fredag den 28. november 2014

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Michigan style......

Det er dagen derpaa efter Thanksgiving, hvor vi var inviteret op til Julias foraeldre (Teresas veninde). Vi lagde haardt ud med at sove laenge og stornyde at det for en gangs skyld er os, der har fri og ikke jer hjemme i DK! Alle mand naaede en tur op omkring fitness rummet her i Briar Cove hvor Luca udviste saerdeles alternativ anvendelse af loebebaand..... Kristian naaede endda et par gange op forbi Meiers for foerst at koebe drikkevarer og endnu en gang for at koebe noget roedkaal til en salat, der egentlig var tiltaenkt at skulle bestaa af groenkaal, men et lidt mislykket forsoeg paa at bruge "baby kale" blev en saa slatten omgang, at vi var noedt til at lave det om, og vi blev let forsinkede til Thanksgiving.

It is the day after Thanksgiving where we were invited to Julias parents (Teresas friend). We started the day sleeping in and enjoy that for once it was our turn to have some time off, which is a rare occurrence when comparing with the Danish holidays! The five of us made it to the gym here at Briar Cove, where Luca in particular had a very alternative way of using the treadmill..... Kristian also had to go to Meiers a few times - first for getting some beverages for dinner and later for getting red cabbage for a salad, that was originally intended to contain kale, but a somewhat failed attempt to use "baby kale" which got incredibly soggy made us go with the red cabbage instead, and we were slightly late for Thanksgiving.

Megan og Kurt bor bogstavelig talt i en skov og det endda inden for bygraensen. Vi startede med at gaa en tur ved ankomst og kom baade ned forbi floden og igennem "the arboretum" der hoerer under universitetet. Vi moedte en "redtailed hawk" der havde saa travlt med at guffe sig igennem et egern, at den ikke gad flytte sig og vi derfor blev helt bekymrede for om den sad fast i noget.
Jeg tog desvaerre ikke nogen billeder, men der manglede ikke hverken mad eller hjemmebrygget mjoed af honning fra egen avl. Jeg fik proevet 2 varianter med hhv vanille og kirsebaer - nammenam.
De er selv kommet hjem fra et aar i Costa Rica her i sommers og det er skoent at kunne fornemme at Julia er lige saa glad for at have laert Teresa at kende som omvendt, men det var nu ikke meget vi saa til de 2 toeser, da der var et hjorteskind i garagen, der ikke rensede sig selv!

Megan and Kurt literally lives in the forest even though it is still within the city border. We started out going for a walk and passed not only River Huron but also "the arboretum" that belongs to the university. We encountered a redtailed hawk being so busy consuming a squirrel that it hardly took notice of us, and we acutally got worried that it might be stuck.
I did not take any pctures but we did not run out of food nor home brewed mead from their own honey. I tasted the vanille and the cherry versions and both were awesome.
This family has just returned from a year in Costa Rica this summer and it was nice to  see that Julia enjoys having Teresa as a friend as much as Teresa. We did however not see the girls most of the evening as there was a dear skin in the garage that did not clean itself!

Paa vejen hjem kom vi forbi den propfulde p-plads til Briarwood Mall, og det er aerlig talt svaert ikke at ryste lidt paa hovedet af den amerikanske forbrugsmentalitet - isaer paa Thanksgiving Day hvor man ikke burde vaere ude at shoppe sig halvt fordaervet ovenpaa en eftermiddag, hvor det er taknemmelighed for alt det man har, der burde vaere i hoejsaedet.
Vi er selvklart hoejt haevet over den slags og ventede derfor helt til fredag morgen, foer vi gik i gang med at faa koebt julegaver (host host).
Det var nu ikke fordi Briarwood Mall var gaaet helt amok til Black Friday i dag, men vi fik da fundet nogle gode tilbud i Macys, der sikrer, at der er en saerlig 4 aarig ung dame hjemme i DK, der ikke kommer til at gaa ned paa hverken glimmer, tyl eller pink her i julen. Macys ligger i det ene hjoerne af centeret og er en butik vi kender saerdeles godt fra Californien. I det andet hjoerne ligger Von Mauers. Vi har ALDRIG hoert om den butik andre steder og den oser af midtvest og luksus i en saer sammenblanding. Der var ikke udsalg derinde overhovedet, men der var taarn hoeje priser, tykke bloede veloursofaer, hyggepianist og spejlsal paa toilettet:

On the way home we passed the parking lot at Briarwood Mall, and it is honestly quite hard not to take notice of the american consumerism - especially on a day like Thanksgiving where you are supposed to be grateful for what you already have instead of "shop til you drop". We are of course way above this mentality and waited until Friday morning before we started Christmas shopping (ahem).
Briarwood Mall had not gone all Black Friday crazy, but we found some good deals at Macys which ensures that there is a certain 4 year old back in Denmark who will not suffer from lack of glitter, tulle or pink in her wardrobe this Christmas. Macys is in one corner of the Mall and we know this store very well from California. In one of the other corners there is a store called Von Mauers. We have NEVER heard of it elsewhere and it oozes of  Midwest and luxury in a weird combo. They did not have anything on sale but the prizes were skyhigh, there were thick soft couches, a pianist, and a hall of mirrors in the restroom:
Vi fik slet ikke koebt de julegaver vi havde regnet med og var noedt til at koere i Meiers for at kigge efter det sidste. Det passede Luca ganske udenmaerket, da alle lige havde faaet lommepenge og han har haft et godt oeje til en STOR aeske kuglepenne (??) og nogle stiftblyanter derinde. Vi fandt ogsaa camouflage farvet gavepapir - saa bliver det jo ikke mere #puremichigan ;-) Men selvom vi traskede foerst Briarwood Mall og derefter Meiers tyndt, manglede vi stadigt lidt smaating der skulle med til Danmark i julepakkerne, og vi var noedt til at slaebe vores butiksmoere kroppe ud til en sidste tur i Barnes and Nobles her til efterniddag men foerst lagde vi altsaa turen forbi en lokal park for lige at blive luftet ldt i den friske kolde luft.
Michigan paa denne tid af aaret er et studie i brunt og det er svaert at forstaa at vi foelte vi var ved at blive kvalt af alt det groenne for bare 3 mdr siden......

