Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tromsø, Norway

View from where my first bus dropped me off - overlooking town
Hello from Tromsø, Norway! I've had quite the adventure here - so can't wait to delve in and share photos! I flew Norwegian Air from Trondheim to Tromsø, which was pretty cheap and only a hour each way. But - you have to pay extra to reserve a seat, so I didn't bother. Little did I know the views of the mountains and the fjords from the plane are amazing; I did get a glimpse of some if the action from the aisle seat. When I arrived, I took two busses to meet my colleague (Susan). Backstory: The National Science Foundation funded 8 scholars to study in Norway through the program I am doing; two of us are in Trondheim, one in Tromsø, and the rest in Bergen or Oslo. When the list was published, I e-mailed some of the scholars and inquired whether they'd like to meet. Susan told me that she loved Tromsø and that she'd let me stay with her, so I easily obliged. Basically, I didn't know anything about Susan besides the fact that she was doing her PhD in Math at the University of North Carolina.
The view from Susan's apartment

However, when Susan picked me up from the bus stop on Friday afternoon, one of the first things I found out was that she went to high school only a couple miles down the road from mine (!) and that she lived in Diamond Bar - just two cities over from my hometown. It was quite strange meeting a neighbor of mine for two decades - but not back in Orange County - instead, in Tromsø. (By the way, Tromsø is 300 miles North of the arctic circle)--brrr.

On Friday night I went with Susan to her office and met a colleague of hers. I wasn't surprised when she told me that the school gave free coffee, breakfasts, snacks, and sometimes lunches (just like my University at NTNU- I didn't like coffee before I came here but the fancy snazzy machine they provide the staff has taken over my life). We went to her colleague's house and cooked a nice dinner, followed by checking out the nightlight (until 4am!) Don't worry, the beer was still $13, so I couldn't afford to get too crazy. :)

Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to stay out until 4am - because we were hiking the next day. Not some California trail - like a real hike. Since I had woken up with the morning sun at 8:30am, I knew it was going to be a long day. But - it was so worth it. Tromsø is not as green as Trondheim - or even states in the Eastern US - but instead it is rocky and sort of brown. Some of this is because the season has changed faster here (I could see the changing of leaf colors here more so than in Trondheim). The hike was so beautiful. The highlight was my viewing of the Northern lights for the first time (Sorry, photos don't turn out!). They weren't in full bloom - if you will - but they were bright green and took up the entire Eastern sky. The stars shined brighter than I've ever seen - even brighter than Tucson in places where there is no light. I couldn't stay outside too long, even with my four layers, because it was freezing cold.

We hiked to a public cabin, which Susan told us is never occupied. Five of us went together to hike - and there were six beds. On our third hour of the hike to the cabin, we saw a half dozen people several hundred yards in front of us, and I thought: "Just my luck." I'm a baby and can't do tents or sleep outside, so I knew it was going to be a problem. Oh wait...let me remind you I only slept 4 hours and just hiked 7 miles dodging loose rocks and climbing steep hills. I was dead.

But - turns out the cabin that is usually locked was unlocked, and we joined one student who was planning to stay in the big cabin alone. We played games (in the dark, no light, like I said real hiking) and made some dinner. In the morning, we hiked 13km home, sore body and all.

The entire trip was a wonderful experience and I might just go back to do some ice fishing and see some more spectacular Northern lights :)

Here are some other pics, mostly from the hike we did!

Selfie with my hiking friends behind me

Monday, September 23, 2013

Upcoming travel plans

Happy Monday evening from Norway! It's been awhile since I posted so I thought it would be nice to give a few updates from the past couple weeks and the next month. Last week was pretty productive in terms of work: I finished the preliminary analyses for my first dissertation paper (they will likely change multiple times once my committee reads them over, but it is a great outline) and I have been working on pulling the paper together in its entirety. This weekend I went hiking again (but got rained out) and had a relaxing Sunday with two of my closest friends in Trondheim; one Russian student and another native Norwegian student.

