Word-of-the-day

Learning a new language in your 30’s is kind of like walking through a minefield. You tip-toe your way around new words and try to navigate them into full sentences. Then you finally get up the nerve to speak them aloud in public, only to retreat back to the security of your own native language as soon as your fledgling skills are critiqued. I had one experience in Oslo where I shamefully mixed up the Norwegian words “titte” (to look around) and “tisse” (to pee) in a clothing store when asked by the assistant if she could help me with anything.

It’s a minefield, folks, I’m telling ‘ya….

And now I’m trying to mix Spanish into my English-Russian-Norwegian head of languages.

I have an email subscription to an online “Word-of-the-Day” service. It’s pretty self-explanatory – every day I get one new word in my Inbox with an example of it used in a sentence. I started this service a while ago to keep my head in the Russian language game. And when I found out we were moving to Gran Canaria, I signed up for another daily email with Spanish words.

It sounds simple enough, but sometimes I wonder who’s sitting behind the green curtain and churning out these emails for the language service. Some of the words and phrases I receive are so arbitrary, I think they must be written just to see if anyone’s actually paying attention. It’s almost like the writers are sitting on the sidelines, just waiting to roll on the floor with laughter when one of us gullible schmucks actually uses some of the words they send out.

A few Spanish examples:

  1. ir a tascas : to go bar-hopping, as in “Come bar-hopping with me tonight.
  2. emborracharse : to get drunk, as in “I got drunk last night after bar-hopping.
  3. azuzar los perros (a alguien) : to set the dogs (on someone), as in “Stay out of my orchard or I’ll set the dogs on you!

And I’m not even kidding – this is what appeared from my Spanish word-of-the-day service on consecutive days last week. So, I’m assuming that in Spain it’s best to stay out of people’s orchards after getting drunk while bar-hopping.

Good to know, thanks.

Compare that to what I’ve received on the Russian side (apologies to the non-Cyrillic readers out there):

  1. боль : pain, as in “No pain, no gain.
  2. хрустящий : crispy, as in “I like pickles when they are crispy.
  3. печень : liver, as in “Vodka can be harmful to the liver.”

Hmmmm….Now, anyone who’s been to Russia for any length of time knows that vodka goes quite naturally with crispy pickles, all of which can create pain and be harmful to your liver. So, I’m assuming the writers want me to understand that in Russia, consuming alcohol and pickles and letting your liver rot is all worth it in the end because, duh – no pain, no gain.

Also good to know. Thanks again.

The moral of this story is that language learning is a minefield folks, and that apparently I’m in need of a new word-of-the-day email service.

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Exploring the island: Agaete

This weekend, quite by accident, Per and I discovered Gran Canaria’s answer to the Amalfi coast. If any readers were present at the 2010 Svendsen wedding, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to… a beautify, twisty road along the Italian coast, with cliffs to one side and a steep drop to the water on your other side.

On Saturday, we drove north into the mountains, and then took a sharp left to find the coastal road to Agaete we had heard a bit about.

We were not disappointed.

Per Christian surely won’t remember anything about the trip, except perhaps the fabulous new teething biscuits he’s fallen in love with…

There’s definitely a lot more to the island than sun-bathing at the tourist resorts! Hopefully we’ll have plenty of chances to get out and explore some of the lesser-known sights over the coming months.

I hope you all had a great weekend also!

Baby travel tips

Per Christian just passed nine months. During my usual routine of overly-emotional reflection, I realized that this kid has traveled more in his first nine months than I did my entire life before college.

Wow. The times, they are a-changin’!

That’s a lot of airline miles and a lot of lessons learned the hard way. I decided that – finally! – perhaps I do actually have a bit of baby-related wisdom to share.

So I started a new page of this blog to document some advice, entitled “Baby travel: Tips for Survival.” My hope is that other tried & true parents more experienced than myself can add to the list with your own insights. Maybe it’ll be helpful to someone in the blogosphere world or maybe not – either way it’s public information now.

With that, I leave you with the latest milestone achieved here in the Svendsen household (please ignore the trash bags in the background, it was New Year’s day so mommy & pappa had a lazy prosecco morning….):

Ta da!!!! He’s so proud of himself….

 

Cleaning out the cobwebs

I suppose everyone disappears over the holidays, and this blog was no exception. My apologies to those readers sitting on the edge of their chairs, eagerly anticipating blog updates. If you do indeed exist, please forgive my absence.