We did not finish the christmas shopping as intended and had to go to Meiers to get a few additional items. Luca really digged that as he had just gotten his allowance and since this store had some pens there (a BIG box) that he craved (??). We also found camouflage style gift wrap - it hardly gets any worse #puremichigan ;-) But even though we went through all of Meiers we still needed some things for the christmas parcels for Denmark to get them ready for shipping tomorrow and we had to take one final trip to Barnes and Nobles this afternoon, but we stopped by a local park first just to get a little fresh and cold air.
Michigan this time of year is all brown and more brown and it is hard to understand that we almost felt suffocated from all the green just 3 months ago......

Da vi kom ud fra Barnes and Nobles var det hele blevet hvidt og vi maatte liste os hjem i bilen paa de isglatte tilsneede veje. Det ER altsaa bare ikke min favorit beskaeftigelse, selvom det ikke er mig, der koerer bilen. Men vi sidder lunt og godt hjemme i varmen nu. Alle gaver er pakket ind og Kristian og ungerne ser "Tilbage til fremtiden 1" og spiser "jaffacakes" - Ulriks nye favorit junk food.

When we finally came out of Barnes and Nobles everything had turned white and we had to drive home really slowly as the roads were icy and snowy. This is something I NEVER get to feel comfortable about event though I am not the one behind the wheel. But now we are back and cozy inside at home. All the gifts have been wrapped, and Kristian and the kids are watching "Back to the future 1" and eat "jaffa cakes" - Ulrisk new junk food favorite.

lørdag den 22. november 2014

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Godmorgen her fra spisebordet hvor jeg sidder på en meget blød pude efter at have haft fornøjelsen af at gå ud med skrald henover et fortov med isslag -av. ALT er glaseret i et tyndt lag is her til morgen og vi har tænkt længe over, om der mon er faldet egern ned fra træerne her til morgen. En ret sjov tanke faktisk. Især Luca kan sagtens se det for sig.
Kristian skal hen i kirken for at øve (vejene virker til at være OK, når først man er kommet helskindet ned fra fortovet red) og min plan var at slæbe ungerne med i Whole Foods, da de har sygt mange smagsprøver sådan en lørdag formiddag, men jeg tror vi holder os inden døre indtil isen er smeltet.

Goodmorning from the dining table where I am currently sitting on a soft pillow after having enjoyed an encounter with a sidewalk covered in ice when taking out the garbage - ouch. EVERYTHING is glazed this morning and we have thought about whether the squirrels actually fell down from the trees this morning. Luca in particular can easily picture that.
Kristian is on the way to our church for a band rehearsal (the roads seem to be OK once you are safely off the sidewalks red) and my plan to drag the kids to Whole Foods where they have an amazing array of samples for tasting on Saturdays seems to be cancelled for now.

Teresa ligger og bobler ovenpå en sygedag i går (samme dag som hun skulle have haft sit første veninde besøg herovre - "isn^t it ironic, don`t you think". Det kan muligvis have noget at gøre med at hun nægter at skifte tøj efter basketball træning og derfor render rundt i shorts snevejr:

Teresa is still snoring away after having had a sick day yesterday (the exact same day where she should have had her first hangout with a friend - "isn^t it ironic, don`t you think". It might be related to her purely refusing to change her clothes after basketball practise which causes her to be in the snow wearing shorts:

Jeg har haft fornøjelsen af at bruge de lokale busser en hel del, da det er på grænsen til selvmord at cykle i snevejr herovre. Der er såmænd ganske udmærkede busser og jeg kan køre gratis med mit universitets ID, men jeg er SÅ dårlig til at fange den rigtige bus på det rigtige tidspunkt. Jeg har først for nyligt fundet ud af at der går en bus fra mit arbejde, der skifter nummer inde i byen og fortsætter direkte ud til os. Skønt! Hvis ikke det var fordi der er "road construction" på ruten og jeg derfor skal tage bussen fra den modsatte side af vejen i forhold til hvad der står i busplanen. I andet forsøg får jeg så taget bussen den rigtige vej. Jeg vælger så desværre den bus der først kører HELE north campus rundt inden den ender oppe ved samme busstoppested 20 minutter senere (det står heller ikke køreplanen). I går valgte jeg så bare at skifte bus, men den bus, jeg skal videre med kører selvfølgeligt lige for næsen af mig. Jeg havde røg ud af ørerne på det tidspunkt og jeg glæder mig som et lille barn til tøvejret her i weekenden, så jeg kan bruge min cykel igen.

I have had the pleasure of using the local busses as it is suicidal to try to bike in the snow here. The busses are supposedly really good and I can ride them for free with my university ID, but I suck SO badly at getting on the right bus at the right time. I just recently figured out that there is a bus that goes straight from my work into the city, where it changes number and then continues to where we live. Nice! Was it not for road construction on the route which means I have to take the bus from the opposite side of the street of what the plan says. In the second attempt I get on the bus in the right direction but this time the bus loops the entire north campus before ending up at the exact same busstop where I got on - only 20 minutes later (this is NOT in the bus plan either). Yesterday I choose to transfer, but the next bus leaves as my bus pulls up. I was fuming mad at that time and I SO look forward to milder weather this weekend, so I can start using my bike again.

