Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sleddogs at Synnfjell

This weekend before we go back to work, we headed up to the cabin for skiing. I went running today to train for my race, but skiing was great yesterday!

Today there was a sled dog race that went on the trails that we usually ski. There were 43 sled dog teams, some with only 8 dogs and others with as many as 16.

Phones have great editing programs now. It looks like I had Marius' fancy camera! (Mom and Dad: he forgot to bring it and his new mono-/tri-pods to test it out...doh!!)

Showing Marius a Diaz-family Christmas

It meant a lot to me that Marius came with me to Michigan for Christmas this year! Our bags were stuffed with presents when we departed Bergen/Oslo on the 13th at 6am bound for Detroit. When we arrived Marius greeted everyone working at the airport with a Merry Christmas, which spread a lot of smiles. Unfortunately, some of our gifts were confiscated...apparently all meat is prohibited from entering the US unless it has been boiled and sealed in a metal container. Sounded a lot like spam. So our gift of Norwegian smoked ham and lam sausage was given in spirit. At least the other gifts made it through!

[Upon arrival at DTW]

[Marius cutting down the tree]
Mom and Dad picked us up on time and we were tired. We had a hard time adjusting to the time zone since our flight just made us awake for the day, but after three days we were adjusted. We picked out our tree the day after arriving and Marius was given the task to cut it down after a fair amount of time of comparing several trees in opposite corners of the tree farm, which, in retrospect, we probably would have been satisfied with any of the trees we compared. Marius got to hear the usual frustration and arguing that comes with putting up the tree, and that gave him a good laugh. We also set up some lights outside. Marius loved that project and added a few more strands the following days, including dripping icicle lights. 

We drove up to Shanty Creek/Schuss Mtn to hang out with Katie and Justin. We stopped at the cross country ski shop and Marius bought himself a new pair of ski pants; however, when we arrived at the condo it was 50 degrees F and no snow! The bar next door (Ivan's), the outdoor and indoor pools and hot tub were also closed. But we had plenty of games and got to catch up. At least on the day we were leaving there was a bit of snow coming down. Dad's tip to bring the saucer sleds was great! We hiked up the slalom hill to sled down a few times and finally just before driving back south there was just enough snow for Marius and I to try the pine cone loop (a little 5km flat loop around the golf course). Unfortunately, we did not come back home to snow.

[The tree looks smaller than it was here]
[a little snow at Schuss!]

Carolyn got in a week after us. She did not get much rest at home before we all shoved in the car to drive up to Frankenmuth. Naturally, we ate an early dinner at the Bavarian Inn in the Edelweiss room; followed by viewing the glockenspiel, Bronner's and the Silent Night Chapel. It was a long day, but could not be passed up if I was going to give Marius a true Michigan Christmas experience. 

[So many choices! I brought home a cardinal ornament]
[A little overwhelming?]

Aunt Janine and Uncle Jerry came in to spend Christmas with us as well. Christmas Eve we drove down to St. Paul's cathedral in Detroit for midnight mass. Marius really enjoyed it! Christmas morning was a real treat as well. We all talked about only getting each other "little remembrances", but everyone went beyond expectations. My big gift from Marius is a trip to Madrid at the end of March and a spot in the half marathon there. 

[It's a Christmas Eve miracle!]
[Aunt Janine snapped a picture inside the cathedral]
[Looks like Santa found us this year!]
On the 26th we drove over to spend time with Mom's side of the family. This was the first year in a very long time that the whole family was all together, which made it extra special. The "Drunkles" took us skeet shooting, and Marius did the best out of all of us.


A visit home is not complete without visiting my group of friends from high school! Even though it is always a long time since we had last seen each other, it always feels like no time has passed. They are a great group of friends and I'm so thankful that they take time out of their busy schedules to come visit me. 

Now I'm in the Munich airport waiting for the flight to Oslo. We're sitting in the Lufthansa lounge thanks to Marius' gold card and we had a glass of champagne to toast to the new year. We have another 5 hours to go before we have to board our plane. Things are pretty closed down since it's New Year's Day...

Hope everyone had as nice of a holiday as I did! Thank you, family, for being such great company and hosts this holiday season. Love you all! Happy New Year!

Happy New Year / Godt Nyttår

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No complaints here

Last weekend Marius came to visit me in Bergen for the Light Festival. We were a little disappointed because there were not as many Christmas songs as the last time we went, but the fireworks at the end were still good.

[Christmas atmosphere in Bergen]

[Annual Bergen Light Festival/Tree-Lighting]
[Beautiful sunrise on my way to work last week]

Right now we are at the cabin in Synnfjell for our first ski weekend of the season with Tron and Rigmor. We also have Kajsa with us because her owners are in Copenhagen for the weekend, and they asked us to dog-sit (she is the old cocker spaniel). Marius' two younger cousins who live near Oslo are also up with us, and they like having Kajsa around but forget that she can't hear.

