Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ha Det Bra Norge!

I do stuff like … conclude my five-month adventure in Norway.

With everything going on right now, being my last day here I figured I should write one last hooray blog, so here are a few things that have gone on in the last few weeks: I wrote two big papers and turned them in as exams for my education class, I took a six hour written exam over Language and Didactics in three hours, and I took a four hour written exam on American history and literature in an hour and a half and let’s all pray I passed. Their test taking protocol is insane; you have to look up your assigned room and testing number online before you go up to school. You have to arrive fifteen minutes early and once you check in you can’t leave for the first hour, after that you can take five-minute breaks with one of the proctors following you. You are not allowed to have your purse or bag next to you, it has to be against the wall in the front or back of the classroom, and lastly they explain all of the instructions in Norwegian and the proctors don’t speak English. Awesome.

Another crazy aspect of my last few days here has been the cleaning. In order to get signed out to leave we have to have the cleaning lady from SiA come and inspect our rooms. We were given a checklist of what is needed to be clean and were told when she would come check it out. If it is not clean enough we are charged 70 nok per square meter (almost $12) after we leave for her to clean it. This is no ordinary inspection either, she doesn’t just walk through and look around … oh nei… she has her special spray and a handful of ghostly white towels. She pulls out your stove and bed and sprays and wipes down the floor and walls in all the corners and looks at her rag to see if it is still white; if not looks like you have more work to do.

The hardest part for sure of this last week has been saying goodbye to everyone that I’ve met here and become close to. I’ve walked some of my friends downtown to the train station at all hours of the night and morning to say goodbye. Right now my roommate and I are the only American exchange students left here and are leaving tomorrow morning. Which reminds me I have laundry in the ridiculous excuse for a washing machine and I have more packing to do. Oh how I dread packing.

Thank you all for having gone through this experience with me by reading my blog and keeping up with where I am and what I’m doing. Sorry my writing has been so sporadic these last few weeks. I appreciate all the prayers and thoughts as I get on the plane tomorrow and fly 4,936 miles leaving my life here to start again back in the good ol’ USA. I hope to see you all soon, ha det bra!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

dirty + washing = clean?

I do stuff like … laundry (klesvask). Except its not the kind of laundry you would think of at home. Usually when someone does laundry the equation is pretty simple… put in dirty clothes… add soap… and get clean clothes. However over here I can never seem to get the final sum correct. Of course there are variables that affect my results, for instance the ridiculously small washer, the cost of washing and drying (10 nok for wash and 10 for dry) ergo I don’t use the dryer I just hang everything around my room. I have to remind myself not to get excited about what should be the accurate outcome because I now realize that when I put in dirty clothing the result is equivalent, only now the clothes are not only dirty but also wet.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Here's lookin' at you, kid"

I do stuff like... realize I'm not very cultured.

After talking with many people about cultures and society I realized that when it comes to films I am embarrassingly not familiar with many of the classics. In order to motivate myself to study efficiently for my Norwegian style exams coming up I have set myself an attainable goal. I will study for as long as I can and reward myself with taking time to watch a movie; not just any movie.
At 19 years old I have just come to the obvious conclusion that there are more than only funny love stories in the world of film. Like many women I inevitably love romantic comedies and until now I did not understand why anyone would watch something else. Then after viewing movies (many old ones) with genres such as action, drama, crime, and yes even thriller I am fully aware why people love so many different films. As a result of watching such classic movies I have already noticed allusions from my past that I never understood. For example in the show "The Modern Family", uncle Cameron references Casablanca which I never grasped (but laughed anyway). In my favorite movie The Holiday (predictably a love story) Miles quotes Casablanca which I never got the full effect of until now.
Seeing movies with a plot set in Europe has also changed my view of many situations such as World War II. For example seeing The Pianist and The Reader has given me a different perspective on the war than I've ever thought about. It also makes history become more realistic to me because I've now actually been to some of the places where these battles and catastrophes have taken place.
My current goal is to go through the Internet Movie Database and just go down the list of the top 250 movies of all time. Now obviously I will never have time to watch all of them and as expected I have heard of but never seen most of them. Going down the list I just have one exception, I will not watch a movie categorized as horror. Stepping outside of romantic comedy is like experiencing another whole part of the world. However I am not ready (nor do I see myself ever being ready) to experience the horror bit of it.
Living in Norway has challenged me to learn all that I can, experience all that I can, and be all that I can. Setting a goal to watch movies is a lame example but like Wesley Gibson asked in the final scene of Wanted ... "What have you done lately?"

