Monday, September 14, 2009

Fresh Underwear Day

Today is fresh underwear day! Nothing can possibly go wrong on fresh underwear day! Sure, when you travel you sink wash and rinse, and air out all your clothes to get a good number of wears out of them, but none of that compares to pulling out that fresh pair of underwear, hidden away in the bottom of your rucksack, just waiting to be used when the time was right. And now, new into Oslo, the time for fresh underwear is upon me!

There's nothing like the boost of confidence, self assurance, and other words that mean pretty much the same thing, that is provided by wearing a pair of fresh underwear. With them on, I knew nothing could go wrong.

I also had a fresh t-shirt too, but – you know – so what?

Onward to the City
My hostel is located 4km outside of the city centre, which is kind of annoying, but not really a problem because a main subway station is right beside it. So off I headed to buy my forty dollar weekly pass. A weekly pass for four and a half days, you may say to yourself, but it's cheaper than the nine single trips I would need to take (at a minimum) so now I won't have to be so picky and choosy about where I'm headed and when. And if I even get myself lost, I can just jump on board a tram, train, or bus – and there I'll be.

To the ticket machine! Clad in my fresh underwear, I knew that I would have no problem buying a ticket – ohh, but there's no person to explain it to me? Fine – I can press these buttons – ohh, you need a card before you can buy time for it. Fine – I can use the other one – ohh, it's only in Norwegian. Fine – I'll just ask for help, and then press the right button. Ohh – the bill intake is broken... And I have no coins.

Clearly this was going to be a bit of a problem. Asking people to break bills is awkward at the best of time, but I found myself waiting for the bus, and asking the drive to take it apart. He short changed me 10NOK (about 2 dollars) and this wouldn't have been a problem – I'd have accepted this as the cost of convenience – but I needed all the coins to buy the pass! Ugh – with my last fifty, I headed back to the station to try and get change. Success was had, and I could make purchase of a brand new seven day metro pass! I then noticed that you didn't actually need the pass to board the trip. It all works on the honor (and heavy fines) system. I could have rode to the main station and bought my pass there. I'm sure the “I'm a stupid tourist, and it wouldn't take my money and – and – and” (and then you cry) excuse would have worked. It's one thing for a girl to cry to avoid punishment, but when a guy cries the people in charge normally feel so awkward that they've utterly broken and embarrassed the poor fellow, that they'll let them off. Next time you're stopped for a speeding ticket, you give it a try. How much is your pride really worth?

Then I'm up on street level. And I look around. Seems I'm on a pedestrian road, people walking everywhere, brick underfeet, and – And I almost get hit by a car... Again! Why is Scandinavia trying to trick, and as such kill, me?! Why do they hate me so much. Why are only some roads bricked, and in the middle of highly populated “fresh from the subway” consumer districts?! Shouldn't those be the roads most easily marked by fresh coatings of asphalt?

Fine – Whatever – I'm alive. Let's just focus on that. That and getting to the national gallery to see Munch's “The Scream.” Oh good – that gallery is closed today. Of course it is. Why would I expect anything different? And you know what? When I finally get in tomorrow, I bet I'll find that the painting is on display in some other city, not scheduled to return until the day after I leave. That's how these things work – right?

So what did I do, not really knowing the city, and having my main mission for the day so utterly destroyed? I followed a pack of Asians fresh from their tour bus. If anyone knew where the hot sites were, it would be them, and you can bet they would take dozens of pictures, peace signs held high in the sky! And – they led me back to where I started the day. Nice. Super. I love it. Standing beside the shallow pool, surrounded by sculptures of naked boys (complete with all their sculpted little bits) holding naked little girls (complete with all their sculpted little bits as well) all I could think was “my god, that is some murky muddy water.” What I want to express is that if you want to make your parliament building look good, you should really try to put some effort into having water that doesn't look like a roadside ditch, after a fresh rain. I'm not saying it's not great, and all, I'm just saying – you know – a little effort never hurt anyone.