Det kolde vejr har desværre også forvandlet Kristian til "Onkel Morfar". Han har købt sutsko. Fnis. Men han er lykkelig og er nærmest ikke til at hive ud af dem:

The cold weather has turned Kristian into "grandpa". He got himself a pair of slippers. I am speechless ;-) but he loves them and refuses to take them off:

Thanksgiving er lige om hjørnet og et par fridage er hårdt tiltrængte for os alle sammen, der nærmest har været i gang non stop siden d. 2. september. Jeg har været lidt stresset over Thanksgiving, da jeg kommer til at føle mig meget ensom når resten af nationen går amok i familie hygge. I Californien tog vi bare væk fra det hele men det har vi ikke mulighed for denne gang. Vi havde snakket om at hjælpe til ved et arrangement for hjemløse, så vi slap for at sidde derhjemme og have ondt af os selv. Jeg sender derfor en mail, men inden jeg får svar bliver vi inviteret op til Teresas venindes forældre (hende Teresa skulle have været sammen med i går). Vi har aldrig mødt dem, men alligevel inviterer de os. Det er så sødt gjort at jeg næsten fik tårer i øjnene da vi fik invitationen (arj, jeg tudede faktisk......). Men jeg havde noget dårlig samvittighed overfor føromtalte hjemløse arrangement, men der ville de faktisk ikke ha` vores hjælp. Hvor kikset er det lige at blive afvist til at hjælpe til ved at frivilligt arrangement? Men enden på det hele er at vi kan sidde oppe hos Julias forældre og proppe os med kalkun med god samvittighed. Vi har samme plan her i eftermiddag hvor vi er inviteret til Turkey Dinner hos Kim og Sarah (dem med den gnavne baby). Vi tager dessert med og har en "frozen maple mousse pie with candied cranberries" klar i fryseren. Nammenam.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and a few days off are really needed for all of us, as we have been going full speed since September second. I have been stressed out about Thanksgiving, as I easily feels very alone when the rest of the nation goes crazy in family quality time. In California we went out of town, but we don`t have that option this time. Vi talked about helping out at a Thanksgiving for the homeless instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves. I send them an email, but before I get a reply we are invited to join Teresas friends parents (the girl she should have been with yesterday). We have never actually met them and still they invite us over. That is such a sweet gesture that I almost teared up, when I got it (well, okay, I did cry). But at the same time I felt really bad about the homeless dinner we would have to turn down then. It turned out they did not want our help. How akward is that - getting rejected for a volunteer event? But in our situation it allows us to stuff ourselves with turkey without feeling bad at all. We have the same plans this afternoon where we have been invited for a Turkey Dinner at Kim and Sarah (the couple with the grumpy baby). We bring dessert and a "frozen maple mousse pie with candied cranberries" is ready in the freezer. Yum.

onsdag den 19. november 2014

Snap freeze

En ordentlig omgang kulde og massive mængder sne har hærget i den midterste del af USA i de seneste par dage med temperaturer, der har sneget sig LANGT ned under, hvad vi burde kunne forvente allerede i slutningen af november. Vi er heldigvis sluppet nogenlunde billigt her i den sydøstlige del af Michigan og det er først i dag der er kommet mere end et lille drys sne. Men hold nu op hvor er det koldt altså. Vi har været nede omkring minus 15 grader om natten og det kan godt mærkes. Selvom jeg går under øgenavnet frisk lufts fascisten, har jeg måtte give op og sove med lukket vindue om natten - det har ganske enkelt været frosset fast. Det ser dog ud til at kulden når at lette efter weekenden hvor det skulle blive tø og regn hvilket jeg er dybt taknemmelig for. Tanken om sådan noget vejr fra nu og 5 måneder frem havde ikke være til at holde ud.

In the last few days a massive amount of cold and snow has blistered across the middle of the states with temperatures WAY below what should be expected this time of year. Luckily it has not been too bad in this southeastern part of Michigan and not until today did we get more snow than just a tiny bit. But man its been cold. The temperature has dipped below minus 15 celcius at night! Even though I have the nick name "the fresh air fascist" and like to sleep with the window open, I was forced to give up as the window got stuck because of ice. It seems like the cold will be done after the coming weekend where the temperatures are expected to go higher and it should start to rain. I am very grateful that we don´t have to deal with weather like this non stop for the next 5 months or so.

lørdag den 15. november 2014

Eastern Market

Nu hvor vi kan tillade os at frådse bare en lille smule, bliver det væsentligt mere sjovt at holde weekend og i dag (lørdag) havde vi på forhånd bestemt at vende næsen med Detroit - denne gang med børn i bilen. Teresa var en smule bekymret og sørgede for at alle dørene i bilen var låst (ligesom os voksne gjorde første gang, vi var derinde). Første indikation på at vi er på rette vej:

Now that we can afford to spend a little more, the weekends are becoming significantly more fun and today (Saturday) we had already decided days ago to return to Detroit -this time including the kids. Teresa was slightly worried and made sure that all the car doors were locked (just like we adults did, the first time we went). First indication that we are on the right track:

Første stop var "Eastern Market" - et stort farmers market, der afholdes hver lørdag. Vi havde læst rigtig meget godt om det og jeg havde hørt godt om det fra mine kolleger, men vi anede ikke hvor stort eller lille eller billigt eller dyrt eller varieret det ville være. Det var STORT, og det var billigt og der var ALT hvad hjertet kunne begære af lokale ildsjæle, der solgte lækker frisk frugt og grønt til meget lave priser. Det kan godt være vi savner Californien, så vi næsten har ondt i maven ind i mellem, men æbler og frisk æblejuice fås vist ikke bedre noget sted i verden end her i Michigan. Det smager absurd godt!

