Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thankful - a wrap up of Norway

It’s Christmas time of the year once again, a call for merriment and praise, and also perhaps some new year resolutions that we simply cannot keep. But as my exchange in Oslo comes to a tearful end, I thought I’d pen down some thoughts on paper before I fly away for my juleferie.

It’s funny how December is meant to be that time of year of wrapping up, of trimming loose ends and looking forward to the next 12 months. I usually look forward to new years, and this time is no exception. Yet whereas once ago I would get excited over festivities leading up to the event and the melodramatic countdown, I suspect now that it is the unspoken thoughts in our head that truly makes new year’s eve such a special occasion. It is the acknowledgement that the year I’m leaving behind has not gone entirely to waste, and that I’ve learnt something fundamentally important about myself that I will surely keep with me for the rest of my days.

I must confess, my departure from Norway will not be without mixed feelings. At this point, I’d like nothing more than to go home to Melbourne, if only just for a week or two. The holiday season kind of does that to you. But then I recall all the wonderful people I’m leaving behind, so to speak, and suddenly my homecoming doesn’t seem all that one-dimensional anymore.

What will I miss the most, I ask myself? I think one of the things I’ll miss are the silent cartwheels I do in my head when I overhear conversations in Norwegian on public transport, and realize without great certainty that I probably understood most of what was said (rare, but it happens). Yesterday I sat my written Norwegian exam. The invigilator gave us instructions entirely in Norwegian and I can confidently state that I understood 100% of it. Which is crazy, because when I first arrived in Oslo four and a half months ago, I could only parrot a few phrases off the Teach Yourself Norwegian CD.

Obviously, going abroad is about more than simply learning a new language. As cheesy as it sounds, it involves learning about a new culture, and of course about yourself, what you believe in, how far you’re willing to compromise these beliefs and having an amazing time doing so. It’s so difficult trying to encapsulate the whole experience into paragraphs, but I think the best analogy I can offer is this: Being on exchange is like signing up for a massive social experiment in which participants live in this bubble. Kind of like reality-TV. And so everything you feel appears to be magnified, whether you like it or not. You see the beautiful side in people, the keenness, the enthusiasm, kindness and camaraderie. But naturally you also see some uglier shades, and it would be a lie to claim that not every single one of us has been hurt by somebody at some point on exchange. I’ve been surprised by people in such beautiful ways here, but also disappointed with others so much that I couldn’t have imagined it before. With all of this comes a degree of self-reflection, but I think it’s necessary for all of us to undergo such moments of introspection because it’s only then that we can build a stronger sense of our self and our identity. We’re still young. It’s an ongoing process. The best part is that being on exchange means we get to go through these processes at the same time and thereby bond in solidarity.

As a smart friend once told me, making mistakes is painful but at least it heals quickly. Regret, on the other hand, lingers. It lingers like the bitter aftertaste of a poorly chosen drink, and most of all, it gnaws. So I hope I leave Norway with no regrets, and for the most part, I really think that’s true. To be completely honest, there are certain things that I wish had panned out differently, but then I have to accept that some things are simply beyond my control. Like in the Senerity quote: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I think I’m getting closer to knowing the difference, and I feel at peace with all the decisions I’ve made here in Oslo. So I don’t know. Maybe this makes me a happier person.

Which brings me back to my original question. What will I miss the most about Norway? The beautiful nature? The beautiful people? The calm, orderly state of being? All of the above? I honestly think that the thing I’ll miss the most will be the constant learning I have done here on a daily basis. I mightn’t have learnt a lot about obs and gynae, but I’ve sure as hell learnt that most things in life happen for a reason. I don’t always get what I want, even if I give it everything I have. But that’s so I teach myself how to accept compromise. People come into my life in order to bring out the best in me, only to leave so that I can learn to let go.

But learning can be a tiring process, and soon it will be time to hang up my gloves and call it a day. Whilst I will be sad to leave the people and the adventures behind, I know with House-like certainty that I will carry with me my ‘personal’ education no matter where I go. Realistically, I’ll probably forget some of the words you’ve said to me, or the things you’ve done. But all the ideas you’ve inspired, and the way you’ve made me feel, that I’m pretty sure will stay with me for a very long time.

I feel sad to be leaving so soon, when perhaps my relationships with some friends are yet to reach full bloom. But that’s all part of the package in coming on exchange, and I knew beforehand what I was getting myself into. So where does this leave me? I think a sense of thankfulness. I’m thankful. So my pledge to myself is to go back home armed with a new set of artillery, and hopefully arrive back at Tullamarine Airport with a renewed sense of myself. One which is stronger, happier and more confident than the person who left nearly five months ago.

Jeg elsker Norge :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pelvic Anatomy

So I don't wanna jinx this, but I'm fairly certain that I passed the Anatomy flag race examination this afternoon. And that makes me ecstatic, because:

A) I feel like I have studied less than half of what I would back home
B) Anatomy is not my forte. Second only to histopathology.

But I now feel a sense of relief. I don't know why I got so stressed about the stupid Anatomy exam...I guess it's in our nature to stress for exams, focus, get it over and done with, then move onto the next task. But you'd think that after so many years of practice, I'd sort of get better at it. Apparently not. [Refer to waste paper basket in room, currently filled with biscuit wrapping, two packets of chips (consumed), beer holder cardboard, other miscellaneous traces of consumed food]. But seriously, today was like a game of naming Sacral Plexus and Levator Ani. My word, if I have to write the name Levator Ani one more time... Prostate gland was also a recurrent theme, as was Internal Iliac Artery.

