You know how in the US ice cream trucks come around in the summer, when it’s warm? Yeah, not in Norway. This guy kept ringing his bell up and down our street and finally parked directly outside my window, just tempting me to buy some ice cream in -1° weather. Mind you, I totally would have, if I hadn’t already given up sugar for Lent :]

First Impressions

Finally in Oslo! After running across an airport to catch a connecting flight and waiting in Oslo airport for four hours trying to find my missing luggage, it’s good to be in this little room that is my home for the next 6 months. First impression of Norway? Lots of snow! There was so much on the tarmac when we landed I was so excited! Oslo Airport is beautiful and modern, all wood, concrete and glass. And apparently everyone, or most people anyway, don’t actually realize that it’s like 19 degrees outside with 5 inches of snow. 

No one wears coats. When I was waiting for my luggage, there was a man literally just wearing jeans and a short sleeve t shirt. Everyone seems impervious to the cold, and prefers a scarf or a light jacket to the warm down coat I wear. Oh well, maybe I’ll get used to the cold like everyone else? 

Today, I experienced culture shock for the first time. Back home, I have a membership at two gyms, one at school and one in my hometown. School gym is open until Midnight everyday and the gym at home is a 24/7 365 that never ever ever closes. So I decide that 17:00 is a good time to go down to the gym. I pull on my spandex pants, running shoes, throw on a t shirt and walk out into the -10° with the beautiful snow falling fast. Bus comes right on time- on my way to an excellent workout. Arrive at the gym ten minutes later in the dark. Walk through a whole bunch of snow in my ventilated running shoes to find the hours on the door: only open until 16:00 on Saturdays. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself and my expectation that businesses must be open late here. At least I got a nice brisk walk home as exercise :]

Banana Pancakes

I’m so proud of myself! This morning, I was reallllly craving pancakes but obviously I don’t have the typical ingredients available to make them. I found this interesting paleo recipe for pancakes on a blog I follow and decided to try it. They were delicious! the recipe is as follows:

1 banana 

1 egg

few dashes of cinnamon

Mash the banana until it’s rather smooth, mix in the cinnamon, add the egg and you have a super yum pancake batter! Sure, it tastes a bit like bananas (obviously) but easily masked by any toppings you may add. I covered mine in Nutella and they were super yum! So happy I stumbled across the recipe :]


SO the picture looks gross, but trust me, super yum :D

Spring Break Part Four

Our first official day in Rome!

We woke up early to get the most out of our day. I managed to get in a quick workout while Claire was getting ready, which put the morning off to a great start!

The plan for that day was to go visit my university, The John Felice Rome Center, on the opposite side of Rome. we grabbed our transit passes and hustled out the door before 9, making great time! A subway, bus ride and short walk later, we were at the front gate of the jforce. I was beyond excited to be back on campus; it’s such a beautiful and peaceful slice of suburban Rome. Unfortunately, I’m notoriously bad at taking pictures and didn’t take any of the campus when I was a student there and just realized I didn’t take a single picture this time either. woops.

We were buzzed in at the front gate and went to the porter’s desk to check in as visitors. I instantly recognized the porter on duty and waited to see if she would recognize me. Last year, I had extremely short hair, with the back shaved, super short sideburns and barely an inch on top. At the moment, I’m trying to grow it out, so it’s about 5 inches long and all pushed back with a headband, entirely different from how I used to look. When she looked up, she did a little double take and recognized me! It was great to briefly catch up with her while we got our visitor’s passes.

After signing in, we headed downstairs to the library to see my friend from Chicago who studied abroad this semester. When I turned the corner, Sarah looked up, jumped out of her chair and we were hugging within seconds. I had no idea how much I missed my friends and Chicago until we were both hugging and crying. It felt so good to see someone from home! We left Sarah in the library after visiting for a bit and headed downstairs to the second basement which houses the school’s cafe. My RA from last year was sitting with her mum a friend and some of the faculty from the school. At first she didn’t recognize me, but then shouted “oh my god Rachael your hair is so long!” and came over for a big hug! It was so great! 

