Thursday, January 29, 2009
What travel recollections are complete without a
recounting of all the interesting foods I tried? Here, Cortina and I are eating hot waffles with a slice of goat cheese in the middle- surprisingly good! We bought them on the street from two young boys who were doing some kind of fundraiser.
On my first night in Tromsø we had a traditional rice porridge, sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. It was delicious though I had not expected to eat it for supper. But I'm never one to argue with having something sweet for any meal! The leftover porridge was saved and made into rice cream the next day- whipped cream just folded into the porridge and served as dessert with berry syrup or carmel sauce drizzled over it. Wow!
Our next traditional meal was cured lamb, which has to soak in water for eight hours before being cooked. It was served with boiled potatoes and mashed kohlrabi. The meat was rich and salty and it was good to have the blander flavors alongside. Unfortunately, that evening I was coming down with a nasty but short-lived stomach flu so I didn't have the best appetite. Cortina loved the meal. Ben, who's the Norwegian one, doesn't like it and ate something else for dinner!
The night before I left, they went to no small trouble to make reindeer stew, with mashed potatoes and lignonberries. Mmmm- it was really good! My job was to occupy the kids while they cooked so I didn't pay close attention but I think the stew was made with goat cheese, sour cream and mushrooms in it. Delicious flavors!
Of course, there is a lot of fish and seafood to be had there and they eat caviar as a normal spread, not a special delicacy. Liver pate is also a popular spread for the fresh bread that is part of many breakfasts and lunches. The grocery stores carry many familiar items- fresh fruits and veggies, milk, cereal, packaged and frozen meals, etc.
Don't you just love food?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Through the magic of Facebook, last fall I found a friend from high school who I hadn't seen in ten years. She and her husband, who is Norwegian, are living with their two sons in northern Norway! (You can read more about their lives at their blog- Life in the Arctic Circle). While that doesn't exactly make us neighbors, we're a lot closer to each other than to most of our friends and family. So, I flew to Tromsø last Thursday to visit.
Click here to see a map showing Scandinavia (see Tromsø way up there?): http://www.freeworldmaps.net/europe/scandinavia/map.html
The city sits on an island, blanketed in snow and surrounded by mountains and sea. It is harsh but beautiful. There is so much sky! In January, darkness still rules at most hours. But it sharpens your awareness of all types of light- the vast scattering of stars across a clear sky, the warm glow of lamps in the windows of almost every home, the twinkling of lights far across the fjord. And it certainly makes everyone appreciate the sunshine. The day before I arrived was the first day that the sun had risen above the horizon since November. It a day marked with celebration- special doughnuts, parties at day care centers, paper suns in windows of schools. During those short hours of light, it always looked like twilight to me. The sun still isn't high enough in the sky to shine down; it just creates long shadows and the most breathtaking colors in the sky and clouds.
While I was there I tried to drink in, soak in, take in everything around me. I feel like I'm so filled with new memories and experiences that it will take time to sort everything out. It was such a wonderful trip and I feel so blessed to reconnect with old friends and get to know them again. It was especially fun to meet their 3-year-old and 15-month-old sons and spend time playing and laughing with them. My days with their busy family were a good contrast to my quiet life in Sörup. But it is good to be home where I can reflect and cherish my trip to the Arctic Circle.
More to come...
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
After a visit back home and the refreshed outlook of the new year, we can truly say that we are learning German. It will take a long time to become fluent in this language (and I'm not sure we'll stay long enough for that) but we are making progress.
At the moment we have decided not to pursue more formal lessons. We have the Rosetta Stone software and are working our way through that. It teaches with example- see a photo of a dog, see the word "der hund" and hear someone speak the word. Then, you say "der hund." If you don't get it right, try again. It is very repetitive, which is effective. And we like doing it so that's a big part of it!
Over the weekend, we bought two children's books. One is about life on a farm and the other is about trains and train stations. We will have some new vocabulary words to learn but I think we can actually read these books! I can't tell you how exciting it feels to realize I am beginning to learn to read in a new language!
Monday, January 12, 2009
On a recent walk I thought I might have stepped into an imaginary, Mary Poppins-esque world! A sunny afternoon walk and who did I see? Bert! Well, at least it was a chimney sweep in full traditional garb. When I had a chimney sweep come to my house in Kalamazoo, he showed up in jeans and a sweatshirt with a Shop-Vac. But this German guy was the real article.
I did a search to find a suitable photo and laughed when I found this on the blog of an English-speaker living in Hamburg! The guy I saw was young but otherwise this was him, right down to the brass buttons! You just never know what you're going to see! Keep your eyes open!
Friday, January 9, 2009
So on my Christmas list for next year are a collection of greeting cards measuring less than 23.5 cm x 12.5 cm!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Monday, January 5, 2009
The company that I work for has only about eighty employees. Even so, on any given day I find twelve to fifteen bicycles at the rack by the side door. Eighteen is the record! This doesn’t include the three or four mopeds and scooters that are regularly parked there. One day last fall, I drove in to work because it was a little rainy. Wow, did I get flack from my fellow riders! Even my boss had something to say about my fortitude (or lack thereof)!
When I worked at Pfizer in Kalamazoo I had the goal of bicycle commuting at least fifty times per year, an average of about one day per week. I met this goal for the last few years I worked there. Often there would only be two or three bikes at the rack where I parked, even though there were about 2500 employees at the site. Just a few dedicated riders, but they kept me motivated.
Biking to work every day of ’09 seemed like a reasonable goal after experiencing a mild Northern Germany December. There had been only a few days below freezing and no snow accumulation. Last night as I lamented going back to work after three weeks of holiday, I looked out the window to see that it had started to snow- really snow! I heard kids laughing and playing, and our neighbor shovelling the drive. I remembered what my friend Jan had said when I went to work by car last fall- There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I have a warm jacket, a hat, gloves and a hand knitted scarf. I even have some new waterproof pants that easily slide over my work pants. No excuses!
On my ride in this morning I saw parents pulling their kids to school in sleds. The train stopped at the station and people walked a few blocks to work in the snow. I even saw other bicycle tracks along my route. I made it to work safely and parked my bike at the rack- all alone. The snow storm was the talk of the office. A bit later, I heard Jan arrive at his desk. I looked over with a knowing grin as he took off his heavy coat and waterproof pants. I guess there will always be at least two bikes at the bike rack!