Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jaeren and Hundvag

We successfully made it through our first week of work!  Everyone in the office is very friendly and helpful.  We will hopefully be starting Norwegian lessons soon.  Unfortunately, the lessons are for Bokmal (the official written language of Norway) but most Norwegians around here speak a dialect specific to Stavanger.  I guess no one said it would be easy..  We are excited to try, though, out of respect for those around us that are constantly speaking to us in their own second (sometimes third or fourth) language -English.  It is very inspiring!

With the end of our first work week came our first official weekend in Stavanger.  It was kicked off by a happy hour at Timbuktu, a bar/restaurant on the harbor.  Jeff and I decided to eat at the restaurant before the happy hour began (Norwegian happy hours generally start after 7 to give everyone a chance to eat at home and take cabs to the bar).  The restaurant served fish dishes and sushi - and it was scrumptious.  A cod for Jeff and maki for me!  We made it home fairly early so that we could have a head start on our first adventure..

Saturday - Jaeren Drive and Lighthouse Tour
Sources of Inspiration - Norway National Tourist Roads and Lighthouse Tour

Using the links above made planning for this little day trip very easy and we will definitely be using both sites again.  Another great one is Visit Norway.  Aside from using this blog as a way to store our memories and share our stories, I'm going to try to document our trips so that others may use them as inspiration for their own!

A map, of course!
We started our drive from Stavanger and headed North to the (1) Tungenes Lighthouse. While the weather was less than perfect being cold and windy, at least it wasn't raining!  The light snow on the ground also added to the dramatic landscapes. It will be interesting to visit these places again in a different season.  The wind was especially piercing at this lighthouse so there aren't too many other pictures to share

Tungenes Lighthouse
We hugged the coast on the rest of our drive rather than taking the main highways.  This led us to a beach and a view of the (2) Feistein Lighthouse.  The pictures of the lighthouse weren't near as exciting as those of Pistol and I hiking, of course, but you can still see it on the horizon on the left side of the picture below.  By the way, if it weren't for my husband, pictures like this wouldn't exist.  It was a little bit of a climb after parking the car on the side of the road.  I'm glad he makes me more adventurous :)

As we continued driving south, we saw many signs for beaches (strand in Norwegian).  As is our habit, we made a few stops along the way to check them out.  Many have public parking and even with the inclement weather the lots were full.  We have heard many times - there is no bad weather in Norway, only bad clothing.  The beach goers we saw certainly lived up to this saying - all parkas and gloves on this day.  One beach in particular had a boardwalk through the dunes from the parking lot and a great view from the top of the dunes, as you can see below.  Snow on the beach was certainly a first for us!

Our next stop was the (3) Obrestad Lighthouse, with its interesting mural, followed by the (4) Kvassheim Lighthouse.  At this point, the sandy beach had turned to stone and it was still quite windy as you can see by Pistol's ears.


The area between all the lighthouses is known as Jaeren and is very agricultural in nature.  This means it is relatively flat.  The geography quickly changed as we drove furthur south toward (5) Egersund, morphing into rocky hills separated by smooth lakes.  It's no wonder that this drive is one of the National Tourist Roads.  We turned back at Egersund, once the largest fishing harbor in Norway, and made it to our apartment in time for dinner at our favorite Thia place in the sentrum - Manee Thai!

Sunday - Lundsneset Walk in Hundvag
Source of Inspiration: Lundsneset Walk

We slept in again - I love weekends.  We really didn't have much planned for the day so, over a breakfast of cereal and bananas, we decided to take a walk based on the suggestion of our new favorite site (linked above).  Hundvag is an island north of Stavanger and only a five minute drive away - how could we resist?  Good thing we didn't because between the sea, mountains, sheep, and cute houses it was wonderful.  

By the way, we have been heeding the advice of our Norwegian orientation leader, Gene, and I wanted to share it.  He suggested we explore our immediate area first and work outwards versus taking a big trip to Spain in our first month.  This way, the little things around us would still feel special.  I know he must be right if I get this excited about an afternoon walk!  

Hope you all had a great weekend too!  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our First Week

We are still trying to settle into a new routine here in Norway.  So far, things couldn't be going better considering all of the newness.  We came prepared for some of these new things - winter coats/boots, GPS, European plug adapters - because I knew it would be cold, the roads would be confusing, and I would need to dry my hair.

However, other new things have just been left for us to experience with no real preparation.  Here are some examples:

  • The thermostat. Based on most of the other gadgets in our temporary, modern apartment, this looked almost too simple.  No digital screen?  No symbols?  No numbers?! I wasn't entirely sure this would control the air temperature since most places have floor heaters as well.  I did the only thing I could do.. I turned it all the way to one side - first it was counterclockwise.  We about froze to death.  Then I had to turn it all the way clockwise.  We couldn't sleep because of the sauna I had created.  We have since found a happy medium, but it took some trial and error!

  • If the thermostat was confusing due to a lack of symbols, the opposite holds true for the washer and dryer.  Some of it is self explanatory but some of it just isn't.  I stood in our bathroom (that's where most of the "laundry rooms" are here) for at least 20 minutes trying almost every dryer option.  I honestly couldn't tell a difference between the sun, the closet doors or the iron.  The clothes were dried successfully but I'm afraid some shrinkage may occur if I don't figure this out.  And if you are thinking - "just look up the model and manufacturer online, silly" - I am one step ahead of you. But I couldn't find it...

