Jul 27, 2011

Restless nights.

I cant sleep. It's near 2am and what am I doing? I don't know. I started praying tonight, something I haven't done in a long time. Why? I also don't know. Stupidity I guess. I feel the need to cry a lot lately. Not because I am depressed, but because I am scared. Scared and excited, and with a bit of sadness. The news that I have been wanting to share is this: I will be staying in Norway, and next summer will marry Aleksander. I will marry the man of my dreams, the man that makes me happy, treats me with respect, puts me before himself and loves me unconditionally. So why do I cry at night? During my conversation with God I figured it was because I was scared of the struggle that lies ahead of me. I am a foreigner here, things won't be as easy as if I were in the States. The language I still have to fully conquer. It is one thing to be able to order food and hold a brief conversation. But to go to school, and study and read, speak and write it fluently is still a huge accomplishment I have yet to achieve. I know it will take a lot of headaches, cursing at the book and patience of Aleksander as I ask him to explain things he doesn't remember. Another, is the people of this country. I love them I do, but it is so hard to get to know people here. There is a latin community here and the parties are fun, but I don't quite fit in. The majority of the women are older, married and have kids. Most of their topics revolve around swim lessons, barnehagen stories and comparisons of their kids. It's not fun and I don't find them fun. I have a group of friends here, mostly Mexican, and they mean a lot to me. We relate a lot. But each one has different schedules and priorities that I don't see them as much as I would like to or sometimes need to.
Norwegians are hard to get to know, you won't befriend one on the street. If you have a Norwegian friend here it's because they are somehow connected to your social network. They come off as cold, and rude. In the states it is very common to say "Hi how are you?" while in street or at the store. Start up friendly conversation. Here? Almost impossible. After almost 2 years here I am still a bit homesick and I miss that social side of life in the USA. I miss family and friends, but aside from that, I miss how easy it is to get to know people, to communicate with strangers. Those invisible walls just aren't up in the USA. I admire Norway, but it will be hard to start up and establish what took me years in the USA. My circle of friends, my "spots" to go to, know where to go for anything you could imagine.
All of this haunts me at night, and that's how I end up here, in front of my computer screen. Only tonight...or more like this morning is different, I decided to post it.
Please don't get me wrong in thinking that I am getting cold feet. Absolutely not. I am excited to get married and start a new life with him by my side. Build a home with him. It's just everything else that scares me. I know that I can do it. I can conquer the language, I can restrain myself from smiling at everyone at the store, or asking how they are.
...
Here is another thing that I just thought of that has affected me these last few days as well. The terrorist act in Oslo, and the island of Utøya. That evilness. I know there is evil all over the world, but I did not expect it here in Norway. It was shocking, saddening, sickening, depressing, and unbelievable at the same time. Especially because it was a terrorist act against against his own country, against his own people. I am not Norwegian, but it hurts me just the same. And it scared me. Because I have never been so close to something like this. 9/11 affected me, but I was also a lot younger when it happened, all I comprehended was that a bad man planned for planes to crash. I didn't understand the motives and politics behind it. This however was only an hour plane ride from where I live, in the capital of Norway, I am in the second biggest city in Norway. Who's to say we could be the next target? It's thoughts like these that also mingle in my head.

Right now I am pretty much plain scared. Of many things. And for starters I would like to get a hold of a Bible. I have never been a Bible reader, even though I have been baptized, received communion, have been confirmed and was part of a Catholic Youth Group for 4 years. There are many things I don't understand, don't agree with and or don't find interesting or relevant to me, so I have a hard time connecting with it. But I am willing to give it a try, to calm my nerves, maybe find some answers or comforting advice.

I am starting to fall asleep here. I feel like a vented well enough and feel a lot better already. I promise that the next post will be a lot cheerful.