Onto more exciting news, next week I will be going to Tromsø (Northern Norway). Fingers crossed, and if the stars align (both figuratively and literally), we will get to see the famed Northern Lights. Today, after the anatomy exam and post waffle consumption, I found myself caught in the most bizarre situation. There we were, 4 Spanish and I, standing outside Martin's building in subzero temperatures, and Anna was huddling over this little booklet with José. It turned out to be a booklet on the waxing and waning of the moon in Norway, as in an actual calendar - the sort of lunar calendar that the ancient Chinese such as Confucius used - like she carries these sorts of things around in her pocket, just for a rainy day... Apparently our likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights can depend on the moon, but honestly, I'm more concerned about those huskies/wolves that will be pulling our sleigh, and the effect of a full moon on them. No seriously, apparently we're gonna rent some wolves...

Another thing I learnt today is that the Spanish have EXCELLENT pronunciation of the Chinese consonants. One of the biggest challenges faced by foreigners learning to speak Mandarin is the correct pronunciation of 'b' and 'g'. In English, 'b' and 'g' are soft consonants, with their plosive (hard) counterparts being 'p' and 'k' respectively. The Mandarin 'b' and 'g', however, lies somewhere in between 'b' and 'p' for b, and 'g' and 'k' for g. Not as soft as 'bale', not as hard as 'pale', not as soft as 'gate', not as hard as 'Kate'. The Spanish, however, naturally pronounce these 'in-between' consonants in their language, and thus have no problem whatsoever with reproducing these sounds. In fact, they have more of an issue with pulling out the plosive p's and k's. So Kevin becomes something slightly more plosive than Gevin, but not as hard as how I would pronounced Kevin myself.

Another, very distressing, event that recently took place is the mental black hole I developed. Despite having used, sans problems, my NAB ATM card for the past 15 weeks, I suddenly find myself in the peculiar and embarrassing, if not disturbing, position of being unable to recall my 4-digit pin code. For God's sake, I've been using this pin for 15 weeks!!! It's never been an issue. Why then, have I suddenly forgotten the combination, and still fail to recollect it?!? I tried so many times that I had to eventually call NAB and ask them to send me a new pin code. I wonder how these memory black holes develop, and what I would do if such a black hole were to develop in future and it was about something critical like which vessels lie in front of the thyroid gland, and I'm standing there assisting in a thyroidectomy.

Anyway, sleep beckons. I need to catch up on life again, post exam.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boy Interrupted

Today I started my first clinical day in paediatrics. Babies are so cute - is what I've learnt. To be fair, Norwegian babies aren't particularly cuter than any other babies, for example Australian babies or Malaysian babies or Jordanian babies. All babies are cute (unless they're not...) and I totally understand why parents say they'll do anything for their child. Heck, these aren't even my children and I'd do things for them.

So recently we've had lectures about childhood diseases like epilepsy, and it really does break my heart to see some of these kids suffering from uncontrollable seizures or perhaps more dramatically, atonic lapses where their bodies lose all tone, as if someone had flicked off a switch, and causing these kids to face-plant onto the ground where more often than not they injure themselves. Many of these children, previously healthy and thriving, become in a sense, interrupted. Henceforth they may grow with mental retardation and other disabilities and if you plotted them on the percentile charts, you'll probably see a sharp drop.

Acquiring a disease can be a heartbreaking process, but for me this holds true particularly in children because they never even stood a chance. Without dissolving into a clichéd, day-time soap, these infants truly are helpless, dependent on us, learning, reaching, grasping. They are, let's face it, learning adaptive techniques they will require in future to combat the world as they slip awkwardly into adolescence and later, adulthood. I love life, but life can also have its harsh moments which are testing to even the most robust kind. The rest of us have trouble enough juggling it with two good hands - when these children have debilitating diseases, I really wonder how I would be able to cope if put in their shoes. Of course, I can't do that because if I were in their shoes, I wouldn't be thinking the way I do now. And whilst society makes a big hoo-hah about not letting a disease define a person, in some respects it does influence your psyche, let alone your physicality.

Unless you're some sort of child abuser, something about children brings out the best in us. We become kinder, and shed the inhibitions that normally dictate social etiquette. We laugh more, smile more, feel warm and fuzzy in the chest, we feel a sense of responsibility to protect this child from harm, at least to the best of our abilities. And you know, they might not feel it or believe it, but some of these children living with handicaps are the strongest and bravest people around. And so are their parents, who support, nurture and love them like any other child, even if this child mightn't reach its full potential. Okay, what is this, some Hannah Montana rally-talk??? But seriously, I think we could all benefit from taking a moment to ponder upon the things in our lives that currently bother us, such as the absence of milk in the fridge or the shitty weather in Oslo, and compare that to what these children put up with every day. And then, as if I were in a tampon-ad and rain is pouring down, light shines through the parting clouds and some chick-rock song about a Beautiful Day is playing in the background, I realise I have a lot more to be thankful for.

Why do you have to be so cynical, Kevin?

Actually, why are you referring to yourself in third person?

Okay, that was officially a conversation now. This is getting a bit creepy.

Stop typing.


