Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Our First Week in Stavanger

Yesterday marked our first full week in Stavanger and per our usual patterns, it was a pretty busy one!

We arrived in Stavanger  last Mon, Nov 12 both tired and anxious to see the kittens. We gathered all of our luggage (thankful that it all made it!) and collected the cats. We met with the Norwegian government vet to have their microchips checked and an overall inspection of their health. He reviewed their paperwork and cleared them for release. Now all we had to do was take them to the vet once more for another tapeworm round and they would be Norwegian! ;-)

We found our rental car and somehow made it to the apartment without navigation or phones and only one wrong turn. Still not sure how Jason did that, but he's pretty amazing so that must be the reason. We met Olav our realtor at the apartment to get the keys and oriented on things like trash, water heater, etc.

The kittens were thankful to finally be out of their kennels as they began exploring their new home. Jason ran to the pet store for a littler box and scratching post to make them feel more at home. They were both incredibly good and waited until Jason was back with the litter box before both jumping in to relieve themselves. Good kittens!

Zoey took off to explore some more and CeCe laid down for a nap.

They have adjusted well to the apartment. I think they are confused/puzzled every time we leave the apartment door because they never ran out the door in Houston they have repeatedly run out the door here. Our hypothesis is they believe we are keeping them confined to a portion of the "house" while we've already explained to them that this is it - no more 3000 sq ft to run around in I'm afraid! I think their favorite part of the apartment is the heated floors in the bathroom (a common thing in Europe).

Little inappropriate wonder you went and got yourself herpes before we adopted you. Tsk, tsk. 

Tuesday we both had appointments at the Center for Foreign Workers. This is where you are issued your Norwegian number (after it arrives in the mail in 7-10 days). Basically you are hosed until you get the Norwegian number - you can't setup a bank account, buy a car, get a cell phone plan, or anything else until it arrives so it's a good thing we were able to get in right after our arrival. We also were able to secure an appointment with our friend Heather's vet for that afternoon so the cats could get their final round or tapeworm medicine.

Wednesday was our first day in our respective offices. Jason dropped me off at ConocoPhillips on his way to Baker Hughes. We got to see some friends we already knew and meet our work groups. I attended well reviews all day and Jason got started on his online training for the new job. ConocoPhillips gave us a nice welcome basket with a bunch of non-perishable foods to help us get started on our grocery shopping.

Here are the views from our office windows (a big improvement from Jason's cubicle and my window view of the parking garage back in Houston) -

Darcy's office view
Jason's office

The office atmosphere is a bit different than in Houston. They work 8-4 and since a lot of people take the bus, they are out of there by 4. The Norwegian government also has a strong focus on family. You have to pick up your kids from daycare by a certain time or be fined. This family-first, work-second attitude makes the atmosphere very relaxed. It will take some adjusting, but I think I'm going to love it. They even have a dedicated nap room that this pregnant gal is going to have to find during my last weeks in the first trimester... :-)

What I do not love is the Norwegian keyboard that I am struggling to get used to! My apologies in advance for anyone that I email from work with massive errors.

The ConocoPhillips' Spouses Club has a Welcome Committee that sent us a care package box with some non-perishable groceries to help us get started. How sweet!

Thursday night we met Erica and Thad, along with a couple new people Anthony and Shaina, for Chilli Thursdays at Thai Cuisine Restaurant. It was some of the best spring rolls and pad thai that I've had!!

Another example of the difference in atmosphere in the office? We had a wine lottery on Friday. Yes, peeps, you read that correctly. 10 kroner buys you a lottery ticket and there are four bottles of wine to be raffled. Whoever is the lucky/unlucky person whose number is drawn first gets their pick of the wine , but also has to provide the wine for the following week's lottery. 

Friday we spent the evening relaxing and getting settled into the new apartment. Jason also spent some time looking at used cars online for us to check out at the dealerships the following day. We also learned what a bidet is used naps!

Saturday we slept in before going out to test drive some vehicles. We knew we couldn't buy one yet since we didn't have our Norwegian numbers, but we wanted to get an idea for some of the cars and what we liked/disliked. After test driving some A4's at the Audi dealership we headed over to Nissan and test drove the Qashqai. We both fell in love with it! The car had navigation, backup camera (a real plus for the tiny parking space we have to back into at the apartment!), a big sun roof, and only ~6000 km on it. Plus it was in our price range! We asked the salesmen what our options were for holding the car since we didn't have our number yet. He told us we could sign a contract and they will hold the car for you until you are ready. If you decide not to buy it you have to pay them 10% of the sales price. Sounded like a deal to us so we signed the contract and were excited to check one more thing off our long list of to-do's still! :-) Here's a picture from the sales certificate -

I dropped Jason off near the fish markets before heading back home. Megan and I made plans to go see Twilight that afternoon and since the husbands were not being subjected to go see it, they agreed to make dinner for us that night. Jason and Loren got all of their shopping done and I headed to meet Megan at the theater. The movie was AWESOME! And I'm so glad I got to see it with Megan, but I did miss not attending the midnight premiere in the US with my friend Erin like we've done for the previous movies.

While we were standing in line to pay for our popcorn before the movie, the gal in front of us asked if we were American. Turns out she is from Georgia and just moved to Stavanger a couple months ago. Her husband was offshore and she decided last minute to come see the movie and was surprised to hear English around her. Megan and I introduced ourselves and visited with Ali for a bit before the movie. She sat close by us and afterwards we invited her over for dinner at our place since we knew they'd be plenty. Even more ironically she lives in the same apartment complex that Megan and Loren live!  We had a terrific dinner (the boys cooked AMAZING salmon, asparagus, and mashed potatoes!) and gorged ourselves on some American candy Jason and I had brought with us. We exchanged information and hopefully will get to see Ali and meet her husband sometime soon! 

Sunday we visited the Stavanger International Church. There are only three English-speaking churches here so our options are pretty limited in the way of worship. We enjoyed the service and the people we got to visit with there and plan to attend again as well as visit the other churches over the following weeks. 

We had a lazy Sunday afternoon relaxing and trying to learn how to use the washer and dryer. It's the little things. :-)

Monday my office shipment arrived and when my admin escorted the movers to my office, she also suprised me with a bouquet of Welcome flowers. Seriously!? This place knows how to make you feel welcome!

Our first full week ended with taking a Newcomer Orientation Course through the Stavanger Chamber of Commerce. We got a lot of good information on things to see around Rogaland (the district that Stavanger lies within), tips/tricks for grocery shopping and suggestions for stores to  shop, and learned a lot about the social healthcare system plus other odds and ends which will be especially important for me to know as I plan to have our baby here.

Now we are getting ready for our Expat Thanksgiving Celebration tomorrow night with as many traditionally American foods as we can get our hands on!

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