New Arrivals

Friday 31 August 2012

the view from our temporary apartment

Often times when expats arrive to their new home city, they stay in temporary accommodation until they find a place of their own.  If you are lucky, you visit before you actually move and try to secure something but many of us don't have that luxury for one reason or another (or were unable to find something in a quick look-around trip.)

One of Joe's colleagues happened to move out of his apartment the day we arrived in Norway so we lucked out and were able to stay there versus living in a hotel.  (I've lived in a hotel for close to a year total and while it's fun in the beginning, tripping over suitcases and being unable to cook gets old fast.)  We appreciated the space, the laundry facilities and we didn't feel under too much pressure to settle on an apartment we weren't happy with but the first week, we found our dream apartment.  When all the nastiness went down, we were told we'd have to continue living in the temporary apartment until things got sorted out. It killed me but I understood.

I feel like I shouldn't complain about this little place...

When we arrived in Gabon, we checked into Hotel du Parc which was mediocre by African standards but probably 1.5 stars by Western standards.  There was no hot water in the shower and the hotel wasn't equipped with a pump so the water literally dribbled out.  I couldn't wash my hair because there wasn't enough water to rinse it so I had to make arrangements with one of Joe's coworkers to shower at his house.  The only English channel I consistently had was CNN, there was no internet, it was out in the middle of nowhere beside the stinkiest 'zoo' in the world and every night I drifted off to sleep listening to the prostitutes knock on our neighbours doors.

but I'm going to...

While it doesn't compare to my first nights in Africa, this temporary apartment is starting to wear on me.  The kitchen is tiny and ill equipped for cooking.  The bottoms of the pots are charred with some mysterious food, the utensils are minimal and the knives are dull.  The microwave is in the laundry room on a 7 foot high shelf causing me to lift my food over my head to put it in.  Our bedroom is a mess of vacuum bags filled with clothes that have no where to go and we don't really want to buy anything until we know exactly what we need in the new home.

I cannot wait to finally have our own more permanent home, unpack and settle in!  Our dream apartment magically came back on the market last week and our offer was accepted - we get possession October 1 and I'm counting the days hours!

The Stars Aligned

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Do you ever feel like everything just comes together out of no where?

Well, I don't feel that very often.  Joe and I are known to go through every bump possible.

Until last week...

Remember our first week in Norway?  Everything was going so smooth and it all felt too good to be true - of course, it was and we were thrown into uncertainty.  In that first week, we decided on an apartment and it was stunning yet because of our precarious situation, we weren't allowed to sign a rental contract.  I had a feeling we'd get to stay in Norway but as time stretched on, I knew we would miss out on that apartment.  (Real estate goes very quick here.)  When we finally got word we were staying, the first thing I did send out emails hoping that apartment was still available.

It wasn't.

I scoured the real estate websites multiple times a day and NOTHING even comparable was coming up.  I felt like we'd lost out on the best apartment and nothing would ever top it.  Every time we drove by the complex I was reminded just how much we would be missing out on.  Finally, an apartment worth viewing came up and while it was ok, we weren't exactly keen on it.  Our relocation agent assured us she would find something spectacular but I had my doubts.

That very afternoon the landlord of dream apartment #1 phoned our agent to ask if we were still interested.  Something happened and the apartment was still available if we wanted it!  I nearly had a heart attack as we quickly filed an offer and awaited his answer.


Via the real estate site

The view over the fjord is to die for and the terrace is HUGE!

October cannot come quick enough!

(By the way, a massive THANK YOU to everyone who passed on tips for our trip to Belgium!  It reaffirms why I love blogging - you guys are great!)

A Trip to Belgium

Monday 27 August 2012


We're heading to to Brussels, Belgium mid-week.

It feels like we've been planning this trip for ages.  As soon as there was an inkling we might be moving to Europe, we started researching a long weekend trip to see an F1 race.  (My husband is an avid fan and watches every race yet has never seen one in person.  We missed both the Spain & Singapore races by less than a week.)  A couple of Joe's old university roommates and good friends of ours are also flying across the pond to join us.

Friends, beer, cars, races, Europe = a recipe for success if you ask me!

(At least for the men but I'm a bit excited to cheer on my boy, Lewis, too!)

Have you ever visited Brussels?  Any tips?

Little Milestones

Friday 24 August 2012

When you move to a new country, every day you are forced to conquer something new.  Most of these things are mundane but it takes a lot of effort and courage to do them.

- Walking downtown without getting lost.
- Figuring out how the post office works.
- Making an appointment.
- Saying your first words in a new language.
- Taking public transport.
- Asking for help.

