Walking in Norway

One of the things our family is loving about Oslo and Bekkestua (the suburb of Oslo where we live) is that it is incredibly walkable. It is so walkable in fact that we have yet to even rent a car. Instead of driving to school, Maddie and Ada walk to school which is roughly a half mile one way (which means we walk at least 2 miles every weekday to pick them up and drop them off and they walk 1 mile.) John takes the train to the University of Oslo which gives takes him thirty minutes  on the train and then another ¼ mile walk to and from the Physics building. We live within a half mile of four different grocery stores which makes it pretty easy to go grocery shopping once a day to pick up ingredients for dinner that night (which make us walk more but also reduces food waste since we only buy what we know we will eat that day.) On weekends, we’ve taken the bus or train and then walked to festivals, hiking trails, museums, and more. Because of all of this walking our kids are in better shape, we are in better shape, and we are all healthier and happier. 

Norwegians when they visit the United States think it’s a little crazy that Americans drive everywhere. A friend’s Norwegian husband even took pictures of a drive-through ATM in the US in amusement because in Norway, there are no drive-thrus. People get out of their cars to walk to a bank or a shop. Another American was telling me today that she lives about ¾ of a mile from the international school and feels like she has to have a good reason to use the car to take her kids to school whereas in the states, that would be the norm. Of course, I believe most of this culture of regular activity has nothing to do with the internal make-up of Norwegians vs Americans. I think it is mostly because Oslo was designed to be a walkable and transit friendly city. Therefore, most people can and do walk and use transit (just like people do in the few walkable cities in the US like DC, New York, Boston and San Francisco).

One thing I have noticed about walking in Norway is that walking is very safe.  When you cross a road at a crosswalk, pedestrians really do have the right of way. In the US at a crosswalk, you wait until a kind driver stops to let you pass, then you cross the road while thanking them profusely for obeying the law. In Norway, if a driver sees a pedestrian even close to a crosswalk, they automatically stop and the pedestrian just crosses the road without thanking the driver. Drivers in Norway are so reliable that it is tempting not to even look to see if they will stop for you to cross because they always do!  Right now, because the sunrises at 9AM and sets at 3PM (!), the country has a huge campaign to get people to wear reflective clothing so drivers can be sure they can see and stop for pedestrians when it is dark.

Not only do Norwegian’s walk more during the weekdays to run errands and get to work or school but they walk on weekends as well. It turns out because a lot of stores close on Sundays, most Norwegian families have a tradition of going on a Sunday walk together. A few weeks ago, we decided to join the tradition by going on a 3-mile round trip hike to a restaurant in the middle of the Oslo Marka Forest by a lake called Tryvannstua. During our walk Maddie and Ada insisted on making fishing poles out of sticks and long grass:

 

You can see the restaurant peeking out from the woods on the left-hand side and John carrying Ada on his back on the very right hand side:

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Ada did walk most of they way but towards the end on the way to the restaurant, we did end up carrying her because John and I were impatient to eat lunch:

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Here’s a pic of Maddie in front of Tryvannstua cafe. We had hot chocolate, cinnamon buns (kanelbrød), Norwegian waffles (vaffles) and a prawn sandwich when we arrived. 

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It was truly a beautiful walk and makes me want to join that Norwegian tradition more often. 

Of course living in a city designed to be walkable not only makes our family healthier, it helps us have a much lower impact on the environment (30% of our emissions come from transportation in the US and walking has almost no carbon footprint when compared to driving). Designing a walkable city also makes our society more egalitarian. Why? A walkable city not only benefits those individuals who have the money and spare time to exercise on their own but it also benefits those who might not have the money or time to go to the gym. According to a 2017 study published in Nature which used activity data from the smartphones of 700,000 people around the world, walkable cities help reduce what is called a “physical activity inequality” between men, women and children in a society and the overall obesity of a society. It turns out that the number of steps a woman takes in the day is affected more greatly than a man by the design of the city of where she lives. I’m guessing this is because women are the ones with the least time to go to the gym, and have to run the most errands. It also turns out number of obese people in a country is not correlated to the average physical fitness of the people in the country but instead to the average physical fitness of woman (I’m guessing because when woman live in a walkable city and are physically active so is the entire family.) Therefore, not surprisingly, changing our built environment to be more walkable is not only good for the planet but is crucial to making our society as a whole healthier, happier, and more just. This of course is only part of the reason Norway was ranked as the happiest country on Earth in 2017 by the World Happiness Report produced by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Thanksgiving in Norway

