lørdag den 28. januar 2017

A mild January and how "to redneck" in style

January is coming to an end and it is one of those Saturday mornings that should elicit a diploma in project management! Kristian (and a somewhat demotivated Luca) have been in Livonia for the 5K park run. They went with one of our friends who just dropped off her daughter Julia for a big music event at the high school, where you get judged on your solo performance. I then got Teresa in the car, went to pick up Julia and her viola to drive both girls to Julia's house, where they could change for the synchro swim meet at Huron high school. Then I went to work to take care of my rats that just came out of surgery, and while I was there I received a text if I could maybe have an extra kid for the day (the cutest 6 months old ever!) while the parents try to get their freshly purchased house ready.

So here I am with a whining dog, who apparently does not remember that he did indeed go for a walk this morning, waiting for a knock on the door.

So far January has been extraordinary mild. And almost completely devoid of sunshine, with greyness ruling the skies. I have even managed to bike to work 3 1/2 days this week! But the temperatures are dropping and since the Farmers almanac predicted frigid cold in February, I am grateful for any non frigid days coming my way.

But cabin fever is still sneaking in on us. So last Saturday (which we the warmest day in months) we decided to go for an outing. To Cabelas..... a giant outdoor and hunting store. Well. In my opinion it is a redneck paradise with ridiculous amounts of guns and "everything mossy oak".

Seriously - you can decorate your entire living room like that:

 And set the dinner table with deer decorated plates:

While your antler lamp is shining its soft light on the table:

And you can hang pictures on the wall to set the tone for the conversation:

On top of this they have giant displays of live and stuffed animals:

I will however spare you for my opinion on the clientele in the gun corner.........

And while the rest of the family would love to go back, I think I will find something else to do that day ;-)

lørdag den 21. januar 2017

Temporary II

I have previously written about that feeling of temporariness that can be very overwhelming for expats (hmmmm, that post was written in February last year – maybe the Michigan winter also carries some of the responsibility for those feelings…….). Well, the clock is ticking even louder for us now.  Change has to happen this year as my contract runs out in September. I am more than ready to move on to a “real” job that is not temporary, comes with a salary that actually reflects my level of education, and has retirement savings included. But “real” jobs with such a high and specialized level of education do not come easy. They are few and scattered. 

On top of this friends are starting to move away. Some of them used to live, where we live – temporary rental units – and have managed to escape. And some have to go back to their own countries. And for us this emphasizes the longing to grow roots. To stay longer than a few years. To get a home that is truly ours. 

Oh, and did I mention that we have to seriously start thinking about college for Ulrik without knowing where we’ll live or how our financial situation will be? And that we start getting emails about info meetings for Luca who should be joining Middle School next year – we just don’t know if it will be here? And that I turn 40 in a few months and will officially be midways in life without having a clue of what’s next  (of the irony of always fearing that with 40 came the feeling of suddenly realizing that life was boring and monotone without any surprises left!  I guess I more or less elegantly dodged that one).

Bottom line is that these worries tend to swallow everything else including appreciating what we have. We have icy lakes and forests that are good for exploring together with the dog – even in January

We have monkeys that steal bananas

Beautiful sunrises

And sometimes the weather is just right to build a snowman while waiting for the school bus

fredag den 6. januar 2017

Last day in SF, first day in Ann Arbor, and the travel in between (and a bit about the pig-smelling dog)

Our last day in California was spent a little bit all over the place. Kristian and Luca got to hang out with their best friends (Jon and Emilia, respectively) while I took the teenagers downtown. We had a simple plan: walk, eat, ride cablecars, shop!
First stop was walking from the Ferry building towards Ghiradelli Square passing all the piers and the sea lions along the way. Yep, sea lions are still there. Yep, they still stink, and yep, they are still doing their best to start fights and push each other into the water. Gotta love sea lions!

Then it was time for lunch. Only a fool would eat before entering the Ghiradelli icecream place. This time Ulrik actually managed to finish his giant icecream/fudge/cookie/whipped cream combo.

And feeling full on the verge of nausea it was awesome to just walk a few minutes to get to the cablecars. They are considered super touristy and they are not a cheap way of getting around, but I just love riding them. The view from the hilltops and the humming from the underground cables are  why I love them so much. Our ride had an apprentice conductor aboard who was learning the tricks to ride them. As a consequence we had quite a few “this is how you do an emergency stop” practices and extra fierce ringing and yelling at random cars and tourists. Quite entertaining!
The cablecars end at Powell and Market – right where all the shops are. How convenient! Teresa and I quickly got rid of Ulrik by dumping him at the giant Games Workshop store – and then we almost ran back to Uniqlo. Teresa was the one having the most luck – here she is on the rainbow stairs carrying her loot:

When we reached Anthropologie however, I was the only one still having money left……. Muhahahaha. And I spent the crazy sum of 25$ on a sweatshirt on sale!

