Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tru calling

If there exists a gene for sporting prowess, I think it decided to remain unmethylated in me. Let's face it, my mum played basketball and badminton for her school, even once representing her state. And my brother has more swimming medals than Elizabeth Taylor has husbands. Yet with me, I have always encountered difficulty with games such as football and basketball (I blame the height factor with basketball). And whilst my ungraceful paddling can pass off as some form of as-yet-unnamed swimstroke, I have consistently demonstrated paucity of knack for aquatic activities (except for that underwater game where you hold your breath and slither like Oceangirl and see who goes the furthest).

My saving grace, however, has always been sports with sticks. I have no idea why. Ask me to kick a ball and it usually strays to one side. Throw a basketball and it careens left of centre like a lopsided lactating breast. Give me a stick, however, and suddenly I feel more in control. The same goes with racquets. And the strangest thing has happened to me here in Oslo. I think I may have found my true calling in a sports game.

Let me introduce you to a game called Innebandy. Also known as floor-ball, this Scandinavian game uses a hollow, light-weight, spherical plastic ball with holes throughout its surface like Swiss cheese. It uses sticks similar to those seen in indoor hockey. There is a wall surrounding the edge of the field which act as a rebound. One goal on each end. You can use your legs as well as your stick. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. And seriously, this game combines every aspect of sport that I love.

Let's see:

1) There is a stick - an absolute pre-requisite (see above)
2) Ball remains on the ground - some of my favourite sports involve the ball remaining on the ground - ice hockey, indoor hockey, etc.
3) Running surface is actually ground, not ice - whilst I enjoy watching ice hockey, my utter inability to remain upright on skates rules out ice hockey as a game. Also, my body frame would not appreciate the knocks.
4) Not dangerous - ie. will not chip teeth, suffer brain damage, lose a testicle. Just look at the ball. And look at the stick. What's the worst that could happen?
5) Fast paced - Opposite of cricket. Enough said.

I've always enjoyed indoor hockey very much. But for some reason, I've always perceived it to be a non-legitimate sport, sort of like how Monaco is its own country. Also, getting hit by a flying puck isn't particularly pleasant. Insert Innebandy, and my problems are solved. I joined the medical student Innebandy team when I arrived, admittedly with some apprehension. I mean, Australians are stereotyped for their sporting ability, but Norwegians actually are sporty as a society if you take a look at a sample of the average population. The first time I played, I felt like I was hit by a truck the next morning. My fingers had bled both sides from my nails cutting into the cuticle each time I pivoted the stick. I also sustained a bruise on my right hip from crashing into another (much bigger) player. But it felt right, and FUN! True, the Norwegians were too polite to tell me that I sucked that first time, but to keep it into perspective, these guys are very good at their game which they've been accustomed to since childhood. The first time I played was also the first time I'd seen it in my life. So far, I've been relying heavily on my experiences with indoor hockey. My main problem now is controlling this ridiculously light ball - unlike with a puck, every I run forward with an Innebandy ball I need to double check that it hasn't bounced/gotten left behind.

Each time I play, I get better and better. Part of the learning curve is simply observing them when on a time-break. In fact, I think I'm even starting to use my feet to control the ball now. It's no joke - you have to be quite fit to keep up to pace with these guys, and a serious degree of hand-stick-goal coordination is required. But I'm glad I found this game and this team, because it gives me a break from medicine and from everyday class. I'm way too exhausted when I'm running from end to end to think about anything other than the ball. It also has more meaning than going to another party or drinking session. In fact, I'm quite keen to see how far I can progress by the time I finish the semester. Perhaps I should bring this game back to Melbourne.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Non entiendo. Jeg forstår ikke.

I've always regarded myself as fairly trained in the art of foreign languages - indeed, as an Australian speaking 5 languages, I probably place myself into a tiny faction of the nation with a more-than-bilingual status. Now that I'm living in Oslo as an exchange student, the importance of foreign languages has never been more paramount.

