Polar Night in Svalbard

Have you heard of Svalbard? I hadn’t until this past week.

A suggested YouTube video for me with the title, “Life in the DARKEST PLACE on earth (24/7 darkness)︱Svalbard, an island close to the North Pole” caught my eye and I watched.

I had never heard the term “Polar Night” until then either. I’ve heard of places where it’s dark 24/7 for periods of time during the winter, but this term seemed to encapsulate something different the way the vlogger, Cecilia, describes it. Polar Night in Svalbard lasts for two months!

The tourism website for Svalbard describes it in a rather fun way too.

‘Winter doesn’t just show up overnight’ is something you’d be safe enough to say most other places in the world without being wrong. But what if the night doesn’t just last a couple of hours, but instead spans over two months? The dark season in Svalbard lasts from around the end of October until the middle of February, but between November 14th and January 29th we enter the darkest and cosiest part of the dark season, also known as the Polar Night. As the days darken during late autumn the cold of winter also creeps in, and with the coming of the sun the light also shines on a new winter in our archipelago. While winter may not show up overnight, a lot can happen during the course of a Polar Night!

Cecilia loves this season and really leans into it. She’s all about the hot drinks with sweets, lighting fires and plaid flannel pajamas. Full on cozy! Which I love, and reminds me of when I started writing my Collection Of Moments series. Where I could find the good in all the seasons, not just the warm ones that I prefer.

I learned about hygge, which is a Danish term, where they also lean into the coziness of the dark winter months. Svalbard is one of a cluster of islands that are part of Norway, but very west of the country and closer to the North Pole.

One of the wildest things that she talks about is the polar bears. There are many around and they are a real threat. In one of the videos when she went for a walk, not only does she have a hat with a spotlight, she slung a rifle over her back. I’m not a gun person, but I can definitely see the need for one. This is no joke and one of the many tools for survival.

So I’m enjoying the videos and will watch more. But I don’t think that I would visit. Especially not during Polar Night. We’re in the darkest month right now here in Massachusetts. It will keep getting darker until the Winter Solstice on December 21st. Getting dark at 4pm is bad enough. Never mind complete darkness for two months!

I don’t want to wish time away, so I’m leaning into the cozy as well. The light will return soon enough. And at least we don’t have to worry about polar bears!

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Image: Screenshot

SKUBB Storage Solutions

SKUBB under bed storage

When I look back at what I did this month, one of the biggest themes will be organizing. I got rid of a lot of old storage items that no longer worked well for me. Then found new ways to organize. From adding a clothing rack with shelves, to adding bins and other containers to my fridge.

For the longest time, I’d been storing my off-season clothing in a very large suitcase that I had stopped using. The way that I stored it in my last apartment, the suitcase was out of the way and I hardly ever had to deal with it.

Where I live now, it was in the way everyday and constantly annoying me. Then I realized that the wheels of the suitcase were literally disintegrating, leaving trails of black plastic whenever I moved it. That was the final straw. Time for a change!

I needed to figure out a different way to store these items, but wasn’t sure what I needed. Within a couple of weeks of realizing this, I saw a YouTube video showing under bed storage using SKUBB storage cases from IKEA. I ordered two of them right away. What a joy to throw away that old suitcase!

Storing off-season clothing is so easy now. With all the changes I’ve made recently, I’ve actually freed up a lot of space. This makes my Virgo brain very happy!

American Tipping Culture

tipping culture

Some of the most interesting videos that I’ve seen on YouTube are the ones talking about American culture. The reactions from people who aren’t American, when they learn about our tipping culture in restaurants is quite interesting.

Often it’s hard to see what is American culture, until we step out of it through travel or have it reflected back to us by someone who is not part of the culture. Many cultural practices we don’t think of as such, because they are so obvious and mundane. Like American breakfast culture.

I never thought of it as a thing until someone mentioned to me that Americans are the only ones who have specific breakfast foods. People in other countries will often eat any type of food for breakfast. For instance, I would never think of eating soup for breakfast. Or a salad. Weekend brunch is a different thing, because anything goes there.

But on a random Wednesday morning, I wouldn’t be eating chicken and rice with vegetables. To me that is clearly lunch or dinner food. Breakfast is hot or cold cereal, fruit, coffee, toast, eggs, pancakes, etc. But now I see that’s American breakfast. The more I think about culture, it seems that it’s those things you do, clothes you wear, music you listen to, words you use, and foods you cook, just because. That unspoken “just because” is culture.

There are reasons for it, but it takes some historical and sociological digging to figure out how that custom or practice developed over time. Like how Italian American food was created and is something very different from Italian food in Italy.

