Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aiden's Hitz

Aiden's been dropping hits (droppin hitz) lately.  Even though I'm really mad at him right now (he's being grumpy), I'll say some of the cute/funny things he's said over the past couple days.

A conversation between Aiden and I:
- Did you notice I got the window (of my car) fixed?
- No.  How did you fix it?
- I took it to a garage.
- And you fixed it there?
- I didn't fix it.  I paid someone.
- Oh...(long pause)...what was his name?

Aiden and I have a thing we do on Tuesdays.  Because his brother is in English school, we normally cook together and have a great time.  I usually play music while we do this.  Yesterday, I was in a Fleetwood Mac mood.  The song "Don't Stop" came on.  If you're not familiar, here's the chorus.
Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don't stop, it'll soon be here,
It'll be, better than before,
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone

Out of the blue, this is what Aiden says to me:
He's saying about life.  He's saying that he wants life, and he thinks it won't come.  But the others are singing that it will come.

A few days ago, I made chicken fried rice.  This includes the addition of soy sauce.  Dark soy sauce.  When I brought it to the table, Aiden said disapprovingly, "You burnt the rice!".

Typing these words don't do him justice.  You really need to hear him say them.  And his timing is impeccable.  I'm just glad I'm living with an observant philosopher.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


My hair and my skiing of these is gone and the other is strong.  You have until the end of this blog to figure it out.

This week, I had a strong urge.  People who really know me, know that I can be very spontaneous.  That's what I was this week.  I decided the hair had to go.  Here's a pictorial progression...

Yes, ladies.  That was me without my shirt.  If anyone wants the full body shots, send a self-addressed envelop to me. 
And yes everyone else, that was Macsen cutting my hair.  I hired him to cut and Aiden to document.  After the initial cuts, I got really nervous Macsen was going to cut off my ear, so I got out the razor and went to town.  As you can see, a new final result.

Couple notes on the new do:
  1. It is a LOT colder.  And just my luck, the same day that I cut my hair, my car window broke.  It rolled down and won't come back up!  MY window.  I think God liked my long hair.
  2. I've been getting strong reactions to this look.  Its funny, but it seems like 2 camps are forming: short hair vs long hair.  Clearly, my preference lies in the look which requires NO maintenance.  This is nice.  But I also think that people like change.  I think the people who think this looks better are at least somewhat responding to the fact that there's a change.  There's probably some psychological explanation.
Secondly, I can SKI!!!  I'm really not good.  But I can manage to go down slopes now.  I fall.  Boy, do I fall.  But I don't mind.  I fight through it and once I get going, I fall much less.  If you're curious as to what I look like while skiing, I'm convinced that I look like a bear with skis stumbling down the mountain.

I'm going to the Alps next weekend with the family.  My goal is to be able to catch up with Macsen. job hunting has begun.  I might post my progress once in a while, but I might not...I don't know.  If there's anyone out there who wants to give me a job, sign me up!

Aiden fans: here's a picture of the kid.  I also have a new video of him saying the word "yellow."  The link is on the right under "youtube videos".  Enjoy.

Editor's note: After receiving much feedback last week on the shoes comment, I feel I need to make another statement.  Wearing shoes in the house seems to be a very localized phenomenon.  Europeans told me that Americans wear shoes in the house and vice versa.  There is no blanket statement that works.  I am just sharing my experiences, however limited they may be.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Things that Suck