Of course, everyone here speaks near-fluent English. Scandinavians are renowned (and rightly so) for being ridiculously fluent in English, and the Germans, well, they're certainly not far behind. And the strangest thing has happened to me here in Oslo. Coming to Norway, one would expect to befriend many Norwegians. And whilst I have gotten to know several locals, it's nevertheless natural that most of my friends here are other foreign students. The fact that the Germans/Austrians/Swiss and Spanish compose the majority of exchange students, I now find myself in the peculiar situation of being surrounded by practically-fluent English speakers, but who possess a native German/Spanish tongue.

I think if I were to draw a friendship wheel, 60% of my friends here are German/Austrian/German-speaking-Swiss, 15% Spanish, 10% native English speakers, 10% Norwegian and 5% other. Which is great. I came on exchange to broaden my horizons, to meet new people, exchange cultures, beliefs, attitudes. Sounds clichéd but it's also kind of true. And everyone is super-polite! Almost all the Germans will invariably switch to English when I join the group, and similarly with the Spanish (although the Spanish have a strange predilection to lapse into their mother tongue every 5 sentences or so. And touching people). They reassure me that it's fine, that they actually want to practice speaking more English. It's no big hassle. See - everyone's super polite.

But here's the thing. No matter what, you will always feel most comfortable conversing in your mother tongue. That's given. That's expected. And despite the fact that everyone speaks English here, there's always the nagging fact that whenever my friends choose to do so, they can switch back into their native language and I'll be completely shut out. Not that they ever do that on purpose or maliciously. It just is. I don't speak German. Neither do I speak Spanish. Great deal of help 6 years of French has done for me...

At the end of the day, we're all simply human beings who find comfort and solace through familiarity and common ground. What could be more unifying than a language through which we communicate our thoughts and feelings, opinions, plans for the future, incidences of the past? Lately, I'm finding myself jealous of the fact that my friends have a common language, like a secret code that they can just pull out on a whim, share a joke, make a comment, explain complex thoughts that seemed unfulfilled when they attempted to do so in English. I can only liken the feeling to being on the outside of an inside joke. Not that they purposely do that - indeed, they go out of their way to speak English when I'm there. But the moment I return to my room or momentarily leave the conversation, foreign sounds such as Ich, Auch, Tengo, Por que flood the floor. It's hardly unfair - if I spent 16 hours speaking French to everyone, I would certainly appreciate at least 60 minutes in the day where I just speak English - no thinking, no conjugation in my head, no searching for words - everything just slips out and falls into place.

Obviously, there is one solution - I should just learn Norwegian, German and Spanish. I think I might just do that. In the meantime, Pelvis? Pffffttt, what pelvis...?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Through the cellophane glass

I've been thinking of how best to encapsulate my first week of studies here in Oslo, and I'm drawing a blank. Perhaps I can somehow find a special vial and bottle up this week, store it for a future date when my life reaches a lull and I need that kick. I think some people call it cocaine. Anyway...

So as medical students, we start our semester when everybody else is out having fun with orientation week. Naturally. But never fear. A few very generous Norwegian medical students did organize several social events for the exchange students, including a Norwegian BBQ, a Buddy-night, as well as pre-drinks to the semesterstart party, which took place on a boat overlooking the spectacular Oslo opera house. I'm really grateful for the work they've put into this, and I'm glad for the interesting people I've met through my adventures in Oslo. From walking through the streets of Oslo city centre around midnight, rain drizzling and not entirely sure where exactly we were headed, brushing past the enumerable junkies outside Jernbanetorget (Oslo Central Station), running into students, randoms, strangers, people on the plane, chasing after the T-bane, joining the medical students Innebandy team (requires another post)...all these experiences I can only draw parallels with jumping into a freezing cold lake in the middle of a Norwegian winter's night.

And I could go on about all the cool things I've gotten to do but I think the pinnacle of this exchange, the highlight of my time so far are the people I've come across. All it demands on my part is some enthusiasm, a lot of participation, and being honest to myself. Yeah, yeah...honest to yourself...what is this, the Oprah Winfrey show? But seriously, I think in a new setting where you're thrown in with a bunch of new people, it's natural to want to put your best foot forward. And yet I think so far, my best foot forward is the honest one. And it's the same with the city Oslo itself. My first impression of Norway was one of perfection in almost every way. It's like when you visit your aunt's house that one time a year, and stand mouth agape as everything looks immaculately clean, floorboards polished and furniture dusted to a pristine sheen. Yet you know that it's never like that when people actually live there... Now almost 3 weeks later, I begin to scratch the surface, dig a little deeper and I'm confronted with the knowledge that Oslo, much like Melbourne or any other city, has many faces. Exploring the many faces of Oslo and its people is like walking through an endless diorama. Discussing this with several of the Norwegian students has been very enlightening for me, and I think the more I start to strip away the cotton candy cellophane goggles through which I've been viewing the city, the more I'll learn to appreciate it for all that it is.

