Monday, March 31, 2014

What's it like: Pant (no, not what you wear)

This is an example of a bottle recycling/refund machine
(photo found on Aftenposten)
As I mentioned in a previous post (read it HERE), recycling is big in Norway. And in addition to the things you just put into recycling containers, you can also return bottles for a refund. They call the refund Pant (pronounced pahnt) and I believe it can be a noun or a verb.

I've also talked about how the boys focus on specific units/themes at school throughout the year (read that post HERE). Daniel's current unit of study is Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

It is exciting when you see your kids do more than just 'book learn' something.

Daniel's box that is now sitting in the entryway at his school
One evening the boys and I were talking about things going on at school: their units of study, what they liked about what they were learning, plus important things like eating lunch, recess, PE, etc. Daniel began complaining that they don't have any decent equipment (balls, jump ropes, etc) on their playground. And through a series of questions I posed, he came up with the idea of asking people to bring in their bottles and the money that is collected could be used to purchase some new equipment. He works with his teacher to write the proposal, and then presented it to the principal for approval.

I'm really proud of Daniel and his ability to apply his unit of study to everyday life. It's fun to see his enthusiasm each day when he checks the box in the school entryway to see how many more bottles were brought in.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring is here!

Spring has arrived in Sandefjord! We've been able to enjoy some walks and some beautiful sunsets lately.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gode venner: Good friends

en norsk velsignelse
We are thankful for good friends here in Norway.

This past Sunday, one of our friends invited us over for dinner. We loved the 'blessing cube' she had (see photo at right), which includes one of our favorite Norwegian blessings (a song you sing as a way to thank God for the food before eating).

We also enjoyed some great desserts. Her oldest daughter made traditional Norwegian waffles - always a favorite - and her youngest daughter did an incredible job of baking pavlova.
waffles og pavlova

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NWotD: lege

(noun) doctor.

Used in a sentence
Daniel besøkte legen i går.
(Daniel visited the doctor yesterday.)

Related words
Fastlege: general practitioner
Tannlege: dentist
Legevakt: ER/emergency room/emergency services

Related to us
Daniel had his first Norwegian checkup today. Everything went well. We really like our family doctor/GP. He is patient with our bad language skills, and seems to be quite thorough. A couple of things that were interesting to us and quite different from our experience in the states:

  1. He introduced himself by first name. No formal titles here!
  2. He was wearing a white t-shirt and dark blue scrub pants - no shirt & tie with white lab coat!
  3. We waited about 2 minutes to be called back. And the doctor called us back. 

Have you ever visited a doctor in another country? Did you notice differences from your home country?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I was really on a roll...

I was blogging almost daily. 

And then hubby returned from the states. And my focus shifted. It really is so good to have him home!

But stay tuned... I promise I will be back soon with more about our American-Norwegian life. More about our challenges, fun, faux pas,... more about life in general.

To be continued!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Wednesdays Off: thankful for little things

Terrible photo - but who cares!
So thankful for time outdoors.
We are happy to be back in language school. It is good to have that routine back, to reconnect with friends there, and to make a few more steps towards language proficiency.

That said, we are also happy that unlike our last class which was five days a week, we now have Wednesdays free. It is a great time to catch up on work, run errands, and relax a little together.

Yesterday, we finished our errands a little early and had some time before picking the boys up from school. So we went to the park and enjoyed a brisk 2.5 mile walk. So good to get fresh air and sunshine!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Så søt!

Have you ever seen anything cuter? I don't think it's possible. Love his little furrowed brow :) And hoping I won't have to wait too long to hold this sweet little man for the first time!

Happy two week birthday to our sweet little nephew!

Cost of Living

A report was recently released, ranking the world's most expensive cities to live in. And Oslo - our country's capital (just north of where we live) - comes in at number four.
Read the report HERE

When we moved to Vancouver, we experienced sticker shock. Everything seemed so expensive. Vancouver is North America's most expensive city. But after a month or so, we learned where to shop, which brands were the most affordable, and how to join customer reward programs.

And then we arrived in Norway. Sticker shock all over again.

