Happy Thanksgiving!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about I refer you to Wikipedia. For all of the Americans (and apparently Canadians) out there, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday. It’s essentially all of the great food you would get at Christmas a month early–plus you eliminate the stress of gift giving. And I suppose if you’re into sports there is a lot of American football that you can watch–I tend to ignore this part of the holiday although a few of the Brazilians that I know here have not. Personally, I’m all about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

And while Thanksgiving provides you with an excellent opportunity to gorge yourself on a ridiculous amount of food, it’s also a day to reflect on what you are thankful for. I know that I have a lot of things that I’m grateful for (don’t worry I won’t bore you with the details, although I will say that my family deserves a huge shoutout) and I encourage all of you to think about the same, even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.

So, happy Thanksgiving wherever you are and hopefully you’ll all get to have a delicious slice of turkey and reflect a bit on some of the wonderful things you have going for you.


Norwegians really really like Facebook. I’m personally the sort of person who uses Facebook to communicate with friends, read good articles, watch hilarious cat videos, and occasionally look up people that went to my high school. In other words, I tend to use it as a fun way to stay in touch with people and as a source of procrastination. I see email in a completely different light. It is a way for businesses bug me with promotions, a way for work related things to get done, a way for extracurricular things to get done, and a way for people bug me about things that require an in depth or thoughtful response.

Norwegians see Facebook and email slightly differently. Facebook is seen as THE way to get in touch with people. It’s not uncommon for a business to have a Facebook page instead of a website or for people to use a Facebook group to coordinate instead of say email or Google Groups. Since coming to Norway, the number of pages that I’m following and the number of Facebook groups that I’m apart of has exploded. In terms of Facebook groups alone, I’ve joined or been invited to:

  • The best Norwegian course!!
  • Moholt Student Village Activities
  • Nordlysvarsel for Trondheim (Northern Lights group)
  • Fulbrighters on Top of the World!
  • TEDxTrondheimStaff
  • TEDx Trondheim Community
  • Hyttevaktgruppa høst 14 | Studenterhytta (Information on the NTNU Student Cabin)
  • Students’ market Trondheim
  • NTNUI seiling
  • Sailing group autumn ’14

Yup, that’s a lot. Or at least I consider it a lot. Reminder: that doesn’t even include Facebook pages.

As for email, the only emails I’ve received in Norway have been from other teachers and from students; in short, only work related emails.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think that Facebook can be a great resource. I just like to keep my personal life and procrastination separate from my extracurricular activities and other miscellaneous things. I’d much rather have my inbox explode than get tons of notifications from Facebook (largely because I can leave something sitting in my inbox as a reminder whereas I’m more likely to see a notification and then promptly forget about it). The lazy part of me also acknowledges that it’s much harder to try and run a Norwegian Facebook page through Google Translate than it is to do that for an email or a website.

Something else that has surprised me about Facebook in Norway has been posts like the one below:

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 2.07.53 PM copy

Having been told time and time again to be careful with what is posted on Facebook, I find it hilarious to see such unapologetic posts in Norway. And yes, weed is illegal here.

In conclusion: having recently graduated from college, I was hoping to decrease my Facebook usage and instead have had Norway drag me back into it half heartedly kicking and screaming.


Since coming to Byåsen, I have only worked with three classes: an International English class, an English class in the health vocational track, and a Social Studies class. So I was excited when a teacher contacted me about a month ago asking if I could stop by her English class in the restaurant vocational track. She sent me a follow up email earlier in the week asking if I could talk about life and work in the US and that she had “also picked up that [the students] find the litigation culture interesting  (specifically, “why people say they will sue people so often”).” To be frank, my initial reaction to the comment on litigiousness was “I wish I knew.”

Anyways, I duly set about planning for my lesson. Because the topic was so broad I wasn’t quite sure how to structure things, but in the end I decided to talk about:

  1. Demographics: What the Population of America Looks Like
  2. Religion and Politics
  3. Work and Family Life
  4. The Restaurant Industry
  5. Particular Quirks of the Restaurant Industry in America

Now I wouldn’t say that the lesson was a complete disaster, but it was definitely a bit of a reality check.

My International English and Social Studies classes are in what is called the “college prep” section of the school. College prep more or less covers core subjects, similar to what you would learn in an American high school, with the goal of helping students go to university. The students that I’ve encountered in college prep all tend to have very good English.