Haha... that was a joke by the way.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


I think I have an addictive personality. That's why I've never gotten into smoking. That's why I'd rather not get into a habit of drinking too much. I think I run the danger of getting addicted if I cross that threshold, and find it difficult to imagine how to pull myself out of the quicksand. The fastest (though perhaps not the best) way to get over an addiction is to obviously replace it with another one. But there's only that many things you can get addicted to before it starts to become costly, unhealthy.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a game of scales. How much is enough, how much is too little and more importantly, when does it suddenly become too much? Essentially, it's all about balance, right? They kept telling us at the start of medical school not to sacrifice everything in your life, otherwise you will end up a bitter, lonely, cynical, jaded crone who snarls and throws shoes at young people. And of course it's true! Too little iron in your body and you get anaemia, too much and you start to get a condition called haemachromatosis. Too much money and it just becomes a piece of paper, yet too little money is called poverty. See someone too seldom and you become strangers, see someone too much and you get sick of each other's company. See how it starts to get messy? See how easy it can be to slip between sensitivity and neuroticism? Sometimes it can all become a massive swirl of thoughts that starts to resemble an Alanis Morrisette album (not sure how many of you have seen her video clip for Ironic but it's pretty wacky. Actually scratch that - all her video clips are pretty wacky...)

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, we never seem to be able to attain that perfect balance. And that, perhaps, lies in part with the inherent fact that when faced with options, we usually know what we should do, except naturally that isn't necessarily often isn't what we end up doing. What I need, what I want... Discipline is a difficult beast to tame - set it loose for a short while and you suddenly find yourself back to square one.

On another level, maybe balance is the way through which we find ourselves. You know, define our identities or some shit like that... I mean after all, we learn our life lessons through trial and error, don't we? We push ourselves one way too far, only to discover it in all its unpleasantness, recoil (sometimes a bit too far), and keep swinging back and forth until the day we find that happy medium which we can call home. We've all stepped into the various roles at least once before: Kind, cruel, a gentleman, an arsehole, popular, lonely, ecstatic, depressed. And sometimes, most of the time, hopefully we find the dial and tune it to a frequency somewhere in between insane and insecure [in the words of Greenday].

So it's natural to want more. But wanting too much can be a bad thing. Jokes can be hilarious until they stop being funny and start to become wrong. Drawing the distinction between play and pathology can be more difficult than initially obvious, and unlike groceries you can't weigh up your life choices the way you can with apples and potatoes. Sometimes it doesn't seem so plainly obvious, but the life we live today is a constantly evolving product of the choices we made yesterday. Where I stand in 10 years will be a sum of my decisions now. Sometimes it's not even about a conscious choice on our part, but simply the outcome of a lack of action. That too, I suppose, is a choice, whether or not we choose to acknowledge it.

And I should go to bed now, and stop thinking so bloody much or using the first-person plural. And maybe redirect my thoughts to pelvic anatomy. That would certainly contribute to a better balance in my life!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hello wien!

Groan...Sorry Austrians...[then again, it was reference to their recent National Day 26/10]

Yes, it's that time of the year again.....Halloweeeeeeeeeen!!!!

Yeah, who am I if my family ever celebrated Halloween...what are you, American?

It's true. I've never celebrated this holy day. Never dressed up in macabre costumes or wandered down the street collecting assorted candy (perhaps a result of my mother's overwhelming fear of me being sodomised by the creep who lived down the road from us...). Now as someone who may perhaps be the giver of candy, I must admit I've still never dressed up as Bride of Chuckie nor chased little children down the street screaming "Candy!!! Candy!!!" as I fling plastic snakes and jelly babies in their eyes. (Again, something about dispensing candy to little children - not least to say chasing them down the road - strikes ILLEGAL in my mind).

On a more serious note, I've always thought Halloween to be an American thing. Commercialized with a Z, [insert adjective]. We never had whole pumpkins at Coles this time of the year. Now when I walk around ICA (the equivalent of IGA in Australia), I see whole pumpkins everywhere. Lollies and candy are on sale for about 33% discount, and all the 2-dollar shop equivalents are now stocked up with scary and/or skanquey clothing. And that's skanquey with a -quey thank you very much! All this pumpkin business has gotten me thinking. Maybe I should make some pumpkin soup!

Anyway. On another note, I think some of my friends here are probably sick of hearing me express my fear of failing these upcoming exams. So instead of fearing of failing, I've decided to do something about it. Three days ago, I spent the whole night tidying up my amassed pile of notes. Some of the slides (vulval pathology in particular) made me wince as if I swallowed a shot of balsamic vinegar. But it was done. The next day I hole punched the notes and arranged them into nice folders. The next day (today) I sat down with an embryology book and started with Square 1. I spent 5 hours in the library, and they were perhaps the most productive academic 5 hours I've spent here in Norway. And now I'm thinking about Trondheim and how wonderful it would be to visit there before I go home.

On another note, why is my dandruff playing up? I mean, come on, it's okay to say it, I have dandruff. It's not like incest or something... And normally it stays relatively under control with regular hair washing. But this is seriously getting out of control now, I feel like I'm malting just like the rest of Norway's trees. Snowflakes, yes. Scalpflakes, no... Maybe it's time to whip out some of that Beclamethasone...I think that's the stuff they use to treat babies with RDS, isn't it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Det andre forsøket

OK, kanskje skal jeg prøve å skrive mitt neste innlegget på norsk igjen.

Som jeg skrev tidligere, nylig har jeg reist til flere byer (veldig opptatt!) og derfor har jeg ikke vært i Oslo så mye. I dag innså jeg at jeg ikke har ennå besøkt Oslos attraksjoner, men det er alltid slik, ikke sant? Det er kanskje flere steder i Melbourne som jeg ikke har sett også, og noen ganger når jeg snakker sammen med studenter her er det så flaut fordi jeg ikke har engang vært i New Zealand!?! ( vanligvis kommer til oss, ikke omvendt) Jeg håper at jeg skal finne tid (finne tid? lage tid?) til å besøke disse attraksjoner før jeg reiser hjem.