(and ok if you've seen "Wanted" you know that he actually adds another word in there that I left out, but the question remains...)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Roligheden Barnehage

I do stuff like… go on an excursion to Roligheden Barnehage.

This morning we had our last excursion for our International and Comparative education class. We went to a kindergarten that was actually right across the street from my apartment. When we got there the supervisor had a PowerPoint explaining the history and main aims of the barnehage. We sat in little chairs and drank little cups of tea and coffee. After the presentation we had a little tour of the little school; she showed us where the students take naps … outside. There was a little room filled with strollers that opened up to the outside, this is where the students take their naps… year round.

Four days a week the nature groups go outside no matter what. Today we got to observe what they do when they are outside in the nature. I was quite surprised at the sight before me. There were two four-year-old boys sitting on a log carving wood with knives… sharp knives. Not only was I shocked that the boys were not really being supervised, I was also caught off guard by how well they handled the knives.

Right behind the carving boys I looked up to see three small girls easily climbing up and down the massive rocks. On the other side there was a boy climbing a tree and counting pinecones while under him was a game of impressively played soccer by the children.

Beyond the small soccer field was one of the helpers harnessing up a small girl who then scaled the miniature mountain and then repelled back down with her rope as if it were as simple as walking. She hurried over to join her two of her friends that were getting their little lunch packs out of their little hiking bags. It was then that I realized that these were the tiny skiers I had seen everywhere all winter.

I stood wide-eyed and just watched the children as they explored and had adventures that children in America would be never have. The supervisor said they hadn’t had any major accidents and that the children were always safe. It is no wonder why Norwegians love nature so much they eat, sleep, and are practically raised outside.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Excuse Me?

I do stuff like... attend a Norwegian rummage sale.

Friday night I got an email from a Norwegian friend asking if I wanted to join her and another friend at a rummage sale in the morning. Despite my obvious desire to sleep in on Saturday morning I cheerfully replied that I would love to. Which is true, I did love to. I walked over to her house in the morning and we drove about an hour to a school in Grimstad. As we pulled up, the parking lot and even the lawn in front of the school was polluted with vehicles. We got out and walked up the hill to see the front area flooded with furniture for sale; everything from tables to chairs to pianos.

We meandered our way around the crowds of people and stacked furnishings in order to make our way into the building. I took a deep sigh of relief when we entered, thinking we would avoid the majority of the populace. I realized how mistaken I was when I looked up into the hallway and rooms that were overflowing with people. From my personal perspective I wouldn’t say that Norwegians are purposefully rude by any means. However as far as I have been told, there is no Norwegian word for “excuse me”. So you can see how they would be labeled rude in a situation such as this.

As we set foot into the first room I was immediately shocked at how many people could voluntarily be in one small room at a time. A room that would normally have a twenty person max limit was surly violating the fire code while occupying fifty or sixty people all shuffling around trying to “shop”. I barely glanced at the tables overflowing with antique items displayed for sale. My eyes were glued on Miriam so that I wouldn’t get lost in the frenzy of purchases.

Imagine yourself in one of those big blow up obstacle courses… now think about how obnoxious it is to have to run between those towering pillars that just push you back and forth like a pinball. This, my friends, is how I felt for the next few hours. It was not even a slight nudge followed by an immediate apology. Full-grown adults would try to squeeze into spaces that not even my right leg alone would fit into. There were bodies smashed up against other bodies. I’m not even Closter phobic and I began to experience shortness of breath. Lets just say I made my wall to the hallway whenever it was plausible. I don’t mean to complain at all, it was rather comical to watch and be apart of such a Norwegian function.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I do stuff like… get visited in Norway by two ‘very special’ people!

The days had been counted down and I looked up at the big blue star drawn on my calendar. I was pacing around my small room, it was five hours before they were supposed to arrive and I had yet to get a confirmation email about our ride, I prayed and prayed I was just being overdramatic and that everything would work out perfectly as planned. (Which of course you’d think I know by now is never how it works). Anyway an hour before their plane came in I got an email saying, “See you soon”. My ride had been confirmed, more pointless worrying I had done and more answered prayer from the Lord.

The fifteen-minute car ride seemed like five seconds (due to engaging conversation) and when I looked up we were at the airport. I checked my watch and ran inside expecting them to be making their way out immediately. I went inside and leaned against a wall staring at the closed door that read “International Arrivals”. The doors would slide open and people would be reunited with friends and family that had been gone. I’m fairly certain they had to have been some of the last to come through the doors and when I saw them, two familiar comforting faces I couldn’t help but run to them. Three months for a baby girl not to see such influential people is a long time. My mom and sister had finally arrived in Norway! (I was of course immediately filled with sorrow that my whole family couldn’t have come however I was ecstatic to see Kat and Ken).

