Monday, December 6, 2010
However. . . at 11:50, the first two guests arrived! As I sprinted to the bedroom to change out of my grimy yoga/baking clothes, the second family arrived! By 12:10, our house was filled with about 15-20 of Erik's colleagues and their children. Erik told me later he had gotten a text from a colleague saying he would in fact be coming to the party, but would be arriving a little late. . . at 12:30.
Having a houseful of Norwegian speakers was a disorienting experience, and a little overwhelming. After about an hour of the party, Erik asked how I was doing, and I whispered, "I think I'm ready for them all to leave now!" I tried to put my finger on why I felt so off-balance, and I think it's because this house is my home, it's my sanctuary, my English-sanctuary, and it's easy to forget that I'm in a foreign country here. I was a bit unprepared for the body-slam of Norwegian that came busting through my front door that morning. People literally poured in the house, some of whom I've never met, who I didn't know if they were spouses or colleagues, whose names I didn't catch, whose names I didn't dare ask they repeat for a third or four time "En gang til?" (One more time?), children who whispered their names, a few who looked at me like, "duh-we've met!" Then to wander from one room to the next, trying to play hostess, yet unable to just effortlessly merge into an on-going conversation, I felt like I didn't belong in my own home, which then reminded me how this just isn't quite "home" yet. I was grateful that Greta was a little clingy, as she also seemed a bit overwhelmed by the sudden influx of children in her home, playing with her toys and climbing into her crib (umm, hello?).
The other struggle that I have in both small and large social gatherings is my desire to blend in, and not be the reason that everyone must switch over to English. For one, it's important for me to hear Norwegian as much as possible. But on the other hand, I feel like I must appear to be either very shy or stand-offish, or submissive, as I stand there and say nothing, because I'm only following 25% of the conversation.
And 25% is just an educated guess. No scientific tests have been run to test the theory that I understand 25% of Norwegian conversations.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
|Christmas Tree at Maihaugen|
resplendent in hand-knit ornaments
|Pappa and Greta by the tree,|
ready to brave the brisk outdoors
|Julenisse spotted outdoors!|
|Lunching on grøt (rice porridge)|
|Cutting out pepperkaker cookies|
|Mmmm, waiting for the cookies to cool|
We timed our arrival to Storgate well. The nisse parade was about to start, and we only had to wait a few minutes before a parade of body-less decorative horse-heads and people dressed in elf-like costumes came spinning and twirling down the street. They were followed by a throng of people, many of whom were carrying lit torches--even rather young children! Mixed into this throng of people was a small brass band playing Christmas carols--"Joy to the World", if my memory serves me correct. We followed the parade down the street to a large Christmas tree which seemed to be already lit upon our arrival. At that point, the two adults voted that we were hungry (while the lone child was nearly asleep) and it was time to ditch the festivities and go get pizza. We believe the parade marched around downtown and lit two more Christmas trees, although I think it will be another year before we find out for certain.
All in all, a fun-filled, exhausting day, and we all arrived home toasty warm.
|As if we needed an additional reminder that|
we are living in a foreign country: small
children are trusted to carry flaming torches
in large crowds of people
|The post-parade blur of people and lights.|
Quite the festive scene!
|Our own very tired (but warm!) nisse|
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Now before anyone thinks, "Well, Emily, you moved to Norway. . . what did you expect?" I will say I was expecting it to get cold, just not this soon! Minnesota and Vermont have their fair share of bitterly cold weather, usually deep into January, so I am well accustomed to cold cold weather. But I was led to believe that Lillehammer had winters not unlike Minnesota, not like, oh I don't know, somewhere really really cold.
Tika begged and pleaded with her big brown eyes to be let out last night around 10pm, but once the door opened and that cold air hit her, she backed up out of the door, turned around, and went straight to her bed.
I read in the paper today (really I did!) that Storbrittania (can you guess where that is?), okay, Great Britain is also experiencing record breaking cold temperatures, also around -15C. On the other hand, in northern Norway, where one might expect it to be colder, it is actually above freezing! To which I say in my best childlike-taunting voice, "Welllllll. . . . . I've got Sunshine, Yes I do! I've got Sunshine, How about You?"
Friday, November 26, 2010
THIS year we invited our new friends, whom I will call R&M, and their boys K&S, who are at Greta's barnehage. S. is in Greta's class, and K. is 5 years old, and in the oldest kids class. R&M have been so welcoming to us, inviting me to M's 40th birthday party, to a workout group of women each week, and similar invitations for Erik as well. R. even jumped my car Wednesday night, when the battery died at the barnehage, and said to me in very clear English, "that's what friends are for." So, we felt they were worthy of the invitation, and they were enthusiastic guests.
We tried a number of new recipes, including stuffing the bird with dried fruits and nuts (delicious), and a tasty sweet potato recipe with raisins and walnuts as well. The turkey was basted with an orange flavored liquid, so we had a fruit theme to our meal. I made two apple pies and a pumpkin cheesecake, of which Erik brought one pie and the cheesecake to work today, as it was his day for Friday "treats". The pumpkin-flavored dessert was a new flavor for the Norwegians, and since they ate 3/4 of it, I think it was a hit.
