Monday, August 31, 2009

language and connections

i'll admit it, since i took this photo of pretty purple chain onboard the ship last friday, i've been wracking my brain for a use for it. and then, this morning, a use for it fell into my lap. my blog friend Ju tweeted about an interesting post on raising a bilingual child on mummy do that! cartside, who i didn't know until the tweet, has assembled a wonderful collection of links to people who are blogging about raising bilingual children. you know, people like me. only strangely, it had never occurred to me to seek out blogs where people were writing about that. i've just sort of been fumbling along on my own. and i've only written about it once, over here on sabin and addie's blog. but what does any of that have to do with big-ass piece of purple chain, you ask? well, it's all about the connections, isn't it? and nothing says connection better than chains.

but this is actually about raising a bilingual child, so i'll get back to that now...

sabin is 8 and has lived her entire life in denmark. i have always spoken english to her and with her and so did her father until she started school. we discovered that she had some trouble cracking the code of reading in danish and we decided it would help her if her dad spoke danish to her a bit more often. and in all honesty, it did help.

sabin was slower to begin speaking than other children in her kindergarten, but i'm not sure we can blame that entirely on the two languages, it could very well be part of her personality, which is one in which she hangs back and observes before she jumps in. she also is a real perfectionist and doesn't want to make mistakes, so that may have been a factor as well. she wanted to be sure of herself in both languages before venturing out.

danish is difficult, in that the spelling has little or nothing discernible to do with the pronunciation, so cracking the reading code is difficult. that was surely compounded somewhat by my speaking and reading to her in english at home. and all of the english she hears on a daily basis on television and in music - because denmark doesn't dub extensively (the market's simply not large enough). we were fortunate that her school, which is a public one (not in the english sense of private), was very on top of the situation and she has had several rounds of extra reading help to help her crack the code. one of these was the fantastic reading recovery program, which completely did the trick last year. she's now reading very well in danish and using her reading strategies to quickly pick up reading in english.

and she's started to have english now at school, now that she's in the 3rd grade. it undoubtedly handicaps her a bit to be way ahead of the other kids because sometimes restrictions are placed on how much she's allowed to come forward with. for example, on the first day, the kids were asked to name the words they already knew in english. and sabin was only allowed to say two, which in my view, was fair enough. her teacher is great and super aware of sabin's needs, since she raised bilingual children herself. she's giving sabin as much extra work to keep her challenged as she seems to want, so she's not really being held back too much by the others being total beginners.

i actually don't worry that much about her ending up fluent in english, she already is from a speaking and understanding standpoint. and it's been our belief all along that she needs a native language. since she's growing up in denmark, danish is her native language.

some of the things i worry most about are cultural aspects. we do our best to give her a taste of the other half of her - american culture. and because so much of our television here is american and so much of the music and films american, she gets some taste of that. she's been the US lots of times and spent five weeks there a year ago in the summer, hanging out with her aunt and cousins, so she has also had the chance to partake of swimming lessons and T-ball and a fishing derby at the lake up close. but the fact is, she's a little danish girl and her main cultural grounding will be in denmark, regardless of what passports she carries (she has both).

i think raising a child to be bilingual is such a gift. i'm hopeful that she will inherit her father's ability to code switch flawlessly between languages and she seems to have that to an extent, tho' she sometimes does some really cute direct translation of danish words into english. and there are certain mistakes she makes consistently - like not saying "without," she only says "out" because that's how it is in danish. she doesn't understand that she also needs the "with" part of it, since that feels like the opposite to her. so she'll ask for a toast with nutella out butter.

we've been reading the junie b. jones books and junie b. makes a lot of grammar mistakes, so i keep talking to her about them, since i'm not sure she gets the nuances of that well enough and i don't want her to think that junie b. speaks correctly. so far, she seems to understand it and she just finds junie b.'s view on the world amusing, so the language doesn't matter that much.

it's interesting raising a bilingual child and my hope is that it makes her more able to understand and get along across cultures. and i think that it's really wonderful, through the miracle of the blogosphere, to have suddenly found a whole lot of other people who are thinking and writing about their challenges with raising bilingual children, too. see, you can learn things on twitter.

this week i do solemnly swear...

do you ever feel you're just swimming along the stream with everyone else, not thinking about life, just going through the motions? i've decided i don't want to feel like that this week. like just one of the ducks. this week is going to be different, this week, i'm going to:

~ carry a camera everywhere i go (i've gotten a bit lax about this). inspired by spudballoo's CCC, i'm charging the P&S (point & shoot) as we speak.

