December Highlights

We’ve already shared a bunch of the photos from December in the Christmas in Norway post, but here are some highlights that didn’t make that post.

One Saturday afternoon, we went to see the Oslo Philharmonic Christmas special, where they created a sountrack for the animated film “the Snowman.” It was a wonderful performance, in a gorgeous hall.

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We got our first major snowfall one school day in December, and Maddie and Ada had a wonderful time walking to school that day.

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Unlike previous places I’ve lived, the snow is now a permanent fixture, and so nearly every walk to school involves Maddie and Ada climbing the large snow mountain in the grocery store parking lot along our walk.

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Maddie and Ada’s school created a similar huge snow mountain, which is a favorite place to play for kids in the morning.

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On weekends, we love to head to some of the nearby school playgrounds, and now that there is lots of snow, Staabek school has a wonderful sledding hill.

Here are Ada and one of her best friends, Kiana riding on a two-person sled that even has brakes.

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And the two of them eating big blocks on snow on the walk home.
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Maddie and her friend, Nika.

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In mid-December, we went back to the folk museum to see their Christmas market, and got to see lots of traditional Norwegian crafts and traditions. Maddie and Ada loved this organ grinder.

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The horse drawn carriage rides were also neat to see.

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And Ada liked the big ornaments on the tree.

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John took a two-day workshop on using web programming in Javascript to create art. The workshop brought together 10 people from around Oslo with a wide range of programming background and professions, and we created these posters that were printed on A2 paper using a Riso printing process similar to screen printing. Two days after the workshop, we got to see all of our work on display at an art gallery appropriately named Low Standards. My poster is the apostrophe on the bottom row, 2nd from the left.

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In a second poster, prints from different artists were merged to create new works of art.

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Here is a video of Ada’s preschool class singing “I’m a little snowflake.”

We went back to Bærums Verk, and it looks very different in December than from how it looked back in September.

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Here’s Maddie in front of a statue of Ingegjerd Løvenskiold Stuart, the Mistress of the Robes, the highest-ranking member of the royal court, who was committed to restoring the industrial village of Bærums Verk.

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At Bærums Verk, we got to see a short performance by the 3 sisters, singing a traditional Norwegian Christmas Carol, På låven sitter nissen, a song about naughty elves on the porch eating porridge that has become quite an earworm in our house.

Finally, we wrapped up the trip to Bærums Verk with a horse and buggy ride.

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Maddie has also become a rather voracious reader in the past months. She’s finished both of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books, and is now reading Harry Potter with John. Every now and then, she even reads to her little sister.

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Here’s one more sledding video, this time, from Frogner Park in Oslo. Maddie and Ada love these “Bumboard” sleds, which are super popular in Norway.

Our walks home from school often involve just as much snow play as our walks to school. Here’s Maddie climbing snow mountain just after school lets out with her friends Eleanor and Barrett.

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Here’s Maddie and Ada making a snowman after piano practice one Thursday. IMG_3464

Here’s a photo of our Christmas tree and decorations. Thanks to our friend Paulina for loaning us a tree and many of the ornaments.

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Here are our Letters to Santa (one on left is Ada’s written by Maddie and one on right is Maddie’s second draft in which she added a few more things.) Both were sent to Santa in Drobak, Norway via the postal service.

A few last random tidbits, We found Thai restaurant in Oslo with the same name as the one we frequent in Delaware. Alas, since eating out is a super special treat in Oslo, we didn’t check this place out.
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Here’s a candid photo of Ada waiting for her sister’s piano lesson.
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Finally, here we are with our Nisse-billett, the free Flytoget train tickets we got to the airport for wearing Santa hats on our journey to Copenhagen. Just one more way to get in the Christmas spirit.

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October and November Adventures

Things are getting busier, and I’m falling behind on my monthly photo posts, so I’m going to combine two months into one here.

Hanging out at a small pond in Jar, near our house.
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In early October, Maddie got a copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When she first got it, she wanted to read it walking to school. She’s now finished both this book, and the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.

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Maddie is also enjoying taking piano lessons after school on Thursday’s. Her teacher likes it when the parent is in the room during the lesson so we can better help her practice during the week. So, often Ada gets to hang out too sometimes playing and sometimes eating a snack at her sister’s feet.

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Ada keeps getting better and better on her scooter, and it’s now the best way to make sure we get to school on time.
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Date day—Diana and I got to see a member of the Physics Nobel Committee describe the 2018 Physics Nobel Prize.
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This is the view from the back of the physics building, looking to the west—our apartment is way off in the distance.
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Maddie’s class put on a small play sharing the story of Rama and Sita.

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Here’s more of Ada on the scooter. This time, it was 51°F outside, and Ada insisted on wearing short sleeves.
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For my birthday, we celebrated with chocolate cake from our local bakery and took a trip to see the National Norwegian Ballet perform Manon. Thanks to the generous underwriting of the Norwegian government, our tickets were around $15 each, and Maddie and Ada managed to stay focused for the entire 3 hour ballet.

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Afterward, they decided to run around a bit on the Opera House, which is an amazing space right on the water.

