Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Aspie Traveler Norway Day 10: The Final Day

Waking up wasn’t the happiest of occasions as I knew this was it; this was the last day and I was already mourning the next morning when I would be on a plane headed home. Oslo, and Norway, had become to feel like home for reasons I’m still trying to figure out.

I had a walk planned for the day as well as attending a Christmas concert at the opera house in the evening, but first would be my last hotel breakfast and I cherished every bite. I know I’ve mentioned breakfast each day, but there really is no comparison to a US chain hotel where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get milk that hasn’t soured and a make your own waffle machine, but in Europe there’s a true spread of food with meats, chesses, eggs, croissants, and a make your own yogurt parfait section. Which, with all the other meals, I finished it off with a cup of hot chocolate and as I finished the cup, a tear fell down my eye because that was it, the next breakfast I would be having would not be this wonderful routine I had fallen into.

            The walk began shortly after nine which it was Saturday in Oslo and as I took to the sidewalks the city was just starting to awake. It was much warmer than Hammerfest and the temps were in the 40’s which actually felt summerlike hot to me. It was a cloudy and gray day which made my mood all the more sour.   

            My destination on this walk was the giant park to the west of me that I can’t remember the name, nor did I write it down in my journal, but it’s famous for its sculptures. This park was two miles away and this would allow for a multi-hour walk to cap off my excursions in Oslo. Many people would probably sign up for tours, or other touristy things, but what I’ve tried to do with these trips is to immerse myself the best by not doing the touristy things but rather experience the surroundings on my own. Maybe I’ve missed out on some things, as I realized I probably should’ve gone on the toboggan run on the nearby mountain when I saw an advertisement for it, but these thoughts went away as I saw a familiar scene.

            Many of the roads in Oslo are narrow and there was a car that was having a rather difficult time performing the art of parallel parking. The wife got out of the car and started to try and give hand gestures to the man who, as known the world over when it comes to driving, wasn’t really listening or looking at her at all and he was going to do it himself. A few minutes went by and the car went back and forth and back again and always the car was partially outside the allotted lines. A small crowd was now forming watching this and the wife was now irate and walked around the car and somewhat shouted which led the man to get out of the car and she got in and on the first time the car was perfectly parked. The crowd applauded much to the dismay of the man who then quickly went inside the house obviously with a bruised ego.

            After witnessing the parking fun I continued my walk to the west and was now having a hard time walking as the ice walks, ahem, I mean sidewalks were fully iced over. The locals were running and jogging on them as you’d see an American run on a trail in the summertime with ease while I was taking it one step at a time, both arms extended, prepared for a nasty fall.

The icing got worse and as I got to Frogner Arena there was an older gentleman walking in a direct collision course to me. My internal alert systems were still on hyper-alert mode from the events two days prior and I tried to veer another direction but this parking lot had at least an inch of ice on it and I was in no state to make any sudden moves or changes in direction. It was rather abysmal to be so pathetic at this walking on ice while everyone else did it with ease. Anyway, when the man approached he said something in Norwegian which I told him, “I don’t speak Norwegian, I’m sorry” and he instantly switched over to English and said, “ah, an American; I’m sure your lawyers would love this parking lot because it’s a liability disaster. Someone should’ve told this arena the ice rink is supposed to be on the inside, not the outside” to which he chuckled as did I and he wished me luck on my walk if I were headed the way he had come because it was, “surely a deathtrap” he said. Lovely.

            About this time a soupy fog descended upon Oslo and while not great for photos or perhaps a mood this was exactly what I envisioned Oslo in the winter time. The air now, however, was really fresh and while the fog wasn’t that thick I almost became proverbially lost in it as I was enthralled by the atmosphere of it all.

The park, while it did have amazing pieces of art, didn’t do much for me as I was more concentrated on not falling and cracking my skull open. I’m sure in the summertime it would’ve provided an amazing view and would’ve been one of the highlights, but I’m just thankful I survived the park.