[Kajsa likes to roll around in the snow whenever she gets the chance]

Tron, Marius and I arrived to the cabin on Friday night. I woke up with Kajsa around 7:30. It was still dark and the moon was really bright. After a little breakfast we relaxed with some coffee in front of the TV and watched skiing. The skiers are in Lillehammer, but we decided to not do the hour-long drive over to root for the Americans. After watching the girls ski, we went for a 20 km ski trip. We were finished around 2:30 and the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains. Rigmor and the two little cousins arrived just before we got back from our ski and they were busy baking cookies.

[Beautiful Saturday morning - ca. 9:00am]

[Great start to a beautiful day]

[Skiing and dog cuddles]

[First ski trip of the season!]

We had a mini Christmas Eve with a Norwegian style Christmas dinner and opened a few presents. I was very happy to receive my new rainboots for when I go back to Bergen this week (tons of rain in the forecast).

And I hit a milestone last night! I saw my first northern lights after living in Norway for over three years! It was spectacular!! I took Kajsa out one last time before bed and saw a beautiful green band in the sky! I hollered to Marius to grab the camera and he took a great picture for me!

[The northern lights as seen from the cabin! Marius is an amazing photographer!]
[Mini ski trip (6km) with Kajsa and the little cousins]

Less than a week til Marius and I land in Detroit and we are SO EXCITED!

Friday, November 21, 2014

In case you missed it, I moved back to Bergen

But only temporarily, as of yet. In the beginning of the month I took the train from Oslo to Bergen. It was a beautiful trip cross-country ascending to over 1000m above sea level and back down again. My friend Knut said that I could stay at his place until an apartment was available to rent. I picked up the key from his mom, dropped off my things, and went back downtown to go to my Norwegian course. He was out of town for the week for work, and my first day of work was not until the following Monday. So I used the next five days reacquainting myself with Bergen....mainly by running around my old neighborhood.

On Monday (Nov 10) I started my new (tempoary) part time job at UniResarch Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology...UniSars for short. Technically I am called a "research technician", but I'm more like a glorified dishwasher at the moment. I made sure to tell the researchers that I am more than capable to help them if they need an extra pair of hands, but so far I've only been recruited to help clean some plankton tanks...Hey, I'll take what I can get!

Everyone here is very nice and my boss said that if something permanent were to open up that he would be sure to let me know. I have a fair bit of down time between autoclaving (sterilization) cycles, so the administration ladies make sure to give me all sorts of random things to keep me occupied. For example, recycling papers and sorting files. One of the ladies said, "Everyone is over qualified for that kind of work, but it still needs to be done," and the lady giggled.

View from my office...sorry it is sideways
It is getting darker earlier and earlier! Yesterday I took a walk up Mount Ulriken in the dark with my headlamp. I'm not the only one. I often see headlamp light coming down the mountain at night, and it looks really pretty. When I got to the top it was snowing! I made sure to go back down very carefully (as always). I survived my first night hike up Ulriken and I'm looking forward to trying it out again since there's no crowd. There were only three or four other people taking the trek that evening.

Today I'm flying over to Oslo! It has been about three weeks since I've seen Marius, so it will be nice!

attempted panorama

view from the top

Monday, November 3, 2014

Marius' birthday and Halloween

Marius turned 29 last week! And sticking to tradition, he got his 3rd annual birthday pumpkin. We took it over to Tron and Rigmor's to show them (and grandma) a little taste of Halloween. 

We didn't have scary music, but Grandma Oddny was interested in the carving and seed baking procedures. But once we showed her pictures that people posted on Facebook of the decorations and costumes she quickly "ba humbuged" the holiday saying "Uff, Americans" and waving her hand down. hahaha 

Well, Halloween is still getting more and more popular each year. There's significantly more Halloween activity in Oslo than in Bergen. I even saw trick-or-treaters! (None came to our apartment nor the Engebrethsen's house though)

I baked Marius a chocolate cake, and of course it had to be a scary cake!

Marius tried to give Rigmor a little scare

I also was contacted for an interview with a research group called Bioforsk. They work primarily with crops. I've been practicing what I will say in Norwegian...yep, an interview only in Norwegian! The interview is tomorrow (Tuesday) and on Wednesday I'll be catching the 8AM train from Oslo to Bergen. There has been some flooding in western Norway, so I was a bit worried about taking the train, but it is so much cheaper than a plane (250 kr (7 hrs travel time) vs. 600 kr (2 hrs travel time))

I'm going to live with our friend Knut for a few weeks until the apartment I'm renting is available. In Bergen I'll be working as a research technician preparing and cleaning lab space and equipment. I'll also be back in Norwegian classes. 

I'm glad the year finally kicked in for me. It's been great since September...2014 just got off to a rather slow start. We are excited to see what else will happen before the year is over!

Just 5 weeks until Marius and I will be in the mitten for Christmas!