For the first time ever this year, I felt I would have the time to volunteer to help as the class parent representative in my child’s classroom. So far it has been a lot of fun and also a surprising amount of work. Because the preschool had an American class representative this year (me), Lena, the head of the preschool, asked us to organize a Thanksgiving celebration for the preschool. Christina, the other class representative from the UK, and Shannon, another American mom, and I had to figure out how to feed 34 children and their teachers a Thanksgiving lunch on a limited budget. Lena also asked me and Shannon to give a 15-minute presentation to teach 34 preschool children from around the world about our holiday.

Right before I was asked, I started to read “Bury my heart at Wounded Knee” by Dee Brown which is about the history of Native Americans in the US.

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So, as I was thinking about how to teach Ada’s class about Thanksgiving, I couldn’t help but sympathise with the Native Americans in the story and think about how the arrival of colonists from Europe is a moment of sorrow and not celebration for them. I’ve only made it halfway through the book but in summary white settlers and the US Government sickened Native Americans, stole and then degraded their land by chopping down their trees, and killing their game (almost to the point of extinction). The government then tricked Native Americans into signing treaties by lying to them about their content and/or making promises the government could not keep convincing Native Americans to live on reservations- basically a small area on degraded land the white settlers did not want which made it impossible for native Americans to hunt enough game and grow enough food for their communities. For those native Americans that refused to be confined to a life of starvation on the reservation, the government used our army to murder defenseless woman and children or men who had bows and arrows and who depended on trade for guns and bullets (which were hard to come by when your trading partner was at war with you).  

John at the same time was reading stories and listening to podcasts about how to teach social justice to children by talking about Thanksgiving. In any case, after doing a bit of research about Thanksgiving, I decided that I couldn’t bear to talk about this genocide to my daughter’s class of 3 to 5-year-olds. So, I decided to describe Thanksgiving as follows:

    • A harvest festival through the story of how a potato is grown. We talked about different harvest festivals from around the world (and specifically the countries Ada’s friends are from.)
    • We talked about the story of how Pilgrims came to a new country and were welcomed and taught how to grow native plants (like the three sisters- corn, beans and squash) by the Wampanoag tribe.
    • I talked about how the Pilgrims and Wampanoag’s celebrated a successful first growing season by eating lots of the food that they grew.
    • I discussed how we celebrate Thanksgiving today by eating lots of food native to the US (turkeys, cranberries, pumpkins, green beans, potatoes, etc.) and I talked about how the Wampanoag tribe is still around today.
    • I also told Ada’s preschool class how my favorite part of Thanksgiving was spending time with my family and thinking about what I was grateful for. We then asked the children to discuss what they were grateful for or how they were welcomed into a new country by their friends.

Here is a link to the presentation we put together and a pic of us presenting (note Ada was a very happy co-presenter who liked to interject comments throughout the presentation):

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Of course, I did decide to skim quite a bit of what I learned that I might have discussed if Ada’s class hadn’t been 3 to 5 years old. I might have mentioned how Thanksgiving wasn’t really celebrated until after the Civil War when Abraham Lincoln decided to make it a holiday to bring the country together. How the Wampanoags were decimated by diseases that the Pilgrims brought and the day before Thanksgiving, members of their tribe went to Washington DC to protest the fact the Pilgrims were stealing their land. How, the settlers didn’t have enough food for the Thanksgiving feast and unintentionally invited the native Americans who had to kill enough deer to feed their entire tribe for the three-day feast (there were a lot more Wampanoags than Pilgrims). After searching for images for my presentation, I found that the most famous painting depicting the first Thanksgiving is historically inaccurate (the Pilgrims never wore those hats with buckles in them and the Wampanoag tribe never wore feathered war bonnets) The painting of the first Thanksgiving also seems a bit patronizing to the native Americans as you can see below and was painted after the Native American’s had been mostly wiped out:

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After the presentation, Ada’s class discussed what they were grateful for (Ada said she was grateful for playing with her new friends, and her best friend Kiana said she was grateful she could visit her grandparents in Iran).

