Category Archives: cross-cultural living

Soaked Shoes? No Problem!

Tucked in a corner behind a door in our entry way hangs an item I didn’t even known existed before moving to Europe. And yet, in these months of snow and slush (and in the rainy months as well, in fact), it’s come to be a favorite.

Meet our shoe dryer.IMG_3919

Yes, it is a beautiful thing. Not aesthetically, of course. But when it comes to all those wet gloves and snow shoes that show up in our house this time of year, this little gadget is a lifesaver.

I mean, have you smelled a pair of gloves that your kid used while playing in the snow and then left in their backpack? Nasty.

And have you ever wondered how long it takes for a pair of snow boots to completely dry out on the inside after a busy day of throwing snow balls, building snowmen, and digging snow tunnels? Somewhere in the neighborhood of an eternity.

But this handy tool dries things out without warping or shrinking them like can happen in the dryer. Or without the noise of shoes in the dryer. Or the damage that can cause.

We just slip the gloves or boots over the ends of the hoses, and rotate the timer, and cool air blows for the selected amount of time.

And with two boys, we opted for the model that dries two pairs (shoes or gloves) at once.

A shoe dryer. Just another of the things we’ve learned to love while living here!

Homesick?

I tried my best to prepare for it. For everything that was about to happen as we headed to the states. But I knew we could’t truly be prepared, that we couldn’t totally know what to expect.

And especially when it came to our boys.

They had not been to the states in over three years. Norway has become home, probably more so for them than for us. Daniel has actually lived in our home in Sandefjord longer than he’s lived anywhere else in his entire life.

They were super excited about going to America. But we didn’t know what it would be like for them. I anticipated a mix of emotions, of highs and lows. And I imagined that even with all the excitement,  at some point they would become homesick.

And as I thought about that a bit more, I realized that homesickness is actually a constant in this life we live.

We have experienced homesickness on a fairly consistent basis since probably 2007.

I remember being incredibly homesick our first time in Ukraine. It was our first time in a non-English speaking country. The availability of internet, even 8 years ago, just wasn’t what it was now. There were so many unknowns and so much uncertainty around us (plus, we were about to become parents for the first time – yikes!).

And yet, when we arrived home with our first son a month later, we found ourselves feeling a bit homesick for Ukraine. Sounds weird, but it is true.

It happened again in 2010 when we adopted our second child. Homesick for America, then homesick for Ukraine.

We experienced it when we lived in Canada. And at that point, I started realizing that the homesickness we are experiencing is not necessarily about a place. It is more about family, friends, and familiarity.

We felt it it when we first moved here to Norway and made it through that initial ‘honeymoon’ phase.

And while I love our city and friends and life in Norway, we still experience it.

It seems there is always a lingering homesickness in me. It is there regardless of where I am.

After three years living outside of my home culture, I’ve come to realize that I might never feel totally at home again. There will always be something I miss from one of my homes.

It’s one of those things you learn to live with, that you accept as a part of this cross-culture lifestyle.

And I also see now that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing.

Instead, I consider it a reminder of the opportunities we’ve had in life, the people and places who’ve impacted and changed us, and the memories of the family, the friends, and the familiar.

 

So thanks to so many of you for making us feel at home in so many different places.

 

For making us feel homesick.

 

 

And for keeping up with us, through the crazy times, the boring times, and everything in between.

 

A Whole New World

We arrived in Atlanta Friday afternoon. Just in time for midtown traffic. Yeah, welcome ‘home’!

We have done quite a lot in our first few days, in addition to fighting jet lag. Here are a few highlights, plus some observations.

Saturday we had an open house with about 60 people in attendance. Yeah, less than 24 hours after arriving here. Call us crazy. It was totally overwhelming, but also a lot of fun.

We visited our church on Sunday. After three years. Some familiar faces, but so many we’d never seen before. It was big. And slightly familiar. We are grateful to those who welcomed us so warmly.

We had Mexican food after church. At the restaurant we went to often when we lived here. And for the most part, it felt like old times. With friends. The kind of friends where you just pick up where you left off. That was nice.

We began homeschool on Monday. I am quickly reaching a new level of respect for all the homeschool parents out there. Wow.

We went to Target. Overload! The cereal aisle alone had our heads spinning.