As you can imagine the next week accelerated by and I suddenly found myself curled up on my red futon wondering if the past few days had been real. They were in fact real; I sat and thought of memories from the time we had spent together and laughed to myself as I recalled the picnic we took on the mount and how scared Kathy was to get to the edges and how Kendra just ran around and sang and danced all over the cliff, and the random pictures that were snapped.

I thought back to our trip up to Oslo we had taken with a good Norwegian friend of mine here. How we had met new people (some not so friendly that I will leave nameless) and others very welcoming. I thought about the opportunity we had to walk on top of the new opera building in Oslo as well as visit a park that had hundreds of nude statues surrounding it. One of the highlights of the week had to have been the evening we had a lovely home cooked Norwegian meal of scaled fish and potatoes.

Recalling us lounging on the couch after dinner to unwind from the busy day and noticing something out of the corner of my eye, I remember glancing up to see a mouse, yes a real live mouse, crawling out of the ceiling, down the wall, and into an old guitar sitting on the ground. I somewhat urgently told mom to look and when she finally peeled her eyes off of her email she too saw the rodent and then Kendra; I laughed as I think back about how I made my way to the kitchen to let them know that they had a mouse in their guitar. I’m not sure how to relay that information calmly and politely. Anyway the elderly man grabbed a Kleenex and walked into the living room to get it. A Kleenex? What were you going to do with a Kleenex? Did I mention that it was alive and quickly moving? At this point I think we left and drove back in disbelief and laughter at the events of the evening. (I could recount some stories about the other house we stayed in but I’ll leave those out for now, I’m sure Kathy and Kendra would love to share them with you).

Back to now, as I remained wrapped in my comforter on my futon I glanced over at my calendar looking at the new month astonished that their visit was over. I can’t believe we’re already in April, before you know it I’ll be the one coming out the doors at the airport; however I don’t want to count down, I want to take hold of the remaining time I have here and be thankful for every moment I have left.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dearest Neighbor...

I do stuff like write a sham letter to our upstairs neighbors:

Dear neighbors above us somewhere,

It has come to my attention that you insist on having a nocturnal sleeping schedule. I have nothing against your sleeping habits, besides the fact that they are completely different from that of a normal person. It is your decision whether you want to rearrange your furniture at three in the morning. I really am glad that you are into interior design and making the most of your accommodations here at Roligheden; I’m sure your room will be on the next cover of SiA “Home and Design”. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure its very cozy I’m all about a good candle, picture frame, even a plant or flower of some sort, but I think you might be taking it a bit too far.

I’m curious also, in between the pushing and pulling of your large furniture against the cement floor, how do you conserve enough energy to then vigorously dance around your newly designed room in what sounds like wooden clogs with music I can distinctly hear? Lady Gaga never needs to be that loud, ever. It sounds as if you have elephants tap dancing up there to “Poker Face” and are about to fall through the ceiling as the grand finale and land on my bunk bed. I don’t think I would have on my ‘poker face’ at this point. Since I can already hear your festivities I’d really love to see them as well. I can only imagine how comical it must be based on the roaring laughter that vibrates through the vent above my desk. I understand some things just are really funny. I’m sure you’ve heard me giggle once or twice, trust me I enjoy a good laugh; but perhaps you could keep the hearty laughter to an inside volume during the wee hours of the night? I am by no means asking you stop laughing, “for laughter is the spark of the soul”; but could you please keep this spark under control and not allow it to explode as loud as humanly possible at four AM?

I also understand you probably have a lot to talk about, that’s great there is a lot going on. However, could you just try not to yell your details into the vent? The vent essentially then acts as a microphone into my room. I can clearly hear you, so unless the person within the five-foot radius of your room has a hearing impairment (which I’m not making fun of, that is a serious issue) perhaps you could bring it down a few notches? I mean I’m sure its very interesting but if I understood your language I would know everything about your life because I can hear everything that goes on in your room, not purposely mind you, I try NOT to listen but its impossible.

On the other hand perhaps I should thank you, when I can’t sleep at night I attempt to guess what you are doing by the clamor I can make out. So in that case maybe your racket soothes me to sleep every night. If that is the case would you like me to play wall ball on my ceiling with a tennis ball? Or would you prefer that we just use the end of our squeegee handle and pound it up to the ceiling?

Despite all the commotion and suggestions I guess I have come to appreciate your neighborly noise. You are part of what makes my flat seem more like home; so please continue to tap dance, holler, sing, and rearrange your furniture as much as you’d like. I'll just be down here listening.

Yours truly,

The attentive neighbor below you.