May 30, 2011

Back from winter's slumber

It has been several months since I last wrote something. I don't know what happened. I all of a sudden lost my *mojo* I guess you can say; fell into winter's hibernation cycle and now I have finally awoken.
Many things have happened since Christmas. I went to Namsos, which is further North than Bergen and Trondheim. It was beautiful up there, everything white and cold. A cozy Christmas. Norwegians tend to use that word a lot. Cozy. It is not a word we as Americans are used to saying. We do not describe to things as being cozy. But I like it, it's appropriate for many things and I find myself using the word more and more now, even in English.
After Christmas, I came back to Bergen to spend the New Years with my friends and boyfriend. We had a nice dinner at my place, played games, drank some wine, and went out to shoot fireworks and watch them light up the sky. Here in Norway, one can buy fireworks. You can buy little ones or a BIG box the size of a suitcase that holds maybe 40-80 fireworks of all different sizes. It was something special to light up your own fireworks, and have the whole neighborhood come together to conjoin their massive explosives!
Janruary-April has been really nice, seeing the winter disappear and transform into Spring. Baby Kaisa also disappeared and transformed into Big girl Kaisa. She is nearing 20 months now and she is so big! She speaks so much spanish now! It makes me feel like a proud mother. Alva and Ulrikke have also grown up so much in these last 8 months. Alva is really great at the violin and Ulrikke a great dancer. I'm going to miss the girls so much.
This past month of May has been really evenful. First we celebrated May 17, Norway's National Day. It was unfortunately raining that day, like always, but Aleksander and I still went to the center to enjoy of the parade. We met up with our other friends, Andrea, Quetza, Kenneth, Javier, and Daniel and went to have a coffee, wine and beer, at one of my favorite cafe shops here in Bergen called Vågens. Afterwards, we bought food to make a nice pasta and salad dinner and walked to Daniels house and ate and watched a movie together. It was a very COZY day!
Two weeks ago I also went to Oslo. For Aleksander's birthday I bought him concert tickets to see his favorite band Kamelot. So we took the 8 hour train ride to Oslo, Norway's biggest city and had a great time traveling together.
Last night, however I returned to Bergen from my latest travel. Stig Fretheim, my first host dad bought me an amazing trip to Northern Norway, for my birthday. It was a 4 day trip, from Wednesday to Sunday. On Wednesday I flew out of Bergen to Oslo, and from Oslo to Trømso, Norway's third largest city. There I spent most of the day touring around. I went to see the Artic Cathedral, I took a cable car up on of the mountains called Storsteinen, meaning Big Rock, and I went to see the Polar Museum.
That evening, I climbed aboard the Midnatsol (midnight sun) ship and departed the port of Trømso heading towards Honningsvåg. Honningsvåg is the main city of an island called Magerøya which is part of Norkapp, the northernmost municipality of Norway. The trip on the cruise boat was amazing. You look out and all you can see was snow covered mountains, and there is no night. Hence the name midnight sun. But, unfortunately, there was too much overcast to see the sun. That however does not bother me, the sun is the sun, it will always be there and I know what it looks like. The whole point was to have the 24 hours of light, to take in all the beauty Northern Norway has to offer.
After landing in Honningsvåg on Thursday morning, I took a bus towards Alta, a city a few hours south. On the bus ride I was surprised to drive by many reindeer. I had never seen one before. And no Santa Claus movies do not count. I learned that the laplanders, or Sami people, would breed reindeer and take them to the Northern coasts during the summer.
In Alta, I stayed with one of Stigs friends and his family. Very nice family. Most non Europeans often say that Europeans are cold, but once you get to know them, enter into their homes and share time with them, you find that they are some of the kindest people out there.
The family showed me Alta, and took me to see rock carvings. Whether these rock carvings were from the vikings or the Sami people, we do not know, there is a debate as to whome they belong to.
The trip all in all was very exciting, and beautiful. As well as tiring, since it was all travelling. Plane, boat, bus, car! But I would love to do it again. Maybe next time I can go with Aleksander! That would be something special!
Well my people, it seems that that is the summary of my last 5 months.
In one week I will go back to San Diego for a one month vacation. What happens after that is still a surprise for those who do not know me personally. I will come back and announce the great news.
I would like to write during the summer, if time permits me, but this blog is about Norway, not San Diego. So I leave you and I wish you a happy summer.