The simplest of things become obstacles and if you are like me, it's a bit stressful.  I'm not the most outgoing person (shocking, I know because I air my life on the internet) and I really have to work myself up to these new experiences.  I google it, map it, practise it over in my head, work up the courage and finally tackle it.  

When I've succeeded, I feel so proud of myself and I know exactly what to do the next time.  As time goes on, I conquer more and more of these little things and before I know it, I won't even be thinking about it anymore.  

But until then...

I think it's important to celebrate these little milestones; pat myself on the back for stepping out there and doing something uncomfortable and different.  After all, that's what living overseas is all about.

Cruise Ships

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Stavanger happens to be one of the first ports of call for cruise ships coming to explore the famous Norwegian fjords.  This summer, we're expected to welcome 170 ships into our harbour downtown.

These ships are absolutely massive.  Having never taken a cruise before nor really been that close to one, it was a bit of a shock to be standing so close to these massive floating buildings.  They tower over land structures in Stavanger Sentrum and it always amazes me to see more than one parked in our tiny little harbour.

The ships usually pull into the harbour in the morning and the passengers have the opportunity to disembark and explore the region.  If they're lucky, it won't be raining and they'll be able to wander the cobblestone streets of downtown, have a drink at one of the many restaurants lining the harbour or even take one of the smaller boats down Lysefjorden to view Preikestolen from the water before boarding their cruise once again before dinner.

My favourite part is just before they depart at the end of the day, they blast music and everyone crowds on to the decks to wave good bye.

{By the way, yesterday I was over at A & B C the World sharing my Travel Tips & Tidbits.  Check it out here.}

{EXPATRIATED} Kristina from Le Fabuleux Destin

Monday 20 August 2012

Sometimes I get the impression that people think we are crazy for leaving all that we are familiar with for a life abroad but we aren't the only ones who have chosen this lifestyle.  In fact, there are a lot of us and many of us blog about it.  Expatriated is a series to introduce you to other expat bloggers.


I'm so excited to have Kristina from Le Fabuleux Destin on the blog today.  She is what one might call, a serial expat and she documents her adventures with some of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen!  So, without further adieu, meet Kristina...

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany. After living in California for 12 months when I was 16, I was bitten by the travel bug and have since moved across Germany, Singapore and Switzerland.

After living 4 years in pretty Bern (Switzerland),  me and my boyfriend moved all the way to Australia last November where we now call Melbourne our home.

How did you end up in Melbourne and what inspired you to make the move?

Our move to Australia was mainly job related, as my boyfriend was asked by his company if he would like to relocate to Australia for the next 4 years. How can you say no to such an offer? We couldn’t! So I quit my job, we said good-bye to family and friends (which was really tough, because Australia is so far away!), packed all our belongings in one container and jumped on a Qantas plane which took us all the way to the other side of the world.

However, the offer from the company did not just come out of the blue – my boyfriend has been working hard and pushing them to offer him a position abroad for a long time. He actually had offers for Brazil and China – but I am so happy that we waited and got rewarded with the offer for Australia.

What is the best part of living overseas?

I love to travel. And I love change. I can get really frustrated when I live too long in the same apartment, city, country. Even if I like it and feel happy and settled, there is always the little voice in my head telling me to move on, to explore, to see more, to travel. I think I will have the voice in my head until I find “the” place where I truly belong. Luckily me and my boyfriend are quite similar, so we have been moving all over together for the last 10 years.
Anyway, back to the question: basically the best part of living overseas is the wonderful opportunity to live somewhere like a local, the experience the place truly and in a slower pace than travellers. To meet new, interesting people. To broaden your mind and experience cultures that are different from your own.

What do you miss most about home (besides friends & family?)

I miss German bread. Seriously wherever I go, I always struggle to find good bread. And for us Germans bread is like rice to Asians - very important part of the daily food routine. Haha. So I have been testing all kinds of bread here in Melbourne, paying up to 7.00 AUD a loaf for a good German-like bread. Call me crazy, I know!! Besides that I miss the fact that I cannot drive to Italy, France or Germany for a weekend. Or take a plane and hop over to Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Barcelona. Europe is so small, it is so easy to go to a different country and see a different type of architecture, eat different food etc.  Australia, on the other hand, is soooooo big and vast! You can fly five hours to the North and you are still in the same country, with the same culture and food (the landscape changes dramatically however). We are pretty spoiled in Europe and I come to realize this now. With this being said, I love Australia and its amazing landscape! The nature is mindblowing!

What has been the most difficult thing to adjust to in Australia?

