If at first you don’t succeed…

January 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I subjected myself to the torture that was the university level Norwegian exam. There was no level of preparation I could have completed on my own that would have prepared me for it. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Up until yesterday I had found my level of Norwegian to be enough to keep me active in daily life and somehow believed that my competence translated to an educational level. Now I know better.

The test was composed of five different sections, each of which took about an hour to complete. Some of the sections were reading comprehension, some required listening to statements and answering questions, and finally the last section was free-writing. One section required us to listen to a five minute interview with a representative of an organization in Oslo and then write a summary of it, including points on funding, financial background and business function. Though I actually found this to be much easier than I expected, I was irritated that the interviewee had a very different dialect than that of Oslo. Norway’s dialects are almost like that in the US, but can occasionally be much more difficult to understand. Sometimes it is just like taking a person from California and one from New York, same English just different ways of saying things. In Norway, not only do you get that, but you can get entirely different words and pronunciations that sound nothing alike. For example, the word not, ikke in Norwegian: in Oslo, it is said like, ick-keh, whereas the guy in the interview said it like, isssh-heh. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but when you are already taking time to translate from Norwegian to English you really don’t have the time, much less the patience, to first translate between the dialects.

The two most difficult parts for me were actually one of the reading comprehension articles and then the two-hour essay at the end. One of the articles was a psychological evaluation of parental leave allotted to new parents. Not only was the article quite dense, but the questions were structured in a way that you could not simply repeat certain passages from the article. When I got to the essay, I almost laughed. I got to choose between politics and health. I decided on the politics question, assuming it would be easier. The question: What it right to give Barrack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize? I proceeded to write, what I considered to be, the worst essay I have ever written. It was so bad that I feel it almost insults my education. For the life of me I could not think of the words needed to form a functioning thesis statement, much less organize coherent body paragraphs. Seeing as the papers were written on carbon paper, we were lucky enough to keep a copy of it. I shamefully allowed my boyfriend Skjalg to read it. His first comment was actually laughter proceeded by an inquiry as to why, considering my lack of Norwegian vocabulary, I chose to seal my fate by insulting the very country that both grades the exam and awarded President Obama the Peace Prize. My response was that I was going down anyway and might as well go down saying what I believe, whether or not I did that successfully.

So I sunk into a bit of a depression last night. I feel like the progress I thought I had made is all just an illusion. It looks like it will be taking me another year before I will be able to start school here. I guess that, in the end, it is for the best. I do not feel comfortable enough with my Norwegian to take the what remains of my Pre-Med courses. At least now I know the level that is expected of me. Skjalg recommended that I sign up for a Norwegian course. My only issue is that I am already a Norwegian citizen and I therefore do not qualify for the language classes that they offer to immigrants. My option is to sign up for a course that costs 12,000 NOK, the equivalent of $2,000.00. I am going to try to research any other options, but I’m beginning to believe that I will be able to do this on my own, and of course with the help of friends. The test dealt a lot with history, politics and current affairs. What better place to look than the newspaper? I’m thinking that if I can try and read the paper everyday and then write summaries on the articles, I will cover the majority of what I will need to learn. Everything that’s worth it takes time right?

The only thing I can do now is categorize this experience as another hurtle in the journey of eventually becoming a doctor. It feels so far away something that I feel as though I will never get there. All I can do to keep moving in that direction is break it all down into smaller steps and keep my spirits high. I guess one good thing about all this is that once I get there and turn around to look back on the journey, it will be one hell of a story to tell.

Reflecting on Progress Made

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

These past couple months have been quite rough. I’ve almost settled back into the mindset I had when I was in LA. While I am miles ahead of where I was when I was there, I have still managed to immerse myself the same daily grind that drove me crazy. I’ve found myself quite inspired by blogs lately and realized that, though I am no longer in that “freshly-born, reflective state” does not mean that I have anything less to reflect on.