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Maddie and Ada’s school celebrated Halloween with Trunk or Treat on October 21st (because their fall week long break fell right over Halloween)—parents decorated their cars and gave out candy and awards for the best costumes.
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Maddie turned 8 this year, and we decided to have a small celebration at home.

We celebrated Maddie’s Birthday with some friends from Iran, and they sang Happy Birthday in Persian to Maddie.

Ada turns herself into a present.

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First snow in Norway—just as we are leaving for London for fall break.
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As we were waiting for our flight, Maddie and Ada found a moment for some silly science experiments with static electricity.

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In early November, we went to a Kulturhus in Oslo for a day learning about different cultures. One of the activities was building new worlds and making bridges between them. Maddie and Ada chose to make homes out of cardboard. Maddie’s house is the one in the back (and not pink).

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Another walk near our house around Dællivannet (vann means water in Norwegian and is a way to name a lake). That’s Kolsas in the background.

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In mid November, we set up a Skype call between Maddie and her class back in Delaware. She had a great time talking to them.

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Ada celebrated a friend’s birthday at Leo’s Lekeland, a play space for kids that is loaded with all sorts of climbing and play structures for kids, and plenty of seating for parents to sit and chat.

Here’s a video of Maddie trying to master a rope swing on a playground near our home. This is one of her final attempts after working on it for twenty minutes.

Norway doesn’t really believe in salting or shoveling sidewalks, so it’s not uncommon for walkways to be quite slippery. Not to worry, the local sporting goods store sells shoes with ice spikes, along with detachable spikes you can add to any shoes, and keeps a block of ice in the store for you to test out the traction of your shoes.

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A trip to Bergen

Back in the beginning of October, we took a long weekend and traveled to Bergen, Norway.

Bergen is known for being rainy, and it didn’t disappoint. It was our first real chance to put our rain gear to test.

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Maddie and Ada had a great time jumping in the biggest puddles they could find.

and with rain, you always get rainbows (even two at a time!)

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We took the Fløibanen funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen, where it was rainy and a bit cold, but Maddie and Ada managed still had fun at the playgrounds we discovered at the top.
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Evidently parts of “Frozen” were inspired by the city of Bergen, Norway. The moss covered rocks and trolls at the top of the Mount Fløyen were reminiscent of the film.

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Here’s a picture of the Skomakerdiket, a beautiful lake that the top of Mt. Fløyen that made the perfect lunch spot, until it started to rain heavily again.
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The classic tourist photo of Bryggen, the historic shops and restaurants at the wharf.
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The Bergen Aquarium made for a great visit on a rainy morning. I find I really like museums that are small enough to fully explore in half a day.

We also had some great adventures at the science museum.

We spend an afternoon wandering around the Bergen Art Museum.

One really interesting exhibit we saw was this installation where kids could write their wishes on a star and place them on the wall. This one caught my eye. (“ikke” means not in Norwegian.)
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Becoming artists at the Nasjonalmuseet

This Sunday, we went to the Nasjonalmuseet in Oslo, the National Art Museum. It was a rainy day, but we really enjoyed this trip to a reasonably sized art museum that you could comfortably visit in a couple of hours.

This museum is famous for having Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and we had to get one of us to do the tourist pose.

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This was one of my favorite paintings— it also give a good sense of what things look like around the “twilight” hour of 3pm.

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One of the coolest features of the museum was a drawing room, equipped with all the art supplies you needed to make a drawing of a scuplture of a mother and child in the middle of the room. Maddie had other designs on what do draw, choosing to draw Camille, the doll she recently got for her birthday.

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And here’s the finished product:

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One more portrait of a young artist, hard at work:

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And of course, Ada had to join in on the fun.

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And a couple more paintings that we liked from a special exhibition of Harald Sohlberg.

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September happenings

It’s been a while since I’ve posted—I need to write an update of everything that has been happening at the University—things are getting pretty busy. But in the meantime, here’s a bunch of stuff that happened in the last month.

Ada got a scooter, which she’s riding everywhere.
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More silly antics on the bus.
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In early September, we went to a festival in Oslo celebrating food from all over Norway. One of the coolest things was this stockfish, a dried fish that you have to hit with a hammer in order to loosen up edible bits. We all bought Norwegian food for dinner but our favorite was the fiske soup- a creamy fish soup with chive oil on top.
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We’ve gotten some use out of our rain gear, but it hasn’t been a necessity until we went to Bergen for a long weekend (post forthcoming). Here’s a photo of the girls walking to school in the rain.
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Diana and I went on a date to tour the Norwegian Opera house, which was amazing. I’m excited to go back there to see a ballet performance this Saturday.
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This was the stage for the ballet production of Hamlet. Each step of the stage could articulate in or out, while the huge door in the center moved around in a circle. It was some incredible stagecraft.

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Here’s a photo of Ada and her friend Kiana whose parents are from Iran waiting for the start of school.
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I’ve always loved the sunsets in Delaware, but I’ve discovered that beautiful sunsets happen in Norway, too.
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One Friday night we went to the Oslo Teknisk Museum for culture night. The kids got to enjoy liquid nitrogen ice cream and make paper rockets. I definitely want to go back to this museum.
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Here’s the launch of Ada’s rocket.

