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On Wednesday, I went to the Norwegian Embassy for a memorial after the attacks on my beautiful country on the 22nd. It's an unbelievable attack that is just so beyond anything a normal person can imagine. Why? I keep coming back to that. Why? I know there is no logical answer, an illogical mad man did it out of some imaginary truth only he understands.

It was good to be with my fellow Norwegians. We gathered outside, mostly elderly people, some children, and there were a few adults. American police officers were gathered outside to make sure we were safe. We were let in, and gathered upstairs at the Ambassador's home. Several protocols where there for us to sign, and it was good being able to put down my thoughts and love for everyone, knowing it would be gathered with the Norwegian protocols as well. It was a solemn group of people, who gathered and heard music and letters from the President Barak Obama, Biden, and both their wives, from officials in the US and elsewhere. We heard from every day Americans, and how they grieve with us. We sang "Til ungdommen", and tears were flowing. There were a lot of us that couldn't help but cry. We had a minute's silence, and we prayed. I prayed for my friend, Tore, who was on Utøya during the shooting, as well as for the other survivors and all the wounded, dead and their families. It was really good to be there.

I put down flowers outside the embassy as well. As it would happen, a sticker on my roses said "Freedom". How appropriate. I was not the only one. While I was standing outside with a fellow Norwegian, a young man who left Norway on Thursday for an extended holiday, an American couple came over with their young daughter, and put down flowers. It was so touching, and we thanked them for it. The man had tears in his eyes when he shook our hands.

For us being so far away, it was good to gather. I will also go to the memorial service on the 6th in Bethesda. It will be in Norwegian, by the priest at the Seamen's Church in New Your City. I am not the one to go to church very often, as I haven't felt at home at church here. But this will be a Norwegian service, so it will be different, it will be ours.

I took a picture from the steps at the embassy:

The terror attacks of 2011-07-22

I wasn't there. However, I was online when a friend of mine in Oslo said "Wow! There was a huge bang and there is smoke". A few minutes later, reports from friends in the area started coming in. I started checking the newspapers. I went to Norwegian TV online and watched live news. As time went by, it was clear it wasn't an accident. We heard about wounded. So far it didn't seem to bad. Then the first reports of dead came. Pictures followed. The magnitude started settling in. What could have been came to mind; In Norway at this time we have what is loosely translated to "common vacation", which means the large populous are all on vacation for 3 weeks. Offices run on skeleton crew. Also, it's summer time. Bomb went off at ~3:25 local time. End of day is 3PM. It was Friday. A lot of people had gone home. The street was mostly empty at that time. Only an hour earlier, and this would have been so much worse. We started settling in that a small number of people were dead.

Then we hear report of shooting at Utøya, a small island 20 miles west. We hear the horrors the children experienced. It's unconfirmed from the police, but we hear reports from the kids there. "Don't call me, he might hear it and come kill me" one of them twitter. My circle of friends realise that one of our friends is there and is hiding. He says he's safe, but there is a lot of chaos, and they haven't caught the guy. Police scramble to get there as soon as possible. The gunman is taken pretty much without a fight. Reports from the island starts coming in. An interviewee reports he saw 25-30 dead. He describes a nightmare where people trying to swim to safety were gunned down. Police confirm 9-10 dead. We know there will be more dead, we just don't know how many. We're thinking "as many as" 30. No-one could imagine it would be 85. So far. There might be people who have drowned, or sunk. Not just people. Children and young adults. People who's only fault is that they believe in a multi-cultural society, and want to make sure the future is safe and free for all, and that people from every culture can be together without hatred.