Pulpits Rock in Stavanger
My upcoming month is very hectic in terms of travel. On Friday I am going to Tromsø to visit a colleague; the city is very North (in the arctic circle I believe), but also very beautiful. I have posted a photo of Tromsø below. After I return next Monday, my Aunt will arrive a few days later to Trondheim! She will stay with me for three nights and I will take a mini-vacation and travel through Germany with her. We bought a EuroRail pass and plan to see five or six different cities in southern Germany. Once we get back, a good friend and colleague from Florida will be waiting for me from Florida, and we will take a short 2-day trip to Stavanger to hike a famous fjord/cliff. I have provided a photo of this hiking spot as well. And my travels will end with another trip to Bergen at the end of the month, the second largest city in Norway.

A picture of Tromsø
Otherwise, I am really settled in here and have gotten used to the expensive prices (for the most part). Although, I did go to Burger King (which I never eat at in the US) and paid $14 for a chicken burger combo---No joke. But the difference is that minimum wage is Norway is ~$20, so I guess I have to pay for those high salaries somehow. I'll post about my experience in Tromsø in about a week! Until then, I leave you with some more photos from around town!
Another view from my hotel room

Me ringing a bell at the top of a Cathedral in Bern -- oops

The bus I take to school each day - and my office on the left

The hike I did on the rainy miserable, cold day :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Big parities and busted passport photos

Happy Saturday from Trondheim! I'm writing to the background sound of the UCLA football game - a friend told me a website where I could stream the football game, so I'm hoping the Bruins put me in the good mood before I head over to the "biggest party of the year" here in Trondheim. The cover charge is 250kr ($42)- which is just crazy- but hey, how could I miss the biggest party? I've laid pretty low the past week and have conceptualized the argument and content of the first dissertation paper. Basically, I will compare groups of adolescents using prospective (longitudinal) Norwegian data with particular interest in adolescents' reports in 1992 and (the same) young adults' reports in 1999. I will compare these findings to representative United States data; and to compare these individuals I will position Norway as a socially liberal and accepting culture (or so we usually think in the US)- yet a country where some adolescents report disparate outcomes compared to others.

I have a couple weeks of great weather (besides the intermittent rain) until it starts to become very cold and dark here in Norway. I booked a flight to Tromsø for Sept 27-30; I will visit a colleague over that weekend to see more Norwegian views. I've come to expect that I will visit the grocery store ever day, as this is customary in the Norwegian culture. Most households do not have large refrigerators like Americans do, so it makes it necessary to visit the store often. I have been cooking most meals to save money on food - it, like everything else, is very expensive here. Overall, I miss American chains like Chipotle (I can't find black beans anywhere in this town!), but at least there is good ol' McDonalds just 5 minutes from here.

Funny story: I decided I needed to get a residence permit while here; if I get caught staying the few days over the allowed amount, I could be fined or banned from coming back for a period of time (to all of Europe). Okay that wasn't the funny part... that would be the story that a requirement for this visa/permit (besides the $450 fee) is that you need a passport photo. So- I went to a self service machine to make this photo and didn't realized until after the photo printed that I left my headphones in for all 4 photos. What a dork.

I've also been riding the bus a lot here - a monthly pass is quite expensive, but it is necessary for me to get to school. The recorded message announces each stop (like most busses) - and it is so entertaining for me to listen to the complex pronunciations. I have the most difficult time making the ø sound. The name of the letter is the exact sound it makes (like most letters)- it is something like Urrhhhh. I've practiced 100 times and it doesn't even get better after a couple or beers. Maybe some day. :)

Until next time!

I took a run around the mountains and came across this lake
One of the bridges I cross when I run along the river

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Driving in Trondheim

Hello from Trondheim! After a 12 hour travel day from Lausanne (no joke), I finally arrived back in Trondheim late Friday night. My journey entailed: a bus to the Lausanne train station, the EuroRail from Lausanne to Zurich only to arrive 3 hours early for my flight from Zurich (laying over in Oslo) to Trondheim; last was a 45 minute shuttle bus from the airport. Anyway, it was worth the beautiful sights in Switzerland (of which I am posting some more photos here). 

Something I forgot to mention about Switzerland: despite the little mountain town Flim being so quiet, we were awoken at 7am to the sound of loud church bells that continued for what seemed a fortnight. But - they eventually stopped, and my suspicions that this was to awaken the town and get their butts to church were right. Obvious, maybe, but I've never heard as many bells in my life than I did in Switzerland. And - I saw some awesome cathedral's as well (see pics).

