Friday 28 September 2012


Yesterday the social worker came by for the third time. We talked about bread, Winterberg in Germany, France in general, moving to Norway and a little bit about what happened and how I felt about it now. And I must say: I feel okay. I have yet to dream about it (it will happen at some point, I know), but I can talk about it with some degree of distance. 

We will have one last meeting in November and then I will have to do it on my own. Well, with family, friends and colleagues that is! I must say I feel positive about the help I received, it certainly helped me get things in perspective a lot more. Your head can say all these things to you, but unless your heart says the same, you will get stuck at some point! And she helped me realise in my heart that my head was right. 

Thursday 27 September 2012


After seeing an episode of Doctor Who about Madame de Pompadour a few years ago, I so wanted to visit the Chateau de Versailles. Just over two years ago I got that chance when my parents had invited us all to spend a week with them near Paris. Me and my sister then went to Paris and to Versailles. And it didn't disappoint!

The one room that was completely over the top, was also the one room that was very very crowded. It was a shame really, but I guess they probably thought I was clogging up the space as much as I was thinking it about them! However, I still loved that room, perhaps because it was so over the top. It was of course the Hall of Mirrors. It was 'fancy' squared! Mind you, the whole place was over-fancy and it all screamed 'look at us having all the money'. And in some parts a bit amusement parky before its time!

This is my 38th entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Busy busy busy

I wouldn't want to live here! But I passed
through it on the way to the rally.
I wanted to get online this past week, but apart from last Friday (when I was off), it seems as if I have been working almost non-stop. Of course that was not the case, but I definitely made long hours! Starting early and coming back late, not even having the time to get my shopping in!

On Saturday there was some rally or other somewhere not close from home. Starting at 7am and finishing more than 12 hours later, I was not the happiest bunny! Because it seemed as if they had forgotten a little about us. Two of our colleagues were already close to home (an hour and a half's drive away), while me and another colleague were still waiting somewhere out in the sticks! After I climbed into the telephone however, things started moving and in the end we were able to leave.

On Sunday we had to drive for one of the biggest runs in the country: Dam to Dam, from Amsterdam to Zaandam. It's about 18km and we had to shuttle the athletes and the onlookers. This time however I made it back earlier than the rest because I had run out of driving hours! It was still late though. 

On Monday I was supposed to have an easy day, but of course it didn't turn out that way: instead of a morning run and an afternoon run, I now had a morning run, then another trip and then the afternoon run. By the time I got home I was fed up and in no mood to get online!

Yesterday was going to be another corker and it turned out to be exactly that. I must admit it wasn't the driving, because there wasn't too much of that, but the waiting can get quite draining at times as well! In the end I was very close to the maximum 15 hours working time I am allowed to do and felt completely pooped. I went to bed as soon as I got home!

The good thing though: today I only have an afternoon run of about 2 hours and then I have tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off! Joy!!!

K is for...


Kaliningrad is a town in Russia, but situated in a part of Russia between Lithuania and Poland. It used to be part of Prussia and was called Königsbergen until 1946. It lies on the Baltic Sea. But not only is it a town, it is also a naval vessel. And a fairly big one at that!
The name in Cyrillic writing
As I was at the Navy Days in the Netherlands this year, we saw this ship arriving and being moored. It's always amazing how they do that: the steering is somewhere at the back, which goes against all I believe in. Then again, they might be lousy at parallel parking a coach!
This is the letter K for ABC Wednesday. Why not join?

Thursday 20 September 2012


I could use park or woodland and even garden, so it wasn't that hard! As long as I found one that I liked that is...
One of the dreads of anybody having a garden is little critters thinking you've put up a buffet for them. And in my case I have. I have planted hostas especially for the snails and they love them, evidenced by the lack of leaves from the moment the leaves start to appear! Recently I saw one in action: turning the flowers of the hosta into his lunch! Munch munch...
This is my 37th entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Wednesday 19 September 2012

It all went so well...

