Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Moving Day

Yesterday was my pack-out, which while exhausting, went amazingly smooth. The packers arrived at around 9:30am and the 4-person crew was finished by about 4:30pm. The hardest part for me is that I had nowhere to sit and had nothing to do besides supervise their work.

The first part of the pack-out was my UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) which is a 250 pound shipment that arrives at post in a matter of days/weeks rather than months. When the surveyor came about a month ago, I showed him the small closet where I was gathering my UAB items and somehow he came out with the estimate of 1000 pounds. Now, I knew that 5 suits, some shoes, and a comforter were not half a ton, but I still leaned on the conservative side when building my pile and ended up 120 pounds under my allowed weight. This meant that I was scrambling around my apartment grabbing bedding, rugs, clothes, etc. to throw in at the last minute and managed to forget two things I had in mind as possible additional adds - cat food and litter box. So I will have my curtains but Ruby is out of luck I guess.

This was only about 110 pounds, not the 1000 that the survey person had told me. So my actual UAB was about double this amount. 
Speaking of Ruby, where was she all day? I'm lucky that my old apartment has several large closets including one that has been described as a Hong Kong condo and easily accommodates a bookshelf and an ikea lounge chair. So I moved her food, carrier, box and some toys into their and clearly labeled the door as the cat's room (aka "kitty panic room"). I also discovered during the chaos of the move that the kitty panic room was also a good spot for me to get out of the way of the movers and relax for a few minutes between walking around to supervise. The movers must have thought I was crazy, escaping into a closet to hang out with my cat, but it was pretty warm and serene in there, so I plan on having this kind of safe space during future moves as well.

The other hiccup during the move was getting my Vespa ready to go. The movers requested that the vehicle be on empty on moving day, but with super crappy weather all week, I was left scrambling on Sunday to empty my tank. Unfortunately (or normally awesomely), Bella sips gas and despite riding around all over Rock Creek, I couldn't get her below 1/2 by the time it got dark. Next step was to try and siphon, but that was also disastrous and left us using all sorts of kitchen utensils to get the gas out, most of which just ended up on my hands. This next morning (moving day), I woke up early to let the scooter run a bit, but somehow I ended up flooding the carburetor and then killing the battery, so I just kept my fingers crossed that they would crate her and send her off anyways. The good news is that at the end of the day they didn't ask about the gas tank and rolled her up on the moving truck with no problems, so now I just have to find a Vespa repair shop in Oslo to have on call in case the battery is completely dead when I get there (in theory I could kickstart it, but I've never been able to figure that out).

Everything I own, wrapped in brown paper. 

After the truck and all my worldly possessions pulled away, I went to work cleaning. I spent 2+ hours doing that before finally calling it quits, grabbing my suitcases, passport, and the cat, and heading to my hotel for the next few days. So that is where we sit now, relaxing after the last week of language test and moving stress. The Crowne Plaza Hamilton has been amazing, with free snacks and aromatherapy on my pillow. Now I'm finding it hard to leave, but am looking forward to seeing friends this evening for my send-off happy hour!

"i can haz breakfast in bed" - LolRuby


Saturday, February 23, 2013


That's the score from my language test yesterday, which means I passed! I guess in a dream world it would have been cool to get a plus on one of those numbers, but in this world learning a language in 6 months is quite the feat, even if you have a head start like I did.

A 3/3 means that I'm capable of handling all kinds of situations without sounding like a complete idiot. More details on the scale that State Department uses and what a level three means can be found here - http://www.govtilr.org/Skills/ILRscale2.htm#3.

Because I am junior officer and didn't come in with a language, I was on "language probation." This means that in order to be tenured, I had to learn a foreign language and pass the final exam. So if I hadn't passed my test yesterday I would have had to call my boss and the moving company and extend my stay here in DC. That would have been terrible and I'm glad that I didn't have to go through that process. So now I'm cleared to fly here in just a few days, but not before I deal with the movers coming on Monday to empty my apartment. This weekend will be spent sorting my belongings into piles for suitcase, storage, air baggage (known as UAB), and household effects (HHE). 