I began glancing through some of my old entries and found myself completely taken aback by not only the content, but by the person I was when I wrote them. When you see yourself in the present, you neglect to note all the little steps you had to take to get to that point. Looking back at the progress you’ve made instills in you such a great sense of pride and accomplishment. The daily transactions I make now are so commonplace that I neglect to remember the hundreds of awkwards ones it took me to get there. I came to this country without any linguistic skills whatsoever. Now, nine months later, I spend up to nine hours a day at work communicating almost entirely in Norwegian, answering phone calls and writing emails. I could never have possibly imagined reaching this point. This is only further evidence that we are truly unaware of the greatness we are capable of unless we push ourselves out of our comfort zones.

I am nowhere near the point I want to be at in my life where I will feel settled in my career and residence, but looking at where I was then to where I am now…it really just makes me speechless. How was this possible? I never planned this. I never expected to reach this place. But her I am, thriving, because I took it each day at a time. Each humiliating, unbearable, sweet and rewarding day at a time. Break your goals down into smaller, more manageable steps. Do not give up hope along the way because you feel you will never get to the end. Nothing is lost from working towards a goal. Whether or not you get to the point you planned on, you will still gain so much in the process.

Quote from the photo below:

“The credit belongs to those people who are actually in the arena…who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions to a worthy cause; who at best, know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

She returns!

August 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

It has been quite a while since I last made the time to sit down and reflect on my experiences through writing. I regret that I’ve neglected writing because of all the memories and experiences I now have no account of. However, time forgives all and they always say, “better late than never”.

I don’t even know where to begin. My conscious floods with memories as I sit here pondering which select few to materialize. I’ve experienced so much in these last few months, enough to fill a lifetime it seems. I’ve grown into an entirely new person, one capable of things I never knew I was capable of before. I’m more humble and aware, more comfortable with change, more aggressive with knowledge and quick to learn. I’ve been successful in creating a life here. There are obviously miles and miles of more lessons to learn and experiences to have but I’m finally soothed by a sense of control, a sense of purpose and belonging. I see the world through a different set of eyes and have opened my mind to this new perspective.

The greatest thing about living in a new country is the feeling of progress. The smallest actions throughout the day, the tiniest thoughts and expressions are all linked to some memory of what they used to be before. I remember the first cup of coffee I purchased here in Norway. It was at a small coffee shop on the corner of my street and I was waiting to meet my new landlord. I’d fumbled so much with the order that I eventually gave up and admitted linguistic defeat. It turned out that the barista was actually a fellow Californian from San Diego and that he had only asked me if I wanted my coffee to go. When I returned to the coffee shop this past week, I submitted myself to the same action as before yet carried it out flawlessly. It was only a cup of coffee but it represented true progress. I’d encountered a challenge I’d previously failed and emerged victorious.

Language is culture. Language is life. Without means to communicate there is no way to function. When you are purchasing something, traveling somewhere, enlisting any sort of service, simply going about your normal life, you absolutely require a way to communicate. When this ability is taken away from you, you begin to doubt everything. You get confused by the smallest details and frustrated when you are alerted to their simplicity. You struggle endlessly to continue on the way you always have, the only way you really know. And everything seems the same, but that’s all an illusion: yes that looks like milk but it’s actually some yogurt-milk hybrid and you can eat it with cereal. Moving to a new country requires that you completely alter your understanding of social constructs. Life here in this new place has the same elements of your last life but the meanings associated with them are different. People still eat, breathe, work and socialize but the way they do these things is different. You sit back and watch everything around you, analyzing, cataloging, associating, preparing your mind to recognize this new world as it’s own.

Job? Check!

May 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

So I’ve had it in my mind the last week or so that killing myself at the gym would give me the much needed sense of accomplishment I was lacking. As tiring as it was, I did find that overexerting myself in workouts made me feel better about simply sitting around and looking for jobs online for the rest of the day. Yesterday, I decided to try out the new personal trainer bike, which featured a full blown training video system with customized trainer and workouts. I completed the half hour course, which was absolutely exhausting, and trudged over to work on my weights. As I was pausing between sets a trainer ran up and asked me if I wanted to join his strength training class. I let him know about my knee surgery but said I would love to try it out. Bad choice! The class was phenomenal and I got one of best workouts I’ve had in a long time. However, the workout was too good! By the 20th minute of our leg exercises my already fatigued legs completely gave out mid-lunge. Yes, embarrassing, but I was more worried about how I was going to walk home much less go into work! My worries turned out to be correct as I woke this morning with quite possibly the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced shooting through every possible muscle in my lower body. I considered dosing myself with some ibuprofen in order to last the training session at work but decided against it.

