The weblog of a traveller

   Dec 14

Dear Santa

Blog is good for answering the most pressing question these days: What do you want to see under the tree this year?

This toughie tops my list: Motorola defy+ with the +. My current smart phone started acting weird right from the start, and has really developed a personality by now (Sometimes I can hear you, sometimes not. It will freeze for no reason at all. It frequently loses reception in broad daylight, with or without telling. I’m in luck if I can get online.) In short, I need a new phone. And this time a durable one. This is Norway, not California.

Though it is hard to keep a dressy wardrobe in the current, temporary residence with little room for such, I dress reasonably business-esque for work. This necessitates the use of blouses on a daily basis (who’d have thought?) I love green, turqoise,  dark, intense colors in general, and unusual cuts. And this: 


Oslo can be a cold place in more than one way, and I’m always out of warm sweaters. I love the style with a huge, wide neck and a slim body that covers the butt. Color preferences much same as for blouses, plus grays. Continues under the image (stupid linkback feature, that white wall beneath the picture was completely unnecessary).

H M sweater

No acrylics! My work computer has a metal case, and if I build up static from moving around in synthetics I zap it several times a day (sometimes with visual and auditive effects)! I don’t think inadvertent electrocution is beneficial for macbooks OR human hearts. I know the trick in which you touch the metal object with a key in your hand to spread the charge exchange over a bigger surface, I just can’t do this every time I touch my comp.

I would be very thankful for thin socks, but no need for warm ones -I have a bag full and they don’t wear out.


Jumping out of character for a moment, I observe that posting a list of stuff is completely out of fashion. All it-blogs (that are not paid to do otherwise) are currently pouring home-made, non-consumerist gift ideas (which mostly require heaps of fancy supplies, but let’s not do the math). I do care about the extra spending at Christmas which can be quite wasteful, and I too could have made an anti-materialist let’s-send-it-all-to-children-in-need-post. However, these posts tend to be just as vain as anything else (yosh look at me, I’m being selfless!) and change little. The above items are things I will be getting myself anyway, and putting them under the tree will not lead to more spending. The best strategy to reduce Yuletide overspending is making specific and sensible wishes.

In other news, we are still looking for our flat, it’s good to have ample time to wait for the place that feels just right.

What do you want to see under your tree?

   Oct 30

Good bye Kolbotn – Hello Oslo!

One more week and this beauty will be out of my hands. So long Kolbotn, it’s been four peaceful years between a pond and a skiing slope. If only our friends had been more mobile (it gets lonely when no one else dares venture across the city border!) we might have stayed longer.

Human and rabbit companions and myself have flown already, to a tentative residence right above nightlife bonanza Grünerløkka. The place is great, but one room is a tad small when you have 25 plants and not the willpower to bin any of them (they’re alive, dammit! How would you feel).

Plan for the rest of the year: Dig through the real estate section of every medium, find the perfect crib and invite everyone to said crib before we need to replace the calendar.

These are exciting times. It is such a blessing to have this room in the city, enabling us to sell the Kolbotn place on a move-right-in-basis and have ample time to find a new nest.

I’ve made a list (several lists, in fact) detailing the requirements of the new place.

  •  First of all, it needs to be practically on top on a public transport transit. Failure to comply with this is a deal-breaker.
  • The second room needs to be big enough to fit a double work station with at least five monitors.
  • Nothing about the building can in any way resemble a communist living machine. This point rules out many options in the upper right corner of the city, as well as anything over ten stories.
  • Lastly, the place needs to have an x-factor, something that peeks the interest of a couple of nostalgic minds. Non-right angles, non-standard windows, an unexpected built-in shelf or a blue door are possible x-factors.

We’re prepared to pay the extra heating costs that come with an older flat, simply because older flats tend to be more interesting.


Work is still killing me, but people keep telling me it only gets better from here. November is the time when new teachers have depleted their energy stores from summer, but have not yet established the time-saving routines that are so vital in this profession. Makes sense. I counted my hours for this week, and according to the economy curriculum I’m teaching at the moment, my current workload is not even legal on an hour-to-hour basis (this comes down to me being too thoughtful about the things I do, and having to prepare all material from scratch. My employers are great and gives me all the flex that they can, it is not really their fault the previous science teacher took a hike and took all the materials with them).

So I bite my lip and do my best, the feeling of always lagging behind is horrible but I try to not take it personally -there is just no way I could do more.

