Yo ho, Yo ho! A Pirate’s Life for Me

As you’ve probably noticed, titles are not my specialty. It’s something that many of my former teachers and professors have bemoaned, but hey I figure it’s more interesting than writing the week number. I swear the title will make sense later on.

Work at Byåsen is starting to pick up, and my co-teacher, Kirsti, has sent an email to other teachers letting them know that they should contact me if they’d like to have me stop by any of their classes. I’ve gotten a few emails asking for me to drop by later on in the semester, but this week I got to go to a social studies class. The teacher of this class just so happens to be an American, and we had a great time talking before class about American history and what the kids are learning about. This semester her students are covering the British Empire, while next semester they learn about the U.S. This week we talked a bit about the Scottish referendum, what people within the U.K. are saying about it, and what a separate Scotland could mean. It’s been really interesting talking to other Europeans about the Scottish referendum, especially since it’s so different from the experience I got in the U.S. In the U.S. I heard pretty much no one talking about the referendum and all of my daily news digests only casually mentioned it. The reason why I even heard about the referendum was because I took a class on England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales my senior spring. In contrast to this indifferent American response, the referendum is water cooler gossip in Norway, and many of the people that I’ve talked to have been saying that Scotland should stay in the union. Everyone here is waiting to see what Scotland will decide and what the implications of the referendum will be.

Things at NTNU are much the same, and I’ve really been enjoying the classes that I help with. So much of what we talk about when it comes to writing reminds me of what I was told when writing my senior thesis. Overall it’s been nice to convey all of the great advice that I received to a new generation of students.

I have also started to empathize with my students. They are more or less required to send me a weekly sample of free writing and that’s what this blog has become for me. The one key difference is that while my students are encouraged to write simply for the sake of writing and not worry about “mistakes,” I make a point editing my posts, even ones that are weeks old. The curse of writing is that it can constantly be changed and improved. Writing is never finished.

Other notable news includes seeing the Northern Lights for a second time! There are apparently websites where you can look up the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights and one of my friends follows one regularly. I on the other hand attempt to cheat the system by using an IFTTT recipe, but so far the recipe has been unsuccessful (if you have no idea what IFTTT is definitely spare a moment to go check it out). I did have my nice camera with me so I’m able to include pictures this time!

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There are two good things to know about the Northern Lights. The first is that they often last for quite a long time. When we saw them this weekend they lasted from about 10pm to 4am, although I headed for bed by around 12:30. The second thing to know is that the pictures definitely exaggerate what I actually saw. Long exposure times meant that my camera could capture colors that either weren’t visible to the naked eye or were much more muted in real life. Nevertheless is was a great experience and I look forward to seeing more of the Northern Lights in the winter.

Now for my title! I decided to join the NTNU sailing team! In reality this pretty much just meant taking a beginners class since the team itself is wrapping up for the season. I’ve always really enjoyed sailing and have gone out with my dad quite a few times. Since my dad is quite the experienced sailor, that has often meant that what I’ve learned about sailing has been fairly informal and pick it up as you go along.

The class was itself pretty simple. All I had to do was take a theory course and go out on the water twice. Unfortunately there wasn’t too much wind, but the flip side of this was that it allowed me to relax quite a bit and get to know the people I was sailing with. This also meant that my very tiny circle of Norwegian friends is expanding! While I enjoy living in international housing and getting to know people from all over the world, the trade-off is that it’s been much harder to meet and get to know Norwegians. I’m looking forward to getting out on water more and hopefully getting to learn more from my new Norwegian friends. We also got to see some very small whales on our first sail, so crossed fingers that I’ll get to see a few more!

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The Love Guarantee

So far I think that the love guarantee is the funniest thing I’ve heard about Trondheim. Yes, it is real.

So what is the love guarantee? I know that was my question when I first heard about it, and the answer is that the city of Trondheim guarantees that its students will find love. Oddly enough it’s the city making the guarantee and not the local university. Trondheim is very much a college town and the logic behind the guarantee seems to be that because 20% of Trondheim’s population is made up of students the odds are in your favor.

