Thursday, July 29, 2010

A peak into our classroom in "Philosophy in School"

While we were studying "Philosophy in School" at the Oslo University College International Summer School, our teachers posted information, links, and pictures from the sessions online. I have taken some samples from these folders to show you what our class was like.

One of our teachers, Beate, writes on the board to help us see our discussion.  Our other teacher, Bo, photographs the board so we can use it for reference later as we write our papers and plan our lessons this fall.  This discussion was about "rules."  I have decided to do a similar type of philosophical inquiry with my students in the beginning of the year as we analyze the reasons and purpose of rules in the classroom.

This photo was taken during one of our 2 minute reflection times.  Instead of just asking a question, Bo and Beate would have us take some time to think, reflect and write about it.  Afterward, they tossed the dice to see who would go first.  It was a great way to organize a discussion.  Also, notice our name tags, which ensured that we learned each others' names very quickly.  4 of us decided to use our laptops in class, and those notes were extremely helpful for our papers.  Masha, who is to my left, is from Russia and really appreciated reading my notes as I typed them because it helped her with her language.  Our class was eclectic.  Going around the room, starting on the left, we have Baiba from Latvia, Vicky from Spain, Kristin from NYC (that's me), Masha from Russia, Clara from Spain, Kamal from Palestine (now studying in Denmark), Andrey from Russia, Sofia from Greece, Veronica from Spain, and Maggie from Maine.  (Marjan from Slovenia and Viktoriia from Ukraine are not in this picture).  It was a great to do philosophy with all these different perspectives.  Plus, many of us were teachers, so we brought insight from our classroom experiences.

After discussion of 5 statements about rules, we decided as a class that the most difficult statement to agree or disagree with was "There is one rule that is the most important."  As a result of thinking and discussing, we had to decide which was the best reason to agree with that statement.  Through our discussion and work, the class selected the statement "There is one rule that is the rule of the rules."  That is just above the work in this picture, but you can see how we tried to formulate a statement that works as one rule that regulates all the rules.  (Love, respect, etc).

A pedagogical technique apparent here is writing students' answers on the board with their name next to them.  This helps students to feel very involved, proud of their work, and also provides a lasting record of the discussion after class.  Teachers made this available online.  Another way to do this is to type on a computer that projects this information onto a screen.  Then this material can be made available later.

Monday, July 26, 2010


As Dr. Seuss said, "Do not cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." This has been an incredible experience. I learned so much and am still overwhelmed by everything that I did and saw. I want to continue my education and training in "Philosophy in School." (I finally handed in my final paper last night!) And I have formed priceless new friendships with fellow teachers around the world. It has been amazing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


‎"Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today. I wanna be a part of it. New York, New York." Farewell Europe. Off to the USA. I thought it was appropriate that last night at Tivoli Gardens, the band played a live version of "New York, New York." :)

This is definitely not the end of my updates. I'll be posting regularly for the next several weeks as I deepen my reflections. I'll also be adding pictures and videos to previous posts. Finally, I will make all of my pictures available online for viewing. I'll have plenty of projects to keep me busy upon my return. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Mike's Bike tours

My third day in Copenhagen and final day in Europe was very informative and productive. I joined Mike's Bike tours for a 3.5 hour ride around the city, featuring many stops and excellent commentary on ancient and modern Copenhagen. We saw many sites in a different way, learned how to navigate the bike lanes together, and learned what makes the Danes the "happiest people on earth" according to many world polls. Our guide, born and raised in Copenhagen, explained the government, high taxation, the strong welfare state, and the extremely low crime rate. I took notes on some of this commentary (to the amusement of my fellow riders) so I could provide a more detailed write up later on (most likely upon my return home). This is what I came here for, information like this.

I saw the residence of Hans Christian Anderson, where he wrote the famous fairytales we grew up hearing. I also saw Soren Kirekegaard's residence, and Mike gave us a wonderful commentary on his work Either/Or, which he feels is a great guide to people, especially as they hit middle age. "I can only read about 15 lines or so at a time, but that's enough to keep a guy's mind spinning for weeks." He explained that it's his favorite work. As a result of the discussion, many fellow riders wrote his name down. An Aussie beside me pulled out her Rick Steves Denmark book and jotted down the book title inside, saying "I'd like to read that."

"Kirekegaard is great," I replied. Although I'd only read The Present Age, way back in college . . .11 years ago. It's time to read some more Kierkegaard, especially with my interest in philosophy and, of course, my impending 30th birthday next month.


In my proposal for this fellowship, I explained that I
hope to spend a day exploring Christiania, a non-conformist commune. “Fighting a rising tide of materialism and conformity,” says Steves, “they want to raise their children to be not cogs, but free spirits.” This experience will enhance my philosophy course as I teach my students to think for themselves.

After a 1.5 hour jump on / jump off sightseeing, I had a good idea of the location of sites in town. I took a peak at Christiania as our bus stopped there briefly to unload and load passengers. I didn't want to jump off, though, because I didn't know when I could get back on. The tables were not published. (Not like in London where those sightseeing buses come very frequently). I was very curious, so after I completed the full tour, I walked over towards Christiania. I knew I was getting close when I saw bicycle taxi drivers with colorful clothing and long dreads. Meanwhile, the buildings were decorated with colorful graffiti and stickers were posted on bus stops saying things like, "Still don't <3 the police." Christiania has had a history of difficulties with the police due to their alternative viewpoints.