You know, like with people, there is a certain beauty in truth and genuineness. I love my home in Melbourne exactly because I've also come to accept its shortcomings. Now as I sort through the forest of what and who is real, and what is a simply a front, I think I could almost say that I'm settling into my new home called Oslo.

Meanwhile, pictures... I've had a horrible run with cameras - batteries running out, leaving cameras at home, etc. Hence a paucity in photos. But I did remember to bring a fully charged camera out today, and here is where I went - Vigelandparken, with the crazy sexual statues:

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Full House

Two exciting things happened yesterday afternoon.

1) We had a special 'medical students' orientation. This is because medical students start the semester earlier than everyone else (ie. next week is the official O week, but we'll be sitting in a lecture learning about pelvic anatomy and Levator ani). So yesterday we got to see some of the other students who'll be spending the semester with us. Actually, I only realised recently that a lot of the European students come here to do semesters other than Obs/Gynae in UiO med school, such as neurology, ENT, psychiatry, etc. All in Norwegian of course.

2) When I came home from the orientation, I discovered that the final flat-mate of the floor moved in. So officially (unless someone applies for an internal transfer), our floor is composed of a Norwegian guy, a Norwegian girl, a German guy, a German girl, a Swiss guy, and me. It's quite linguistically abundant, with both Norwegians having their own language as well as English, and the same going for the Germans, and then the Swiss guy speaks German anyway, as well as French and English, and then me, who speaks English primarily, but also with all these other random Asian languages that obviously nobody speaks here. And we had a guest from France who speaks French to the Swiss guy and I surprisingly understand ~70% of what they're saying (Goes to show, while I frantically learn Norwegian atm, you can't really replace 6 years of schoolwork). Anyway, it's quite fun to live in a flat where at any one time, there can be 4 languages going on, as if it were just another day in Oslo.

So far, fingers crossed, the floor seems to be working very cohesively. Horror stories are rampant, and one of the girls from Australia is currently living with this crazy old Norwegian lady who hoards newspapers so much that the door to her room can't fully open and occupies one full fridge so that 5 other inhabitants have to share the other one. We also have a particularly nice building, with a clean kitchen. We do, however, lack a microwave and a toaster. The microwave part is rather unfortunate, because it means extra washing and heating-food-on-a-stove time. It feels rather archaic actually, but food is usually warm throughout (unlike when you microwave food and sometimes get hot outer bits and cold centres)

So tonight our semester kicks off with a Welcome Party in this place called Chateau Neuf. They have funniest names here, like Majorstuen (which isn't Major-station as I discovered). I expect to see daggy European dance moves from Abba. No cameras.

Monday, August 9, 2010


In Norwegian, the word Salg means Sale. Tildbud, as I have similarly discovered, means Offer. At the moment, Oslo is brimming with signs promising Salg 50% and Tilbud this, and Tilbud that. In the world of grocery shopping, I've already capitalized on these Tilbuder particularly when I dare venture to buy products outside the "Firstprice" or "Euroshopper" range (ie. Savings/No Frills brand).

Today, armed with yet more free time, I decided to pay a visit to Rikshospitalet and its medical library. It never ceases to amaze me how comforting I find it to be surrounded by medicine. Maybe I'm a geek. But quite simply, while the past week has been immensely exciting, it's also been a week of feeling foreign; of being on the outside, not understanding announcements at train stations, constantly reaching for my pocket dictionary when passing a sign, scribbling down a reminder to look up a word later.