I was traveling with our meatloaf from December 3 until the 28th, a trip that included Ireland, South Carolina and finally Disney World. (… admit it – you’re all picturing a crazy bag lady at the airport, holding up security lines with a stale meatloaf wrapped in saran wrap and mumbling incoherently…)

It was a great holiday in many ways, most of all because our little Per Christian got to meet and play with his cousins for the first time. He spent intense hours examining the inner workings of the laundry room with his cousin Thomas, and he finally discovered someone that spoke his own language with my niece, Emily. (Mommy of course stood on the sidelines with overly-emotional tears in her eyes, which is about normal these days.)

We then returned to the Island and had a quiet New Year’s Eve with multiple bottles of bubbly. Too many bottles actually, but that’s about normal these days as well.

We did our usual year-end reflection as the fireworks went off, recalling all the good times in the year that brought us our son. And I realized – selfishly, of course – that I am so happy that 2011 is over. This was a hard year, folks, the hardest of my life. I won’t lie to you, there were days (and looooong nights) when I wished I could jump ship and run away. I am self-admittedly NOT a baby person; I do much better with someone I can boss around and who does what I want. I love my son beyond belief, but I do not miss those early baby days for one second. And I’m leaving them all in the past with the turning of the clock.

2012 will be the year I get myself back. This will be the year that Per Christian takes his first steps, spends his first day in the kindergarten and celebrates his first birthday. I’ve paid my dues and gotten him this far, now I get to sit back (relatively speaking, of course) and watch him grow. This is the year I get to figure out what the f#$@ to do with myself here in Gran Canaria, the year I get my body back into pre-baby shape, and the year I can put myself first for the first time in over 18 months (relatively speaking, of course…).

So good riddance 2011! You brought me the best of times and the worst of times. Now I’m ready to re-even the score.

Enjoy the photos below from our holiday travels. I wish everyone a happy 2012!

Nature vs. Nurture: Is beach snobbery genetic?

After three weeks in Gran Canaria, the Svendsen family finally hit the beach.

It was NOT a huge success.

Per Christian isn’t a stranger to water. He’s been swimming in Greece, he’s been sailing in Norway, and he’s been in the pool for several baby-swimming classes.

But the poor chap didn’t care much for the crowed beach of Amadores this weekend. Being packed like sardines in the sand is apparently not his idea of a good time. I wasn’t heartless (or resourceful) enough to snap photos of his misery, but rest assured he looked something like this for the entire 20 minutes we were there:

To be quite honest, his parents agree. Call us beach snobs if you will, but crowds, heat and sand do not mix well in our opinion. Apparently Per Christian inherited those genes, which is just fine with us.

So we gave up the beach and went in search of something else. We passed by all the obnoxious boardwalk restaurants where waiters hustle the tourists with cheap beer and cheaper food. That’s also not our thing.

We finally stumbled upon the Amadores Beach Club. And then Momma, Pappa and little Per Christian lived happily ever after….

Later that afternoon, we created our own little exclusive beach club at Casa Svendsen. Baby nudity is allowed and in fact encouraged here, but I’ve been informed that those photos are not for public consumption:

We also made our first venture into Las Palmas this weekend. We only checked out a tiny portion of it for now, reminding ourselves that we actually live here and don’t have to absorb everything in one trip. So more on that another time.

Per Christian also started his Spanish lessons, which so far consist of tearing pages out of mommy’s Spanish dictionary. We’ll keep you updated on his progress.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

CFM

I have a certain personality trait that everyone around me has always known. Everyone except myself, that is, until recently.

I’m a 100% type-A outta-control Control Freak.

That’s me. And, as I repeat daily to my husband, you have to love ALL of me…

So all you punks out there reading this and thinking “duh…..,” I have to admit that this really is a recent revelation for me. Maybe part of me still imagined myself barefoot in the rain at yoga camp. Or maybe since I’ve lived in six countries over the last 12 years I still imaged myself as some peaceful vagabond hippie-type. Or maybe since my hair is curly I thought my personality naturally followed suit.

But then I became a mommy, and all those assumptions came smack up against reality. Because the truth is, when it comes right down to it, I much rather prefer order, precision and cleanliness to spontaneity and clutter.

This is not necessarily a desirable trait for a mother of a seven-month-old baby boy.