Wuppie and his wonky ear
I was doing fantastic, posting nearly every day, having something to tell, you know, blogging business. And then it stopped. I mean, I still had stuff to tell, but for some reason I couldn't really be too bothered by telling them. I don't know why. But, here I am again, all fired up and ready to go, so I thought I would give you all a little update about everything.
First of all Norway of course. A lot of people have asked me how things are going on the Norwegian front (so to say) and the only answer I can give right now is 'slow'. They would get in touch with me within a couple of days, but I guess there days last longer! Never mind though, I hope to hear from them soon and in the mean time I work as much as I can to earn some extra money.
I saw this again, although this photo was taken two years ago
Work then. I have been doing a mixture of the 'boring' school run stuff and 'adventurous' long distance stuff and will continue to do so this week. Nice on the one hand because it keeps me busy, not so nice on the other, because I make long hours. Yesterday was a 14 1/2 hours day! Tomorrow will be another one like that!
The monsters. Well, they are doing fine. They want to go outside, but the weather has turned a bit and it is autumn now: rain, wind, cold and I am not looking forward to wet cat one bit! Wuppie has slowed down recently and Linette has been throwing up occasionally, so I have to keep my eye on both of them!
Me. Well, I am doing fine. Occasionally packing, although if you were to see my home, you wouldn't really think so: so much stuff, especially books are still out there and unpacked! But, as soon as I get more definitive news from Norway, I will call some moving companies to get the best deal and get lots and lots of boxes to fill!

J is for...

John Steele

John Steele was an American paratrooper who fought in Europe during the second world war. He was with the 82nd Airborne Division and was dropped from a plane on D-Day over the small French village of Ste-Mère-Église in Normandy. As bad luck would have it, that evening a fire had broken out in one of the bigger houses in the center and the Germans and the French were busy putting out that fire. So, when all of a sudden a lot of men come falling from the sky, the were quickly noticed and the firing started.
Some of the men landed in the countryside, others in the village, some were shot and some survived. John Steele? He got caught on the church steeple smack bang in the middle of the village. He got shot in the foot and decided his best chance of survival was playing dead and he hung on the steeple until the Germans got him down. Upon realising he was still alive, he became a prisoner of war and was locked up. However, he managed to escape and rejoin his division.
John Steele survived the war and passed away in 1969 of throat cancer, just a few weeks short of the 25th anniversary of D-Day.
This is the letter J for ABC Wednesday. Why not join?
Photo taken in March 2012 in Ste-Mère-Église, France

Thursday 13 September 2012


Well, it was a choice between him and her, but in the end I chose her. She is always good for a lovely photo and I especially love her eyes. Here she is in a neighbouring garden, just relaxing in the sun!
This is my 36th entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Wednesday 12 September 2012

I is for...

Ice Skating

It's been a few years since I last bound under the skates (this is a literal translation of the Dutch expression, before any of you start in on me about my bad grammar), but in the winter of 2012 I got the chance to take some photos of other people skating.

In early February it was cold, very cold. About minus twenty cold! Windscreen frozen on the inside and all that. But during the day the sun came out and it was quite pleasant to take a walk in the snow. Until we got to the lake. We had two options: return the way we came or go the long way round. I came up with option number three: go across the lake, it was frozen over!

As soon as we hit the lake, we realised we weren't the first ones: we could see tracks made by other people. And then we saw those other people, on skates, making skating tracks right next to their own footsteps. Since we knew the area they had walked on was safe, we followed their tracks and made it safely across the lake. Only slipping a few times...

This is the letter I for ABC Wednesday. Why not join?

Sunday 9 September 2012

Fish and potato

In the thirteen and a half years I have lived in this town, I have never gotten my free fries, available one day a year during the spud festival. Usually because I am working and thus was the case yesterday as well: work.
And the thing I had to do was the fish-potato run. An annual run/race from the village of Urk (which lives of the fish) to the town of Emmeloord (which sets the Dutch potato price) of 12,8km (8 miles). Fortunately though I didn't have to run it (it was way too hot for that), but I drove the runners to Urk. My second run was to the half-way point where I would have to wait until everybody had passed and then take any stragglers, injured, tired and so forth on the bus and take them back. Despite the temperature I only had two giver-uppers, but I did see everybody fly, run and struggle past.
Of course I hadn't taken my camera with me and so I didn't get any photos. But the winner was some small black dude from Kenya who was so fast I never would have gotten the chance to take a proper photo anyway! I found a photo online and even the professional had trouble!
Now to stay with the spirit of the race and the name, everybody who finished got some fish and a sack of potatoes. Plus a gold medal of course for the winner!