~ create something every day (i've also gotten lax about this).

~ systematically clear out my to do list (happily, i've already started on this).

~ exercise - this is eternally on the list, but now after reading murakami's what i talk about when i talk about running, i'm feeling inspired. maybe not to run and certainly not any great distances, but to push myself physically in order to better be able to push myself mentally.

~ take one bag of unused clothing to the local version of the good will.

i realize this list sounds rather mundane, but i figure by putting it out here, where people know about it, it will help me to stick to it. i promise to be back later with something much more entertaining.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

now that's a funny memory

i know i'm always complaining about the absence of common sense in the country of my birth, but last evening, i heard a story of an utter lack of common sense right here in denmark. it involved husband's middle daughter, M.

she went to a summer camp on børnholm, an island in the middle of the baltic sea below sweden that belongs to denmark. now M is 14 but looks about 25, so it's easy to forget that she's still a kid. so, being a kid, she and several other kids decided to walk down to the local grocery store for some candy and sodas. as kids will do.

while they were gone (i'm not clear as to whether they said where they were going, but suspect they didn't), some of the adult supervisors at the camp freaked out because the five kids were suddenly deemed missing. they rushed down and found them at the local grocery store and proceeded to bawl them out, citing all kinds of horrible things that could have happened - they could have fallen in the water and drowned, they could have been hit by a car (walking on a path), they could have gotten lost. in my view, the worries should have been that they were buying alcohol and cigarettes, but that wasn't the case (they didn't worry that and the kids really did go out after candy).

the camp personnel were so upset by the incident that they decided the group of kids had to be sent home early, because they couldn't be responsible for such renegades with a sweet tooth. so, they elected to put the five on the next ferry off børnholm. to sweden. without any chaperone. or instructions as to which bus to take from sweden to get back to denmark. and frankly, with M's sense of direction and ability to get lost inside her own bedroom, it was risky at best.

so, to sum up. it wasn't ok for kids to walk a few blocks to a grocery store for a bit of chocolate, but it was perfectly ok to send them home alone via another country.

and i thought the danes had cornered the market on common sense.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

there's something about a shipyard

my fascination with ships and shipyards is rather ironic in view of having grown up in a little town on the vast prairie, as far from water (at least big ship type of water) as you can imagine. but there's just something special about ships, ports and shipyards. especially shipyards. it has to do with what bill mentioned in a comment on yesterday's post, that they are so busy. there's just so much activity going on. it's quite amazing. and all of that activity creates its own kind of energy and i think that's what i love about shipyards.

from the bridge of an under-construction LNG carrier - samsung heavy industries, south korea

i've been to a number of shipyards - samsung heavy industries and daewoo in korea, two newbuilding yards in ulsteinvik, norway, sembawang in singapore and yesterday a small repair yard in frederikshavn, denmark. and they are all fascinating.  the big yards in korea are overwhelming in their size and the number of ships they're churning out (or at least they were, that's slowed down quite a lot). unfortunately, i didn't get a lot of pictures when i was there (it was back in 2005 before my camera obsession set in), but one of the most striking sights was of more than 5000 white-clad workers, lined up on a field, doing jumping jacks together at the daewoo yard. i think i was more stunned by that sight than of the VLCC (very large crude carrier) hulls being welded together in the enormous dry dock. but there were other wondrous sights, like a whole section of a ship being lifted by enormous cranes.

at samsung heavy industries, south korea

inside the membrane tank of an LNG carrier - samsung, south korea

people bike around the yards as transport.
if i were this guy, i'd be getting out of the way.

last may, i went to the west coast of norway to visit several newbuilding yards. newbuilding is what they call new ships. this is as opposed to repair yards, where ships go to drydock every 5 years, for repairs and to retain their certificates to sail. they're doing some of the most innovative shipbuilding in the world. here are two x-bow vessels, both are offshore support vessels, which service offshore oil rigs. they are some of the most specialized ships in the world.

