Monday, July 16, 2012

Leaving Norway & Other Mis/Adventures

Davin, at the Keflavik Airport (Iceland), with all our luggage...

...and an exhausted little travel companion.

My last two weeks in Norway were mostly spent packing and cleaning.  Packing was tricky because we needed to fit everything we had plus everything we'd accumulated in one suitcase and one carry-on apiece.  We ended up leaving a lot behind.  And cleaning was difficult, too, because the house we'd been staying in was super beautiful, and was nearly spotless when we moved in.  We wanted to show our gratitude by cleaning the house perfectly before leaving, but we knew that wouldn't be easy since the six of us would be living in it until the moment we left for the airport.

We did take one day off from packing to see the ocean, though.  Even though Bergen is near the West Coast of Norway and we saw the sea nearly every day while we lived there, there are so many islands, inlets, bays, etc. along the coast that it just isn't possible to stand anywhere in Greater Bergen and see the wide open ocean, stretching as far as the eye can see.  I really wanted my kids to experience that.  Oscar and Jonah did go to Santa Monica Beach in 2009 (Davin is from Los Angeles, and his parents still live there), but Oscar was just a baby and Jonah was only 2 years old.

So we found an island not too far from Bergen that we could reach by bus where we'd have a nice view of the sea, but the bus ride was really long and all the kids got motion sickness.  Oscar had it so bad that I moved with him next to the door so he could step out and take a little breath of fresh air each time the bus stopped.  At one stop, he stood on the step and puked all over the street, turned around with a huge grin on his face, raised his eyebrows and shrugged, and sat back in his seat, apparently feeling much, much better.

Jonah and Sergie were also feeling miserable, so we got off the bus early, in a place called Sotra.  At first I was disappointed that we didn't make it all the way to the the open sea, but it ended up being wonderful.  There were tide pools full of sea anemones, crabs, algae, and lots of different kinds of sea snails and shellfish.  Davin and I felt very fortunate that the kids had the chance to explore it all up close.  We had a picnic lunch at the seaside.  It was an unbelievably beautiful day.

Then it was back to cleaning.  I washed windows and walls and dusted like mad.  I scrubbed floors with an actual scrub brush for the first time in my life, and I found it really satisfying--by the time I was done with them it looked like I'd installed new floors.  But then disaster struck!  I started barfing my brains out.  Davin, who'd been at Leo's Lekeland with the kids, got home and HE started barfing HIS brains out.  It was awful.  We couldn't pack or clean at all.  We could barely move or take care of the kids or ourselves.  This was Friday night, and our flight was Sunday afternoon.

A Pre-Disaster Photo of Sergio on the Volcano Slide at Leo's Lekeland
Jonah also started vomiting in the middle of the night.  Davin and I finally started feeling better on Saturday evening.  We stayed up most of the night getting things ready for the move.  By then, Jonah was feeling fine, too.  On Sunday morning, by some miracle, we had nearly everything together in time (though not as clean as we would have liked).  Unfortunately, I still had to do a few last-minute things when the cab showed up to bring us to the airport.  It waited for us for 20 minutes with the meter running, and charged us like a quakajillion dollars.

Finally, though, we arrived at the Bergen Airport, then took a short flight to Iceland.  Davin had discovered that he could save thousands of dollars on our plane tickets by booking two seperate flights--one from Norway to Iceland and a second the following day from Iceland to Minneapolis/St. Paul--rather than just one flight from Norway to the US.

Since we were only there overnight, we didn't see much of Iceland.  But what we did see was astounding.  Our hotel (Northern Light Inn) was located in a lava field.  It looked totally other-worldly, like a science fiction landscape:

There was mile after mile of moss-covered lava rock.

