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,