in singapore, i visited a repair yard. it was a large one and there were no less than 5 LNG carriers there. i've probably mentioned it before, but LNG carriers are my favorite, because in my previous job, i sailed on one for ten days, from barcelona through the suez canal (we were slow steaming because the ship was going to anchorage off fujirah to await its next cargo), it was heavenly. LNG are also very specialized ships, because the cargo is cryogenic - the ships are basically an enormous thermos bottle, sailing around with cargo at -160℃.

view of an LNG carrier from an LNG carrier - sembawang, singapore.

and then yesterday, i visited an anchor handler that was finishing up its stay in drydock in frederikshavn, here in denmark. an anchor handling ship is another type of offshore supply vessel, which assists when moving an oil rig. this one had also served as a standby vessel, literally standing by, waiting for when it was needed by the rig.  its drydock was nearly finished. absolutely everything had been taken out of the ship - through holes opened in the side - refitted and was in the process of being put back. all in four weeks. the amount of work that goes into such an operation is mind-boggling. the coordination of people, spare parts and hard work is a marvel to behold. so every time i see it, i'm in awe.
an anchor handler at frederikshavn, denmark

this is one of the aspects of my job that i love. the people involved in building and repairing ships are so hard-working and pragmatic. they still know how to do things, such a variety of things. how to make things work. how to connect wires and pipes and fittings. i observed a polish ship's electrician yesterday that simply astonished me with how much he knew and how well he could do and communicate his work. i think being at a shipyard reminds me about hard work and a down-to-earth way of being that i sometimes feel i lose touch with in my daily very information society-oriented job and life. plus, ships are just so cool.

Friday, August 28, 2009

the early bird gets the...ship?

i woke up this morning at 3:30 a.m. tho' i actually had 'til 4:30. and naturally, i couldn't get back to sleep.  so i got up and got ready for my 7:05 flight. because i was spending my day at a ship repair yard. and since i've now got a splitting headache, there's a mouse in the house (thank you, lila) and my family is yelling at me to watch coupling with them on BBC entertainment, i'll leave you with some scenes from my day.

even the trash is beautiful at a shipyard.

and so are the containers in which they lift it off the ship

not sure what this is, but it looks cool.

dry dock

now that's a really, really big spool

do not press the red button.

there are always ropes posing nicely onboard a ship.

more tomorrow.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

what really happened to the arctic sea?

photo found multiple places online, sorry i don't know whose it really is.

in recent weeks, i've found the story of the supposed pirate attack on the finnish-owned, maltese-flagged vessel arctic sea a compelling one. initially, it was interesting because it appeared to be a pirate attack in european waters and the first of its kind in decades.

as the story goes, the ship left finland july 23, loaded with timber. the next day, the ship reported that a group of men, presenting themselves as swedish police, boarded the ship in the baltic sea between finland and sweden. strangely, the only ones they notified of this were the russian embassy in finland, tho' at some point the swedish police were involved. apparently, some 12 hours later, the men left the vessel and it continued on its way. the next report of it was that it sailed through the busy english channel, still hijacked, tho' the story gets a bit hazy.

after that, they switched off their AIS system (an international electronic tracking system that all merchant ships have (go here to see ships live, right now, as we "speak")) and disappeared for more than two weeks, finally resurfacing 200 nautical miles from the cape verde islands off the coast of west africa. a bit far from her destination port in algeria. the russian navy rushed in, "rescued" the russian crew that was onboard and arrested 8 alleged hijackers, most of whom were from estonia, and spirited them off to moscow. word has it that the captain stayed onboard with russian navy personnel and that they are sailing the vessel and its cargo towards the black sea.

the russian navy's keen interest in the case, as well as grumblings from NATO sources, lead one to believe that there was more than a cargo of timber onboard. before loading the timber at the port in finland, the ship spent two weeks in kaliningrad, that important little baltic port that russia kept after the disintegration of the soviet union. i've read rumors of everything from drugs to guns to cruise missiles to nukes. but, i suppose, like with the kursk submarine case a number of years ago, we'll never really know the truth. but it does set the imagination on overdrive. i could definitely see constructing a james bond plotline out of this one.