First stop was "Eastern Market" - a big weekly farmers market. We had read a lot of good things about it, and my colleagues also strongly recommended it, but we had no idea of what to expect in terms of price, size and quality. It was GIANT, it was cheap and there was absolutely everything you could ever want of local enthusiasts selling delicious fruits and veggies at very low prices. We might miss California to the point where it sometimes hurts, but I don`t think that apples and fresh apple cider can be better anywhere in the world than in Michigan. It is SO good!

Vi fik varme kastanjer, som i hvert fald nogen af børnene i familien godt kan li (Ulrik kan ikke!):

We had roasted chestnuts, that at least some of the kids like (Ulrik did not!):
Vi gik forbi en bod med kunst af lokale kunstnere og var det ikke pga vores skide kroniske pengemangel, havde jeg altså købt et støvlefuglehus eller en flyvende blik gris på pind:

Vi went past a spot with local crafts, and had it not been for our chronic lack of money I would have loved to buy a boot bird house or a flying metal pig on a stick:

Vi har købt "spider balls" - en kastanje lignende dims, der vokser på træerne her omkring og som åbenbart dufter citrusagtigt på en måde, der får edderkopper og mus (men ikke egern - tværtimod) til at løbe skrigende væk. Eller noget.....

We bought "spider balls" - a chestnut look alike, that grows on the trees here and should have a slight lemony smell that makes spiders and mice (but not squirrels) run away screaming. Or whatever.....

De er ret store (på størrelse med en appelsin) og man lægger dem i en skål, da de godt kan udskille lidt væske som tiden går.

They are quite big (about the size of an orange) and they are to be placed in a bowl as they might secrete som fluids over time.

Efter frokost fra en snasket lille biks (hot dogs Chicago style med chilli con carne bl.a.) tog vi videre til DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts). Det var ret imponerende, men at sammenligne det med Louvre (som der er lokale, der gør) er måske liiiiiige i overkanten. De havde en ret imponerende samling af afrikanske masker og der var bestem også noget af det moderne kunst, der fik vores underkæber ned i gulvet. DIAs stolthed er en stor sal med vægmalerier af industri arbejdere. Der var så mange mennesker at det var lidt svært at tage et ordentligt billede, men her er et fra lige under loftet:

After lunch from a local greasy place (hot docs Chicago style with chilli con carne) we went to DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts). It was quite impressive, but to directly compare it to Louvre (as some locals do) might is pushing it. They did however have impressive collections where we especially enjoyed their african masks and some the modern art made our jaws drop as well. DIAs pride is a room with wall paintings of industrial workers. There were a lot of people in there, making it hard to get good pics, but I got one from right under the ceiling:

Der var nu også en særligt irriterende ung mand, der gjorde det svært at tage billeder af noget som helst andet ;-)

There was also a quite annoying young guy who made it quite difficult to take pictures of anything else ;-)

Nu er vi vel hjemme igen og har brugt resten af eftermiddagen på at vaske tøj og smutte forbi Whole Foods bl.a. Om lørdagen har de sindssygt mange smagsprøver, men vi kom lidt for sent i dag til alt det rigtig lækre.

We are back home and spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and a short trip to Whole Foods. They have a lot of free samples for tastings on Saturdays, but we were a little late for all the really good stuff.

Nå ja - en sidste ting: Jeg har fået at vide at det er umuligt at kommentere herinde, så jeg har koblet bloggen til Google, så man kan skrive herinde via sin google konto, men der er ikke kommet nogen kommentarer i lang tid. Det virker tilsyneladende hvis jeg selv prøver, men hvad med jer andre?

One last thing: I have been notified that it is impossible to comment, which made me link the blog to google, such that one can use a google account for that. But there has been absolutely no comments in a while. When I try it seems to work, but what about the rest of you?

fredag den 14. november 2014

Very brief update

Åh, jeg har dårlig samvittighed over ikke at lave flere indlæg, men lige nu er der gode og mindre gode dage. Men vi får da oplevet lidt ind i mellem.

I feel bad about not making more posts, but we have good days anddays that could be better. But we do have stuff going on occasionally.

Vi har stået på skøjter:

We have been ice skating:

Og "nogen" har haft shorts på i skole i frostvejr:

And "someone" wore shorts to school on a freezing cold day:

Ungerne er igen i gang med at smøre egne madpakker (og nej, Luca fik IKKE lov at fylde æsken med Goldfish):

The kids are back to doing their own lunchboxes (and nope, Luca was not allowed to fill that box with Goldfish):

Insekterne finder vej indenfor - også på Universitetet:

The bugs start to get inside - also at the University:

Teresa tryllede med butternut squash og sprødstegte salvie blade i parmesan tærte dej:

Teresa worked her magic with butternut squash, crisp sage leaves and Parmesan pie crust:

I morgen tager vi til Detroit og glæder os rigtig meget.

Tomorrow we will go to Detroit, and we are quite excited.

lørdag den 8. november 2014

Getting wiser and drinking cachaca

Halloween er slut og tænder man for radioen strømmer der nu julemusik fra højtalerne stort set non stop. Hos vores nabo (Briarwood Mall) er de gået amok i julepynt, butikkerne begynder så småt at bugne af gaveæsker OG sidst men ikke mindst, har vi fået fundet vores årlige bidrag til konkurrencen mod min søster om hvem, der kan finde den absurd grimmeste pynt til juletræet. I får ikke billeder af den her, da det skal være en overraskelse, men jeg kan da afsløre at det nok ikke er noget man kan finde andre steder end i Michigan og at den måske er relateret en smule til bukke jagten, der er i sæson netop nu.........