Dec 13, 2010

Day 13 - Lussinatt

Today is St. Lucy's Day. One of the few saint days celebrated in Scandinavia. St. Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. St. Lucy..."consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily. Miraculously unable to move her or burn her, the guards took out her eyes with a fork. In another version, Lucy's would-be husband admired her eyes, so she tore them out and gave them to him, saying, "Now let me live to God"." (wiki).
In Norway, I have read that it is more common for it to be celebrated in the schools and kindergartens. I, unfortunately, went to the aapen barnehagen late today and I think I may have missed out on some small procession through the hallways with candles and sweets.
Luseekatt is also traditional to eat on St. Lucy Day. It is a pastry made with saffron, and in Norwegian it means Lucy's cat, maybe because it looks like little cat tails. Anna bought some lussekatt, and they tasted like Hawaiian bread. Americans know what I'm talking about, the kind you eat with fried chicken and coleslaw! The only difference is that lussekatt had that delicious saffron taste.

So much to my surprise the girls came down to my door about two hours ago with 3 other friends and when I opened my door, with my black leggings, and just a shirt on looking like a hot mess, they started singing! One was dressed as St. Lucy with lit candles on her head and after they sang they offered me an orange!

Unfortunately, alva and Ulrikke are not in the picture, but these are their friends that helped join them!

Dec 12, 2010

Day 12 - Sun and Namsos

I miss the sun. I miss being tan and having that orange brown sun glowing skin. Now I am pale and have cold rashes on my face. Instead of sun block I use cold cream. It is a complete opposite of what I am used to living with. Instead of 10 hour days that San Diego has right now, I am cut down to half of that. It is completely different and yet I enjoy it. This is what I wanted. I wanted different, I wanted an actual cold winter, with snow and cute scarfs and mittens. And I am getting just that...although today it rained and washed away all the snow but weather report says we should have some slight snow the next two days.

I will experience my first white Christmas in a town called Namsos located in the central region of Norway. The name Namsos comes comes from the local river, Namsen, "Nams", and the "os" means mouth of a river.




But hopefully, and I'm praying it will be snowy when I get there, which is in 10 days and I think it will because according to weather reports, the days that I will be there I will have some nice cozy weather of -16C weather...that is 3.2 F. brrrr!
This is going to be me:

Day 11 - Rømmegrøt

Rømmegrøt is one of my favorite Norwegian porridge's. It is a sour cream porridge and tastes better when it is made with sour cream containing a higher fat percentage. Obviously right? Everything that is good is either fattening, immoral or illegal.
Here is a recipe so that you can try it at home!


4 dl (1 2/3 cups) 35 percent fat sour cream
about 3 dl (1 1/4 cups) flour
about 1 1/4 liters (5 cups) full fat milk
3/4 teaspoon salt

Sour cream porridge with dried meats was festive food in the olden days and is still considered that today.
Sour cream porridge must be made from high fat (35%) natural sour cream, with no stabilizers or gelatin added. For the best results, use homemade sour cream. Heat 2 1/2 dl (1 cup) whipping cream to 35 C (95 F), almost body temperature, then whisk in 2 tablespoons buttermilk. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours, until thickened.
Simmer sour cream, covered, about 15 minutes.
Sift over 1/3 of the flour. Simmer until the butterfat begins to leach out. Skim off the fat.
Sift over the remaining flour and bring to a boil. Bring the milk to a boil and thin the porridge to desired consistency. Whisk until smooth. Simmer about 10 minutes, and season with salt. Serve with the fat, sugar and cinnamon.


Hope you enjoy!!

Dec 10, 2010

Day 10 - Fun facts!

Hi everyone! Sorry for today's blog which is pretty rushed....it's actually copy and paste. I am actually going to a brass band concert in about hour because it's an hour drive away. So i apologize, but you will learn some new things hopefully with this information from (http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/facts-about-norway-1486.html).

I will post pictures and hopefully videos up tomorrow about the concert! Hadet!