Step into Rikshospitalet medical library and suddenly I feel like I've flown 10,000 miles back home. ECG made easy, Oxford Clinical Handbook of Medicine, Kumar and Clarke, Moore's Clinical Anatomy...even good old Souhami was there. And that's the thing that's so special about medicine. Medicine is universal. It doesn't matter where we are in the world - we belong to a global fraternity. And if the Brownless library is Megan Fox (basically looks like a brothel - all bright lights, very little content), then Rikshospitalet library is a Natalie Portmann. A spectacle from afar, full of content, and definitely able to pull off the I'm-a-chick-and-I'm-bald look. I then ventured to the main campus library, and this would be the equivalent of Liv Tyler (Elf-lady from Lord of the Rings). Classy and effervescently beautiful. I'm very impressed, Universitetet i Oslo.

Anyway, to the part about the Salg (Sale). Here's the thing. I've always had this misconception that Norwegian clothes would be very expensive. Hence I bought all these clothes with me, along with new shoes, new jeans etc. Now I wish I'd waited until I got here! All throughout the centre of Oslo, there are sommersalgs (summer sales). Words cannot describe the rush of excitement I felt when I saw all these items (clothing, accessories, shoes) on offer, all for a reasonable price. Quality European clothing for prices within my budget. Considering that I've been packing my lunch everyday for the past week, and still yet to eat out (same dinner 3 nights in a row), I think I'm entitled to splurge myself. I didn't buy anything today, but it seriously required all my willpower NOT to buy the pair of shoes on sale for $40AUD (usual price $140), as well as the tops, the pants, the shirts...the list continues. There's absolutely no excuse for a Norwegian/European to be badly dressed - amazing clothing is in abundance here.

So here's the plan. I'm going to find myself a tin, and everyday, in this tin I will put as many Kroner as I save during that day. At the end of the week, I will take these kroner and buy myself aforementioned things. I mean, I'm not starving myself here for nothing...Imagine all the nice clothes I'll come back with!

I have a feeling I'm going to end up with scurvy...but at least I'll have good pants.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Got Melk?

I've run into a problem. Every time I try to speak Norwegian to someone, they can immediately tell that my level is akin to a 3 year old child. Hence they switch into perfect, slightly accented, English. Which is no good for my Norwegian.

So I've come up with a plan. I look Asian, right? And Asians not speak-er English, right? So next time they switch into English, I'll just give them a blank stare and pretend that I don't understand. I'll pretend that my English is SOO bad that they're better off speaking Norwegian to me. And if it all gets too difficult, or it's actually something really important like reporting to the police after getting robbed or bashed, then I'll just miraculously speak English again. That should work, right?

I also had my first face-palm moment in Oslo. Being the lactose intolerant person I am, I went hunting for some Lactose Free milk. Except I'm in Norway, kingdom of those whose ancestors frolicked on farms in the Sound of Music and drank plenty of cow's milk. Lactase deficiency?? What is this lactase deficiency? [scratches head]. Maybe I didn't understand the labels, but none of the milk cartons appeared to have the word lactose or a derivative thereof printed. So my next best option was Soy milk. Ding ding. Found it. See picture below:

Surely that's soy milk? It even has the word Sol in the title. Sol, Soy, same thing... And there's a photo of white liquid, along with an image of a flexible gymnast-type chick contorting her lower limbs (it's on the other side). And we all know soy is a chick's drink, right? It's like the special K ads with those long legged girls prancing around in leotards with tampon ad music in the background and butterflies and kittens and rainbows. This is totally soy milk...

This is what it turned out to be:
I don't think the lighting does justice to exactly how disgusting it actually looks. It's like a light cream/pale green coloured runny liquid that resembles a cross between cat vomit (bilious) and other bodily fluids... I asked my Norwegian housemate what it actually says (apparently it's in Swedish), and it's supposed to be used for cooking. I think it's like milk substitute for people who have allergies, coz it's milk free, soy free, everything else free. I don't even know what is in this product. So it was dry cereal for me yesterday.

PS: Later in the day, I discovered what was wrong. I was supposed to shake it before use. So basically there was this sludge down the bottom that looked like cement, and I was drinking the greenish/wheatish water on top that had separated from the cement precipitation. When shaken, it doesn't taste half-bad. So I didn't pour it away as planned.