Halloween is over and when the radio is turned on it is all Christmas music non stop. At our neighbor  (Briarwood Mall) they have gone christmas decoration bonanza, the shops have started to display gift boxes galore AND last but not least, we have found our contribution to the annual contest between my sister and I about who gets to find the most absurdly ugly ornament for the Christmas tree. You wont get any pictures here, as it is supposed to be a surprise, but I can reveal that you will probably not find it anywhere else than in Michigan and that it might be related just a tiny bit to deer hunting season.........

Der er gang i brændeovnen og græskarret på terrassen er så småt spist op:

The fireplace is in use and the pumpkin on the patio will soon be all gone:

Den forgangne uge har været lidt af en mental rutchebanetur. Planen er jo at Kristian skal ha´ sig et job, da vi ikke kan få det hele til at løbe rundt med min løn alene og alle tilbagemeldinger vi har fået har været, at med hans IT baggrund bliver det ikke noget problem. Det lader det faktisk heller ikke til, men da han ikke har arbejdstilladelse og har brug for at få dette sponsoreret af en potentiel arbejdsgiver, så kølner interessen for at ansætte ham temmelig hurtigt og drastisk. Han søger primært i den offentlige sektor (læs universitetet) da de ikke har begrænsninger på hvor mange arbejdsvisums, de må udstede. For private virksomheder bliver der åbnet for 65.000 visums hvert år pr den første april. I 2014 var de brugt på 7 (ja kun SYV) dage!!!!  Så der er der vist ikke så meget at komme efter. Han har været rigtig tæt på en universitets stilling med flere interview runder, men blev valgt fra i sidste øjeblik. De lovede at vende tilbage inden udgangen af oktober men først i onsdags fik han sit afslag - uden at få nogen form for forklaring. Så vi regner med at det er det s.... visum, der spænder ben igen. og det er simpelthen SÅ frustrerende. Vi er gået i gang med at undersøge om jeg evt ville have mulighed for skifte visum til J1 (det samme som sidst vi var afsted), da det ville kunne give Kristian arbejdstilladelse. Den anden mulighed er at søge Green Card og jeg har været i kontakt med nogle immigrations advokater, der mener at jeg sagtens ville kunne få et EB-1 NIW, som basalt set kræver at man overbeviser myndighederne om at man er SÅ særlig indenfor sin profession at man fortjener at få lov at få arbejdstilladelse her i nationen over dem alle ;-) Var det ikke for den nette sum af ca 10.000$ havde vi nok allerede været godt i gang med at søge.

The past week has been a mental roller coaster ride. The grande plan is that Kristian should get a job, as we cannot make it with my salary alone, and all we have been told beforehand was, that with his IT background this should not be a problem at all. This seems to hold true, but as he does not have a work permit and needs to get this sponsored by a future employer, the interest to hire him cools off fast. He primarily applies for jobs in the public sector (the University that is) as they do not have any limits to how many H-1b visas they can apply for. With private companies there is a limit with 65,000 visas granted each calender year. The fiscal year runs from April first and in 2014 the gap was reached within 7 (yep only SEVEN) days!!!!! So there does not seem to be much to come for with that. He has been incredibly close to get a position with several interviews completed. They promised to get back with a decision before the end of October but not until Wednesday did he get a flat rejection without any reason. We are pretty sure it is that visa issue and it is SO frustrating. We have begun to look into whether I can change my status to J1 (the same as last time), as it would enable him to get a work permit. The other option is getting a green card and I have been in touch with some immigration laywers that are quite sure that I can be granted an EB1-NIW green card, which is all about convincing the immigration authorities that I am THAT special that I should be granted permission to work in the nation above all nations ;-) Had it not been for the cost of roughly 10,000$ we probably would have started applying already.

Den primære grund til at det stresser os så meget er udover pengene at vi faktisk rigtig gerne VIL blive her i 3 år. Jeg er mere glad helt ned i maven end jeg har været hjemme i DK længe, hvilket nok hænger sammen med at jeg ELSKER mit arbejde. Jeg har fuldstændigt frie rammer til at lave, hvad jeg har lyst til, samarbejder lader sig gøre uden videre, og med en professor, der ikke bare vil hive data ud af dig, men også prioriterer at fungere som mentor og hjælper os post docs med at tage de rigtige beslutninger, for at komme derhen hvor vi gerne vil, gør en verden til forskel. Nå ja - og så er der store mængder humor involveret hver eneste dag. Fx "The-SteveWoods-Bobblehead-awards" der går til den person, der under en general prøve præsentation kan finde den mindste fejl på en power point slide. Vi er ude i små forskelle i skriftstørrelse på grafer, en manglende apostrof osv. Vinderen får æren af at have en særlig udvalgt bobble head stående på sit skrivebord til næste omgang.
Sidste torsdag var der housewarming i professorens nye hus, og jeg havde samlet ind til en gave til ham og havde egentlig tænkt mig at finde en god flaske whisky, men så gik der "nu skal vi have skovlen under Randy" i gaveideerne. Jeg blev udvalgt til at købe en lille fe dør og binde ham en historie på ærmet om at her i Ann Arbor tror man på feer (det er faktisk ikke skudt helt ved siden af: fe-døre i Ann Arbor) og at det derfor er kotume at sørge for at tiltrække dem - især hvis man har et helt spritnyt hus. Han blev ærlig talt ikke svært begejstret for hverken den lille dør, den lille postkasse eller det lille "welcome fairies" skilt. Gnæg gnæg. Han fik nu også en flaske velfortjent flaske bourbon med teksten: "Don¨t see any fairies? Try this!"

