Monday, November 25, 2013

Goodbye Norway

Hei hei! I thought it fitting to begin my last post from Norway with some Norwegian- so there you go, the simplest of phrases I learned. And- I learned some others: Neste holdeplass (next stop- the bus driver says this every stop), tusen takk (thank you very much), vær så god (you're welcome), and a bunch of random words. Okay, not so good for being here for almost four months.

All in all, my trip was very productive, successful, enjoyable, and quite amazing. I met so many new friends from all over the world, and I completed a large portion of my dissertation proposal. I have set my proposal date in Tucson for January 22nd. My first two papers use nationally representative data from both the United States and Norway. The third paper uses data from a study my advisor has created and received more than a million dollars to conduct. Exciting stuff!

The weather here has taken a turn for the worse-- and apparently it's not even that bad yet. The dark is finally getting to me: when the sun is out (not often), it is only up for 5 hours. So basically I feel like it is bedtime at 6pm. I'll be happy to escape to Copenhagen, Madrid, and Paris. I have decided to couch surf ( for several days in Copenhagen and Madrid - let's see how that goes.

Stay tuned for some cool stories from those three cities, and enjoy these snowy cold photos in the meantime. :)

Taco night is a Norwegian family tradition on Friday's

Snowy fountain outside of my apartment/hotel building

Snow covered bushes outside of my office

Snow covered tree outside of my office

My resident permit came on the last day possible - now I'm legal (finally)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some photos

Hello! I don't have many new stories: I've just been working on my dissertation and trying to go outside during the 6 hours of sunlight we have. The weather has been really cold (with a frozen ground!), but today there was a brief respite. I took some photos over the past week, so here they are!

The pathway to my office - the one (and hopefully only place) I've fallen on the icy floor
15% tax on food?! This wouldn't fly in America...

The bus that I was on had broke down - and this is it, still stranded

Wonderful view of the city today - despite the 28 degree weather

The fortress still protecting Trondheim - with the Royal Norwegian flag in the background

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Halloween and Darkness

Good morning from Trondheim! It's getting cold and dark here--fast--and it's time for another blog entry! Since my last entry, I have not left town, but I have gotten a good amount of work done and have brought some American traditions to Norwegians! Last week I submitted an article for publication, applied to a week-long summer program in the Netherlands to improve my dissertation, a conference in Izmir, Turkey, and worked on my statistical model with my host scientist. I also gave a guest lecture (to about 80 students) and had good discussions about cultural differences between the United States and Norway. (The best advice I gave was to buy their Converse in the states...almost everyone here wears Converse shoes and they cost over $100, and only $35 in the States!) I am now working on a resubmission of another manuscript, which hopefully will be finished in the next week.

The sun has been setting before 4pm now in Trondheim - today the sun sets at 3:39 and by the time I leave (in 3 weeks), it'll set around 2:40pm! I try to leave work early so it isn't pitch dark by the time I get home, but that gets more difficult each day. Last night, it was 28 degrees; and while I am no stranger to cold temperatures, there is something about freezing weather that I'll never get used to. Now that I cannot run outside, I tried to join a gym that is right next to my apartment. They tried to make me pay $220 for a one-month membership, so I said "forget it!" I'll have to make up for it when I am home.

During the halloween week, my Russian friend and I carved pumpkins! Although halloween is becoming more popular in Norway, not many people carved pumpkins. There were lots of people that dressed up (I wasn't one of them...bad American!) though. Kirill, my Russian friend, loved the experience, and I even roasted some of the seeds after. (I waited too long to cook some of them and they all started growing very quickly!)

My time in Trondheim is winding down, and it was quite the experience. I will leave just in time (escaping the terrible weather) and my first stop is Copenhagen for 6 days. I will then fly to Madrid to see a UCLA college friend (Amy) for four nights, and end in Paris for a week! Then...back to reality :)
It's not very often you get leaves falling like this in California...

View of the fjords from a short hike

My pumpkin displayed in my office!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Beautiful (rainy) Bergen

I'm back- after a short hiatus. I wanted to share some beautiful photos and experiences from Bergen, which is the second largest city in Norway. I arrived ready to give a presentation and form collaborations with Norwegian scientists; I even stayed at the house of one of the library researchers. The weather was awful nearly the entire time I was there, so I wasn't able to do too many touristy things. But - I was able to take some pictures when the rain let up.

My overall impressions of the city were pretty positive: it was cheaper than Trondheim (I got a beer for $5 instead of the typical $13 price in Trondheim), there was a great student presence (the University isn't very old but it teaches a lot of students), and there is great beauty. I was told that the city is very enjoyable during the summer months. I can imagine.

Library where my host works
I did get to hike through a really neat forest. The sights were surreal with waterfalls, lakes, old trees, and pretty colors all around. I am posting some of the photos below. I also saw some of the nightlife and ate some local Norwegian food (I had a lamb burger, which was a first for me).

I can't wait to go back some day!

View of Trondheim from the radio tower (see next photo)

Radio tower that overlooks the city of Trondheim

View of Bergen from a Cathedral

Neat street with shops in Bergen

Observation point to see the entire city of Bergen - a little foggy this day

Awesome forest that I was able to hike through

Foggy lake on the hike

View of the lake in downtown Bergen

Cannon protecting the old fortress in Bergen

Friday, October 18, 2013

Preikestolen (Pulpits Rock) - Norway's #1 Tourist attraction

My friend Chris and I took a bus to an airplane to a bus to another bus to a ferry to a bus to a taxi to a rigorous two hour hike each way to see this gorgeous view:

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Arbeit Macht Frei"

The abbey from The Sound of Music 
I write to you from Trondheim, where I safely made it back from my week-long vacation to Germany. I had to split my Germany experience into two posts because my Aunt and I were quite productive. After my last post, we explored Rothenburg a bit more until we took a long train to Munich. When we arrived in Munich, it was snowing (!) - which was pretty odd since the weather had been sunny for most of the days leading up to our arrival. And - it hasn't even begun to snow in Norway yet, so we didn't expect it to be even colder so far South.