* * *

took this screenshot of all of the ships in "my" area on that marine traffic website. each of those little colored ship-shaped bits is a ship and if you hover over it (on the site, not on my screenshot), you'll learn the name and how fast she's currently sailing. how cool is that? why didn't i know about this before? it's a very cool website, but i can see that there is no data available in the pirate-infested waters off east africa and through the malacca straits. very smart thinking, that. wouldn't want to assist the pirates. go and check it out, it's really quite fun to realize exactly how many ships are out there. be sure to check out the english channel, it's really crowded.

houses and homes

i wish someone had shown me this picture years ago. because then i might have had some inkling of what i was getting myself into. this is my dear husband at the age of 4-5, building his first house. and today, husband still loves doing this, tho' it's not what he does for a living. it does seem to be in his blood.

we built onto our house last year, as you know if you've been reading MPC for some time. we also built (or at least started) no less than six other structures in the garden, one of which is my beloved blue room/studio/writing house/atelier/dacha. you would think that the relief of having that behind us would make us lean back, relax and just enjoy it. if husband really wants to work on something, there is, after all a half-finished sauna to get on with.

however, his little boy builder's heart and mind have moved on. and he now has it in his head that we need to move to a large old farmhouse. one big enough for more than one family so we can share this big place and thereby reduce our environmental impact on the world. i won't go into all of that right now and we are writing about it over here if you want to know a bit more of what we 're thinking. what i will go on about is house-hunting.

in my mind, this dream is a couple of years away (i'm not quite ready to leave the beautiful room we built-on here, nor am i ready yet to leave behind what i see as the perfect kitchen). but i will admit that after we have looked at two available farm properties in the past two days, i'm thinking that i can move things up in my mind. because your house is not who you are and if you are good at making a home, you can make wherever you live into your home. and it would really be quite nice if where we live had a barn for a couple of horses. and was a bit older and more charming than our current house, which was built in 1968.

neither of the two places we looked at are yet THE place, but looking will help us shape what THE place looks like. interestingly, both of them had an air of sadness over them, tho' for different reasons. both were on about 6-7 acres and were from the early part of the last century.

at the first one, the man who owned it showed us around. he was a sweet, smiling and eager person (probably because the house has been on the market for 374 days) and it was clear that he had loved the house and knew it inside and out. he had lived there since 1967, raised his family there and was finding it too large for his needs. we couldn't exactly determine if his wife was still alive but there was a definite woman's touch around the place - antique dolls and a big beautiful old baby buggy - and a woman's leather jacket hanging in the front entry, still, we weren't sure.

the house had a feel of having been loved and taken care of, but the last updates of carpets, floors and the kitchen had happened back in 1967 when they moved in, bringing their grandparents' furniture. husband is normally very able to look past all of that, but the shock of the ancient furnace (clearly predating their moving in by some 25 years) was a bit difficult to look past. it also had that old smell and i don't mean in a good way, like a used book store smells old. it was the smell of paint that hadn't been refreshed in 40 years. and although it was as clean as could be, it was the smell of dust. an old smell, not musty exactly, just the preserved air of 1967. and it left me a bit sad, tho' the owner wasn't a sad person at all - in fact, he was smiling and upbeat and enthusiastic and clearly loved the house.

today's house was a bit more interesting and closer to what we were looking for, tho' they had added on a very strange, cobbled together addition at some point, clearly without the assistance of an architect and quite possibly using bits and pieces they found at the local dump. and that bit happened to contain a rather new kitchen (which, in my view, would completely have to go, as it was awful beyond belief - the absolutely epitome of bad taste in every aspect). there were, however, two 350m2 barns attached that i could picture myself filling with horses quite easily. the air of sadness in that place was because it was clearly the former home of a family that had disintegrated. the wife had taken the kids and moved out and the husband was still living there, half the pictures gone from the walls, rooms half-empty, save two big-screen televisions. you could tell it was just a house now and no longer a home, if indeed it ever had been a home.

i wonder if all of the places we look at will have some air of sadness about them? it will be interesting to the meantime, i wonder if husband can have the sauna finished in time for blog camp 2.0?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

bad genes are good for something

i was just scrolling through the 33,477 photos i have in iPhoto on my iMac (thank goodness for that terabyte of time capsule backup), looking for a particular event (if you don't have iPhoto, an event is the way iPhoto organizes your pictures, so it's kind of a folder in windows terms). and i kept getting lost along the way, stopping to click into other events that had nothing to do with what i was looking for. and i realized there are a lot of folders that i've called "macro" something or other.