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They children did Thanksgiving crafts. Here is a picture of Ada with her Thanksgiving hat:

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They then played outside for an hour and a half, then came inside for lunch at 1:15 (which was good since many were eager to eat any food regardless of whether it was new or not). After a few hours of work at home (thanks to John for making a wonderful mac and cheese), and a full day of work at the preschool with other parents, here is the spread we were able to put together for the children:

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And the happy girl eating her Thanksgiving lunch:

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Unfortunately, after all this work, we decided to not celebrate Thanksgiving at our house. When everyone treats Thanksgiving day like a normal day in the week (John was working until 8pm that evening and Ada and Maddie went to school) it makes it hard to celebrate.  We considered celebrating the following weekend but Maddie had not one but two birthday parties to attend and the other American family we invited over was busy. So, instead, we invited new friends from Denmark over for a regular dinner instead the day after Thanksgiving. I have to say I did miss spending time with family and eating my mom’s delicious pumpkin pie. One thing I found out Norwegians do celebrate—Black Friday. Evidently, my least favorite consumer holiday has migrated to Europe.

London and Rebel Girls

Last week the girls had a week long fall break from school (a side benefit of having no Thanksgiving in Norway is that the first fall break is a reasonable distance from the winter holiday break) So, we took the opportunity as a family to visit London. This was the first time I’d been to London and the first time John was able to visit for a long period of time (having had an 8 hour layover in London last March.) We had a wonderful visit which was unexpectedly themed to include quite a few extraordinary girls and women we call “Rebel Girls” because of the incredible “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” books by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo.

The first rebel girl we saw was a fictional one- Matilda. Last spring we read Matilda as a family because Maddie’s dance recital in Middletown was choreographed to the song “Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty” from the Matilda musical. As a belated birthday present to Maddie, my parents bought us tickets to see Matilda the musical in London the day after we arrived. The show was very entertaining, the sets were fantastic and of course we loved the moral of the story. Even Ada enjoyed it (and lately has been playing with a toy lizard and imitating Ms. Trunchbull by shouting- “There’s a newt in my knickers!”)

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This fall Maddie has continued to be obsessed with books like Matilda because her class has been reading books by Roald Dahl (like Esio Trot and Fantastic Mr. Fox) in class. Also, because Maddie’s class is visiting the Freia chocolate factory this winter, Maddie was excited to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at home. So, at the end of our trip, at Maddie’s request, we visited the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden, England (according to a parent at OiS who lives 10 minutes from the town, it is nicknamed “Great Miss”) which is just outside London. There we got to see the chair where Roald Dahl wrote his books, learn about Roald Dahl’s life and where he got inspiration for his books and we got to see the Matilda vs Donald Trump statue which was unveiled in October to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Matilda. Isn’t Trump the perfect modern day enemy of Matilda (at least that’s what 42% of respondent’s to a survey by The Roald Dahl story thought)?

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On Monday the day after Matilda, we toured Cambridge with Elena Sakkalou a friend of mine from Davidson. She is a rebel girl of her own sort, working at the University College of London researching vision and cognition in infants while raising two adorable kids in Cambridge.

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In Cambridge we got to take a break at “The Eagle” pub where Watson and Crick lunched while they were researching DNA and later we got to see Rosalind Franklin’s bio, another rebel girl, at the King’s College London where she did her work on x-ray crystallography which led to the discovery of DNA.

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Tuesday the girls played at Princess Diana’s memorial playground which had this incredible sculpture:

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We also had high tea at the restaurant next to Kensington Palace (where Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Prince William, Kate and their children have their official residence):

and saw a statue of another rebel girl, Queen Victoria.