Friday 7 September 2012

On the lookout!

 Watching the world go by from the safety of my garden.

Thursday 6 September 2012


The subline with this week's prompt was: anything you think, is or looks. So basically I have the pick of the lot. Which of course makes it harder to pick! Because do I pick a wonderful photo of one of my travels, or do I pick a wonderful photo of my wonderful family? In the end I went for a photo taken in Ireland, way back in 2005. I took it along with hundreds of other photos that I thought were lost forever, so it is doubly wonderful: one that I found them again, and two that it is so beautiful.
This is of course a photo of the Cliffs of Moher. And those cliffs are the end bit of the Burren, a beautiful landscape in the West of Ireland. Most of the time you don't have to wait long before the fog or the clouds lift and you have a fantastic view of the cliffs and perhaps even of the Aran Islands, which are a bit further out in the Atlantic.
This is my 35th entry for Photo Theme for Thursday. Why not join?

Wednesday 5 September 2012


He is used to waiting I guess
I knew it would take time to hear from Norway again regarding the interview I had. But once you've had an interview, you want the result immediately. You don't want to wait. I had spoken to my boss last week and he said he hadn't heard from Norway yet and I hadn't heard anything either. My friend C told me I would, be patient, don't worry. BUT THEY STILL DIDN'T GET IN TOUCH!! (This is me being very very impatient)
Ah well, they did today. As you may remember I had an interview and a test-drive in Bergen. However, the Bergen branch had all the staff they needed and I would end up on a waiting list. There were also branches in Trondheim and Haugesund and after a quick call to the latter, it turned out they did need people. (Yes, yes, I am getting on with it, don't worry)
So, what did they say? Here's the translation:
Hey Mara,

Thanks for the nice meeting in Bergen on Friday 24 august and subsequent test drive with L. I have just sent your papers on to Haugesund c/o A and she will contact you sometime during the next few days. I hope you can agree on further progress.

Good luck further.


H is for...


The Hansa is an old organisation which allowed trading between towns in different countries. You can compare it a little with the current EU, which basically allows the same nowadays. Originally it was a purely German thing: only German towns and cities were dealing with each other. After a while Dutch and Belgian towns were to join, as well as towns in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland and the Baltic states and at its high point there were Hanseatic offices as far away as Novgorod (Russia), Bergen (Norway), Bruges and later Antwerp (Belgium) and London (England). The only one remaining today is the one in Bergen.  
The main commodity dealt with in Bergen was fish from the North of the country (Lofoten) in exchange for grain. The reason why Bergen was chosen instead of a place further north had several reasons: the weather probably being part of it, but mainly it was that the Norwegians didn't want those Germans any further up than they needed to be.
The office in Bergen was manned by Germans and Germans only. One after the other the houses of the Bryggen quarter were bought and in the end, the whole area was German. On top of that: no women were allowed. The so-called 'women's jobs' were done by apprentices, some as young as 13 who came from good middle class families back in Germany. Men were not allowed to be married either. You worked for the Hansa and after several years you went back to Germany, with money obviously, found a wife and started a family.
This is the letter H for ABC Wednesday. Why not join?

Tuesday 4 September 2012


Flesland Airport, Bergen
It has been over three weeks since the 'thing' happened and I am coming to grips with it. Through the help of family, friends, colleagues and a social worker and of course through time. However, it wasn't all bad what happened that day and I want to tell you of a little thing.
The police station was old and dirty and these were the actual words of the front desk policeman! Well, he said them in French, but you know what I mean. Anyway, old and dirty and some things just weren't working any more. There were two toilets: a proper sit-down one and one that was just the old French favourite: a hole in the ground. One was out of order and fortunately it was the hole in the ground.
During that day I had to visit the toilet on several occasions, water and stress just have that result you know. And then on one of my visits I saw a sign on the door: 'As by order of the commanding officer (I guess), this toilet is reserved for Mrs J' (again in French of course). That was me! But, the other toilet was not working!
Schotstue, Bryggen, Bergen
When my boss and colleague arrived from the Netherlands, they needed to go too and they were then told: go outside! By the police!! They didn't really know where to look or what to think and actually thought the police were joking! Which they weren't, since I had the toilet all to myself! And my boss and colleague ànd the police themselves, needed to find an alternative place.
I would have liked a photo of that sign, since I do collect those, but in the end I decided I wouldn't. Not worth the hassle!