And now a quick Top 10 Thankful List, in no particular order.
I am thankful. . .
1. That our house in Vermont sold before we left the state.
2. That our cars sold before we left the country.
3. That our dog is alive after flying in the belly of a plane during a hot August in Minnesota.
4. That we have a comfortable, warm, cozy home, if only for a year.
5. That my husband* is talented enough and intelligent enough and persevered long enough that this idea of moving to Norway actually became reality!
6. For technology that allows me to see my friends and family, and talk to them for pennies, if not for free.
7. For my family, who instead of crying "you're moving where?" said "This will be such a great adventure for you. When can we visit?"
8. For Tina Fey, who makes me giggle and proud to be a outspoken, liberal-minded woman in my (gulp) mid 30s with brown hair and the need for corrective lenses.
9. For my rosy-cheeked little daughter, who delights and amazes me every day.
10. That I'll be starting a level-2 language class in January**. So then, even if the class moves slowly, at least I can blame someone else for not challenging me, versus now, when at the end of the day I've learned absolutely nothing, I only have myself to blame.
*I'm thankful for Erik for many other reasons, too, but I opted to make it a Top 10 list.
**It's true! Just got the news today!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I received a few emails thanking me for my interest, including one who stated he had "responsibilities to the press, and maybe you would be helpful" (or so confirmed Google Translate, when I copied and pasted his email into the web translating service). The next email was a little more complex, and from a different organizer, so I pasted the entire email into Google Translate. Here is the response:
Send over the dates for voluntary work in connection with toilet 2 to 5.11 in 2010.We have 2 girls / damersom participate in our group, and there had been very very positive with a girl.Give me feedback when it's convenient for you to be with.Welcome, you should be!
My reaction upon reading the translation?
TOILETS? I don't want to work in the TOILETS!
How. . . wha. . . ??? I didn't get ANY hint of toilets when I attempted my own translation. How was this possible? How did I get signed up for TOILETS???
Ohhhhh. . . .
As I glanced back to the original email, I realized the volunteer organizer had abbreviated "World Cup" to "WC". And Google had translated "WC" to. . . . toilets.
What a relief.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
|Even Tika is learning Norsk. |
Here I caught her studying "Se og Si", which is
pronounced "say oh see" but really means
"See and say," which is so confusing I
still don't have it straight in my head after 4 months.
So, in the meantime, I continued my efforts at home in hopes that I might join the second level class come November. Just last week I received a phone call from the learning center informing me that the November class won't actually start until JANUARY. I politely explained how I hoped to join the second level class, and would this be possible. I was then tersely informed that "that class is full, and there is no room for you." Perhaps they didn't mean to be terse, and it was just the fact that they were being succinct with their English-as-a-second-language skills. But if felt really crappy.
I'm really not happy about what feels like my only option to join a first level class FIVE months after we arrive here. I've essentially covered a semester's worth of material at home on my own. I've also recently discovered a website with interactive assignments to be used with the Norwegian text they use at the learning center, and I've breezed through the first 12 chapters of that.
On the other hand, I'm also not convinced that attending classes at the learning center will be all that I hope it will be anyway. I've had at least 4 sources who have either first- or second-hand knowledge of the courses tell me the courses move extreeeeemely slowly, which can be very frustrating for the motivated student who wants to learn as quickly as possible. I've been told the slow pace is due primarily because the courses are mostly filled with asylum refugees who may have little formal education, no knowledge of a Germanic language, and are essentially being paid by the Norwegian government to attend classes and therefore have little incentive to learn quickly. This sounds pretty racist when I put it down in black and white (it also sounds rather black and white), and I am just reporting what I've been told, and haven't witnessed myself. But it does make me wonder if my expectations for these courses are way too high.
In the meantime we've come up with a few alternatives, with suggestions from other English speakers who have successfully learned the Norwegian language in Norway. I'll continue to hit the books at home; we'll actually try to watch more TV--Norwegian TV, and hopefully with subtitles; listen to the radio, even if it's just background noise; read newspapers and magazines; and finally, go to a 3rd grade elementary school class!
This last suggestion was made by at least two American friends now living in Norway, and was made possible by one of Erik's colleagues who has a 3rd grader at a local school. The school is an "open school", which quite honestly I don't know what that means, aside from the fact that parents are welcome to visit as much as they wish. The 3rd grade teacher, who I will call A., was very open to the idea of me coming. So last Friday, I attended my first day of Norwegian 3rd grade.
Those are some smart little Norwegian kids. Their Norwegian is so good! They speak so quickly! ARG! Maybe I need a remedial 1st grade class!