There is nature trail just across the street from Zack’s brother’s house. We love that we can walk about 3 minutes and be in the woods!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I joined Zack in the 40 club. So far, 40 feels good. I’m in better shape than I was at 30 or even 20.

Zack and the boys took me for a manicure/pedicure. What a treat! I felt so pampered and spoiled.

We went to the mall. It was big. The music was loud. The people were friendly.

 

 

 

We had Indian food for dinner. It was spicy. And it was awesome.

Plus, a cake from American Cookie Company. So many calories. So yummy. I have zero willpower around those cakes.

More to come!

This week’s roller coaster ride

What should have been a week of ever-increasing excitement instead became one of mounting tension and uncertainty.

For months, we’ve been planning that we would travel to the states on November 13. We had tickets, and were excited. The boys started a countdown around day 100.
One problem: our tickets were with Lufthansa. And in case you didn’t know, their cabin crew union decided to strike beginning last Friday.
That was the beginning of the problems. The airline would then only cancel flights one day at a time, and only one day prior. They would not give full refunds unless the flight was cancelled.
All that to say, we had to wait until today to officially get notice that our flights were in fact cancelled. We got that email around 9:45 this morning.
We then had to wait until around 3:00 our time for the travel agent in Pennsylvania to open so he could rebook us on a different flight.
And as long as this week was, today seemed like an eternity. We watched as rates went up and flights filled. And we wondered if our hopes of traveling as planned might be dwindling away.
But just before 3:00 I left to get the boys from school. And as we walked in the door around 3:25, I heard Zack in the phone.
But more importantly, I saw the smile on his face.
So despite the craziness and uncertainty of the week, we are in fact headed to Georgia tomorrow.
Back soon with more on our American Adventure!
The empty fridge – surely that means it’s time to travel!

The last SIX days…

We are definitely in countdown mode, as we prepare to go ‘home’ for the holidays!I kicked off our Saturday morning by introducing our boys to Neil Diamond. They thought I was a bit crazy, but it was fun singing America!

We are about two-thirds of the way through our packing. I’m struggling a bit as I look at the forecast and see the really warm temps, knowing that we’d already packed away our summer clothes! But we’ll manage – or we’ll shop a bit!

So I apologize that we aren’t totally engaged on the blog right now. We are busy finishing up things here before saying ‘see you soon’ to everyone on this side of the ocean.

But we’ll be back soon, with observations on our first time back in the states as a family in more than three years!

Throwing the Shock in Reverse

Those of you that have been hanging out with us for a likely remember that we’ve written a bit on the blog about culture, and adapting to life in a new country. Things we’ve learned and experienced as we journeyed across the ocean. Differences in Norwegian & American culture. Things that were strange or difficult for us. Things we love about this culture and country.

Things like…
Our “What’s It Like” series (here)
Our “Christmas Cheer” series (here)
The boys’ school experience (here)

Yeah, three years of learning and being challenged, feeling frustrated at times, and at other times quite encouraged, struggling to understand differences, working to find substitutes for things that were once normal for us, finding balance in a new routine, and so much more.

We have grown to love life in Europe. It has become home. Then again, we’ve also learned that the idea of home has greatly changed. There is no longer that one place that is home for us. Instead, it’s a feeling, and it’s more about who than where.

But now it’s time for a bit of reverse culture shock… the Dove family is embarking on a visit to our other home! We’re headed to America soon (in 15 days, to be exact), where we’ll be spending the holidays with family and friends, doing a bit of work, and relaxing a bit as well.

Zack and I have each been back to the states once. But our boys have not been there in over three years. Needless to say, they are a bit excited!

We are excited as well – and maybe a bit apprehensive. Three years is a long time. And we’d be lying if we said this time and experience has not changed us.

Two months in America – this is going to be interesting!

So stay tuned to see just how much we’ve changed – and how much the world and life we left have gone off and changed on us!

A little taste of America

Daniel’s passport is set to expire early next year. And since it is recommended that you not travel with less than 6 months remaining on your passport, we thought we should probably tackle the job before school starts back.So off we went to Oslo to visit the U.S. Embassy.

It was our first time since moving here. Everyone there was extremely friendly, and the process itself went smoothly. We even had a sports celebrity sighting (no name dropping – but there is a Norwegian who plays in the NHL).