I am still in shock. I want to cry, but I feel to shocked to. I have heard from my friends and family in the area. Everyone are safe. I am one of the lucky ones, I didn't lose anyone. I am reading anything I can find about it, because I need to understand. It is just incomprehensible. I talk to my friends. We're all feeling the same: shock, sadness, and an indeterminate strength that we will not give in to the fear. We want to keep our openness, where our politicians can walk down the street without being afraid. Where the people have access to our politicians everywhere. That our royal family doesn't have to stop their openness. That democracy will be as democratic as it's always been. We will not give in. I just heard one of the teenagers from Utøya said he will be back next year. THAT is what it means to be Norwegian. Not give in to pressure. It makes me proud to be a Norwegian, and of my fellow countrymen.

Thank you all on behalf of my people (yeah, I'm their queen *wink*) for thinking of us in these hard times. Every single one of us appreciate it.

Race across America

I've been following my friend Jens Balchen riding through America on his bicycle. That man is insane! I am so proud to know him! Last night, I was following until around 2AM and he was still going strong. And he started again at 6AM! Woot! That man is not sleeping at all. How he can do it in the dark is beyond me. It is amazing how he can do it. He's been riding for 9 days, last day today, coming in at Annapolis, Maryland. I am going to go greet him at the goal area, he needs to be cheered on! And I will take pictures. It is so exciting to follow him, I am amazed at his tenacity. What he is doing is just amazing. Wow. I will post pictures when I am back home.

End of holiday

Today was my last day of my holiday. I have had a great time, but I always wish I had more time off! There are times I wish I was a trophy wife who didn't need to work ;) Yeah, that's realistic. Besides, I _do_ actually love my job.

I went to Las Vegas (no! Really?), and had a great time. I came late on Friday, so I didn't end up in the bar until around 01:00 (that's 1AM for you Americans). I didn't drink that much, but ended up leaving at 6AM. I was tired, so I fell asleep like a log even if I was in a smoking room. At 10:00, I called down and got advice that my non-smoking room was ready, so I went downstairs and got the key. I got into the new room, which had a view north on the strip, a separate dressing room and a veranda. A bit too much traffic outside to be outside though.

Anyway, Saturday was a busy day. I had a quick egg salad sandwich, then fell asleep for a couple of more hours. I was feeling off, felt like I had a fever, and I was flushed and had a rash. I then gambled a little bit, then I got on my new long, pink dress with sequence and went down to the bar. I spent a bit too much time there (18:00-02:00), and well... I think I consumed a bit too much alcohol.

Waking up on Sunday was decidedly unpleasant. I didn't leave the room during the day, but around 18-ish I put on my black knee-short dress with sequence and a red bolero, and headed down to get some pizza. I also had a Napoleon cake. An elderly lady sat next to me, and looked lost. I helped her find utensils and water, and told her when her food was ready. She was sweet :)

At the bar, Joshua, "my" bartender, was unhappy I was sick. He chastised me about drinking, and cut me off before midnight. Glenn, one of the other bartenders snuck me a drink, and when Joshua discovered that, it made me laugh out loud. It was so cute! Anyway, I didn't drink much, and the fun part was talking to this woman, Sharon, I just met.

I meet a lot of people in Las Vegas. It's always fun. I met a couple from Arizona, and her twin brother with wife. I flirted wildly with the brother, but hey, at least I ask permission from the wife first! ;) I met a couple of other people as well, and even a family from Norway! It was fun talking Norwegian, but it was a bit weird to start out. I usually mix a few English words in in the beginning!

On Monday I went up to the top of Stratosphere. It's the big tower often seen on CSI. It's quite pretty up there, but the hotel and casino itself is very old and tired. I don't think I will go there again. I will definitely not stay there. Later in the day I went to a Brazilian restaurant at Planet Hollywood called Pampas. I had a coupon (paid $25 for a $50 meal), so I had to spend it. I was NOT impressed with the meal. The meat was dry and hard to cut, not tender at all. The salmon undercooked, the tuna too spicy, the shrimp cold and the scallops where good, but small. Only thing I liked where one of the two pieces of fried banana, and the smoked salmon. Oh, and the fried pineapple. Don't ask what I did after... Oh, and Joshua had to go to LA for a quick trip to see his mother, and I spent a lot of time talking to one of the other bartenders, Cary, instead. I like Cary, he's funny.

