January 19: Friday night fun

Ok, this is it for the day. It’s bedtime here. Friday night homemade pizza and our first game of Pandemic Legacy, Season 2. The perfect game to buy abroad, play out, then destroy! Nothing to bring home!

I stopped by the store on the way home and grabbed pizza fixings. The dough was refrigerated, just roll it out on the pan. It’s not fantastic, but an easy Friday night meal. A little something for everyone on there too. I cut it with a scissors as we did at the pizza restaurant, and remembered that my mom always cut a sheet-pan pizza with a scissors growing up. It’s come full circle.

Pandemic Legacy Season 2 promises to be fun and challenging. This game assumes that the world is ravaged by disease after Season 1 (which we actually beat at the “disaster averted” level, so I will assume that we are cleaning up someone else’s mess :). We are survivors who are rebuilding supplies for remaining population centers and “rediscovering” areas of the world that have fallen. Same basic mechanics, interesting new story line. We even got to name our characters: TorBjørn, Loki Ulven, and Xåkø, among others.

Anders likes to play, Nora does not. She listened to audiobooks, colored, and hung clothes to dry when asked. We have a small washing machine and a drying rack from Ikea, actually the same model that we have at home. The clothes completely dry overnight.

It’s been a good week for the kids. Anders got to play bass in “rock band” class. Anders says that he is understanding more of what the teacher says now. If it is said directly to him, he understands 39%. If it is said to the whole class, he understands 34%. That’s a pretty precise calculation. He likes school here better than at Linus Pauling. He can still be a kid here, not a middle schooler. Anders had an extended indoor gym class today and had to shower afterward, first time for that experience and although it took a little courage, it all went fine. Everyone was cool.

Nora got to do ice skating in gym class and a solar system project about Saturn with the girl who just returned from Canada, so English was allowed. Nora had an easy time with her new Norwegian homework, so I asked the teacher to send home more next week. Nora’s class will have gym inside next week and all of the fourth graders will have their first experience with showering after gym. She’s not looking forward to that. She will be ok. She likes somethings about school here better, and some things about Garfield better. She misses her friends, but she is overall very happy.

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January 19: Friday Seminar and Cake Time

Today I gave a 30-minute seminar about my work for my colleagues (ok, it was more like 45 minutes with questions). It was very well received. We have many opportunities for future collaboration!

After the Friday seminar, we have cake and coffee every week. They go up and down the hall ringing a little cow bell to call everyone together, then we shared pieces of a large pastry (which I would call a Danish, but is probably not the appropriate local term) and coffee.

During cake and coffee time, there is a lottery for a bottle of wine. It is 5 kroner to enter (about 60 cents). You get a ticket with a number on it for each entry. Then one person takes out the winning slip, but hides it. They pass the bowl with the other numbers around the tables. Each person takes 2 slips and reads them aloud–those are not the winner, so the person with that number groans and destroys that ticket. We keep going around calling numbers until they are all gone–which reveals the one person with a ticket left! The winner is then verified with the hidden winning number. I was afraid that I would miss something and be left with a ticket without winning, but I kept up.

But I was a winner today in another way: I had an entire lunch conversation in Norwegian! I’m getting better! I’m a better speaker than listener at this point, but I’m making progress. I’m good at saying “can you repeat?” I’m thankful for patient conversation partners!


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January 19: My walk to work

Walking to work is one of the highlights of my day. It takes me about 35 minutes there with a big climb to the top of the local ski hill, faster on the way home. It’s faster, more direct, gives me exercise (about 3 miles, 7,500 steps round trip), saves money (a one-way bus ride costs almost $5 with my pre-paid bus card, about $7.50 if paid by cash).

On my 2nd day of walking, I chose to wear my hiking shoes and the studded shoe covers for the ice. There are plenty of hills and we haven’t had any new snow for awhile, so it is very icy in some places and the snow is very packed. This made walking much easier and more secure. I swear people must be able to tell I’m not Norwegian because I’m walking so carefully. Other people just cruise along with dress shoes or tennis shoes. There is some kind of mountain-goat experience going on here.

Ted came with me on the first day. First we can go out the back-side of our apartment area through this little wood to a street on the other side. After crossing the street, we go through another housing area then start climbing up and up along a path with a rope rail and lots of gravel. There are sand bins on the top and the bottom for the sanding crews.

Then we reach the top of the local ski hill! Anders and his class came to ski here during school one day (although he only had cross country skis, but the hill doesn’t look like fun downhill until we get more snow anyway).

The view of the whole city is breathtaking. We can see the fjord and the mountains beyond. The panoramic is nice, but doesn’t quite do it justice. I took this one in the afternoon light at 2:30 when the sun was illuminating everything.