While sitting in the waiting room, we discovered the vending machine. And it was like its own little corner of America.

Diet Coke, Root Beer. Starburst. Cheetos. Oreos. Gatorade. And more.

I think we were all drooling.

But the saddest part of the situation wasn’t that I had left my wallet in the security screening room. I would have gladly gone back and begged to grab some coins out of my bag. No, the torturous moment was when we discovered the note on the machine…

Out of Order

Sorry, no photos from the embassy or the machine – again, we had to leave everything in security. But trust me when I say that it seemed like a very cruel joke.

After our appointment, we walked around the city a bit and explored the
fortress/festning for the first time. What a cool area!

 

Where are you from?

It seems like a simple question. Yet, when the flight attendant asked our 10 year old those four little words earlier this week, we realized that sometimes it isn’t necessarily so easy.

 

Daniel looked at her, and we listened to see how he would respond. Would he name his country of birth, where he spent his first five years? Or maybe his country of citizenship, where he has extended family?

But without any real hesitation, he answered “Norway!”

The flight attendant went on to ask other questions, and complimented him on speaking English so well. A bit funny for us to hear of course, although we later joked that he could have responded “thanks, it’s my second language!”

But as we thought back over it, we also reminded ourselves that Daniel probably does have more of a sense of home here in Norway than anywhere else. While there were 5 years in Ukraine, he really doesn’t remember that. And he loves the idea of America, but most of it is based on our conversations and not the 2 years he lived there. And then had a short 4 month stint in Canada.

But for the last 2 1/2 years, he has called Norway home. He has lived in this house longer than anywhere else. He knows his way around. He has good friends. We joke that he is like a little celebrity or politician, rarely walking into the town without someone recognizing him and saying hi. He feels at home here.

This is one of those interesting things that would not have crossed my mind as a child. In fact, I would likely not have given it much thought even five years ago. But for our kids, home really does become less about a place, and more about a feeling, a sense of belonging, the spot wherever they are together with immediate family.

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For more on our sense of ‘home’, check out THIS POST.

Cross-Cultural Living: lessons from a pack of Pop-Tarts

Somewhere in the skies between our sleepy little town of Sandefjord and the bustling capital of the Netherlands, we sat side by side. Trays down, awaiting whatever culinary masterpiece the Dutch airline had carefully selected as the snack for coach.I watched as my 13-year-old seated next to me opened the cheese and yogurt sandwich, and ate it rather quickly. While it’s not so odd for him to devour food, this did not seek like something he would consume with such haste.

But in a matter of a couple of minutes, the tiny paper box was emptied of its contents. And then he began rummaging through his backpack. Soon, he produced on his tray table a rectangular silver package.

I looked at his face and saw a look of pure happiness. He carefully opened the wrapper and withdrew its contents: two frosted cherry-filled pastries.

Most American teenagers would recognize these without a second thought. And most would probably not understand the gravity of this moment (okay, a bit melodramatic, but humor me…). But for my boy, this was a rare treat: a delicacy in its time and place. A gift from recent American visitors, my blonde-headed man-child sat and relished every last bite of his beloved Pop-Tarts.

As I watched, I was first reminded that often the simple things are the best. Big vacations we’ve taken are punctuated in our children’s minds by the night we stayed up late eating junk food and watching movies. Or the time they got to ‘skate’ in their shoes across a frozen parking lot. Or the fun of taking a bath in a garden tub (we only have a shower).

I also thought about the fact that you often don’t realize your desires or affections until they’re removed from you. Or maybe you don’t realize the things you really could do without until they aren’t right under foot. Not that my boy is driven by a love of Pop-Tarts. But the metaphor is there. Something that was once inexpensive and readily available has now become rare, and a highly-prized indulgence.

This non-event reminded me of how we need to take time to enjoy the things we love. Again, it was only Pop-Tarts. But how many times do I zip through moments of significance, and instead live in constant anticipation, continually waiting for whatever is next? While there is always a danger of letting the small joys of life become big distractions, there is also a balance.

We all have certain interests, passions. So long as they don’t distract from who we were created to be, we should take the time to enjoy them.

All this from a pack of Pop-Tarts. Who knew what a twin-pack of toaster pastries could hold?






For those who’ve followed along for awhile, you might remember that we also make our own, healthier version of Pop-Tarts from time to time (read about that here).