Because of the snow, we stayed in the hotel and had a spaghetti buffet. Don't worry - we actually tried German food in several cities: potato bags, Spätzle, and more. The next day in Munich we had planned to take the train to Füssen to see Schloss Neuschwanstein (Sleeping Beauty's castle is modeled after this famous German castle), but we missed the last train by 40 seconds. My aunt even broke into a rare run along the platform to attempt to catch it. She wasn't happy about the result.

But, it worked out because we hopped on a train to Salzburg instead. Once there, we toured the Sound of Music spots, like the vonTrapp mansion, the famous gazebo where "I am 16, going on 17" took place, the abbey featured in the movie, and more. We got lost in the city and found ourselves in bazaars and shopping streets tucked away alongside the huge hill upon which stood the castle. The town was very beautiful - I had to keep turning around and spinning in 360s to enjoy the beauty.

The next day we visited the famous Dachau concentration camp, where the main gates read: "Arbeit Macht Frei." This was unbelievable - to learn about the Nazi rule and interment camps was one thing - but to actually see how these poor prisoners lived was mind blowing. I truly cannot grasp how an event like this occurred in our world - just decades ago. We rushed to make the train to Füssen (going from somber and sad to happy and castle land) - and we just made it by a couple minutes. Neuschwanstein was marvelous - the city was one of the most beautiful parts of Germany. We walked miles and spent 11 hours in total to visit this castle, but it was definitely worth it.

In all, the visit was extraordinary. My Aunt left this morning and a good friend arrives tonight, we then go to Stavanger tomorrow to hike the most famous landmark in Norway. Wish me luck!
A view of the Trondheim autumn

Featured in the film "Sound of Music"

Me and the Gazebo from the Sound of Music

Me in Füssen sitting on the steps to one of the castles

View of the snowy peaks in Füssen

Memorial at the Dachau Concentration camp

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Frankfurt, Köln, Heidelberg, and Rothenburg

View from a hike I did with my Aunt
Greetings from rainy Rothenburg, Germany. I write from the medieval hotel lobby where I am escaping the rain; pity because this is truly a gorgeous town. But, I have wonderful photos and stories to share from the first part of my German tour.

Before I start in on Germany, I should mention that my aunt flew to Trondheim last Thursday night and stayed with me until we flew to Germany on Monday afternoon. We had a great time together: my host scientist had us over for dinner and served reindeer, we tried whale at a local restaurant, we saw multiple landmarks (the fortress, cathedral), and had lots of great food. I introduced my aunt to some of my friends as well. The weather cooperated for the most part; as a matter of fact, I've been very lucky avoiding rain- I typically leave town when it starts to rain and travel to cities that are having exceptionally good weather. Though, maybe my luck has run out.
Dinnertime: Whale

We left for Frankfurt on Sunday afternoon and arrived to the hotel about 7pm. We planned only to stay the night and head off to the next city right away. This was a good idea...the city smelled pretty horrible, was sketchy, and was selling services we didn't want (we accidentally walked through the red light district on the way to dinner). The next morning we got on the train at 8:40am and headed off to Cologne (Köln), the city where cologne was first made and with a famous cathedral where the 3 wise men are (supposedly) buried. This cathedral was absolutely breathtaking, I cannot believe people could figure out how to build something so exquisite in the Middle Ages. Sadly, my grandfather passed away this day, but at around the same time he passed I lit a candle and sent a blessing for him at this famous and enchanting cathedral; I know he would have loved this and he is now in a better place. We managed to take an hour-long river cruise along the Rhine to see famous landmarks (e.g., Chocolate factory) in Cologne.

Cologne train bridge with love locks
We left around 3pm and took a long train to Heidelberg. On this train ride, we passed dozens of castles positioned amongst the rolling green hills, well mostly green- yellow, orange, and red trees were scattered around displaying the beauty of the German autumn. This is so foreign to me since the trees stay one color all year in Southern California. We got there late afternoon so we were able to check in to our castle-like hotel (we ate breakfast in the old dungeon, so cool) and walk around the city. Just up two streets from the river was a huge walking street with more shops than I ever imagined. Hundreds of people gathered around the shop windows, walking with pretzels in one hand and famous German chocolate in the other. In the morning, we visited the Heidelberg castle, famous for the 300 steps it took us to climb to the top, and for it's gorgeous views of the town. I picked up some famous chocolate that Michelle Obama has commended (along with other famous diplomats) and we shopped.

Street in Heidelberg
Later that afternoon we took the longest train ride yet to Rothenburg, an absolutely marvelous old town. The city is surrounded by towers and tall walls, which kept out the invaders since the 800s. The town was saved during WWII because an American general grew up with old paintings around his house when he was a kid - but had never been - and knew of it's historical presence and beauty. We went on a popular Nightwatch man's tour at 8pm, popular for tourists and locals alike. In the morning, we woke up to rain and walked around the walls to marvel the designs and ancient construction of the city.

Next up is Munich, with day trips to Salzburg, Neuschwanstein (sleeping beauty castle), and some other nearby German cities. Can't wait to update you on these adventures!
Falling leaves on a hike in Trondheim

First building (now administration) at NTNU, my University in Trondheim 

Cathedral in Köln

A liter of beer I ordered (and finished) - more than I thought it would be

View from the castle in Heidelberg

Oven in the castle

Old medieval street in Rothenburg
Inside the Cologne Cathedral 

Train station in Frankfurt

Front side of the Köln Cathedral