Forrige uke gikk jeg på tur sammen med min samboer - vi gikk fisket på Sognsvann. Vi dessverre ikke fange fisk, men det var kult allikevel (været var flott og landskapet var så fint). Også i helg gikk jeg på en vandring i Oslo (vi ville gå til Grünnerløkka, men endelig var vi på Slottet??). Heldigvis tok jeg flere bilder, fordi nå skal været begynne å "go to shit, so to speak", tror jeg. [Bilder ned...]

Fisketur på Sognsvann 1
Livio, Janusz (haha....Janusz...), Eirik, Meg

Vandring i Oslo

Innebandy spillere

Snø! (utenfor balkongen min)

Okay, so that was a little tricky...writing in Norwegian is becoming more complicated now that I'm reaching for complex sentence structures. Norwegians have this thing with inverting their subjects and verbs after some words such as also, therefore, now, today, tomorrow, yesterday, as well as following subordinate clauses (eg. If you come tomorrow... or ... After you left the room...). But not after certain words, such as and, when, if, but... Throw in the fact that the negation (ikke) switches position to before the verb in subordinate clauses, and so now when I'm writing a subordinate clause after a special word, I start to wonder A) do I still invert? B) where does the 'ikke' go now? C) then where do I place the adverb? D) how the hell am I supposed to think of all this during spoken Norwegian? Truth be told, I probably fucked up a couple of the word orders above, but it's too late in the night to notice any mistakes now.

Things on my mind lately:
  1. I should read more novels. Okay, so fiction is fiction is fiction, ie. not real, but the feelings and thoughts we conjure from this fantasy land is real. I think I should do it more often, and using medicine and exams as an excuse is no longer justifiable. I just finished reading a book called One Day by David Nicholls and like a silly, deluded, bubble gum blowing [raises eyebrow...] schoolgirl, wrote him fan mail...hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha..................wait, he hasn't replied yet...
  2. I need to get new jeans! These washing machines are desiccating my lovely Australian jeans faster than a Romanian gypsy pickpocket. Will look for some today with the Spanish (if we manage to coordinate a meet up - unlike last night!) Also looking for a pair of black, leather, hit-man gloves. Tellement européen...
  3. I need to pull my shit together for the exams. I've sort of treated my time here so far as a holiday, which will no doubt screw me over in both exams. I mean, I think the clinical level required of us here is lower than that in Melbourne, but the anatomical/histopathological learning objectives are crazy! I don't want to sit on my high horse with a British accent and frown upon the UiO curriculum (and I'm not), but who cares about the lymphocyte patterns in choriocarcinoma of the placenta, or which structures are what in a chicken embryo slide. Chicken embryo! That was actually on the exam last year...
  4. I'm going to make a photo collage soon. Eeeew. Sentimental. [Let's sit down and clap hands and braid our hair with unicorns and fairy dust behind smiles and rainbows ....] Whatever....
  5. I made chicken curry for a friend's farewell party tonight (okay, so it's not really a farewell, she's just leaving for a town 40min away for 3 weeks, but we love an excuse for a dinner party so a farewell it is). It turned out pretty good, I must say, though perhaps not quite as Malaysian as I'd hoped. It still tastes alright though
So I feel like I'm coming down with a cold, which sucks because I've managed to avoid getting sick so far. At least I get to put the cold and flu tablets to use here... Can you believe the Norwegians don't sell pseudephedrine over the counter...??? They don't know what they're missing out on...

Anyway, time to do some work now. Missing my family and friends in Melbourne at the moment, but that too shall pass in an hour or two. Maybe I should buy a DVD or something....


Sunday, October 17, 2010

A wise man once said...

"All good things must come to an end"

So this post is going to be somewhat less concrete. I suppose my thoughts have been less concrete lately anyway, which can be a worry if you consider that I have officially finished my Obstetrics rotation (3 weeks) and am approaching the tail end of Gynaecology. God save the unfortunate pregnant lady who needs me to birth her unborn child in the back of a ute...

But what I really wanted to say today is something completely unrelated to medicine. Lately I've been doing a bit of reflecting, and one of the thoughts that keeps surfacing is the fact that I will be returning to Australia in two and half months. I have officially passed the half-way mark of this exchange experience, and here's the thing. When I arrived in Oslo just over 2 months ago, I came to the conscious decision that I would make this place into my new home. And that I have done for sure, in many aspects. Each day, I learn more and more Norwegian. Whilst speaking fluently is (obviously) still a challenge, I can now hold decent conversations about substantial topics. I even went so far as to purchase two novels in Norwegian, and have started on book one (Gutter er gutter - a translation of Nick Hornby's About a Boy).

It's not just the language. It's the place, the way of life, the attitude. I don't calculate prices in Aussie dollars anymore, and when discussing plane tickets or accommodation, I prefer to talk in Norwegian kroner. If I go one step further with this, the next most obvious aspect of settling in is the people you befriend. I've met quite a few people through my adventures here in Oslo, some of whom have become really good friends. I mean, with some people I would be rather upset if they visited Australia in future and didn't tell me (not that they would do that)! These people are the ones you tell things to, feel happy with, and can be upset to. They help you when you *really* need it. I keep saying this, but I really think it's true that you can feel these sorts of things rather quickly - you don't need to know someone for very long to feel that you connect with them on more than a "Hey, how's it going?" level. And of course, everything happens on fast-forward whilst on exchange!