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Wednesday while seeing Parliament, we saw the new (as of last Spring) statue of Millicent Fawcett who campaigned for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century and was one of the most influential feminists in the past 100 years:

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Of course a few parts of our trip had nothing to do with rebel girls- we saw the changing of the guard’s a the royal palace,

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We went to the Natural History Museum in London where Maddie and Ada had a ton of fun investigating natural specimen’s by measuring them, weighting them, and looking at them under magnifying glasses:


We also got to tour the Science Museum and Museum of Childhood. We also went to Hamley’s, the world’s largest toy store, where Maddie bought a present (a mechanical dog that looks like Bonnie) with birthday money from Grandma and Aunt Susanne. (sorry I was too busy chasing kids to take a good pic!)

We also loved riding the double decker buses and taking the London Underground everywhere. The London Underground has 11 lines which is pretty incredible to me since it is way more than other cities I’ve lived in (DC has 6 lines, Oslo has 5 lines and Atlanta has only 2)! Maddie wants me to mention that the Jubilee line and our first train to Great Missenden were not running when we needed them. Maddie’s favorite line was the Victoria line. 

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And here are a few bonus photos of our trip- At the Roald Dahl museum we found out that Maddie is just as tall as Matilda and Ada loved sitting in Roald Dahl’s writing chair.

A few more pics from the natural history museum. Maddie wanted to show the Turtle shell to Zoey because she and Zoey (with the eco-kids club) are trying to convince others to save sea turtles by skipping the straw.

A few pics from Cambridge- John and I next to the mathematical bridge, the Corpus Clock unveiled in 2008 by Stephen Hawking featuring a beast called the “chronophage” or time eater, and punting down the River Cam.

Maddie and Ada having a blast with Lida and Andrew, Elena’s husband and daughter, at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants in Cambridge.

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A pic of an egyptian Pharaoh at our Airbnb which Maddie and Ada made into a shrine- offering him presents such as chocolate, jelly beans, berries and leaves they found around London. Also, a pic of me in the ever present London telephone booths.

Finally, the creative way Maddie and Ada decided to ride to our gate in the London Stansted Airport:

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The Loppemarked

A loppemarked (literally translated to flea market) is exactly that- A huge assortment of items for sale that you would find in any typical home. In the US, most of the flea markets I’ve seen are run out of a fixed location and operated seasonally by people make their living from the flea market as well as those who want to make money off their wares. In Norway, flea markets are quite different. They are basically huge yard sales organized by an organization, usually a school, that gets a lot of volunteers to help over a weekend. The volunteers are usually kids and other adults who are designated by a bright reflective vest. The proceeds usually go to the organization and the items are donated from members of the community. We’ve been told by several people that loppemarkeds in Norway usually happen in either the fall or the spring and they are great places to buy used skiing equipment.

We’ve been to three loppemarkeds so far and the kids and I love them. At them you can find separate areas for toys, clothes for men, women, and children, sports equipment (skis, skates, bikes, you name it), appliances, housewares, and picture. Since everything is donated and run by volunteers, everything tends to be very cheap.

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I come from a family which takes some pride on being frugal or at least finding good deals on purchases which, as John will attest, has manifested itself in my life as being unwilling to spend money on much of anything. (In fact, I remember as a girl being quite pleased with gifts from my grandfather’s brother (who was by no means poor) from his regular dumpster diving trips.)

My work in sustainability has only strengthened this impulse as I see every purchase as having a large amount of negative consequences for both people and our planet both up and down the supply chain as well as the waste of the product being discarded once it is no longer needed. Add to all of that the fact that we are in Norway where everything is at least 50% more expensive than the US and the fact that we literally can not bring home more items than those we brought here, my aversion to buying anything new here has only strengthened. Despite or perhaps because of all of this, I love shopping at loppemarked’s especially because there are quite a few things most Norwegian’s have for the winter that we simply didn’t bring from the states. Since the burden of both the cost and the guilt of the environmental impact of the item has been born (mostly) by someone else I don’t mind buying a low cost item that will not only help our family enjoy the winter here, but also benefits the school where we bought the item, and in April will benefit the international school’s loppemarked (which I’ve already signed up to help with and will happily donate everything we can’t carry with us back to the states). Anyway, here are a few purchases we’ve made so far at the loppemarked’s:

