Saturday, December 31, 2011

Norway Day 2

No one in Norway is stout! Apparently, it is because all 4 million of them go outside. All the time. There is a path that runs along the road from P and T's house to anywhere else and every time we are on the road, there are walkers, runners and cyclists along the path. We went to a little shopping center with a bank on our way out to town today and there were people walking up the hill as we drove to the parking lot. And all adults speak English, thank god, because the only thing I can say reliably in Norsk is thank you. Please is way too hard. I hope it'd be easier if I was living here and learning the language. At least I no longer want to default to the French. Anyway, I changed money at the bank and so now I know how expensive everything is! 300 US$ yielded around 1700 kroner. Lunch today -- and it wasn't a particularly fancy lunch – was 776 kroner.
So, after the bank we continued into Oslo itself, to go to Vigeland Park. It was pretty busy for a cold (-4 C) day. We saw a lot of naked statues, including the "famous angry little naked boy." We saw the monolith of naked bodies at the center of a huge park, and walked around the park for a bit. The playground, Frognersborgen,was mobbed. The Girl, unfortunately, was cold and tired and didn't want to play.
So we went to lunch near Aker Brugge instead. It was an interesting experience to find someone willing to feed our party of 6 along the shoreline. The first place was full. The second place took a giant pass on the kiddies. The third place said Ok, despite having only one waiter and a cook. In all of these places, the waiters and hostesses were Swedish. P says it's because Norwegians usually don't want those jobs. The third place was called Alfred, and was attached to the Nobel Peace Center. Fred means peace in Norsk. I had a delicious bowl of cream of cauliflower soup with chives and bacon and the strongest cup of coffee in my life. The Girl had a chicken and bacon salad, which was excellent as well. Little e had the kids' chicken, but NO potatoes or salad. Big E ate those. My credit card worked here. USAA forgot to tell me in the travel notice that I need some kind of anti-theft chip on the card, so it only works on swipe machines, which not everyone has.
After lunch, we wandered over to check out the gift shop of the museum and the docent at the intro desk of the museum handed The Girl (English) and Big E (Norsk) each a scavenger hunt card and said "the museum is free today." We said "awesome!" and checked it out, since it's normally 80 kroner (about $13) to get in. I learned something about the Nobel peace prize and Alfred Nobel himself in this cool interactive, giant book exhibit. Had no idea that he invented dynamite, and find it somewhat ironic that the man who invented a great instrument of war would also leave his legacy in those striving for peace. This year's prize winners were dubbed "Sheroes" by the institute. I also had no idea that American Quakers, Jane Addams or Woodrow Wilson had previously received the prize. Big E and The Girl completed the hunt and picked out a prize each in the gift shop (button depicting the icons of the 8 different ways to begin peace - The Girl chose th one depicting a tree for recycling and Big E chose the one for depicting a megaphone for speaking up/out). We all went to the bathroom (I keep taking photos of interiors like bathrooms because I think they are so cool) and then left around 4:30. It was pitch black at that time and there was a man singing opera and wearing sweatpants in the public square just outside the center.

We came home after Aker Brugge and had teriyaki salmon with veggies and rice for dinner. Yum, so yum! I probably could have eaten the whole fish myself. P and I had dropped T and the girls at home and gone to the local grocery (Rema 1000) to get some supplies for dinner. P said it’s critical to plan, something that she isn't very good at, because most shops close at 8 on weekdays and all of them are closed on Sundays. In Norway, not only is it a cultural tradition to spend most of one’s time outside (regardless of weather), but it's also tradition that children can have sweets (candy, chocolate) on Saturdays - usually after dinner, but P said her neighbor with boys does it after breakfast because her kids are hooligans on that much sugar. The Boy would be also. And on Fridays after work, it's salty smack time. So we split a bag of "Friday mix," which also goes well with a cold glass of beer or wine. I don't know if I could be that disciplined - especially in a sea of Veruca Salts - but I wonder if I could implement such rules in my own life.

At dinner, I jinxed us by commenting how well the girls were doing together, so at bedtime there was a bit of a quarrel. P read to Little e and Big E and I read some Clementine to The Girl  and put her in bed – T’s excellent IKEA hack of a Hemnes twin bed mounted like a bunk bed - and then Big E asked to sleep with The Girl and they snuggled in together, their quarrel forgotten.

Big E goes back to school on the 3rd. The article about Finnish education (especially compared to Norway and the U.S.) was timely, although anyone knows how interesting the subject of education is to me and of course I am asking questions. The Norwegian primary schools are similar to U.S. schools. In 1st grade, Big E goes every day from 8 -1 (or similar), and the instructional time is redistributed in the length of the school year - a 6-week summer break, 2 weeks at Christmas, a week in February. There are 27-28 kids in Big E's class with 1 teacher and 1 aide. Big E calls her teacher by her first name. It is very informal. Perhaps because, as P says, so few couples get married. For example, T's sister got married a few years ago to her partner of 25 years.

Big E goes to aftercare, and Little e goes to heavily subsidized daycare (Barnhege) until 5. Barnhege is 400 US$ each month for full time care. Seriously. The taxes are about 30 percent of income. P says Big E comes home and then has homework, which is as exhausting here as ours is in the U.S.

We are going to take the cruise to Copenhagen with Little e on the 2nd and come back on the 4th. The guidebook stresses shopping. Apparently, everyone shops everywhere else except no one shops in Norway because it’s too expensive. I spent 120US$ on 3 pairs of (awesome) Norwegian mitts yesterday, so this is not surprising. I'm not going to Copenhagen to shop however. The plan is to see the Viking museum and the Danish design museum. T says to buy marzipan and look at speakers too.

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