Thursday, August 28, 2014

Forbidden Music

There would be something we wanted to check out at Oslo Kammermusikkfestival. We chose a short programme in the morning themed 'Forbuddt Musikk III'. Of course the theme could only refer to composers the Nazis banned. The three composers featured were Gideon Klein, Arnold Schoenberg and Beethoven. Pieces for the violin, viola and the cello. Klein's Terezin (Theresienstadt) 1944, Schonberg's Op.45, and Beethoven's Op 9 No.3.

The musicians of the Phoebus Stryketrio (Phoebus String Trio) comprised Tor Johan Bøen, Bénédicte Royer and Aurélienne Brauner. Klein was safe and offered easy listening before the discordant melodies and extreme contrasts of Schoenberg's Op 45. I like Beethoven's 'String Trios' because they're so different from the symphonies and the piano sonatas, and Phoebus Stryketrio did a lovely job interpreting that.

Still nursed heartache over my fried Macbook, but the music made the pain easier to bear. Not so much about the data within. Those are retrievable. It's more of anger at my own carelessness. To think I've got a cover for the keyboard to protect it, yet spilled the glass of water straight into the back vents of the switched-on Macbook. Schoenberg's Op 45 amplified that pain (yah, #firstworldproblems), lifted it and by the end of Part III, the ache was soothed. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pacific Northwest Wines in Oslo

Was invited to a ladies' wine-tasting session themed 'Pacific Northwest'. I grinned. How very nice. On the menu were seven bottles of whites and reds from Washington State. Did you know that Ballard in Seattle has fairly strong Nordic influences in its buildings and food mainly because of its early Nordic settlers who came for the salmon?

I don't know wines. Unfortunately, they're just fermented grape juice to me. New world wines and grand cru are all the same to my tastebuds. Neither am I all that fond of them. Yeah, I know my tea, coffee, whisky and beer. But not wine. So the usual easy merlots of the Pacific Northwest are great. Not keen on their pinot noir. I prefer Australian pinot noir for easier drinking. Contemplated wearing a Pearl Jam tee (I brought it here!) to the host's home, and in the end, settled for a plaid shirt to look less grunge. Heh.

Grinned even wider when I spotted Charles Smith Wines' 'The Velvet Devil'. I drank loads of that just this spring in Seattle. Kinda miss it. Had two glasses of that. Yummy. Avoided the whites. Didn't quite feel like the acidity. Not very fond of the lighter flavors that more or less end up tasting sour on the tastebuds. Whites are often wasted on me.

The tasting session was hosted by one of the ladies at her home. The host took loads of effort to prep the table, lit candles, sorted out table linen and all. Another collated tasting notes and printed out the information for all who attended. Couldn't believe how hospitable they were. Dinner was done potluck style with everyone contributing a dish, and the host coordinated the menu. It was quite a lovely party. If I'm not just a visitor to Oslo, but a new resident beginning to reach out, it's a wonderful way to meet new people, hear their stories and get a feel of the city. After all, I crashed this intimate party and was made to feel welcomed.

Reds for the evening. The whites were still in the fridge.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I quite enjoy History Channel's 'Vikings', although I know it might be a load of bull. Created by Michael Hirst, the television drama can be bit cheesy in terms of plot and actors' lines. Oh whatever, I like the re-imagining of that period in history and see it come to life on the television screen.

Not like the era of Viking supremacy was so romantic. It was the most violent period and Vikings had a fearsome reputation for good reason. Trade back then wasn't a civilized process. Raids, wars, pillage and colonization. People didn't live long and usually lived in fear.

Had to visit the Viking Ship Museum. It's a small musuem. You could finish it in 15 minutes if you're not keen on wooden ships or Vikings. It's got three precious ships of which one (Tune) was destroyed, and two standing (The Gokstad and the decorative Oseberg). It's amazing how the ships washed up inland or how the geological formations arranged it so that the ships were buried under soil at the deltas. Also of interest to me were the skeletons and artifacts found that gave a hint to life back then.

Well, I had more photos from the visit, but they've been half-lost along with my fried Macbook. Till I retrieve them, that is, if I can be bothered to do so. The most important data required for work purposes had all been backed up. WHEWWW. Never mind, I've got postcards and a scarf from the museum! The friends had taken some photos of the day and donated them to me. The girlfriend told me to go to York and join the Jorvik Viking Festival next February. Apparently this is the 31st year of the festival. Hahaha. Not sure I'm that dedicated.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Reading From The Children's Library

My understanding of spoken Norwegian is of course close to nil. But reading it isn't so bad. There're patterns and grammar rules. It'll take a while, but it isn't that difficult to acquire an understanding of it. It's the spoken which I'll need to practise. It doesn't work like Thai because I don't have this 'feel' for how to pronounce the words with rising or lowered tones.

There're two types of Norwegian- Bokmål and Nynorsk, both of which are legal equals. Municipalities, schools and organisations are free to choose either to teach, publish or use as their 'preferred official language'. In Oslo, you generally hear Bokmål being spoken and written, and Bokmål is the one I start with.

Clearly, I can't read the newspapers, brochures or novels. Can't guess the meaning of the Norwegian words in English either. Sometimes words seem like a derivation, but more often than not, it isn't and it certainly doesn't mean what I think it means in English. I can read children's books. If I need help with pronunciation, I ask the girlfriend's children. Hahaha. They're just really tickled that I'm starting from ground up, like when they were four years old. So, I combed through picture books, and this, 'Lille Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

I was like, what on earth is a 'vedstabelhus'? A something-something house. Asked the girlfriend. She described it as a little shed of sorts, maybe to stockpile wood or something. Okay. This is the story of Gruffalo's Child who went out in the night and found a trail in the snow and a tail sticking out and wondered if the strange creature was the Big Bad Mouse.