The primary reason for this to be really stressful is that besides the financial issues we would really like to stay for the full three years. I feel more happy deep into my guts than I have done for years in Denmark, which is most likely related to the fact that I LOVE my job. I am free to do exactly what I want to, collaborations are easily achieved, and with a PI who is not only about making you produce data, but who also highly prioritizes being a mentor for us post docs to help us make the right decisions to make us reach our long term goals, makes a huge difference. Also there is a lot of humor involved every day. E.g. the "SteveWoods-bobblehead-award" which goes to that person, who during a rehearsal presentation is able to find the smallest and most insignificant error such as different font size on the graphs or a missing accent on a power point slide. The winner gets to have the specially chosen bobblehead doll at his/her desk until the next contest. Last Thursday the professor hosted a house warming and I collected money for a present and was considering just getting him a really nice bottle of whiskey. But then the ideas for a potential present turned into a multi colleague "lets get him with a scam present". I was chosen to buy a small fairy door and tell him a fake story about how people in Ann Arbor believe in fairies (which is not entirely untrue: fairy doors in Ann Arbor) and that it is really important to attract them - especially when you move into a brand new house. He was NOT thrilled with the little door, the little mail box, nor the little "welcome fairies" sign..... He did however also get a well deserved bottle of bourbon with the text "Don´t see any fairies? Try this!"

Ungerne trives fortsat rigtig godt. Teresa er færdig med at spille hockey for denne sæson og slår nu sine folder på skolens basketball hold. Læg hertil Physical Education som valgfag og hun har omkring 2 1/2 times hård træning hver dag. Hun er godt mør om aftenen men sover vist godt om natten... Luca udvikler sig med raketfart i forhold til at lære og få lavet sine lektier. Han er så glad for at gå i skole, at vi næsten må knibe os selv i armen ind i mellem. Ulrik klarer sig også rigtig godt. Her i den forgangne uge har han haft til opgave at lave en model af en cellemembran (gæt selv om mor her slet ikke kunne styre sig....). Her er vidunderet (komplet med en 7TM receptor, glycoproteiner på enzymet etc):

The kids are still thriving. Teresa is done with the hockey season and has started to play basket ball instead. Un top of this there is physical education every day which adds up to roughly 2 1/2 hours of hardcore exercise every day. She`s exhausted  by bedtime, but seems to sleep well..... Luca is growing into learning all he needs to know with rocket speed. He loves school so much, that we almost have a hard time believing it. Ulrik is doing really well also. During the past week he had to do a model of a cell membrane (try to guess if his mom got excessively excited about this.....). Below is the wonder (complete with a 7TM receptor, glycoproteins on the enzyme etc):

Han er startet i en "international students" club i spisefrikvarteret hver onsdag, han spiser frokost med Jack fra tysk undervisningen de fleste andre dage, og skyper med Christian fra Danmark næsten hver eftermiddag. I nat var han til "lock in" med de andre teens fra kirken, der holdt sig vågne hele natten, åd chips i store mængder og gik på opdagelse og legede gemmeleg i det store mørke bygningskompleks fra kælder til kvist. Klokken er i skrivende stund 19:40 og han sover allerede!

He has joined the "international students" club at lunch break every Wednesday, he eats lunch with Jack from german class most other days, and skypes with Christian from Denmark almost every day. Last night he joined a "lock in" with the church teen group, where they got to stay awake all night, eat large amounts of chips and went exploring and playing hide and seek in the giant dark building complex. As I am writing the time is 7:40 PM and he is fast asleep!

Vi er så småt begyndt at få et socialt liv op at stå. Vi har tilbragt mange gode timer i selskab med Carlos og Maria fra Brasilien. I går aftes var ingen undtagelse hvor vi var inviteret til mad sammen med andre brasilianere (der er tilsyneladende giga mange af dem her i Michigan - i Californien mødte vi derimod ikke en eneste). Så nu har vi smagt Cachasa, der er brasiliansk rom og vi har grinet til vi næsten havde tårer i øjnene over Carlos, der er jura professor og dommer, men fuldstændig havde misforstået spørgsmålet, da han blev spurgt om hvor mange børn han havde. Han hørte forkert og troede han blev spurgt om antallet af sager (kids versus cases) og havde nonchelant fortalt at han jo altså havde været dommer i del år og nok havde ca 5000 fordel ud over hele Brasilien!

We have slowly started to build a social life. We have spent a lot of wonderful hours with Carlos and Maria from Brazil. Last night was no exception, where we were invited over for dinner together with some other brazilians (there seem to be a lot of them here in Michigan - in California I do not recall meeting a single one). So we have now tried cachaca - braziliam rum - and we laughed till we almost cried when Carlos, who is professor of law and a judge, told that someone asked him how many kids he had. He got it wrong and thought he was asked about the number of cases, he had been involved in and nonchelantly replied that he had been a judge for quite a few years and probably had 5000 all over Brazil!
Det blev ret sent inden vi kom hjem, men Ulrik skulle hentes kl 7 om morgenen, så i dag har vi været noget trætte. Her til eftermiddag har vi haft besøg af Kim (dansker) og Sarah (amerikaner) og Samuel (halvt af hvert og temmelig gnaven baby) og i morgen står den først kirke og siden en tur i skøjtehallen med brasilianer flokken. Det skal nok blive underholdende -jeg er ikke ligefrem en ørn til den slags.

It was quite late before we went home, but Ulrik still had to be picked up at 7AM, so today we have been quite tired. This afternoon we had Kim (Danish), Sarah (American) and Samuel (half of each and a quite grumpy baby) visiting, and tomorrow after church we will go iceskating with the Brazilian bunch. That will most likely be lost of fun - I am NOT good with skates.