I wandered inside, almost feeling like I was intruding. Yet as different as it was -- it was very familiar. The best way to describe this hippie place is -- imagine a Phish festival or the parking lot scene for a Bob Weir concert (or back in the day -- The Grateful Dead). These types of concerts attracted the same type of crowd, where art, music, djembe drums, colors, and a peaceful lifestyle dominated along with the scent of marijuana. This type of scene is both interesting but also a little offputting because I wasn't sure what the rules were or if they hated when visitors come in. They must be used to it, though, because it is a huge tourist attraction.

I took out my camera to snap a photo and then I ended up on Pusher Street, the main drag, and saw "No Photo" signs everywhere. It wasn't long before I realized why not. In the audio tour, they mentioned that until a few years ago, you could buy hash on Pusher street, although hard drugs were not tolerated. It was very clear that the audio tour was wrong, however, because there were stalls everywhere, right alongside organic cafes and clothing booths. I really felt like I was intruding, and tried not to gawk - but I had entered an alternate world.

Dogs roamed freely, and there were no advertisements for commercial things, just events like drum performances or parties. Some houses seemed nice, but there were a lot of ramshackle huts, some with tarps as roofs. I was trying to figure it all out. How does one move here? What are the rules? Advantages and disadvantages. How is it different than living just outside the gates? Do you have to live there to feel free? Just what kind of freedom do they have? With all my questions, I was torn. I wanted to investigate, but I did not want to gawk. I saw a sign for live guided tours at 3pm (it was too late for this day) so I decided to try again today if the schedule permits.

Away from Pusher Street, I no longer saw "No Photo" signs, but I was still weary of taking any pictures because I wasn't sure if it was ok. I think it would have been -- and I'm amazed that the travel show was able to get so much coverage. That was carefully planned. There are sculptures and artwork around, reminiscent of the work in Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona. I was trying to decipher who was a tourist and who actually lived there -- I figured the people on their front porches were inhabitants. As I walked further into the land, I saw a lake, with boats and a pier. A sign said "You can use the new grass, but take your litter with you." It was in English, so clearly a welcome to tourists. I kept walking, though, still trying to take it all in. After the lake, I saw some more huts, one house had a trampoline, some houses had a little narrow base and were raised high above the ground -- looking a bit like a tree house. I need the tour to understand all of this better.

To come back home, I realized the sightseeing busses were not running. The bus stops did not have detailed maps and I wasn't sure which bus to take home. I walked until I found a metro, and took it to an area at the end of the Stroget, then walked back from there. This city is best on a bike -- I should have rented one after my tour. Walking just feels weird when there are hundreds of people happily whizzing by you on the large and plentiful bike lanes around the city.

Today at 10:30 I'm doing a bike tour, and we'll see where the day goes from there. This is my last day in Copenhagen and my last day of this fellowship adventure. I leave for the U.S. tomorrow, my mind still spinning as I try to reflect and process everything I've learned, done, and seen.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Copenhagen is amazing!

I loved this city right from the train station. I felt a special vibe -- a great energy that I have been trying to pinpoint so I could articulate it. Hopefully by the end of my time here, I will be better able to express what makes this city special and magical.

First observations: The architecture is splendid. It is similar to buildings in Amsterdam and Bruges (one of my favorite cities) -- yet distinctly its own place. There is a grand outdoor pedestrian mall -- the first in Europe -- called Strøget. To quote Rick Steves, "Strøget is a series of lively streets and inviting squares that bunny-hop through the old town, connecting the City Hall Square with the harbor, a 15-minute walk away. When this was established, in 1962, a pedestrian street was a novel and very experimental notion. Though merchants were initially skeptical, Strøget has become the model for pedestrian malls throughout the world."

Last night, physically exhausted from a travel day -- I was comfortable instead of overwhelmed when I arrived in Copenhagen. Helsinki had tourists, of course, but Copenhagen seemed to attract many more -- and all in the mood for fun, from families to college students. Usually I want to avoid the tourist crowds, but somehow in Copenhagen, it all seems to work -- everyone out to enjoy the summer, tourists and locals mingling on the Strøget. I was impressed by the array of original boutiques, shops and restaurants. Sure, there was the familiar chain -- such as McDonald's or several British flagship stores such as NEXT and Accessorize -- but also unique places such as "Extreme Fashion," crepe and waffle shops, everything with its own vibe and flavor. I followed the crowds, admired the many spires that poked through the flat skyline, and eventually ended up near a harbor.

I kept following the tourists, refusing to look at my map, and ended up strolling along a delightful canal flanked by beautiful sailboats, tourists and locals enjoying a beer or snack as they dangled their feet over the edge while tour boats glided by. Cool! I remember seeing this area on a travel show, but it was so nice to see and feel it in person. Without an agenda and looking for my next adventure, I saw a sign for a 1 hour live guided canal tour. I hopped on, and our guide David explained the history of Copenhagen in Danish, German and English as we cruised through various neighborhoods awed by the boats and the modern and old architecture.

Sadly, the Little Mermaid is not in town for 2010. She is in Shanghai for the World Expo. Where she used to sit on the rock, there is now a screen broadcasting a live image of her in China. They flew a lot of North Sea water from Denmark over to Shanghai -- and you can put on a Danish colored wet suit and swim around the Little Mermaid in China. It would have been wonderful to see her, although I suppose this is special and unique.

