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I am a busy mother of seven great kids aged 8-32, work about half-of-full-time (3 short days) as a special needs and language teacher, and have 1-3 guest rooms in my home, depending on the season. The house also contains a café which I open in the weekends most of the year, and several days a week in the summer.
Corona update: I am currently not able to welcome anyone coming to Norway from overseas, due to severe restrictions on travel and day-to-day activities. Just stating the obvious. 🦠
The house is old and creaky, and it can be cold in the wintertime - apart from the living rooms and bathrooms, which we keep warm and cozy! There is still a lot to fix and get in order, since we moved in nearly three years ago, but the house is gradually turning into a pleasant and comfortable home!
My main objectives are to create a well-balanced life, a welcoming home, and a beautiful garden. The new house has a tiny garden, much smaller than my old one. I garden organically as far as possible. We have 2 ducks, a guinea pig and a rabbit. We live just 20 m from the little park by the lakeside, so this is where we barbecue and swim in the summer.
Harmony and balance in this season of life are very much about practical things - clothes clean and easy to find, good food ready for mealtimes, kids getting to school and to bed on time, the routines of the home running smoothly; when these things are more or less in place, family life is so much more pleasant and calm and harmonious!
The five youngest kids - aged 8-17 - live here, plus volunteers and bnb guests. The household can be noisy, and this is not a good place for anyone who likes to sleep late in the mornings... The kids are active and have many interests, and I do my best to raise them to be well-mannered, thoughtful and independent - though they are often challenging, and they behave very much like kids! They have five very different personalities, each with good and not-so-good sides.
The 16-year-old has Down syndrome, and we need to have an extra eye on her; she is independent and doesn't need much extra care, but she can be stubborn and spontaneous, and should not be left alone. One of the boys has behavioral problems, but no diagnosis. He is either very friendly, chatty and easygoing - or the complete opposite. I expect you to deal with the difficult aspects of the kids as far as is necessary for safety, and comfortable for you. This is one area where it is important to talk and ask questions, find good strategies and avoid misunderstandings.
The children are quite independent, but they need some babysitting and supervision when I am not there. Much more, though, they need time and attention - conversation, reading, games, and walks and outdoor activities; like in many other homes, it is a challenge to keep them off-screen! In general, it is best if you see your main role as helping out in the household, so I can focus more on the kids; there will still be plenty of time for you to interact and hopefully enjoy fun and games with them!
Please note that we speak English at home, so if your main aim is to learn Norwegian, our home is not the best place for you. I was born in the UK, but grew up in Belgium and Norway, and our home is multilingual and multicultural, with a strong Norwegian influence. The kids are all bilingual and speak both English and Norwegian.
I enjoy cooking and housekeeping, and believe that work that needs to be done is worth doing well and happily. The household is mainly vegetarian plus fish, though the kids eat meat (but not pork). I am generally curious about everything and enjoy learning new skills. We have a piano, guitars and other instruments, and a lot of books.
In my spare time I like to read, play games with the kids, walk or work out, sew, play piano, and many other things. I play timpani and viola in the local amateur symphony orchestra, and I am involved in local politics and cultural events. My aim for us as a family is that we should all play an instrument and have one or two other hobbies.
Our village, Evanger, is one hour by car/train from Bergen. Evanger is a tiny, pretty place, with a lake, a river, and mountains on every side. In the village there is a shop and our small café, workshops and businesses, and everyone gets together to organize occasional festival and market days.
Voss, just15-20 minutes away, is a small town with lot of activity, summer and winter. It is a great place for hiking, skiing, extreme sports, and music. Every year, there is a jazz festival the weekend before Easter, an extreme sports festival in June, and a folk music festival in late October, in addition to regular sports events and concerts throughout the year.
Babysitting / child care
Cooking / shopping
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Depending on your interests, you can learn about all the ups and downs of family life and the logistics of running a household and guest house; childcare, Down syndrome and special needs; gardening and permaculture; English language, and Norwegian culture and society... You can expect to meet other travellers from around the world. You can hike, explore, ski, play piano or chess, read, garden, sew, play with kids, and do and learn many other things :)
I can host one, two or more volunteers most of the time. The main tasks are along the lines of maintaining the daily routines - with kids, activities, pets... In addition to the regular tasks, I am constantly sorting through clothes, toys, and random belongings and clearing the house as much as possible, as well as painting, decorating, tidying, and making changes and repairs.
In general, I welcome single, couple or friend volunteers, who would like to stay for a long time - one month, several months or longer, preferably not less than two weeks. Short stays are possible, but if you are looking for a long stay, I will be especially happy to hear from you.
You should be enthusiastic about kids, and enjoy spending time and communicating with them. Living with five energetic and sometimes (often!) uncooperative kids can be very tiring! The main household tasks I need help with are:
- help in the mornings from about 7 until the kids go to school at about 8 o'clock: Supervise in the kitchen and help with breakfast and packed lunches, plus help with clothes/dressing if necessary. (Not June 20th-Aug 20th)
- do some housework and/or practical tasks most days, especially laundry, meal clean-up, vacuuming, pets - this helps us to keep up with everything!
- welcome the kids home some days and keep them happy and safe until I'm back, and babysit or help with activities as needed - this can vary a lot, as some weeks are busy and others are more relaxed. Sometimes, life just happens!
