July 2006 Archives
Had a better time the second time I went to gladmat, earlier today.
The evil stroller crowd hadn't arrived yet when we turned up at 11:30 nor had the lunch crowd, wandered around had some nice coffee, some good chocolates and some okay olive bread and dips.
We were there with two friends, a couple Eline and her partner Jens. I had quite a bit in common with Jens, lots of shared heavy tastes and also a shared love of anime. Astrid's boss at one point was Eline and they have become good friends now that they no longer work together.
Astrid and Eline had Paella and I had pretty ordinary Sangria. Later Astrid finally got her oft-requested wish for some Mussels, but inadvertently bought them from the Labour party stall.
Then we sat down at an outdoor beer hall and had 50/50 dark/light local beer which was nice.
On our way back from gladmat, we ran into Astrid's sister Unni and her two kids, the younger Ulrik was having a shy moment which was completely at odds with the ball of energy I met last Christmas.
I've left Astrid and Eline shopping for shoes whilst I grabbed some time to try and book tickets for the upcoming Chamber Music Festival, only to discover that they can't be booked on the net. Oh well, I'm keen to go so it's a phone call or off to the ticket place on the other side of the town centre tomorrow to sort this out.
Why is it that mass culture has got internet booking half right but things like film and music festivals often struggle with this.
Richard had a lot of trouble with this year's Sydney Film Festival for the same reason.
Yesterday Astrid and I went to the Stavanger Food Festival, a very popular local event that only lasts 4 days.
With a particularly tacky name when translated to English (Gladmat translates as happy meal or happy food) I was a bit unsure about this festival. Astrid and her friends however have been looking forward to this for months.
We went at a bad time, after work on the opening day, it was packed (and unusually hot for Stavanger). I really struggled with crowds used thinking opposite to me (that driving on the right thing translates to escalators and giving way in crowds as well)
The food was okay, but this definitely was more a celebration of food rather than a gourmet food festival as I'd partly been hoping for. Only the Danish cafe Østerhus really grasped the idea that this festival has a lot more potential than it offers.
I already know Norwegians are pretty conservative in their food preferences but this is the opportunity to open some peoples eyes to new flavours and tastes.
I expected that there would be little Vegetarian food on offer, this expectation was pretty much fulfilled - with my main option being Ethiopian food. Even the usually reliable Indian disappointed me with a meat only menu. This was not a huge surprise, vegetarianism is incredibly small in Norway. Astrid tried hard to find me vego options, but I told her I wanted her to look for food for herself.
What disappointed me with the heat and summer weather was the incredible focus on fried, roasted or bbq'd foods, mostly meat. There were little salad options, which was surprising at the Thai and other Asian stalls. There was a lot of seafood, but most of the seafood options wanted you to sit and dine alfresco - and this doesn't come cheap.
I can understand BBQ as that is a summer tradition in many countries including Norway. However why offer fried spring rolls and other deep fried options at the Thai/Chinese stalls when you could offer fresh rice paper rolls, sushi or some other healthier, more summer option. That said, another stall did offer sushi which did not look as appetising as most you would find in Sydney, but the wasabi paste looked fresh (but not sure if it was real wasabi)
That said, the Ethiopian was excellent and the organic ice cream was superb. There were a couple of organic stalls, which impressed me. Organic is very expensive here but many seem to appreciate the usually better flavour and/or ethics and are willing to pay for it.
I can't understand why the national mass market meat and milk producers needed to have stands at a food festival, people buy their stuff regardless. There was only only one bread stall, which again disappointed me.
In all it seemed to be a mix of your traditional fair/festival food options, makeshift outdoor beer halls and upmarket alfresco dining complete with Norwegian celebrity chefs and exorbitant price tags.
Comparing this to Sydney's month long food festival is not really fair considering the difference in size and mix of population. As it is, the festival seems very popular (which doesn't necessarily indicate quality) and has a lovely harbour-side setting which combined with long days and a closing time of 11PM makes for a nice later evening experience once all the prams and heat have abated.
We are going back tomorrow at 11AM, which should hopefully be early enough to beat the lunch time crowd, also the weather is expected to be cooler tomorrow, so might make for a more palatable combination.
Sunday morning, the day after we had recovered from the party, we grabbed a ferry to Haugesund - the birthplace of my favourite Norwegian band, Enslaved. I threw on one of my Enslaved shirts for the occasion.
My choice of shirt drew attention at Haugesund and I ended up chatting to some complete strangers who had been sitting enjoying the afternoon sun having a late Sunday beer or two. This only lasted for about 10 minutes while we waited for Astrid's dad to pick us up, but it made me happier about the friendliness of the guys here.