But here's the thing. I'm going back home in 2.5 months, and as much as I look forward to the comfort of family, friends and familiarity, I know that I am going to miss my life here terribly. It's sort of a good thing really - what would be even sadder is to have spent 6 months in Oslo, only to have "I can't wait to leave this place" as the last thing on my mind. And so when I got myself into this exchange, I knew I was set up for these mixed feelings at the end. But of course, you don't say no to a good experience just because you know it will end at some point. And let's not sugar coat my time here. There have been some not-so-great experiences too, events I'd rather not recall, decisions I'd rather do over. Yet all in all, my decision to forego electives and come to Norway on exchange has been one of the best in my life. Cheese aside, I've learnt a lot about myself, what I am capable of now, as well as where I want to go with my future. If my mind were a map, this map has extended its borders.

So it's going to suck when it comes time to say goodbye. Sometimes it's easy to lapse into the train of thought, the one that asks "What is the point of all of this, if we're only going to go our separate ways so soon?" It's not like I live a train ride away from Europe...I wouldn't even mind the 24 hour traveling time, but buying a plane ticket from Australia to Europe isn't exactly loose change.

I can't help it. I invest myself with people. The more you invest, the more you gain in return. Usually. And I suppose we can consider our lives like a long stroll. Sometimes you'll have certain people with you along the way, who then take their own path at a fork-road, at times you'll walk more or less alone, other times you'll be with other people. But essentially you walk alone, except you're never *really* alone I guess. The practical person in me would say that the type of friends you hold come to you sort of like in an audition, with our subconscious casting certain friends to fill in vaguely defined roles. So essentially, you have the same circle of friends no matter where you go, except with different names. You will always find yourself The Joker, The Listener, The Crazy one, The Gossip, The Drinking Buddy, The Plotter, etc. I guess the point of me explaining this is to say that it's not quite that simple or true. Some of the people I know here now fill a unique role, roles that are lacking in Melbourne. And to take up these roles, I have to give a little of myself, make some room, clear a little space. The sad thing is, I'll be going home in a few months and so will they, and perhaps take with them parts of me I won't get back. The same goes for the Norwegian language. Amongst the beginner exchange students in Norwegian class, I've probably invested the most of myself to pick up the language. It has certainly paid off whilst living here, but realistically, where am I going with this as soon as I get back home? Nobody speaks Norwegian in Melbourne, and Swedish? Well...

Okay, enough of this intangible crap. All of this may be the truth, but it also comes down a lot to perspective, and I suppose I can always spin this in a favourable light if I so desire. Indeed all good things must come to an end, but I really should stop thinking about it and just enjoy everything for what it is, as it is, right now. After all, this exchange experience wouldn't be called an exchange if it were to continue indefinitely.

So in the meantime, I'm just going to keep dancing in my head, have a great time, hopefully pass my exams, and when the time comes and the curtain closes, I'll take a bow and be glad for having had the experience in the first place!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Power post

So it's been 2 weeks since I last wrote something. No, that's not entirely true because I actually wrote a journal every day that I was in Stockholm. But now in hindsight it doesn't seem like such a good idea to publish it all, but at least here were the titles of my daily entries:

1. Jag förstår inte svenska (I don't understand Swedish - in Swedish)

2. Who the fuck stole my köttbullar (meatballs)?

3. So this is where all the beautiful people were hiding...

4. Traveling is always beautiful in hindsight

Okay, so number 2 was pretty messed up. Someone actually stole my food at the youth hostel, but let's face it, I wasn't really that surprised. Annoyed, yes, but not astounded because I knew from the moment I walked in that the place was dodgy. First of all, it was completely packed with old Eastern European men (mainly Russian). I was like, what is this, some sort of syndicate??? Anyway, so I spent the first 2 hours of my visit in Stockholm waiting for reception to open so that I could drop my bags in the luggage room. And waiting is fine, except for the fact that the Russian receptionists were already there, and all they needed to do was pass me the key (2 secs), and I could have stowed away my luggage, returned the key (2 more secs) and gone on my merry way. But instead, they rather that I waited and listened to them BITCH about every living soul in the hostel (employer, employees, patrons, dog...) for 2 hours. Man, I didn't know it was possible to bitch so much in 2 hours. And at one point she was like: "If I were a guy, I would punch the shit out of him!" Then when it was finally 8am and I went to retrieve the keys, I ran into them making out in the laundry room, her thigh propped against his crotch. And when they saw me standing by the doorway, mouth agape, she grimaced in the way you would if you'd tasted some bad Thai curry.

Stockholm itself, however, was very beautiful, superficially and all. If Oslo is Missy Higgins, Stockholm is like J.Lo with hoop earrings. And I took lots of photos. And made a video. And I had an awesome time running through the streets of Stockholm with Katherina (also at Uppsala, a 40min train ride northwards). I also kinda met the King and Queen and Princess of Sweden. Yeah...okay maybe more like 'saw'. 'Met' sort of implies an exchange of words.

Anyway, so back to the food stealing. Like what the fuck, right? Who steals food from poor exchange students? These meatballs were my only source of red meat, which I haven't eaten since arriving in Oslo over 2 months ago. I mean, thank god I don't menstruate but still! They weren't that expensive, and if somebody really wanted a couple I would have obliged to share. But stealing is not cool. Anyway, I ate the same breakfast and dinner for 4 days in a row (except one dinner where we went out to eat at a fancy restaurant). Instant mash, meatballs and ketchup, 7 times. See below. It got messy................lack of fibre...(too far?)

