We stay in Hamar for a few days at our friends' house. The paint and brushes are already waiting for us. As thanks for all the times they hosted us and we could store our gear, we promised to do something in return. Erik and Negar were allowed to choose which chore to give to us. They picked the terrace. For a week we sand, varnish and paint all the planks of the terrace. In the evening we practice our Norwegian at the table and read to the children. A few months ago we couldn't understand Tale and Eva, the two kids. Eva is five and a fast-talking waterfall, Tale is almost three and doesn't articulate very well yet. They are a good indicator of our Norwegian level, which has improved enormously in the meantime. We can have most conversations in Norwegian, although we are quite tired after a whole evening in a new language.
When the terrace is finished, we repack the panniers and head for our next destination. In Lillehammer we are housesitting Peter and Lena's house and three cats for the whole month of July. Over a month ago, we adjusted our entire plan for the summer. A night under the stars in Sjusjøen cleared our minds. We deleted all adventures from our agenda and decided to spend the summer on the real project Basecamp-X. If we want to live here, learn Norwegian and build a network, we have to live here for a while. We will do that for the next two and a half months.
Lena and Peter's house is three kilometers from the city center. Lillehammer is located on the north side of Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake. The city has less than 30,000 inhabitants; in the Netherlands and Belgium it would be a village. In 2020 we visited Lillehammer for the first time, on roller skis and that in the mecca of roller skiing. Lillehammer breathes sport. The winter games date back to 1994, but the pride of the Norwegians is as great as ever. We felt immediately at home in this sporty town, which also exudes a coziness that we sometimes miss in other Norwegian cities. From the house we have a beautiful view of the city, the lake and the valley. In our ideal picture, we live in the forest within cycling distance of Lillehammer, at the edge of the cross-country ski trails and with a view of the mountains. Oh yes, that ideal place also costs less than 200,000 euros and that's where the shoe pinches. Lillehammer is quite expensive, comparable to house prices in the Netherlands and Belgium. We have to travel quite a few kilometers outside Lillehammer to find something affordable, but then cycling to town becomes quite a physical challenge. Our dream place will always need certain sacrifices, just as living in Norway does not have only advantages. By choosing nature, winter and adventure, we do leave family and friends behind in the Netherlands and Belgium. The goal is not to pursue perfection, but to choose that which makes us happy. That choice is in our own hands.
This month we especially want to experience what it is like to live in Lillehammer. What kind of city is it really like, what are the people like, the environment and the possibilities for work. We are going to a Norwegian language training twice a week at the frivilligsentral, the volunteer center. In the class there are only refugees, especially from Afghanistan and Ukraine. The level is the absolute basics, but still it is useful for us. Teacher Solvar talks incessantly and so we pick up quite a few new words and expressions. In the library we both find a Norwegian children's book, we listen to Norwegian podcasts and in the evening we regularly watch programs with Lars Monsen. He is Norway's best-known outdoorsman who has many extraordinary adventures on his record. Among other things, he trekked through the wilderness in Canada for two years by dogsled in the winter and a canoe in the summer. He is our inspiration, example and temporarily our teacher of Norwegian. Moreover, Lena and Peter are not away for the whole month. So we live part of the time with them which is ideal for our Norwegian. They enjoy helping us and fortunately have the patience to listen to our Norwegian which is full of mistakes. Meanwhile, we are looking for a summer job in Lillehammer. The best way to learn Norwegian is to speak the language all day. We do want to work outside and do something that is right up our alley. We get a few small jobs at events and Zoë gets an interview at an outdoor store in the city center. Not an outdoor job, but it is right up our alley. Maybe a nice start!?
Meanwhile, it is the end of July and four weeks have flown by. We feel at home in Lillehammer and could live in this house. The three kilometers uphill cycling is a perfect distance from the center. When we cross the street we are in the forest where the hiking trails and cross-country ski trails begin. There is sun on the house from morning to evening, the view is beautiful and the bus stops at the door. It was nice to get a taste of this experience and learn what suits us. The next house we are housesitting is 12 kilometers from Lillehammer, in the middle of the forest. It is a dream house, but we will only learn there if it also meets our dream picture.