We were actually going to be picked up at Haugesund as our destination was about 10 minutes outside town in the countryside. A tiny place called Aksnes. Specifically an old run down house on the sea (technically the mouth of a fjord) where Astrid's mother had been born and raised.
The house was beautiful, if in a poor condition and the property was quite large and lovely. Astrid and I went for lots of walks around the property over the day and a half we were there. Astrid's mother and her siblings own the house but can't agree on what to do with it, some want to sell, some like Astrid's mother want to keep it and fix it up. As this impasse doesn't seem to have an easy solution, Astrid's older brother Øyvind has just recently bought the property right next door with the intention of rebuilding a small cabin there so he and his family can enjoy the location without getting sucked into the politics.
The next door property was in a horrible shape, the people who had lived there were two sisters who were slightly disabled and they simply had not looked after anything. The place stank and there was so much rubbish to be removed. To get rid of the smell, the plan was to strip the existing building back to a wooden framework and rebuild new roof, floor and walls.
Nearly Astrid's whole family was there helping with the rebuilding, even Astrid and I lent a hand carrying new materials up to the building site. We didn't have the right clothes to help much more as it was very dirty work.
Had a few swims in the crystal clear water - there was lots of life in the water, particularly many crabs the last time I swam, one decided it didn't know what my foot was and had a go at attacking me, didn't hurt me but I think gave both of us a good scare.
Blueberries were in season and the property had lots of pockets of bushes covered with big juicy berries. Astrid and I filled a 1.5 litre container very rapidly. Now I have to work out some blueberry recipes.
The ferry ride each was was beautiful, especially picturesque around Haugesund.
After the party, Astrid and I both were a bit tender, so we slept in and then tried to find some new clothes in the summer sales. Realising that there wasn't much we liked, we looked at movies instead. Astrid was keen to see an Aussie flick - Look Both Ways - that we'd missed seeing in Australia a few months back. When we got to the cinema, the timing was perfect as the film was just about to start so we grabbed tickets and went in.
A Norwegian short film preceded the main feature, entitled Sniffer it was an odd and quirky tale about a guy who worked with deodorants dreaming of being free like the birds. It had received some success at Cannes this year which had surprised even the creators of the short film.
We both really liked Look Both Ways, it's a great little Aussie film and it's good to see it getting a screening on the other side of the world.
Following that we ate at a place we kept on talking about going to - it was a more traditional Italian pizza place, something we have lots of in Oz, but are rare in Norway where the horrible pizza hut style seems to dominate. The food was lovely maybe not spectacular but still worlds above most of the eating out options available in Norway.
Last Friday, Astrid had organised a welcome party at our house. About 20 people turned up and we had a lovely time. Two of Astrid's friends baked me a welcome cake, which was liked by most of the guests - I appreciated the effort but thought it was too sweet, guess haven't been a real sweet tooth for a long time.
Astrid organised sandwiches for all, including vegetarian for me, she went to a lot of trouble to ensure that the caterers understood what vegetarian meant in my case, which I appreciated.
I made cocktails - Mojitos - which turned out to be very successful, a refreshing summer drink, we partied on, eventually finding the party move into bars in town, then when they had closed or were too full, we ended up at a few different nashpiel (after parties)
I spent quite a bit of time talking to Jens, who was the partner of one of Astrid's friends. He had gone to university in Notodden ten years ago around the time of Emperor's rise to superstardom as arguably Norway's most important musical export since A-Ha. Emperor was also based in Notodden and he had hung out with many in the Norwegian metal scene during that time.
A bit of trivia I picked up, the former drummer of Enslaved - Per “Dirge Rep” Husebø who is originally from the same part of Stavanger as Astrid works at the local metal CD shop which I plan to visit shortly.
This place is a great space for a party, with a good kitchen for entertaining and a large and currently empty lounge room perfect for dancing - as well as a reasonable outdoors area.
I get the feeling that before summer ends we might have a few more bashes - it is a good way for me to network and make new friends in Norway.
The grab a ticket and then go to do other things plan didn't work, when I got back to the police station, my number was long gone. So we grabbed a new number and waited for over an hour eventually, I got the visa/stamp in my passport to allow me legally work in Norway for 1 year. Wish they had told me I would need another passport photo - I supplied one with the initial application in Oz.
Now I just need a job to go with this stamp!
This has been posted before, on previous trips - but now I am overseas for a longer period here's a simple guide on how to contact me.
how to contact me overseas.
