Monday, March 25, 2013

Hiking in Oslo

These pictures are from last weekend, but I wanted to show that it is still very much winter here. My camera lens was a little foggy from coming in and out of my pocket. The walk/hike was a good one, but crazy slippery. From my apartment its about a mile walk along the fjord to Bygdøy Island. Bygdøy is home to many of the city's museums along with the Royal Family's official farm. 

I slipped along for several miles, realizing along the way that my snow boots were way too heavy to be walking so far. I really can't wait until my full shipment arrives, then I'll have proper hiking clothing and the weather will be a little better. 

Boat to Denmark

A foggy view back towards Oslo

The trail - pure ice covered by powder. 

A mini-castle in the woods

A trail that has been cleared and graveled.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Modern Norway

The U.S. Embassy in Oslo has had a few well-known employees in it's past, with our current Secretary of State's father being the most talked about in recent weeks. Secretary Kerry only spent vacations and summers in Oslo, since he was in high school in France at the time, but recently made waves at a joint press conference with the Norwegian Foreign Minister by pulling out some of his Norwegian. Remarks here and youtube video below.

But probably less well-known was that Julia Child also spent some time here in Oslo. Her husband was the Cultural Affairs Officer in the very building where I work today, and she spent the years of final drafting for her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in Oslo. She also taught cooking classes to the embassy wives (because in those days there were no female officers). The quote below was published in our newsletter, and while it's 53 years old, it perfectly captures modern Norway, where Sundays, holidays, and nearly the entire summer are reserved for outdoor and family time. 

So since it's Sunday, I'm off for a sondags tur (Sunday walk/hike).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Week one (and two) in review

I meant to send an update this past weekend, but already it's Wednesday, and here my draft sits. Maybe it's because I don't think it's so interesting to talk about work, and after work hasn't been all that exciting.  But I have internet, so now I have no excuses. I also need to take more pictures around Oslo, but it's been really cold (15 degrees F this morning) so taking my gloves off while outside is not all that appealing. Before going into some general updates from my first few days at work, a couple of recommendations to my first self after nearly 2 weeks away from DC.

First, 250 pounds is way more than I thought. My air baggage, or UAB, was able to hold a lot more than I thought and I wish I had better planned for what to put in. It didn't help that they moving company surveyor terribly misestimated, but in the end I was able to fit nearly all my linens, shoes, and winter clothes in it with room for miscellaneous things like shampoo, conditioner, contact fluid, some kitchen stuff like a good knife and my coffee press. I wish I had put in more stuff for the cat, like the cardboard scratching board she loves and her nail clippers to preserve the embassy issued furniture. A little more cat food would have been good too. I could use more shelving, so I'm thinking that some cheap wire shelves like these would have been super handy for settling in. Also, I'm really missing my wine glasses (see below).

Second, I should have tried to see more people before I left. I was so tired from language training, then the language test, then the pack-out, that had my most wonderful friend not planned a happy hour for me, I probably wouldn't have seen anyone at all. Thankfully she did and I got to see more people, but now that I'm staring at my empty walls in my beautiful but empty apartment, I realize how important my friends are to me. I know that I will be getting tons of visits, but doing more personal goodbyes would have been a good use of my time.

Loving life, but in need of a wine glass. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm alive! And connected to the internet!!

I have arrived in Norway safe and sound. The flights went just fine, and me and the cat arrived without zero incidents, met by wonderful sponsors from the Embassy. If only it will always be so easy, but I know better than that.

Moving to a new place is always a challenge. Finding a grocery store, getting to know the public transportation, and getting connected to the world back home. I'm an iphone, twitter, facebook addict, so getting my phone and internet up and running was priority one upon arrival. Thankfully, I'm nearly there!

After almost a full week in Oslo, I got my home wifi running and my iphone has a norwegian sim card in it. As one would expect, things run pretty smoothly here, but things are so well connected that it is nearly impossible to get a phone contract, reload a sim card, or get an internet account without a Norwegian bank account. And of course it takes a week or so for that to get processed, so it all just took a little time to fall into place. Some forced disconnection was probably good for me in theory, but mostly it was lonely and boring so I'm pretty glad it's over.

Other than trying to get a normal life established, I've been loving it here! My apartment is amazing, my colleagues are great, the work is interesting, and Norway is a beautiful place to live. Yes, things are shockingly expensive ($24 for vegetarian thai curry for lunch), but it's a privilege to me here and I keep pinching myself at how lucky I am.

Ruby is settling in just fine

Sunrise from my living room

Enjoying the sun at Aker Brygge

A view of Akerkshus across the harbour

Using wifi at Litteraturhuset with a view of the Slottspark (palace garden).