But there are a few things to keep in mind..
  1. Our cost of living was low in the states. 
  2. I was a coupon queen. I spent a couple of hours each week with my binder of coupons, scissors, sale ads, and a couple of really good websites. I've found some discount programs here, but not the same.
  3. A different currency can throw your brain for a loop! Currently, the exchange rate is about 5.95 Norwegian kroner (nok) to 1 US dollar (USD). So just looking at the prices initially was a bit shocking. Imagine a pack of pasta that might cost the equivalent of $1.80 - but you see 10.90. 
  4. Import products are strictly regulated in Norway, and heavily taxed. Most things in the stores are local products, and most are also a very high quality.
  5. Restaurants seem especially expensive. But this is not an eat-out/restaurant culture like our home culture was.
  6. Prices are all-inclusive: the price you see already includes tax. 
  7. Prices are higher, but wages are higher as well.
And again, after a while you learn where to shop, what the locals buy, and how to find discounts. You stop converting every price to US dollars, and begin recognizing a good deal when you see one.

Of course we get funny and interesting reactions every time someone comes to visit us. Here are some extreme examples, things we like to show visitors just for shock value.
  • 79 nok ($13 usd) for a small box of pop-tarts [And no, we don't buy those!]
  • $4 - 5 usd for a loaf of bread [But it is good, fresh bread, without junk in it] [And this is one reason why I make my own bread!]
  • 4000 nok ($725 usd) for a KitchenA!d stand mixer [Wish I could have brought mine with me]
  • $27 for a large cheese pizza [Yes, we buy these sometimes - and they are so good!]
  • Is that basic bicycle almost $500?" [You learn to take care of your things like these and make them last a long time.]

And just for fun, here is an interesting table from that report, showing some commonly purchased items, and what they cost in US dollars. How do prices in your city stack up to these?
Source: Worldwide Cost of Living 2013

Monday, March 17, 2014

What's it like: Language school

Now that we are getting back into the language school routine, I thought I could share a little about it.

Our current class meets 4 times a week. We meet from 12:10 - 2:35, and have Wednesdays free.

Not sure if it's the norm, but all of our classes so far have been around 20 - 25 students.

We do a variety of things. There is always a text book, and normally a workbook to go with it. So some of our time is spent going through the text book, reading together aloud, reading in groups, sharing discussion questions. We have times where we talk about current events or cultural happenings. We have lessons in grammar (which I love, but I'm a grammar geek!). From time to time, we'll have a special event, like a day at the beach, or a time to bring food and share things from your home culture. We have homework, writing assignments, and opportunities to do oral presentations.

In our beginner course, the teacher would use some English to help explain things. But since moving to the next level last August, it is taught only in Norwegian.

Our classes have really been helpful in our language development. And it has been a good way to meet some many great people!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Language Confused: Hate

It's always good to know how to introduce yourself. This is one of several key phrases we focused on before arriving in Norway.

ADVICE: don't merely depend on your reading skills when learning a new language. You really need to hear it from a native speaker. Say it back and let them have the freedom to correct you.

We thought we were doing great. But sometimes we would get strange looks. Apparently, as we later figured out, Zack was saying something that sounded more like "I hate Zack."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

School Again

After passing our level 2 language evaluations in November, Zack and I decided to take a short break from language school. It allowed us to rest our brains a bit, and do some practical application.

We've spent time with friends, in the city, and in various meetings and church services. We've learned that we can understand a lot of what is said around us. But we also know we are still a long where from where we need to be when it comes to speaking in everyday conversation.

So it is back-to-school time for us! One year ago this week, we were just beginning our first language course. We knew almost nothing. It is exciting to see how much can be learned in just a year. Can't wait to see what the next year holds.

Our goal is to take the level 3 evaluations around the beginning of next year. If those go well, we can say 'ha det bra' (good-bye) to full-time language school, and spend more time with the city and people we've grown to love so much!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Language Confused: Tire Dilemma

Here in Norway, we have two sets of tires for our cars: summer tires and winter tires. We have almost no storage space here, other than one closet outside of our front door (yes, one closet in our entire house - that's a lot different from where we lived in the US). So, like many here, we have to take the extra tires to a tire storage facility.

Literally, a tire hotel. It's also where you can buy tires. But basically, you pay to store them and to have them changed out twice a year.

So we're there, waiting on the guy who's doing the paperwork. Another guy walks up to me and asks if he could help me.

Here's the thing I've mentioned before: you typically rehearse dialogue before completing a task. Well, we'd already used all of that dialogue with the other guy, so I'd kind of filed it away.

And in my haste to answer him, instead of saying I'm here about tire storage, I tell him that "I am a tire hotel."

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reunited: back on the same continent!