because in case you hadn't noticed, i'm a bit of a fan of my 60mm nikkor macro lens. and with the ability to focus exactly where i want to on the D300, i spend a lot of time with that lens. and me being me, i couldn't resist thinking about why that is. because otherwise in life, i'm not known for my attention to detail (a solid meyers-briggs ENTP). i'm a big picture kind of person. so what is it about the view that the macro lens affords that i find so fascinating?

and then it hit me. the macro lens sees in a very similar manner to my own eye (hmm, i guess i wasn't done with that whole eye thing after all). i'm really near-sighted. like one diopter from a dog. my glasses are -7 in my left eye and -6.5 with the right. there are places where -8 is legally blind. but of course, i can correct my vision with contacts and glasses and i do so. but without correction, my own eyes work a lot like the macro lens. there is a point of objects that are very close that's in perfect, sharp focus along a line and it fades quickly along the edges and in the background. i have little depth to my vision and without glasses can only see something that's held very close to my eyes.

so i've come to the conclusion that my eye feels at home with the macro lens. and i have to admit that getting down into the details of things, noticing and really studying something up close, through that lens, has helped me to be more mindful in general. i notice my surroundings more, including the small details that used to escape me. i guess i can thank my bad eyes and my 60mm macro. maybe i'll have to stop trying to get my parents to pay for my glasses, arguing that it was the fault of the bad genes they gave me. it seems bad genes are good for something after all.

* * *
on another note: you should go and check out SE'LAH's beautiful "gift of jewels" project. it's a beautiful idea and it involves getting a lovely card in the mail from a wonderful blogger somewhere out there in the world. kind of like postcrossing, but more personal. it's in celebration of the ethiopian new year, but also in celebration of the community found here in the blogosphere.  here's a list of who is participating already, but you can still play too! just scoot on over to this post on the necessary room and sign up by friday!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

a foot fetish?

i'm not that keen on taking pictures of random strangers in public. i think i'm reluctant to have a confrontation if they catch me at it and ten years in scandinavia has rendered me unable to use what should be my natural american ability to just talk to strangers (tho' in all honesty, i'm not sure i ever had it) and ask them if i can snap their picture.  however, i have no problem at all photographing people's feet. it somehow seems safer. you can do it more surreptitiously and i've found that it can be more interesting than you think.

it all started with a really cool tattoo i saw in a really cool spot on a foot. i want.

then i saw these shoes. they were sparkly. i like sparkly. however, i'm less keen on socks with sandals. even if they are pink socks.

then you find yourself sitting someplace with a good coffee and just shooting all of the feet that go by.

there is the occasional odd fashion choice.

and the odd dog.

sometimes there are sweet little people in pink.

then you start looking out for alternative-type people. i have to say, i prefer socks with my docs.

sometimes the shoes surprise.

more cute tattoos. little stars on that same part of the foot.

i think this may be the start of something fun. but at least i'm finally off those eyeballs.

you can moo too!

it's time again, those fabulous people at MOO have sent out a discount code: RVA92Q - this time the code entitles you to free shipping on a first-time MOO purchase. and although they tell you that they're shipping via DHL, it turns out they're not (my postcards came via royal mail), which is a big relief, since DHL sucks at delivering. this code is for new MOO customers. so if you've been wondering if you should order, now's the time to try it out! i love my MOO cards and my new postcard-sized ones just arrived on saturday. i'm using them for postcrossing as well as for decor above my desk.

what i learned: monday edition

things i learned today:

: : the porcini (karl johan) mushroom is a wily foe. it ducks when you pass by and is very, very silent.

: : you should not spoil your view of a book by seeking out videos of the author talking about it.

: : late this afternoon, as a treat for my being a good girl, diligently getting all sorts of work done all day, i gave myself time to try to catch up on some blog reading. i chose one of my favorite, but woefully neglected blogs, just a moment of miscellany, and i read all 23 entries that were in my reader. and according to bill, who awoke to what he thought was a spam attack, i commented on 19 of them. i can see why this seemed like spam. but, in fact, it was a really interesting experience, to read nearly a month's worth of posts on one blog in one go. normally, we read blogs post by post, as they are written, leaving each one behind as the next day's post replaces it. but reading a lot of posts at once gives you a different, holistic, more coherent view of a blog. and i have to say that i highly recommend it. and i also recommend you start with bill's blog, as i did. you won't be sorry and you just might learn something.