Here’s a cute picture of Ada and Maddie walking through Sæteren Gård after the OIS family hike.
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Maddie and Ada also made a fun reading nook in our apartment by pushing out the bed from the wall.

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One weekend in September, we took a short trip to Bæerums Verk, a historic town west of us for a small festival.

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Jumping into hay

Listening to some Norwegian folk singers.
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On the fall equinox, we went down to central Oslo for a festival where we listened to a couple of bands perform, and walked along the Akerselva river, which was lit with luminaries, and featured a number of art and music performances along the walk.

Ada loved listening to the marching bands before the walk got started.

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Here’s some art we saw along the way.
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On weekends, it’s pretty common for organizations (mostly schools) to hold Loppemarked—a giant flea market, featuring all all sorts of things for sale, along with Norwegian waffles and polse (hot dogs), all of which you can pay for using your smartphone.
We landed an amazing deal at this market—$100 for cross country skis and boots for the family.

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Later that day we went to Folk Museum. Here’s Maddie with Princess, a toy she found at the Loppemarked, that we tragically lost at a bus stop a few hours later.

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After school on Tuesdays, Maddie has been taking cooking class with a French chef. Here’s one of her creations.
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Diana and I also went on a date to Fornebu, a peninsula into the Oslofjord that was once the main airport, but as you can see, has now been redeveloped into a beautiful park.
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Another weekend adventure took us to the botanical gardens. Here are pictures of Maddie and Ada “posing.” Maddie is wearing a very thick Norwegian sweater we bought at a thrift store.

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Only in Norway, part 2

Here are a couple more Only in Norway sightings:

This one isn’t really a mystery—I just thought it was pretty awesome. Who wouldn’t want a climate-controlled dog kennel just outside the food hall so you can leave your dog in comfort while you go in to purchase some fisksuppe.

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This one is a complete mystery to me. I’ve seen a number of these things at my daughters’ school, and on the campus of UiO. At first I thought they were some sort of pavement warmer, but there aren’t nearly enough of them around.

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If you’ve got any idea what this is, please share your thoughts in the comments.

A tribute to the the public transportation system of my dreams

When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys was my Brio train set. I could play with those trains for hours, and always dreamed of having the the giant set—the subway, and the ferry, and the tram and the train.

Now that I’ve moved to Oslo, I think I’ve found the Brio set of my dreams here in the Ruter transportation network for metropolitan Oslo and beyond. Since Brio is based in Sweden, I honestly think maybe they’ve just been taking some ideas for the next elements of their train sets from their Norwegian Neighbors.

Let me try to explain just how amazing the Oslo Transportation system is.

First, the Ruter network consists of the T-bane, a subway network of 100 stations with 5 lines covering more than 80 km. It also includes a similarly large network of tram lines in central Oslo and the suburbs, a network of Ferries that reach out islands in the Oslo Fjord, a massive bus network, and the regional train network, NSB.

The entire network is divided into zones, and your price varies depending on which zones you are traveling in. This map is massive—we live about 10 km outside Oslo and are still well within zone 1, which includes all of the subway and tram networks. The airport is about an hour away from central Oslo and near the beginning of zone 4N.

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There are no turnstiles in this subway network, and the only people that use paper tickets are tourists. Once you get a Norwegian ID, you can buy all your tickets electronically on an app on your phone. For about $900, you can buy a year pass, that gives you unlimited rides within zone 1. If you want to ride outside of zone 1, you can buy an extension ticket for a few bucks, again on your phone. Kids under 4 are free, and all children are free on the weekends. The entire system works wonderfully on the honor system. You simply walk onto the train. The only time you ever need to show your ticket is when you get on the bus, and the honor system is enforced by occasional “ticket inspections” and if you are caught without a ticket, you have to pay a $120 fine. This system works beautifully.

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All of the forms of transportation adhere to precise schedules available in the app and on Google maps, and making the most complicated train-tram—bus connections quite simple. If there is ever a delay that causes you to be more than 20 minutes late, Ruter even promises to cover your taxi fare.

Truly, it’s wonderful, and it’s made me realize I don’t miss having a car at all, which is a good thing, since getting a drivers license in Norway is an ordeal I think I’m going to avoid putting myself and my wallet through.

It’s wonderful to know that even though we don’t have a car, virtually all of Oslo and its surroundings are open to us. That, and the wonders of subway cars designed by Porsche, would be enough to make public transportation one of the best things about Norway, but then the thing that really put it over top was this recent ad campaign by Ruter:

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These advertisements feature portraits of immigrants new to Oslo from all over the world, and almost put a knot in my throat—maybe because I’m realizing how easy it would be to feel excluded in a foreign country when you don’t know the language, and how grateful I am every day that I rarely have that feeling here. Or maybe it’s because every day my home country seems to be finding another way to make live even more difficult for immigrants. Either way, I’m grateful for the transportation network that does more than just gets you from point A to B with a awesome app, it makes everyone feel welcome in the process.