Welcome home, Frankie boy!

And what a welcome it is! The weather in Bergen is simply awesome, meaning that this is the time to visit Bergen if you want a quick weekend away. Unlikely, so for my foreign friends I’ve added some pictures for reference. The city is warm, filled with people, the sun shines well into the evening, and.. wait, what? Evening?

Our most fearsome gazebo.

Our most fearsome gazebo.

Somehow coming home is something of a culture shock, strange as it sounds. The first thing you notice is that it stays light through the night. Sun goes down at around eleven and lingers just below the horizon all through the night. Odd, compared to the US where the sun goes down at nine leaving the area pitch black half an hour later.

Nothing like a trip along the pier.

Nothing like a trip along the pier.

And the people, and now I’m bashing my own countrymen a little, aren’t nearly as friendly as I’ve grown used to people being. Some might even call them impolite or rude, so when a tourist asks a simple question it’s not enough to say “I don’t know”, people feel the need to add a reason why it was a stupid question to begin with. Little things, you know. It’s a simple fact about the human condition that everybody have insecurities and want to be accepted one way or another. In the US the way people go about it is to be as friendly to people as they possibly can, hoping people will like them. The Norwegian way is to replace that smile with a scowl, in an attempt to chase away strangers who might otherwise judge them. That’s my impression anyway, feel free to disagree. I won’t judge you.. much.

Can't help but love Bergen this time of year.

Can't help but love Bergen this time of year.

My week so far has been busy busy busy, and the only evening I had time alone was when we went out shopping for a new TV. Ended up with a 46” bad boy, which fits our living room perfectly. Other then that I’ve been meeting up with old friends and hanging around, bringing an attitude-change back with me from the US. Having been on the road for weeks and away from home for months I have gained something of a momentum when it comes to trying new things and getting myself out of the house. It’s a good thing, and anyone can grab a hold and tag along for the ride. I don’t discriminate.

Our downtown is not like other downtowns.

A small mountain town.

As for this blog, it’s done it’s job. The plan was to leave it as a story of my trip, a kind of diary that I can look back at should I ever feel the urge. That is still the plan. However, blogging is kinda fun and I feel I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I need to find a new place to hang out though, WordPress is so-so when it comes to community from what I see. Also I need something to blog about, or maybe I’ll just take that as I go.

We also have parks. I love that bridge..

We also have parks. I love that bridge..

Thanks for following my trip, and I hope you had fun reading it.

Frank. Out.

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USA, land of the micropayments

Who cares about change?Who cares about coins anyway?It’s our first day on the road, and in order to get some distance on Massachusetts we hit the interstate and made it all the way to Washington DC. Driving a Dodge Avenger with lots of space, which is good since we are driving around with a lot of stuff. One disadvantage of going on a road trip directly after a 4 month stay abroad is that you have to carry with you all the extra stuff you have accumulated. 

Driving around here illustrates nicely how the US is a country based on micro payments. The latest in a long line of examples are the toll booths, which are too frequent for comfort. We spent more then $20 on the 8 hour drive from Boston to Washington. And these hidden costs are everywhere. Every service person are expected to get a 15-20% tip, they are even taxed based on this perceived income. Most stores add the consumer tax at the register, so you rarely pay the price listed anyway.  Health insurance is another case in point, showing that even though taxes are low, you have to pay extra if you want essential things like health care. Every place of interest has an access fee, with the George Washington Estate bragging how “no tax dollars are expended to support it”. It is all supported by visitors. 

Whaddayaknow.. "tickets required".

Poor Abe, barely even got to win the war.

All these small things, while innocent on their own,  add up in the long run without anyone being none the wiser. This is the beauty of micropayments, and why it works as a business model. That you could run a country on the same principle had never crossed my mind, that was, until I saw it with my own eyes.

The disappearing money act

Capitalism. Tasty tasty capitalism. Anyone who’s ever been on vacation beyond their own borders end up being somewhat proficient in a new form of math. I speak of course, of currency translation. And it doesn’t matter if you live in a different country for years, chances are you’re still translating your salary, living expenses and purchases into your home currency when assessing value. After years in Denmark I still added 10% when considering the price of consumer goods. 

This creates a somewhat strange effect when it comes to cash. Not something we usually carry with us in this day and age I know, but every once in a while we end up with that handful of bills we don’t really know how to relate to; be it from that shared restaurant check you have to pay by card while everybody else are handing you cash, or when people owed you money for a car rental and repay you the hard way. A while later, your stack of paper still heavy in your wallet, it happens. The exchange rate change. Now what? Did the cash in my pocket just change value, or is its value locked to the rate at the day you received it. Things cost the same as always, and you have no plans of exchanging it back.

I’m still divided, approaching the issue as I always do. To quote an old friend of mine; money is paper, and we have more then enough paper.

Sleepy Sunday

After spending most of Saturday walking the streets of Providence, we deserved a little peace and quiet. I gave the TV a try, but I simply cannot watch American TV and here’s why. 

Commercials, commercials, commercials. The breaks are shorter then in Europe, but only slightly and a lot more frequent. This means you can’t do anything during the breaks. This also means that channel swapping is pretty much impossible. I kid you not, as I swap through channels now there are commercials on 4 out of 5 channels. The result: it’s impossible to figure out what’s on the different channels. 

Strangely, the channels seems pretty bad at branding themselves. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t figure out what different channels I have. The screen usually goes something like this: commercial, series, commercial, series, commercial, end credits, commercial, intro, commercial, series, commercial.. etc, etc. At most, an ad for the next show pops up (or the current show, interestingly enough, as if I’d suddenly forgotten what I was watching during the commercials). Time zones add to the confusion specially for events like tonight’s Oscar show. Figuring out when things start is actually a hassle, and there are even conflicting information online. I can see why TeVo has a huge market here.

I also find the news rather annoying. It feels like an afternoon teen show with cheap overlay effects, bad puns,  silly reporters and completely uninteresting stories. I get the feeling I’m stuck with local channels here, which very well might be the case, but this simply has no depth at all. 

Well, that was a little Sunday blow-out to get ready for the new week. Take care now!