Nothing really. Australia and the Aussies make it really easy for foreigners to settle in and feel home. The country is beautiful, the cities exciting and the people all very nice, talkative and funny. The “no worries” mentality can be a bit challenging for my German mindset, but I am getting used to it!

Any funny 'whoopsies' while adjusting to your new life?

The only thing I can think of is the Australian accent. I had a hard time in the beginning to understand the local “slang” , especially talking on the phone to strangers. There were some quite funny moments, when somebody asked me something, I had no clue what they just said and just replied “yes”, hoping that it would be correct answer. In many cases it was not and everybody was left confused.

Saving graces?  (ie things that made life abroad easier)

Skype. iMessage. Whats App. All kind of technologies which help you communicate with your loved ones at home fast and cheap, so you are still part of their everyday life and you are always up-to-date on what’s going on back home.

When I lived in California in 1996, I was still writing letters home (no Email) – it took 2 weeks for them to get from LA to Germany. And calling was so expensive that I only called my parents once per month. Gosh, time does change things! Crazy!!

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your time in Australia?

That taking risks and staying positive is worth it.  I had a pretty good job back in Switzerland, working in the sporting goods industry which allowed me to travel all over Europe and to see amazing places such as Cairo and Dubai. And I had a great team, working together with friends. I quit this safe job with a good salary and moved to Australia unemployed (but along with a valid work visa). I wrote many applications once in Melbourne, stayed positive even if I was only receiving negative feedback, I was persistent, did not give up and in the end it paid off well. Yeay!

If you had the chance to move elsewhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I love Asia for its culture, landscape and food - I would love to move back for a certain period of time. Singapore, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan – I do not really care, all would be amazing.
For long-term I would probably move back to Germany – home remains home after all.
But let me tell you something, Australia is preeetty great, so I am quite happy where I am right now!

Any advice for the newly expatriated?

Relax, everything will sort itself out. Enjoy the adventure. Be grateful for the chance you have received and make the best out of it. Be open-minded. Don’t waste time being too homesick.
Time flies and before you realize you are back home, dreaming about the wonderful time you had abroad.


Thank you Kristina!

Please head over to her blog and check out her amazing photographs - you will be in awe!  If you are in need of some travel inspiration, check out her wanderings.


Friday 17 August 2012

Whenever we travel home, we stock up on a few items.  When living in Gabon, the list was HUGE and it consisted of everything from spices to salad dressing to q-tips and clothing because most of those things were completely inaccessible within Gabon.  In Norway, the situation isn't quite so dire but we still like to bring a few comfort items.

I hoard these items, especially food.  I'll bring in a box of my favourite granola bars and they'll last close to a year.  I treat Shake n' Bake nights like a 5 star meal because those boxes took up precious space and weight in my suitcase on my one trip home.  As the items start to dwindle down, I get even worse.  I've been known to hang on to less than half an ounce of vanilla Starbucks syrup 'just in case.'

Joe and I clearly have different opinions on said special food items.  He rips into his like the world is ending and he doesn't want to leave anything behind.  This last trip, I brought him 3 packs of RealFruits and they're half gone less than a week later and if I didn't hide them last night, they'd already be gone.  (Yes, you read that correctly - I hide the treats in order to preserve them.  It drives Joe nuts.)

He doesn't really 'get' my strategy so I explained it as follows:

One day, you'll be having a really terrible day.  Everything will be going wrong, you'll be grumpy and frustrated and hungry.  You'll scour the cupboards looking for something to ease the pain when all of a sudden you remember, "Eff yah! I have RealFruits" and your day will get better.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Have a great weekend!

A Cooking Lesson

Wednesday 15 August 2012

When I was growing up, my godmother used to make a special dish of what we called 'klub' and it became one of my, and my family's, favourite meals.

This coveted klub came once a year at Christmas and with a small bowl for our family of 5, you had to get in there and eat as much as you could just to ensure a good filling before they vanished.  A few years ago, my godmother passed on the making of this potato-ey goodness to her grown kids and their families thus putting an abrupt stop to our Christmas treat.

Fast forward a couple of years and I find myself living in Gabon researching our future new Scandinavian home.  In my extensive research, I come across this article, bells start ringing, fireworks go off and I can't believe my luck.

Klub is Norwegian!

My favourite Christmas food (aside from toffee tarts) is practically my new home's national dish.  

Another reason I love multicultural Canada!

I kept my eyes peeled for my beloved klub and one day came across a prepackaged grocery store variety.  We were less than impressed so when I arrived home, my godmother graciously offered to teach my Mom & I how to make it.  The recipe is not particularly complicated but there is definitely a method one must learn.