I've attended about 4 days (only 2-3 hours a day) of school thus far, and I can understand the jest of the topic of conversation, but not usually the details that are rather important. Such as "students. . . conjugated verb. . . book. . . . you can. . . . table. . . conjugated verb. . . lunchtime. . . . red car." It's very overwhelming, even though there are absolutely no expectations that I do anything. I've listened to a morning theme discussion about Hindu-people and how they pick a baby's name, the Stoneage people and what the first housepets were (goats and pigs, in case you're wondering), math class about volume, learning to write a cursive "R" and "r", and crafts where they sewed a button onto a felt pouch they had made and braided a handle. That was the first time I felt I could actually communicate with some of the kids.
Erik and I plan on visiting the learning center soon, and make a personal plea to let me join the second level class, letting them know that there is essentially a job awaiting me as soon as my Norwegian is "okay". We're hopeful this might melt their icy Nordic hearts.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
|Warm Girl Waits for Snow|
|View from the living room|
|Happy Girl Plays in Snow|
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
|Greta watches ballerina videos on YouTube |
(you can't see it, but she's wearing a ballerina skirt).
|Yummy British beer and camembert for Mamma, |
and Mac&Cheese for Greta
(it's called "Mississippi Belle"--how can it be bad?)
|I repot new plants into boring white containers.|
BTW: the upper left is not a "Christmas
cactus," but a "høst cactus" (fall cactus)
Sunday, November 7, 2010
|Zipped up to Buckingham Palace|
|Yes, they really wrote "easyHotel" |
on their walls.
|Art at the Tate. I know the feeling.|
|Charming Sussex church|
|Charming bride and groom|
|Charmed wedding guests|
|Chichester on a busy Saturday at the shoppes|
|Auben on a chilly but sunny Saturday|
|Third and final year as a Pumpkin!|
Greta was invited to a Halloween party on Saturday the 30th by one of the boys at the barnehage. Or, let me re-word that. A boy at the barnehage was hosting a Halloween party, and all of the children were invited. We dug out Greta's costume from the last two years, and agreed that she could squeeze into it for one last year. She was pretty darn excited about it, as you can see in the picture.
The party itself was an interesting experience. We arrived expecting a house full of kids and their parents, but instead found four 5- year old boys and one 5-year old girl, and the boy's parents. None of the 2-, 3-, or 4-year old class. And no other parents. So, we hung around the house for a few hours talking with the parents, while Greta mostly watched the boys run around changing costumes every few minutes.
Social situations like these are challenging. It's important for me to hear as much Norwegian as possible, and interactions like a small party or conversations are few and far between, so I don't usually ask that people speak English for my benefit. But I end up feeling very anti-social and submissive (not to mention confused), as I rely on Erik to hold up "our" end of the conversation and I just smile, furrow my eyebrows, and nod.
But back to Halloween. We live 2.5km up a steep steep hill, probably 3km from the nearest neighborhood, so we had absolutely no expectation that we would see any trick or treaters. I drove through town around 6pm and saw three small groups of trick or treaters--maybe 8 kids total, but no obvious signs which houses were prepared to hand out treats.
We may need to plan an annual trip back to the US over Halloween, so Greta can get a good healthy dose of Halloween American-style. However, that coincides with Election Day, and I must admit that I did not miss the election media coverage and the angst that usually accompanies it.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
|Living room #1 and #2|
I want you to make note of a few things before we get started here.
- We are renting this home for one year. We have not bought it. We could not afford to buy it. We can barely afford to rent it!
- This is not a typical "rental", nor, in my limited experience, is it a typical Norwegian home.
- Whatever home we buy will in no way be able to match this home in space, view, bedrooms, storage, etc.
|aka "playroom" or "TV room"|
|View from playroom into living room|
|Fireplace room, where pioneer action happens|
- FIVE bedrooms. We use two. But have room for guests!
- Owners are lending us their spare car! We didn’t have to buy a car when we arrived!
- Our dog has space to run and sniff and explore and lounge and survey.
- So much storage—closets galore, two barns and a garage, a basement.
- Tremendous views of the valley and Lillehammer.
- Darling home, cozy, warm, inviting. Feels homey. Our stuff blends in perfectly.
- Can walk/run/bike to Greta’s barnehage on maintained dirt roads in under 10 minutes. And we randomly got placed at this barnehage before we knew where we were living—and it’s the closest one. Amazing luck.
- Property backs up against the lighted ski trails, which connect to the Olympic Birkebeiner ski trails.
- The owners had apparently had inquiries from dozens and dozens of people wanting to rent it, and he turned them away (college students, athletes). But we were a family, with a kid going to his kids’ school, and he knew people who worked with Erik, and. . . here we are!
|Dining room (with landlord's hutch|
|Hallway of doors and mirrors |
|View of kitchen from dining room|
|Kitchen, with enormous fridge in the corner|
|Greta's cozy room|
|Lovely bathroom (with |
|Our bedroom, with door to back deck|
|Heavenly walk-in closet |
and view into hallway
|Stairs to upstairs, door to right into |
front hall, door to left into kitchen
|Front hall (also with heated floors) and too many |
hooks for people like us who have too many coats
|Front hall, view into laundry room|