Norwegian Wood

How could I not write about this one? This week the New York Times featured a story about a Norwegian TV program and news of this program has...ahem...caught fire. The article is titled "Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians"and discusses a NRK* program known in Norwegian as "Nasjonal Vedkveld" or National Firewood Night. I'm not kidding about this. Apparently (and this was all new to me) Nasjonal Vedkveld is a huge hit, with hours of a live fireplace (not some cheesy loop) complimented by fire-themed stories and music.

I'm not at all surprised. I've learned plenty about Norway in the last months, and on top of what I always knew about the culture, it is clear that simplicity and comfort is higher on most Norwegians' lists than money and power. And while studying this week I couldn't resist turning into on NRK.no for a little relaxing background crackling. And I have to admit, I can see the appeal. A real fire going through all it's drama over the course of a night. It you want to experience this phenomenon yourself, all 8 hours of the program are free to stream here - http://tv.nrk.no/serie/nasjonal-vedkveld/.

If you would rather experience the american perspective on this show, you can read about it on BBCNew York Times, Gawker, or Huffington Post. Or you can see the best commentary on Nasjonal Vedkveld via Stephan Colbert. 

* Norway's version of PBS/NPR

Norwegian News.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Looking around my apartment you wouldn't guess that in a matter of weeks/days the whole thing will be packed-up and on it's way across the Atlantic. I've taked pictures off the walls and most of the rugs are washed and put away, but other than that it looks pretty much like it's looked for the past 2 years. That's the nice thing about the whole professional movers business, they do everything for you, a wholly new concept to this self-moving vagabond. And while I've been doing some thorough cleaning and ridding of extra stuff, I've also acquired a few new fun things to make my Oslo home, home.

After seeing the pics of my amazing new apartment, I realized that my tiny DC 1-bedroom amount of stuff was going to be swimming in a spacious 2-bedroom. I bought a new, slightly bigger TV that actually works in Europe and a huge kitchen island to break-up the space. I also couldn't resist a Goodwill run, where I found a "blanket rack" that I painted white for the end of my bed and 2 huge modern art prints to go on my walls. It will be something of a transition to go from basement height where I graze the ceilings during yoga to ceilings that I dare not touch from even a ladder. I also finally finished "finishing" a set of craigslist table/chairs that picked up a while back. Originally the set, which I love for it's pull-out table extensions, was an brownish-orangish stain. I stripped the table and 2 chairs and painted the bottom white and finished the rest with a soft oil. The other 2 chairs I painted completely white. I wish I had a before pic, since this is my first big DIY, but I love how they turned out.

But in between all the organizing, packing, and craftiness, is my looming language test. This weekend is devoted to reading and vocab review in preparation for my test on Friday (ahhh!). I feel confident with the language, but as with any test, a little anxiety is inevitable.

DIY complete - mix and match kitchen set

Goodwill blanket rack - $10

Gratuitous picture of Ruby enjoying the sun.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Last Trip to NYC

It doesn't seem possible that I'm making my last round of "lasts." After almost of year of waiting, uncertainty and training, I have just a few weeks left before I pack-up and head-out. I've basically stopped grocery shopping as I try to work my way through my stockpile of canned and dry goods (that theoretically could go into my HHE, but I find it hard to justify shipping dried chickpeas to Norway). Possessions are migrating in piles of place, storage, shipment. And study, study, study.

One "last" thing I got to do was a last-minute trip up to New York as a date a for a Russian-Polish wedding. The wedding was held at the Russian Consulate, which was beautiful, and the small wedding party was wonderful (despite my lack of either Russian or Polish language skills). We spent just over 24 hours in Manhattan but managed to attend a wedding, stop by the Guggenheim, see a show at a jazz club and hit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What, no shopping you wonder? I was tempted by the Uniqlo shop as we raced back to the bus-stop, but sadly it just wasn't possible.

This was only my 3rd trip to NYC ever and each of these short trips has reminded me that I really should have made an effort to get up there more. What an amazing place with really no comparison. Don't get me wrong, I love DC and all the museums we have (for free), but the Metropolitan Museum of Art absolutely blew my mind. How did I never visit this before?? I wish I had had more time, but am so glad I made it there one last time before Norway.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Egyptian Artifacts at Met

Ridiculous spread at wedding