve our apartment key. A few pictures from our walk downtown. 

We ate lunch at a Thai place. It was so good–but so spicy for Ted! They have 3 levels: mild, sterk (strong/spicy) and Thai sterk (Thai-level spicy). We both ordered sterk, but Ted’s was maybe double-sterk. He was having a kind of spiritual experience, you can see it in his eyes. But he managed to finish his Pad Thai and ate the rest of my green curry, so he had a satisfying experience.

Then we went to Work Work, a co-working space. Although I don’t really understand the working aspect, because in addition to coffee, tea, and chips, they have 10 beers on tap, a full range of board games, video games, pin ball, shuffle board…so it’s good for a break from work work. We did work a bit, then played Pandemic Contagion.

The new burrito place in Trondheim is getting into the border-wall advertising game.

This weekend, Nora played in another small tournament with her soccer team. They are getting their medals, she is at the end putting it around her neck in the picture.

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June 2: It’s summer, for the moment

The weather has been so amazing this week, ~70F/20C and sunny, not usual May/early June weather, but everyone is happy for it! Downtown was hopping today!

Nora and I toured Stiftsgården, the royal palace in Trondheim. No pictures allowed though, and it seems that the interior is the closest guarded Norwegian secret because I can’t find any online. We will have to buy their book for 25kr to take pics of the pics if you are going to get a glimpse. Or you can see it yourself. It is lovely, they have tried to restore or preserve it as much as possible from when it was built in the late 1700s.

A little gelato stop at a downtown stop, but we all agree that Franscesca’s is so much better. No contest!

On the walk from the bus back to our apartment, I asked Ted for the key and he pulled out of his pocket…the key to the men’s 3rd floor bathroom at the library. He used the bathroom key, then accidentally dropped our house key back into the basket when he was finished. They both have small plastic tags, not the big keychains that prevent a mix-up like that. Oh no. And no getting it back today, turns out that the library closes at 4PM, and we discovered the mixup at 3:58PM. They would not answer their phone. So our little spiderman (and the fact that no one locked the sliding door) saved the day!

The plan is to swap the keys back on Monday. We assume that they want their key back as much as we want ours!

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May 26: Trollstigen Fairy Tale

May 26, Part 4: From Geiranger, we turned around and retraced our steps back to Trollstigen and our wishes came true: no fog, blue skies, not crowded. The view is breathtaking and unsettling. Even walking on solid ground, some of us felt a little vertigo just looking out at the expansive space before us. Massive and ancient landscapes, puts our place on Earth into perspective. We are but a blip in time and space.

Looking down at the 11 hairpin turns that climb up to the top. We drove up this was in the morning, tonight we drove back down. 

Notice the viewing platform in the lower right–many of our pictures are from there. The front is glass and many of the sides that face the valley are also glass, so you get the feeling of having very little between you and the great big space. Many people have built cairns everywhere here. This is a particularly daring one. Balance. 

Rainbow falls!

Going back up from the viewing platforms. Grateful for stairs with rails.

Here you can see some of the paths with a rail and people midway up the mountain against the backdrop of the snow. The paths, viewing platforms, and visitors center are new since Ted and I last visited 13 years ago. The concrete, steel, and glass visitors center and viewing platforms are in harmony with the landscape while allowing more space to explore. It was the grand finale to an epic day. Grateful to share it with these good people.

One picture of part of our drive, much of it was through these lush farm areas. Spring has sprung, and summer is upon us. Most of us ended up buying an extra sweatshirt on our way up the mountain because we didn’t pack warm enough clothes for the elevation and ferries! Useful souvenirs.

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May 26: Geirangerfjord

May 26, Part 3: We reached the entrance to Geirangerfjord! Along with dozens of other tourists and many cruise-ship tour buses! A spectacular viewpoint of this quintessential fjord, with tall mountains that plunge down into deep blue waters, greens of the trees, summer sun, and almost 90 degree turn bringing cruise ships into the little town of Geiranger.

The panoramic exaggerates the bend in the fjord, but it captures the narrow channel and view points that wrap around the bend. 

Looking toward the town of Geiranger, with the huge cruise ships for perspective.

Looking back toward the sea, with the waterfall in the distance.

On the far side of the road, a waterfall fell from above. The water was channeled under the road and came out under the viewing platform. Anders used a very high shutter speed to catch a moment in the life of the water droplets.

There is a viewing platform that is artistically similar to the other viewing platforms and bridges at other stops along this route. They also have this see-though artistic viewfinder to identify features on the landscape.

We plunged in among the tourists for an ice cream and coffee break. Then turned around to re-trace our steps back to Trollstigen, hoping for clear skies in the evening, and eventually back to our hytta.

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May 26: Afternoon road to Geiranger

May 26, Part 2: After we reached the top of Trollstigen, the road comes down gently, surrounded by the snow covered peaks gushing with waterfalls and greenery surrounding the river running through the valley. We stopped to marvel a bit at the scenery.

Moving on, we came to Gudbrandsjuvet, where there is a small town and a cool footbridge that leads to a cafe…that wasn’t open. Good thing we packed lunch! We took our picnic down to the edge of the river. Then we all waded in the icy cold mountain river running by. The water is so clear it almost looks like we are not standing in the water. A fantastic picnic stop.

Finally, we took a ferry from Linge to Eisdal, a short 15 minutes or so but a good chance to see the scenery. Finally, we went through small farms and towns to the entrance to the Geirangerfjord–next post!

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