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, Zack boarded a flight and headed for Atlanta. There were a number of reasons that this was the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. I'm really glad that it worked out for him.

For 17 days, he's been able to spend time with his family (and some of mine), connect with some stateside partners, help with some practical things, and be there for the birth of his nephew. I think this visit has been really good for him, especially getting to spend some quality time with his mom and dad.

But with all of that said, can I just say how excited I am that he will be home with us later today? It has been quite an experience for the three of us still in Norway. I have a new and overwhelming appreciation for single moms. Seriously. How do you ladies do it? I'm not even working full time and I still feel like I'm barely keeping things running!

The boys and I have had fun, with some challenges mixed in. But we are definitely ready to get back to our normal craziness, instead of this unfamiliar extra-craziness!

Can't wait to have him home tonight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Language Confused: You're hanging up what?!?!

Zack had been working with the landlord, trying to get the bathroom remodel completed before my mom and step-dad came to visit. In a process like that, you hear and begin to learn vocabulary you haven't used before.

Like the word for moldings.

We were visiting with friends, but it was time to leave. Zack was excited to speak in Norwegian as he told his friend he needed to go and hang molding (trim) on the walls. Only he didn't say that.

No, Zack was going home to hang lust on the walls.

Life Lesson: learn to laugh at yourself!

Language Confused: learning a new language

Learning a new language is challenging. It's even harder if you don't learn to laugh at yourself.

In the spirit of laughing at ourselves, I thought it would be fun to periodically share some of our language mix-ups. Times when we thought we totally had it together, but were so very wrong.

So be on the look-out for more on this soon!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

NWotD: Familie

(noun) Family.

Used in a sentence
Familie er viktig for meg.
(Family is important to me.)

Related words
Far: father
Mor: mother
Sønn: son
Datter: daughter
Bror: brother
Søster: sister

Related to us
We are very excited that Zack's brother and sister-in-law had their first child, a son!
Vi er veldig glade for at Zacks bror og svigersøster har fått sitt første barn, en sønn!

Monday, March 10, 2014

What's it Like: Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping here is not all that different here. Not greatly, different, anyway. Here's a rundown on similarities and differences...

What's the same as what we were used to in the states?
  • The food is pretty much the same. We can get most anything at grocery stores here. Imports will cost you. For instance, a small box of PopTarts is around $6-7 USD. 
  • Several big chains hold the majority of the market. Our choices include Kiwi, Rimi, Rema 1000, ICA and Meny. We can also drive a little further to Coop, EuroSpar or Joker. (There are other chains in the country as well.)
  • Lots of choices when you're shopping for coffee, cheese, meat or fish.

What's different from our former 'normal'?
  • At many stores, you need a coin to get a grocery cart. You get it back when you return the cart. Baskets are no charge.
  • Bring your own bags. Or pay for plastic bags, usually around 1 krone (@17 cents USD).
  • Almost everything is a local (local meaning from Norway) product. Produce is probably the biggest exception (you can only grow so many things in this climate).
  • Most juice comes in a paper carton, not a plastic or glass bottle. 
  • Same for veggies: many are packed in boxes instead of cans.
  • In most cases, stores are small. Typically, there are only a few choices for each item. For example. the picture below shows Daniel on the vegetable aisle. Actually, only the right side is canned vegetables, and what you're seeing is pretty much the entire aisle. And the last part is the Mexican food section.
  • Few grocery stores are open on Sunday. Like most stores and shops. Most cities have one or two small shops that you can visit on a Sunday. But be ready for narrow aisles, VERY limited selection, and standing in line a while.

Daniel loves the stores that have kid-sized carts!

Kiwi is one of the grocery store chains in our city. It tends to
have the lowest prices, but not as much variety.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Not Yet - words of encouragement

A friend posted a Rick Warren devotion yesterday that really encouraged me. And I thought, maybe I'm not the only one who needs to hear this. So here is an excerpt - may it be an encouragement to you as well!
(red text is my addition)

Why God Sometimes Says 'Not Yet'
by Rick Warren
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’”
Hebrews 10:36-37, NIV

God’s delay
[in answering your request] may be a test of your patience. Anybody can be patient once. And, most people can be patient twice. And, a lot of us can be patient three times. So God tests our patience over and over and over.

Why? So he can see how patient you are? No!

He does it so you can see how patient you are — so you’ll know what’s inside you, and you’ll be able to know your level of commitment. God tests you so that you can know he is faithful, even if the answers you seek are delayed.