Vocational tracks on the other hand are geared towards helping students enter their vocation of choice. The impression that I got from my Fulbright education orientation and comments made by teachers at Byåsen is that vocational students are generally not the best at core subjects like English. While I occasionally work with a health vocational class, the English level required has never extended much farther than “Who is your favorite singer?” (in most cases Justin Bieber) or “If you were stranded on a desert island what are three things you would bring with you and why?”

Having been spoiled by the high English fluency of my college prep students and the pretty good English of my health class, I completely overestimated the English ability of those in the restaurant class that I was visiting.

Now there were definitely some vocab words that I knew I shouldn’t have used. When trying to explain the Supreme Court I used “unconstitutional” and immediately realized I should have said something like “illegal” or “against the law” instead. I also knew I would probably have to go back and explain what a census was. So when my co-teacher asked if we could review the slides and some of the vocab I had used, I was more than happy to oblige. I think I fully realized how much I had overshot my audience when we had to check if the students knew the meaning of “government.”

Even though most of my lesson was a bit too complex for my students, it still proved to be an instructive and hilarious class. I think the parts of the lesson that amused me most were when:

  1. We were reviewing political parties and I was asked what the turtle and the camel were for. Democrats and Republicans take note: your political animals could be drawn better. After I got over my fit of laughter, I didn’t even bother using the terms Democrats and Republicans, realizing that things would go over better if I called them the donkey-people and the elephant-people. In the end, I told them not to worry about the elephant-people since their equivalent doesn’t even exist in Norway. To be fair, they thought that the donkey-people were pretty weird too.
  2. Answering why there is no Church of America. In Norway, most people belong to the Church of Norway and so my students were a bit confused as to why America doesn’t have a state church. I then explained how many of the people who first came to America were coming to escape religious persecution (I then totally blanked on a simple way to explain the word persecution, resorting to a poor definition along the lines of “people actively didn’t like them”) and how that made our founding fathers value religious freedom. After the lesson, I speculated on what a Church of America might look like and settled on thanking our founding fathers for not allowing that to happen.
  3. Tipping. First things first, apparently the word tipping means betting in Norwegian. So my students initially thought I was describing some weird betting system that exists in US restaurants. Once I managed to clarify, my students were still at a bit of a loss as to why you would just give people extra money. When I explained that the federal minimum wage is just above 2 USD/hour for certain restaurant professions, they began to freak out. Needless to say, they began to understand why Americans have this weird habit of giving away money as tips.

While my lesson was not the smashing success I had hoped it would be, it was definitely still a fun experience and a learning experience. I’ve learned that in a vocation track it’s important to review my lesson slide by slide and to be more diligent in consulting with my co-teacher about the level of English that I’m working with.

Cell Phone Plans

A few weeks ago one of the lovely Roving Scholars contacted me to ask if I knew much about phone plans and pay-as-you-go systems in Norway. I thought that the information I emailed out might be helpful for anyone else who might be moving to Norway or even just coming for a short stay.

I am currently using a pay-as-you-go system with Netcom. Alix can attest that I have historically complained about Netcom’s customer service, but I like to think that four months into my time here Netcom and I have worked out all of the kinks in our love-hate relationship. Hopefully. 

Here’s what I would recommend (and I like to think that if you follow these steps that you will avoid all of the problems that I had with Netcom):

  1. Find your local Netcom store and buy a starter pack. 
  2. The starter pack includes a SIM with 14 days worth of calls, texts, and 250 MB of data. From what I can deduce off of the Netcom website you’ll pay 99 NOK for this.
  3. Because you’ll probably want to contact people for more than 14 days, you can buy one of these month long services:
    1. 1 GB with calls and texts for 199 NOK
    2. 3 GB with calls and texts for 299 NOK
    3. 6 GB with calls and texts for 399 NOK
  4. When you decide what sort of monthly pay-as-you-go plan you want you can either buy this service at the store (which comes with a physical card) or buy it online. 

If you buy a card at the store make sure they explain how to use the card. You have to dial a particular number and then type in another number that is listed on the card. Being handed a card and having none of this explained to me at the store started my initial saga with Netcom–make sure they explain which numbers to dial since the voice recording you will hear on the phone will be in Norwegian. I honestly found it to be a bit of a hassle to go to the store every month, so now I just top off my plan online. To do this is pretty simple. You just go to www.netcom.no/smartrefill. Then you:

  1. Input your phone number (kontantkortnummer)
  2. Select the plan you want
  3. Fill out your credit card info and you’re good to go

One benefit of paying for things online is that they will let you pay for up to 6 months of phone usage at a time.

