The adventures of Kurt, Sarah, Ethan, Reid & Leah

Ice-o-rama

People often ask us how we are faring the freezing temps here in Oslo. The cold has been no bother despite near 0F temps at times. Bundle up, layer well, walk often, and we are good. However, ask us about the ice, and we sing a whole different tune. It has become my #1 annoyance. It’s not the thin sheets that we are used to that will be gone in a day. Nor is it what we were accustomed to in Boston where there was a fair dose of salting and scraping. Here in Oslo there is no salting, at least not on the sidewalks. They do put down small gravel rocks that help a bit, when they stick in the areas where they need to be. But along comes a fresh snow fall or enough people shuffling their feet, and poof, they are gone. There is some scraping on certain heavily trafficked sidewalks, but the smaller streets, such as the one we live on, are left to the elements. Norway is not a litigious society so the fear of a lawsuit does not compel people to remove snow or ice in front of their own building. So good luck to yourself in traversing these sidewalks. Ice cleats help me some and after this past week, Kurt may get some too. Maybe the few number of folks here that actually use the cleats are trained from an early age how to waddle on the ice, but it doesn’t come second nature to us!

We have experienced this ice annoyance here and there, but apparently this past week it was over the top. We had a beautiful snowfall two weekends ago, and then it got warmer, rained, and went back to colder temps. Ripe conditions for at first a slushy and then quite icy week. I was in England and luckily missed out on most of it until my return, but the highlights back here at home included:

  • Reid’s only pair of boots becoming soaked when walking home through the slush, to which he had to take multiple socks to school the next day and change them out as his feet started to get wet
  • People not being able to walk on the sidewalks, opting for the streets
  • Reid falling on the playground, getting a goose egg on the side of his head
  • Kurt sliding backwards as he pushed Leah up the hill towards the boys school.

I too got my dose out with the kids on Saturday as we went downtown to the library …

The play area in our courtyard. Reid is trying to kick the truck which is half frozen into the ground.

The play area in our courtyard. Reid is trying to kick the truck which is half-frozen into the ground.

Frozen sand tools in the courtyard.

Frozen sand tools in the courtyard. Solid ice.

The sidewalks around our apartment.

The sidewalks around our apartment. Everything on the sidewalk is ice, with the right side being the most fun — ice on a hill.

Sidewalk downtown around the National Theatre.

Sidewalk downtown around the National Theatre area. The official ice-skating rink is just on the other side of the bushes. As Reid said ‘I don’t even need my skates or the rink today.’

One of the walkways to the library.

One of the walkways to the library, seriously!!!

Today we are getting a good inch or two of snow to cover it all up. This will make the sidewalks passable for a while, until the next thaw in which we will start this vicious cycle over again. Grrrrrr.

Comments

  1. Crazy, right? This Christmas I asked for cleats and got them. They’re the full-sole kind, too, and so far they’ve done the trick. A couple of my expat friends have wiped out hard in the last week because of all this ice (it wasn’t nearly as bad last year, my first winter in Norway, so I didn’t learn until this time around). Be safe!

  2. My first Christmas in Norway I asked for a portable bag of sand I could wear and drizzle in front of me while I walked. Think of all the old people – not to mention pregnant women! This is absolutely my #1 annoyance too!

  3. Ah, don’t get me started…oh well, too late. As a young lad growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, shoveling sidewalks was both a matter of income and a matter of pride to me; I knew it was absolutely essential to get all the way down to that bare pavement, however much strenuous chipping away it took. The shoveling was only half the job, and those who left it at that earned my undisguised contempt (for example, those who felt they could do a decent job with just a plastic shovel!!). After moving back to Norway, I realized the problem is a much bigger one – it’s not about pride in a job well done, or plastic vs. metal shovels and hardened steel ice picks, it’s about two instruments of societal corrective that the US has but Norway lacks; i) constituent services (as in “Write your representative”), and ii)suing the hell out of people. I don’t yearn for more lawyers and US style litigiousness, but the lack of a “write your Congressperson” mechanism here is something I think about every winter as I struggle to keep my balance and protect my bones. Two years ago I was all aflame about the scandalous state of the stairs that go from 7.juni plassen – right in front of the Foreign Ministry, where all the ambassadors go to deliver their demarches, which should be one of the best-groomed pieces of real estate in Oslo. Although built only a decade earlier, the stairs had fallen into a scandalous state of disrepair, with gaping foot-size holes and exposed rebar turning the them into a hazardous obstacle course for the thousands of people who make their way up and down them each day. (One day I found a soul mate there, an angry woman with a camera – she said she was documenting the shame of it all, and was going to send some shocking pictures to VG which would surely make the front page…but no such luck) I would hold forth about this major failing of Norwegian democracy every chance I got (NO ACCOUNTABILITY!!!), and even contacted a member of parliament about it. He said he liked the idea of constituent services, but the staffs of Norwegian parliamentarians were minuscule compared with congressional staffs, and there was simply no room in the Norwegian system of governance for that kind of thing. I see his point – too much accountability can be a problem too, but some such reporting mechanism seems all the more important in the absence of all those lawyers. Then I came across the website “fiksmingate.no,” modeled on the MySociety.org e-democracy application “FixMyStreet” – a very interesting application, and something the government could learn from. And perhaps they have – just last week, I heard on NRK radio that the Ministry of Local Government had established a “constituent services” site of sorts, minsak.no (“myissue”) The thrust of the story was that nobody knew about the site since the Ministry never bothered to tell anyone, but no matter. Check it out – It’s an interesting experiment that let’s citizens raise any issue that concerns them, and propose solutions. If the proposals manage to accumulate 300 signatures (“likes” in the parlance of the social media generation) within the municipality (kommune) or 500 signatures within the county (fylke), then local government is obligated to consider the proposal. Very interesting to browse the site and see what issues people are concerned about. (the color scheme is pretty weird though, and I don’t get what the parquet wallpaper is about – is it about “oss her nede på gulvet” having our say, or something like that? ) Anyway, minsak.no should be a good place for all of us to vent next winter!

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