Friday, August 6, 2010


So I woke up at klokker 6 på morgen i morges to get to the policestation by 7:30 because apparently there's always a massive queue outside. This, despite the fact that the station opens at 8:15. Surely I'd be the first person there right?

Wrong. Upon arrival, there were already 10 people huddled around the entrance like some illicit drug exchange (accentuated by the fact that we all looked like illegal boat people), and by the time the doors opened there were at least 50 people behind the line... It was all very civil though, as soon as the doors opened. I could see a few dodgy people trying to cut line, and we were all um-ing and ah-ing until this African chick who was directly before me in line was like "fuck this shit..." and decided to make it clear, before the doors opened, who was where in line so that we'd enter in a single-file fashion. Props to her for taking charge...she probably picked up a few tricks from the refugee camp (unless she wasn't from a refugee camp...).

Anyway, this morning I got my Study Permit Visa, following which I applied (optionally) for a D-number. The D-number is essentially a temporary Norwegian Identity Number. Students studying for 6 months or less get a temporary one, and everyone else including native Norwegians get a permanent number. Up at the counter, the lady discovered that A) I was from Australia (coz I just look so Australian right?...totally not a boat person...) and B) my visa allows me 7 months, upon which she decided to give me a permanent number. I was like, are you sure? I'm only going to be here for 6 months. And she was like, nah, it'll be easier for you if you want to live here in future. Which got me thinking....nah, I'll stop the thought right there. I'll be living in Melbourne. Australia. Nor Australia.

This left me with some time to wander around the city. I chose to wander through Grønland, which is basically the immigrant area in East side of Oslo. This was for several reasons. 1) Reconnect with ethnic people. 2) Scout for cheap Asian food. 3) Scout for cheap groceries - some of the veges were half the price of that in local supermarkets. 4) Tofu. 5) Simply coz when in doubt, go to Chinatown. Except there is no Chinatown here. There're heaps of Africans and Pakistanis in Grønland though.

Anyway, to wrap up, I had a proud moment today. I was buying rice at the store and this is what happened at the counter.

Counterguy: 'Hei hei'
Kevin: 'Hei'
Counterguy: 'Seksti krone'
Kevin hands over money.
Counterguy: 'Pose?'
Kevin: 'Nei takk'

Okay fine. So the only part actually noteworthy is the fact that I understood when he said 'pose?' (pronounced poo-seh and meaning - u wanna bag?) Baby steps...

PS: I can read and identify most grocery price tags now without visualizing said product. Also, I discovered how to type alphabet such as ø, å & æ with a simple step on my mac. I'm going to go ape shit with this.


I'll stop now...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Give me one second while I mentally disrobe you...


Mission accomplished! Yesterday I finally got my Semesterkort (semester card), which meant I could get my Studentkort (student card), equals Kevin finally acquired his Transport card (~70AUD) for 1 month of unlimited travel, as opposed to the 11AUD for a daily adult fare. In order to get this card, I've had to trek from college to university campus on 3 occasions, the path through which takes me through a derelict "nature strip" that alarmingly screams out "Gang Rape!!", got lost about 5 times (not in aforementioned gang rape nature strip), and spoke to about 20 different people to get to the right person. That said, the people who work for the student services centre are such lovely receptionists. Helpful, ever so polite, and of course painfully beautiful. Why can't Australian government services be like that? "Hi. Can I get a student card, a campus map and a side serving of model please? Actually, can I supersize that?"

That's the thing about these Norwegians. They're so polite. None of this "Oh moy gawd, it's so farkin hot in this shithole Moira..." business. Instead, it's all [read in foreign but aristocratic accent]: "Hello, how can I help you? Your semester card? Certainly, just one moment. Meanwhile, feel free to stare at my summer blue eyes." And here's the thing. Half the time I don't even know what they're saying because I'm too busy A) staring impolitely or B) refer to title of post.