There is a long history of how tipping culture developed in the United States, which I won’t go into. But tipping is a very American thing and people from other countries tend to be shocked by it. Most Americans do expect to tip at a restaurant. But more recently Americans are becoming shocked that tipping keeps expanding to include everything.

One thing that surprises me is the amounts that people think are okay for tipping. I was brought up to believe that 20% is the minimum tip at a restaurant. If it’s bad in some way, then it’s okay to give less. But if it’s very good, then give more. As much as you can.

When my father was in college, he worked as a waiter, I think at a place on Beacon Hill, to pay for his expenses and to help his family. So tipping was very important to him personally. From when I was a kid, when we went out to eat, he always made a point of thanking everyone who waited on us and giving the tip personally. Shook their hand, looked them in the eye. He never just left it on the table.

I always thought that most everyone believed the same things, until I started reading comments where people thought that a 15% tip was okay, good even. That was and is still so shocking to me!

It took me until recently to realize that my family had a particular tipping culture. When going out in a group, often we don’t know what other people leave for a tip. Even if we do, we tend to not know their personal experience growing up with tipping and I don’t think that most people talk about it. Or do they? What do you think?

NaBloPoMo 2023


Sixteen years! That’s how long it’s been since I first did NaBloPoMo. Way back in 2007. It was the last time too. I may have silently sworn to never do it again. In case you’re not familiar, NaBloPoMo is short for National Blog Posting Month.

It happens in November and was all the rage back in the day, which I’ve heard referred to as the golden age of blogging. Yup! The golden age. When I first heard that I felt like I was 300 years old. I wasn’t sure if it was still a thing. A quick searched revealed that it is, but on a much smaller scale.

Anyway, NaBloPoMo gave a blogging nod to NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. What they both do is give us writers a goal of writing every day during the month.

So why am I doing this now? Because of Vlogtober. I really enjoy Kay Patterson’s vlogs on YouTube. Kay, who lives in Boston, just finished Vlogtober yesterday. For Vlogtober, vloggers post a video each day during October.

I started thinking about how I’d like to blog at least once a week again. Blogging everyday would be a nice jump-start and would make once a week seem like nothing. NaBloPoMo is a marathon, not a sprint, and I know to pace myself accordingly.

Wish me luck and see you back here tomorrow!

Can I Be a Polyglot?

YouTube‘s algorithm is strong. I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of videos. But it made me realize that I want to be a polyglot.

In high school, I studied French. I continued during my freshman year of college, but stopped after that. I regret not going further in my formal French studies. But it was not helping my already fragile GPA and I decided to cut my losses. I reached an intermediate level and really could have done much more with it.

Anyway, life happened and it wasn’t a priority. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the season of my life changing and want to expand my language skills again. But my language focus has been Korean. The spring before last, I found a free online course with Coursera called First Step Korean.

The first week or so of the class seemed doable. But then it seemed like I was supposed to have already learned Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, within three weeks! Ha! No.

The timing was also not in my favor. I was in the process of organizing and clearing out my mom’s house to put it on the market. I didn’t have time for the class and decided to focus on selling the house and getting my mom moved. That process took most of my time and energy last year.

This year had its ups and downs, but things have settled down a bit. I decided to try a Korean class again, but realized that I needed a more solid foundation with Hangeul. So I found a class called The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul. I may need to take this class twice, but it’s a start. It’s not like I have a deadline or need to worry about my GPA.

I’ve also wanted to improve my French skills and truly become fluent. It could help with increased work opportunities and I would just like to be fluent for myself. But is it possible to study two languages at once? Especially such different languages. Is that a thing?

From watching dozens of YouTube videos, I’ve discovered that being a polyglot is a huge thing and yes, I can do it! There is a huge polyglot culture with people learning multiple languages at once and becoming fluent in all of them within just a few years.

So I’ve decided to jump in! Years fly by so quickly. It took almost a decade between when I first toyed with the idea of law school to quitting my job and doing it. I may take a long time deciding on something. But once I do, I persevere.

For French, I’ve started using Duolingo to help refresh my basic skills and get in the habit of practicing. There are three months left in the year, so by January I should feel more solid with my French. I may take an advanced online French class and/or possibly hire a tutor as well. I’m excited to see where this language journey brings me!

I’ve also decided to try again with a plant that I could never keep alive and eventually gave up on — African violets. I was over a friend’s house and she had two gorgeous ones. They are so lovely and I do so well with most plants. Surely I can grow these now! It’s been about 20 years, so maybe it’s a new season.