It feels like an origami city somehow. We are in the center of 160,000 people, yet we have these secluded wooded paths that hop us from one part of town to another by foot, like snowy icy wormholes. It is phenomenal.

Next we cross another street and go down a residential street, on the sidewalk with regular bus and car traffic, but very quiet because it comes to a dead end with a bus turn-around. The horsehead-on-a-podium startled me the first time because it was hidden from me until I passed the fence on the right of me, then it popped into my peripheral vision! This seems a little ostentatious for the Norwegian sensibility.

We cross again and go through a fence and past a neighborhood swing set into a tidy neighborhood with smaller houses that are closer together. You can see one car parked at a house, but there are rows of garages in the low building on the left side of the picture. People don’t have their own attached “airlock” garage that takes you from your car to your house without acknowledging the outside world. These are not through-streets, only for the neighborhood cars and for walkers, bikers, and skiers to access the paths beyond.



The paths beyond are a respite from the city. There is a main path that is wide and groomed for cross country skis. On one day I came upon kids about Anders’ age skiing in groups; it must have been a school outing but I didn’t see any teachers. The kids were moving in well-spaced groups, as smooth and expert as can be.


On another day, we came across a daycare group (barnehagen) of mostly 2-3 year olds and 3 teachers. They were just trouping along, who knows how far from their daycare, all decked out in their full body snow gear, happy as can be. It’s so good for the little kids and so good for the caregivers! If I were taking care of a gaggle of small people, I would be thrilled to be outside for a good part of every day.

After the wider ski path we turn on to a smaller footpath bordered by trees. It’s a sweet little path that will be delightful in the spring and summer.






The path ends at this street and I noticed the solar panels, which we have not seen very often here. They aren’t so productive in the winter, but great in the summer!

Following along the road is this wide open view, looking back toward the path that we took through the woods and the neighborhood beyond.

After a walk through a parking lot, which I did not photograph because it’s just a half-full parking lot full of Saabs, Volvos and Volkswagens, there is one final path to my building on the Dragvoll campus. We are on the 4th floor, upstairs from the campus gym.

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January 18, 2018: Office time

I have an office! I have been working at home, but it’s sure nice to have a sunny cheerful place to sit with a desk, larger screen and keyboard, and a door. Best of all is having other people around to talk with, practice some Norwegian, learn from, and share ideas! I’ll come in to work here a few days per week.

Of course, Ted also has an office in his department but he hasn’t taken pictures. Maybe we can share that another time. He has been teaching a class for 2 weeks now and it is going well.

Ti-tusen takk til Kristine Lien Skog for connecting me with Ruralis–the Norwegian Institute for Rural and Regional Research. Heidi helped to set up an office for me and introduce me to everyone. I look forward to learning about all of the work that they do. There are many researchers and PhD students that work on natural resource issues such as agriculture and forestry economies, local and regional food, wildlife interactions with agriculture, climate change, and other topics. They have so many publications on the website that I haven’t been able to get up to speed, but I can see that we have a lot in common.

I am the “new Lillian” because I’m borrowing the office of another researcher who is abroad until the summer. All of the offices are basically the same. I like that space age chair, it’s good for my posture. Outside of my window on the first day there were all of these skiers playing games that looked like capture the flag and tag, looked exhausting! Our offices are above the gym, so there must have been some extra activities organized outside that day.

Everyone is amazing, welcoming, and kind. I’m “sporty” because I agreed to give a 1/2 hour seminar on my work tomorrow, followed by cake (regularly scheduled cake with the seminar, not just for me). Anders was also sporty when he went to band on his first weekend here. It’s a good use of the word!

We have this kitchen commons area that is across from my office. Everyone has a labelled space in the fridge, and they have everything–a dishwasher, a super fancy coffee machine that puts out espresso and hot chocolate, a regular coffee pot and tea pot, and a few snacks to share.

Everyone sits together and eats lunch every day, so I get to practice a little norsk. We can’t all fit in this kitchen area, so we go to a bigger room on the same floor that has long tables. Everyone from Ruralis makes space to sit together to eat and chat for about half an hour per day. It is a very friendly environment. There is one other American there who was happy to meet me because now she has more excuses to speak English, but she is married to a Norwegian so she has plenty of time to practice if she wants to!

A Norwegian Folk Dance institute is on the same floor of this building. The first time I came in, I followed some footsteps printed on the floor and it took me to their area first. They have these charming old photos of dance on the walls and hold classes.

I have about a 1/2 hour walk to work, which is very beautiful. I will post some pictures of that next.

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January 16, 2018: Skating!