HOWEVER, there is some fine print regarding the guarantee:

“In order for the Love Guarantee to apply, you have to do some effort on your own as well. You must act nice, at least most of the time, and be relatively clean. You also have to get out of the reading room and out of your house every once in a while. Going to the groceries or the post office does not count.  It is said to definitely help if you cross the bridge called “Lykkens Portal” (The portal of happiness) or strut down the Nordre Street at least a couple of times a week. You also need to be willing to engage in some extracurricular activities. There`s an endless number of student organizations and things to get involved in as a student in Trondheim. There are a wide range of student interest groups such as university press and broadcasting, film clubs, different festivals (for instance UKA – the largest music festival in Norway, or ISFIT – the largest student festival in the world), theatre, the student society house “Samfundet,” and more than 50 different organized sports activities for students. If you do not find what you are looking for, there is always room for more so do not hesitate to start your own organization or activity group. Finding someone to share an interest with might be the very first step towards sharing romantic dinners…” (The Love Guarantee)

The city has received a complaint letter or two (hence the fine print) but their stance towards those who have been unsuccessful is generally that the complainers simply haven’t put in enough effort for the guarantee to work (Rejected Complaints with a Poem).

I originally heard about the love guarantee from Alix so I decided to ask a Norwegian friend about it to see if it was widely know within Norway. My friend quickly told me that Trondheim’s love guarantee is common knowledge and that the city has even organized speed dating to facilitate new romances. While I personally don’t feel like testing out the love guarantee this year, I look forward to seeing how accurate is for some of my friends.

Strikes & More Hikes

The teachers’ strike has finally ended! This was the happy news that greeted me on Monday, and I was excited to finally go to work at Byåsen towards the end of the week. Between my NTNU teaching schedule and my NTNU student schedule, I can only go to Byåsen on Thursdays and about every other Friday. The current plan is to help with a class called International English on Fridays and to stop in on most Thursdays to help with whatever classes teachers would like to borrow me for. This week I went to both International English and an English class that is part of the health vocational track. Overall the students seem to be fairly well spoken, if a bit shy.

This week has also been fun since I finally got to see my co-teacher at work. She does a really great job of engaging with the students and coming up with fun activities for them to do. I particularly enjoyed watching the students try to rap Disraeli’s 21st Century Flux, though I was surprised that the first dictionary they turned to when going through the lyrics was Urban Dictionary. I suppose that I’ll have to be the one diehard Oxford English Dictionary fan in the room.

On another note, I’ve gone on a few more adventures with the other Trondheim Fulbrighter, Alix. Two weeks ago we decided to try and pay Munkholmen, an island out in the Trondheim fjord, a visit since it can’t be accessed past early September. The only way you can reach the island is by boat, and because we decided to go with a sightseeing company, we got a tour of the fjord on top of our trip to the island. One thing that we learned on the tour was that during World War II the Germans had hoped to make Trondheim their northernmost naval base. In order to achieve this, they built two different submarine bunkers in the city, both of which are still standing today. In fact, one of those bunkers is now the home of the city and state archives. We also found out that the fjord contains a lot of salmon, which explains both the salmon vendor who comes to the nearby grocery store and the many fishermen who line the fjord on sunny days. As for Munkholmen, it used to by the home to a monastery which became fairly well known for its beer. Funnily enough Munkholmen is now its own brand of beer although these days it is non-alcoholic.

More recently, Alix and I had a nice sit down meal with one of last year’s Fulbrighters, Kam. It was great being able to ask her a bit more about her experiences as a Fulbrighter and to ask her for all of her Trondheim specific tips. Thanks to Kam’s advice I have now successfully found three of the Asian  grocery stores downtown (and thus the location of good ramen).

Lastly, I ended this week with a hike! This weekly hiking is starting to make me feel both more Norwegian and less guilty of the fact that I have yet to use my new gym membership. This week Alix and I, as well as another friend Tom, decided to brave the tram system and head out to Bymarka. Bymarka is Trondheim’s main forest and its location high up on a mountain offers some great views of the fjord. We decided to take it pretty easy so we mostly just walked around one of the lakes next to the Lian tram stop; however, we’re hoping to come back another time to explore a bit more of the forest. Until then, you’ll have to settle for some pictures of our fjord tour.

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