            I did have a thought as I reached the end point of how far I wanted to walk and as I turned back to walk to the hotel it was now time to put things in perspective because here I was, completing my third journey, third! I still can’t believe I’ve done one but I made it to Hammerfest, and survived Hammerfest, and now on day ten my journey in Norway was about to be complete. This made me think about life and the rigidness I’ve lived with. For many years in my 20’s I didn’t socialize outside of the bowling leagues I bowled on and didn’t leave the house. My social anxiety was high and my social confidence was flat-lined. Somehow, living through that for many years, I came out of it and as I exited the park I thought that maybe I’m just an extremely late bloomer but I’m thankful that I am because I’m part of this wonderful world and with that thought, with that single thought, my trepidations about the world and the potential random/mean event went away because I wanted to see more of the world and meet more of the people in it.

            After the four miles of walking I got back to the hotel and I was exhausted and I think any person would be after the month I had had. It truly was planes, more planes, trains, and even more trains, and plenty of hours in automobiles and now my body told me it was time to rest. I decided to turn on television for the first time and on all the local channels you could watch skiing. It was all skiing all the time from women’s slalom, to men’s downhill, to a cross country event. This was a big contrast to what type of sports you’d see on network tv on the weekend in the US.

When 4PM came I went to the hotel restaurant for my last meal in Norway and what better choice than their amazing pizza. The waitress which had been my waitress greeted me with a smile and it was bittersweet because I knew this place, the smell of the pizza cooking, and having this wonderful waitress were coming to an end. As the meal ended I told her I might come back after the concert for some water.

            The concert was at the opera house and as it began I had a thought going back to one of the early thoughts on this about language and those around me not expecting anything because I don’t speak the language. This thought resounded loudly, about as loud as the opera singers belted out songs I knew, but only the melody as the words were in Norwegian and this was a great concept to point out as to what the social aspect of a person with Asperger’s may deal with.

            So, social situations can be confusing for those on the autism spectrum but there may be a bit of grasping of what is going on. This was like knowing the melody without knowing the words and then, all of a sudden, a song came up in English and took me a few moments to grasp at what had just happened because I knew what I was hearing but because of the sudden change I had to process whether or not it was actually English and then, the very next song, it was back to Norwegian. I don’t know if I’ve experienced a better example firsthand on what the social difficulties can be like. When I knew I couldn’t understand the words I was just a mere observer but when English came up I my attentiveness increased tenfold and I knew I could understand but then the rules changed once again and I awaited the next moment when I would fully understand what was going on.

            After the concert I may the lonely journey back to the hotel. There were others about, it was Saturday night after all, but my walk was one of sorrow as the next time I’d be on this street I’d be walking the other way to Oslo Central Station to catch a train to the airport. On this walk I made sure to note each street, the stores, the countless hair salons that are in Oslo, and finally I got back to the hotel. It was 7:45 and I figured I’d pop into the restaurant for a quick glass of water and retire early.

            The waitress that I talked to once again smiled greatly and I stood at the counter and then she and her colleague chatted with me and we talked about my experience in Hammerfest, the differences between Norway and American hotel breakfasts, geography, places we’d like to see and it was all so very… normal.

            The minutes went to an hour then two and still we chatted away. An event like this, well, you wouldn’t see me talking to any one like this at home and I thought back to my thought I had when I left the park. Am I just a late bloomer and am I capable of things I thought impossible. In my previous books I use the phrasing, “never will be able…” and, “will always be impossible…” but I now wonder if this is the truth. I’ve done more things this year than I ever thought I’d be capable of and while most of these were within the realm of travel and that being the state of travel (i.e. simply being able to go to Japan by myself) I have to wonder if the next stride will be my ability to socialize because, according to the waitresses, I’m not shy at all and I had to put on a convincing argument that even a lawyer would be proud of to prove my shyness.

            The primary waitress that I had spoken to for the week had to go to another job and it was now almost 10… 10! Over two hours I had been in conversation and this made the second time on this trip I had an extended conversation with a person, the other being with an employee at the Hammerfest hotel. This simply increased my belief something special was happening to me and that this project has been more than worth the price tag. Anyway, the place was about to closed so I said goodbye to the other waitress and went to my room and closed the door for what would be the last time. I can only hope that this shutting of the door as my journey to Norway comes to a close isn’t an end of this obvious growth I’ve experienced but just the beginning.

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