The only way to contact me is via sms, i still have the same number, but to get it to work internationally, drop the zero at the start and add +61 instead.
You can get + on your mobile by hitting # twice rapidly on a Nokia, on a sony erricson hold down zero key until it turns to a plus.
Of course email also works, but the only mail address I am checking actively is:
my firstname at olethros.com
I will be getting a local sim and using that instead, if I do the number will be made available to all interested parties, however it will cost more to text this number than to text my oz SIM.
Instant messaging might find me online, often at 6PM oz time.
For my instant messaging name for MSN Messenger is msn at olethros.com.
Aside form the day I arrived, the weather here has been fantastic, lovely Northern summer the cast of the sun is distinctly different to that of Australia and this feels more like September or April in Sydney, when the humidity has dropped but the temperatures are still above 20.
So far, I've coped with the jet lag well. Something I put down to the relaxation in Thailand and lots of Vegemite since I got to Norway.
Last night I made Thai food, my two favourites - Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad) and Pat Cha (with the fresh green peppercorns that never seem to be in season in Sydney). The kitchen has never been used for serious cooking before and I discovered a few niggling design issues. Oh well, I don't own the house but it's quite obvious that Astrid's friend who owns the place has focused more on what looks nice than what is practical. She's taking a course in interior design and seems to be treating her future house as a bit of real world practice for her course.
Supposed to go to the police this morning to get my visa stamp, they were open at 8AM but we had a long breakfast and when we got there, there were more than twenty people waiting at the immigration office. So a quick check of email and a surf, then we'll see if you number has come up.
I knew in advance that once I arrived in Norway, my first task was to buy a bed as Astrid had been sleeping on a really bad foam mattress.
So in my jetlagged state, we were soon off to Ikea, after trying every bed in the place and having a coffee break to discuss, we decided one one that had internal wooden support, two different types of springs and organic materials (like corn fibres) in the top layer. It was kind of like my old base & mattress in one.
Harald, Astrids father turned up to help us transport the bed to our place, where we encountered the problem that had been identified in the store, it's a big bed - thicker than normal mattress and doesn't bend due to the internal wooden frame. Too hard to take up a set of stairs to the first floor.
So we ended up hauling it up onto the balcony on ropes. This was a lot more tricky than it looked and it required some forethought by Harald and I as well as a break to re-adjust things whilst the mattress was suspended half way in the air by ropes.
It all worked in the end and Harald commented that I had more muscles than he'd expect from someone who had a desk job in IT he was glad of this as he didn't think we would have got it upstairs otherwise.
a chimney inside provided another obstacle to work around, but we got the bed into the room by the end and i proceeded to put the legs on while Astrid went back to her parents place to return the car.
Managed to last till about 9PM before we finally got to try out the very comfy new bed and I slept well, till about 4AM, which is pretty typical until I adjust to Norwegian time.
I managed to fit a lot into my last few hours in Thailand, including a quick meal at the Dosa/Indian restaurant next door to where I stayed. The meal was a good idea as when I got onto the plane it was full and despite me making an effort to make sure my meal preferences were in the system at Sydney airport, they had no record of me requiring vegetarian meals on the SAS flight from Bangkok to Norway.
As the plane was very full with Scandanavans returning from their Thai holidays, there was no spare vegetarian meals left and I ended up eating very poorly (salad and rye crispbread) for the rest of the trip. Even things like cheese were not edible as they were always served in the same container as fish or meat.
The SAS saff were not as friendly or helpful as the Asian airlines, continuing my general experiences with Northern European airlines and their attitude to vegetarians. Oh you are vegetarian, can you eat fish?
At check-in a full two hours before the flight, they asked me do you want window or aisle, I said aisle - then after a short delay the response was, sorry can't get you either, so I was stuck in the worst seat possible, the one in the middle of the plane with four seats together, so I had to ask a stranger (who as usual fell asleep straight away) if I want to get out of my seat at all.
To make things worse, I was sandwiched between kids, two babies in front and young kids behind. As soon as the plane took off I had surround sound screaming. It was a night flight and once they fed us, the lights went off and we were supposed to sleep. As I wanted to get over jetlag fast and this was close to Norway's night time I wanted to get as much sleep as possible. However the babies made this difficult one of the couples in front kept on turning on the lights and getting stuff out of the overhead bins, which woke me up. The kids also were rarely quiet. One of the older children was well behaved though, she was about 6 and kept on peeking back at me and making faces, very cute.
Arriving in Copenhagen at about 6AM, started talking to a woman from tassie who was in Denmark to meet with other woolgrowers, she was very friendly and we chatted as we went through passport control.