There are a few other things you should know about Netcom:

  1. If you get a weird text in Norwegian including the refill link it’s probably Netcom telling you to top off your balance. 
  2. Only top up your phone once you have completed the 14 days or month long service plan that you have paid for.
  3. For reasons totally incomprehensible to me, the minutes that you buy with a month long plan are valid only for Norwegian cell phones. This means that you have to be a bit wary when calling a business. For example, a call to my bank goes through without a problem, but when I tried to call the Norwegian Health System I ended up using Google Voice for the call since my cell phone didn’t have enough credit.
  4. Unlike other telephone providers, you do not need a personal number (Norwegian version of a social security number) to open an account with Netcom.

The only other phone company that I’ve encountered in Trondheim is Telenor. I initially stopped by one of their offices in Trondheim and they told me that things would be cheaper if I worked with Netcom. From what I’ve heard, working with Telenor costs closer to 500 NOK a month and they won’t let you purchase a plan until you can provide them with your Norwegian personal number.

I hope that helps! Now go forth and call, text, and data use to your heart’s content.

The House in the Woods

It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a cabin trip so I was excited to be invited on one this past weekend. Because TEDx Trondheim isn’t hosting any more events for 2014, the group decided that it’s be a good idea to get some bonding in and talk a bit about plans for 2015. The founder of TEDx Trondheim, Martin, happens to have a cabin in Gjevilvassdalen and graciously offered to let us spend the weekend there.

There were thirteen of us who were able to go on the cabin trip and Friday afternoon we all piled into two cars and headed to Gjevilvassdalen. Considering that my last cabin trip had an old fashioned wood burning stove, no electricity, no running water, and an outhouse, I was originally prepared to rough it. So I was a bit shocked when I was told to bring toiletries like shampoo with me on the trip. Yes, there was a shower at the cabin, there was running water, electricity, a refrigerator, and even a dishwasher. Even Martin admitted that it wasn’t a cabin in the woods–it was a house.

IMG_1423  IMG_1425  IMG_5941

We spent that first evening more or less relaxing and playing games. After dinner we played a get to know you game where we all wrote down a fact about ourselves, shuffled the facts around, and then voted on who we thought each fact belonged to. Shockingly enough, most people believed I had dreamed of being a professional athlete. I dislike most forms of physical activity but I guess I come across as athletic. The other fact people thought belonged to me involved playing bongo drums for a band that makes stoner rock music. I guess I shouldn’t have talked about Venice Beach earlier in the evening. In case you’re curious, the fact that I did submit was that I have ridden an elephant. Only one person out of the thirteen guessed that it was me so I felt pretty successful.

The next day was a day mostly dedicated to hiking. Martin has a five year old son and he told us that the path we were taking was one that even his son was capable of. So, with this extra bit of motivation we all set off. Within ten minutes of leaving the house we encountered reindeer! A whole herd of them calmly crossed the road in front of us. For our part, the only people who remained calm in our group were the Norwegians and the Swede. The rest of us were shutterbug happy.

IMG_5955  IMG_5961  IMG_5966Once we had finished taking pictures of the reindeer, we continued on our hike. The hike wasn’t too strenuous, but it was incredibly windy. Because of the weather we didn’t spend too much time at the top of the mountain, but the views we got at the peak made everything worthwhile.

IMG_5970  IMG_5979  IMG_6019After the hike, we warmed ourselves up in the house and started to discuss the organization of TEDx Trondheim. The objective of this was for the group to determine how TEDx Trondheim should be structured in the future. It was a long three hours, but by the end of it I think most people were satisfied. Or at least just happy to finally eat dinner.

We spent the rest of the night lounging around the cabin until Martin convinced most of us to play Cranium and Cards Against Humanity. I decided to sit out both games in favor of reading a book, but as the only native English speaker I was occasionally called upon to help with both games.

Our last day at the house was very relaxed. There happens to be a beach in Gjevilvassdalen so we took the cars and drove down to it. Considering that the weather wasn’t exactly what I would call warm, we spent most of our time just walking around the beach and exploring.

IMG_6052  IMG_6118  IMG_6145After that it was just a matter of heading back to the house, cleaning up, and then hitting the road. I would say that the trip was definitely a success and I came out with it with some nice memories and closer friendships.

Final Presentations

I’ve been told that my last few posts make it seem like everything is all play and no work, but don’t worry! I’ve still been teaching–I’ve just assumed that you’d rather hear more about the fun parts of my week. So, for this post I decided that I should reassure you that I do in fact have a job here in Norway.