I headed down to the restaurant at around 3:30 p.m. and the returning stress masked the resistance of my leg muscles to every movement. Though the sky was a bit cloudy, there were a large number of people reclining on the sofas of the restaurant. I walked up and down the harbor for a while, scanning the restaurant for people I recognized from the previous meeting. At one of the bars I spotted a guy from the interview group training as a bartender. I went down to ask him where we were meeting and he directed me to a spot further down the boat. I found my group nestled in a cove lining the outer wall of the kitchen. Rather than sitting in silence for twenty minutes, I was invited to a conversation by a Swedish girl who addressed me in English. I used the opportunity to get to know the group a bit and answer the questions they had about me. My nerves subsided quite a bit with the opportunity to communicate with the group and not simply sit and attempt to understand the conversation.

A young blonde woman arrived and began leading us on a tour of the restaurant. I was finding it really hard to understand her and grew more and more anxious about the important information I was missing through the language barrier. I tried to follow her gestures and applied my previous restaurant knowledge to this new, unfamiliar location. She led us over to a sort of computer system, one which was far less developed than what I was used to. I noted at this point that I was possibly the shortest member of the group as I struggled to see what she was explaining. Two members of the group went up and entered certain information on the system and then she asked for another member to try it out. The group parted and I found myself out in the open. I made my way up and could feel the stress burning through my skin. She said something and all I could manage to make out was the beginning of a number. I kept trying to pick-up what she was saying and was eventually rescued by a whisper from a girl from the group who stood to my right. I felt so out of place, especially since I’m normally good with computers and a quick learner.

We moved on to the beverage part of the kitchen. There was a full room of refrigerators containing every kind of glassware you could imagine and beer and wine bottles. The trainer demonstrated some act of inserting a key card into a part of the machine that enabled you to retrieve the required drink from the tap. The Swedish girl in the group leaned down to me, asked if I understood what was going on and explained it when I shook my head. We were led back to the beginning of the kitchen area. Our trainer began filling pint glasses with water and setting up 11 glasses on trays the size of a 52 inch T.V. We took turns lifting the trays and laughed at the impossibility of successfully lifting them much less being able to deliver drinks. This began the first step of our humiliating task. After gathering the energy to lift the overweight, oversized trays to our shoulders the trainer had us follow her around the entire restaurant. As we did our best to keep the trays above our shoulders while maneuvering around the unfamiliar boat all the occupants turned to watch us. I regretted not having taken the ibuprofen as my legs screamed for rest and my shoulder threatened to give out from the weight of the tray. We stopped for a break at the bar in the lounge area and the surrounding guests clapped and laughed as one of the girls spilled several of her glasses. Our trip continued back to the other end of the boat and then up a set of stairs that led to a bar area that had been transformed to look like an island: twenty foot palm trees, fake grass floor covering and bamboo fence along all the banisters. The trainer explained a bit more about the job, all of which I understood none of, and then pulled out a schedule book. The Swedish girl leaned down to tell me we were going to tell the trainer when we could work. I signed up for every day available, included May 17th, Norway’s National Independence Day and largest celebration of the year.

We finished up by returning the trays with glasses to the kitchen and picking up our uniforms from a ship docked to the side of the boat. By then the stress had subsided quite a bit and we joked around while trying on the different sizes of jackets and t-shirts. I had befriended the girls in the groups as they had helped me understand the trainer and I had helped a bit with their serving techniques. It turned out that the trainer was Swedish, which fully justified my complete inability to understand what she was saying. After exchanging numbers with one of the girls we said our goodbyes and headed home. I definitely felt more settled as I was leaving, but I have yet to survive a full shift so this feeling will be short-lived. All I can do before tomorrow is study the menu and hope for the best!