All in all though, Stockholm was an amazing city. Abundant sight seeing, endless shopping, Scandinavian design stores, cheap food and cheap everything (compared to Norway at least). And all just a 7hr bus ride from Oslo. You know what else about Sweden? They spell funny. That's the other thing. It hit me last week that I have become so Norwegianized now that I even refer to Norway with the first-person possessive. I say refer to Norway and Norwegians as 'we'. For example, when speaking to a Swede about the differences in our languages (there you go again - our), I kept saying "We spell with a Ø whereas you all spell with an Ö" and "We use E's where you use A's". As if I'm already Norwegian... And I felt this strange sense of patriotism. In fact, I feel like running outside right now and buying a Norwegian flag.

Anyway, I suspect I might have to get used to this whole Swedish spelling funny business. Nobody teaches Norwegian back home in Melbourne and if I'm to continue learning once I return, the university does offer a Swedish language course. They're pretty much mutually comprehensible, especially the oral components. I suppose once I make the mental switch to Swedish, the spelling won't be too bad either. But for now, köp looks so wrong. It should be kjøp. No question. And what is with all the A's? Skole --> Skola. Hele --> Hela. Gamle --> Gamla.

So I got back from Stockholm on Tuesday evening, and the next day I was off to Bergen. Bergen, what can I say... I had a most amazing time there, pseudo-fare-evading and all. Pseudo because we bought the Bergen travel card but it didn't say that the train was included - the brochure specifically referred only to Buses. But we needed to catch the train each day, so on the first night we decided to just hop on and try our luck. Only thing was, inspectors came on board one stop before our destination. So we ran off and tried to walk the last stop home. Only it wasn't really possible, so we headed back to the station and waited for the next train. Only to find out the next morning that we weren't, after all, fare evading because the Bergen Card did include train travel. All part of the experience.

Bergen, you also have a lot of locked doors. And it sometimes seemed like your whole city is under reconstruction and repairs. But I had heaps of fun anyway, and we stayed with Felix's friend from Leipzig - Henni - who was a lovely host. Might I also add that our dinners were such a treat - Awesome leek soup, Fresh Bergen salmon with lemongrass, garlic and chilli, and Pancakes with ham, avacado, fried banana, jam. I have a lot more to say (as I always do), but I think I'll have to save it for another time.

Anyway, I'm going to stop here because I should go to sleep now. I have to wake up early tomorrow morning to go fishing with my flatmates. We're going to, fingers crossed, catch some fish for dinner tomorrow somewhere near Sognsvann. I'm not quite sure exactly where yet but German guy (Janusz) seems to know so I'll just have trust him. Although he is the same guy who offered me some wild mushrooms.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Jeg skal prøve det (I'll try it)

(English version below)

Nå har jeg bodd i Oslo i to måneder, og jeg synes at kanskje kan jeg prøve å skrive på norsk. Det skal være, selfølgelig, ikke så flytende, men jeg går på norskkurs hver uker her, og jeg har en god lærer. Jeg lover å ikke bruke google translate...haha.

Jeg kom nettopp fra Stavanger forrige helg, og der er det så vakker! Jeg klatret Preikestolen, og tok mange bilder der. Jeg dro dit sammen med fem venner av meg, og vi likte seg veldig bra (se bildene ned...). I går kveld gikk jeg til en kafé i Grünnerløka sammen med en annen venn av meg, Felix, fordi det var en konsert der. Sangeren kom fra Melbourne også, og han var veldig flink! Men det var litt vanskelig å finner denne kaféen, særlig om kvelden når det var mørkt. I kveld skal jeg reise til Stockholm med buss. Jeg plannet ikke det, men jeg skal ha fri denne helgen, og neste mandag og tirsdag også. Jeg gleder meg til å besøke Stockholm, fordi mange av mine venner forteller meg at Stockholm er en pen by. Jeg håper at været skal være godt, og jeg kan kjøpe så mye der. Det bør være billigere der, tror jeg.

Jeg skal komme tilbake til Oslo tirsdag kveld, og onsdag kveld skal jeg reise til Bergen! Der er det veldig pent også, tror jeg, og vi skal bo sammen med en venn av en venn av meg (det koster oss ingenting), derfor kan vi kjøpe mer ting der! Jeg gleder meg til å delta i noen konserter der, kanskje!

Nå må jeg gå til sykehus. Det er en annen forelesning (sigh), men jeg vet ikke hvorfor jeg går altid... noen ganger vil jeg å sove, og jeg lærer ingenting. Men vi skal se. Jeg skal ikke være i Oslo de neste flere dagene, derfor skal jeg skrive mer i en eller to uker!

Mange hilsener fra Oslo,


- please excuse the simplicity...

I've lived in Oslo for two months now, and I think that perhaps I can try to write in Norwegian. It will be, of course, not so fluent, but I go to Norwegian classes every week and I have a good teacher. I promise not to use google translate.

I've just come back from Stavanger last weekend, and it was so beautiful there! I climbed Preikestolen, and took many photos there. I went with five friends of mine, and we enjoyed ourselves a lot (see the photos below). Last night I went to a cafe in Grünnerløka with another friend of mine, Felix, because there was a concert there. The singer came from Melbourne too, and he was very good. But it was a little hard to find the cafe, especially in the evening when it was dark. Tonight I'm going to Stockholm by bus. I didn't plan it, but I will have free time this weekend and next Monday and Tuesday. I'm looking forward to visiting Stockholm, because many of my friends tell me that Stockholm is a pretty city. I hope that the weather will be good, and that I can buy so much there. It will be cheaper there, I think.

I'm coming back to Oslo on Tuesday night, and I'll be traveling to Bergen on Wednesday night! It is also very beautiful there, I believe, and we will be staying with a friend of a friend of mine (it costs us nothing), so we can buy more things there! I'm looking forward to attending some concerts there, perhaps?