At the conclusion of our tour, I strolled back down to the pedestrian area again, but I made a mistake and ended up on a different street. It was quiet and the sun was sinking low. Since I'm further south, I was back to the land of night for the first time in almost a month. Without looking for my map, I just followed instinct and ended up back in the lively area.

Shortly afterward, a magician was trying to draw a crowd. Magic Mike from NYC. He has spent the last 9 years traveling around the world from city to city -- making a living through his magic and comedy. He was very funny and entertaining -- so I couldn't help but watch. At the end, he explained that he brought together people from all over the world, from different cultures, backgrounds, and religions for this experience. He did. Although of course it was touristy -- and did I come to Denmark to see an American?-- I enjoyed the connection.

In Howard's End, E.M. Forster's main theme was "Only Connect": how humans are social beings, always looking for meaning through connection with others. This is just like John Donne's idea that "No Man is an Island." Traveling alone -- especially after such an intensely social and interactive experience in Norway-- has forced me to reflect and appreciate connection with others. Although I didn't talk to anyone in the group during the magic show, it was special to be a part of the same thing, at the same time. This idea is also in Virginia Woolf, who is always looking for the moments where people are not just in the same place but also in the same mindset. For example, in Mrs. Dalloway, she writes about an airplane skywriting overhead and everyone is united as they try to decipher it. Next, a fancy car drives by as everyone tries to figure out who is inside. Could it be the Queen? In contrast to these moments that unite strangers, Woolf reflects on times where friends or spouses may be in the same place, but their minds are completely lost elsewhere -- disconnected. She always seemed preoccupied with the search for connection, the unity of the spirit.

Yes, "Only Connect." As I continue my travels in Copenhagen, I'll be seeking moments where I can connect with others and the culture. I'm off for some more guided sightseeing on a hop on / hop off bus. I may join a 2:30 bike tour and at some point today or tomorrow I'll visit Cristiania -- a free state, hippie commune right here in Copenhagen. More details about that after my visit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I ran into Rick Steves today - my travel idol!

Today was a beautiful, busy and overall great day.  More details later, but first -- a fun encounter.  I was at Suomenlinna, an island with a fortress right here in Helsinki.  I stopped for an ice cream cone and sauntered lazily towards the ferry to see when the next departure would be.  I got there just as another ferry was unloading and walked right by Rick Steves.  I said hello, and we chatted very briefly.  I expressed regret that I only had his Norway book with me on this trip.  He said he hoped the Norway book was helpful and I told him it was and that we did Norway in a Nutshell.  He said "We're filming a TV show in Helsinki."  And was on his busy way.  That will be a great show because the weather was superb today.

As you may have noticed, I've posted two video clips from Rick Steves on this blog. I also mentioned him a lot in my proposal for this fellowship because his travel philosophy and his writing is a big inspiration for me, especially his book Travel as a Political Act.

Let me show you some excerpts from my proposal so you can see . . .and it can also help show you why I'm here:

Last summer, Rick Steves inspired me with his book, Travel as a Political Act.  As he explains, “Travel has taught me the fun in having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped. It has humbled me, enriched my life, and tuned me in to a rapidly changing world.”  I hold the same philosophy.  While others look forward to the typical tourist sites, I try to travel “through the back door,” as Steves would say.  The Coliseum and Eiffel Tower are worthy and beautiful destinations, but I’ve always been more excited by my own cultural discoveries, such as an invitation to a Belgian birthday party or a visit to a middle school in Japan.  Through my backpacking adventures, I try to live like a local, gaining new perspectives.
            My most fulfilling experience was when I studied at a small college in the English countryside for a semester.   As a temporary resident, I was both delighted and frustrated while adapting to the cultural nuances.  According to Italian novelist Cesare Pavese, “Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”  Steves and Pavese made me realize that I need to challenge myself again.

I also quote him later in a section about benefits for the school and community:  As Rick Steves says, “Travel becomes a political act only if you actually do something with your broadened perspective once you return home.”  I have been looking into Scandinavian culture and the educational system as well as their integration of technology.  What can I bring back for my students?  I am looking forward to sharing my ideas and experiences with others -- both about education and about Scandinavian culture.  This blog will continue to expand and grow as I will put more time into deeper reflections based on my experiences.  I have countless ideas for the classroom, both through philosophy and also the great connection between literature and art.  As I've been to so many museums, I began to sketch English lesson plans for my students.  My mind is brimming with new ideas and I'm refreshed and energized.  Running into one of my idols was just the cherry on top of this sweet fellowship sundae.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cash and Culture

I finally got my cash at the Western Union.  Then I hopped onto the tram for the National Museum of Finnish history, which was really nicely done.  Next, I rode the trams around town, trying to get a sense of place . I've been here a couple of days and still didn't feel I understood the layout of the city.  I do now.  I got off at a random stop, took photos and walked back.  Now I'm going to spend the next two hours trying to finish my final paper.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day.  Leaving in the am for a 1.5 hour guided sightseeing around the city.  Next, I might take a ferry to Soumolinna (spelling?) which has another museum and a lot of history.  Finally, many museums are open late, so I'll try to visit one or two.  I have a Helsinki pass, which means that all of these events are free.  I have to make use of it.

Quick Observations about Helsinki:

*People are super friendly and very helpful, especially going out of their way to help me find a place to get money.

