Tag Archives: expat

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.

~~~~~~~~~
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).

Now it feels like home!

Packing for Virginia (3 years ago last week)
There’s Santa!

Expat life often involves lots of suitcases. Lots of cleaning out and paring things down. Change. Moves. New places, new faces, and a search for a sense of home.

One of my childhood friends is preparing to move his family to Italy. His wife recently posted on Facebook, asking expat friends for suggestions on what to pack and what not to pack.

I really enjoyed reading the comments. And some stood out more than others.
A couple of people suggested something that I especially appreciated. They encouraged her to pick out a couple of items in her current home that they could take with them as a symbol of home. Then, no matter where they are, when they see these things, they’ll know they’re home.
We actually have one such item ourselves. He was a gift from Zack the first Christmas after we got married. He’s a beanie baby Santa. He stays out year round at our home. And he lives wherever we live.
Three homes in Georgia, then Virginia, Vancouver, Oslo and now Sandefjord.
Most people who see it probably think it’s weird that we have a Santa sitting out. But when I see him, I know I’m home.
If you were preparing to move overseas, what would you insist on taking with you? What is one thing you have that always lets you know you’re home?

What’s it like? Posts about living here…

February 2, 2013 (Oslo) – Is it me, or do we
look a lot different in this picture than now?

We are approaching our two year anniversary of moving to Norway. Wow. Gotta stop and let that one sink in for a second.

Anyway, after almost two years, we continue to get a lot of questions via email or social media about various aspects of living in Europe. I love sharing, and I’ve done quite a few posts in the past about what it’s like.

I plan to continue sharing more of these. And maybe I’ll elaborate on some. If you have a suggestion for this series, feel free to let me know. After two years, there are many things that I don’t even think of as being different or significant anymore, but someone else might be curious about them.

For now, I thought I would revisit them by sharing the links of the previous “What’s It Like” posts here (there are quite a few!):

There’s no place like home!

Lunch before leaving the hospital – don’t I look thrilled?

Monday night was a long night. I think I had been so in and out all day Monday that I just wasn’t very sleepy when night came. Add to that the elements of being in the hospital with a lot of activity around, and two other people in the room, and it just made for a long night.

I got up Tuesday morning and made my way down the hall to the patient cafeteria. This was quite different from my experiences in American hospitals! The nurse will gladly bring food to your room when you aren’t up to moving around, but I was encouraged to try and start walking a bit so I could be discharged. So I had a bite to eat and then went back to my room, exhausted but happy with the progress.

Zack dropped the boys off at school and then came to the hospital. We sat around a bit, and then I had a meeting and exam with the doctor, who said I could go home after lunch. I managed to get myself dressed while Zack went downstairs and fill my prescriptions, and then he accompanied to the cafeteria.

Around 13.00/1:00 PM Tuesday afternoon I was released and we made our way home. Again, exhausting is the best word that comes to mind. Everything is exhausting right now. But I slept much better last night, and I feel a bit more energetic today. I’m trying to get up and move every hour or so, and each time it gets a little better. I just keep reminding myself that this will take a while!

Surgery Next Week

Apparently my last post about surgery was confusing. I have not had my surgery yet. It is scheduled for this Monday, January 19.For those that aren’t caught up, I’m the lucky 39 year old that gets to have a hysterectomy (more on that HERE). Not the most exciting thing to deal with, but I’ve had some health issues that necessitate it. And I am totally ready to get it behind me. In fact, I was totally ready back on December 3 when I was originally scheduled for surgery. But as most of you now know, that didn’t happen (read about that HERE).

I could write a book about that whole experience. About the difficulty in understanding language if it involves medical terminology (WAY outside my limited Norwegian vocabulary), or when I have already been given strong medication. Or about the importance of bedside manner when delivering the news that you’ve sat in a hospital bed for seven hours, but the surgery will not take place (two different people delivered the news, in two very different ways). Or about how much it meant for friends to check on me, and especially those who heard the postponement news and replied with simple messages like “I am so sorry. That really stinks.” Because it did. Plain and simple. Or about how my mom worked so hard to get here to help out, getting bumped from flights and waiting in Minnesota and Amsterdam for hours on end, only to arrive to the news that surgery wasn’t happening.

Yeah, I could write a lot. But the fact is, it didn’t happen. And maybe it was God’s plan that it didn’t happen, or maybe it just didn’t happen because life doesn’t go the way you planned.

But I am hopeful that Monday will end this part of the story! They have me placed earlier on the schedule, so it is less likely for me to get bumped this time. And while we don’t have a family member to help out this time around, I’m certain that my amazing husband will manage just fine!

I’ll try to keep you posted…

Surgery: let’s try this again / Operasjon: en gang til

SURGERY RESCHEDULED…As you may have read on a previous post (here), I was supposed to have surgery in early December. But it didn’t happen. I was third on the schedule, and apparently the two before me took longer than expected.

I’ve been anxiously waiting on word from the hospital regarding my rescheduled date. We left for our time in Hungary and I still hadn’t heard anything. But as we arrived home yesterday we checked the mail, and there it was! I am on the schedule for January 19. And based on the time that I have to be there, it looks like I’m early on the schedule, too.

So here we go again! I’ll keep you all posted…

So disconnected (I unfriend you!)

We typically don’t realize how disconnected we are from American culture. That is, until someone from the US comes to visit us.Case in point: this Esurance commercial (video below). We just saw it for the first time tonight. Hilarious.

Yeah, apparently we are always behind. In hearing news, seeing the latest and greatest from music or television, finding out about the newest technology (unless it’s Apple: Zack never misses any of that!), or being exposed to all the clever advertising.

But hey – at least we aren’t as disconnected as poor Beatrice!