Now I must go to hospital. There is another lecture (sigh), but I don't know why I always go...sometimes I want to sleep, and I don't learn anything. But we will see. I won't be in Oslo for the next few days, so I will write more in one or two weeks.

Many greetings from Oslo,


Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've been planning to write a post on my Norwegian language class for a while now. You see, going to Norwegian class each time is like going to watch a comedy at the movies, only it's free here, and I'm learning something new. And this is way funnier... Let me explain.

I like our teacher. I couldn't ask for a better Norwegian teacher. His name is Frode, and he is fantastically enthusiastic about teaching Norwegian. He gave us his office number, and his email, and his home phone in case we couldn't reach him. He has high hopes for our class, only, sometimes I don't think we quite live up to these hopes of his. Of course, he doesn't have the heart to tell us this.

Our class members can be divided into a cast. The chorus (read: majority) would be made up of the Germans. Germans are known for being fast learners of Norwegian. The thing about the Norwegian language is that syntactically, it is very much like English. Sentences are constructed in the same way, but the advantage for native German speakers is that the Norwegian vocabulary shares a ridiculous number of German words. So these Germans usually find Norwegian relatively straight forward to learn, but not vice versa. Why? To begin, German has 4 cases. I still don't quite understand the deal with that. I also don't understand why Germans seem to have their main verb at the end of their sentences. Why would you do that??? It's like, every time they speak to each other, they hold back the most operative part of the sentence until the very end. So you find out all the main players, all the objects and props, all the prepositions and time setting and location and SURPRISE!! He got killed. But you didn't know that because I only said the verb at the very end...

Anyway, I digress (a tendency shared by my Norwegian class...). Quite simply, here's what makes me laugh:
  • The fact that it's so obvious when it's a German reading the text out loud. They pronounce Norwegian like they're speaking German. Throw in a few Ich's and Nicht's and Aber's and you could convince yourself it was German...
  • The fact that there's a girl in my class who still struggles with the concept of the infinitive. Ie. To live, but he lives. And Norwegian is simple in that. To make a verb the present tense, you just add an 'r', no matter who the subject. So it's I play, you play, he play, she play, we play, you all play, they play, it play. Bless that girl.
  • The fact that we'll be reading a text in Lesson 3 Chapter 4 and someone will ask a question about Lesson 1 Chapter 4, as if it were normal. I'm not sure of why there is this time delay.
  • We'll learn a new verb in class, and someone will innocently ask the teacher, (as if we'd never come across the verb yet), how to say that verb 30 min after we'd just learnt it.
  • Pronounciation. Possibly not as bad as someone in my Year 12 French class who kept on saying Jay (like Jaaayyyyson the bogan) when they meant Je. Je as in I. The most basic and important word in French. But yeah...Norwegian is a fairly melodious language, and yet some insist on reading it staccato.
  • Sometimes we still struggle with the concept of making nouns plural when so required. So people will go around saying things like 'I like to read book'. Similarly, because Norwegian places the word 'the' at the end of the noun (ie. en bil = a car; bilen = the car; biler = cars; bilene = the cars), people struggle with the concept of the definite article. So we go around saying 'During weekend, I read newspaper and eat grape (yeah...I eat one grape)'.
  • Norwegian has 2 tones. A flat tone, and the up-down tone. In Norwegian, gjenta = repeat. Jenta = the girl. Phonetically, they are both pronounced the same way. But gjenta is flat, and jenta goes down first, then up! Our teacher specifically sounds out the difference to us, then gets us to repeat after him individually. The difference in his voice was obvious. But out of our class of 20 something students, I did not hear one single person correctly differentiate the two words.
  • We were taught the past tense last Monday. On Wednesday, our teacher wanted us to write an essay in the past. He thought about it for a moment, paused pensively as he looked over at us with pity, then decided to keep it in the present tense until next week. He didn't have the heart to tell us why, but his eyes said it all.
You know, I LOVE my Norwegian class. I have so much fun there, even if we do seem to go through the same thing again and again. I also love the students in my class. We are a great bunch. We try very hard. We don't quite live up to our teacher's hopes (he had high hopes because of all the German speakers). But we have fun trying anyway.

Meanwhile, I really hope that the aforementioned student discovers what the Infinitive actually is, and when to use it and why it is different from the present tense (or past for that matter...).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My first Norwegian delivery

So I just got back home from hospital where I delivered my first baby! And I'm still buzzing. And I want to sit and write this all down on paper because I don't want to wake up tomorrow morning when this feeling will be gone and my mind will be occupied with other mundane questions like why my Norwegian bank account still isn't working or why NAB decided to block my eftpos card or what 'Australian' food I'm going to cook on Monday for International Dinner.

Today was my first day on maternity ward. I showed up in the afternoon, upon which I was told that there was a lady in labour that moment. When the midwife asked her if I could observe, she said no. Bummer. Then I spent the next few hours brooding and waiting for people's cervixes to dilate. During this period, I also spent some time with a lovely couple who agreed to have me be present during the delivery. Somewhere in between then and their child's birth, I saw my first vaginal delivery by another couple. It was all pretty quick. I guess I've learnt all the theoretical mechanics of birth (ie. head being the limiting factor). But seeing those fontanelles in real life, that truly is something else. What I learnt today was that once the head's out (which can take a while), you have 10-15 seconds where the rest of the baby slips out like an eel.

So I'm going to put it out there. I have never cried watching a movie or reading a book, but today when the first baby came out, I may have felt a tear or two (tear as in liquid from the eye tear, not as in vaginal pelvic floor muscles tear ripping). It's hard to explain. I just felt so happy for them. Even though they were speaking a foreign language, happiness and joy is something that transcends all languages.