*The architecture is colorful and beautiful -- with many influences from St. Petersburg.

*Nearly every Finnish person speaks really good English, in my experience so far.  I know this is true for many Nordic countries.

*Like in Oslo, the Fins are taking advantage of their short but beautiful summer.  People were picnicing in the park, enjoying a drink in several area parks, sunbathing lakeside, taking cruises to the many islands, and strolling around in the beautiful, warm sunshine.  It's been much warmer here in Helsinki than Oslo -- that was a surprise.

Off to the paper.

Western Union to the rescue

I will repost this link again about how to protect yourself from ATM thieves.

I spent most of today trying to get cash.  Yes, I have a credit card -- but you can't buy everything with a credit card and it was very limiting.  I felt ridiculous buying a diet coke and a Mars bar this morning on a credit card at the grocery store.  And the vending machine in the hostel is taunting me.  Also, I can't buy breakfast or any other meals here without a credit card.  It's been difficult.

My bank was unsuccessful in unfreezing my bank account.  Although there was fraud, they tried to unfreeze it for an hour (twice) while I was at the ATM.  I used up all my cell phone minutes in the process and had to go back to my hostel and try to call them on skype.  They tried again another time, and it was still declined.  I then asked the hostel, and they sent me to a bank by a huge, beautiful church with gilded figures perched upon large domes.  I would have liked to be a tourist at that time, but I was following my map for a bank instead.  I walked into one bank and the very friendly girl told me it was not that kind of bank and sent me around the corner to a bank called Nordea.  Inside, it was beautiful with a very efficient system for seeing a teller.  I gazed at a display of antique handbags and pins while I waited just a few minutes.  When I saw a teller, she said it was impossible to get money from my credit card without a pin code or to have my bank transfer money since I do not have an account there.  It was possible 10 years ago, but not anymore.  Probably because of security.

She suggested I go to Western Union, which was on the top floor of a very famous department store in the city center.  I went there and they told me to contact someone at home to send funds and then return later with the control number.  I also tried Forex exchange, but they said the same thing -- with no pin number on my credit card, I could not take out money.

Ahh, I had thought of that.  I called my credit card company to get a pin, but they would have to send it to my home address and it would take 7 days.  Too late.  I don't have a pin for my credit card because when I used to have one, I'd be tempted to take cash advances at the awful 19% fee.  Once I had an ATM card, I stopped doing that.

Many travel lessons learned.  Although I travel all the time, I've been pushing my luck by not having a good backup option for hard cash.  For now,  I contacted my father who sent me funds via Western Union, something I've never had to do before.

I know this song is about a telegram, but I still felt it was relevant for another Western Union service.  :)

I will obviously pay him back when I come home because all of my money from the fellowship (and direct deposits from work) are sitting there in the bank account I cannot access.  But I guess I should breathe a sigh of relief because if they didn't notice the fraud, they would have cleared out my account and it would have taken months to get the money back.  Yeah, I'm lucky.

Travel isn't always supposed to be comfortable.  It's also a challenge.  While this isn't exactly fun, I've learned and will grow from the experience.

Education Department closed

The city of Helsinki education department is closed, so I am unable to meet with any teachers or to visit any classes.  I have also contacted the university, but that appears to be closed as well.  I am disappointed that I can not conduct that part of my research, although the city has a lot of culture to explore.

Unlike in Oslo, though, where I was with a large international community -- it's harder to meet people here.  Usually I can meet people in the hostels, but this hostel doesn't have that kind of vibe.  People are typically going their own ways, and nobody is really hanging out and chatting in common areas.  Once I take care of my money situation, I'll see what else I can learn today and share that information.  I am going to take a city tour to get better oriented.

ATM info stolen

A few days ago, I posted information about ATM information being stolen in Oslo.  When my friend's info was stolen, they were using her card in Peru.  The bank, unfortunately, did not notice and they emptied her account.  She is working on getting her funds back now.

I tried to withdraw money when I landed at 9:30pm in Finland, tired after packing and traveling to a new place.  I walked all over the airport until I finally found a machine, but it wouldn't let me take money.  Same with the next one.  I was curious, but not yet concerned.   I paid for my transportation with credit card and went to sleep at the hostel.

The next day, I tried to use my card for an archipelago dinner cruise --I was hungry and it was only 40 Euros for 2.5 hours.  Seemed like a great deal.  But the ATM card was declined.  Then I knew I was in trouble.  I used my credit card and called my bank from my international cell.  Then I found out that somebody tried to use my card in a Walmart in Texas and somewhere in California on July 13th.  I was definitely in Norway at that time.  Since I had enough money with me, I didn't need to make any withdrawals until here in Finland.  They told me the account was closed and they could not reactivate it.

I'm now trying to find ways of getting cash.  I do not have a pin code for my credit card (and they cannot give me one over the phone).  If I can't work something out today, I think I need to go to western union.  My credit card said they could wire money from my card -- but that is very expensive.  My bank said to call them today because they had an idea about something.

This is all part of the travel experience.  It can't always be good, and these challenges push you and are good learning experiences.  In the future, I should travel with one of those refillable AAA cards or something that would allow me to get cash.  It is too risky to rely on that one card.  What if I lost it?  Or of course, what if this situation happens again.  I'm not sure if they got my money in Oslo or back in NY .  .  . but I know to be more careful now. You have to cover you hand as you enter the pin code.  If they don't have the pincode, they can't use your card in other atm machines and stores.  Apparently . . . a camera records the pin code and they insert a device into the atm machine that reads your magnetic strip.  And they reproduce the card.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Out to explore Helsinki!