Okay. Moving on from this whole superficial thing, I finally ventured into Oslo city with one of my Norwegian housemates to get my transport card. I don't think I've had enough time to form my thoughts or opinion of the city. There are certainly pockets of charming little streets selling the funkiest things (things I wish I could bring back to Melbourne). Then there's the dirtier side, the park with the "farkin derros" who seriously need to get a job, the Norwegians who break the stereotype I mentioned earlier about everyone looking like they have 2 PhD's stowed away in their bottom drawer. Then there's Grønland with all the immigrants (definitely going back there for food - besides, I need to return to get my student visa there). I guess my point is, so far I've only been exposed to the sheltered side of Oslo at Sogn. Sort of like spending a couple of days at Trinity College on steroids, and basing your opinions of Melbourne based solely on that. Yesterday's venture into the city demonstrated that:

1) Oslo is obsessed with 7-Eleven. There's a store every single corner!
2) Subway costs 70K ~ 13AUD. 10 Subways and you can buy yourself a microwave...
3) Oslo is much more diverse than I initially encountered. Really cool.
4) Norway actually has derros. Norwegians shit too? I thought you guys were designed so perfectly that you bypassed those menial human tasks...
5) Oslo/Norway isn't as big as I thought. Just today as we were wandering through the streets, my Norwegian housemate from Alta (Northern lights area) bumped into 3 sets of people he knew from back home. This was within a 5hr period. On the way home we bumped into one of the same ones again...
6) My Norwegian is improving significantly. I saw a sign at the Jernbanetorget (Oslo central station) which I understood completely (inner Zing moment) "Skal du reise med tog i sommer?" which means "Will you be traveling by train this summer?" Just you wait...Give me 6 months and I'll be answering that question in Norwegian with more than just "Ja".
7) It rains like mad here. It is summer here at the moment. SUMMER. Why is it raining?? I was drenched by the time I got home.

I don't know...I wonder what people think of Norway, especially those who've never been before?

In Norway I'm average

In Turkey you may be beautiful but in Norway you're just average. Haha. The book title...Get it? I think I just killed the joke...

But seriously. I've been here for 48 hours and it's starting to hit me, like bad Thai curry and gastro, that this whole Norwegian people looking ridiculously attractive thing has got to be a joke. It must be something in the water. I mean, to go as far as saying every single person in this country is attractive would be overkill (I'm thinking frequent flyer, creepy middle aged men with bad psoriasis and flaky skin who travel to Bangkok regularly for "good time" and "happy ending"). But otherwise, if you could somehow calculate attractiveness into GDP (Gross Domestic Product), I'm fairly certain that Norway would come out on top. Perhaps the Norwegian government should consider using this as a platform for global trade/marketing. "What do you export? Iron ore? Interesting. You sell palm oil? Shit, we export tall hot models. [shrugs shoulders casually, but even that casualness is posed to perfection].

I know there's the whole hoo-ha about Norwegians being blonde and all, but I think the attractiveness transcends beyond that. Firstly, a lot of the attractive people are actually not blonde (not that the blonde ones aren't attractive - see my point?) It's also everything else about them. Everyone around here seems to be fit (at least the young ones are). Those who are tall aren't tall and sickly thin. And a lot of people are tall here. I walk around campus and I constantly go: "Shit, your 15 year old daughter's taller than me...". And then there's the whole "I'm highly educated and even if I'm not I look like I've got a PhD" sort of thing going on. Smart people are hot. And everyone speaks English nearly to perfection here. Imagine speaking to your grocery guy in Armenian and he speaks back to you in Armenian like it's just another language up his sleeve...did you know I also speak Latin and Ancient Greek too?

Anyway, my point is, it's actually disconcerting to be constantly faced with quite beautiful people when buying groceries, when getting mail delivered, when speaking to the receptionist, etc. etc. It makes me wonder how Prince Frederick of Denmark had such difficulty finding a wife back home? It's like, bloody hell, how far do you have to look? You had to go to Australia?? Seriously?

Anyway, here's a photo of my student accommodation
And here's a photo of the university campus map.
Jeg laerer norsk nå. I går, jeg har kjøpt en ordbok. I dag, jeg må få meg studentkort. I have mixed feelings about this. I really want to learn Norwegian, but somehow I think the ship of my 22 year old Broca's area has sailed away long ago. In the supermarkets, I hear kids age 5 speaking norsk and I get jealous. It's pretty bad, being jealous of 5 year old kids...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I can't beweave it...

Greetings from Oslo!!!