You may be going through difficult times right now. You may be discouraged because the situation you face seems unmanageable, unreasonable, or unfair.

It may seem unbearable, and inside you’re basically saying, “God, I can’t take it anymore. I just can’t take it anymore!”

But you can.

You can stay with it longer because God is with you. He’ll enable you to press on. Remember, you are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement, and finish the race God has set before you.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Sometimes you just need to laugh #charliebitme

There are times to be serious, and there are times when you really need a good laugh.
For the latter...

What happens when you squeeze a fish?


Part of our morning routine right now includes a dose of Tran. English speakers would probably know it better as cod liver oil. It is especially important to ensure we get an adequate amount of Vitamin D, when we aren't able to get enough from the sun. Tran is a great source of Vitamin D and Omega-3.

The 'norm' is to take tran in any month whose name has an R in it (Norwegian and English month names are similar enough that it's the same months in either language).

So every morning, we start our day with a dose of fish oil. Lemon flavored fish oil. And don't our faces say it all?
(photo taken Oct 2013, when we first started taking tran)
(In actuality, it is not terrible. But I also don't find myself wanting any extra after I've had my dose!)

Friday, March 7, 2014

The boys' school

Another great topic suggestion from a long-time blog follower...

They take the bus to school most
mornings. They walk to the main
bus terminal in our city and take one of
the city buses that is designated for the
school each morning.
You mentioned that schools in Norway are excellent. Why are they excellent? What do they do differently?  
Before moving, I read a lot about schools in Norway. And everything I researched told me that the system is great. Very forward-thinking and quick to meet every students' needs. Of course, most of what I read was about the national school system. But as plans unfolded, we ended up placing our boys in an IB (International Baccalaureate) School. 

February 2013
And I cannot imagine a better environment for them! Their school is very much hands-on. They aren't taught concepts simply through rote memory, but are presented with units of study that are then explored through various methods that allow the students to learn practically and not just theoretically. There is emphasis on cooperative learning, helping students to work together and to develop positive interpersonal skills in addition to academics. 

June 2013
They are taught in units/themes. Each unit lasts about 4 - 6 weeks. Through each unit, they may have the chance to work on reading, writing, research, projects, history, science, applied math, etc. Some of the units they've studied this year:
DANIEL: You Are What You Eat; Tell Me a Story; Money, Money, Money; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
WILLIAM: Heroes, Space Explorers, Force and Motion, Peace and Conflict

August 2013
They don't sit at desks and read from textbooks. They typically sit in groups around tables, working with various mediums and materials that make the lessons more realistic and make the concepts stick. They use experiments, field trips, presentations and creative projects to expand and apply knowledge.

Most of the teaching is in English. They have around 5 hours of Norwegian class each week, but it's basically teaching the same things from the current unit, but in Norwegian. So they're building vocabulary around things they're already learning about. 

The school is culturally and racially diverse, very international. Many of the students come from international families, having one Norwegian parent, and one parent from another country.

I know I struggle getting services for my kids.  Is that process any simpler in Norway?
Our experience has been educators that are proactive in assessing needs and providing the necessary assistance. We don't know if this is the norm, of if we are just extremely fortunate to have a fantastic support system at the school. We have one child who struggles with some learning challenges. The specialist at our school went above and beyond to get him the testing and support he needed.

And do the kids notice a difference in the way they are taught or how the day is structured?
Their school day is from 8:45 - 3:05. It is longer than a school day in the national schools, but similar to what they've experienced in other countries. They have more opportunities to be up and not just sitting all day. They get two recesses each day, plus PE once a week. They also have opportunities for Norwegian, computer, music, and art. They really love their school! 
Daniel participates in a class song at assembly
Student-led spring conferences (2013)
World Peace Day activities

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Newest Little Boy Dove

Look at those cheeks, and those sweet little fingers
- so precious!
He's here!

We are so excited for Josh & Savannah (Zack's brother & his wife). Their first child, a healthy and beautiful baby boy, was born March 5 at 3:33 PM EST.

It's hard to believe Zack's baby brother is a daddy now!

Everyone is doing well, and we are so thankful for this new little life!

I prayed for this child, and God gave me what I asked for.
And now I have dedicated him to GodHe’s dedicated to God for life.
1 Samuel 1:27-28
Denne gutten var det jeg ba om, og Herren har gitt meg det jeg ba ham om.
Nå gir jeg ham tilbake til Herren for hele hans levetid. Han skal tilhøre Herren. 
Første Samuelsbok 1.27-28

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

NWotD: Far

(noun) Father.