Main campus building @ NTNU
I had quite the interesting experience the day after I arrived back into Trondheim. A friend of mine owns a car but doesn't have a license and wanted to buy some new Ikea furniture. So - he asked if I would drive him, and of course I obliged. The traffic laws compounded with a noisy bright red Mitsubishi made for a scary, yet thrilling trip across town. In Trondheim, you get a yellow light before both green and red lights show, and the right lane is always a bus-only lane. Also, there are quite a few red arrows for right turns, so you can't turn on green unless it's a green arrow. So - as you probably guessed - I was in the right lane quite a lot (by accident) and had troubles remembering when to yield. Besides that, there are dozens of round-abouts in town; the Norwegian alternative to traffic lights. We managed to fit more furniture that I ever thought possible into the little Mitsubishi. 

The city of Lausanne from the Catherdral
This morning, I decided to go jogging in the mountains again. They are very accessible by bus and foot, so I just hopped on the bus and ran about 4 miles along lakes and farms. Every time I go, I am able to go a little further and see more of the mountains. Soon, I will make it to the top and share the photos of the fjords and city. I went with a couple Russian friends to the top of the fortress and BBQed some hot dogs and pork - with a disposable grill we bought at the grocery store. 

I have a couple of new plans scheduled: toward the end of this month I will travel up north (about 600 miles?) to Tromsø to visit another NSF scholar; I'll crash on her couch and see a different part of Norway. In mid-October, I will give a guest lecture to Norwegian students in Psychology about adolescence. And, at the end of October, I will visit Bergen to collaborate with scholars at the University of Bergen.

...oh, and work is going well. :)

Until next time!
A house close to the flat we stayed in when we hiked the Alps

The view from the top of my hike today, just outside the main city of Trondheim

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I hiked the Alps!

Hello from Lausanne, Switzerland! The last few days have been quite an adventure, and I have so many new sights and photos to share. A colleague and good friend (Michelle) from Davis, California met me in Trondheim on Tuesday (8/28/13) to visit before our trip to Switzerland. We hiked the Trondheim mountains and I showed her all of the must-see places around town. On Friday, we took a long trip to Zurich, Switzerland to visit before our conference here in Lausanne. Michelle hosted a Swiss student last year (Andy) who studies at the University of Zurich, so she met us at the airport and helped us get around. That night, she offered to bring us along to her boyfriend's cabin in the Swiss Alps (a 90 minute drive from Zurich). We obliged; and it was a breathtaking experience. The only time the view wasn't spectacular was when we were going through one of the many tunnels on our drive, the drive was full with lakes, mountains, cliffs, and more. Once we arrived, we took the ski-lift up the huge alp in the city of Flim and hiked down for about 6 hours. We stopped halfway and built a fire to cook some lunch, and I was able to see some of the most breathtaking sights I've ever witnessed. Flim is a cute mountain town with lots of older Swiss residents; the town is more bustling in the Winter during snow sport season. We ended the night with two beers and live music at the base of the alp followed by a home cooked meal in our cabin.

The old street in Bern where
Albert Einstein developed his theory
We stayed the night in the cabin and drove back to Zurich on Sunday afternoon. We explored the city for the rest of the day- it was extremely quiet, as most Swiss towns are on Sundays. We climbed to the top of a famous church (Grossmunster), visited the University, walked along the huge lake, and ate a very good local dish. Later that night, we took the train to the capitol of Switzerland, Bern. In Bern, we visited the Parliament, and although the tour was in German, there was a lot of history and impressive architectural designs on display. We went to a local zoo (which showcased bunny rabbits, not kidding) and other European animals like European bison. We also visited the house in which Albert Einstein developed the Theory of Relativity- so cool! We even went to the Casino - which we didn't realize wasn't an actual Casino until we walked in the front doors of the rehearsal for a play. 

Next up is Lausanne, which is a gorgeous town on a huge lake with old windy roads and towering cathedrals. We are in Lausanne for three days to attend the European Association on Developmental Psychology conference. I typically present my work at conferences, but I am visiting this particular conference to further my program of research and establish connections that might be fruitful to my dissertation project and time in Norway. The next few days will be full with conference workshops and sessions, and I leave back to Trondheim on Friday. My upcoming trips still include: a work session in Bergen (2nd largest city in Norway), travels across Germany with my aunt, a trip to Sweden with a new Norwegian friend, and some other small local trips. I'll continue to post photos and keep the blog updated. Thanks again for reading!