Election Day Here in Oslo
Had I not have flocked my way back to the parliament building, I would have missed the huge set up to cover todays elections. With who knows how many parties, and who knows what they're representing, I took a seat and watched the action play out. By action I mean, of course two men talking to each other in a language I couldn't possibly understand. But, before you ask, yes that was me on the Oslo News today. I really do feel I put my best side forward.

As much as I love being on foreign television (and I do) there was no time to dilly dally. There were still so many things to do. One of which is seeing how much food cost. I could hardly afford it at the duty free shop, so what hope did I have here in the big city?

As it would turn out – none is the answer. None is the amount of hope which I had in being able to purchase food in the city. Let me make this clear for you, coke – a 500ml bottle (or 50cl as they love to say here) costs... wait for it... wait for it... wait for it... 25NOK. That's five dollars. Five dollars! We're not talking in a vending machine, or in a conveince store where the owner hates you. We're talking the super market. And if you want a 2L bottle – well too bad, they don't exist, but a 1.5L will run you 40NOK. So it's a bit better, but still – eight bucks for some soda? Please. And bananas at 7-11? Look – I should have taken a picture, because you'll not believe me. But their price was 88.88NOK – I kid you not. They're only 30 in grocery stores. Again though – bananas!

As it would turn out, ice cream, however, is on sale. Yes a tin of dog food will run you 40NOK, but for an ice cream cone, chocolate dipped, with strawberry goo inside? It's only 10NOK from now until the 19th. What was I to do but eat one? Suddenly that 10NOK I was short changed is coming back to haunt me. I could have had double the delicious treats. It's a case of most life giving calories for the least amount of money. It was the only thing to do. The only sweet, sweet, delicious thing to do.

All stores are like vending machines here – which is awkward, and interesting all at the same time. Sure they punch in the price, but then you need to feed coins into a little counting box to pay. And the change? It comes sliding out the bottom when you're done. Japan – you are one step behind this time, my old friend.

So – I couldn't see Munch's painting today – but as luck would have it Munch is dead.

Not only is he dead, but he happens to be buried right here in good old Oslo – not more than fifty meters away from Ibsen, you'll recall him as “the author of that stuff you had to read in High School.” (especially if you were in my class!) So there I went, hop, skip, and jumping to visit their memorials. I led four other tourists to Munch's somewhat hidden tomb.

On the cemetery gates, there was a map to the monuments, but when you reach the area there's nothing but a billboard for two jews that died at the onset of the war. I'm not saying their graves shouldn't be remembered too – they should. I'm saying put all four on the map, or put a billboard for the ones you have on the map, and not the “surprise, we're here too” grave markings.

I believe at some time or another, I also made my way to Oslo's palace, and witnessed a changing of the guards. But I can't be sure, because it took place 75 minutes earlier than my city guide said it would. And there were so few people around that you'd hardly know the palace was of any importance (who do you suppose resides inside, I wonder?) Well – rather than boggling my brain about it, I'll let you decide if you thought it was a guard change or not.

Heading Home
Well, to cut a long day short, I headed home after four hours of urban exploration. After all, there was some True Blood to catch up on, and my leg was starting to hurt a tad bit. My back too. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fifteen pounds of “stuff” I carry with me each and every day? I wouldn't think so, but you know – maybe?

I jumped on the #31 bus, and made it all the way to Sinsenkrysst (or what have you) and then hopped off to find my hostel.

Look, I won't go into it – but if there was one day to not forget my compass, this was it. And so, fresh underwear and all, I got lost. Terribly lost. The type of lost where you think you're headed somewhere new, and you end up in the same place you were already. I haven't been this lost since I was a child at Niagara Falls, walking out the wrong door of a candy shop. Ohh you should have seen the people run after buses looking for me.

But I made it back. All I can say is: What would I do if not everyone in this part of the world could speak English?!


  1. I think you've confused 7-11 /Narvesen with grocery stores, the first mentioned are too expencive. You have to shop at Kiwi, Rema 1000, Rimi, Bunnpris, and save alot of money.

    -girl from norway

  2. i just discovered the wonders of rema 1000 today. magical.


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