Sleds were first-day purchases, now we went for the ice skates. The school’s little rink is pretty darn nice and the kids are picking up their skating skills quickly. And they love it!

Next time we will take some pictures in the daylight. It’s just that we don’t have a lot of that for long after school! We were out at about 5pm here (although it’s dark around 4:00). It’s great that they have lights on so that the rink can be used in the late afternoon and evening.

The helmets are great for winter sports. They have warm padding that totally covers their ears as well as their heads, so they don’t have to fit an extra hat under it. The kids can skate at recess at school, and Nora’s class is doing skating as a phy ed activity on Friday. The school does have skates to borrow, but we realized that we would get plenty of use out of them and they aren’t very expensive now, both the skates and helmets were on sale. We can just donate the skates to the school when we leave.

Anders also got a hockey stick and puck and is loving it. His friends will go out to play hockey at school sometimes and they will also play after school or on the weekends, so he will get a lot of use out of them, along with social time and exercise!

We took an epic trip to downtown to buy the skates then walked all over to several different sports shops to get them sharpened. Apparently there is a skate-sharpening convention out of town this week, or there is only one person who sharpens skates for every store and s/he is out sick. Luckily they were sharp enough out of the box for a first outing.

We also found one more grocery store that is actually closest to us, just on the other side of our little housing area along a wooded foot path. It’s a Bunnpris (Bottom Price). It’s smaller than the others but seems to carry more “ethnic” foods. It is the first place that I found beans and lentils! The only dried beans were garbanzos (super high top shelf) and the rest are in tetrapak containers, and were kind of expensive. Bizzaro world! Now I will know what to look for at other stores too, instead of dried beans.


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January 15, 2018: Norsk venner!

Visiting with old friends and making new ones is the best part of travel. Yesterday we played with Trond, Sylvi, Aksel, and Julie at our apartment. We spent a lot of time out in the snow, sledding and trying out the two playgrounds (lekeplasser) that are outside our building. This place is made for kids!

Anders and Nora enjoy Aksel and Julie, and the feeling is mutual. They love to run and laugh, they can speak silly simple Norwegian together and they are all on the same page. Julie let Anders push her on the swing for a long time, and they all loved throwing snow at Anders and tackling him. He’s such a good sport. Nora joined in the fun too, because there’s nothing better than throwing snow at your brother!

Trond and Ted has some quiet time inside while Sylvi and I went out with the kids. We spoke a little in Norwegian, but Sylvi is so skilled in English that she makes it too easy to switch! We will keep practicing på norsk, she is a patient teacher. They also brought us a beautiful orchid to brighten up our apartment, which is so sweet. Now I have to keep it alive!

We had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch because that’s the classic meal after playing in the snow from my childhood. Everyone was ready for lunch after all of that time outside.

Anders has also been getting to know friends from school. On Friday, he went to Jonas’s house to eat gingerbread and watch a movie and handball match. He was so happy to be invited! After he took off I realized that I didn’t even have the phone number or address for the friend’s house, but our responsible boy called from their house to give us the number and plan for when he would return. On Sunday, Jonas texted again and they met in the afternoon for sledding and video games. I responded to the text as Anders in Norwegian, which forced Anders to keep it up!

Jonas invited him to go to soccer practice this week, but he doesn’t have shin guards and hasn’t played organized soccer in years. He was up for is, but he would actually prefer to play handball. I contacted the nearby organization that has a handball team and they invited him to a practice, so he will try that this week. There is a girl in his class that plays on a girl’s team in the same facility, but he doesn’t know of any boys that play.

This weekend we also met our neighbors across the hall, they are a family of 4 just returning from 6 months in Canada AND they have a girl in Nora’s class and a 6th grade boy! She is Dutch-Canadian, he is Norwegian, and they own their apartment. Nora walked home with their daughter today after school. I asked if they had anything in common, and she said “well, she speaks English.” Yes, that is helpful. Nora got some simple norsk workbooks and homework from school today, which she things is so easy. That’s good news! We will work through the workbook and get the next one!

Anders is speaking more Norwegian all the time and is speaking it at home to practice too. He had shop class today and said that the teacher didn’t do anything special to tell him what to do, just gave him the same instructions along with the rest of the class. I guess the honeymoon is over and he’s just one of the kids.

There are a lot of buildings like ours in this area, which are a mix of owner-occupied and leased out to visitors like us at NTNU or other institutions, so it’s cool to be in a neighborhood of long term residents. The apartments are all joined in long rows, but each entrance serves 6 apartments, 2 on each of 3 floors. It feels cozy while getting a lot of people into one place. One favorite thing that our neighbor mentioned about these apartments: the building is warm and there is plenty of very hot water. We agree.