  • Toys (at two loppemarked’s we allowed Maddie and Ada to pick out one toy which cost a total of $2 which totally made their day.) I went to one this past weekend by myself to do a little Christmas shopping and came back with a large bag of toys for $30 which made my day.
  • Skis- we bought cross country skis, boots and poles for all four of us and downhill skis for me all for $200.
  • Ice Skates- So far we have ice skates for me, Maddie and John bought for $40 total.
  • Sled- $6
  • Norwegian Waffle maker (we’ve been making Norwegian waffles every weekend since and they are amazing) and hand blender stick/whisk (for warm winter soups)- $30

 

Recycling and Waste in Norway

I am continually surprised by how good Norway is at recycling and waste as compared to the US. Only 2% of waste in Norway ends up in a landfill as compared to 54% of waste in the US. Isn’t that incredible? Want to know how they do it. Here goes:

24% of waste is recycled. I’m actually surprised this number isn’t higher because close to 97% of all soda cans and plastic bottles are recycled because of their PANT system (compared to 30% in the US) . Norwegians pay an extra 10-25 cents to buy a drink in a bottle and get that money back when they recycle it at their local grocery store. This system helps reduce litter in the city because people are more than happy to pick up a bottle on the street (or even take it out of the trash can) so they can get refunded money for it and I think the system probably makes Norwegians a little healthier because soda is just that much more expensive.

Maddie and Ada have gotten in the habit of picking up trash and recycling to help sea turtles (as Ada said this morning “We have to pick up the trash so the sea turtles won’t eat it.”) Just yesterday Maddie found an aluminum can on the street on the way to school. We had a little time before school started, so Maddie returned it at the grocery store on the way to school, got a receipt for approximately  2 kr (25 cents) and proudly shared her story with her class. She wants to use her money from PANTing to buy candy for herself, Ada and two friends from school who she has playdates with this weekend.

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Here is a pic of Ada PANTing some the other two bottles we have collected since living here:

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Besides PANTing, Norwegians are able to recycle not only the harder plastics like we do in the US but also the more flexible plastic food packaging and bags. I think this is because in the US most of our recycling goes into one container (single stream) and the plastic bags and other food packaging gets easily caught and stuck in the motors that separate out the other recycling at the recycling plant. Because Norwegians separate out their own recycling at home, they can accept almost all types of plastic for recycling. Here is a pic of what plastics they accept as well as what our plastic recycling trash can looks like in our apartment building:

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In Delaware, the recycling facility told me that if the recyclables from St. Andrew’s School were contained in a plastic bag or trash can liner, they would reject the whole thing because their facility doesn’t accept flexible plastics. It is so nice here that people don’t have to worry about that.

Norwegians also individually separate out paper from recycling which is probably the only way to do it these days. China has stopped taking some of the paper recycling in the US because it is too contaminated (too wet) because of the other recyclables in the single stream recycling system. It’s nice to know when I recycle paper in Norway that it most definitely is getting recycled.

Unfortunately, recycling metal and glass in Norway is harder than in the states. Instead of recycling them at the curb or in your apartment building, you have to carry your glass and metal to central collection places near the grocery store like this one. I’m a little suprised that it’s harder because metal at least is the most valuable recyclable of them all:

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Norwegians also compost 14% of their waste. The city of Oslo makes composting super easy- they provide you with the composting bags for free (we can pick them up in our apartment building or at the local library among other places) and you deposit it right next to where you deposit your other waste.

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Therefore close to 14% of all waste in Oslo is composted or made into biogas. Not all buses in Oslo currently run on biogas but a lot of them do. Ruter’s goal is to have their entire bus fleet be fossil fuel free by 2020 and be one third electric by 2025 which is pretty incredible.