On Tuesday I decided to rent a cabana by the pool. Best. Decision. Ever! The sun is really strong in LV, and I burn easily, so being in shadow, yet still have the option of getting some sun, and bathe. I used SPF of 100, and still got burned in places. Not badly, thank God! The cabana comes with a bottle of alcohol. Yes, a bottle. I got a vodka (Absolute). I had some, I am not stupid, but by and large, it was untouched. In the cabana next door there were 4 girls, and I asked them if they wanted it. They looked like party-girls, and were very happy about the gift :) At least it won't be wasted!

I went to the bar again, and talked to strangers again. I said goodbye to Joshua and gave him a toy dog to give to his handicapped granddaughter, which he really appreciated. I stayed at the bar until Nikki and Cesar came on duty, then I went back to bed. I slept like a log until 09:00, when I woke in a panic: I hadn't packed yet. I just barely got everything packed ;)

Anyway, it was a nice trip. I gambled less than expected, and were down $250 overall, which I actually think is OK. I won in Video poker, I think I may be good at that with some more practice. I mainly lost on slots, basically because I wanted to lose so I could get off and do something else ;) I know, terrible reason to want to fail ;) At least I racked up points for comps! I am thinking about going back in August. I'll give myself CP work and work while I am there. I actually think that might be better for me drinking wise ;)

Now, also a driving instructor.

Yesterday I went to singing, and as I was driving to park the car, a car is coming towards me, the wrong way in a one way garage. Well, he back up and then he parked his entire car on the parking I was aiming for. He backed up, and I could park. I went out and told him how to turn the steering wheel in order to turn around and drive the correct direction. Before that, he had actually managed to hit a car! What is the world coming to!

Yes, I am getting old. I've been miserable all day, because my joints have been hurting like mad. I think I know why: we're under tornado watch. It's coming our way, the question is whether it will hit directly or bypass. We've had a touchdown around Quantico, so it's in the neighbourhood!

First day back

I took the entire Easter week off to relax, do stuff here at home, watch crime shows on DVD, read crime novels, and all the other things Norwegians do during Easter (except eating marzipan, I didn't do that. Or sugar cube in an orange and Kvikklunsj). It was a nice and relaxing vacation, with time for walks outside with the kitty (yes, on a leash) and enjoying the good weather we had in between the rain. And then on Saturday, Gustav, a friend from Norway dropped buy for the weekend. It was GREAT! We ate and drank and had a very good time, in general. Princess wasn't quite sure what to believe about him, curious and afraid at the same time.

And I have gotten my new computer up! My desktop is slow as molasses, I can often write entire sentences before it shows (like this one). Wait time for commands aren't that bad, but anything graphical can often take several seconds to respond. So I've got a new machine with an i5 processor and 8G memory, that should do for a while. I called it BORGQUEEN, because it had Windows on it. Guess what I am installing now? ;)

My car is back!

OK, I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start from the beginning. It was Monday two weeks ago. My doorbell rings, and I go out to check what is going on. It's my upstairs neighbour who tells me that he has locked himself out of their apartment, and could he borrow my car to go pick up his daughter from daycare and then pick up a key from his wife's. Sure, I'm a good Samaritan, so I give him the key. Half an hour later, my doorbell rings, and he has a question about leaving the gear in neutral. I tell him I will show him, so I go downstairs with him. I push the clutch, and try to wiggle the gear stick. That doesn't work. Uh-oh!

Well, to make a long story short, he didn't know how to drive a manual, and just pushed the stick in gear. Of course, he broke something. I didn't know what, so the next day I got AAA to come have a look at it and take it to a garage. Well, it wasn't anything he could fix, so we drove the car to Annandale, to a mechanic my neighbour could communicate with (he's Korean).

