Prague

As promised, here is an update from Prague. Over our fall break in the beginning of October, I took advantage of the time off to see one of the cities on the top of my list as a 30th birthday gift to myself. Coincidentally, one of my close friends, Anke, was also going to be in Prague. We have had many exciting adventures traveling the world together; this trip did not disappoint!

I am glad that I made the effort to learn some of the LONG history of Prague before the trip and also watched some beginning Czech language videos on YouTube. I loved seeing the appreciation in people’s eyes when I could at least say, “Děkuji” (which means “Thank you,” and is not at all pronounced how it looks, so I practiced pronunciation for a very long time).

I will let the pictures speak for the beauty of the city. It is something better experienced than described. I really enjoyed the beer culture and the good food. And, coming from Norway, it was nice that everything was so affordable. Another thing I thoroughly enjoyed were the cute and cozy cafes (great recommendations, Nick and Daniela!). With all the rain and cold, it was nice to take a break from the walking and warm up with a good cup of coffee. I walked A LOT in Prague – the city is quite large if one wants to venture outside of the main tourist hub.

For the next time I am in Prague I must seek out some of their famous microbreweries. Towards the end of my stay I realized I had not followed any of my outline for beer tasting. I was quite disappointed I didn’t make an opportunity to sample craft beers, rather, I had plenty of typical Czech lagers on tap at the places we checked out (Don’t get me wrong, these are still good beers!). One place I particularly wanted to try was called Beer Geek in addition to Kulovy Blesk (the one that was too full so entrance was denied), which was recommended by a Czech person living in Prague. Slovakia will also be on the itinerary. I also had a hard time meeting locals as the places we went were more touristy. I would have liked to have met more Czech people!  At the same time, I found that I was able to meet other tourists on the walking tour, which I did my last full day. Note to self – it is always better to do the tour in the beginning. I even met a couple while watching the sun set on the dancing house – one from Germany and Minnesota of all places. It made for a great ending to a memorable trip!

To Bee or Not to Be

To Bee or Not to Be

Today I went on an adventure in Moss! One thing that I have wanted to make sure I do before I leave is see more of the island of Jeløy as well as visit a gallery, since Moss is known for their galleries. Today, I did both. I visited the “To Bee or Not to Be” exhibition at Galleri F15. Since the gallery is quite a ways, I dug out my bike. We were treated with a visit from the sun and a bit warmer weather. Well, it still took me close to an hour to get to the gallery. I did a bit of backtracking until I found the path that follows the coast. It was quite pleasant and serene navigating the worn footpath through the trees with the autumn leaves blanketing the ground. I hope I have the opportunity to walk part of this path – it is definitely worth exploring!

I was not anticipating the length or intensity of the trail, so I felt I had had a pretty good workout by the time I got to Galleri F15. It was absolutely worth it!

bee-5
Galleri F15

The exhibit was a reflection of the relationship between human beings and the environment fueled by the decline of the bee population. I was enthralled by an 18 minute video about the politics of the climate crisis. At the same time, I was frustrated that no one else, aside from 2 people who sat in for 2-3 minutes, took the time to watch the video. As an aspiring environmentalist, I see these issues as absolutely critical for the survival of our planet and the human race. This is something that everyone needs to be a part to interrupt:

  • 300 million people are affected by the climate crisis every year
  • 300,000 people are displaced every year
  • An estimated 50 million people will be displaced by 2050

Furthermore, the global south is the least responsible for the climate crisis, but they are the most affected by it and cannot afford to deal with it. Kenya, for instance, receives violent downpours that strip the topsoil of their farming land. Drought follows. Farmers take out loans to dig deeper wells or buy seed. Interest rates become inflated. Farmers fo into extreme debt that they cannot pay back.

This is absolutely an issue that the entire world needs to come together and be united to conquer. Some of my colleagues and I have challenged ourselves to walk more and drive less when we return to the States. I have told myself I would do this every other time I have returned home. This time, I aim to put forth more effort!

ANDDDD, now for the photos!

#Stillwithher

The day after the United States Election 2016: I am going to do my best to synthesize my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to Donald Trump as our President. If you can imagine the Tilt-a-Whirl on top of a roller coaster, that might best describe my emotions the last 18 hours or so. What a great experience to see this election while living abroad, gathered among so many people dressed their best with US flags everywhere and US-inspired snacks all night long: wings, gourmet macaroni and cheese, sliders…. It was exciting to be around so many people pumped up about the election. There were cardboard cut-outs, buttons reminiscent of Bernie Sanders, entertainment, reporters, quizzes… There was a lot of excitement! Even leading up to this event, American College of Norway had been quite involved in the election with our debate last month and many students being interviewed for the Moss newspaper and Norwegian TV and radio.