Also I need to say that sorry everyone; the prize for best Halloween costume of the year is already taken by this guy:


   Sep 05

Wake me up when September ends

September seems eternal from here. It is like a never ending stream of work, with which I can on no account compromise because others depend on it. Still, whenever I feel empty I can take a mental look back to June 6. and the months leading up to it and feel the sweet relief of never, ever, ever needing to complete a master’s thesis again. No matter what my professional life throws at me, it will never match the stress and distress and feelings of insufficiency that came with the last phase of that project. I am able to keep work at work, it is not my life or identity or basis of existence (though it may be part of my pride). I do stay an extra hour every day, but that hour keeps me from bringing it all with me throughout the evening.

My team is solution focused and a very pleasant bunch, my pupils are mature and well-behaved (if quite whimsical and independent) and I am learning as much as I am teaching every day. I may well have found the best school I could have ended up in. Of course I hope every teacher in every school is able to say that.

   Aug 18

Sympathy Ramadan

Muslims go all day without food this month, and I thought to see what it’s like, I just skip that huge dinner they have after sundown (I do eat breakfast and take vitamins, and if anything adverse happens I’ll stop in that instant. Don’t worry).

What can fasting plus daily exercise do to you? Reducing your waistline by 5 cm in a week and a half! (Back to where it were before England, it’s nice to fit in my clothes again.) I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but suffer from regular snack attacks. One day without meals and my blood sugar is stable as never before, the urge to snack is gone, and energy levels are higher than ever. I’ll definitely do this again.


   Aug 09

Nuffield: A+!

Nuffield fitness centre kindly let me use their gym when I really needed a workout and a clean shower (see previous post if you wonder why “clean” is emphasized), even though I did not live in the area and thus was not a prospective member. Because I appreciated the generosity and the facilities so much, I am hereby recommending their services to anyone googling around to see which gym they should sign up for. It was so much better than the one I go to at home. Endless rows of cardiac machines in all sorts and shapes, fresh air, no music (but plugs for 3 different personal music devices), health test for all new members. Even the details, such as free weight scale in the wardrobes, option to borrow a towel, soap provided in showers, were in place. The tuna sandwich strutted with healthy greens. And importantly; staff was not slick or over-enthusiastic as in a certain green-colored gym company up here.

I din’t try the full-sized swimming pool, but am sure it is just as excellent as the rest.

All gyms seem to have something that is plainly annoying (loud music in a short loop is a big one), this one just didn’t seem to have any of those. Wish there was one where I live!

   Aug 06

England IV – Doncaster

Doncaster is a sorry little town. It is dominated by industry, vacant plots and chapping brick houses, a lot of people look like they’re struggling to get by and I haven’t seen a single smile since I arrived here (that last part may be due to the heavy dew). My initial experiences did not help: First off, the taxi took me on a far longer ride than I asked for. Maybe he just really liked driving on the highway? When accounting for the tip he obviously didn’t get, the price probably went down to the same amount anyway. Secondly, I missed big time on the hotel. I did check around, then for some reason ignored the warnings on Tripadvisor (too many people use it as a passive-aggressive way of getting back at places if they’ve not gotten their way) and booked the cheapest place I could find, the Restover lodge. After all, I only needed a place to rest over and keep my stash, right?

The room is lit only by a small bulb on the wall. As there is no desk, I am writing this in bed with the laptop on the chair stool. The interior reminds me of the cabins on a ferry – everything is bolted to the wall. The window features a broken blind and a sign about thieves operating in the area. The toilets and showers in the hallway are supposedly self-cleaning, I assume that is by UV-light because there’s fatty grimes up the walls. At least they are disinfected fat grimes… No soap in any of the toilets. The other guests are huge beefy men with gangsta-style tattoos. It wasn’t until the next morning I saw the sign that could have gotten me out of this:  “After check-in you have 10 minutes to control the facilities. If you find the room unsatisfactory and want to leave, you can do so free of charge within the 10 minutes” (insert picture of sign here) The water smells like a swimming pool, though that is not really the hotel’s fault it adds to the ickyness. On the plus side, the staff is friendly and promised to have a talk with the cleaners, the wi-fi is fast and the sheets are clean (I am counting my blessings here). Also, ignoring the litter outside the window, you can see an old graveyard.

The “hotel” looked central on the map. Wrong again, it is in an industrial area cut off from the town by a highway that I would rather not cross on foot. To find a walkable way across, I had to go quite a bit out of my way.