Hello, again

May 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

Part 1

The day is bright, I’m off to the gym and I’m pretty sure I’ll have a job by the end of the day. I’m not sure it can get quite better than this! The past week has been full of rain and about twenty job denials. I have to admit that I was getting to a point where I thought that I was never going to get a job and would have to resort to something drastic. But today presents a whole new set of feelings and I am regaining my excitement for the future. According to my friend Haley, my lack of writing is known as blagging (blog lagging). Now that it has a name, I feel I have a duty to keep it up!

There are a number of differences in Norway that challenge me at least several times a week if not several times a day. The first thing I’ll bring up is the hot water temperature. Due to the extreme high expense of food you have to cook the majority, if not all, of your meals at home. We don’t have a dishwasher so we do a good amount of cleaning dishes in the sink, which is where the water comes in. I believe that in the US there is a temperature limit with the hot water furnace of 120˚ F (about 48˚ C). I never thought I would appreciate this feature until I experienced the scalding stream that emerges from the faucet when you turn it in the hot water direction. I can even determine the numerous experiences I’ve had burning my skin while washing dishes or attempting to take a shower.

The next large difference is how Norwegians love their time off! I’m not quite sure the actual reasons for it, but most shops close around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon and almost everything is closed on Sunday. My cousin joked that its typical Norwegian for the whole city to shut down for the weekend, especially if the weather is good. I’m finding it hard to adjust to the need to get everything done early in the day, especially after living in L.A. where everything is open just short of 24 hours.

As long as it’s not snowing, Norwegians are outside all the time. We experienced some brief yet powerful rainstorms this week yet the amount of people walking, biking, sitting outside at cafes and riding the buses never faltered. In my experience, rain in California is treated like falling acid and avoided at all costs. I can’t remember the last time I went about my day in the rain as though nothing were different. Then I arrive in Norway, where they actually experience seasons, and find that rain fails to slow people down. On the way to the gym, as I fought my umbrella’s desire to flip inside out, I passed large groups of runners, bicyclists, moms pushing carriages and street cafe occupants, all of whom were outfitted in weather-friendly clothing yet otherwise unaware of the downpour. I’ll have to experience a real Norwegian winter before I can approach the storms with such nonchalance.

Part 2

I’ve returned from what was arguably the most nerve-wracking and silently humiliating experience I’ve had in Norway and quite possibly in my life. I returned for my job callback, which turned out to be an information session with enough paperwork to essentially submit my translation skills to a full blown language marathon. After arriving at the restaurant, I was led to the back lounge where we had all waited the previous day. There I greeted the other seven people who had made in through the initial interview period. I settled in the cushions on the long sofa bench by the bar and stared out the widow while trying to pick up as much of the conversation as I could. The majority of what I picked up from the other applicants was their desire for money and wonders about whether or not this callback was confirming our employment. My pounding heart sank when the woman who came to meet us was not the same we’d had the day before. I would have to adjust my attention to understand this new woman’s demeanor and language pattern. Norwegian has so many different dialects and adding in different speech rates and personalities makes it that much harder to follow people.

We were led up to the same dining area we had filled yesterday, this time occupying a single table rather than three. The director was friendly and laid back, hair in a loose bun and wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. I had arrived, again, as the most overdressed, my hair slicked back and wearing my manager outfit. Apparently, tousled hair, torn jeans and a tank top would have sufficed. However, due to my language handicap, I felt that overdoing it in the few areas I could control would be to my benefit. Then it was off on the Norwegian roller coaster. I used every ounce of available brain power to pick up the general topics she flew over. Not only was her Norwegian extremely hard to understand, but I had such a substantial amount of stress brewing in the pit of my stomach that I was finding it hard to pay attention. We had been handed a packet with all the rules and regulations and though I tried to follow as much as I could, the vocabulary was a way out of my league. Several times she asked the group questions. Normally, I would have been the first one to answer, but in this case I only knew the answer in English and didn’t want to spotlight my linguistic limitations. The hinderance of my natural personality was icing to the increasing level of my stress. Living in a country where I don’t know the language has transformed me from a bubble of enthusiasm, energy and passion to a shy and timid observer. We ended the meeting by filling out our contracts. I had to cautiously glance at the other applicants’ papers to see exactly what I should have been filling out in each section. Luckily enough I wasn’t alone in my struggle with the contract and I was able to exchange aid with the Swedish man seated next to me. I’m still hoping that I ordered the correct amount of uniforms and that what I ordered were, in fact, uniforms. I guess I’ll see tomorrow.