The news coverage in Norway was focused heavily on debates and news about the candidates. I would guess at least as much, if not more, than the US. I reflected on the fact that I have met many Norwegians and Swedes that can explain US politics and policies much more eloquently than I can. My perception from living abroad is that most of the entire world pays more attention to US politics than the average person from the States. That is why this election was such a big deal. All eyes are on us. I would guess those people are now also either sharing tears, cursing in anger, or laughing at our foolishness…

I was never convinced Trump couldn’t make it to the Oval. I have been quite afraid the last few weeks worried that it might be possible. I thought of how many people told me he’d never get the nomination. Well, he did. I agonized over my absentee ballot for days before I mailed it off to Minnesota with plenty of extra time in case something happened to it. I struggled with the feeling that I voted out of fear for my country and the ideals for which it stands. What I did not expect was that we are a country so grossly divided.

The night before the election, I let myself get worked up about articles and Facebook posts urging people to vote for Trump. One article in particular was putting the fear of losing our constitutional rights if Clinton were to be our President. I did not sleep well that night. The anxiety was setting in. I kept thinking, “There are people at home who actually believe this. People are afraid to lose their guns and that immigrants are a threat to our country (a country founded by immigrants, remember?) and that our precious tax dollars will fund Planned Parenthood which performs abortions (among a plethora of other preventative health services).” I was afraid.

Once we settled in to start watching the results come in, around midnight our time, the red didn’t stop flashing across the screen. Trump kept ahead of Clinton. The back and forth was stressful and increasing my anxiety. There was optimism and hope that Clinton would be triumphant. Electoral votes continued to grow. Worry started to increase. I was in disbelief. “HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?!” It just couldn’t happen. I became more and more sad and upset as the results came in. Flashes of scenes and scenarios from Scandal kept flitting in and out of my mind. Early on, when I saw that Trump had over a half million votes is when I think it really hit me. There are A LOT of people at home voting for him. The fear and anxiety crept back in. 3 million votes. He could actually win.

I was so confused and frustrated how that many people could vote for him. I stared at the screen open-mouthed and in disbelief. There was a shooting with 1 dead near a polling station. It’s not even mentioned. Then more fear crept in. “Shooting at polling stations? This country is going to get out of hand quickly.”

The event became too much for me to handle. Around 3am I headed back to the hotel room and tried desperately to sleep. Again, it evaded me. Every time I was rustled from snoozing, I saw the screen again with more and more electoral votes for Trump. “No,” I thought, “This really can’t happen. Clinton will pull through.” The disbelief again clouded my brain, “It has to be a dream! It can’t be real. It won’t be.” The silent tears fell down my cheeks. The sadness and fear was overwhelming. Finally, on the screen I saw “Trump vinner Presidentvalget.” Trump won. (My viewing of the election was a mix of CNN, BBC, and NRK (Norwegian news).) “NO! It can’t be. It’s not real.” Emotions surged me, and still it didn’t feel real. What’s going to happen to our country with a leader who is so blatantly demeaning and discriminatory to marginalized communities? How can he be the face of the United States? We are supposed to stand for equality and freedom and integrity. He is absolutely the antithesis of these ideals a world leader should embody.

I have felt despair, sadness, fear, anxiety, and panic. I have felt anger. I kept saying that I wasn’t going to come home if Trump won. How could I live in a country with him as our leader? I felt frantic and floundering for any kind of job to stay, determined I can’t go back now. Facebook was flooded with requests to come stay with the group of us who live in Norway. Yet, for me it’s different because I DO have to go back, and they live here permanently. I have to go to this new and scary place, this United States that I don’t know anymore, this place in which I have lost so much respect. The realization of how close the race was indicating how divided our country is, is what worries me most. There is so much hidden fear of the other that is propagated, which is only going to lead to more discrimination and hatred that could further divide our country. I am afraid of what the United States might become.

This heavy cloud hung over all of us at ACN today. There is this sense of feeling lost and hopeless and “Now what?” Thoughts in my head circled around that it’s the end of the world, and our country has taken a step back; the anger and shouting “What the FUCK is wrong with this country? How can people actually believe what his terrible person says? Where is the humanity and compassion? No, I can’t go back!”

Even before the election, for over a year, I have wanted to come back to Sweden. I have applied to countless jobs to have an opportunity to come back to Scandinavia until now with my position at ACN. But, maybe I have to go back. The amount of people also feeling afraid and feeling like they need to get out started to shake something inside of me. A few posts, articles, and videos have brought something into awareness. The US needs us to stay. We have to keep fighting and not let this be the beginning of the end. We have to fight to make it a better place.  This debate has gone on for over a year: Sweden or ideal career? I think my calling is pulling me towards an exciting opportunity in higher education…in the United States. At the same time, I still want to stay.

However, to stay in Scandinavia almost inevitably means that I would need to take on a teaching position again. My thoughts flipped immediately in thinking about Trump as our leader that yeah, maybe I will actually take a teaching position in Sweden, despite the conversation I had with my supervisor yesterday that my heart just isn’t in teaching right now. I feel like the doors are opening up to higher education through this incredible internship with ACN. I thought, “I might have to put my career on hold. I might have to stay here even if it means teaching,” out of fear of living in a country with Trump as our leader. I wondered if I could actually give up a job offer at a university in the US in my mission not to go back. The posts that have flipped my thinking back to being more rational and compassionate have revolved around the idea that we need to continue to STAY and unite to create change so that this is not the end of the world as we know it. I have vowed to continue to stand in solidarity with those of us willing to fight the animosity, hatred, fear, and oppression that has been increasing throughout this horrible election.