* The official name of Norway is 'Kingdom of Norway'.
* Norway follows the system of Constitutional monarchy and Parliamentary democracy.
* Norway is situated in Northern Europe.
* Norway comprises of western and northern parts of the Scandinavian peninsula and the northern territories of Jan Mayen and the Svalbard archipelago, along with Bouvet Island, Peter I Island and Queen Maud Land in the southern hemisphere.
* The official language of Norway is Norwegian (Bokmal and Nynorsk). However, in some districts, Sámi is also an official language.
* Norway has an official Protestant State Church, based on the Evangelical-Lutheran religion.
* Norway is the sixth largest country of Europe, in terms of land mass. However, in terms of population, it ranks only 28th.
* Norway is one of the members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States.
* The coastline of Norway, including fjords and bays, stretches over 20,000 kilometers.
* As per historical accounts, the small kingdoms of Norway were united into a single state around 885 AD, by Harald the Fairhaired, a Viking King.
* It is believed that the name Norway means “Path to the North”.
* The highest mountain in Norway is Galdhopiggen (2,469 m). The largest lake in the country is Mjosa.
* The Jostedalsbreen, in Norway, is the largest glacier in Northern Europe.
* Pagan Gods, like Odin and Thor, were worshipped in Norway before it converted to Christianity, in 995.
* Plague (Black Death) killed over a third of the population of Norway in the mid-14th century.
* Hundreds of thousands of Norwegians migrated to USA in the 19th century.
* The Christmas tree, which stands in Trafalgar Square in London, has been presented by ‘City of Oslo’ to the UK, for over fifty years.
* The per capita income of Norway ranks among the highest in the world.
* Norwegian Constitution was signed on 17th May, 1814. The day is celebrated as a national holiday in the country.
* As per Encyclopedia Britannica, Norwegians read more than any other population in the world.
* Norway is counted amongst the wealthiest countries of the world.
* Norway was rated the most peaceful country in the world, in a survey conducted by Global Peace Index in 2007.

Dec 9, 2010

Day 9 - Pepperkakebyen og Lille Lungegardsvann

So I finally went to the pepperkakebyen today with the 3 girls, Alva, Ulrikke and Kaisa. Honestly, it was too overpriced to look at food that I can't even eat, but it was really nice to see it., lots of creativity and time put into that place. We also went and walked on Lille Lungegardsvann, the lake in the center of Bergen which is now frozen.
Today's blog will be a picture blog mostly! Enjoy!















Dec 8, 2010

Day 8 - Prison

No one in their right mind wants to go to prison. Prison is this cold, dark, disgusting evil place, where you have no freedom and you're locked behind bars.
But that image has changed with the opening of Norway's nicest prison in Halden, Norway.
This prison has the capacity for 252 inmates and was opened on April 8th of this year by none other than Norways' King Harald V. It took 10 years to complete building Halden prison and cost near 252 million dollars to construct. The prison doesn't look like a prison at all. If anything it resembles expensive students dorms. There are no barred cells or double bunk bed with the nasty mattresses, instead the inmates have private rooms with their own personal bathroom, their own flat screen tv and mini fridge.Oh and may I add they also have acces to a free standing 2 bedroom house where the inmates can host their own family dinners and parties.

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1989083_2137368,00.html
(Copy and paste the link above to see pictures of the prison)

Unlike most prisons whose main goal is to punish and keep bad civilians off of the streets, this ones purpose is rehabilitation.There was one comment I read on another website talking about the same subject, that I wanted to comment on. It was: "no esta mal . pero recuerda q lo mas importante es que te quitan la libertad, no los lujos". Meaning: That' not bad. But remember that the most important thing is that they take away your freedom not, not the pleasures."
Personally I think that comment is stupid. Do you honestly think that a criminal is going to mind having his "freedom" taken when he's being cared for for the rest of his life? Oh, correction! Not life, because criminals in Norway are not sentenced to life, maximum sentencing is 21 years! I think it is ridiculous that Norwegians who pay such high taxes, (circa 25%)are paying for criminals to live comfortably and luxuriously.
video
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, now you know! If you ever have the urge to kill someone, come to Norway and do it, because you could end up in Halden and live free for the next 21 years of your life.

Dec 7, 2010

Day 7 - Strangers

When a stranger on the street smiles at you, you assume that: A. He is drunk. B. He is insane. C. He is American D. He is all of the above.