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So what is left? Not that much. In the US most kitchen trash cans are quite large, but in Norway, every single one we have seen is about pretty small. In fact, most of the residents in our apartment complex use shopping bags for their unrecyclable/uncompostable waste because they are just the right size for the small amount of waste that is left. Here is a pic of our trash can and of the types of bags you see thrown out here (notice not many people buy their own trash bag liners):

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In the US almost all of this waste (54%) goes to a landfill. The other 12% is sent to waste to energy facilities in the US. In Norway, they send all of their leftover waste (57%) to a waste to energy incinerator and 2% to landfills. There are a ton of these facilities throughout Europe I’m guessing this is because land in Europe is at a premium. Norway does lead the way in turning waste into energy. Norway has three plants in all, the plant in Oslo creates enough heat for 4,000 homes and enough electricity for all the school’s in Oslo. The incinerators themselves are financially viable because they make half of their profits from creating electricity and heat from waste and the other half from fees charged to dispose of waste. Because of this heat, the City of Oslo plans to have all heating in the city be fossil fuel free by 2020. They also plan to build a carbon capture and storage system so that the CO2 created from the waste burned does not exacerbate climate change. (They also do a really good job of removing the pollutants from burning the waste and using the ash leftover for road building and other construction projects.) I’m not completely sold on waste to energy because it seems like we should be producing less waste and burning waste does produce some pretty bad toxins which have to be carefully disposed of. Also, twaste to energy plants are often located in low income areas and the pollution is more likely to harm those who are the most vulnerable. However, what Norway has done does seem to be pretty thoughtful and profitable and somehow seems better than making mountains out of our waste like we do in the states.

Overall, it’s pretty nice living in a city where being good to the environment is so easy though I have to say- after reading “No Impact Man” last year and hearing how hard you have to work to remove waste from your life, Norway and the US still have a long way to go in terms of waste production. I mean is that plastic wrapping my cucumber really necessary?

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A visit from a friend and two Norwegian explorers

This past weekend, Mary Lewis, an old friend from college became our first visitor to Norway to stay with us at our apartment. We had a wonderful time together exploring Oslo, going to festivals, and during our last day together, learning about a Norwegian Explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Here is a pic of Mary Lewis and I exploring Oslo (using Rick Steve’s walking tour which was actually pretty great):

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On Sunday night, we watched the newest movie about Thor Heyerdahl’s adventure on the “Kon-Tiki” in 1947 and then Monday while the kids were in school, we went to the Kon Tiki museum in Oslo where we saw the boat he helped build. (The movie was pretty good and is streaming on Netflix for free but unfortunately only in Norwegian. So, we rented the english version from  iTunes.) 

In middle school, Thor told his teachers he wanted to uncovery scientific mysteries like that of Easter Island. After graduating college, he pursued his dream and spent a year with his wife on a Polynesian island where he developed a theory that some native Polynesians came from Peru to the West of Polynesia, 4,300 miles away. Scientists at the time believed all of Polynesia was settled from the East. In particular he heard of the legend of “Kon-Tiki” who came to the island on a balsa wood raft from Peru. After he was unsuccessful convincing others that his theory was plausible, he decided to test it out himself with a six man crew by building a balsa wood raft and then successfully sailing it on a 101 day, 4,300 mile journey journey across the Pacific. The Kon-Tiki museum has the original balsa wood raft and the supplies they used on it. Below is a pic of the ship- Doesn’t it look flimsy?:

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A few crazy factoids about their journey:

  1. Because of a near drowning incident in childhood, Thor evidently was scared of water and didn’t even know how to swim before he decided to sail across the Atlantic. In fact only one person in their six man crew had any experience in the ocean!
  2. At the time, scientists thought that it was only possible to catch fish near the shore and that in the middle of the ocean, fish were so scarce that they thought no one could have sailed far without proper provisions. On Thor’s journey, breakfast almost every day consisted of flying fish that became stranded on the raft the night before. So, he helped prove that theory incorrect. 
  3. They brought a parrot with them that bit through the radio line that allowed them to have contact with the outside world
  4. They were unable to steer the raft well and when they got close to the Polynesian islands, natives would paddle to them but they couldn’t steer the boat to their islands. They ended up basically crashing their raft on a reef (where the wind and current brought their ship) just outside some polynesian islands.
  5. Almost everyone was convinced the ropes holding the raft together would fall apart after 14 days and that the entire crew would die. Thor didn’t believe them and didn’t even bring enough extra rope to tie them together again if they did break. Fortunately the ropes dug into the balsa soft balsa wood which protected the ropes (and their lives) for the entire 101 day journey.
  6. Thor wrote a best selling book and based on footage he took on their journey an Oscar winning documentary in 1950 after his journey which you can also see in the Kon-Tiki museum or rent on iTunes.