I have no idea what to expect.  I know their education is great (often #1 in world rankings).  I watched a few travel shows, but since our society is not saturated with information and images from Helsinki, I'm not sure what to expect.  I think it's so much better to explore a place without preconceived notions.  Everything is new and exciting.  I felt a little like that in Oslo, and even more so here.

I do know that I spent a lot of time blogging today and catching up on other work I had planned.  I really need to see this city from outside my hostel room. (This hostel is very nice, beautiful and clean by the way.  Although it does seem harder to meet people than in other hostels.  That's sometimes a characteristic of the Hostelling International chain, although it seems to be the best and cleanest hostel with the best location for my needs).  We'll see.

Also, a fellow teacher friend just wrote to me, "Enjoy! Just read that Finland is one of the happiest countries in the world according to poll."  I replied, "Very cool! I'm going to try to see why . . . and also learn a bit about their culture. The hard part is finding teachers who are in town so I can research and talk with them. (That was what I planned in my proposal). But there is so much to learn besides that. :)"

I have contacted both the Department of Education and the University of Helsinki Faculty of Education -- but since it is summer, it's hard to find people.  I was told many are on vacatation.  While I was in Oslo, I was unable to see a school in session because there was no summer school at that time of midsummer.  I did, however, feel like I was a part of many classrooms from Norway to Italy since our excellent and well-travelled professors showed us images and videos of sessions in classes in these countries.  It's been very helpful.

My friend just wrote back, "I hope you get a chance to talk with teachers! I love hearing about your stories about education and travel. 

If you are interested in reading the poll, here is it. Norway is ranked third, I believe."

Anyways, this city is calling for me to explore it!  Let's see what I learn.  :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

farewell celebration

We have the closing ceremonies for the International Summer School, then we're all going out on the town.  Since we haven't spent much money because it's expensive to go out here, we figured we would go out these two nights.  It's interesting people watching and it should be fun to be with everyone.


This just happened to my friend here in Oslo -- in the Grunerlokka neighborhood. I've heard about this in the States, too. Be careful.   4 Tips to Protect you from ATM Thieves.  

Ok, done with writing for the day. Made a lot of progress! Back to work on it tomorrow morning. But now it's time to relax. :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

 Had a great day at the museums (and fell even more in love with Munch), then capped the night off making Mexican with the gang. So sad to leave them as they head out to a shisha bar (with Kamal who works at one in Denmark), but this paper needs to be written so I can enjoy the rest of my stay here.  Also, although I think it would be an important cultural experience -- I don't smoke and I have asthma.  It just didn't seem like the best idea.

[Will insert more details about the museum later]


Visiting the Munch Museum and the National Gallery. Only 3 days left here in Oslo. :( But then off to Helsinki and Copenhagen. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Philosophy for Children (P4C)

This website shows some of what we've been learning and training about during our course.  I just registered.  There is so much more to learn and I want to attend additional classes and training as well as to become active in the P4C community.

The great outdoors

We enjoyed a full day outdoors in nature. Swimming in Sognsvann -- super clean, awesome lake--hiking a bit, bbq in Sofienberg park with classmates (in Grunerlokka), then biking home. :)  The Norwegian lifestyle is all about being outdoors and in nature, year round.  I like that.

[pictures and more details later]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sognsvann Lake tomorrow

We're going to Sognsvann tomorrow, end of T-Bane (subway) Line #2. There is hiking around the lake and an option to hike to Frognerseteren, where we can take another train line back to the National Theatre. Weather should be 21 and sunny. Even though we all have a major paper to write, we figured we could do some reading and planning on the beach and enjoy the nature Oslo has to offer.  This is the area of the Oslomarka where we were supposed to hike this weekend.  Sadly, that was cancelled because of rain.  This will be one of our last chances to go.

Paul the Octopus Retires

After much success and a 100% streak for the World Cup, Paul retires.

Mom and Aunt Minnie left this morning. I got up to have breakfast with them at 6:30 and make sure they got onto the bus without any problems. I am proud of them (even if "babysitting" was hard sometimes) and I miss them already. We all had a great time. :)

Vigeland Park

The school organized a tour of Vigeland Park for us.  In the morning, we did not have class because the professors gave us time to finish our second paper.  Luckily, I had time to work on mine yesterday.  I had breakfast with my mom and aunt in the morning then sent them on their way for shopping and exploring.  I went to class at 2:15, where I received my paper topic (and we left the room for the last time) and then met up with my mom and aunt again.

We walked over to the school to meet up with the group.  They finally got to meet the rest of my classmates and more people in our school, and they enjoyed speaking with everyone, shocked by their kindness and open personalities.  I think you have to have that kind of personality to be in a program like this, otherwise you would be miserable.  They really wanted to hear them talk about New York and America and also just funny stories.

It was funny to bring my conservative mother and aunt into a park filled with hundreds of naked sculptures and statues, although they enjoyed it.   Vigeland associated with Edvard Munch and a related group of artists and thinkers of the time, exploring feeling and emotions through art.  Vigeland chose to leave the statues nude so they would be timeless.  Clothing would date them.  I also learned that Vigeland promised to donate all the artworks to the city of Oslo in exchange for studio space and the promise that they would display the statues in the park he designed.  It never closes and is always free.  A very famous aspect of Oslo.

