Saturday and Sunday, September 23rd and 24th
Continental Express fligth 3511, Providence to Newark -- an ATR turboprop -- they look quite awkward and ungainly but I don't mind them because they feel relatively roomy inside (passenger compartment looks more like a bus than a plane) although given their reputation for falling out of the sky if their wings ice up I think I would avoid them in winter weather. Newark Airport appears to be going through another spate of construction -- the monorail is closed, meaning a long bus ride through heavy traffic to get from Terminal C to Terminal B (going by way of Terminal A, of course). Eventually it was time for Scandinavian SAS flight 907, Newark to Oslo. It was a 767, not a bad plane (and much more pleasant than being crammed into a 747) although it was an older model, no seatback video screens. I had my aisle seat so at least I wasn't trapped in an inside seat.
A couple years ago a lot of airlines began showing a screen with the flight path depicted on a map along with ground speed, altitude, and exterior temperature (all in both metric and English measurements) plus elapsed time and time to destination. It was amusing to note that we covered more than three hundred miles while I was eating dinner. The Oslo airport was extremely foggy. How foggy was it? Well, I was startled when the wheels touched the runway because nothing was visible through the fog and the airport is apparently a few hundred feet above sea level (based on the altitude display). In fact, even as we were taxiing to the terminal I could not really see the runway.
Oslo is quite some distance from the airport, but it was a very easy high speed train ride. My hotel was the Radisson Plaza, almost a neighbor of the central train station. Check in. Unpack. Phone Yngve. (I belong to an email mailing list that grew out of people who used to hang out at Sage's Coffee Shakes webpage back in 96 and 97... Yngve and Elin, Oslo residents, are also on that list, and we had made plans to meet.) Met Yngve at his apartment and then met Elin (plus two friends of Elin and Yngve) at a T-station on our way to the university area. We visited the Geology Museum (spent quite a lot of time in there looking at some beautiful gems and crystals) and then took a stroll through the botanical gardens. The flowers were all far past their peak, of course, but it was still a lovely place -- the roses were attractive now; they must have been spectacular a month or so ago. Autumn (based on leaf color) seemed to be a couple weeks more advanced in Oslo than in Rhode Island. We found a restaurant featuring Bangladesh cooking (it seemed the same as Indian cooking to me).
I'm on the 16th floor of the Radisson -- which, at 35 stories, may be the tallest building in Oslo. The city has a lot of massive block long buildings, but they tend not to rise to double digit numbers of stories. I kept thinking of Vienna, but Oslo has fewer massive monumental plazas and also lacks Vienna's maze of narrow side streets between six story buildings. I guess the similarity was in cobbled streets closed to vehicular traffic, lined with shops and restaurants.
Monday, September 25th
I met Hamid for breakfast in the hotel. There was a large internet security conference going on it the hotel and the restaurant where breakfast was usually served was reserved for conference attendees and we non-conference people were relocated to another area. There was a wide variety of choices for breakfast, although much of the selection appeared rather European to these American eyes: cold cuts, cheese, various kinds of fish, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers. After breakfast we took a taxi to the Big Blue Computer Company site where we were teaching. It was in a suburban town, perhaps eight or ten miles outside of Oslo. (Or maybe six or maybe twelve... it's difficult to tell when you are riding in the back of a taxi at varying speeds, sometimes slowly through snarled urban traffic and then rapidly speeding along a winding highway.)
We went through a security sign-in procedure, exchanging our emplyee badges for mag-striped visitor badges. We were taken for coffee, shown the classroom and discussed background, etc. of the students. Management seemed a bit taken aback when we indicated that, given a starting time of nine in the morning, class would run until around six o'clock most days. We were told that in that case they would have to arrange for sandwiches to be delivered to the classroom at four o'clock so our students wouldn't get hungry.
I delivered all of the first day's lectures except for the last fifteen or twenty minute presentation when I asked Hamid to take it because jetlag was beginning to hit me and I was rapidly running out of energy.
One of our students was also named Hamid... yes, not a typical Norwegean name... he, like my colleague, was originally from Iran. That night Hamid (the student) drove to our hotel and gave us a tour of Oslo, including a huge, beautifully designed park filled with countless bronze nude statues (including the prototype of the dancing baby)... and we ended up walking along Oslo's beautiful waterfront area where we selected an Italian restaurant for dinner.
Tuesday, September 26th
Breakfast was served back in its usual restaurant area and we discovered that there were breakfast choices more to our tastes... scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, etc. Hamid and I alternated lectures today. I was somewhat concerned that I might be talking too quickly but when asked the students indicated that they could understand Americans much better than British speakers of English. That made sense when we considered that there are many hours of American programming on Norwegian television -- broadcast in the original American English with Norwegian subtitles. Although there are some people with several years of programming experience in the class, most of them are young, not long out of university, and not only had many of them spent a month during the summer attending courses, this class represented their fourth consecutive week of taking classes. They had to be pretty much burnt out.
Tuesday night Hamid and I walked miles around through various shopping areas, walking as far as the Akker Brygge shopping center near the waterfront. As we retraced our steps back to our hotel we found an Indian restaurant for dinner. (I had onion bhaji and then chicken tikki masala and nan bread and a Kingfisher beer.)
Today is the fourth anniversary of this journal but I'm not online this week. I've got my laptop with me -- that's the source of the graphics I project in the classroom (and how I'm typing in this file) but I don't have an 800 number to dial into internet access from the hotel and I don't have time to use one of the classroom computers to access the web.
To be continued...