In the school year, I work 3-4 mornings a week. The kids are in school from about 8 until 14/16/17, respectively. I come home at different times; some days I do errands or work longer, and other days I don't go out at all... You will have time to travel to Voss and Bergen, and to take time off many weekends and some weekdays; it is best if we can plan this together around the family schedule, and I try to be flexible whenever possible.
One of the challenges of housework is that it never ends! It is good if you can work systematically and quickly - or if you are a quick learner. You should do a reasonable amount of work and make good use of your time and effort, and then stop, without feeling bad about the things that are not yet done. Another challenge is that people sometimes think that helping with the kids and household will be a "piece of cake", a free holiday... In a home, there is real work that needs to be done - well, and at the right time - and it can be stressful if you don't know how to do everyday practical tasks!
I appreciate any help with the garden, the kids, housekeeping, hospitality and maintenance... Year round, the ducks need to be fed and let out in the mornings, and shut in again at night, and the other pets need food and water. All through spring and summer, the garden needs attention. The gardening season starts in April or May; from October to April I mainly need help in the house, plus clearing snow, babysitting, or just spending time with the kids. There is always plenty to do, depending on the time of year, the weather - and everyone's level of inspiration and energy!
Please do not arrange to come here and then change your mind at the last minute. Even more important, if you do change your mind, for whatever reason, LET ME KNOW. After several bad experiences, I now leave a negative/no-show reference for anyone who decides not to come and does not inform me. (Unless something very unexpected and serious happened, naturally.) I don't mind if you are hoping to get a job or a place in university, or if you just make other plans, but it is not OK to not inform me, or to inform me the same day that you were going to arrive...
People often stay here much longer or shorter than they first planned, which is fine, as long as I have time to adjust. However, if you leave unexpectedly without reasonable notice and/or a real reason, I will mention this in your reference. My experience is that both satisfaction and dissatisfaction are often mutual, and talking about things that are not ok is better than pretending that everything is fine!
Obviously, if you abuse the situation in a serious way, like violence or drug abuse, I may ask you to leave immediately and even report you. If the exchange is just not working out well, I will give you time to make plans and leave when you are ready. It may seem harsh, but please do not come here if you have big personal or psychological problems, especially if they affect your function and communication; problems have a strange way of following a person, even to a new place, and it's important for the kids (and me) that you are a stable and positive person during your time here.
After a couple of bizarre experiences, I want to add that there is no need for you to leave without letting me know beforehand... I will not want you to stay here if it is not right for you, as you will be sharing our family life, and it is essential that you feel ok here and that communication is comfortable and honest. During your time here, we expect you to be interested in contributing and participating in our day-to-day life, and to observe, learn, and try to fit in; we enjoy meeting and hosting volunteers, need and appreciate the help given, and have every interest in giving you a pleasant stay with us.
When we are well organised and the routine works, the kids all get out to school in time, and the house is in a good state, we are all much happier. This is my main aim, and I deeply appreciate the help from the workawayers who make this possible; in return, I try to give an enjoyable stay, with enough free time to travel around and have some good experiences. It is rarely perfect, but I try to get it right as far as I can. :)
English, Norwegian, some French, some Arabic, sometimes Spanish...
You will sleep in a volunteer bedroom, and have access to the rest of the house including living rooms, kitchen, bathroom, shower, washing machine, etc. I often ask volunteers to share a room, especially when visits overlap. For a couple, I provide a separate room, of course. There is Wifi access throughout the house and a TV in the family room.
I prefer volunteers who want a long stay, have good contact and experience with kids and, if possible, also good gardening and/or maintenance skills. I try to let people do the tasks that they feel most comfortable with, though I believe it's also good to go out of your comfort zone - but perhaps not too much!
If you want to stay a long time, it is a good idea if you first stay for a week or two, and then we can make a final decision when we see that both sides are happy and everything is working out well. I also don't like to make definite plans many months or a year in advance, as I find that people's plans and circumstances often change. I try to be flexible, and you are welcome to contact me for a long or short stay - even at short notice.
Please note that you will be here as a volunteer, and that I cannot employ you. It can be difficult to find work here, unless you have contacts and/or relevant skills. Also, a workaway exchange will not qualify you for a visa or work permit if you are from a non-EU/EEA country.
Your main motivation for visiting should be along the lines of volunteering, spending time with a family, contributing valuable and appreciated help, and getting to know the culture, in addition to the natural beauty and hiking/outdoor opportunities. I will do my best to make your time here a good experience, and make allowance for any other plans you may have - hiking, traveling, skiing, sightseeing, other activities...
I usually try to have more than one person volunteering, so the house is not empty when I am at work and the kids are at school. Workawayers are welcome visitors and good company, and we all enjoy the positive energy that comes from meeting and hosting people from other parts of the world!
To get here, it is easiest to travel to Bergen or Oslo, and then take the train to Voss (from Oslo) or Evanger (from Bergen). It's also possible to hitch-hike, and from some places in Norway, there are bus services. Please note that "Bergen" in Germany is a completely different place, and Flixbus will not bring you here.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
I don't expect certain hours and times, but rather that you participate in family life. Some tasks need to be done regularly/daily, and other tasks have to fit in with whatever is going on. I expect you to work independently, and enough, but not too much.
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