I suck at skiing.
Ok, this might be premature.  But let me tell you where I'm at.  Last week, I went up the mountain twice with the purpose of skiing.  The first time, I went by myself because I couldn't find anyone to go with.  This was a mistake.  I REALLY wanted to go out my first time and nail it.  Then I was going to write how awesome I am and how I can do anything and how my dad is better than your dad.  But no.
I arrived to the ski lift without knowing a single thing.  And of course, there was a group of cool snowboarder-dudes parked right next to me.  And here I am-I don't even know how to put on my boots!  I must have looked like a moron.  I tried my hardest to stall so that they would leave.  But they were too cool to be in a hurry.  So I went on looking like an idiot.
I then made it to the top of the mountain (well, not the tip top).  It was packed with kids!  It was a Tuesday morning!  They don't go to school on Wednesdays and then they spend days in the mountains skiing.  Come on.  Anyway...this did not help.  I was hoping to go down people-less slopes protecting my image (clearly, I have a flawless one to uphold).  Instead I was going to have to learn while being surrounded by all these little kids who can ski laps around me.  I'm embarrassed to say that I spent 20 minutes watching everyone else, 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get my skis on, and 20 minutes trying to talk myself into giving it a shot.  I'm ashamed to say, I couldn't.  I went home.  The good news was that it was gorgeous up there.
Attempt #2: this time with a lesson.  My friend, Katrina (who is a town mom), was having a private lesson.  It's actually the same price for 1 or 2 people, so she generously invited me to join her for free.  The lesson was pretty good.  But it was all in French.  I don't speak ski-French.  I speak food-French, polite-how-do-you-do-French, and I-don't-speak-French-French.  I think I got the gist of what the guy was saying.  But I couldn't do it.  I would say that I was very bad.  Not quite horrible.
Am I a quitter?  Not yes and not no. (Did I just quit on giving an answer?)  I would be perfectly content to pack up my skis and say that's enough.  Mostly because I have no motivation to learn.  I'd say I have only a slight possibility that I'll ever ski again.  So why learn?  However, I did spend hundreds of euros on a ski pass and the equipment.  That alone will make me try some more.  I also have an Alps trip planned with the family in 2 weeks.  My goal is to keep up with Aiden (my 4 year old) at that point.  Wish me luck.

Finishing TV shows sucks.
Does anyone watch an entire history of a certain TV show?  You start at the first episode and work your way through several mini-marathons and finish the entire collection.  Here's all the shows that I've done that with since I've been here: How I Met Your Mother, Breaking Bad, Weeds, Arrested Development, Mad Men, Psych, Monk, and maybe some others.  That's a lot.  I'm pathetic.  But anyway, I just finished Monk a few days ago, and now I'm lost.  Everytime I finish a show, I get a little sad.  Ok, maybe a lot sad.  It's like I'm closing a book that can never be opened again.  Does anyone else get this feeling?  Or am I just being ridiculous?

Europeans view on shoe-wearing sucks.
The vast majority of homes that I've visited in America required the removal of my shoes upon entering.  Am I right?  Or am I remembering this wrong?  Well, here, the majority of home-owners prefer to keep their shoes on.  People actually look at me like I'm a martian when I take my shoes off.  Cultural difference, I guess.  Is this bad?  Um, yes.  I actually, hate this policy, and here's why...
Dirt and Snow.  During the summer, it wasn't a HUGE deal.  But now that everyone walks in snow, it is a HUGE deal.  I can't tell you how many puddles of water I've stepped into while walking around the house.  And this is in a house where I'm trying to make the kids take their shoes off before entering.  I can't imagine a house where there's not even a little regulation.
I know there are a lot of cultural differences out there.  While I might side with the American view most of the time, I'm accepting of most.  This is one I'm not accepting of.  I think I might move to Japan.  Let's take off our shoes!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thank You

Thank you...Couch Surfing.  If you don't know what this is...its a website where you create a profile and search for people living in the city you wish to visit.  Then you ask this stranger that you find if you can sleep on their couch.  It is free.  The caveat is that you are supposed to return the favor whenever they travel to your city.  But when will someone want to visit Indianapolis?
Anyway...this was AMAZING!!!  Especially for a lonely traveler like me.  I had great places to stay in each of the cities that I visited.  And free tour guides.  And free friends.  And free chefs.  And free history professors.  I'm telling you, this is the way to travel.

Thank you...thieves.  Allegedly, a Norwegian hired some Polish thugs to steal the "Arbeit Mach Frei" sign at Auschwitz (Work for your freedom).  And they did!  This happened 4 days before I went there.  And the day before I went, they found the sign, in 3 pieces.  The day that I was there, they were investigating the site for about 5 hours.  This prevented me from seeing the smaller but more moving, Auschwitz I, for a very long time.  It was unfortunate for me, but at least I have a semi-neat story to tell.  Everyone has a picture of that famous sign...but I have a picture of a replica, ha!

Thank you...Polish food.  You are amazing and cheap.  I'm telling the truth...I've been to France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Norway, and Denmark...Polish food has been my favorite.  Pierogies, Golumpki, Kielbasa, Polish, so, so good!  And the best part is that Polish people eat with no abandon and no apologies.  Who cares if its too much food and unhealthy?  I'm hungry.  My mentality all along.

Thank you...Chicago.  Every time I said I was from Chicago (I know...I'm from Indiana.  Its easier to say Chicago than explaining where I'm from) in Poland, I got this response..."Chicago!  I know Chicago!  That's the largest Polish city in the world!"  My research tells me that its 2nd, but still...pretty cool.