Bit of a wait for my connecting flight which I passed deciding on my duty free alcohol purchases. It was warm and sunny in Denmark and i soaked up some scandic sun as we stood outdoors waiting to board our smallish plane for the 1 hour flight to Stavanger.
Flying into Stavanger is always fantastic as you see the beauty of the mountains & fjords as well as the crinkly coastline.
Thankfully after the long and torturous flight my bag was first off the rank and I was through all customs and off into Astrid's welcoming arms.
Looking backwards a little, this post by Robert Scoble underlies a lot of what went through my mind in the last few days at work.
Email (and to an even larger degree IM) are so well designed for easy use, that they get misused. Most people in business don't sit back and think these issues through - so they just like the workflow so they attach everything in their emails and get on with their job. Clever people retain their email as it's a powerful knowledge repository - but even with innovations in email clients they really are not a viable long term repository.
I left much more than a gig of email, which contained a lot of valuable information that could be used by my replacement. This is despite developing tools to enable knowledge sharing within my group/team. I simply did not have the time in an extremely reactive role to translate information from email to a more team orientated repository.
Yes I know there are enterprise solutions to document sharing, but they need to be cheap to license, easy to set up and most importantly as easy and intuitive to use as email or IM are now.
Yesterday afternoon partly to get away from the intense heat and also bacuse this is supposed to be a relaxation/break I got a 1 hour massage. It was wonderful and after a refreshing cup of green tea, I wandered out to find that the heat had been replaced by an afternoon downpour, yep it's the beginning of the wet season. Raced back to my hotel and had a nap getting up around dusk to go for a wander and grab some food. Ate mostly street food - again eyed off the insects but decided against being that inquisitive. As darkness became entrenched the nightlife started, went for a wander and soaked it all in, very surreal. But I was tired from my flight and the past week of poor sleep really has started to catch up with me. Had an early night and woke reasonably early today. Now out looking for some good reflexology/foot massage and an excellent som-tam if I can find someone who will hold off on the dried prawns.
Well I'm here, realised why many of the hotels were full, some kind of business conference - but the place I ended up getting is reasonably luxurious for the price. Had a long bath and relaxed after the flight before tucking into a Masala Dosa and now out for a wander.
I don't plan on doing much here in Bangkok, it's purely just an unwind. Weird this time I am staying in more of the busienss district and it feels radically different to the backpacer area, western but in a different way.
After lots of drinks yesterday I'm now on my last day in Sydney. Drove over the bridge this morning and said my goodbyes to the Opera house and the city.
Bags are packed, one last trip to the storage unit, catching up with a friend and a haircut, then i'm off - away from Oz, weird to think of this as not just another holiday overseas.
The past few days have been hellish. I've lived in this place for less than two years but it has really started to degrade because it was built so poorly. It's also amazingly dirty - I guess part of that is living very close to one of the busiest thoroughfares in Sydney. On the car front, it's really hard to move without transport. I have to be careful about what I keep and how well i pack my stuff as it's going into a nearly full storage unit. Because I needed to live in this place for a few more days after the removalists took the majority, I've had to blow through a bit of money on van rental for the past two nights to get stuff out of the unit and off to storage. Still more to go :-(
So I've been living on 4-6 hours sleep per day, sustained by coffee and bad carbs - with the occasional lash out on a decent meal at a cafe. It's surprising but I actually feel more alive than when I sit in my office job all day.
People who know me well, understand that i don't subscribe to traditional forms of belief or worship. Although I was raised within a Christian framework, I've not ever considered myself to be Christian.
Also, despite great respect for my heritage, i don't necessarily subscribe to pagan religions - like the Scandanavian Ásatrú religion or that or the Celts.
One thing I strongly believe in though is the concept of lycanthropy. Which on the surface sounds like I've watched too much Buffy and believe in werewolves. Instead what i'm trying to say is that I support the concept of the beast in man, an acknowledgement of our innate wild nature - which we try to suppress through generations of civilisation.
I'm not saying this is an excuse to misbehave, but we place too much faith in conformity and control, the safe choices - which i'm guilty of chosing on occasion. Sometimes though we should heed the beast inside. Something we instinctively realise when we look up and see the full moon and are reminded of the natural cycles of life we try and tame or ignore within our modern lifestyle.
As i said, this is not about misbehaving - which aligns more with the simplistic teen rebellion, the reactive behaviour of those passing through puberty. What I refer to lies more with an acknowledgement and appreciation of our shadow-self
Mostly moved out now - living off a skeleton amount of stuff while I finish moving. Weird to think I will be out of here in a week for good.