Showing posts from August, 2014

Far from home

"We are far from home But we're so happy Far from home All alone But we're so happy" - "From Finner" by Of Monsters and Men I wish I could make you feel the way I feel right now. It's like I'm a piece of fabric that had been stored away for a long while in a musty attic with moth balls, and suddenly I've been brought out, spread open, dusted off, and hung in the sunshine. I feel fresh, aired out, new. The lyrics I wrote above are so incredibly true. Since landing in Stavanger, I have been embraced by my new colleagues, enthralled by the landscape, and refreshed by the wind, the sun, and the sea. My church in Stavanger I went to church this morning! I'm a Protestant Christian - a Lutheran - so it wasn't hard to find a church in Stavanger. In fact, there's a Lutheran church literally a block from my house. The congregation is vibrant, and there are a lot of young families. There was a group of kids that sang in the service

Come Alive

"We've heard the cry And we come alive And we fight for love And we live to die Because a life that holds no meaning Is like a day without the light So we come alive tonight" - "Come Alive" by BarlowGirl I was just about ready to turn in early tonight when there was a knock on my door. I opened it to find a housemate I hadn't met yet (not surprising; there are people all over this house I haven't met) inviting me out for drinks. We joined a couple others at the bar where our landlady works (another little tidbit I didn't know) and settled down with our drinks. I have to tell you about the conversation because it is exactly the kind of conversation that makes me light up like a switchboard. It was the type of conversation where every facet of my brain was engaged and I began to lose track of time. There's something so incredibly valuable about being invested like that; in the moment. Sitting to my right was N. She grew up outside of  

The institute at the end of the universe: Part 2

After I finally made it to IRIS for the first time (man, was that just yesterday?), I learned that most employees bike to work. It's much less expensive than driving, more convenient than the bus, and it's good exercise. After running some errands in town today, I decided to bike out to IRIS. It was quite the adventure. The presence of bike lanes on most streets is one of my favorite things about Europe, and let me tell you, Stavanger took it to the next level. There are bike paths literally everywhere, and at many intersections, the bike path dips below the street so cyclists can keep riding without having to wait for traffic. One of the streets I rode on today, Møllegata, must be only for bikes, because there were regularly-spaced concrete barriers to restrict the width of the street and make it more difficult for cars to pass. Rock on, Stavanger! Seen from the along-fjord bike path Even though there were cars all around me in the city center, I felt completely

Around the Hearth

Last night, I was invited to dinner at the home of my Norwegian host, Andy, and his wife, Astri, who also works at IRIS. It was grateful to be invited into their home, and they were extremely hospitable. It occurred to me that one aspect of culture is the norms of home life, and you really experience a culture by entering someone's home. In recent years, I've spent most of my time in apartments, and something feels distinctly different to me whenever I'm in a house. Apartments are the dwellings of transient young people; we're constantly moving, we're barely ever home, and we don't get particularly attached to our places of residence. Someone who lives in a house, on the other hand, is probably planning to stay there for a while. They probably have a family, and they have taken the time to establish a sustainable, long-term home. I remember visiting a friend's parent's house in Germany and remarking to myself how different the house felt from the hou

The institute at the end of the universe

“Reality is frequently inaccurate” – Douglas Adams in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe My first full day in Stavanger was spent finding IRIS, the institute where I’ll be working for the next six months. Yes, that means it took me a full day to find it. I set out from my apartment in the morning, intending to walk to a part of town called Ullandhaug, where both the University of Stavanger and IRIS are located. It was a beautiful trek through the city and surrounding area, but when I arrived at IRIS, significantly proud of my own navigation skills, I discovered that I should actually have gone to the other IRIS location, at Mekjarvik. “What other location?” I asked. I had always assumed there was only one. IRIS's Mekjarvik location Thus ensued the lengthy process of figuring out Stavanger’s bus system. It would take too long to walk back to downtown, not to mention the 15 km out to Mekjarvik. Bus pass and route map in hand, I hopped onto bus #8. It s

I think I'm going to like it here

Landing in Stavanger was an experience I’ll never forget. We spent the last half hour flying over unbelievably rugged terrain at the very southern tip of Norway. I was astounded that even among the rippling mountains, jagged cliffs, and numerous fjords, there were houses – and not just a few! My utmost respect goes to those Norwegians inhabiting an area I would be hesitant to drive an ATV through. We soon reached an area of flatter farm land, I could see a city emerging in the distance. I’m not sure if it was for show or practical reasons, but the pilot banked a dramatic 360° turn that gave me a breath-taking view of my new home. I love living in places with interesting landscapes, and Stavanger is definitely one of  them! The facade of my house in Stavanger. I went straight from the airport to my apartment, and quickly discovered that my house is even cooler than I ever expected. I’m renting a single bedroom in a 150-year-old house that I share with 16 other people. For

Pieces of my heart

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Christine Thiel Flying halfway around the world is never easy, no matter how you do it. By the time I landed in Frankfurt, Germany, after a direct flight from San Francisco, I was pretty darn exhausted. I found my gate for the connecting flight to Stavanger, and only then did it hit me that I was in Germany. I lived in Bremerhaven, Germany, for about a year total in 2011 and 2012, and it’s one of few places in the world that I miss on a constant basis. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Bremerhaven. Sunset over the Weser River, Bremerhaven, 2011 The flight from Frankfurt to Stavanger was in some ways exactly what I needed because it bound my past and present experiences in Europe seamlessly together. We flew directly over Bremen, Bremerhaven, Cuxhaven, and other towns I had

Go confidently

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau I think it’s about time I told you the story of how I got to Norway and explained the whole reason why I’m here. It started sometime in the fall of 2013, when the American National Science Foundation put out a call for applications for so-called GROW (Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide) travel grants. Since I happened to be eligible for the grant, my advisor suggested I give it a shot. Plexiglass settlement plates attached to a PVC frame. I hope to outplant about 40 of these puppies. Trust me, building them and shipping them to Svalbard were not small feats! Applicants had to pick from one of several partner countries and propose a research project to undertake with a collaborator in the partner country. I chose Norway because I was already in contact with a collaborator there, and I thought an experiment in Norwegian waters might compliment the work I had alrea

Life of Leaving Home

“I am awake and alive, There is something calling me More than a moment in time It’s a dream I’m following On my own On my own More than a moment in time It’s the life of leaving home” -           “Life of Leaving Home” by Yellowcard In June of 2008, I left North America for the first time. I traveled with a group of students from my high school, and we visited Paris, Switzerland, and southern Germany. My mom thought that maybe when I came back, I would be satisfied. She thought I would step off the plane and say “Wow, that was great! I saw a new part of the world, so now I’m ready to stay home for a while.” The pink sunrise reflecting off a mountain out- side Engelberg, Switzerland. At one point, I asked my German teacher, who was chaperoning the trip, to tell my mother I had died so that I could run away and spend the rest of my life in the Alps. Not so, my friends, not so. In fact, my post-travel reaction was the exact opposite. I stepped off the p