Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

We had a very exciting day yesterday.  First, we brought all the kids to Mass with us (which was much more frustratingly exciting than I would have liked).  Then we went to a "Family Reggae Disco."  It was put on as part of International Week (which also included lots of other activities, including a concert we went to on Saturday, an International Student Food Competition we went to on Friday [where UiB students prepare dishes from around the world and the public is allowed to sample them--a panel of judges decided which was most delicious], and building a bat house [which we did last week]).  The disco was held in a beautiful old building.  There was a DJ there spinning reggae records and there was a "circus school"--all kinds of "circus-y" toys that the kids were free to play with.  It was one of the coolest kids' events I've ever been to (and I've been to quite a few).

Afterward, we went to a Halloween party thrown by our friend Jill--she has a toddler and a preschooler, and lots of other kids were there as well.  Halloween isn't a Norwegian holiday (though it is gaining popularity here), but Jill's husband, Scott, is American, so their family likes to celebrate it.  Scott was out of town, but Jill still managed to bake and frost a very impressive number of Halloween cupcakes for the party.

We did find one "community" Halloween activity in Bergen, so we went to that next.  It was at the Bergen Aquarium.  Kids were encouraged to dress in costumes and to bring flashlights so they could look around the aquarium in the dark.  It was really cool.  There were lots of spooky decorations, and people in costume were walking around giving candy to the little kids, while others were scaring the adults and big kids.  Oscar scared a good number of people, too.

Spider-man Sergio, Skeleton Oscar, and Alien Jonah at the Aquarium
Oscar got to hold a tarantula!

Today Oscar wore a Halloween costume to school.  Of course, he was the only kid at his school that dressed up, but he had a second costume that he was just dying to wear:

Good Sir Oscar
The boys are upstairs right now watching E.T.  I think I'll go join them.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mount Fløyen: The Oscar Edition

Those of you who have been following the Heckman Family's exploits in Bergen will recall that only days ago Oscar's lifelong ambition to go rock climbing had been dashed against the jagged boulders of reality, when we discovered: a) there was free rock climbing, b) it ended at 3 o'clock, and c) it was 3:10 (or 15:10, if you're Norwegian).  To make matters worse, Jonah had scaled the face only moments before.  On that afternoon, I watched Oscar walk quietly away from the stern gray wall, his eyes downcast, welling with tears, as stifled whimpers cast a pall of gloom on what was otherwise a sunny afternoon.

But, as fate would have it, his little mountaineering fantasy, battered though it was, had not died that day on Mt. Fløyen.  While we mourned the loss of a childhood dream, Fate was busy making other plans.  Oscar's school, we discovered, was closed for a staff meeting today.   The dark clouds and heavy rains of the season had been displaced by a bright blue Scandinavian sky.  And, as though enchanted by a benign, but powerful, trollmann, the Athletics Administration was offering another day of free activities.  Thus, Oscar's rock climbing ambitions would rise from their ruined state, and see him safely to the pinnacle of his dreams.*

At about 10:30 in the morning, we made our way into the city, and walked down Skostredet, which seems to mean "The Shoe Lane."  Appropriately enough, we found a building covered with shoes, which made for a nice start to our walk.

The Building on Shoe Lane
From Skostredet, we made our way up to the funicular, and as it was Friday, we were lucky.  After all, Friday is "Freia's Day," after the enormously popular brand of Norwegian chocolate.**     

Heading up Mt. Fløyen
Anxious about the 3 o'clock deadline, we made our way to the climbing place by 11 am.  Since we were the only ones there, Oscar was able to get to work climbing the mountain.  He got about 10 feet up before he decided to turn around and look where he was standing.  Very quickly, climbing gave way to a long monologue about mountain climbing, which included observations about the strength of the rope, how hard his helmet was, how competent his adult helpers were, and how safe he was on the rock face.  Eventually, he decided he'd done enough climbing, and made his way down the wall (with a little help from one of the men who was running the activity).

They let kids do cool stuff in Norway.
Oscar, still doing cool stuff.
After this climb, Oscar went in search for his own place to climb.  The new climbing spot wasn't quite as steep as the first, but a nice climb nonetheless.

Oscar's own climbing spot.
Next we hiked over to the lake where we had gone canoeing a few days earlier.  We took a lap in the canoe, then went over to the archery range to shoot some arrows.  When we had exhausted the opportunities around the lake, Oscar led me on a long meandering walk through the woods.  He found little footpaths where I thought none existed, we mucked our way through bogs, tramped across bridges, and ended up on a bench overlooking the city.  We stopped to have lunch.

Sandwich break.
We found a trail near the bench and decided to follow it down the mountain.  It wasn't the most direct path, but it took us to a great spot overlooking a reservoir.  We paused again to rest and eat some fruit leather and admire the view of Mt. Ulriken.  This was where Oscar had found a spear that someone had made from a stick. 

Oscar, with Mt. Ulriken in the background.
Oscar with the spear.
By now, we were nearing the edge of the city and, wanting to avoid the long lateral roadways that zig-zag lazily down the mountain, we went in search of shortcuts.  The best one was an abandoned staircase that ended in several missing stairs.  The path at the end of the stairway had been given over to neglect, and was little more than a narrow, craggy rut running along a precipice.  At the end of the path, we found a tree fort with a missing ladder. The perfect place for mountain climbers and spear wielding thieves to rest their weary bones.

Gaining entry to the tree fort.

On the lookout.
Somehow, we ended up on Kong Oscars Gate, which is Norwegian for King Oscar Street, a perfect way to bring our long journey to a close. 
The old city gate on Kong Oscars Gate.
We made our way to Festplassen (which means "party place"), and, what do you know, they were getting ready for a party.  Oscar was exhausted and ready to go home, but not before we noticed a miniature racetrack with little radio controlled cars.  The event was sponsored by Red Bull (a distant relation of both Ole Bull and Erik the Red) and featured cars made out of Red Bull cans.***  Oscar's was a helicopter.