After watching the movie and seeing the museum, I was stunned by how unprepared and how daring Thor was when undertaking the Kon-Tiki expedition and how incredible it was that they all survived that 101 day journey across the ocean. It was also humbling to know how little scientists knew in 1948 and how little we still know today.

A little under two weeks ago, I read a book about Roald Amundsen, another Norwegian explorer, and his adventures exploring the Arctic. I also got the chance to tour his home with the International Woman’s Club of Oslo. Below is a pic of a few of us by his statue by his house:

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Roald Amundsen was the first person to reach the South Pole and also the first person to reach both the south and north pole. He died at the age of 55 trying to rescue a fellow arctic explorer by airplane and his house is almost exactly the same as he left it in 1928. A few interesting facts about Roald:

  1. When he was young, he was inspired by another famous Norwegian polar explorer Fritdjof Nansen and would open his window in the middle of the night in Norway so he could get accustomed to arctic conditions. His poor parents!
  2. As a young man, he tried to explore northern norway in the dead of winter with his brother outside for a week with just sleeping bags (no tent) and a small amount of food. Within the first few days they almost died after they tried to make their own shelter in the snow and were frozen in overnight. After that experience he decided he would never be unprepared for anything.
  3. His mother wanted him to be a doctor but she died in the middle of his training. After she passed away, he quite medical school to pursue his dream of exploring the arctic.
  4. On the first expedition he lead, his creditors threatened to cancel their journey until they got their money back. Thor decided to leave in the middle of the night to escape them and he evidently got away with it.
  5. The doctors on his expeditions all ended up sneaking the morphine from the medicine cabinet and becoming addicted for the rest of their lives. On his last expedition, Roald decided to just bring the cabinet and no doctor so he wouldn’t have to deal with that unfortunate side effect. Below is a pic of the medicine cabinet he brought with him on his most recent Arctic expedition. It’s smell was very strong when our guide opened it up for us.IMG_2343
  6. They would set out on journey’s expecting with provisions to feed themselves for 3- 5 years because they expected to be trapped in the ice with little chance of finding other food for entire winters. I think they brought biscuits, and chocolate, and 
  7. He learned from natives to the Arctic how to avoid scurvey by eating raw meat (from seals) which had just enough vitamin C in it. (He actually learned a lot from native people and had these beautiful pictures in the windows in his home that were taken on his expeditions.)IMG_2324
  8. Lots of explorers died in horrific ways trying to get to the North and South Pole. Conditions there are unbelievably harsh!
  9. NASA studied Roald Amundsen and his expeditions to learn what space explorers would have to undertake when going to the moon.
  10. At one point he decided to train a baby polar bear but it didn’t work out so the polar bear ended up stuffed in his home. There is the head of another polar bear on a cabinet by his picture.

And here are a few bonus pics- Walking through his house really felt like walking back in time. It was amazing. From left to right and top to bottom- an outdoor porch area, his living room with the original furniture/lamps, the study where he planned his expeditions (and a huge map of the arctic), the outside of his home, the bathroom, and the amazing detailed painting so the wire matched the wall paper, and finally his bedroom (Norwegians still tend to have bedrooms just big enough for their beds) with port holes so he could feel like he was on a ship.

After we toured his home, we went to a cute coffee house and a friend ordered Norwegian waffles which Norwegian’s eat either with jam or brown cheese. (Waffles and hot dogs are evidently very Norwegian.)