[click on pictures for a larger view]

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January 13, 2018: Downtown again

Today we took the bus downtown again to pick up a few items and go to the library. Nora is not impressed by the bones on display in the library entrance. This space was the city hall in centuries past, and when they were excavating to create the library they found these skeletons and it was a graveyard in the 1700s. If I were in those graves, I would be pretty happy to know that I was now in a library as a part of the city’s history.

The self-serve return system is cool, slide the books into a conveyor belt machine that reads the barcode and checks them back in. The check-out system pretty cool too. You use your card to activate the system and stack all of your books on one square, and it reads everything in the stack at once! It happens so fast that I’m not even sure I can catch it on video. They must have chips in the books that the sensor can detect. The kids are finding plenty of books to check out, and Ted found a several books as well. I’m using the kindle that I got for Christmas, so I won’t start looking for books until I’m finished with the one I’ve got checked out. It’s fabulous that we can still use the digital books and audiobooks from the Corvallis library collection.

Going downtown always takes longer than we thought. I had snacks with me, but everyone wants more than a handful of almonds when we’ve been hauling stuff around in the cold. Although Norwegian pizza chains don’t rate high in our experience, the kids were excited to try Peppe’s Pizza, the major pizza chain. It was better than 12 years ago, and still expensive, but a fun treat for the kids. You cut your own pizza with a scissors! As Ted said, you just have to enjoy the experiences and don’t fret too much about the cost.




Back on the bus home to catch the 4:00 sunset skyline and a little grocery shopping before everything closes on Sundays. Both kids video chatted with friends from home before bed. It’s fun to listen to them enjoying their friendships while seeing them reach out to embrace new opportunities.


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We are all “drittlander”

I saw the headline in Aftenposten, Norway’s main newspaper, that Trump referred to <<drittlander>> and there was a picture of his meeting with the Norwegian prime minister. The real words were translated into “shit countries,” although what was said was much more vulgar. Meanwhile, his short attention span and lack of any knowledge or historical context, accompanied by the constant undercurrent of racism, led him to demand in the immigration meeting with Congressional leaders that we take more immigrants from countries like Norway.

Guess what? All immigrants have a hard time, regardless of their skin color or country of origin. Our ancestors from Norway had it as hard as any other immigrants. They worked in low-wage occupations like farming and logging, struggled to assimilate, and even 2nd generation Norwegians lagged in income compared to the US population and other immigrants of the time. My dad remembers his grandparents speaking Norwegian to neighbors on the phone. “It takes generations, perhaps a long as a century, to catch up to the native population. …on the whole, the immigrants of today look to be on a path similar to that followed by Norwegians and others in their study.”

On the other hand, Norway today has become one of the most prosperous, and happiest, nations on earth because of their careful stewardship of resources and focus on income and gender equality. “Norwegians have it so well today that, … Norwegian-born people today are the third smallest group of resident immigrants in the U.S. in raw-number terms.”

Instead of asking for Norwegians to come to the US where they would face a broken political system and crumbling infrastructure, why not envision a US that carefully manages our resources and is dedicated to income and gender inequality, not in false word but in deed? And remember that Norway takes many refugees from countries that the US is trying to shun. Maybe that’s the Norway-inspired outburst that we need.

For the studies and statistics, because we live in a real world of real facts and history: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/01/12/trump-wants-more-immigrants-from-norway-theres-a-reason-they-arent-coming/?utm_term=.63b4e2cea987


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January 12, 2018: A Walk to Moholt

Today, Ted and I took a walk to our old neighborhood and grocery store while the kids were in school, 20-30 minutes each way. Trondheim has a network of pedestrian/bike/ski routes that cut through neighborhoods off main roads. You occasionally have to cross a road, or there are overpasses or underpasses to cross major thoroughfares. It makes the city totally accessible without a car. There are many people out and about, although I didn’t catch many in photos.

Here on a typical part of a route, the main highway that runs through the country is on the left (E6) and neighborhoods on the right behind the fence. They keep it well graveled because it’s so icy. 


The network of pedestrian/bike/ski paths is clearly marked at crossroads to take you to different neighborhoods. We are coming from Nardo (current neighborhood) going to Moholt (old neighborhood).


There are also nice stretches with open space. Here you can see the bit of path on the far left and it continues up the slope. You can see the cross country ski tracks on the side. There are apartments off to the left, and houses behind.



It seems like every path passes a daycare (barnehagen). This one had frozen colored gloves in the trees! The kids were outside playing on the playground. It’s common to see a kid in a tree. The Norsk philosophy is that if they can get up, they can get down.