I really do wish I were one of those ultra-cool, ultra-relaxed Earth mommies I see everywhere, sipping coffee calmly in the café while their little angels sleep soundly in their strollers. But that’s just not been my experience thus far. For better or for worse, I’m the mommy giving her little one his bottles at precisely 08.00, 12.00 and 18.00, plus feeding him puréed fruit/veg/porridge mush at precisely 09.00, 13.00 and 16.00.

If we’re late, I get nervous. If Per Christian is still sleeping, I start pacing the floors. If we’re out and about and there’s no suitable feeding area nearby, I start to panic. I literally start to crawl out of my skin when a feeding time approaches and something gets in the way.

Per Christian probably couldn’t care less – I’ve never once heard this kid cry out of hunger, even when he was a newborn. I always jumped up and popped him onto my boob before we got to an actual cry. In fact, I don’t even know what his “hunger cry” sounds like.

So now – picture this Control Freak Mommy in a foreign country on her first major pantry-stocking shopping trip. This is an always an important event in any country you move to, both as an interesting adventure to see what new goodies might be available and, at the same time, as a potential nightmare if you are a CFM like me.

Imagine this scenario…. I’ve been advised to start PC on chicken and fish at 7 months of age. That’s in two days. Not before, not after (see how the CFM already rears her ugly head???).

So we’re at the ginormous Carrefour in Canary and I’m looking for boneless chicken breasts for his first real meat-lovers meal. It’s getting close to 16.00 (see timetable above), we still have 17 aisles of grocery store madness to cover, and I can’t find the f*cking chicken breasts.

I start to panic.

I’m thinking: “My son needs to start eating chicken in exactly two days and I can’t find the right stuff. I’m a horrible mother!!! I can’t feed my son properly!!! He will remember pangs of hunger caused by lack of chicken in his diet, and he’ll have to cope with his mother’s negligence during his therapy sessions in 20 years!

Of course, I couldn’t actually vocalize all of that intelligently in the middle of Carrefour. So what I did instead was give my husband the shock of his life when he turned around in the deli section and confronted a CFM rocking back and forth with a tear-stained and utterly distressed look on her face.

I’m not kidding, folks. I cried over chicken breasts.

I’m so lucky to have the husband I have because he immediately hugged me, discovered the trigger point of my CFM madness, and made me see the humor in the entire situation.

And then we both laughed, and we did actually find the chicken breasts.

On the way home, I realized I might potentially be a 100% type-A outta-control Control Freak. Or maybe I’m just a a mother of a seven-month-old baby boy.

You decide.

Punks.

Transitions

If you’re a regular follower of P&P or in any way connected to the Svendsen family, then you know we’ve just relocated from Oslo, Norway to Grand Canary, Spain. We’ve apparently moved at the perfect time – right before the fall chill and rain really settled in Oslo, and several months before the heavy-duty heat hits us here.

The moving company came last Thursday to pack and ship all 78 (yes, 78!!!) boxes of personal items. We also gave away about three carloads full of stuff, so I honestly have no idea what’s left in those 78 boxes. Clearly, it’s Per Christian’s fault we can no longer travel with two suitcases each.

The golden child was a huge hit on our SAS flight from Oslo-Las Palmas, and I don’t only say that because he’s my son and therefore perfect in every way. I mean that he was a serious entertainer, thriving on attention from strangers and really hamming it up for their enjoyment. There were numerous occasions when, right before complete overtired-meltdown-time arrived, a flight attendant would walk past us and goo-goo over our son, thereby renewing his will to live for another few moments.

I don’t know where he inherited these social skills. Really, it’s a mystery folks….

Now that we’ve landed, our first task is of course to find housing. That’s apparently a tricky situation in our southern part of the island, where retirees from all over Europe spend their winter months. We’ve been told that the best housing gems were snagged several months ago, leaving us with very few leftovers to pick through.

So, we have temporary housing at the moment, something we’re “test driving” for a week to see if we’d like to rent it long-term. It’s an okay option for us but of course not perfect. The positives include the huge terrace, the sea views, the great light and the simple interior. The downsides are the miniscule kitchen, the cheap IKEA outfitting and the large staircases separating us from the town’s center (definitely not a stroller-friendly option). We’d also prefer to have an additional bedroom for all the guests we expect to visit… So which is more important – the terrace and sea view, or the third bedroom and larger kitchen?