The version I'm familiar with is basically shredded potato and flour mixed together with a piece of ham in the centre and then simmered in ham juice for several hours.  We serve it with butter, salt & pepper.  (Sort of similar to a perogy but much more dense.)

It was just as delicious as I remembered it and maybe, just maybe, I'll attempt to make it on my own one rainy, Norwegian day.


Monday 13 August 2012

via as shared by Jess

I was born and raised in Saskatchewan.  

("The Flat Part in the Middle" above.)

Yes, Saskatchewan is flat.  Very flat and where I'm from, bare too.  The joke is, and we're at the end of many jokes, that you can watch your dog run away for a week.  It's probably true.

While the vast prairies might make for a boring drive for many, it actually is quite beautiful; Field upon field of grain, uninterrupted sky that stretches for miles, and gorgeous sunsets.

I love how friendly the people are, waving to complete strangers while passing on a dirt road, the small town feel no matter where you are in the province and being able to gaze into the distance as far as the eye can see without anything obstructing the view.  

So Long Canada!

Friday 10 August 2012

After 2.5 weeks in Canada, it's time to return to Norway.

As usual, I've revelled in food, caesars and family and while I've had a blast, I'm ready to get back to Stavanger, see my husband and settle in to our new home for a second time!

I couldn't help but share a couple more photos of my adorable, 2.5 year old niece, Kyptin.

My mom brought out some watermelon at dinner one night and when Kyptin saw it, she exclaimed in a big voice,"Oh, you have got to be kidding me?!"

That kid cracks me up.

Until Christmas Canada...


Wednesday 8 August 2012

Somewhere near Jasper, Alberta - Summer 2007

As an expat, I carry a lot of guilt

We regularly miss weddings, birthdays, births, get togethers, family dinners & holidays and while it's a side effect of living so far away, I still feel guilty about it.

On top of that, I only travel back to Canada once or twice a year.  Of course, we want to make the most of our time when we're home and while we'd love to see everyone, it's just not possible.  The moment a trip home is announced, the invites and questions start coming...

Will you be in __________?

Can you make a trip to see us?

So & so is having a get together, do you think you could come?

Will we get to see you?

And the guilt continues.  

Coming home turns into a marathon.  Flying 16+ hours, jumping in a car and driving multiple hours, jet lag, visiting, stocking up on anything we might need in the next year, appointments and not to mention, this is supposed to be a holiday!  It all starts to get a little overwhelming.

Last summer I spent my entire trip making trips.  It was 2 months loading my suitcase from car to plane to car and while I was happy to see so many people, I was exhausted.  (And broke!)  This time I took a different stance.  Instead of me doing the traveling, I went directly to my parents house and stayed put.  Everyone was welcome to come and visit and if they didn't, no hard feelings.

While I still feel a bit guilty, at least I'm not exhausted too.

How do you manage your trips home?

(By the way, this post struck a cord with fellow expat blogger Travelling Tonito and he's made some big changes.  Read about them here!)

Updates & Decisions

Monday 6 August 2012

The last month has been hard.  

Almost a roller coaster of sorts.  

Falling in love with Stavanger - told we might have to leave.  Hearing we are leaving - mentally preparing for the 'new' place - learning all hope on Norway was not lost.

Every week we were told we would have a decision only to come to Friday and be told we'd get the decision the following week.  It was frustrating so I escaped to Canada.  Perhaps I should have done that weeks ago because the decision came fairly quickly after I left...

We're staying in Norway!

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for all of your positive thoughts, finger crosses and well wishes.  I'm certain they played a part in this decision.

I'm so excited to return to Stavanger knowing we can finally call it home!

A Day at the Fair

Thursday 2 August 2012

As I previously mentioned, I'm at home in Canada and one of the things I was looking forward to most was spending a bit of time with my niece, Kyptin.  She's a very precocious 2.5 year old and I haven't seen her in an entire year, not including skype calls of course.

So, my parents and I took a trip to Medicine Hat, Alberta for the weekend and the fair happened to be in town.  We did the rides, played the games and indulged in all of those oh-so-delicious but oh-so-terrible-for-you-foods.  (What better of a place for an Auntie to take her one and only niece?)

Yup, she's pretty adorable.

My sister and Kyptin are coming to my parent's house this weekend and I'm sure she'll have us in fits of laughter all weekend long!

(I also got to test out my brand new Rebel t4i, my first foray into SLR photography.  I'm pretty happy with the results! The above are all unedited.)

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