Things at NTNU have slowly been coming to a close. November 21 is the last day of classes at the university and many of my students’ weekly writing samples tend to detail their various panic levels as they approach the end of the semester. In my smaller NTNU class, Academic Writing, Nancy has established a tradition of inviting all of our students over to her house for dinner and presentations. Many of the students in the class are international, in fact we only have one Norwegian student, so the presentations are meant to help us understand their experiences in Norway and learn more about about how Norway compares to their home countries. But, first things first, we dined.

Nancy happens to be a fabulous cook and made a mixture of Norwegian and American dishes for the class. My meager contribution to this part of the evening was setting the table, chopping lettuce, and generally trying to be a good sous chef. Basically my role at family gatherings since the dawn of time (though for any family members reading this rest be assured I am not complaining).

After we feasted and managed to roll ourselves away from the table we started up the projector and after a few technical difficulties began the presentations. I learned a good deal from these presentations, but the thing that actually surprised me the most was how funny my students are. This particular class is notable for how quiet they are so I was surprised to see so many of them crack jokes. So, here are some of the highlights from these presentations:

  • Our first German student decided to present on Turkish street food in Germany, particularly doner kebab. The student gave us some of the history of the industry as well as some stats (just about everyone was prepared to move to Berlin when he said that doner costs about 1 euro). My favorite part of his presentation though was his concluding slide, which had the picture below and the caption:Angie knows…doner makes beautiful
  • We then had three French students do a fairly comprehensive comparison between France and Norway. I think that their biggest complaint centered around the food. Their biggest concern was Norwegian cheese. In Norway, cheese is made by boiling whey and the most highly prized Norwegian cheese is brown cheese. Needless to say, my French students do not think that this qualifies as cheese. All three students practically waxed poetic when talking about the sheer amount of hard cheese available in France (one girl said that the number was over 350 cheeses).
  • I think the thing that made everyone laugh the most was a presentation by our Spanish student. She said that she was shocked by thermometers in Norway since it was the first time she’d seen a thermometer that measured temperatures below 0 Celsius.
  • One of the stranger things I learned about that night was about sports in Finland. Finland apparently hosts world championships in wife carrying, boot throwing, air guitar playing, swamp soccer, and sitting on ant’s nests. I kid you not these are real things. There are even stamps depicting these sports in Finland.

After the presentations, we all dug into dessert and continued to talk. Some interesting moments from this conversation include:

  • Talking about Christmas foods and having our Chinese student explain that Christmas is not celebrated in China. Many of my students struggled to wrap their heads around the idea of no Christmas.
  • Having our German students explain that they pay state taxes to the church, though apparently you can go to court and get yourself banished from the church, thus avoiding those taxes.
  • Germans still pay taxes that support East Germany, a hangover from World War II.
  • Apparently Germans used to build a lot of churches because they could use them as an excuse to celebrate and drink. They would celebrate the day each church was started, the day it was opened, etc. In essence, Germans tried to created a year round party centered around church building; at least until the kaiser put his foot down and declared that there would only be one celebratory day.
  • I also had fun realizing how small some of my student’s hometowns are. One student in particular described his birthplace as containing “approximately two hundred souls. About a hundred human and a hundred cow.”

All in all, it was a fun and educational night and I like to think that everyone walked home with a little bit more knowledge and a full tummy.

Munich and Füssen Wrap Up

I thought I’d repeat what I did with the Lofoten Islands and do a little summary of tips and advice for anyone planning on going to Munich or Füssen.

  1. Fly into the regular Munich Flughafen airport (MUC) NOT Memmingen airport
  2. Google Maps is your best friend. Google Maps syncs really well with the transportation system in Munich and makes the city very easy to navigate. Thanks again to Michael for being the designated navigator for most of our adventures.
  3. Definitely utilize the public transportation system and know that a ticket will cover you on the subway, tram, and bus and that a partner ticket works for 2-5 people.
  4. I would highly recommend everything that we did in my Sights of Munich post (St. Peter’s Church, Munich Residence, English Garden, Pinakothek Museums, and Hofbrauhaus).
  5. Definitely drink beer and eat the pretzels if not schnittlauch breze, a pretzel with cream cheese and chives.
  6. To look into trains to Füssen or book one you can go here
  7. If you’re going to Füssen and looking for a more jam packed day I would say that you should visit Hohenschwangau before Neuschwanstein.
  8. To get a great view of Neuschwanstein follow the Marienbrücke path.

Overall I had a thoroughly enjoyable time in Munich and Füssen. Thanks again to Julie for being an amazing hostess!