Instructions were given to return the following day at four and we were released from the meeting. As soon as I emerged Christian walked up and asked, “What’s with the face?” Before I had a chance to relay the torment of the last two hours I spotted the Swedish man moseying out of the restaurant. I decided to take the opportunity to confirm the little I had understood from the meeting. It turned out that, despite the extreme similarities between Norwegian and Swedish, he had failed to understand any more than I had. I asked him whether we would be working the next day or were simply going in for training. He responded by saying that he was just going to show up at four and hope that everything went smoothly from there. I felt slightly relieved that someone was experiencing an equal degree of confusion. On the way home Christian and I stopped by the Salvation Army to look for shoes. I had gathered that we needed good tennis shoes as part of our uniform, to make it through the 9-hour shifts. The ones I use at the gym are falling apart and with Norway being as expensive as it is, Salvation Army was our only affordable option. I found some plain white vans and purchased them for about $14; they’ll have to do until I can afford some new sneakers. Coming home was an absolute blessing. I’d killed my legs at the gym in the morning and my unsettled feelings about work weren’t helping. We received a care package from my Auntie Tasha this morning and it was a saving grace! She’d included the equivalent of gold here in Norway, those things you can’t find and if you do they are too expensive to buy. Our treasure trough of peanut butter, protein bars, popcorn, nuts, tuna and celebrity magazines significantly uplifted our spirits. Nothing like reminders of home to bring you back to your happy place .

 

Job Hunting

May 11, 2009 § Leave a comment

It’s been almost two weeks since I moved up to Oslo. While I enjoy finally having a place to live, I’m finding myself overwhelmed with the difficulty in finding work. Yesterday I spent another afternoon searching for work by walking around the area Grünerløkka handing out my CV to every cafe and restaurant. It was bustling with people out to soak in the sun in the parks and sidewalk cafes. Most locations informed me that they weren’t hiring any more people for the summer or that there were already too many employees who wanted more shifts. After hitting every available cafe in the area I called Nadine, since we had planned to meet up at some point. I found her at a small sidewalk table with a group of old friends, who were either pregnant or had babies with them. I introduced myself and then explained who I was and where I had come from, all in Norwegian. Her friends were extremely kind and receptive and told me that I spoke really well. I find that the body language of most Norwegians I meet grows considerably more comfortable when I express myself in Norwegian and let them know that I understand quite a bit.

After saying goodbye, Nadine and I headed towards the city center in order to look for other employment opportunities. As we were walking she asked to see my CV and immediately exclaimed when she noted that there was no picture on it. In my research of how to write a CV, I had come across an article that said you should only post your picture if you are applying for a job where looks are important, like modeling. Apparently this was wrong and Nadine explained to me that a picture would be one of my selling points. I experienced another sinking feeling as I realized that I had submitted picture-less applications to all the best cafes and restaurants in the area and most likely would not be hearing back from any of them. We ended up finding a small street cafe and I treated Nadine to a coffee for her help. Norwegians love their sun! We sat out at a small table and watched the mounds of people rolling by. It’s nice to savor the seasons this way, to hold on to every moment of sun you have, an appreciation I never had living in Southern California.