Kristian and Luca came to join us, and “someone” got “slightly” upset that he did not have ice-cream for lunch……..

Our last evening was spent in Pacific East Mall (I always thought it was East Pacific Mall, but I appreciate the efforts from the 14 year old member of the Phan family to do everything in her might to convince me that I was WRONG!) at a Japanese restaurant. Marit and Thai had never tried it before, but it was crazy delicious. To the point where I think this might actually have been some of the best vegetarian sushi I have ever had. Thai had a whole grilled squid to the amusement of the Frikke family kids. 

And then it was over…………

And we had to go to the airport……….

And maybe some of us actually cried………..

But the moods were instantly improved upon spotting a Benefit cosmetics vending machine in the terminal:

This time we spent our night in Chicago close to the airport. As most Chicago hotels breakfast was not included at the Sheraton. It felt a bit odd to eat McDonalds takeaway breakfast there, but 14$ for a bowl of cereal delivered to the room, made us go for McD hot cakes and eggmcmuffins instead.

We boarded the train to Union station that for some reason was overflowing with Amish families. I chatted with a super tired mom having 4 kids aged 4 and under. The baby was peacefully sleeping on a jacket on the floor, completely at peace despite all the hustle and bustle around her. It turns out that she had been entertaining on the train all night. Yikes.

4½ painstakingly long Amtrak hours later we were finally back in Ann Arbor,

where Kristian and the kids instantly jumped in the car to go get Bailey. He had been hanging out on a farm west of Waterloo with 3 other dogs and a pig. Needless to say he got a bath the following day. He is SO happy to be home, that he hardly slept the first day, but yesterday afternoon he finally caved in. Ladies and gentleman: if any of you wonder exactly  how much snoring  a single dog is capable of producing, just click here:

søndag den 1. januar 2017

Sunny winter days

We are still here in California. Still soaking up sunshine and good company. 

We are no longer in San Rafael but have been staying with our Nepali friends in Hercules. To me they represent that the American dream is still a possibility. 5 years ago they lived in a tiny apartment in El Cerrito, now they have a house in Hercules and own several beauty salons (and needless to say Teresa was of course more than interested to go visit those and now benefit from the nicest eyebrows she has had in quite some time). 

With success also comes a lot of work and Wednesday we borrowed their big car so we could bring extra kids - Presha and Pratuysh - hiking (our rental car only fits 5). We went to Black Diamond Mines after a somewhat awkward lunch stop at Trader Joes. Our two extra kids for the day most certainly stand out from the rest of the Frikke family and as I was trying to find something that Pratuysh would like to eat, I really felt the stares from other people who probably thought we might have kidnapped him. Seriously! I am really relieved we brought his bigger sister along with us.

The mines were more beautiful than we remembered. There were more rocks, taller hills, and several mine entrances. And the trail was not easy. The cool red refrigerator trees were everywhere still and we had to stop and touch on several occasions.

We also visited the Rose Hill Cemetery, where many of the graves have been restored. It is so sad. Most of the graves belong to kids that died from plaque swooping through the area over and over again. And still this cemetery on the hillside has a beauty and peacefulness to it that is rarely seen in other places. 

When we got back with tired legs and tired minds from all the walking/climbing/pinecone hunting we were lucky to have a Nepali Christmas dinner (with not so Nepali chocolate chip icecream for dessert ;-)

Thursday Teresa and Presha went to the salons and then hung out in Sunvalley Mall, where we picked them up before we had a couple of other friends to visit. First we swung by El Cerrito to drop off Ulrik at an old friends place. Then Teresa and I went to get our nails done. We ended the day 700ft above sea level with Lucy and Josh as well as Jack and Birthe (and kids and chinchillas and too much chocolate and portwine). I was of course as excited as the kids to hold the chinchillas and of course one of them escaped as I was holding it. Very embarrassing when considering I am a certified rodent handler……..

Now we are back in El Cerrito, where we got to spend New Year’s Eve with the Phan family and where we will have our few last nights before we will be returning to Michigan. We managed to see the SF fireworks from the hillside and we have spent January first in Bodega Bay, where it was very cold and windy besides the sunshine. We actually wore our Michigan winter coats to stay warm (it does apparently not take a lot of time in California to make you a cold intolerant whimper!). Still I can’t think of a better way to start off a new year than having the old year blown away by salty ocean air.