I'm safe - (read: was not bashed by vagabonds on route to accommodation, no one has done a Schapelle Corby on me in Bangkok and there were no terrorist hijacks) Actually, in the bigger scheme of things, it's all been relatively significant-event free for me. That said, my journey from Melbourne to Sogn studentby was not without a series of midsadventures that was, one may argue, nothing short of a fiasco (I exaggerate slightly)

It all started with the hair weave. It belonged to one of the air sterwardess' on Royal Thai airlines on my first flight from Melbourne --> Bangkok. She was quite pretty, but God bless her and her ridiculous weave that would've put even Whoopi Goldberg's dreadlocks to shame, marijuana and all. It was so distracting that every time she craned her neck from behind and positioned her head into my field of vision, offering me another glass of white wine, it took nothing short of a miracle not to jump out from my seat.

Then there was the constant voice in my head telling me to get up every 2 hours and walk around lest I form a Deep vein thrombosis. There was also this Thai stewardess' (another one) who mistook me for being Thai and sprayed a mouthful of unintelligible words at me, simultaneously gesticulating with Korean-animation whether or not I wanted another glass of white. Yes ma'am! I guess some languages are universally understood.

Upon arriving at Bangkok, I proceeded to buy my 1L of vodka. Here's the thing. Australian duty free refused to sell me the alcohol because apparently there's some kind of rule about Europe and alcohol restrictions or something funny like that. I didn't believe the lady so I smiled politely, walked onto the next Duty Free shop (out of sight) and tried to buy the same drinks. He refused me too. At that point I realised it was probably true. Anyway, so in Thailand the shop assistant guy comes up to me and starts muttering to me in Thai (I just took it as a compliment. Thai people generally are quite good looking). Anyway, I bought 1L of Finnish vodka (grapefruit flavoured) for just AUD19! That's crazy!!! Anyway, there I was gleefully planning all the occasions I'd get to savour this liquid gold, only to have it confiscated at Copenhagen airport! Apparently there IS some rule about bringing liquids >100mL on board. What doesn't make sense to me was why my sealed Duty Free alcohol was deemed unsafe for boarding, but passengers were allowed to buy 1L bottles in Danish duty free shops just before boarding?? Anyway, I didn't think it was worth arguing about/making a scene, so I just handed over my vodka and moved on. Besides, I ended up buying another 1L bottle at Oslo airport for 83K (~17AUD).

In between these alcohol fiascos, I somehow managed to claudicate my Right butt cheek during the flight from Bangkok to Copenhagen and witnessed 2 (yeah, 2) so called on-craft MET calls. First there was some guy who complained of dizziness and pre-syncope JUST as we're taking off, with the option of stopping and turning back looming over our shoulders. Luckily he improved and chose to go ahead with the flight. The second one occurred minutes before landing, with some lady a couple of seats in front of me complaining of SOB. I've flown a fair few times in my life and I'd never witnessed medical problems in-craft. Yesterday I had 2 in the one flight.

Interestingly, I also met a nice Norwegian guy sitting next to me on the flight from Bangkok to Copenhagen. Turned out he was also going to Oslo Central train station in the city. I'm pretty sure I have him to thank for getting us from the airport to the main central station A) on the express train, B) with minimal fumbling around (except pitstops for cigarettes) and C) on a very cheap fare (cheap here in Norway = 85K = 15AUD!) He definitely also jogged my memory with all the Norwegian I'd learnt prior to Sem 9 exams which had all but escaped me. Amazing how quickly it comes back when you're actually in the country and have a native speaker helping you out.

Then there's the whole story about my struggles to get my accommodation keys etc, but suffice to say I've managed to get it done. As I was lugging my massive luggage (no wheels, all manpower) from Kringså to Sogn, I kept thinking to myself, if the Chinese could walk that far back in the Gold Rush era, then so can I...unfortunately the skin around my fingers and palm are pretty badly chaffed now.

I'm really *really* excited to start learning Norwegian now that I'm in the country. It's amazing to be walking around the city and hear people speaking this foreign but not entirely alien language around me. Within a day I've already picked up a few words...I can't imagine what it'll be like in 6 months! I can't wait :-)