The rest of the day was relaxing and social as it took my mind off the stress of finding a job. Nadine and I headed back to her apartment where we made a fresh salad with chicken and tortillas. We then moved to the balcony with some red wine and sat with our legs propped up as we chatted and watched the sun set. I’ve been getting thrown off by how light it is here into the night. We are only in the beginning of May and it doesn’t get really dark until about 10:30 p.m. My night patterns have changed and I have been staying up really late, most likely because I am so used to going to bed a couple hours after nightfall. I can’t imagine how I will be sleeping when the summer months hit. The rest of the night was spent watching the finale of the Norwegian version of Bachelor and a couple episodes of the Heroes TV series, from a bootleg version purchased in Thailand.

The Move to Oslo

April 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

Welcome to a new chapter. One where you are really here, alone, in this city. One where you make your own days without relaying the day plan to someone else. One where this is becoming more and more of a reality. I’ve said goodbye to overstayed welcomes and restless isolation. No longer the fresh air of the south islands but the fresh air of the city by the sea, the air of opportunity and progress. On the trip up to Oslo from Tjøme this morning I caught myself recalling the thoughts I had when my cousin Ola first picked me up from the airport two months ago. I had experienced an attack of fear and anxiety and doubted suddenly whether or not this was a good idea. Now here I was, on my way to my new apartment in Oslo. Is this really possible? Have I really stumbled around in the unknown and found myself here? I’m not even in a state of shock because the comfort I feel here is so natural. I feel as though, out of all the places I could be in the world, this is where I am meant to be now, in this exact moment. I have yet to find a job, learn the language and enroll in school, yet I still feel such a sense of achievement. This finally feels real.

I’m sitting at a corner coffee shop on the opposite block of my apartment building. I’m so happy to finally be in the city, not to mention general civilization. The shop is quite large with many tables and counter seats and populated by a extremely diverse group of people. While ordering my drink I blanked out and had to tell the barista I didn’t understand what he had said. He immediately asked me where I was from and probed my response when I told him California. He told me that he was from San Diego and had moved here five years ago with his wife, adding that he didn’t move for “the surf and sandy beaches.” I couldn’t help but get excited at the chance to have a coherent conversation with a stranger. I’m finding that the deep level of the unfamiliar here is causing my heart to race at the slightest reminder of home. I was hardly aware of how much of my personality, my individual existence, was defined and symbolized by my language and culture. I am curious whether or not a firm understanding and acceptance of the language and culture here will allow me to again feel that same sense of identity.
I’ve absolutely fallen in love with my new neighborhood. It was quite lucky that we got this place the way we did. Christian and I spent days looking for apartments online, searching through and translating hundreds of ads and sending almost a hundred emails. All the places that were in our price range were simply studio apartments with only about 54 square feet of space. When responding to the ads we decided to double our chance by sending one request in Norwegian and another in English. While I only got a total of two responses for my detailed English e-mails, Christian got at least twelve for his one-liner Norwegian ones. In the end, most places turned us down because they claimed that the space was simply not large enough for two people. I found myself immensely frustrated with the fact that we were ready to pay and move in yet denied in defense of our own comfort. Now, I’m not quite familiar with the traditional layout of condos/apartments in the U.S. but the ones we’ve seen here are definitely interesting. Almost all the places we saw have heated floors and huge-wall size arrangements of windows. The heated floors are obviously for the snow season and I’m guessing that the large windows are to let in as much light as possible during the dark winter months. Most “kitchens” had a small counter top with a sink and two stove top rings and a cabinet system composed of several drawers and a small refrigerator. One of the biggest adjustments had to do with the bathrooms. Almost every place we looked at showed simply a mounted shower head as the shower; no curtain, no glass, no doors. The bathroom is essentially a large shower with a sink and toilet built in as the walls and floor are made with tile or marble. It will definitely be something to get used to.

After trudging through at least eight denials, I received a message from my cousin’s friend Nadine telling me that she decided to move out the following week and wanted to know if we were interested in renting her place. I screamed and accepted, without even seeing the place or learning any details about it. I was fully satisfied by the prospect of having a place to live and renting from someone we knew and would be able to communicate with.