Oscar, exhausted after a three mile meander.

Driving a helicopter-shaped car made out of Red Bull cans.
*Editor's Note: Actually, we knew there would be rock climbing all week.  We had planned to take him up there.  And, his ambitions only carried him partway up the cliff, because it's kind of scary, once you're up there.

**Editor's Note: Actually, Freia (Freyja, Freya) is a Norse goddess.  

***Editor's Note: This is what we in the US call a "Load of Bull."  Red Bull is an energy drink, and has no relation to the Viking explorer or the Norwegian violinist and composer (whose name is pronounced "ooleh bool," and is the inspiration for the song "Wooly Bully" by Sam Sham and the Pharaohs).****

****Editor's Note: This is also a bunch of bull, "Wooly Bully" is not about Ole Bull.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Greatest Scarves Ever!

My sister Chris made the world's most adorable scarves for the kids--bacon and eggs, a carrot, and toast with butter.  She sent them to Norway with my parents.  Here are the boys modeling them:

Norway in a Nutshell

My parents left this morning at 4:00am.  It was great having them here (even though my mom lost her wallet yesterday and totally stressed me out--it didn't seem to phase her at all, though).

On Tuesday, I took a "Norway in a Nutshell" day trip with them.  We traveled by Bergen Railway to the town of Voss, then by bus from Voss to Gudvagen, seeing spectacular scenery all along the way.

A Photo Taken by my Mom from the Window of the Train

My Dad Took this One

A View from Gudvangen

My Mom and Dad on a Bridge in Gudvangen
Another View from Gudvangen

In Gudvagen, we boarded a ferry for a cruise along the Nærøyfjord and Arlandsfjord arms of the Sognefjord (Norway's deepest and longest fjord).  The Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe.

The boat docked in the village of Flåm, from which we took the Flåm Railway, climbing 864 meters to Myrdal before returning once again by Bergen Railway.

Arriving at Flåm

My Mom & I in front of the Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana)

Rallarvegen Road, the zig-zag path above, is used by cyclists and walkers.

The train stopped briefly in front of the Kjos Waterfall.

I have crutches in the photo (in front of the train) because I twisted my ankle Sunday night.  It was bizarre because I was just walking with my mom on a normal sidewalk, wearing normal shoes, but I guess I just stepped wrong.  It hurt like crazy at first, but after a few minutes it didn't seem so bad.  I was able to keep walking on it.  Later the foot got more difficult to walk on and I thought it might be sprained.  But when I got up in the night to use the bathroom, I couldn't put any pressure on my right foot at all--it was super, super painful.  Davin heard me scream (which I don't remember doing) and came in and found me passed out on the bathroom floor.  He helped me up, but I lost consciousness again right away.  So we figured the ankle must be broken.  In the morning (Monday) I couldn't walk at all and Davin could only carry me so far, so we had to take a taxi (!) rather than a bus to the health clinic.  I got X-rays and talked with a super nice doctor who wrapped my ankle, told me that nothing was seriously wrong with it, and said I should use it as much as the pain would allow.  I got some crutches, but by Monday afternoon my ankle was already feeling much stronger.  Tuesday morning (the day of the tour) I was already able to stand on my right foot without a problem, but we figured I'd better bring the crutches along anyway, since it might get sore after I walk around on it a bit, and only the morning before I couldn't walk at all.  But my foot was totally fine and I felt like such a fraud carrying those crutches around all day.  I was so worried people would see me and think I was trying to pull some kind of scam.  Oh, well.  At least now that we have crutches we won't have to spring for a cab for any future leg/foot/ankle injuries.

My parents should be arriving home right around now.  I hope they had a safe and pleasant journey.  We miss them already.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Visit from Grandma & Grandpa

My Mom and Dad are visiting from Minnesota!  They arrived on Wednesday, October 5. 


They spent Thursday and Friday looking around Downtown and going to museums.  They saw:
* Permanenten - The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art
* Bergen Art Museum: Lysverket (including Kunstlab, the children's art museum)
* Vilvite - Bergen Science Center
* Bryggen (historic wharf)
* A small gallery in Bryggen with a really great dollhouse display
* Bryggens Museum (an archeological museum)
* Håkon's Hall (a 750-yeat-old castle), and

One of the Dollhouses from the Display in Bryggen

Outside the Museum of Natural History on the University of Bergen Campus

Yesterday we took the Fløibanen up Mount Fløyen.  It was a beautiful day and we had a ton of fun.  Jonah had gone the day before on a class field trip, so he was able to act as our guide.

On top of Mount Fløyen, overlooking Downtown Bergen
A Friend We Met at the Park
Norwegian schools are on Fall Break right now, so there were a lot of activities for kids on Mount Fløyen, including canoeing, races, archery, and mountain climbing.  Oscar got a bullseye on his turn with a bow and arrow.  And Jonah got to climb up part of the mountain with full climbing gear!  Tragically, poor Oscar didn't get a turn to mountain climb (we hadn't realized that it only went until 3:00)--so he and Davin will have to go back later this week.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Another Weekend of Big Fun in Bergen

At a Real Scandinavian IKEA
Do the IKEAs in the US have little movie theaters for kids?
There was a Huge LEGO Build at the Science Center.
Oscar, Sergio, and Jonah at Work

One of Jonah's LEGO Creations
We watched a very dramatic telling of the story of a water molecule named Splæsj.
Oscar and Jonah built their own rockets.
Jonah Jumping on a Bottle to Launch his Rocket