Bottom line er at vi selvom vi er stressede over at Kristian endnu ikke har fået et arbejde, er ved godt mod. Vi føler at dørene er blevet åbnet for os på en måde, så vi slet ikke er i tvivl om at vi er, hvor vi skal være. Men vi føler os også meget små og sårbare. Vi har haft bedt rigtig meget om at der må komme en løsning på arbejdssituationen, så vi slipper for at bekymre os om Kristians hverdag og penge til at betale potentielt astronomiske varmeregninger, hvis vinteren bliver rigtig kold. I torsdags fik jeg så en mail fra skat om at min årsopgørelse for 2011 var blevet ændret???? Jeg klikker ind på hjemmesiden med en noget dårlig smag i munden men ser at vi har 13.000kr til gode, fra 2011! Det giver jo ingen mening - seriøst!. Fredag får jeg yderligere en mail om at jeg fra 2012 har stort set samme beløb til gode. Det er vist et ret konkret bønnesvar og det har lettet os i en kæmpe grad. Nu har vi råd til at sende Ulrik til Detroit med kirken i sommerferien, Ulrik og Teresa kan komme på vinter retreat, vi behøver ikke bekymre os om varmeregningen og vi kan sende julegaver til DK og have penge til overs til at tage på nogle flere udflugter. Vi har allerede planlagt at besøge Eastern Market i Detroit på lørdag og kombinere det med et besøg på Institute of Arts. Skønt!

Bottom line is that even though we are stressed out about Kristian not having a job yet we are fine otherwise. We feel that the doors have been opened for us to come here in a manner that leaves no doubt that we are where we are supposed to be. But also we feel small and vulnerable. We have prayed quite a lot about a solution for this work situation, so we don´t have to worry about Kristians everyday life and money to pay for a potential astronomical heating bill, if the winter gets nasty. Thursday I got an email from "Skat" (the Danish IRS) that our tax file for 2011 had been altered???? I went to the homepage feeling a quite uneasy, but it turns out we will get a refund of 2,500$. That has NEVER happened before! Friday I get an additional email about having roughly the same amount available from the tax return of 2012. We take this as a very concrete answer to our prayers and it has been a giant relief. Now we can send Ulrik to the church event in Detroit next summer, Ulrik and Teresa can both go to a winter retreat, we don´t have to worry about the heating bill, and we will be able to ship some christmas gifts to Denmark. Finally this also means that we can make some more local trips and we have already decided to visit Eastern Market in Detroit next Saturday and combine it with a trip to the Institute of Arts. Nice

lørdag den 1. november 2014

Happy Halloween (and the first bilingual blog post)

Det er morgen og jeg sidder her i stuen med tændte stearinlys og kaffe midt i en stor bunke rod og slikpapir fra i går mens resten af familien langsomt får øjne. Ulrik ER jo vågen (han er som regel tidligt oppe i weekenderne) og sidder og skyper med en dansk klassekammerat, men vi andre er ikke helt så morgenfriske.

It is morning and I am sitting here in the livingroom with lit candles and coffee in the midst of a giant mess and candywrappers all over, while the rest of the family is slowly waking up. Ulrik IS awake (he is usually up early during the weekends) and is skyping with one of his classmates from Denmark, but the rest of us need more time.

Det var halloween i går og det blev udnyttet til fulde af os alle sammen. Ulrik var godt nok den eneste, der måtte have udklædning på i skole, og han drog derfor afsted i sit steam punk gear inkl skjorten! Han har fundet genbrugstøj til sit kostume og kom bl.a. hjem med en hvid skjorte, der ved første blik ligner en helt almindelig hvid skjorte. MEN den er foret og helt vildt mærkelig at røre ved. Vi har en teori om, at det er sådan en skjorte der er blevet brugt at landmænd til at malke køer sådan en råkold søndag morgen, hvor han ikke kunne nå at skifte tøj inden han skulle i kirke. Eller måske er det bare fra en hotel portier, der har skullet stå ude på gaden om vinteren..... Vi ved det ikke, men Ulrik kunne som den eneste godt holde varmen i går.

It was halloween yesterday and we all took full advantage. Ulrik was however the only one allowed to wear a costume to school, and off he went in his steam punk gear including the shirt! He has found some secondhand clothes for his costume and came home with a white shirt, that just looks like any average white shirt. BUT it has several layers and is kind of weird to touch. We have a theory that it might have been used by a farmer for milking the cows on a cold Sunday morning, where he did not have time to change clothes before going to church. Or maybe its just a hotel portier, that needed to stay warm on the streets in the winter....... We don`t know, but Ulrik was the only one of us that did not freeze last night.
Der var ikke noget halloween stemning på Teresas skole, men da det i går var "end of quarter" var der næsten lallet sommerferie stemning i stedet hvor de så film og fik slikkepinde. På mandag starter et nyt quarter op på hendes skole, som bl.a. betyder at hun får helt nyt skema og nye fag. Desværre ryger der to af hendes yndlingsfag i svinget (performings arts samt ceramic) og hun ser ikke voldsomt frem til at skulle have Physical Health Education i stedet.

There was not any halloween stuff going on at Teresas school, but as it was end of quarter it was almost like right before summer break, so they got to watch movies and even had a lollipop. On Monday the new quarter starts and this means that she will have a new schedule and new classes. Unfortunately two of her favorite classes will no longer be available (performing arts and ceramics) and she is not too thrilled about Physical Health Education as a substitute.

Luca havde Pumpkin Math dag, hvor Kristian var med som frivillig. Ungerne estimerede vægt og omkreds på græskar inden de skar dem ud og bagte kage. De fik også at vide, at hvis skolelederen kom forbi og spurgte hvad de lavede, skulle de huske at svare "math". Det går jo ikke sådan at hygge sig uden akademisk formål!

