Avoiding grandma’s stare…

Since I first moved abroad in 1998, I have sometimes unwillingly taken a bit of time in between check-in’s with my family. However, if too much time has passed, I always receive a not-so-subtle message from my mother, requesting that I drop her a line ASAP that (1) I’m still alive, and (2) all my appendages are still intact enough to compose a brief letter home.

I’m expecting any day now to receive a similar message from my mother regarding photos of her grandson. It’ll read something along the lines of:

“It’s been too long, Marguerite, where are you hiding my adorable grandson?
Love, Mom.”

In order to preempt such a message, I hereby present the following recent photos to you all. There aren’t many, but they should reassure parents and grandparents everywhere that items both (1) and (2) above are indeed accurate.

And for those of you expecting some witty remarks more substantial than just photos, my apologies. I’ve been in a bit of a downward-facing funk lately and can’t seem to find the gumption to get anything down on paper. But the winds of change shift on a daily basis here at Casa Svendsen, so hopefully something will push through in the nearest future and get me back on track.

Until then….

Number 6

Although I personally believe my Top Five to be fairly comprehensive, I think I’d be doing a disservice to y’all if I didn’t add just one more tip for spotting a Norwegian in Gran Canaria.

Without a doubt, the presence and enjoyment of brown cheese will 100% undeniably indicate that a Norwegian is in the room.


Proceed with caution – coming in between a Nordman and his brown cheese can be dangerous!


How to spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria

After my last post, I received a lot of emails from people asking, “But Mommy Svendsen, how do you really know all those people passing you on the steps are Norwegians?”

(Okay – not really. Such popularity is only in my head. Nobody wrote and asked me anything. Moving on…)

Despite this self-imagined popularity, the question still remains – how exactly does one spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria? I mean, when people greet you, do you respond by saying, “hola” or “hello” or “heihei”? This is an important thing to know!

To answer this important-only-in-my-own-head riddle, I took it upon myself to spend a pleasant (i.e – “childless”) afternoon hour in downtown Arguineguin sipping cortados, people-watching and gathering my thoughts.

(Okay – not really. Arguineguin doesn’t have a downtown. Such grandness is only in my head. It’s more like of a small town’s main street. But I was childless for the hour, which is definitely something. Moving on…)

The result, outlined below, is now available free of charge for all my adoring fans and readers worldwide.

Top Five Ways to Spot a Norwegian in Gran Canaria:

1. SandwichesThis might sound like an odd way of spotting a Norwegian, but not once you’ve lived and breathed in Norway for a few years. After living there, you’d never do anything as crass as actually eat a sandwiches with your hands. No way! Norwegians eat their sandwiches, burgers, etc. with a fork and knife. Very civil-like. Take a look around the Arguineguin cafes, spot the clean-fingered sandwich eaters, and you’ll instantly know you’re among friends.

2. Backpacks – Look closely and you’ll notice these aren’t just any normal backpacks. These are the ubiquitous “Bergans of Norway” hiking backpacks, famous throughout Norway where every person lives and breathes the Great Outdoors. Bergans is so much a part of everyday life that you don’t ask if someone has their backpack or jacket before leaving the house. You ask if they have their Bergans. If you see someone with a Helly Hansen backpack, proceed with caution – their origin is questionable. But a Bergans? The answer is obvious.

3. Trekking poles – I know a lot of older people come to Gran Canaria during the European winter in order to defrost and enjoy the numerous hiking trails. That’s impressive, and I can respect that. Good for you for being 80 years old and regularly hiking up the side of a mountain for exercise. Bravo! But listen, do you really need your mountain-essential trekking poles while walking around the cement sidewalks of Arguineguin??? There must be some serious pedestrian perils I’m missing in my ignorant youth, but the older Norwegians among us  – they know better.

4. Ecco sandals – This one’s a bit tricky. The presence of these god-awful sandals doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve met a Norwegian. You may be amid Germans, or even a Dutchman. BUT! If those sandals are worn in combination with a Bergans backpack OR are worn by someone eating a sandwich with a fork and knife – breathe easy, my friend. You’ve definitely found yourself a Norwegian. However, beware if these sandals are worn with socks, especially black socks. In that case, no matter what the assumed nationality, do not stop and chat. Keep walking because you do not want to know this person.

5. White wine before noon – Norwegians, especially sea-faring ones, usually have rules about these things, like “no alcohol before noon.” Such rules keep many a drink-lovin’ Norwegian (my husband included) from succumbing to the seductive lure of alcoholism. But just as they sometimes forget their own national etiquette rules when abroad (like not helping stroller mommies, or shamelessly walking topless in public), Norwegians on holiday also love themselves a bit of liquid before lunch.