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Both of these trips have taught me again, how little I know about our world. I seriously had never heard of these two explorers yet in their time, they were world famous! It also made me realize that although I’ve always considered myself adventurous (I biked across the US in college!), I am much to risk adverse to do anything close to what Roald Amundsen and Thor accomplished! Those guys are crazy!

 

Dressing for Barnehage

On the first day of school, John and I got to sit through a presentation from her teachers about Ada’s preschool and how Ada should dress. In Norway, young children attend  “barnehage” which translates to children’s garden just like kindergarten. Barnehage is basically equivalent to preschool/day care for children from 0 to 5 years old. Barnehege is heavily subsidized by the state and children who attend are required to spend at least one to two hours outside every day unless it is below 14F. That means even if it rains cats and dogs outside all day like it did on Tuesday of last week or if it’s freezing cold or sleeting, they spend time outside.

Norwegians have a saying (though I’ve heard this in the US too) “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” To that end, here is what Ada’s preschool teachers told us Ada would need to be able to participate comfortably outside at preschool.

For rain or wet weather, Ada and her friends have rain pants and rain coats. The pants are more like trousers and have an elastic that goes around the shoe. So, they are pretty impenetrable. They also put these over their snow suits in the winter if it’s especially wet snow outside:

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As a side note, I think it’s pretty neat that Ada’s friends back in Delaware get to wear full body rain suits as St. Anne’s Episcopal preschool trials a nature preschool!

For colder weather, the kids dress in layers. First they put on wool (“ull” in Norwegian) long underwear:

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A one piece fleece suit:

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A one piece heavy winter suit (again note the elastic to go underneath the boot):

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Wool socks and good snowshoes (Viking and Ecco are good Norwegian brands that make warm shoes with Goretex on the outside for water resistance/breathability):IMG_2428

And another pair of snow boots for wet snows (basically wool lined rain boots):

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Finally, a hat and fleece scarf or a balaclava (shown below) and really nice mittens that can go over the sleeves of a coat:

IMG_2429Unfortunately because we are new to Norway, I don’t have the awesome network of friends and family giving us hand-me-downs for all of this necessary clothing. These clothes also can be quite expensive. A good set of new winter boots can put you back $100 and a good pair of mittens can cost up to $50! However, I have been able to find almost everything we need used through other parents at Ada’s school, facebook groups or the local craigslist (finn.no) at extremely reasonable prices. Although it takes more time to obtain clothes this way, it has saved us a lot of money, and of course I hope it has also helped the environment through reuse. (Plus, it was fun to go to random parts of the city to meet up with the sellers.)

I almost forgot to mention that Ada will also occasionally need “wind and cold cream” that parents put on their kids faces to protect their skin from getting too dry in the winter. Evidently they sell it at most “Apoteks” aka pharmacies. Yikes!

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This fall, Ada gets to go to a “nature school” every Friday where they get on a bus and go to a place where they learn about nature by spending all day outside regardless of the weather. I’m sure Ada will be putting some of this clothing to good use there as well. As you can see below, Ada will pick blueberries, learn how to whittle and operate a bow and arrow (!), build a hut with sticks, set up a trap, pitch a Norwegian tipi tent, grill around a bonfire, and do an obstacle course. How awesome is that? (At several places in Norway, I’ve actually seen small children put these skills to use by whittling sticks quite proficiently to roast a hot dog over a fire.)

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Because Ada will be outside all day at nature school, we’ve had to buy her an insulated sitting mat which is quite common in Norway to protect your bottom from the wet/cold ground. Below is a pic of Ada sitting on her mat when her class chose to picnic outside near the local pool:

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Below is a pic of Ada picking up trash to celebrate international clean up day (All the kids in barnehage wear yellow or orange vests on field trips and they seem to take field trips a lot).

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And below are a few good pics of Ada and her friends playing outside this fall in preschool:

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Finally, how does the school manage all of this clothing. Each kid not only gets their own cubby which holds their indoor shoes/extra set of clothes and backpack. But each class has their own special portable closet with hooks that can hold boots and rain coats so they can dry for the next day!

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