Monday 3 September 2012

In the dark

A market stand. In Bergen, Norway!
I was a bit nervous on Saturday morning while I was waiting for my colleague to pick me up. It was very early in the morning (and I mean very early) and it was still dark out. It would be my first day back at work and it would start and finish in the dark.
First of all we had to drive (I was in the driving seat) to where the coaches were: about an hour away, there we would pick up our coaches and a third (local) driver and start the job. By that time morning had broken and it became lighter and lighter outside. I got all my people on board and when the other two also had their people we left: three coaches in a row with me in the middle.
An old iron heater from Bergen.
We were going all the way to the north of France, to Lille to be precise, to drop the people off at a massive jumble, junk and antiques market. This market is an annual event and takes place all over Lille! I only saw two streets of the whole thing and was exhausted by the amount of junk people were trying to sell. There were a lot of little food stands as well, selling everything from chicken to sausages to corn on the cob to cakes. We didn't partake in any of that though, partly because it didn't all look that enticing, partly because we didn't always trust it (although I saw fridges at many stands, I guess the French don't want a massive salmonella outbreak either).
Trolls and vikings in Bergen
We left long before the market finished, but that was fairly easy: the market would go on through the night and then the Sunday as well! When we left however, dusk was starting to set in and while driving through Belgium, it became properly dark again.
My verdict of the day? Well, the people on the bus thought I was a good driver and felt I had done a pretty good job. Me? I thought it went really well, also thanks to my two colleagues. Tomorrow however I will have to do it on my own. Another dark start.
Guess what? Norway!
I am back at work!

Saturday 1 September 2012

The thing about Norwegian

I wonder if he miaows in Nynorsk or Bokmal
So, Norwegian! Just in case you forgot: in Norway they have two official languages. They are called Bokmal (the book language) and Nynorsk (New Norse). Since Norway had belonged to other countries for so long, especially Denmark, the official language was Danish. After their independence (from Sweden by the way) in 1905, they needed a radical change in language and they decided to keep the Danish, but adapt it to Bokmal (mostly spoken in the Oslo region). Even today it is quite easy to read Danish if you know Norwegian, because apart from some of the spelling, it's largely the same. Until you start talking that is and that's where it differs a great deal. Danish sounds like a sort of lazy Norwegian, at least that is the best I can explain.
Nynorsk is the other official language of the country. It is based on the dialects of the countryside. Most of the grammar is similar to bokmal and most of the spelling as well, with a few notable differences. If in bokmal a word ends in -er, it will most likely end in -ar in nynorsk. Not always though, because that would be too easy. But, since the country is so long and especially in the olden days, villages would be so remote, basically every village has their own version of nynorsk. Spelling, pronounciation, the lot. Which makes it very difficult for an unsuspecting blue eyed girl from the Netherlands. I must admit though: it became quite a sport for me to read the subtitles for English/American series and even Danish and Swedish documentaries. Would I understand?
Well, I am glad to say, I did manage to understand quite a bit. Especially if it was written down. But even when it was spoken I did get it. Not straight from the start admittedly, I would need a couple of minutes to just get used to the accent and the dialect and the intonation and so forth. And I will not claim to then having understood everything either, perhaps about 75%, but I think that is still fairly okay.
The thing to do now is learn more words and incorporate them into my language. And hopefully I will get the chance to speak again soon and try and try and learn and learn.
PS: there is a third official language in Norway which is Sami, a language spoken in the North of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia by the Sami (or Laps), however, there is no way I am going to be learning that!