Åhå! Spor i snø, i bukt og i bend!
Hvem setter slikt spor? Hvor går det hen?
En hale stakk ut fra et vedstabelhus.
Er dette halen til Store Stygge Mus?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Getting Around Oslo

While the friends drive and all that, and don't mind taking me around, I like to take some time alone too. The city of Oslo is small and getting around is easy. The friends didn't even bother to tell me how and what beyond showing me the nearest three train stations to the house. Hahahah. They completely trust my sense of direction.

There's the commuter rail of which also leads passengers to and fro the airports. There're options of the Metro or called the T-bane, the tram or the bus. I like the T-bane best. They run every 15 - 20 minutes. It's the most convenient option for me and it takes me everywhere that I want to go. Although, why do so many train stations stink of urine. UGH.

Downloaded the Ruter app onto my phone and buying tickets has never been easier. I'm just really thrilled the Ruter made an app for the Windows phone. Heh. With a local data-SIM card, it makes travel easy, checking train schedules and buying tickets. E-tickets are downloaded to my phone. Depending on whether there's an officer to check the tickets upon exit, then I'll flash the email/PDF copy of my ticket upon request. The best part- I could pay for these tickets with a credit card (as long as you have a PIN code for it), even if it's only NOK30 (~S$6). It's quite awesome that I haven't had to change cash at all! I have zero Norwegian kroners on me. Wheeee.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Frognerparken & Vigelandsparken

Took a very quick walk around Vigeland-musset then crossed to Frogner Park to the area known as 'Vigelandsparken' where 212 statues sat. These statues are sculpted in bronze, granite and cast iron. They were created by Gustav Vigeland between the 1920s to 1943. He also designed the medal for the Nobel Peace Prize.

It was a bright hot day. Felt awesome to be out in the sun. Happily wandered through the park. Spent time staring up at the statues. I think its most famous statue is of 'Sinnataggen' at 83cm tall. Also known as Grumpy or 'The Little Angry Boy'. Apparently it keeps getting stolen and vandalized. The other statues weren't less interesting. Male and female, adults and children. Lovely poses.

There were plenty of tourists in the park. I strolled by a small group. Two men had this perturbed look on their faces as they looked at the statues. They had obviously just got off the tourist coaches and entered the park. One exclaimed, “怎么都是这样的啊!” I had to quickly walk away to cackle. Couldn't stifle my laughter. No wonder the friends called it 'Park of the Naked Statues'.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Phở in Oslo

Each city will have a Chinatown of sorts, or at least an Asian area that springs up organically for whatever reasons. We swung by the Asian supermarket for get a pack of chilli padi. The moment you walk through the air curtain, instantly, that smell. It's the same smell which you will remember from the supermarket at Golden Mile Complex. I dunno. A mixture of strange wilting vegetables, spices and dunno-what. A smell that's associated with many 'Asian supermarkets' in Chinatowns across the cities.

Met with a couple of friends. Lunch was sorted out at this Vietnamese eatery called Lille Saigon 1 (Gingergrass). The eatery has a couple of outlets, but the friends like this one for the location. They certainly didn't pick it for me, the tourist. They picked the choice of food for themselves. Heh. They live here and will certainly miss Asian food especially if they grew up on it. I'm a visitor and can live without it for the month, no issues. Lille Saigon serves good Vietnamese dishes, way more authentic than what we get at home in Singapore.

Instead of the usual clear beef soup and thin beef slices in phở bò tái nạm, I picked its heartier version of phở bò khi (a beef stew of sorts with rice noodles). Each bowl is about NOK110 (~S$23). Okay lah, Melbourne and London pricing. Instead of the usual clear beef soup and thin beef slices in phở bò tái nạm, I picked its heartier version of phở bò khi (a beef stew of sorts with rice noodles). Each bowl is about NOK110 (~S$23). Okay lah, Melbourne and London pricing. I haven't had much carbs these two weeks. The rice noodles was quite a shock to my stomach and it refused to finish the full bowl. Hahah. Should have shared!

Lille Saigon 1 (Gingergrass)
Bernt Ankers gate 7, 0183 Oslo

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Birthday Breakfast

There was a birthday breakfast for a newly-minted teenager. In the family's tradition, they do the wishes/presents/photos early in the morning before the boys go to school.

The friends made little molten chocolate lava cakes. I was a tad horrified. SUGAR AT 7.30AM???! The stomach lurched. It was a birthday, so I happily ate the not-that-sweet cake. There were even two flavors of ice-cream to go along with it. I skipped that. Certainly didn't mind cold water, juices, berries or yoghurt. But not ice-cream this early, not even if it's a really nice real vanilla bean flavor.

Couldn't come empty-handed to Norway. Even if I ignore the adults, presents must be bought for the boys. The girlfriend was most disapproving. She was like, "You'll spoil them! They don't need presents!" Hmmmph. Anyway, a gift was bought for the birthday boy, and also for his brothers. Fair is fair, yea? 

Told the friends that I would get each of their boys a fancy 32-GB iPod Touch. That four-inch retina display, WiFi, camera, messaging, Safari, dual-core A5 chip fantastic for gaming, everything. Growing boys always need new gadgets. They're fans of Apple anyway. The friends acquiesced, but not without some nagging at me. Pooh-ey. Bought the gadgets in Singapore and packed them into the cabin luggage. Got giant bone-crushing bear hugs from the boys by way of thanks. The older ones are taller than me! Then the girlfriend groaned. She's the 'one-woman Apple Tech Support' in the house. It means that each time a new gadget comes in, she has to go through every piece to set parental restrictions. What a pain. HAHAHAHA. I was not sympathetic. Sat beside her to watch her zoom through the set-up and settings to disable certain functions, and sipped my beer, lending no help whatsoever.