Thank you...Serendipity.  Let me paint you a picture.  Imagine yourself walking in Oslo.  Now imagine that it's Christmas Eve.  Finally, you are all alone.

It's not like this was surprising to me.  I knew I would be.  But still, it's not the best situation.  Thankfully, I happened to walk down a certain street at a certain time and I noticed a certain stranger.  She looked my age and she looked like a tourist (map out, wandering aimlessly).  So I approached her (it took me about 20 minutes to build up the courage).  It turns out that she, too, was all alone on Christmas!  What are the odds?
Evelyne, a girl from Belgium, was doing a farm-stay (basically the same as au pair except you work on a farm) and decided to come up to Oslo for the holidays.  We ended up spending all of Christmas and Boxing Day together.  I'm so so lucky I found someone because everything was closed!  And she happened to be good company, as well.  So I'm glad that happened the way it did.  It was a Christmas miracle!

 Thank right foot.  My right foot carried me through this trip...literally.  On Christmas Eve, I guess I sprained my left foot.  It was killing me!  So did I pack it in and sit all day?  No.  I'm in these cities once.  So I limped and hobbled my way for miles over the next week because I didn't want to miss anything...putting all my weight on my right foot.  So thank you, right foot.

Thank you...American dollar.  In Norway, 2 plain cheeseburgers, 1 small fry, and 1 small milkshake...$11.  Ok, so that wasn't my most healthy meal.  But $11!  That's what, $5 in America...tops.  You suck, American dollar.

Thank you...God.  What's better than a white Christmas?  2 feet of Norwegian snow, white Christmas.  I wanted to go north for the holidays, so I wanted a bunch of snow.  And I got it.  But surprisingly, snow on Christmas in Oslo is not common.  They usually get rain.  So I got lucky.  Thank you, God.

Thank you...George W. Bush.  I voted for the man, twice.  So shoot me.  I'm not saying he was the best president we've ever had, but for me, he was the better candidate both elections.  And I'd do it again.  To say this to a European!  Its like I was telling them that I voted for Hitler.  This led to some interesting conversations.  So thank you, George Bush.

Thank you...immigrants.  Quick, what's your image of the people in the capital city of Norway?  White, blonde, blue eyes? too.  And they are there.  But not as many as you'd think.  Especially during Christmas.  Most locals are at home with family.  That leaves immigrants (especially Muslims) to roam the streets and man the stores.  This was surprising to me.  I didn't expect to see nearly as many minorities as I did.  There's nothing wrong with was just surprising.  And actually, it was good.  Where did I eat on Christmas?  Kebab place with Muslims.  Where did I go to church on Christmas?  A Catholic mass performed by Asians (Norway is protestant).  If it weren't for these people, the city might have been a ghost town.

Thank you...subtitles.  Scandinavia takes pride that they don't dub their foreign films.  Unlike larger countries, like France, these people hear English all the time.  American English.  This leads to amazing English...especially in Norway.  I met no one that didn't speak near perfect American English.  I loved it.

Thank you...fireworks.  Danes loves fireworks on New Years.  This leads to a dangerous/fun New Years Eve in Copenhagen's town square.  Literally, among the masses, people light off huge fireworks right where they are standing.  No professional show, just amateurs (although they seemed more than amateurs).

Thank you...Easyjet.  Amongst my eagerness to return home from my flight, I left my eyeglasses on the plane.  Surpringsly, they found them and turn them into lost and found.  They managed to scratch the hell out of them...but better than nothing, I guess.

F*ck You...Public Transportation.  I hate you so much.
Case #1: Christmas Eve.  Instead of dropping me off at the doorstep of my couchsurfing guest, you take me 1 stop and then quit.  You said that there were buses still working to take me home.  Nope.  So now I'm 10 miles downhill of where I need to be with 15 minutes to get there.  I literally ran threw the streets of Oslo trying to make it.  I gave up once I realized that I would be traveling outside the given map.  $35 taxi ride instead.
Case #2: New Years Day.  A bus was supposed to pick me up from the airport.  Nope.  So instead of an easy ride, I walked 3.5 miles to France.  Not so bad, you say?  Well, I hadn't slept for 30 hours, hadn't eaten for 15 hours, hadn't drank in 6 hours, had a sprained foot with a huge blister on it, had my luggage to carry, and it was raining...and it was uphill through construction sites.  I had to climb fences.  I know...let's throw me a pity party.  I have a private violinist coming to my house in about 4 hours.