The Kids Playing in a Lava Field

A View from our Hotel of a Geothermal Power Station

The hotel shuttle picked us up from the airport and brought us to the hotel, and then to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa.  The lagoon holds six million liters of geothermal seawater, which is renewed every 40 hours.  The water originates deep underground, where it's heated by the earth to a temperature of 464°F.  As this seawater rises, passing through porous lava, it cools and becomes very mineral-rich.  The water at the lagoon is warm year-round (98-102°F) and is thought to be extremely healthful.  Being there was an incredible experience.

Davin and the boys on the path to the lagoon

Jonah and Oscar before entering the lagoon - the water's mineral composition gives it the pale blue color you see here.

Here I am in the lagoon with the kids--it felt wonderful!

Because of the steam, it looks like the air temperature was really cold, but it wasn't bad--around 55°F.  
The water temp was much nicer, though--about 100°F.

Here Izzy's splashing around in a little cave.  It was his first time "swimming" and he loved it.

The next day, Monday, was when we kicked off the Heckman Family Biohazard World Tour.  It all started at the hotel in Iceland, where Sergie wandered away during breakfast and I discovered him in the lobby bathroom, with both tennis shoes firmly planted in a huge, steaming pile of diarrhea.  It took me about 40 minutes to clean up the mess.  The hardest part was salvaging the tennis shoes--I had to get them totally clean, but I couldn't get them totally wet, since those were the only shoes we had access to for the trip home. 

After that, the kids had diarrhea in 3 different countries as well as 30,000 feet in the air.  And Jonah threw up all over the food court at the Toronto airport.  Davin thinks they may have gotten sick from unintentionally swallowing the mineral-heavy water at the Blue Lagoon.  I don't know--I'm just glad it's over with.

Our next challenge was that we had booked a connecting flight in Canada, but the time of the flight from Toronto to MN was changed and we wouldn't be able to make the connection.  So a few days before our trip we learned that we'd have to pick up all our luggage, lug it all to a hotel where we'd have to spend the night, and lug it all back to the airport where we'd need to re-check it the next morning.  After landing in Toronto and picking up our suitcases--one of which had split open in transit, and many of which fell repeatedly off the carts as we walked through the airport--we got to the hotel at 8:30pm (2:30am Bergen time), totally exhausted.  Sergio had napped in the airport (see photo), but Jonah and Oscar still hadn't slept.

Because of the number of people in our family, the airline gave us two hotel rooms.  We put Jonah and Sergio (the early risers) in a room with me and Izzy, and Davin and Oscar (who sleep in when they have a chance) used the other room.  The early risers woke up a little after 4:00am and, because we didn't have a tub in our house in Norway, begged me to let them take a bath:

Izzy's First Bath (Four Points Toronto Airport Hotel, 4:30am)

That day, Tuesday, the boys swam in the pool, then we all had a nice breakfast at the hotel, and a short, pleasant, and relatively uneventful flight from Toronto to Minnesota.  

Now we're here in MN having a fantastic time.  My parents live here, and I have seven brothers and sisters who also live here, along with their spouses and kids.  The boys have adjusted to the time change and are having tons of summer fun with their cousins, including picnics at the park, catching frogs and turtles, sleeping at my mom's cabin, knee-boarding, swimming, biking, etc.

At a Nature Center with my Sister, Chris, and her sons, Zach and Miles

Climbing Trees

Sergio Bouncing with Cousin Ava

Eating Spidey-Pops

Pinball with Cousins Luke and Caroline

Roasting Hotdogs and Making S'mores (and Falling out of Chairs) at Granny's Cabin

Little Izzy was baptized on Sunday, July 8.  It was really nice.

Isidore with his Godmother, my Oldest Sister, Sue.
Nearly my whole family was able to be there.  But my sister, Michelle, and her family were in Turkey (where her husband is from).  Her kids, Mina, Alara, and Kaya, are usually my kids' constant companions when we're in MN, and we haven't seen them in over a year.  But they'll be back in town tomorrow--we can't wait!  Once they arrive, we'll spend a couple more days in MN, then my mom will drive us all home to Michigan.  If that's where YOU are, we'll see you soon...