  • Grocery stores.  I already have trouble with figuring out what I need when I can read the labels.  This is going to take some getting used to.  For some reason I only took pictures of meat... possibly because the thought of eating an unknown meat is scarier than accidentally buying whole milk instead of skim.   

Even though every day is bringing something new, we have made a conscious effort to approach each situation with an open mind.  We laugh. We take deep breaths.  We ask each other questions even though neither of us know the right answer.  Maybe because there isn't a right answer (this concept is challenging to me..) because we aren't supposed to be experts at living in a new country.  We aren't putting that much pressure on ourselves to feel completely comfortable just yet. After all, it's only our first week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Norway? Okay!

Here is a snapshot of the past few months:

August: Living life - looking forward to seeing friends for the first home football game (go Cowboys!), loving that friends are visiting us in Houston, taking them to the beach, and adding the final details to our trip to Italy in October.

September 1: Jeff sees that a there is a job opening at our company's Norway location, I say go for it, we go to the football game (mentioned above) and sweat profusely (darn that Oklahoma heat), and enjoy seeing our families.  Just in case though, I research how to get Pistol to Norway.. just in case.. and immediately take him to the vet for the prerequisite rabies vaccine (I did NOT use a pet shipper - if you are moving to Norway and want to bring your pet, I can help you out.. and I won't charge you $3,500 to do it, either).

September 21: Jeff receives job offer for position in Norway, I squeal then get nauseous then anxious then get excited again (this range of emotion continues..)  Already, questions start forming - when?  where? Norway?!

October 3: We go to Italy!  Five days in Rome with an excursion to Florence then 3 days in Venice.  Wonderful trip and a great distraction from (unanswered) questions above.  It also gave our company's HR some time to play catch up..

Tourists? What tourists?

October 15: I am also offered a job in Norway! Turns out, the F&A group in Stavanger was having a bit of turnover and I would be the perfect person to fill the void.  Except.. the position is in Accounting.. which I've never done.  Nevertheless, I accepted!  We also find out around this time that we will be moving in late January as soon as our work permits are validated.

November 1: House in Houston up for sale.  Mom comes to visit and provides another appreciated distraction from new questions - will we buy a car? HOW expensive is stuff there? Norway?!

November 15: Norway cultural orientation with Gene - he was fab.u.lous. And looves Norway.

Thanksgiving: Jeff spent it relaxing in Houston because this marked the first week in four that he was not traveling to Louisiana, Dallas, or offshore for work.  I, however, spent it in NYC with my bestie, Quinn!!

December 3: Jeff and I traveled to Oklahoma to watch our Cowboys beat the Sooners.  Came home and cleaned house. Again. Because it's still on the market.

December 10-17: House hunting trip in Stavanger!  More on this a little later.. And, yes! We found a house.

Stavanger Harbor

December 25: Back in Oklahoma for 3+ Christmases.  Loved this extra family time before the big move, which had just been set as January 18.  Upon returning from Christmas, movers came to pack up our house.  Left for work from our first house and went "home" afterward to a corporate apartment. Not bitter. Didn't really have time for bitter anyway..

January 3-10: Barbados!  Please note how this is the 6th weekend in a row that neither Jeff nor I were at home.  Wouldn't change it for anything. Oh, and I wondered how I forgot to put 5 Alarm Chili Mix in our shipment?? First day after we got back, we took Pistol in for his final vet check and had all his forms filled out.  He was clear for Norway!

January 18: Depart Houston for Stavanger on a one-way flight!  I would say that the adventure can begin but it looks like we have already a few.  Let's hope the next few involve better scenery (Barbados notwithstanding..)
Pistol knew he was in for a rough day, but he made it to Norway with no problems!

Here we go!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Barbados - The Preparation

The idea for our first family trip in years began as an idea while sunning in the pool during a hot July day with my mom and sister.  Three days later, it was settled - we would go to Barbados in January!  We made these plans in July. For a vacation in January.  You can tell that I come by it naturally.

It would be perfect timing - my sister, her husband and their daughter would be in town from Shanghai, China (their current residence). My brother would be out of college for Christmas break.  And we (Jeff and I) would have some vacation time available. 

As it turned out, it WAS perfect timing - just not for the exact reasons mentioned above. In September, Jeff was offered a job in Norway (more to come on these details) which he accepted - we would be moving overseas in (you guessed it) January!  In November, my sister's husband was offered a job back in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  They came home for Christmas and bought a house set to close in, yes, January!  My brother ended up having his wisdom teeth pulled in... December.  Close enough.

Though January was booking up quickly, the timing of our Barbados trip could not have been planned better.  We all arrived in the Bridgetown, Barbados airport on January 2 and were able to spend a whole week all together.  It was indeed a nice reprieve from the manic activity that preceded it and that will surely follow...
The whole family!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year

If you know me, you know I like to plan. I love maps. I love guidebooks, asking questions, and researching.  This love of planning doesn't just pertain to visiting new locales either.  My boyfriend (now husband of just over one year!) and I decided to get a puppy.  How did I prepare? How-to guides and various reference books.  Armed with the information I find, I take comfort from the belief that no scenario should be completely foreign.

This is obviously not true.  I still get lost sometimes.  But I can always check the map.

Here's to a fun 2012!