Luca had Pumpkin Math day where Kristian volunteered. The kids estimated the weight and circumference of pumpkins before carving them out and bakin pumpkin bread. They were told to remember, that if the principle came by and asked what they were doing, they should remember to say "math". It is no good having fun in school without any academic purpose, right?

Trick or treat time her i Ann Arbor er mellem 17 og 20 (hurra for google) og da der var arrangeret en lille fest her i lejeforeningen kl 18, tænkte vi at vi hellere bare måtte komme i gang tidligt. Vi valgte at køre hen i et andet område, men det var lidt akavet at være de aller første ude, og ungerne var da også noget skeptiske, da der ikke var et øje på gaden ellers. Men de kom i gang og så gik det ellers over stok og sten (og visne blade og gravsteder og havenisser):

Trick or treat time here in Ann Arbor is between 5 and 8 PM (thanks google) and as there had been arranged a small party where we live at 6PM, we decided to better start out as early as possible. We choose to drive to another neighborhood, but it was a little akward being the absolutely first ones out, and the kids were kind of skeptic, as we did not see any other trick or treaters. But they got started and faced not only doorways and lawns but also fallen leaves, open tombs and garden trolls:

Det var ret så koldt. Faktisk begyndte det at sne undervejs, så der var ikke sure miner over at de kun nåede at være i gang i ca 40 minutter - vi var alligevel gennemfrosne.

It was pretty cold. Actually it started snowing, so no-one got upset about only doing 40 minutes of candy collection - we were all frozen.

Vi kom op til vore "clubhouse" som de allerførste. Det er første gang de holder en fest her i Briar Cove, så de anede ikke hvor mange, der ville komme, men jeg tror de havde hygget sig med at købe halloween effekter og slik. Stort set alle andre, der mødte op er "expats" ligesom os og vi var en broget forsamling fra Iran, Tyskland, Brasilien og Filipinerne samt en flok temmelig højtråbende unger, der kun havde kigget ind i håb om at der faldt noget slik af. Der var den klassiske "pak hinanden ind i toiletpapir" konkurrence (som Teresa vandt i overlegen stil):

We arrived at the club house as the first guests. They have not had these parties at Briar Cove before, so they did not know how many people were going to show up, but I think they had a good time shopping for Halloween gear and candy. Almost everybody were expats like us and came from Iran, Germany, Brazil, and the Philipines. Also there was a rather load bunch of kids, who were only there because they hoped to get some candy. There was the classic "wrap eachother up in toiletpaper" contest (that Teresa won easily):

En pinata havde de også flottet sig med:
They also had a pinata:
Der var endda mad inkluderet, men det var ikke den store kulinariske oplevelse (hvidløgsbrød og pasta med tomat sovs) og eftersom vi skulle videre til Mrs Beech`s haunted house, blev vi ikke hængende.

There was even food, but it was not a big culinary experience (garlic bread and pasta marinara) and as we were going to Mrs Beechs haunted house later, we did not stick around.

Jeg har desværre ikke billeder fra huset, da det var ret mørkt og min telefon ikke ville makke ret med blitzen. Haven var SÅ flot lavet med hjemmemodellerede gargoyles med røg ud af munden, en creepy kirkegårdsindgangs portal og en overdækket gang af presenninger og edderkoppespind rundt om huset. Vi blev derfor MEGA skuffede da vi kom frem og Mr Beech sagde, at de desværre ikke lukkede flere igennem pga at det var mudret. ØV. Vi var på vej tilbage til bilen da vi helt uventet blev reddet af Mrs Beech, der kom forbi i mørket, straks spottede Luca og trak ungen med mens hun sagde til sin mand "This is one of MY students". Vi andre fik allernådigst lov til at følge med og det var altså godt lavet og ikke en oplevelse vi ville have været foruden (og fik jeg nævnt at Mrs Beech er så sej en lærer, at jeg næsten må knibe mig selv i armen over, at Luca har været så heldig at få netop hende?).

I do not have any pictures from her house, as it was rather dark and as my phone would not collaborate on flashing. The garden was amazing with home modelled gargoyles with steam coming out of their mouths, a creepy cemetary entrance and a covered tunnel made of tarps and spiderweb around the house. We were SO dissapointed when we arrived and Mr Beech said that it had gotten muddy, and they had chosen to close down for the evening. We were on the way back to the car, when we were unexpectedly saved by Mrs Beech who spotted Luca right away and dragged him off while saying to her husband "This is one of MY students". The rest of us were tolerated as well, and it was a really nicely done haunted house and not an experience we would have liked to miss out on (and did I mention that Mrs Beech is the coolest teacher EVER, and I almost do not understand how lucky Luca has been to get exactly her?).

Resten af aftenen blev brugt hjemme foran pejsen med slik spisning og hyggesnak. Selv Ulrik og Teresa, der nogle gange opfører sig som hund og kat, sad i samme sofa, delte slik og snakkede med hinanden. Og lige der gik det op for mig, hvor glade vores børn er lige nu, selvom de ikke har fundet sig venner de kan lave legeaftaler med endnu. Hvor er det skønt (og vigtigt at sætte pris på, når vi nogen gange stirrer os blinde på alt det vi IKKE har).

The rest of the evening was spent in front of the fireplace eating candy and chatting. Even Ulrik and Teresa, that sometimes behave like cat and dog were sitting in the same couch, sharing candy and chatting. And right there it dawned on me how happy our kids are right now, even though they do not yet have friends to go visit. It is really great (and also important to be grateful for when we sometimes focus too much on all the issues we have not solved yet).

Lige her til sidst får I lige Teresas kostume inkl neongrønne øjenvipper (og Ulrik - suk):

Here at the end is Teresa wearing both her costume AND her neongreen fake eyelashes (and Ulrik......):