Marius and I ran a couple of laps around Sognsvann on Saturday

Monday, October 6, 2014

Scandinavia roadtrip, part 3: back in Oslo

We drove from Copenhagen to Oslo in one day; it's only 6 hours. While we were still in Denmark we found a grocery store to stock up on cheaper beer and some road snacks. But then the GPS took us the wrong way, and we found ourselves in line for the ferry from a city just north of Copenhagen to Helsingborg, Sweden. Instead of backtracking to the bridge, we decided to take the 20 minute ferry ride across.
We obviously went way north!

Six hours later we were back in Oslo. We took it easy the next day and walked around our neighborhood and up the river. It was good weather for a long walk. Rigmor had us over for dinner and served moose "gryte" (a stew) and "Troll krem" (troll cream = lingonberry, egg whites and sugar) for dessert.

We still had some must-sees to cover in Oslo. Mainly the royal palace and ski jump/ski museum.

We made it in time for the changing of the guard.

Skis varied by region and were over 15 feet long back in the day!
Dad became a polar explorer with a big head
We went to the top of the ski jump for a view over the fjord. No crowd since we got there just before it closed.
A little pit stop next to the ski jump and museum is an old "seter" called Frognerseteren. Seters are used as ski lodges in the middle of nowhere for skiers to warm up, eat some waffles, and drink coffee. Frognerseteren is huge and has great views. I'll have to stop by with Marius for a $7 coffee after skiing this winter.

Mom and Dad left us on the 11th just before my interview with Greenpeace to go around door-to-door and sign up monthly donors. So in the past month I have been working 3 nights per week. And since September 25th, I was dog sitting. His name is Bobo and he has been enjoying hikes everyday. He feels like our dog now, so I'm going to miss the little guy when his owner picks him up tomorrow.

He is not a fan of going in the water

But he does enjoy running with me, as long as it's not too fast
Great weather and fall colors yesterday when Rigmor joined us for a walk in the woods.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Scandinavia roadtrip: part 2, Copenhagen

First Carlsberg of the trip
As we crossed the bridge from Malmö, Sweden, into Denmark, we saw blue sky, blue water and white sail boats. The bridge was long, but before we knew it we were in Denmark...yet again, no indication that we actually entered another country, and it felt more like we were crossing the bridge up to the U.P.

Following our GPS passed lots of houses that Marius described as "typical Danish", but to me they just looked like "typical northern Europe": brick homes with steep roofs. There were tons of cyclists! A lot of people bike in Norway, but Copenhagen sets the bar really high. We came to the street with our hotel and parked in the street. As well as there being two other hotels, there were also two "gentlemen's clubs", and the street smelled like pee. At least the room was alright!

We went to the tourist information center around the corner and got a map for a walking tour of Copenhagen that "should only take like three hours". We hit all the highlights and I really enjoyed the walk! We did the first half because we meandered and maybe it takes "only like 3 hours" if you don't want to stop and look at other things along the walk. The first stop was the town hall and then lunch on a cozy corner bistro.

Our tables were in the road. A few cars made 3-point turns to get around us.
The next stop on our walking tour was the Old Stock Exchange

And then the famous Nyhavn, where it is customary to have a beer. You can buy one "to go" or sit at the restaurant. Dad tried a plate of pickled herring to go with his beer...I had the Carlsberg Nordic (aka non-alcoholic) since my training didn't recommend alcohol.

Time for a group picture
Our walking tour had us weave up along the water, past the palace where the Danish royalty reside and the Marble Church. And we ended at the citadel, home to the Little Mermaid statue. Dad's first reaction: "That's it?! What a rip off!"....
Yup, that's her.

 After a long day of walking around Copenhagen, we rested up for day two at the Carlsberg Brewery. We walked there from the was probably about 1.5 miles, and we booked the guided tour. There was surprisingly a lot to see at the brewery about the history of the Carlsberg family and how much power they had over the city of Copenhagen. In a couple of years they will tear a lot of it down and turn it into a new neighborhood, so I was very glad we got to see it.

The Elephant Gate

The old copper pots.
Of course we couldn't forget about the second half of our walking tour! Poor Mom and Dad were taken along for my brutal, only-by-foot way of seeing Europe. So we went to the Round Tower to see the skyline of Copenhagen before enjoying dinner at the oldest restaurant in the city. The morning before we drove back to Oslo, we stopped by the small, but impressive, Rosenborg Castle.

Inside the Round Tower. Along the way there were little historical pit-stops, including the old privy.

Atop the Round Tower

Rosenborg Castle

The first (more impressive) crown. There was another for the next king, but this one
was waaayyyy fancier.

I think this will have to be a three part series. Our return to Oslo will be in the next post since this one was so long. Copenhagen was a great city. A good size for a long weekend, but we could have used another day to squeeze in a little more. But a weekend was just the right amount of time for the main highlights.

Act for Arctic