 We also had fantastic weather (insert pictures later).  It was a nice experience for our last day.

Mom and Aunt Minnie went back on their own, a bit earlier since they were tired.  I was proud of the way they could navigate the tram and bus system (which is quite efficient).  We enjoyed some sandwiches in the hotel, I went for a swim and to try the sauna (I can't handle the heat), read some philosophy book for my upcoming paper, and then walked back to my dorm.  I was so glad they could come and visit -- to be a part of my international experience and to learn alongside me.  I was also very proud of my aunt who had a hard time getting used to thinks like the kroners, but eventually felt like very comfortable and at home.


It's amazing how fast a place can feel like home. 

Monday, July 12, 2010


Spain won the World Cup!  Congrats!

We watched and celebrated at the outdoor cafe by the fountain again.   There were Spaniards in their underwear in the fountain tonight (not my friends though) and all kinds of fun events post victory. I learned some cheers "Campaone, Campaone, Ole, Ole, Ole . . ." I think that's how it goes. We cheered and celebrated in the streets. I stopped by my mother's hotel room, and they had watched the entire game and knew we won. Aunt Minnie mentioned that she had a crush on the player, Torres (nice choice). They were surprised I didn't stay out later to celebrate, but my cell phone had died and I was worried they would be worried that I didn't stop by as promised. It was a good thing, too -- because I realized I left my dorm keys there.

It was a great international party, and I was happy to be part of it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Paul predicts Spain! Let's see . . .

Too much coffee

I did not nap because I had too much coffee at breakfast.  It was worth it, though.  Since it is pouring rain, I've decided to join my mother and aunt on their trip to the Viking Ship museum.  I'd like to see that again, and I wanted to buy a book for my friend who is a 5th grade teacher.  She's doing a unit on the explorers in the fall and asked if I could find something for her.  I think I know which book I want.

Norway in a Nutshell

Exhausted from Norway in a Nutshell or "Norway with a Hassle." It was soooo beautiful and worth it, but Murphy's law really attacked us.  We really did have amazing weather, though! Details and photos later. 

I got up early for breakfast this morning with my mom and aunt, enjoying the delicious buffet at the hotel.  I have a paper to write later today and we are supposed to go hiking in the Oslomarka.  I think I need a little nap now.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Our final inquiry

We had our final inquiry session today, and it was bittersweet.  We have really enjoyed working with each other, testing out various activities, tools, and methods for running philosophical inquiries in the class -- using anything from a picture to an excerpt from a novel as a stimulus for our thinking and questioning.  We have all improved drastically as a group and although it was hard sometimes as Bo was quite a probing gadfly with us, we really got a lot out of it.  I wish the class was longer, but now I know for sure that I want to do more research and training in this area.  As I work on my final papers, I can begin to brainstorm ways to use this in my classroom this fall.  I also know I will have an excellent support network to refer to as I attempt to implement this kind of thinking.

After our last class, we had another trip to the islands--this time organized by the school.  I invited my mom and aunt to join us on the boat, and they enjoyed meeting my classmates and speaking with them . Since they were feeling a bit tired, they did not walk on the islands with us, but they enjoyed the boat ride.  I returned to visit them at their hotel for a little bit before coming back to my dorm.

I'm excited for the "Norway in a Nutshell" trip tomorrow. Since I'm getting up at 5am, I'm off to sleep. :)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Norway in a Nutshell

Mom, Aunt Minnie and I along with a few classmates are going to do this on Saturday. It leaves at 6:30am and comes back at 10:30pm -- a full day of beauty. It's 1,500 kroners ($250 USD) but so worth it. As Rick Steves says, "if you go to Oslo and don't get out to the countryside, you should have your passport revoked." ;)  I am not using fellowship money for this experience because it was too expensive and not directly related to my research.  However, I still feel it is very important to go.  My mother was very kind and is treating me to the trip as a gift for being their tour guide.  :)

A school led by teachers, not principals -- interesting!

A classmate from Palestine (currently studying in Denmark) shared this link with us about a school led by teachers.  Very interesting.

Mom and Great Aunt Minnie are here!

When my mother knew I'd be in Norway for this amazing fellowship, she decided to visit along with her 77-year-old aunt.  Aunt Minnie used to be grandma's twin sister.  While I no longer have my grandmother, Aunt Minnie is like a grandmother to me.  This trip was extremely special because it was Aunt Minnie's first international trip, other than Niagra Falls.  It was also special because this was my mother's first time traveling abroad without me (I'm usually her tour guide).  I tried to give them as much information as possible and I was so proud of them for finding their way without a problem.  They are really excited to be here.  I am also touched because my classmates volunteered to cook them dinner tonight, an international dinner where they would get to know them and present different aspects of their cultures.  Unfortunately, Mom and Aunt Minnie are so tired that they had to decline.

We finished class at 1 this week (an hour earlier, which was great for us to have more time).  After the inquiry, I went straight to my mom's hotel (around the corner from the school) and was happy to see they were eager to see the city.  We went onto a tram (Aunt Minnie's first tram ride) and I brought them to an area called Akkr Brygge, a new harbor-side shopping, eating, and housing development.  It will be completed in a few years, but it is still impressive today.  This area also features the Nobel Peace Center.

