Monthly Archives: September 2008

Normality

Ok, I’m going to try and disable anonymous comments for a while to see if that cuts down on the spam comments.  May the spammers spend eternity having to read and listen to their crap.  If there’s one constant online these days, it’s spam.

It’s not the greatest introduction to this post, but it will work.  After a good 3+ months in Oslo, life is taking on a modicum of normality.  Aside from everyone speaking a foreign language, life is pretty much the same as anywhere else.  –I go to work, I go to the gym, and all the other daily routines I would have anywhere else.

I am looking forward to winter, though.  After 5 years in areas with more moderate winters, I am actually eager to experience a cold season again.  Of course, we’ll see if I still think so in January!

I suppose it’s the normality that makes it a bit harder to actually compose the posts for this blog.  I need to buckle down and finish the posts I’ve started!

Fårikål

Fårikål  Photo credit: Alf Børjesson

Fårikål
Photo credit: Alf Børjesson

Last night I was invited to Sunday dinner to try fårikål, Norway’s national dish.  It is not something I would likely have tried on my own since you won’t find it in many restaurants.

Fårikål translates to ‘sheep in cabbage’, and is just that.  Sheep and cabbage stewed with whole black pepper for several hours and served with boiled potatoes.  It is traditionally served around this time of year, as this was the time of the year when they would slaughter young lambs.

I’m told it’s actually best on the third day, once the sheep, cabbage, and pepper flavors have had a chance to fully meld, but I found it to be pretty good even on the first day.

Would I make fårikål myself?  I’m not sure.  –Not because it isn’t good, but because I don’t think I could resist the urge to dress it up, even though it doesn’t really need it.  If nothing else, it does make make me want to cook up a big batch of stew, and I really am glad I got a chance to try it!

Start Broadband

One of my first posts was about my trials with Telenor and how I refused to use them after the lack of service I received from them.  Instead, I went and signed up with Start.

First, I contacted them and had an install date in less than 24 hours.  Unfortunately not everything went perfect.  They got my phone number wrong, so when the installer tried to contact me to arrange the installation, they couldn’t get in touch with me.  After that, apparently the installer screwed up the installation, and in the end it took about a week longer than expected to get connected.  However, that was the fault of the installers, not Start.

In fact, every time I’ve spoken with Start staff, they’ve been very friendly, and have always done their best to help.  Even when I managed to screw up my connection by flushing the DHCP client (although I maintain that if I was given access to do that, I should have been given full access!  🙂 ) they sent a courier with a new modem so that I was able to get online the next day, and they even configured it the way I requested it.

I’ve had their service for about two weeks now, and I’ve been very impressed.  The service isn’t as fast as I was initially told, but the speed has been consistent, and much better than the DSL service I was stuck with in London.  And for what I pay, I’m still getting twice the speed that Telenor offers for the same price.

So, at the moment, if someone is looking for DSL service, I recommend Start since the people there are actually interested in, and willing to, provide good service.

American Embassy

US Embassy in Oslo

US Embassy in Oslo

The American Embassy is a very unique building, especially given it’s location.  As you can see by the picture, it’s very black, triangluar, and pretty much across the street from the palace.  And it has a tall, very ugly fence surrounding the place.  To say that it’s uninviting is an understatement.

Now, first off, I don’t have complaints about anyone working at the embassy.  The times I had to go there, none of them were ever rude to me, and they were took care of my request for more passport pages quickly.

However, I have to be honest and say that I’m not proud of the embassy.  I realize the current government feels the need to do a lot to “secure” the building, but I believe that they could secure the building without making it feel like you’re trying to enter a fortress.  Not only that, but they want to build a new embassy, way out of the center of the town, and at a location that the residents claim would destroy the last green area they have near them.  The embassy has upset Norwegians by trying to get the process expedited and attempting to circumvent the local government.

So, when I visited the embassy around 9am on a Thursday, I think, there was already a long line.  Luckily for me, they have a separate line for American citizens, and nobody was waiting there, so I only had to wait around 5-10 minutes.  You first go into this guardhouse, where you get searched more thoroughly then you do at the airport.  You can’t take much in with you – your ID and documents you need, and your cash.  Then you head to a side entrance and come into a pretty small, dingy area where there are one set of windows for Americans, and another set for everyone else.  Since there was only one American ahead of me, I didn’t have to wait there long.  I was able to drop my passport off and pick it up later in the day after they added the extra pages (of course, I had to go through security again, and it was just as much fun as before, although I left some stuff behind so I was able to get through faster.

My problem is that the embassy isn’t a place you want to go.  Although the people are polite, the environment doesn’t encourage you to make use of their services unless you have no other choice.  Back in the UK, some Australians loved to talk about how the Australian embassy in London have wine tastings and other events.

In case you’re wondering, the other embassies I’ve passed in Oslo tend to be more traditional looking buildings, and if they have a fence, it’s usually more ornamental.  Even the Israeli embassy doesn’t look like a fortress!

I can’t help but wonder what things were like, say, 10 years ago…

Oslo Parks: St. Hanshaugen

sthanshaugenreflectingpondSt. Hanshaugen park, constructed between 1876 and 1886, is a bit more than a five minute walk from my apartment.  I headed over there on Wednesday to find out what was there.  It was actually a bit surreal.  The photo on the left was taken around 5pm, and you can see the empty reflecting pool that is built over a reservoir.  During the weekends, and especially in the main part of the summer, the park may look quite a bit different, but when I was there, it actually felt…  Desolate.

A few other people were passing through, and I saw a couple of people taking advantage of the peace to do some reading.  But, even accounting for the lack of people, the place felt empty and deserted.  There are a couple of interesting sculptures in the park, which I may try to find out more information about and write posts about later.

It’s always nice to know where parks are in a city, even if you don’t visit them often.  And Oslo has a lot of parks and other green spaces.  St. Hanshaugen isn’t even close to being the largest, but it’s still somewhat around 22 acres.