Saturday, November 13, 2010

Inebriated neighbors

While I'm cozying up our house in Bellingham Peter and Conlon have been dealing with the crazy neighbor. (We have always had one, but I think she takes the cake.) The rental house in Elverum was advertised as a single family home, but has a small apartment that shares a wall with the master bedroom (in the photo above it is on the right- innocuous looking). The owners assured us the renter was a quiet woman who was never at home. We had a different experience. The first night I spent in Norway she had an all night party with loud music and at least one "guest". The following day I asked her in my limited Norwegian if we could agree to quiet hours. She was incensed, yelling in norglish, still drunk... generally telling me to piss off. What has ensued has made that look tame. Peter is seeing people come and go every hour, many drunk/ intoxicated people in our yard and the noise goes on 24 / 7. The only good thing about this situation is we can get out of our lease, as she is neither "quiet" or "rarely home".
Generally this woman is the exception of our experience in Norway. People are honest, polite and conscientious overall. BUT she happens to live a mere inches from us (now Peter and Conlon), so her obnoxious behavior has colored our experience.
We have guessed at her occupation- varying from drug dealer to prostitute. Any other explanation doesn't seem to cover what Peter is now seeing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

rental house

Juliette and I feel settled in our rental house; it has "interesting" decor- a bit of a hodge podge (naked lady painted on a screen hiding the garden tools). I just went to town putting up Christmas lights and our hodge podge of art and furniture. The result is surprising - I feel at home.
Renting is different here in Bellingham, as Peter and I have always owned our own home. I wonder, how picky are the landlords- do they think I will rid their yard of weeds (it hasn't been weeded in a year or so by the looks of it). What if the Koi fish die?? Veterinarian sued over Koi murder screams headline!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sense of Place

Juliette and I have arrived safely in Bellingham and seem to have turned back time. Fall is in the air, whereas in Norway fall was over by mid October.
We were immediately struck by how comfortable we felt in our surroundings. Bellingham has such a strong sense of place for us. Once I wrote that I wondered what is a sense of place? According to Wikipedia "Places said to have a strong "sense of place" have a strong identity and character that is deeply felt by local inhabitants and by many visitors. Such a feeling may be derived from the natural environment, but is more often made up of a mix of natural and cultural features in the landscape, and generally includes the people who occupy the place. " We both have a strong network of friends who immediately helped us feel at home here. (It helped that the weather has been gorgeous with brilliant fall colors.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Conlon and Peter journeyed by train to Stockholm, Sweden this weekend and really enjoyed this beautiful capital city. The highlight of Saturday was a trip to the Vasamuseet. It houses the Vasa: the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world. The warship sunk on its maiden voyage in 1628, and was salvaged in 1961. Over the next 50 years it was restored to its original glory. The museum was built around the ship and the ship is covered with hundreds of carved sculptures.
They also visited Gamla stan, Stockholms medeival city center where the city was founded in 1252. It is reportedly the largest and most well preserved medieval city centers in Europe. One of the smallest alleys is only 90 cm across at its narrowest point ! I am so jealous!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Traveling light

Juliette and I have just checked 5 enormous pieces of luggage at the KLM desk. We started our journey on Thursday afternoon in Elverum,loading our very heavy luggage onto a bus. The bus took us to Gardemoen airport, where we piled our belongings onto two luggage trolley’s , perching Kiwi on top, and negotiated our way to the hotel pick up. We needed to spend the night near the airport because our flight in the morning left so early (had to be at the airport by 4:45 AM). The next morning we loaded all our (by this time I thought of it as crap)luggage onto the airport shuttle and went back to the airport. There we negotiated several lines , juggling Kiwi and the enormous bags and angry passengers (caffeine deprived perhaps). One bright spot was the desk charged me only for one piece of extra luggage and not the three that I expected. (On transatlantic flights you used to be allocated 2 checked bags of 33 kg, but now the economy flights only allow 1 checked bag of 23 Kg). Of course I brought so much to Norway as I expected to be skiing here, and ski and winter gear is very bulky.

By the time Juliette and I had successfully negotiated through security I was completely sweaty and all traces of my shower and deodorant were long gone. The security worker asked me to raise my arms for the body scanner, and I almost asked him if he was sure he wanted to experience that! I suggest to weary travelers to bring a change of shirt - and burn the one you wear through all the luggage juggling, security hassles. I wish I had.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The good, the bad, and going home.

Well, I am sorry to say, I'm heading home tomorrow. I thought I'd be here for one year, or longer. BUT for the sanity of our child I'm going home tomorrow. The positives about Norway are many: progressive politics, health care for all that is easy to use as newcomer, fabulous scenery, a growing economy are among the few I can think of immediatly. Yes Norway has some downsides- it is fabulously expensive as well (399Kr/Kg for smoked salmon...), rental housing is very difficult to find, a reserved population that can be hard to get to know, and (suprisingly) a mediocre public school system. Norwegian students are in the middle of the pack among the developed nations. Both my kids were at least 2 years ahead of their grade level here in math, and were surprised at how little is required of students at school. The upside is students like school and are not stressed out, but the downside is they don't push students very hard.
Peter and Conlon will stay on longer- I may post some of their travels... they are off to Stockholm this weekend
Har det bra.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Police incident

They were locked in an embrace, at first I thought they were hugging, but as I cycled closer I saw the strain on their faces. A Burmese man was holding onto a tall Norwegian teenager and yelled at me (på norsk) to call the police. We were on the side of a busy road (Strandbygdvegen) but none of the cars stopped to help. In Norway there are three different numbers for emergencies- one for fire, one for police, and I don't know what the third one is for?? I dialed 112 and promptly forgot all my Norwegian. I was suprised how long the phone rang, but finally someone answered. I sputtered in Norglish that there seemed to be a dispute over a stolen bike and two people were fighting. The person on the other end of the phone told me to calm down (!!) and spoke no English ( I know, I know, I'm in Norway and they speak Norwegian here, but I also know all Norwegians under the age of 55 have many years of English in school). The police (politiet) were prompt in arriving and told me the young Norwegian man was under the influence of drugs. I thanked the female police officer for their prompt arrival, and she told me that I was lucky to get such a quick response. Norwegians are known for their understatement, but I wasn't sure if she was joking or just telling me the truth. I have heard from natives that there are not enough police in Norway, so maybe I (or the Burmese man) was lucky.