Now, more than ever, the US needs educators that will continue to fight for inclusivity of all students and people so our country CAN be great again. I think my calling is telling me, despite everything I ever thought if I would see the day Trump became president, that I need to be in the US promoting inclusive spaces, understanding, and awareness so that all people can live their lives authentically without fear. That we cannot just accept but embrace one another; learn and collaborate together.

What I do know is that I deeply appreciate the words of President Obama and Senator Clinton in their commitment to stand with the people in the fight for a more inclusive and humane society. I was moved to tears by both speeches, partly because the thought of President Trump is still terrifying, and partly because we as citizens don’t have to accept this as the end all. Action can still create change. I am reminded of a few days ago I wore a shirt that says, “Everything has beauty.” My colleague called me out asking, “Really? Everything? What’s beautiful about Donald Trump?” I said there couldn’t be anything beautiful about such a terrible person. But, maybe, the beauty in Trump is that this election is going to start something new. Maybe it really will unite people in our country to be a better and more compassionate society. Maybe.

#Stillwithher #Pantssuitnation #Nastywomenunite #Stillfeelingthebern

 

The past week in Moss

Life has been pretty hectic the last month. The time has flown by. That is the way it goes. It just seems to happen when I least expect it. I have lots more blogging to catch up on, so keep an eye out for Prague, Svalbard, and a weekend with my family in Hov, Norway.

Today I wanted to simply write about normal life in Moss. In one month I will be home in Minnesota. Suddenly, I am scrambling to put out job applications and reaching out to as many contacts as possible. Suddenly, I am a bit panicked and feel like a strange time warp is closing in on me. How has 2/3 of my time in Moss gone by already? One month is such a short time to figure out a job and living arrangements and everything else that comes with returning home from overseas. I have had lots of positive vibes that things will fall into place. Yet, this 1-month marker feels like a lot of pressure.

At the same time, I keep reminding myself to stay present in the moment because my time here is precious. I am trying to decide what needs to be done before I go and plan those things for the upcoming weeks. I want to focus my last month here on “Norwegian things.” Like in Sweden when I wanted to do everything Swedish, I want to spend my time here doing what Norwegians do. I just have to figure out what that is. 🙂

This week has also been full of reflections; the “Wow, I am really HERE” thoughts have been swirling in my mind as I do everyday things like walking home from the grocery store. I remember these moments living in South Africa and Sweden. They are reminders not to take anything for granted and embrace this wonderful opportunity. They are great and inspiring reflections; I just feel caught off guard by them. I must have been too wrapped up in the daily nitty gritty to stop and smell the roses as they say.

So, some of the fun things that have happened this week starting with ACN’s Haunted House: The Purge.

 

Enjoying the beautiful weather we had last weekend!!

sunday-funday

We also were visited by the wonderful Dr. Tami Carmichael from University of North Dakota. What a fun UND Week it was! Seeing the students pumped up about college choices was great! These Norwegian students are so excited to study in the US.

You can read ACN’s blog about UND Week here! Read it!

 

This week we also got most of the faculty and staff together for dinner and drinks at Riis Cafe (finally!). It was so much fun!

night-with-staff
Such a supportive and fun group of colleagues!! ACN is the best!

And, to top off the week, we have our first snow in Moss; between 2 feet and a meter of snow were forecasted. So far, it’s a couple centimeters maybe. But things have definitely gotten much colder around here! This 65F weather back home is nonsense! Let’s keep in mind it should not be that warm in Minnesota in November. And yes, this thing called Climate Change is a concern even if the weather feels great… Ok, I will get off my soapbox now. But keep it in mind at least. For me, I will go with the woolen socks and long johns to stay warm!

I also realize 2 feet and 1 meter are not compatible. I was told by different sources. What I have realized, though, is how strange the imperial system seems to me when I am abroad. I think that is a good thing, because adjusting to metric is important. I will be the first to agree the US should switch. Let’s be real, though. I don’t think it will ever happen. I can’t say the same about Celsius, though. I am a big fan of Fahrenheit.

 

coffee
It’s nice having colleagues that share my appreciation (or addiction?) to coffee. Thanks, Nick! Also- shout out to Chelsea for the best gift from Göteborg!

Today was a new experience at the grocery store. For the first time, even after living in Sweden for a year, I took my bottles and cans to be redeemed for “pant.” Pant is the deposit one gets back that they have paid for when the bottle is purchased. (In Sweden I left the bottles in a bag by the recycling for someone who needed the pant more than I.) Like in Germany, when one orders a beer they usually pay 1 Euro so that the glass bottle is returned and can be re-used. With plastic and aluminum, it entices people to recycle. So, after all that, I forgot to redeem my pant when I paid for my groceries!! Oh, well. Next time.

pant

And, to enjoy the weekend with an organic, fair trade Argentinian Malbec. When in Sweden, one must stock up on alcohol… I would guess this box cost almost half of what it would in Norway. Skål to the goal!

wine