Decisions, decisions…

Our local town of Arguineguin is definitely different from I expected. It’s more residential than the tourist centers of Puerto Rico and Maspalomas, so there’s a greater range of local life within reach here. At the same time, it’s also where the majority of Norwegian residents spend their winter months. I kid you not – there are 11,000 Norwegians on the island and most of them live in our backyard. The local SPAR store sells our must-have Mills mayonnaise and Friele coffee (if you can suck up the 7 EUR price tag), and the coffee shop sells the daily edition of Norway’s VG newspaper.

So we have a mini-Norway here in Spain… the jury is still out on how we’re going to like that over the next few years.

We met our Norwegian neighbors on the very first evening – one invited us over for drinks and the other invited us to hire her 13-year-old daughters as babysitters. I’m still shocked at this behavior, and here’s why – I lived for three years in Norway and never once met any of my neighbors. Apparently, Norwegians in the tropics are a different breed than in the homeland, more inclined to chat over their fences or rent out their children to newly-arrived strangers.

Per Christian seems to be adapting well to the change – in fact, I don’t even think he notices the difference. I’m sure he loves the absence of the “lua” (winter hat) he was made to endure in Oslo, and he has a lot more space in the main room for his coming-and-going’s. His recent achievements include semi-skilled push-ups, downward dog yoga poses and full 360 degree belly rotations. He’s clearly getting frustrated by his little body’s limitations, so I think his movements are going to get wider and wilder by the day now.

So, in short, the Svendsen family is transitioning pretty well thus far. We won’t have internet in the house until next week, so updates to P&P may be irregular in the nearest future. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some photos of our trip south and our current house.

All you potential visitors out there, feel free to comment below — should we stay here or keep looking???

Some photos from the plane ride to Grand Canary:

Views from our current house, Calle Nayra 83:

Time-lapse photography of Per Christian’s full belly rotation:

Brain fail #1,269

As both my father and father-in-law have pointed out, I need to take a refresher course on scientific history.

This post should of course have referred to Murphy (anything that can go wrong – will), rather than to Newton (gravity and apple-on-the-head).

Damn. Sorry folks.

In an attempt to hide my utter embarrassment and avoid any further blunders, here are some recent photos of our precious little meatball. Current favorite activities include grabbing at anything within arm’s reach and throwing them across the room/table/jet plane. I’ve heard this is typical Boy behavior, as opposed to Girl behavior that includes playing quietly with minimum destruction (sugar and spice and all that….)

He’s teething badly enough to drive mommy to distraction. Thank goodness pappa returns home from Gran Canaria tonight.

One week left in countdown to the Big Move – wish us luck everyone!

—————-

Uh oh…. I think there’s another bar-loving Svendsen in the house:

Playdate with girlfriend Nina, Auntie Eline and Auntie Larissa:

Traveling like a big boy to the airport:

Excellent promotional material for Norwegian Airlines (en route to Auntie Gøril in Tromsø):

Classic Nordic baby-style:

Look everyone…. up on all fours!

Taking stock

There’s something about the process of moving that makes me a bit reflective – it’s excitement with a side order of nostalgia. We always put together inventory lists for the movers, and that forces you to take stock of what you have and what you’ve gathered/accumulated/produced since the last move. Our upcoming move to Gran Canaria is no different.

I’ve been moving every 2-3 years ever since my first journey to Russia back in 1999. If I had actually kept all those inventory lists over the years, they would probably look something like this:

We have yet to finalize our inventory list this time around, but here’s what I’ve put together so far:

What do you think – am I missing anything?

Plan your next holiday at Hotel Svendsen….

…because we’re moving again!

If someone had warned me that marrying a hotelier would entail a life of moving every few years, then I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If someone had warned me that we’d inevitably be leaving every town just as we really felt settled in there, then I still wouldn’t have changed a thing.

If someone had warned me that we’d be moving from the rainy fall weather of Oslo to the year-round sunshine of Gran Canaria….. yep! That’s right, definitely wouldn’t have changed a thing!

The Svendsen family is on the move once again as of mid-October. Pappa Svendsen is being sent south to open Radisson’s newest resort in Arguineguin, and the remaining members of the Svendsen tribe are tagging along for fun.

So book your tickets and plan your next several years’ worth of holidays with us in Gran Canaria. We hope to be there for at least three years, which is probably just around the time we’ll feel settled in and need to move again.

You can check out Pappa Svendsen’s new project here (due to open in March 2012).