: : sunlight, falling through a single spot in a dark part of a pine forest can look like artificial light. i assure you, no flash was used in the taking of this picture. because we know how much i hate flash.

: : the child will soon need a new bike. tho' she may want a horse first.

: : if one mushroom has a bitterness that spoils your creamy pasta sauce, you can actually mostly fix it with a little red currant jelly.

i'm sure i learned other things, but these are the ones that come to mind. more tomorrow...

Monday, August 24, 2009

legal alien

the next issue of discounderworld will feature the stories of legal aliens. i've found that phrase, legal alien, rattling around in my head for several weeks, since stacey (founder/editor of discounderworld) put out the call for stories. i've even been fortunate enough to see one of the stories before publication because it features of a good friend of mine, but without giving anything away, let's just say it has me thinking even more. because i too am a legal alien.

and i realized that a whole lot of my favorite people are also legal aliens. a very good, longtime friend is born in fiji, has a new zealand passport and lives in denmark. some of my favorite blog peeps - bee is an american in england, polly is from poland, but living in england, paris parfait is an american in paris (doesn't that sound romantic?), B from spain lives in oxford, extranjera a finn in south africa, miss buckle is an aussie living in norway, kristine a norwegian in belize (or is it costa rica?) - are all legal aliens. and somehow that makes me feel less alone.

as a legal alien, i think there's always some part of you that intentionally keeps a distance from the culture in which you find yourself. i suppose it's a way of keeping a sense of who you are and holding on to where you come from. but i also suppose that as the years go by, the grip on your former culture becomes less and less and more and more of the culture in which you find yourself takes hold.

meeting bee at blog camp last week got me pondering how much americanness i have retained after more than a decade outside of the US. and also how much i've lost. observing her in her home in the english countryside, i was feeling as if i have very little americanness left in me. but i wasn't sure whether to feel relieved or wistful about that. in bee's presence, i longed a bit for that optimism, that openness, that talkativeness that are so essentially american. living in scandinavia has made me more pragmatic, more closed and much quieter, i'm sure of that. but i felt that being with her brought some of my inner american to the fore, the best bits of it, of course, surely not any annoying overbearingness.

hans j. wegner chairs in an antique shop in copenhagen
but we have them at our house too.

i know that style is one of the places where i have changed the most and absorbed the most of a danish sensibility. as a visitor recently pointed out, there's not a boring chair in this country. even public buildings like doctors' offices and the tax authorities have designer furniture, so i've definitely become a chair snob. living in the US, i took chairs completely for granted, just sitting on them and not giving a second thought to their design. now, i love to look at chairs and when i'm done judging people by the books on their shelves, i totally judge them by the chairs they have, especially in their dining rooms.

sneaked pic of stacks of arne jakobsen's 7 chairs in a copenhagen antique place

but any real native scandinavian coming into our home feels it has a very different sensibility than a white, clean, light, typically scandinavian one you'd see in a taschen interior book. so, the style we've evolved is a combination of my american roots (antiques and odd knickknacks) and my husband's swedish-danish roots. there aren't curtains and the light, when it's here, floods into our house. but there is a lot of color around - rich yellow on the kitchen walls, red refrigerator, turquoise in the studio. a vibrancy that's not completely normal in these parts. however, it's not really normal in my upbringing either - that was more plush carpeting and flowery wallpaper. it's surely the result of the mixing of the two cultures that's happened in the past decade.

one of the cultural aspects i've acquired is a taste for and more importantly, an ability to understand, irony and sarcasm. generally speaking, americans have difficulties with that and after 8 years of the bush administration, it feels like it's gotten even more earnest and humorless "over there." whenever i encounter humorless, common senseless airport security personnel in the US, i'm quite pleased to have spent that entire era on this side of the atlantic. but it's hard to know whether i already had a tendency towards irony and sarcasm in me (knowing my dad, i did) or whether living within a culture that is rich with it brought it out in me.

there are days when i feel very far from the little town i grew up in the middle of nowhere, upper midwest. and of course, i AM very far from there. but it grounded me to grow up there, gave me a strong sense of who i am and who i am not and surely enabled me to take the leaps i've taken to be where i am now. and i don't think we can fundamentally change on the inside, so i'll no doubt always be that little girl from the prairie, with the world view that gave me as a foundation. there are just a lot of other layers on top of her now - in every sense, actually - literally, figuratively, culturally - a worldly veneer that wasn't there has been painted on top. but the willingness to meet the world head-on and jump in with both feet is the same. i guess i've just got nicer chairs and a better camera these days.

in any case, i'm looking forward to the next issue of discounderworld. i'm really interested in what other people think about being legal aliens.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

can't put down this book

gratuitous lily shot taken in my garden yesterday.
it doesn't really have anything to do with what i've written below.

i'm reading american wife by curtis sittenfeld. and i am absolutely loving it. so until it's done, i find myself wanting to read and not write. and it's a little bit weird because the book admits it's inspired by laura bush and i'd never have imagined i'd love reading something in which characters scream dubya, karl rove and the evil wench barbara bush. but it's really, really good. i can't put it down. so now, i'm going back to it. don't worry. i'm a fast reader, so i'll be back soon.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


all day long, people have been asking me what time it is. and blissfully, i have had no idea. i intentionally didn't put my watch on and clocks have been conveniently out of view. we had only one appointment today. sabin's riding lesson. and she was aware of what time we needed to go to that, so i didn't have to be. and it was bliss. sometimes, you just have to let go of all those human constructs (because time (or at least how we conceptualize it) is a human construct, you know). and you just float through your day. eating when you're hungry. drinking when you're thirsty. lazing about in bed reading 'til your desire for tea drives you to get up.  making stuff if that's what you feel like - and really listening to your inner self about what you feel like. drinking tea. going for a walk when you feel moved to go for a walk in the sunshine. going for a drive when you feel like going for a drive. drinking coffee. eating ice cream when you feel like ice cream. listening to the inner rhythms, not the outer ones. and it's bliss, i tell you. absolute bliss. kinda like stonehenge. timeless. outside of time. impervious to time. i wish i could do it more often.

Friday, August 21, 2009

the choices we make: coffee places

there's been a lot of talk around here lately of starbucks. i may even seem a little obsessed. and strangely a hankering for a really good latte has replaced my desire for a really good south african chenin blanc. i've tried not to think too much about that, but what i have thought about is what draws you to a certain café over the one right next to it (in the absence of starbucks, of course - because we always are drawn to starbucks if there is one and by we, i mean me and sometimes husband).

i'm thinking about this because i downloaded a bunch of iPhone photos into iPhoto this evening. and i realized that i take a lot of pictures of coffees with my phone. oh, and shoes, but we're talking about coffees at the moment. maybe there will be one gratuitous shoe shot at the end (if i remember).

when i walk through sandvika storsenter, which is the most direct route from the train station to my hotel, i pass half a dozen coffee places. why do i, time after time, choose steam? it might have something to do with these beautiful cinnamon bread thingies (husband is right, the norwegians can do a mean cinnamon bread thingie (that's the technical term)).

but fattigmanden also has really nice things to eat. like this shrimp sandwich. but still, i had to force myself to go there, just to try something different. but i really wanted to go to steam. and both of them even do those pretty hearts on top of the coffee, so it shouldn't really matter.

but you can see that a double latte at fattigmanden just isn't as creamy-looking as it is at steam, so that's part of it. but there's something more, something i can't put a finger on.

it's about atmosphere too. or the light. or the lighting. the decor. the pillows. whether they have comfy chairs or tall barstools. the availability of guinness. wait. that was just in dublin. but you have to admit it is rather coffee-colored.

i think it's only partially about the coffee, tho' the coffee does have to be a rich, robust roast and the foam creamy and i never order skinny because i think only whole milk truly foams properly. it's mostly about how i feel in the place. whether people can sit too close to you. whether there's wifi. whether it feels hyggeligt (that wonderful danish word that means so much more than cosy).

and it helps if they have really cool lamps. i'm a sucker for a really cool lamp. but strangely, i don't seem to photograph them, i'll try to remedy that.  but now, i promised shoes...

happy weekend one and all. i, for one, i'm happy to be headed home today. because there's starbucks in the airport in copenhagen. and i'm looking forward to it already.