I have yet to get used to the coldness of people here. Rephrase, not their coldness but their appearance of being cold. Because in nature, Norwegians are kind and fun people, but on the streets they fall into the cold hard European stereotype. They don't look at you when you walk by them, they don't smile when you pass them in the aisle of the store. They don't say excuse me or thank you.
I, however, like to be the insane drunk American who smiles at people in the street or the one who says "Hei" to the old lady walking down the store aisle.
Even on the bus, if I sit next to someone, they won't even turn to look at me, we'll get to our destination 15 minutes later without him knowing what I even look like, let alone what gender I am. It's as if I don't exist. I feel invisible. And you can't help but feel ugly sometimes too.
I come from city and a culture where men gawk at women, and say vulgar things or eye you up and down. It's rude, and I don't like it, but I don't even get the eye here? You can't help but feel ugly when the guys won't even look at you or give you a second glance.

So whenever you're in Norway! SMILE and wave hello to everyone, because only then will you be acknowledged, even if it is as a stupid American! At least its something! Smile and wave!

Dec 6, 2010

DAY 6- Mmmm fish popsicle

Hi everyone!! Todays topic is the weather. As I am typing this I have wool socks on, pj pants, an undershirt, a tshirt, a wool sweater, and I am underneath two dyna's, which are big comforter like blankets,...similar to the ones that they sell at IKEA(best store ever may I add). Apart from my sexy bedroom clothes, the floor is heated. Yet I am still cold, or more like my fingers. Point is, I don't think I am ever too hot here. Right now it is -6C, 21F outside.
Let us take a look at this week's forecast, (it's in Farenheit):


Yeah.. that is really cold, and it does get colder, and it most likely will. brrr. I mean even the fish are freezing up...What? Ridiculous right? I wish.

This fish was found yesterday when a family went out onto the ice to ice skate and instead found the immobile 20cm fish underneath their feet! Pretty cool huh?!?! What will happen to the fish? It is still unknown, but if I find out more I will let you all know.
So ladies and gentlemen place your orders in for fish popsicles now before it's too late. I take cash or credit.
Vi snakkes!!
Until tomorrow!
PS. Let us not forget this google image which was taken last summer of two Norwegians in Bergen chasing the Google Street View car!

Dec 2, 2010

God Jul!!!! (Merry Christmas)

December is here and so is the Christmas season! Nothing out of the ordinary has happened in November so therefore this blog will be dedicated to describing Norwegian Christmas traditions!

Pepperkake!!! This is the smell that I associate the most with Christmas so far. Pepperkake is gingerbread...only literally translated it means pepper-cake. And they make gingerbread cookies here that taste delicious! But not only do they make cookies, but cities as well!
Every year during Christmas time, children, adults, and local businesses donate homemade gingerbread houses to create what is supposedly the largest gingerbread city in the world. It is hosted in a huge white tent in the city center of Bergen during the holidays. I have yet to go, but here is a good picture I found.

Food of course is a big topic when it comes to holidays and tradition. Some of the following dishes I have yet to try and others I won't be bummed if I don't. So traditional Norwegian Christmas dishes are the following: gløgg - mulled wine which tastes really good. I have had it served with raisins and walnuts floating in the drink, Julepølse - Pork sausage made with powdered ginger, cloves, mustard seeds and nutmeg. Served steamed or roasted, Lutefisk - fish preserved with lye that has been washed and boiled, I’m not too keen on trying that one, Pinnekjøtt - salted, dried, and smoked lamb's ribs which are rehydrated and then steamed, traditionally over birch branches, Svineribbe - pork ribs roasted whole with the skin on, rather than spare ribs, Julegrøt - Christmas rice pudding with an almond hidden inside, Sossiser - small Christmas sausages, Medisterkaker - Large meatballs made from a mix of pork meat and pork fat, Rødkål - sweet and sour red cabbage, as a side dish, Kålrabistappe - Purée of rutabaga(which is a cross between cabbage and turnip, it is also known as "swede" in some parts of the world), as a sidedish to pinnekjøtt, Pepperkake - gingerbread-like spice cookies flavoured with black pepper, Lussekatter - St. Lucia Buns and Lefse - a traditional Norwegian flatbread rolled up with butter sugar and cinnamon.