So here I am, in a depressing place without a single sighting (the tourist office lists two attractions: The mall and the market. They were okay), meeting is not until tomorrow and I am back at the room to do some work. I got some raw greens and coconut water (try it!) for lunch, and at least I feel clean on the inside. Now I’ll pretend I’m solo backpacking in some obscure, hidden place (not that far from the truth) and call the whole experience exotic.

Used to be a grand place back in the days

   Aug 05

England III – Warwick

The Teach First summer institute takes on the challenge of picking out the essentials from a normally five (?) years education and convey it in six weeks. I would say, it succeeds beautifully. How can this be? Of course it helps that the candidates already know their subject inside and out, so we were able to focus on the pedagogy. Also, six weeks (five for the Norwegian cohort) full-time all-day tuition equals quite a long stretch of the quite leisurely paced student life you’d find in the regular program. But the secret is the existential fear nervous anticipation of a very soon-to-come responsibility of a classroom. What better motivation can you have?

It has been a haze. A very constructive and engaging haze of  challenge, support, goalsetting and reflection. Also good measures of acronyms and buzzwords, but always focused on the task, which has been to develop us candidates into effective and inspiring leaders ().

And suddenly it is over. All 1500 colleagues, tutors and associates have taken off, leaving a vacuum and the visible remains of the fabulous goodbye party last night. I stay the weekend to see a contact in Doncaster (and feeling very independent and world-conquering if I may say it!).

I recall something about a bumpy ride home...

If I were to draw out one main lesson from all of this, it would be that I am indeed not an island, and that even though I’ve had success with doing the important things mostly by myself, teams really do more than the sum of the participants (which all of you knew already. I guess I am a bit slow); and that seeking support is not the same as not taking full responsibility for your actions.

I’m hereby scrapping the mindset that if you want something done right you better do it yourself, replacing it by a just as flaky phrase about standing stronger together. Up until now, the science itself has been the main point, and being a people’s person was a fringe benefit. In schools I guess it is the other way round with people skills being the core, and subject knowledge is more of a bonus. Which makes the inner scientist a bit sad, but not as much as to take any glory away from the prospect of getting the chance to spread my half-manic enthusiasm for all things scientific.

   Jul 23

You can never be prepared against sociopaths

As you are all aware, two attacks hit Oslo in quick succession yesterday. Death toll is rising and will end up in three digits. Most of them politically active teenagers, caring enough for the world around them to spend their summer vacation at a political camp. Some of the most socially conscious young people you could find. It is surreal to experience these events from abroad, unable to help (though what on Earth could I have done if I had been there, anyways). One thing that I will do is sign up for a first aid class, because it is not nice to know I would have no idea how to best help a wounded person if I had to.

covered bodies on the shore -

So far it seems to be one or two confused individuals acting on their own, without backing of a group. That is comforting in a sense, seeing as we do not need to fear further attacks from this person. In the released pictures he looks fit, well-adjusted, even handsome. Take it as a shrill reminder that we cannot judge from the face who can be trusted and who can not! Bad seeds can be found anywhere. If we were to completely secure ourselves against those who do not respect the social contract, we would end up in a place where the ground state is suspicion.

Our leaders are stepping up as true statesmen in this situation. Even before the details were worked out, when it seemed likely that a foreign force was behind the attacks, the prime minister at no point called out for patriotism or military power, but rather reinforced the very open democracy that Norway is so blessed to have as a freedom that will never be narrowed down for the sake of security. That is world class leadership.


   Jul 18

England II – Manchester

A quick photo post from Manchester:

Apart from spending your budget in the well-equipped malls, the main thing to do for non-footballers was to go exploring. The area is slightly confusing; flat as a plate with no protruding landmarks, coastline or other things to aid orientation, making pathfinding tricky.


Rain poem (click twice for a readable size)

The defining trait of the city is, according to our local trailblazer, the rain. (I would add, the high hair. I was not brave/suicidal enough to get a picture of those extraordinary hairstyles, google Snooki for reference)

Playing with camera

There were a few astonishing pieces of street art in the back streets

Strange structures, make me want to climb them.

Uh, please don’t!

   Jul 18

I need to build this webpage myself

WordPress is updating constantly, and now it’s gone in Apple mode and hid all the buttons. I am unable to navigate this interface, or should I say lack thereof. And I who have a heap of great pictures to show y’all!

It worked the way it was, dammit.