We arranged for me to arrive in Oslo on Friday to meet with Nadine and look at the place. When arriving in the city center I got a text saying she would be a bit late because she was waiting for a doctor’s appointment. My map-quested directions from the bus terminal to the apartment were of no help. After getting completely disoriented and drained from dragging my suitcase around the center I gave up and hailed a cab. I’ve mentioned before how expensive things are here and cab rides are not excluded: it cost the equivalent of $20.00 for the four minute ride to the apartment building. I later found out that you are not supposed to tip the cab drivers because they charge so much in the first place. I headed out immediately to find a bank, since I needed to open an account and pay for the apartment. Stores here in Norway close extremely early and have even earlier closing hours in the summer. I was lucky to find one just around the corner but found out that it had already closed for the day, at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. I also found out that banks aren’t open at all on the weekends. I’ve got to train myself to be more efficient with my errands in the mornings if everything is going to be closing so early in the afternoon.

After finding a convenient posting spot against a concrete post, I gave Christian a call in order to relay the vibe of the neighborhood. I can tell he is frustrated with his inability to move down here at this moment and I advised him to enjoy as much of these last couple weeks as possible. My phone cut off mid-sentence and alerted me that my card was empty. Christian called me back and we finished our conversation as I made my way to the nearest 7-11. Here in Norway you are only charged for outgoing calls and messages which is lovely when you don’t make the calls. The 7-11’s here are much smaller than those in the U.S. and have more of a bakery feel to them. After purchasing a hundred kroner worth of Chess brand phone credit. I made my way to the corner coffee shop and ordered a large black coffee.

I had just sat down when Nadine called me to tell me she was home. I ordered another coffee and a chocolate crossant and made my way to the building. After she buzzed me in, I began lugging my bags up the marble staircases. I was so focused on effectively carrying my bags and ascending at a normal pace that I didn’t notice Nadine as she jumped down the steps ahead of me. We hit it off immediately and spent several hours talking over coffee. The apartment was stunningly perfect and Nadine’s hospitality could not have been any better. Since she will be living down the street at a colleagues apartment, she is leaving all the furniture, kitchenware, travel books, movies and TV. She then sweetened the deal by adding that she had not one, but two bikes she didn’t use and told me we could use them whenever we wanted. At one point I was so overwhelmed that I was simply at a loss of words and just kept shaking my head and smiling.

After sitting for a several hours, enjoying some white wine and talking about everything from travel to life in America, we decided that we would go out and grab a bite to eat in the city. Nadine told me that we could stay out longer and she could set up a sleeping arrangement for me in the living room so that I wouldn’t have to make my way to the outskirts of town to stay with my grandparents so late in the night. I felt so excited to experience the Friday night life of Oslo. By the time we were heading out the door it was already ten and with my experience with the early closing of the bank that afternoon, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find any place to eat.

We stopped at the corner convenience store, called Deli de Luca, apparently fashioned after a famous deli in the states. Luckily enough the store is open 24/7 and is perfect for late night needs. We purchased bus tickets from the cashier, since they are 12 kroner (about two dollars) cheaper than when you purchase them on the bus. I love the bus stops here because they have an electronic screen that tells you the bus number, destination and how long until it arrives. This feature because it will make it so much easier to figure out how to get around. Our bus wouldn’t be arriving for six minutes so we decided to walk to the next stop.

The brisk air felt refreshing as we walked and Nadine pointed out some key shops along the street. Occasionally we passed young girls in short dresses and heels, and I shivered in response to their obvious discomfort. The main street was bustling with a plethora of small cafes and bars and crowded with tables that flowed onto the sidewalks. After attempting several locations we settled on a packed tapas bar and maneuvered our way to the first empty bar seats. Our meal was amazing, consisting of a variety of small yet exquisite dishes. We spent several hours talking, observing the rising drunkenness of the surrounding bar inhabitants, and washing our meal down with glasses of chardonnay. I felt so much progress in this moment. Here I was in a new country, with a girl I’d just met, enjoying a typical night on the town. Almost as if nothing had really changed, just another night of bar hopping with a friend.

Where Am I?

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