The Julekalendar is basically the advent calendar, but in Norway most don't hold the religious meaning of the advent calendar...it is mostly for spirit. What I have learned so far is that many kids receive a gift everyday as part of the julekalendar countdown. Or like in the states you can buy the chocolate treat advent calendar. What my host family has done is much more effective I think...I personally do not believe in spoiling your kids with a gift everyday. What they have is a christmas tree sewn hanging with 24 rings attached to it. They take ornaments, whether it be tree ornaments or little tabletop ornaments, they wrap them in wrapping paper and hang them from the 24 rings. Each day they unwrap one and decorate the house with it. I think it's a fabulous idea! another thing that they did was make 24 gingerbread heart shaped cookies, and they strung them up in the kitchen. And each day one of the girls will eat a cookie!
Here is a link of a video where Anna, my host mom and the two older girls are being interviewed because of their julekalendar idea!
http://www.bt.no/nyheter/lokalt/-Pakker-julen-inn-1202058.html

This is what I have so far. I will add more later...actually I have decided that i will have my own julekalendar, here on my blog. i may be 5 days late but deep down I think the Advent Lord will forgive me. What will I post? I'm not quite sure yet, I prefer to keep it spontaneous! But it will have something to do with Norway; whether it be more Christmas traditions, the language, a random fact about Norway or the city or a funny experience that may have happened.

Today's julekalendar topic will be: Pizza.
Norwegians love frozen pizza.The "Grandiosa" frozen pizza is unofficially named as the Norwegian national dish and each year Norwegians consume 20 million Grandiosa pizzas in addition to all the other frozen pizza brands on the market. I am amongst those 20 million now...I have no idea how many Grandiosa pizzas I have eaten since my arrival here in January. We Americans love pizza, but for that we simply call up dominos, or Little Ceasar's.

Oct 13, 2010

COLD COLD COLD too SOON SOON SOON!

Many things have occurred within the last month. So therefore I shall go directly into each one.
A few weeks ago the girls had a whole week off because of the autumn holidays, so for 4 of those days we went to a place called Mjølfjell, east of Voss, which is about 2.5 hours from Bergen by car and 2 by train. We stayed in a cabin that Robert's work had rented out for its employees and families to use. We were 7 kids, and 6 adults. We went hiking everyday. Now for those who know me, know that I am not too fond of hiking, but that has changed this last year. Not having my own car anymore I have been forced to use public transportation and my own two feet, and I have gotten quite used to it. So walking isn't a problem anymore and therefore hiking is something I quite enjoy now. I even go hiking up Fløyen, one of Bergen's 7 mountains, on the weekend. But anyways, Mjøllfjell was simply beautiful!



On one of our hikes, we went to this placed called Slondalen. It lies at the foot of a mountain and in front of a lake. There were some small old cabins in the area built on top of rocks. We had lunch there and played different versions of hide and seek! the place was so cute. I could never imagine living in a place so isolated and far from civilization.





I had a great time with everyone, with Anna, Robert, Alva, Ulrikke and Kaisa and the other 2 families that came with us!
Onto the next subject! The other week we had snow! Yes! Snow in October! Which, for those who are not from Norway or any northern European countries, snow in October is rare.
I was not ready for it, and neither was my body which endured some pretty funny slips and falls!

I also went on a student trip to Flåm, pronounced "Flohm", which was simply amazing!!!! Flåm is a small village at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the infamous Sognefjord which is the longest fjord in Norway and second in the world.
I went with my friends Quetzalcoatl, and Andrea, two students from Mexico working on their Doctorate degree. Total we were near 100 students.
We took the 7:50am train towards Myrdal, the mountain station, and from there we took another train on the Flåm railway.
"The train journey provides some of Norway's wildest and most magnificent scenery. On the 20 km-long train ride you can see rivers that cut through deep ravines, waterfalls cascade down the side of steep, snow-capped mountains and mountain farms cling dizzily to sheer slopes.

The Flåm Railway is one of the worlds steepest railway lines on normal gauge. The gradient is 55/1000 on almost 80% of the line, i.e. a gradient of one in eighteen. The twisting tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountain are manifestations of the most daring and skilful engineering in Norwegian railway history" (http://www.flaamsbana.no/eng/).










Apart from our Flåm adventures, Andrea, Quetzacoatl, another friend named Remi, and I took part in a student food competition!!! We got 2nd place!!! Of course I cannot forget to thank Aleksander my awesome boyfriend who also helped us out, and without him it would have been near impossible!



So that is the sum of my October adventures! Hopefully November will be full of a lot more!! Until next time!!! Hadet bra!