Aunt Minnie treated us all to an excellent Al Fresco meal along the water.  We sat under heat lamps, with blankets on our laps as we enjoyed a fine meal.  I was very eager for this since I could not afford to eat out here in Oslo -- just sandwich shops, fast food and groceries.  Aunt Minnie was suprrised because she had heard that the food quality was terrible in Norway.  Not true.  It's excellent, just expensive.  Perhaps some years ago options were limited, but modern Norway has great culinary options.

Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel-- although I feel bad because although it seemed very close to me, it was a lot of walking for Aunt Minnie.  She did appreciate all the people watching and sites, though.  They went to bed early, and I went back to my dorm to relax and perhaps get some work done. The days are flying by.  So much to do all the time.  In a good way!

Spain Wins!

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España! España! España! :)

 The Octopus was right again!

We had another special night watching the World Cup Semi-Finals against Germany.  We were, however, unable to get into our normal viewing spot due to extremely large crowds.  My friends were funny, saying they were Spanish and to please let them in.  Instead, we tried a smaller viewing area at a park by my dorm (the one I saw my first night while walking around the city).  We began to watch, but then it started to rain and eventually we lost the signal.  We hopped back on our Oslo City bikes and headed towards Karl Johans Gate, a very fun, lively pedestrian area with an outdoor cafe next to a fountain.  We were able to peer at those tvs and enjoy a great evening as Spain won.  I was beginning to feel that Spain was my team now.

I'm not sure if news hit the states much about Paul the Octopus with mystical powers, but it's been crazy how accurate his predictions have been.  It's all over the news here in Europe.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All of us at the international school

Here is our first group picture, taken at the Holmenkollen ski jump.  They just built a new one, and it opened on the day of the photo.  The press was there earlier that day, and we were lucky to have a guided tour.

There was also a great museum inside, tracing the history of skiing back 4,000 years.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NYC heat wave - Over 100 degree?

I'm sooooo glad I'm in Oslo and not NYC. :) Weather here is in the mid 70s and low humidity.

island hopping

After class, we got most of the group out on the ferries with us, for hiking, swimming and sunbathing on the islands! I ♥ oslo! :)  

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This week, we have a guest professor teaching us about a lot of the history of philosophy -- which is a refresher for me since I was a philosophy minor.  It was good to revive that information and explore it from different perspectives.  It was also helpful to reflect, with my classmates, how I can approach these issues with my students.  After class, which was an intense amount of information, we were glad to have our trip to the islands where we could catch up on our reading, continue discussions, and foster our friendship.  We began to feel like a family, which is important when you are away from home.  It's so wonderful that my new family consists of a Palestinian, a Russian, a Greek, some Spaniards, an American, a Ukranian, a Latvian, and a Slovenian.  

I am learning so much on this trip -- about Norway, about Oslo, about philosophy with children, about educational practices in Norway and all over the world, about life in various countries through the eyes of my classmates. And of course I have been sharing experiences from my own life and teaching.  It's been an impressive and special cultural exchange.

I ♥ the Oslo Fjord.

Although it's not technically a fjord like they have in the west, carved by glaciers -- with towering cliffs beside it.  In Norway, they tend to use fjord to refer to any large body of sea water.  The Oslo Fjord certainly is beautiful and accessible.  It's right there, in the city.  Oslo is so amazing for it's great mix of city and nature.  Take a short 15 minute bus or tram ride, and you will be in the woods and rolling mountains.  Very nice.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cool laundry reservation system

Student Laundry Reservation System:

When we want to do laundry, we can just go down and use a vacant one, or we can pre-book them. What a great idea. That would have been great at Fordham, when I had to do laundry in the middle of the night to get an open machine.


Philosophy paper is done! Now I'm free to enjoy a night out with the crew, AND my afternoon is free tomorrow for swimming!

Hand in Log #1

Writing a philosophy paper, hoping to finish before tonight's cafe get together. :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Best day ever!

Best day ever! Great weather, fun museums, great people, and . . . finally -- swimming in the Oslo Fjord, with lots of waves from the wind. And then a $11 beer in a trendy, seaside beach house with a live techno dj. The good life.  

First, we met up with the group at the school, where they bussed us over to a beachside area of Oslo, jutting into the fjord.  There, we visited the Norwegian Folk museum, an outdoor museum where they brought about 80 historic buildings to the site for others to visit in convenience. The highlight was a wooden stave church, beautifully preserved and perched on top of a hill.  We also were able to visit a farm house from the 1700s, with a hole in the roof (no chimney), apartment buildings from the beginning of the 19th century, cute huts where you could Lefse bread (potato bread) hand made on the fire while you wait.  They had animals, traditional Norwegian dance, a great doll and children's toy museum, and an excellent exhibit on Sami culture, the indigenous people of Northern Norway and Sweden.  I did not know anything about Sami culture previously, so it was important and fascinating for me to learn.  Sadly, the Sami culture have experienced some discrimination in the past, although are still working towards equality in modern Norway.

Afterwards, we walked next door to the very impressive and special Viking Ship museum.  They had two intact Viking Ships and the remains of another.  These boats were from around the year 809!  Amazing sense of awe and history.  They were bured in clay by the sea, which preserved them.  one ship, with the more ornate decoratioins, was used as a pleasure ship -- primarily cruising around the Fjords.  But the other, heartier and slightly larger ship made overseas passages.  They made an exact replica of this ship and sailed it to Boston and back.  Of course, with a small boat, waves are difficult and the journey could not have been pleasant for the Vikings as they traveled in the open air.  It was very intersting to learn and think about the very different lifestyle of these explorers.