In the meantime I got to drive one of their cars (they have two). I bet it was inconvenient for them, but I needed to get around. Well, the good news is that I have my car back :) The cable between the stick and the gear was broken and they had to order parts, which is why it took so long. At least it wasn't the transmission! THAT would have been expensive. My neighbour was very sorry, but you know, I should have told him. I just didn't think that people no longer know how to drive a manual. He paid for the repairs, so I am not out any money, just inconvenience. I am still on good terms with him. I told him, that next time he need to get somewhere, I will be happy to drive him ;)

Stolen credit card number

Today, midday, I get a phone call from a number I didn't recognise. I normally don't pick up, but for some reason I did. Turns out it was my bank asking if I had made a $1500 purchase from Spain. I could deny that I was in Spain spending money not in my account (I put most of my money in my savings for just such cases), so they cancelled my card then and there. Unfortunately, the cleaners were here, vacuuming, so there was a lot of noise, so I didn't feel like asking a lot of questions. Anyway, this is the first time it's happened to me, and I am not out any money. I am glad my bank for was looking out for me, and making sure I didn't lose anything. Of course this is inconvenient, I had to call a few creditors that used the card on recurring payments and tell them they won't see any money, or get a different payment option. But worst: this is the first number I've actually managed to remember. I haven't had it for more than 8 months, even. Oh, well. I can live without the card for a few days...

The disaster in Japan

First, an earth quake. Then a tsunami. Then a nuclear disaster. And finally, hatred from the United States of America. Well, let me qualify this: a large number of Americans. I have been shocked to read blogs and chat rooms in the last few days. Racism is ripe in the Americas, and the target is the Japanese people. In the last couple of days, I've heard how Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a good thing. How the internment of the American Japanese population was justified. It's amazing how many believe this is well deserved. That it's Karma and wrath of God.

I am scared to read this. It doesn't seem right that intelligent people are dragging up things that happened 60-70 years and claiming that THIS is the punishment. That Hiroshima and Nagasaki wasn't enough to "pay the price" for the 2350 American who died at Pearl Harbour. No, 150.000-250.000 wasn't worth the 2350 American lives that were lost. I am not saying it wasn't necessary, I am not saying it was. What I am saying is that it's almost 70 years since this happened. We have since reconciled with Japan, they are an allied. For those of us who have been in Japan, we've seen a people who are shy to some degree, very elegant, very western in some aspects. They are still a society that put honour very high, higher than us westerners understand, but there is nothing in modern Japan that is remotely similar to what Japan was 70 years ago. So why this hatred? I cannot think of anything but pure racism. And it seems OK to be open about it! Now, when there is a disaster happening, now, that our ally need our help.

Talking about help, I am very proud to live in a county with a special rescue force that travels the world to help. These are volunteer men and women who are experts in helping in crisis. They went to Katrina, to Haiti and now to Japan. I am also honoured to work for a company that has made it possible for us, its employees to double our donations. For every dollar we donate (up to $250 a year), the company matches it dollar for dollar. In addition, we have given a lump sum of money, and of course, we have several employees in Japan. I am worried for them, although I know they are safe. At least for now. To all my friends and colleagues in Japan, you're in my thoughts, and I hope nothing more bad happens.

Verdi's Requiem

I have just finished our final concert of Verdi's Requiem. It's a wonderful piece, and we sang it twice. We joined up with three other choruses (Alexandria Choral Society, The Metropolitan Chorus. Heritage Signature Chorale and us, NOVA Community Chorus) and Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, a professional band, as well as four professional soloists, Jan Cornelius, soprano, Stacey Rishoi, mezzo, Scott Six, tenor and Gustav Andreassen, bass-baritone (he's third generation Norwegian, that's pretty cool). We sang our hearts out, and we were good, really, really good. I spoke briefly with the conductor after the concert and he was in 7th heaven. I also spoke to a couple of the soloists who also thought we were good. They were awesome! I am slowly coming down from this high, I cannot wait for the recording!