Then there was my actual delivery. This time I was gloved up and was helping the midwife with the lovely couple I got to know through the afternoon. And by the end of the shift, I had delivered my first baby. It was beautiful. And they were a beautiful couple (with a few other beautiful Norwegian children). When I first met them in the afternoon, we were strangers. By the time I left the hospital, I was officially in some Norwegian household's family photo album. It really felt like Christmas - you know that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you open the presents and all your family is home. Somewhere during the process of evacuating a baby from her womb, something happened. We all bonded. And I mean let's face it - try topping childbirth as a bonding exercise... By the end of the labour, they made me promise not to leave the hospital without taking photos with them!

I don't know. After a couple of births, it'll become the same and I might (like one of my fall asleep during the actual evacuation of baby. But for now, this was my first, and I'm going to savour it for as long as I can because medicine is supposed to give me these highs. No matter how many deliveries I chart in future, this will always be my first. And it was as best a first delivery as I could possibly wish for.

Lykke til, baby!
(Good luck, baby!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Floored people

Sometimes things seem so perfect, especially from far afield. And upon closer inspection, you think you'd start to see the cracks, but nope, "it's still good!" Sort of like how you expect uncapped milk to go off after sitting in the fridge for a week, but it actually stays good. Actually I don't see the parallel anymore. I don't know how I came up with that analogy...Okay maybe I should scratch this post entirely.

But seriously. We are all flawed people, right? I guess we could be floored too. The way a uterus can prolapse to the floor. Okay, I really don't see this analogy either. But back to the flaw. Recently I wrote something about Perspective, and how it comes down to the way we choose different ways to view what is essentially the same thing. I guess sometimes we sugar coat our perception, see things through cellophane, and things seem perfect. But then invariably the veil lifts and you start to see the imperfections. Kind of like Asian hair and split ends. (Yep! If you look closely enough, Asian people do ACTUALLY have split ends too - and yes, this analogy makes sense - AND even makes reference to the 'veil' metaphor).

But my point here is, perhaps rather obscurely expressed, we are all probably a lot more flawed than we like to think, and certainly more than we like to share. But it's not so much a bad thing. Being flawed is okay. I just discovered yesterday that I've been going around saying "In future..." when in fact it should be "In the future...". How come no one has ever told me I've been making this fundamental grammatical error? How is it that as a native English speaker, the phrase "In the future" sounds strange to me? And yet I say "In the past" and "In past" sounds completely wrong to me?

Perhaps more seriously, I wonder if the wider community views medical illnesses as a flaw? I mean, nobody goes around wishing they had Diabetes, right? But do we view Diabetes as being a flaw? Or do we accept it simply as a medical illness? Does the same go for obesity? Because obviously being fat is their own fault, right? [read sarcasm, I think]. And what about mental illness? Do we view depression as a character flaw? And then there's neuroticism. We're all neurotic to some extent. We dissect laboriously, we over-analyze, we over-reflect, we mull over, we're paranoid, we think too much, we think too little, we run our heads in circles, we project into our faux-future, we come up with our self-lies. In that case, perhaps flaw should be spelt with a capital F.

So I guess next time we're quick to judge someone, it's important to remember that we're probably just as flawed, only in our own little way. Like how I'm being very abstract right now. That's flawed. It's flawing this post. I should write about something concrete, something solid. Like Vigeland's phallic sculptures. I guess they're solid and get the idea...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fjellvang - The epic trail

Following the excitement from last week's glacier hiking in Fjærland, an impromptu cabin trip was discussed and agreed upon during Norwegian class. And whilst booking the cabin proved quite the struggle (thank you Elise for searching online in Norwegian for me!), by Saturday morning we managed to A) Sign up as DNT members (Norwegian Trekking Association), B) Get the cabin key, C) Map out our route, D) Buy food for the trip.

The cabin was called Fjellvang, located in the Nordmarka area about 20 min North of Oslo by train. So on Saturday morning, 4 of us met up at the start of the trail at Sognsvann. Unfortunately, one member was feeling a bit worse for wear from the previous night, and so 3 of us set off on what would become the epic trek to Fjellvang. Let me start off by saying that it was an awesome hike! Nevertheless, we weren't without obstacles, including the following:

1) Our decision to take the harder/longer trail (it was more beautiful - more trees, less asphalt)
2) It started to RAIN 15min into the trek. It rained on and off (more on than off) for the remainder of the day, and poured heavily during the night.
3) Our tendency to overshoot corners. I guess we walked faster than we thought, and every time we saw a small trail, we told ourselves: Nah, this can't be the trail". It was. Several times.
4) Humidity - the fact that we were walking up hills in rain jackets meant that we were, essentially, hiking in a sauna.
5) Slippery rocks and boggy mud puddles. (refer to rain).

Here are some photos to prove the wetness of the hike (although Felix's camera probably has better quality photos - my camera sort of dies during extremes of weather).

Nevertheless, after 7 epic hours of walking, climbing, descending, climbing again, crossing railway tracks, getting excited about a cabin before realising it was the wrong cabin, we finally made our way to the right Fjellvang cabin at 5:30PM, followed by warm dinner and great music (A Heart is an Airport - think about it). The cabin was so koselig, even with a hearth (sort of). Water seemed to be an issue though, with no sink, no tap, no running water, no shower, a hole for a toilet, and water was to be fetched from a well. We were also unaware of the Norwegian sign that said water should be boiled before consumption. It was a great weekend, very Norwegian (despite the fact that none of us were Norwegian), and I definitely feel much fitter than when I left Melbourne. I can't wait for my next cabin trip!