Next, we went to one of the most popular beaches in Oslo, Huk.  I asked the ticket agent for help at the museum, and he showed us where to go, so we said farewell to most of the group as they went back on the bus.  The rest of us saw the beautiful beach with impressive coves, inlets, and rocks.  The bright blue sky dotted by puffy clouds provided a stunnning frame for the mountains and islands all around us.  It was quite special.

It was wonderful to people watch and relax with young local Norwegians alongside my international group of friends.  At our table, we had two guys from Romania, a guy from Britain, teaching at a charter school in Sweden, a girl from Turkey, two girls from Spain, and girl from Greece earning her PhD in "Philosophy with Children" at a school in Wales.  We talked about our jobs, our countries, and how much we were enjoying this wonderful day.

Oslo certainly maximizes its close proximity to nature, with gorgeous beaches just a short bus or ferry ride away.  People enjoy picnics by the water (those one time grills again), while children dig in the sand and the adventurous braved the large waves to swim to the cleverly placed pontoon just off shore.  Instead of taking the pier, I walked in over the jagged rocks, which really hurt my feet.  I was also afraid of falling.  But I did notice that the water was so warm.  Even though the temperatures in Oslo rarely climb above 75, this water was very comfortable.  A group of us enjoyed the water and the waves.  My friend Clara from Spain said, "I feel so much better now.  There is something about the water." It's so true.  Nature can really make you feel great.  I was so happy and relaxed.  Bliss.

It was a nice 4th of July Celebration.  I did miss the traditional American celebration, although I celebrated in my own way.  I also think it's funny because the Vikings are thought to be the first explorers to America, so it seemed almost fitting.

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July! To celebrate, I'm going to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian folk museum with our school (part of the wonderful social program), then swimming. I must! I still haven't been in the water. :0

Sadly, I got lazy and slept in this morning -- and hence missed out on a chance to see a Norwegian 4th of July Celebration.  I have been a bit tired and run down here since I fly out right after my school's graduation, which I organized.  I haven't had time to decompress after a long year, and I've been trying to do and see as much as possible. I guess my body just begged for some much needed sleep.

The other American in our program (Maggie, from Maine) went to the celebration in the morning. She said it was cool because they had Marines, an American flag up, and many booths where you could buy items like pancakes and brownies.  I'm sad that I missed it.  Maggie has pictures, so I'll try to include them in this post later.


Spain won!  Moving along in the world cup.  So exciting!  I feel like a fan now, and it was great to share the experience with locals and tourists in the park.  There was even live news coverage while we were there.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weather didn't cooperate.

Weather never got nice enough for a swim, so I went for a long bike ride (my first time using my Oslo bike card -- free!) and am now getting ready to cook and party with the classmates who live in another neighborhood, Grunerlokka.  Grunerlokka is sometimes called the Greenwich Village of Oslo.  It certainly has that cool, alternative, young vibe with a great social scene.  It is expensive to go out there, like everywhere else, but it will be nice to hang out with new friends and see what the student dorms are like there.  They are  making Tortillas and watching the World Cup games.  I think we'll be going out to the public viewing spot to watch Spain!

Agenda for today:

 Chillax and do NOTHING for a while. What's that like? I want to see. Then off to the ferry where I'll chillax and swim on one of the fjord's islands. Read some stuff for class. Maybe hop on one of the free Oslo City bikes. We'll see. :)

A Norwegian style picnic

Our school organized a nice picnic/bbq in the park as part of our social program.  All food and drinks were covered by the school.  We met in the courtyard and shared the responsibility of carrying the grocery bags to the beautiful park nearby, St. Hanshaugen.  We rolled out blankets on a grassy slope right by a reflecting pool, just into the park.  Meanwhile, several group members set up the one-time use grills.  These grills are a very popular (if envirnomentally unfriendly) tradition -- especially with the high cost of foods in restaurants.  Bring some meats, veggies, drinks, salads and cook your food on this ready to light grills.  As the flames shot up, I worried a bit about safety.  I also had to fight the Smoky-the-bear induced instinct within me.  "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!"  I worried something would happen, but it was ok.  I did notice that there was a black, charred square under each of the grills when we removed them.  If you look around the park, there are square, bare patches all over the grass -- a side effect of this custom.

At the picnic, we continued to socialize, getting to know people from the other classes and learning about our own classmates better.  We were already friends at this point, as what happens when you live, study and play together in such an intense environment.  Our class was particularly close because philosophy really does bring you together in a special way.  I think my students will really love philosophy if I can teach it right.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Time to chillax

After a week of intense philosophy sessions, it's  time to chillax.  Our school has organized a picnic in St. Hanshaugen park tonight (St. John's Garden).  Then we are going to an after party with new friends in our class and the rest of the program.   It should be a great night.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Fjords this weekend

We were supposed to go hiking and camping by Stavanger, on the South Western coast of Norway in the beautiful fjords.  You can rent affordable cabins, and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.  Unfortunately, the plan is off  because the weather will be cold and rainy -- and none of us have the equipment to make that tolerable. :( but it will be warm and sunny here, so hiking and swimming in oslo! 

Live from my room