One big slope up, these are not stairs! The sign says “snarvei” which means shortcut. We could hike up without a problem, but on the way down it was slippery enough to send you on your butt, so we gripped the handrail all the way down.


The trail here is all about the ski paths, no gravel. The snow leaves enough grip for walking.





We took walks through this cemetery 12 years ago, looking at names. It’s mostly the same, probably a little fuller.



An underpass on the route. Almost the same graffiti as 12 years ago too.




Our old little hobbit hut on Frodo Rinnans vei! This is Anders’ first home. They called this little complex “the baby factory” because it’s couples housing. I’m pleased that they still have the sod roof, neatly trimmed for winter.




Our place is on the right here, and the bigger apartments on the left are new. That was a grassy area before, and an old sport store has been torn down.


Rema 1000 in Moholt, our usual grocery store from 12 years ago, has been transformed. It’s much shinier now. This one is very large for a grocery store here. Some are small and packed so tightly and disorganized it’s hard to find anything. This one is mid-range; there are some that are fancier and higher priced.

It’s very common to find a wide selection of wool underwear at most grocery stores, along with tights and long underwear.


And they still carry yarn and knitting needles! I haven’t found another grocery store that carries yarn, and I thought they probably dropped it with their big remodel. Our 2 other nearest grocery stores have yarn stores in the same shopping area though, but I bet it’s fancier yarn. They are only about $3 each, pure Norwegian wool. More slippers on the way!


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January 11, 2018: More Friends and School

The kids love the snow and it’s really not so cold, usually 20s to 30s F. It’s much drier overall than Corvallis, so we are adjusting with hand lotion! It’s also so darn icy outside. They put down gravel on the walking paths nearly every day. Ted said that yesterday he was slipping as he walked home, while some Norwegian guy nearby in pointy dress shoes was striding along without a problem. Some kind of supernatural harmony with the natural environment going on, apparently. I’ve also seen women in some inadvisable shoes, but I’m loving my warm boots. It would be nice to get more snow.

I picked up Nora after school because Anders was sick. Suddenly she burst out: “OH. MY. GOD. We have a zip line!” Yet another perk at Steindal Skolen!

This morning we met with the kids’ teachers for an hour, and they are great. There are kids from 40 countries at their school! So the teachers are used to kids who are getting up to speed in Norwegian, but most of those kids do not also speak English. We agreed that they can push Anders with Norwegian by not using English with him much, so that he will get used to it faster. The other kids his age speak English quite well now, and some of them are not afraid of trying, so they are talking to him in English and not Norwegian. He is doing some extra workbooks from school to learn more Norwegian on his own. The teacher pairs up kids into learning buddies which change periodically (they pick names from a hat, I think). So he will get experience working with different kids.

Tomorrow in Anders’ class, the kids get to pick an activity: arts and crafts, band (rock band!), or gym. For gym, they are going to the nearby ski hill in walking distance for downhill skiing. They think they have equipment in the right size for him to borrow. Some of the kids his age go there after school just for fun, so maybe he will try to pick that up. He is also interested in playing handball, and the teacher told me the place where he might be able to play. They are also having a “ball” for the 7th graders this month (more like a party), and everyone hopes that Anders will go! He has asked about it, so I’m sure that he will be there.

Walking past the school on the way to the grocery store, I saw Nora and friends working together to get back up the icy hill. Then they sat together like a train and went down again!

We also agreed that the teacher could just speak Norwegian to Nora because she is used to that immersion environment at Garfield with Spanish. The kids in fourth grade are not speaking as much English yet so they are forcing her to work on Norwegian too. They paired her with a girl who is really interested in learning English, so that’s sweet.

Nora has been diligent about doing homework, a reasonable amount in each subject throughout the week. They have small textbooks and notebooks to write answers in. As she did homework, she looked up dreamily and said: “I like doing homework from books. I like this…yes, I like this.” Her teacher also said that Nora expressed pleasant surprise at getting to work out of real books. She will also get norsk homework each week that is at their level.

Funny thing happened last night: Our apartment phone rang (I didn’t know that it did that!) Ted picked up the phone and it was kids asking for Nora. They were downstairs calling from the call box–2 boys who asked to be her friends at school, Henrik and Sharif. They came up and colored with her for awhile, we could hear them chatting, making themselves understood in English and Norwegian. They even got Nora speaking Norwegian some. We told her teacher and she just laughed (“those two!”), and said that she sees that Nora is always with other kids and that they will teach her more quickly than anyone else, which is certainly true for Nora. Next week her class is going to do ice skating for gym all week, and they have extra skates and helmets to borrow. She will love that.

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