Used in a sentence
Han skal besøke sin far i morgen.
(He will visit his father tomorrow.)

Related words
Pappa: similar to daddy
Bestefar: grandfather
Farfar: paternal grandfather/father's father
Morfar: maternal grandfather/mother's father

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A New Baby Dove... our nephew/cousin is on his way!!

We are excited and anxious in Norway!
Zack's brother and his wife are expecting their first baby. The boys are so excited about their new baby cousin. And I'm excited that Zack was able to make it to Georgia for the birth of his nephew (and a little jealous!).
Josh and Savannah will go to the hospital tonight, and we are praying that Ben Curtis will make his safe and healthy entry into the world sometime tomorrow. 
Please join us in praying for this new little man, and for Savannah. Hooray for another Dove boy! 

A Day in the Life

We received a suggestion to write a post about what a typical day looks like for Zack and me.

So what does our typical day look like? Honestly, our schedule varies every day. Some days we find ourselves buried in language learning activities, others meeting friends and local partners in the city, and others doing practical office type work. But most days include a blend of a lot of different things.

So here is a glimpse at what a typical weekday might look like while we are not taking language classes (maybe I'll do another post once we're back in language school)...

6:25: Jenn wakes up, packs the boys' lunches, gets breakfast going
7:00: Zack and the boys get up, get dressed
7:20: breakfast, devotions, prayer
8:00: boys walk to the bus station
8:00: watch the news (great language practice!)
9:00: work out
9:30: emails, office work
10:30: clean up, language learning time
12:00: this can vary: lunch, time in the city, appointments, errands, work stuff
2:50: leave to pick up the boys from school
3:15: back home, snacks, homework

From here, it can go a lot of different directions. Sometimes we have to eat dinner at 4:00 or 4:30 because of football practice, appointments in the city, or house church. Sometimes we relax a little, eat dinner later, and then do something as a family (play cards, read a chapter from a book, play Wii, watch a TV show, etc). The boys typically go to bed at 8:00 (Daniel) and 9:00 (William).

Monday, March 3, 2014

What's it Like: Driving

It's always an adventure to drive in a new place. But driving in a new country is something even more interesting!

In Norway, we drive on the right side of the road, just like in the states. But there are many things that are different. Here's a look at some of what we've become accustomed to...

Roundabouts (or rotaries) are quite common here. While they are not terribly confusing, they took some time to learn!
This picture shows the entrance into a large rotary.
The signs above let you know what lies in each direction, and
which lane you should be in.
As you enter the roundabout: signal right if you plan to take the first right
(for example here, the E18 freeway to Oslo)
Don't signal if you plan to take the roundabout exit that is straight ahead
(for example, Kilen)
Signal left if you plan to go three-quarters around and take the exit that is to the left
(in this case, Sentrum S, or the South side of downtown)
As you are about to exit the roundabout, you should signal right.
This is as you are just about to enter the roundabout.
The blue sign lets you know it's a roundabout.
And you always have to yield to cars already in the roundabout.

The blue arrow lets you know that the road is dividing, and
which direction you should go. This is especially helpful
when there is a lot of snow!
You are entering a No Passing Zone.
This sign lets you know you are leaving the no pass zone.
Anytime you see the sign all in gray with the diagonal lines,
it means you're leaving that particular zone (could be no passing,
or a speed limit, etc.)

Pedestrian Sign - these are important!!
Pedestrians have the right-of-way at all
crosswalks, unless it is controlled by a traffic light.
You must stop, so you always need to be looking to the
sides of the street as you approach a crosswalk.

This indicates a 60 kph speed zone. Currently,
Norway's highest allowed speed is 100 (on some
portions of the freeway/E18).
Our biggest learning curve came with the yellow diamond, seen below. If you see this sign, it means you're on a main road. You have the right of way and do not have to yield to traffic from other roads. Okay, that isn't a problem. But when you don't have the yellow diamond, you must yield to roads on your right. So if a car is coming from the road on the right, you have to stop and let them out. This one was strange for us!
Ah, the yellow diamond. This is the one that
confused us the most as we learned to drive here!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ready for church

They were both very particular about what they wanted to wear this morning. And I gotta say, these two were sharp... and maybe a little goofy.