There’s a hierarchy to the liquid though, so be careful that you’re not mistaking a Norwegian with someone else. For example, if there’s beer in their glass, keep walking – they could be from anywhere… if there’s something dark in their glass like Canaria’s famous honey rum, then you’re getting closer – maybe you’ve met a Danish or a Finnish friend…. but if there’s white wine in their glass and the clock has yet to strike twelve, you’re in luck. Pull up a chair, order yourself a drink, and feel confident that you’ve entered some welcoming Norwegian territory.

So go ahead – with this essential information, you can wave and say “heihei!” to all the Norwegians in town without fear of being misunderstood! Bravo!

(Okay – not really. Norwegians don’t talk to strangers. Such an extroverted display of cheeriness from a real, live Norwegian would only happen in my head. Moving on….)

The Steps of Loma Dos

A few months ago, I briefly posted on the good and not-so-good parts of our temporary housing situation in Gran Canaria. We still have two months to decide if we’ll keep this house in Arguineguin or move elsewhere, but I think we’re feeling pretty settled where we are. And now that our shipment from Norway has arrived, I think the chances of us actually wanting to move again are fading with each box that’s opened and unpacked.

But there is one thing about our neighborhood with which I will never, ever make peace:

Welcome to The Steps of Loma Dos.

Our neighborhood is literally named “Two Hills,” which means that the town centre is downhill no matter which way you go. We’re at the top of the hill, the town is below us. The only way to get there is to conquer The Steps.

I’m sure that any normal (i.e. “non-mother”) reader in the audience is thinking “big deal.” But to those of us that know better, you know exactly where I’m going with this…

Steps + baby + baby carriage = Deciding to stay home

Maybe I was spoiled in Oslo, but steps were rarely an issue there. If there were steps, there was also a ramp. Easy-peasy. The only time I regularly confronted a difficult set of steps was getting on and off the city trams. But even then, there was usually a polite, kind-hearted fellow passenger offering to help with the stroller. (A side-note to the punk-ass teenage boys in Grunnerlokka who failed to assist me even when asked… Shame on you! Your mother would be so embarrassed if she knew…)

But not so in our little Loma Dos. No matter where you’re located in the neighborhood, you’ve got stairs separating you from your freshly-brewed cortado in town. So Per Christian and I bump up and down the stairs on a nearly-daily basis. And with our little 10-month meatloaf packing on the kilos, it gives Mommy quite a workout.

Here’s the thing I don’t quite understand… I get passed on the stairs on a regular basis by Norwegians who don’t stop to help. I’ve never been passed by a Spanish person, male or female, without them stopping for assistance. I just don’t get it – the same fellow countrymen and women who always help a stroller-wielding Mommy at home somehow come here and develop social amnesia. It’s as if they forget all sense of being decent, respectable Norwegians as soon as they take off their shirts and stroll topless in the streets.

Shame on you! Your children and grandchildren would be so embarrassed if they knew… Come on peoples, put your clothes back on and help a Mommy in need every once in a while!


However, seeing as how the rest of Europe is covered in a blanket of cold snow, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too loudly. After all, once we’re actually down the steps, the view is pretty fantastic…

Casa Svendsen a la Loma Dos is quickly getting booked up for the spring and summer season! So make your reservations early – special discounts apply for polite, stroller-assisting folk.

Two weeks in a nutshell

It’s been a busy few weeks for the Svendsen household, traveling to London and back, and then (finally!) receiving our furniture shipment from Norway. I find it incredibly ironic that all our cold weather winter gear arrived right after we made our trip to freezing London, but as my five-year-old niece likes to say, “c’est la vie….” (PS – don’t feel too bad if your own five-year-old doesn’t know French yet. We clearly have genius genes in our family.)

Amid all this chaos, our own little meatloaf has decided that pulling up on all types of furniture is a fun thing to try. Per Christian is moving so quickly now, I’ve had to switch my camera to the “Sport” setting to even try and catch him in action. He’s also had his first two days at his new barnehagen, with a few tears shed by us both. I finally decided on a small, local Spanish baby centre right across the street from us, and it seems like a good fit for the entire family.

And if that’s not enough already, he’s also starting to wave and babble something shockingly familiar to “bye-bye.” I’m now trying to convince him that – yes, he can say bye-bye to everyone he sees on the street and to anyone in his life, except for Mommy. Because Mommy will always be there. He will have no need for any other woman in his life, because Mommy will always be there. No bye-bye’s for Mommy, forever and ever and ever…

He seems a bit hesitant to absorb this critical information, but I think we’re making progress.

And now, a few recent photos for all the doting aunts, uncles, grandparents and farmor‘s in the audience: