February 13, 2016

A Good Uneventful Flight

Saturday, 11 January 1986

Dear ones,

The others are still in bed so maybe I can get this started. What would you think about passing my letter on after you have read it? The news may be a little old that way but you may hear oftener.

We had a good uneventful flight. The tedious part was waiting in airports for our next flight. Luckily, we stuck in Dawn’s portable luggage cart. Our carry-ons were heavy, and we would have worn ourselves out going from one terminal to the next. We were bused to our plane at O’Hare Chicago, and in London we were bused to the next terminal. The security was beefed up at London airport – we saw military in “camouflage” suits, carrying a rifle, patrolling the area. Vince was frisked there at a metal detector site. Jené and I weren’t but I saw some women that were.

We had supper on our flight to London – about 9:30 our time. When we finished with that we watched a movie – saw Cocoon. By then it was about 1 a.m. our time and the pilot announced it was now 7 o’clock London time and we would be having breakfast in an hour. We landed in London about 10 a.m. and our flight to Goteburg left at 3:15. We sat and napped, watched people, etc. We got to Goteburg about 6:30, but we had lost another hour. We picked up our luggage and went thru customs. We had nothing to declare so that didn’t take long. One of Jené’s suitcases didn’t come in – she was devastated. Her curling iron was in it, or was it her shampoo. We took a taxi to this hotel – with our 5 large suitcases, and 3 carry-ons. The reservation clerk kept calling the airport for us to check on Jene’s suitcase – no luck yet.

The Volvo Co. limosine picked us up at 11, and took us to the Tourist Delivery service. The driver gave us a mini tour of Goteburg on the way. So we got the car – got everything situated and left for Oslo. It was a pretty drive – Sweden had had a big snowfall about a week before and it still lay thick on all the trees. We stopped for supper just outside of Oslo. Our map wasn’t very good so it took some doing to find our spot. But after asking at a Texaco station, and then having a fellow customer offer to show us the way, we made it.

Our apartment is in a complex of apartments. Think there are 24 apt in our building. There is a shopping center just next door. Our bedroom is good sized, has lot of drawer space, good closet space, large desk-writing area. Jené is kind of in the other 2 sleeping rooms – the one is just a small bedroom – the other one has a lounge chair, a large desk, and built-in bunks. The bottom one is fixed up like a lounging area. The kitchen is big enough for a tale to eat at – has an electric dish washer, apt. size stove and refrigerator. We already have had boiled fish. The other room is good sized also – has a couple of seating areas, one kind of for TV watching, the other by the book cases.

We met an American lady at the grocery store on Thursday – her husband works for Esso. Guess there are a lot of Americans living in this area – both with oil companies and with the military (Nato). She offered to help us whenever we need it; and offered to take me to the American Women’s Club which meets at the American Lutheran Church. Last night, a knock at our door – it was a fellow from the apt. 2 floors below (Oh, I forgot – we are on the 3rd floor – what an effort to lug the suitcases!) – he is on a Fulbright from Indiana University; he invited us down for coffee so we met his wife, who teaches at a small private college outside of Bloomington, Ind., and their 8 yr. old daughter. They have entered their little girl in regular Norwegian school – she says its easier. Their school days aren’t as long. Yesterday she got out at 1 p.m. Jene may take a Norwegian class at the same time as Jill (the Mrs.)

We are going to find out about her classes on Monday. Thursday we opened a bank account. Yesterday we bought snow tires – last night we had 3-4 inches of snow. It was 4 below 0℉ yesterday so is cold. Tonight we are invited over for dinner to the Koppang’s - Rolf and Hanna – they are the couple who were in Iowa City for 6 months 4 or 5 years ago.

Think we will look up the church today and find out what time services are. There is one here in Osteras so it shouldn’t be far.

Monday we also have to report in to some office, so they will know we are here. Anyone staying longer than 3 months has to do that. We aren’t tourists but we aren’t permanent residents.

Jené’s suitcase was located and delivered right to our door – that helped the situation, but we either have to find a converter or buy a curling iron. The electric cycles are 60 here, well, anyway they are different so our appliances can’t be used without a converter or transformer.

We got such a giggle out of Katie, the little girl downstairs, last night. She said it's against the law to strike a child. Vince asked if that was at school. And her father said it included parents, too. It’s against the law to use corporal punishment. I don’t think she’s one who has been beat a lot. But she thought that was a neat law.

Guess we will have to start using a clock - we are still sleeping by Iowa time, I think.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the bathroom. The shower stall, the stool stall, a sink are in a room between the entry way and the kitchen. There is also a washer and a dryer in there. The washer has an agitator and a separate spin-dry section. The dryer is a floor-to-ceiling ‘closet’ with an electric heater on the floor and rods at various heights on which to hang the clothes. The clothes get dry in a day. There is a mangle in the basement. I haven’t been down to see it yet. There is an iron and board up here. There is a garbage drop to the basement. However, bottles or glass have to be hand delivered. So far we haven’t found a coffee pot. Think they drank tea more and used instant coffee.

Guess I’ll get this ready to mail, and find the post office. Think it is at the shopping center.

Love, Verla and Vince

February 12, 2016


Saturday, 18 January 1986

Dear ones,

We are lolly-gagging around again this morning with nothing special on the agenda. It is about 20 degrees F. (heard you had it warm – a January that?) and snowing again. It is easy to sleep late. Daylight comes about 8:30 or so and dark about 4 p.m.

Jené and Erling Oluf, a son of the Koppang’s also 19 went to a movie in the sentrum (down town, loop) last night. It was an American one; they even had a coke at a McDonald’s. Jené enjoyed that. She is less adventuresome – gets bored with watching TV you can’t understand, looking at newspapers you can’t understand, looking for things in the grocery store not being able to read the labels. She has registered for an intensive 6-wk. Norwegian language course, meets 4 times a week in 2-hr. sessions. That starts on the 27th. We were watching an American movie on the TV when she got home – it had Swedish subtitles. That helps us learn the language, too.

Vince went in to the University yesterday. Was introduced around, etc. He has been given 2 offices to use, because he will be at 2 different locations. They even brought in an IBM computer for his use. He told me I could come down and use it, but I didn’t bring my softwear with me. And I haven’t learned the Basic Language.

Got a letter from Robyn last week, and one from Steve yesterday. Anxiously waiting for more. Jené got her grades from UNI – she was a little disappointed. They were about the same as the semester before, and she felt she was doing better.

We had a really good time at the Koppang’s last Saturday. Hanna served us mutton with cabbage (faar i kaal) and boiled potatoes. Our next course was rice in whipped cream with a raspberry syrup. Then we adjourned to the living room – oh I guess we had a tour of their flat – it is rather like a duplex or a 3-plex. They have 3 floors: 2 sleeping rooms and 2 “offices” on top floor, and bath, living room, dining area and kitchen on the middle floor. A work bench and room, laundry facilities and large TV room are on the bottom floor. Hanna keeps asking us if we have enough room – she knows our house is bigger. Then we sat at the coffee table where she also had quite a spread: coffee, of course, cookies, a fruit similar to a tangerine (called clementine) and finally a layered cake with whipped cream, bananas and pineapple between the layers. And it was 2 a.m. when we got home.

Sunday we walked to the church here in Osteras – I recognized the Lord’s Prayer and The Apostles Creed, but I didn’t get much out of the sermon.

Monday we attempted to report into the Police Station. This is required of anyone staying longer than 3 mos. The address we were given was right downtown – you can imagine what it was like – we can’t read the signs, most of the street signs are small placards on buildings, the roads don’t go like the map looks like, the traffic is bumper to bumper. We asked a couple-three times before finding it. When we asked one fellow if he spoke English, he said “Nei – what are you looking for?” When we got to the right building, and then to the right office, we found out the papers had been sent to Sandvika, because we live in Osteras. Vince was a little upset. He can’t figure out why they sent us the downtown address on the application. Oh well, Oslo bureaucracy, I suppose. That did us in for the day – we went home after getting to Sandvika and getting our passports stamped.

(I’ve) Written cards about our Holmenkollen ‘trip’ on Wednesday. Thursday we checked out where we got on the tram (rail) to go downtown. It’s maybe 3 blocks from here. Vince has been trying to decide if it is cheaper to buy gas or to use public. The bus stops close by, too. Gas is equivalent to $2.59 a gal. so it is expensive; but to take the tram downtown is about $3.00 round trip.

Think I have finally found a way to make my coffee. At first, we couldn’t find a coffee pot so decided they must use instant. Then one day back on a high cupboard shelf I found an old electric percolator. The inside was all coated with black and I didn’t [?] some scrubbing. Finally bought some edikk (vinegar) and percolated that through. That seemed to clean it up pretty good. Don’t think it has an automatic shut-off so now a I have to learn how long to let it perk and how much coffee to use. But I’ll figure it out – just give me time. Next I’ll tell you the story of the electric frypan.

Love to all – whoever gets these last should maybe save them. Might make an interesting chronicle.

Love, Verla and Vince

February 11, 2016

A Busy Week

8:30 a. m. 1/25/86

Dear ones,

Just plugged in the coffee pot so that should give me about ½ hr. to write this. It is daylight, nearly sunrise, about 0℃  (32℉) so looks like it will be a nice day. We are going down to Sandvika this morning – it looks like a larger shopping place than our Senter and yet not the zoo that downtown is. This afternoon we are going cross-country skiing. There are large open spaces not too far from us, with ski trails, marked, some places even lighted.

Oslo has had a lot of snow even since we’ve come. They are running out of places to put it.

Thursday afternoon Jené and I went over to Jane Smith’s for coffee – she’s the one we met in the grocery store whose husband works for Esso. They have a lovely house a couple of blocks from here, with a spectacular view of those wide open spaces I mentioned, rented for them, or at least found, by Esso. She showed us how the ovens work and also converted some oven temperatures for us.

Wednesday Jené and I took the trikk (street car) downtown. We found the book store where she bought the text for her language class which starts on Monday. Then we walked around some – saw the Parliament building. Found the McDonald’s so had a hamburger. Walked some more. Went thru the City Hall (Rådhuset) – that is a prominent tourist point. The wall hangings and the murals painted on the walls were fascinating. Then we walked past the palace (Jene wants to see the King!) Next we walked blocks to Majorstua, a transfer point for the trikks – there we got on and went back home. That last part of the walk took us past a lot of small shops. We even went in a couple and looked.

Monday I washed a couple loads of clothes, and the same on Tues. It was so foggy on Tuesday, we could hardly see across the street.

Sunday when we went to church, the usher who was handing out hymn books said, “God morgen” – Jené answered, "Good morning." That started a conversation. Some Norwegians can’t speak English, but many others are anxious to practice it. So when the pastor shook our hands after the service, we greeted him in English. Then he was curious as to where we were from, etc. He invited us to stay for coffee, which we did even though we had dinner on the burner. He introduced us to his wife and 3-4 other people sat at our table. The gentleman who sat next to me was Odd Giving – he spoke good English, and was translating for me some of the announcements – they were welcoming the choir director, organist and youth director. I think they were “installed” during the service.

We went for a ride in the afternoon – out NW of Oslo – got your maps? We headed towards Hønefoss. It started getting dusk before we’d gotten that far. We drove along a beautiful fjord – it is different seeing them covered with snow. Took a few pictures – hope they turn out. With so much snow, there isn’t a lot of contrast.

Wednesday night we got a phone call from Oddvar Bjerke – inviting us down to Kråkstad for church this Sunday and to his place for [?]. That is where Vince’s great great grandfather is buried. Oddvar is a cousin thru both his father and his mother, with the common ancestor being 8 and 9 generations back. We are looking forward to that. Kråkstad is about an hour’s drive south of Oslo.

On Thursday afternoon the phone rang. I answered but heard only Norwegian, enough so I knew I was talking to Ottar Wardenær. He is a cousin on the Hoganson side. I said, “Jeg heter Verla Williams,” so he knew he was talking to me. I asked him if he spoke Norsk (English) – Nei. I told him in my little Norwegian that I spoke little Norsk, my husband was better and he wasn’t here. He rattled off something more – all I could say was, “Jeg ikke forsta.” (I don’t understand.) So he hung up. Boy, I wondered how we would get in touch again. He apparently doesn’t have a phone – he’s not in the phone book. But in a few minutes the phone rang again. It was a granddaughter of Ottar’s saying he wanted us to come for dinner on Feb. 2 at 2 p. m. Boy, do I have to study Norsk this week!

Our car (my car – did I tell you Vince put it in my name?) works fine, I think. Vince takes it to school. I still haven’t driven it – my choice. It is red, deep red with beige interior. I think the black would have been prettier, but probably hotter in Iowa’s summer. It has some nice features that are standard – we only got 2 added: a AM/FM radio and cassette player, and some good floor mats – an intermittent windshield wiper once every 7 seconds, I think, heaters in the front seat (bun warmers), good heat thrown to the back seat, all the doors are locked by the lock in the driver’s door, etc. Gas costs about $2.50 a gallon but think we get pretty good mileage.

We heard it takes 11 days for mail to get to the states from Scandinavia because the Postal authorities in N.Y. are inspecting it all for pornographic material. Did mine take that long? Think I must have given Dawn the wrong address or else she’s broken her arm.

If you don’t like my idea of this round robin style of letter, let me know. Just think you might hear oftener, even though the news will be older.

I’d better get dressed – breakfast is finished and we have to get going. Bright and sunny today, but a little windy. We don’t often have much wind.

Love, Verla and Vince

February 10, 2016

No Sunshine

Saturday, 1 February 1986

Dear ones,

No sunshine this morning – it’s been mostly cloudy for several days. But the snowfall has been pretty light. It’s a good thing – Oslo has run out of money for snow removal and out here they’ve run out of places to put the snow. Guess they’ve had no thaws since winter began and that is unusual. But it’s been good for the skiers.

One of the ministers from the Osteras church came to visit us on Wednesday evening. He is an interesting fellow, maybe about 10 yrs. older than us. There are 3 ministers for 2 congregations, so every Sunday they have off. He and his wife left yesterday for the weened at their mountain hytta (cabin). He was a part of the Norwegian Resistance during WWII – had some interesting stories to tell.

Sunday was a bright sunshiny day and he we headed out of Oslo about 9:30. Got to the Kråkstad church about 10:20 – we were to meet Vince’s ‘cousin’ Oddvar Bjerke at 10:45.
Kråkstad church

He usually goes to a church closer to his farm. Each car that drove in we wondered if it were them. Finally a young couple – he’s 38 – with 2 children walked over to the car. He said he recognized Vince from his picture. They have 2 girls, Mari, almost 2 and Kirsten, 5½. His mother came to church there, too. Oddvar had told the minister we would be there so he welcomed the American visitors whose ancestors had worshipped in that church hundreds of years ago. He read one of the verses of the Scripture in English; and the children who sang 3 or 4 songs, sang one in English for our benefit. It was both Children’s Day and Bible Sunday. He (the minister) had several Bibles on display – one from 1765. There was also a baptism – it was really pretty – hung at least a yard beyond the baby’s feet.

Oddvar had called about to 2 of the 3 farms that Vince’s grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather had been born on. After church his wife and mother went home to make dinner – he rode with us to show us these places (would you believe we all forgot our cameras?) None of those farms are still in the family, but the people were very gracious in showing us around. We also saw a 4th farm – this one the oldest known ancestor lived on – it would be Vince’s great great great great great great grandfather. It hasn’t been in the family continuously, but the wife of the man who has it now is related to Vince. He is the 3rd generation on it. There we had coffee and rolls!
Skotbu farm

Think Oddvar had told his wife we would be there for dinner by 2. It was a quarter of 3 when we got there but she served us a delicious dinner: roast elk (moose), boiled potatoes, gravy, carrots and brussel sprouts. For dessert we had krumkaka with a-berries-in-white-cream dish. Oddvar had to do his chores and we visited with his wife Malfrid and his mother and watched the antics of his 2-yr. old. Jené was so frustrated at not being able to understand her or talk to her so she could understand. We shared some family information with Oddvar when he came in – and then it was time for coffee. We had anise flavored lefse (I’m going to get the recipe) and a blotkake (soft cake) it was layered, and had lots of whip.cream but not the same as we had at Hanna Koppang’s. This one is traditional for festive occasions, birthdays, etc.

By this time we suggested it was time we should go home. But Oddvar first had to show us some of his antiques. They have a good sized house but usually use just the kitchen which has a ‘family re’ at one end, ( didn’t go in there so I didn’t see it) an the bedroom. But they had opened and heated a ‘great room’ for Sunday – it had a large table, buffet, hutchtype china closet, 2 sitting areas with perhaps room for seating 6 in each area. Some of this furniture was very old – this room was to the right of the entry hall. But straight ahead of the entry was 2 room full of old furniture. I don’t even remember all I saw: table, chairs, large desk, trunk. Leather covered davenport and chairs, corner cupboard. They re living in a second house on the farm – he is remodeling the other one. Think one is for the parents to live in when the son takes over the farm. But his did died 3-4 years ago, and his mother has moved into a new house in town, so I think when they moved out of this house, they will rent it out. Guess they rent out the upstairs now. During the war, Jews were hid from the Nazis in their basement – the Jews were being sneaked (snuck?) over into Sweden.  It was a fun day and we got home by 11 p.m. We had a little trouble finding our vei (road) to get us from downtown out to here. Eventually we will learn the town. Think we need Dalen to drive us around. We remember how good he was 10 years ago.

Last Tuesday I rode down with Jene on the trikk (street car) and then walked to the Univ. Library – it was a 20-25 minute walk. Suppose I could have grabbed a bus if I could read which bus to grab. Walked past the U.S. Embassy. Thought about dropping in and introducing myself. Did some reading in the bydeboker or farm or community history. May have found a few dates I didn’t have before, and a little information on one of Grandpa Roe’s great great grandmothers. (Oddvar thinks we should buy the bygdebok for Kråkstad area.) If we bought all the books our ancestors are in, it could be quite an investment, but maybe a good one. Well, after I read for about 3 1/2 hr. I decided I’d better walk back and catch the trikk. Made it home by about 4. Would you believe I would be ambling around Oslo by myself?

Thursday I went down about noon and met Jené when she was out of her class. We looked around in the 2 large department stores and in the husflid “craft” store. We saw the Oslo Cathredral from the outside. (that’s on our tour list) Found a pair of boots like she saw at Sandvika – but didn’t buy these either – I didn’t have enough kroner with me. I probably didn’t tell you about our trip to Sandvika last Saturday. It used to be a town by itself until Oslo expanded. It has a lot more stores than little Osteras, so we went to find Jené a pair of winter books. After visiting every shoe store, she found pair she like. We didn’t have enough kroner, an this particular store didn’t accept MasterCard or Visa or travelers checks. So they lost a sale. We were going skiing (cross-country) when we got thru shopping, but it was quite breezy and blowing snow out in the open so we changed our minds.

Vince worked here at home on Wednesday – when Jené got home from class, they went skiing just here in the neighborhood. Jené used my ski boots and the skies that Koppangs loaned to us.

Jené seems to be enjoying her class – I’m amazed at the amount of language they’ve given her in this week. It takes awhile to assimilate it all; I’m hoping she takes the II level, another six weeks. It is good for her to have something to do. Monday she starts another class – this one at the University. But she was unable to register as a student because she doesn’t have enough American college yet. However, this lecture is in English and is open which means she can sit in and listen. It is on Norsk life and culture and history. I told her I'm thinking about auditing it, too. So I will meet her again at the trikk station downtown and we will take another line out to Blindern. Then Vince will pick us up on his way home. She said this will be new – going to college with her mother.

Jené made omelets for our supper last Sat. nite. Vince thought that would be a good idea for every Sat. night. I made sure I bought eggs yesterday.

I’d better not make this any longer – you won’t get through it all. We don’t like an empty mailbox, so thanks for the letters.

We saw pictures on the news here 7:30 p.m. Tues (1:30 p.m. Eastern time) of the Challenger explosion – awful! Tomorrow we go to Ottar’s.

Love, Verla and Vince

February 9, 2016

Longer Days

7:00 Saturday, 8 February 1986

Dear ones,

The length of our daylight has improved considerably in the month we have been here. I’m up a bit earlier than usual. I usually get up about 8 – it is just beginning to get light out now and we will have daylight until 5 or a little after.

Today we are planning on going downtown to see the Resistance Museum. And Vince wants a McDonald’s hamburger. Last Saturday he and I took the trikk downtown – he had never done it so I was showing him how. We went to one of the big book stores to get that book on Norwegian Resistance. We bought 3 – he has read them all, I’ve read 2 1/2 . Two were quite small.

Sunday was another fun day. We got to Ottar’s at 2 – actually at 5 or 10 after – we missed a couple of turns. I’m the map reader. Ottar’s grandmother and Mom’s grandma Hoganson were sisters, which makes me and his daughter third cousins. His daughter, Bjorg and son-in-law Arnulf Stenfoss and their 2 daughters were also there. Berit is 17 and Bente is 19. The girls had or are having English in High School (gymnasium) and Bjorg and Arnulf had it 25 years ago when they were in school so with their English and our (Vince’s) Norsk we got along. Had a good dinner – roast reindeer, boiled potatoes, gravy, mixed vegetables, and then multeberries in wh. Cream. After seconds of everything, we retired to the coffee table, where we visited; Ottar showed me pictures of the old homestead which he still has and uses for a summer home. It wasn’t long before we were served coffee and an ice cream dessert with krumkaka and cookies. Ottar’s wife, Signe, had served potato chips at dinner (she probably heard that all American eat them) – they were passed again as was a basket of fruit and a smaller basket of candy. Whew! It was after 7 when we left. Jené is going with Bente (she is working in Oslo –her folks live in Kongsvinger, a small town an hour NE) to Kongsvinger next weekend. And they asked us if we would like to come out so suppose we will get an invitation some time, too.

Monday Jené trudged off to class and Vince off to the Univ. I was attempting to write a couple of letters and do 2 loads of laundry. I finished the letters and got them mailed, but I didn’t get the 2nd load of clothes done. I took the noon trikk downtown to meet Jené when she got out of class. She got a pair of warm winter boots and then we walked to McDonald’s for a hamburger. Then we went back to the station (downtown it is a subway) and went out to Blindern, where some of the Univ. is. The lecture (in English) class for foreigners on Norwegian life and culture started at 3:15 – goes until 5. We were at least an hour early but watched people and read the mail (which I’d grabbed on my way out). We had a letter from Eleanor (Peggy) – she is teaching this semester at a small college in Stephenville, Texas. She is the only black faculty member and the only female faculty member in the Speech Dept. This first lecture was an introduction and was on the geography of the country. I liked it – Jené thought it was boring. Vince gave us a ride home. He went to choir practice after supper and I finished the second load of clothes and did a third. I’m wondering if Mrs. (Fru) Gjonnes does a load a day – that way there would be room in the “dryer”.

The week seemed like it was going to be fairly quiet, and it really was. Vince decided to stay home to study and write on Tuesday. Before I had a chance to get at anything, the phone rang – it was Jane Smith inviting me to go with her to LCW at the American Lutheran Church. That was fun – met a young lady who graduated from Luther in “78 and knew who Mark was. Her hometown is Madison, MN. Her husband is in Foreign Service. Visited with the preacher briefly – he’s from Madison, Wis. And knew Gerhard Naeseth. The speaker had been to the North Cape (the furtherest north in Norway) in Jan. and showed slides of her trip. Think they were still in sunless days. We heard sometime in Jan. that Tromso had celebrated because they’d had 1½ minutes of sunlight. Tromso is north of the Arctic Circle but south of the North Cape. It would be depressing to live there!

After I got back, decided we needed groceries. Vince has been going along with me – to buy the fish, I think. We carry the groceries home in plastic bags, which we purchase at the store. We can bring them along and re-use them – (we also use these bags for our garbage disposal). And we pack the groceries into them ourselves. It’s not hard to spend 4 or 5 hundred kroner a week – that’s equal to about $60.00. But it feels like more because you peel off 5 hundred kroner bills, and your mind thinks of hundred dollar bills.

Vince stayed home again on Wednesday. Wed. nite Hal (from downstairs) came up to see if I was going to be home around noon on Thursday. Katie their 8-yr.old gets out of school before Jill, her mom, gets home from class – Jill and Jené go to the same Norsk class. So I was. Katie was only here for about 20 min.

We watch quite a bit of TV in the evenings. Jené picks out all the American and English films. We do get 5 minutes of news each hour on the Armed Forces radio station so suppose we get the most important stuff. Vince likes to watch the music shows – and he gets quite a bit out of the commentary.

We still haven’t had any thawing weather but we haven’t had much snow since that 2nd week or so when it seemed like it snowed every day. It hangs around 20-25 F.

Will try to answer some of the questions – Holmenkollen is the big ski jump – if you watch ABC or NBC Sports in mid-march you should be able to see the international ski jump competition. We have talked about getting tickets. Guess the King even goes to that. This week they have been having Norway ski jump competition.

I think Norwegians like strong coffee – but mine gets like I usually make it. Except this neat percolator I discovered isn’t really automatic – it just keeps perking away so I have to remember to time it. Think a lot of people make boiled coffee and others have the coffee makers – like Bunn or Norelco.

Guess I make meals similar to what I’m used to. We do have fish (boiled) 2 or 3 times a week. Had Torsk (cod) from Lofoten Island the other night – that was exceptionally good. We have had roast beef, (not as tender as I make at home), hamburgers, pork chops, lamb stew, homemade beef soup with dumplings. Norwegian pancakes (more like crepes).

Well, we’ve eaten breakfast and the rest are ready to go so I’d better hurry along. Heard from Dawn a couple of times – guess she was just waiting to hear from me first. She sent some pictures of Heather taken when they were at our place. Guess they haven’t seen any snow since they were in Iowa – at least they hadn’t when she wrote. Haven’t heard from the boys so assume no news is good news.

Got a letter from the Norse Club – they each had written a line or 2 at their meeting. That was fun.

We’re going back to Kråkstad tomorrow – we”re taking our camera this time – and hoping for sunshine – it is cloudy today. We are invited for coffee to another cousin.

Thanks for the mail – got 3 letters from you in the same day.

Love, Verla and Vince

February 8, 2016

A Quiet Week

Sunday evening, 16 February 1986

Dear ones,

I started this an hour ago, but then Jene came home from her weekend at Kongsvinger, so we’ve been listening to her. Sounds like she had a good time. We’ve practically had a blow-by-blow account.

This has been a quiet week – Wednesday I felt lousy – achey, chilled, figured it was 24-hr. bug. And I did feel better on Thursday. But Friday I came down with a head cold. It was in my eyes yesterday . Did go to church this morning, but that’s about it for today. It was poor attendance today – the fellow handing out the hymnbooks said it was because this week is a vacation from school. So suppose everybody headed to the mountains to ski.

We went to the English lecture again last Monday – it was on history this time. He said he was going to cover from 8,000 B.C. to 1800 A.D. in an hour and half. He explained where the First Norwegian was from – Remind me to tell you. He also said the Viking Age was their shining hour, their national pride, the only time they were top dog!

Well, I had another sneezing spell so I gave up and took myself to bed. Now maybe I can finish this while I’m waiting for the rest to get up.

Last Sunday, the 9th, we had planned to go back to Kråkstad with our cameras if the day was bright and shiny. Oddvar had called us midweek and we decided to meet him at the church at 1 p.m. The sun wasn’t shining but the sky looked lighter in the south so we thought it might clear or even be clear down there. Oddvar had also said we would go to coffee at his cousins after we took pictures – so you hate to back out at the last minute. We went to church here, and left after the sermon so we could get on the road. We took pictures, or Vince did, of the church, the minister’s house, the view from there. Then we went to a farm where on of the greats grandmother had lived and took pictures. The house was built in the early 1900’s but the old stabbur was old. The people who own it now are not in the family but that doesn’t seem to matter.

We took pictures of several more places before coming to the farm where Vince’s grandfather Williams was born. The fellow who lives on it now is a grandson of the fellow who bought it from Vince’s great grandfather. (He left the area in 1854, went about an hour N. of Oslo and then in 1864 came to the states). The house was (is) very old like 200 years, but it sounds like it had been moved on to the place. That could have been when Grandpa Webjornsen moved off, or before or after – I don’t know. The old blacksmith still stood, and an old pig house. Every farmer was his own blacksmith – each farm was self sufficient and once or twice a year they would travel to Oslo or maybe another town to get what they needed. Think the fellow who lives there now only plants crops – but the old barn was there, and had some old equipment – like an old ditch digger for laying tile – a long narrow shovel. That was used after a trench was dug – by hand. And in a nearby building stood a hugh tractor. How times have changed!

We were invited in for coffee. The house had not been modernized – it had lights – and guess the people are going to tear it down and rebuild. It would cost more to repair than to build new. It was a log house, but covered both inside and out with siding or something. We saw there the old corner fireplace in the kitchen was – like the houses in the Decorah Museum. There was an old kitchen range there now, fired with wood. She also had a small electric stove. The 9th was a traditionally celebrated day in Norway and evidently celebrated or observed still in the country – the Sunday before Lent. It was a feasting day before the 40 days of fasting. The traditional food is buns, of various kinds and fillings. This couple had made 5 doz. the day before – she put some in a freezer. One kind was raisin, the other was filled with wh. Cream and sprinkled with powdered sugar. Needless to say, we spent a little more time there than planned and were running late on getting to the cousins. We were also running out of daylight so we only took a couple more pictures. Oddvar said we would just have to come back again.

So we went to the cousin’s farm. He was milking cows so before we went to the house, we visited the barn – Jene was overwhelmed, mostly by the smell but watching cows doing their think in the gutter didn’t thrill her either. So we went to the house. There we saw the lady of the house and her 2 little boys – we had met them at the church the first time we were there, and of course, Oddvar’s wife and 2 girls were there. And also 3 other couples: the parents of the farmer, who live in another house on the farm; and his (the farmer’s) brother and wife; and sister and husband, we think. They had gone ahead with their coffee – but we were served coffee, the traditional buns. These were filled with berries and wh. cream. And also 2 other fancy desserts, or was it 3? We visited, were shown old family pictures, a beautiful old heating stove – we saw one at the previous farm, too – indescribable, you’ll have to wait for the pictures. Then we were served supper – rice, meat casserole, jello salad, a tossed salad. I wondered if it was a customary meal, or if she had tried to Americanize it.

Decided to wash bedding and towels on Friday: Jene has a single bed – they are not as big as a twin. The foam pad mattress is about 28 inches wide – about as wide as a crib. Our double bed is 2 single frames together. We each have our 4-in. foam mattress, 28 inches wide. On top of that is a 2-in foam pad rippled on one side. We put the ripple side down – maybe that should be up. Anway, then there is a double size bottom sheet. Our covering is a feather tick – dyne. The mattresses are each in a ‘case’ and so are the dyner. Vince has one and I have another. Jene has hers, too. They are not as wide as the bed – each wide enough to cover one person and tuck in a little on each side. Are they ever warm! The first time I did the bedding, I did the cases for the dyner, the pillow cases, and the sheets. That is a job and almost too much to dry in one day. So I decided then and there, we are not dirty people and that bedding doesn’t need washing very often. Friday I did just the sheets and pillow cases.

Found a typewriter the other day and it wasn’t locked, so figure Prof. Gjonnes doesn’t care if we use it. I may try that next time, I don’t know. We burned out the toaster the other day. Don’t know if it was old an due to die or if it was something we did. We could let them take it out of our Apt. deposit, but will probably buy one. We want toast while we are here. One of the things we didn’t do was empty out the crumbs – the bread is really crumbly. We looked for a skillet or frying pan but could see none anywhere. I fried our hamburgers in a kettle. But we did find an electric fry pan, so decided to use it. When we brought it out of the cupboard, it looked as if it had been used a million times and never been washed. We scraped off the first layers, but no way was it clean enough to use. We soaked it overnight – that didn’t help much. I heated it withvinegar in water. That had helped the coffee pot. But still our fingers got black when we rubbed them across the bottom (the inside). So for about a week, it sat in the cupboard and I stopped to scrape every time I went by. I used a metal spatula, and a chore boy. Guess we finally got it clean enough to use. In the meantime we found a small 7-inch crepe pan. It is a small frying pan but the sides are only ¾ in. high- I’ve used that both for Norwegian pancakes and for hamburgers. Now I’m wondering if Mrs. Gjonnes had that electric fry pan well seasoned for her rosettes and fattigman, and we’ve ruined it for her?

Love, Verla and Vince

February 7, 2016

Drive Down the Coast

Sunday p.m.

Dear ones,

Yesterday was full – we decided to drive down the coast on the west side of the Oslo fjord. Get your maps out? The first touristy thing we encountered was a tunnel to the top of a ridge. It was built in a spiral of six levels – real interesting construction. The view from the top was, of course, spectacular. There is a restaurant on top but we didn’t eat.

We drove on to Horton after wandering through the streets of Holmestrand – stopped at a unique church, from 1674 built in the shape of a Y (it was locked). Horton was formerly the Navy’s headquarters, and still appeared to be an active base. Wouldn’t you know the museum was closed on Saturdays until May. We may drive down there again. Sitting in the ice in the harbor was the three-masted schooner, the Christian Radich. That would be fun to see in full sail. Vince says it is one of few schooners left in the world, and that Norway is the only country that still teaches its sailors to sail.

The church at Horton was interesting – not so old, built in 1854; an resembled First Lutheran some. Just a little ways south was another community, Borre with an old church – from the Middle Ages. Think that is 1500, give or take a hundred years. That church too was locked – think Saturday is a poor day to visit churches.

From there we went on to Tonsberg which is supposed to be the oldest city in Norway, founded in 900’s, no – at end of 9th century, would make it late 800’s. Supposedly there were ruins of 2 old castles there, one 1276 and the other 1503. It took us awhile to find the way to the ruins; we had to park the car and walk and climb. The ruins were on the top of a mountain (a little one) overlooking the town. We saw foundations, some were covered by snow, and even climbed on some of the stones; Jene wanted to find a loose piece but didn’t succeed. The climb was exercise enough to keep us warm.

From there we drove to the end of the world – Verdens ende. We didn’t stay on the main highway and drove to the end of the little road. There were huge rocks on which we could walk aways – and out there on the horizon was the North Sea. We saw a couple ships or tankers steaming on their way out there. All hard to describe – but impressive. By then, the sun was about set so we turned around and came back home. Guess it was almost seven when we got back.

The rest of the week was rather quiet. My cold didn’t get worse and didn’t settle into a cough. I’m fine again. Wednesday I decided to go back to the University Library – the walk from the trikk to the Library wasn’t as bad as the other time – only about 2 blocks were icy this time. The book I thought I would read wasn’t on the shelf so I found a different one. Did find a few names and dates I didn’t have before. Oslo had a fairly big fire on Wednesday – a couple of buildings downtown burned. Took 7 hours to bring under control. Vince could see the smoke from the Univ, which is some distance. Jene had to walk right by it on her way to class. It was cold – the water froze!

We went to church at Osteras this morning – it was communion. I could understand “Dette er Jesus legeme; deter er Jesus blod” so guess that was all we needed. Vince probably understood more. When we got home, we had a phone call from Oddvar – we arranged to meet him close to Krakstad at 4:30. He took us to meet a lady who makes bunads. I may get another one – from that area. This one has a lot of hand embroidery on, so it seems wise to let a native make it. This lady served us coffee, cookies and apple tarts, as close to apple pie as you will get in Norway. It was good but probably not a good substitute for super. We got home before 9; I heated up some homemade soup – such was our dinner.

Tomorrow I order tickets for the World Cup Ski Jumping Competition on Mar. 16 – on Holmenkollen. Watch for us on the Sports show – who knows?

Heard from Mark and Amy last week – they sound busy.

Love, Verla and Vince