We ended up sitting with her group for about an hour, munching on cornetti and sipping our cappuccini. I’ll admit, I took a cornetto to go, and Claire grabbed another ciambella as well. Italian pastries are my kryptonite! :]

From the JFRC, we headed to the Vatican. I adore Vatican City. It is so beautiful and I love to think of all of the historical and political events that have happened there throughout time. I am always so humbled whenever I stand in St. Peter’s Square and just look at the amazing architecture that surrounds me. 

After the Vatican, we headed out on foot along the river, passing Castel Sant’Angelo and walking up to Piazza Cavour. We hopped on a bus, rode it up to Piazza del Poppolo and took a few minutes to just people watch and take in the beautiful square with it’s massive fountain and carvings. Claire even jumped on one of the lion statues :]

We started to walked down Via del Corso, the main shopping street in Rome. We stopped in all of my favorite shops, as well as some new ones that had popped up in the last year (Ascot?) We turned down Via Condotti, the street lined with Gucci, Prada, Burberry and every other label imaginable. It’s such a beautiful street and it leads directly to Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps! We were a little hungry at this point, so we decided to hit up the “fancy” McDonald’s to the side of the Spanish Steps. This particular McDo tries to blend in to it’s surroundings and does a pretty good job. It’s covered in marble and mosaic tiles, and it’s winding corridors and stairs are very Roman:p Typically, I refuse to eat at McDonald’s; but in Europe I always make the exception because the menu is always just a tiny bit different, and when in Rome right? We each ordered a chocolate dipped cone (not very adventurous) and headed to the steps to people watch and eat our cones.

Last week, I decided to find a new place to explore on my cross country skis because the season will be ending soon and I like a little bit of adventure in my life :p I decided Maridalsvannet would be the ideal location for a new ski route. It is a large lake to the northwest of my apartment, about a 20 minute bus ride to the nearest stop. To be honest, I didn’t really look for proper directions to the actual lake because where’s the adventure in that, right?

I got off the bus at a stop in an unfamiliar area but highly populated. Not sure which direction to turn, I just kind of stood there, looking for something that would clue me in to the direction of the lake. There really wasn’t anything so I decided to jsut go left and see where I ended up. As I was walking I noticed a small footpath through the mounds of snow off ot the side of the road. Of course I decided to go down it and wow it was a huge hill. Not the easiest thing to navigate when carrying skis, a backpack and wearing super non grippy cross country ski boots. Not to mention the lobely layer of ice that had formed on top of all of the snow. Yay adventuring.

I very gracefully slipped down the hill and almost ran into a man on the path at the bottom. He was the cutest thing ever. He had to be at least 78-80 years old and his backpack was way cooler than mine (mine being the super neato HP laptop backpack thing I found in the attic. Read: FREE). He was wearing his little hiking boots, a baseball cap with some town name scrawled across the front and a giant super non-stereotypical Norwegian smile on his face. And he didn’t speak a word of English. Score!

I did that awkward thing all of us exchange students do when we encounter someone who speaks Norwegian to us: give em the weird, deer-in-the-headligts stare and jsut stand there silently praying for English. Well, no English was to be had this day. I stumbled over the phrase “Hvor er Maridalsvannet?” He face lit up and he started rambling in Norwegian. Again the blank stare. At that point, he did the cutest thing ever: started walking, looked back at me and just gestured in a way that meant “oh jsut follow me.” Ok.

We ended up walking together for 30 minutes along this trail. We tried small talk with the limited amount of Norwegian I can manage. I’m proud to say he smiled and nodded when I pronounced Oslo with the Oslo dialect (Ooshlow) and after that we basically became besties for the next half hour. 

Once we reached the lake, which is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, he simply said “Ver så god” (which ps is pronounced vashehgoo- hardest thing ever) or you’re welcome, and proceeded to back track the 30 minute walk we just did. WHAT. Kindest stranger ever! He literally walked me all the way to the lake, told me about the trails (I nodded along as if I knew what he was saying- definitely didn’t) and then went back the absolute opposite direction. 

So basically, this whole long story is just to say Norwegians are super duper awesomely helpful always. I love them. I love this. I love Norway.

me trying to point to the KaDeWe (kahdayvey), the world’s coolest place to buy everything ever. Seriously, I bought a tooth shaped cookie cutter and a sticker with the walk/don’t walk symbols on it. Where else can you find things that random? And yes, that is some sort of German doughy delightfulness in my hand :]