Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Aspie Traveler Norway: Day 3

There was a curveball of sorts to begin my day. On the first day of each trip I had gone to an art museum but seeing how it was Saturday and I want to try and recreate the experience I had at the Rijkmuseum in having the place to myself as it opens, I decided to go the other way to simply see what was out there.

Actually, I did have something to do at the Opera House as I bought a ticket for a Christmas concert that's next Saturday but there was no e-ticket option. I could either print at home (not an option) or have it mailed (maybe an option but I don't know how to write Norwegian) so I went to the box office instead to hopefully get it printed out.

I arrived at the Opera House before they opened so I did what any tourist would do; I walked on the roof! No, seriously, the design allows it where you can ascend the stairs to walk on the top and the view from the top was astounding.

Once the box officer I walked in and as I stood in what I thought was the line people kept hitting a button on this thin stand up sign and I quickly caught on to the fact that this is much like the "Take-a-Number" thing seen at US Post Offices. However, this is electronic without having any indication that it is. I walked over and pressed the button and silently a number was spat out and I waited.

Waiting for my turn was filled with a hint of anxiety because I worried if English would be spoken and if not, how would I convey that I needed my ticket printed. I had saved the images of the order and the email and when it was my number I walked up and I thought about inquiring if she spoke English, but I just started talking and was greeted right back with fluent English. I gave her my order number and she printed them out and said, "anything else Mr. Likens" which she said my name perfectly (you'd be amazed at how many people slaughter my name) and that was that. As I walked away she slipped right back into what I can only imagine to be perfect Norwegian.

After the opera house I started an aimless walk just to see what there was. I had no destination, no real goal and my first stop was this multi-level shopping mall. Of the previous two trips I've done I haven't had an experience this, well, it was like being in America. Christmas music was being played over the intercom and Christmas shopping was obviously in full swing. I ventured around and I was once again caught off by the language swings I was hearing. Much like the box office lady I'd hear people talk words I couldn't understand and then go into a few sentences in English back to their native tongue. I found this to be intriguing and also a great concept to explain about these trips.

As my day went on, and the crowds got larger around noon, I thought about how walking about without a map in a place I've never been is excessively easy for me. Why is this? The answer was found within the language gaps. With people back home I can have a difficult time understanding what was meant be it sarcasm, words left unspoken, or words spoken but not meant. However, going to a place that I know I can't understand leaves this grand sense of security because I, myself, know that I'm not going to understand. Does that make sense? To fully be aware I am not going to understand those around me is a safe feeling. If I walk past a person and they say something I won't know if they asked me something or found something distasteful in my dress or walk and had just slandered me. I won't know it, nor could I expect myself to know it, therefore the social anxiety I experience at home isn't the same.

It was now nearing one and the sun, already low in the southern sky, was getting lower. Jetlag is bad enough but when the sun always looks as if it's about to set it doesn't help. I went to a pizza place (second day in a row for pizza and there's a reason for this that I'll get to) for dinner. Now why pizza? Shouldn't I be trying local dishes? Well, I should be but for one thing I know I can order a pizza should there be any language barriers, secondly I don't even know what a local restaurant would look like. It's easy to spot a pizza place and furthermore pizza gives the most food for the buck (or NOK) as Norway is expensive! If you look up traveling to Norway that is one of the main themes is the price of things. A soda from the vending machine, with the exchange, is $3.34! Things are not cheap here and I have to watch my budget. Thankfully the hotel breakfast is free unlike my first two trips, but I don't want to go broke on food so pizza is a smart choice.

Anyway, once I had finished the pizza, I walked back to the hotel. It was now 2 and the sun was even lower in the sky and my body was starting to crash. I didn't know if it should be morning, evening, dusk, dawn, or a time that doesn't exist. Back home the sun was coming up but in Norway the sun was making it's usual wintertime early departure.

I walked into the hotel restaurant for a glass of water and the waitress with whom I had ordered a pizza a day prior inquired if I slept well. It had been obvious I was exhausted the day prior after being up for well over 24 hours and again, hearing English and then Norwegian, then back to English is an unique experience. I'm actually in awe to be honest because the English is spoken much better than many Americans, are often times myself, are capable of. It's accent free and I had a hard enough time attempting to learn German six years ago so the ability to speak English in such a fluid way is impressive.

As for myself, now, I write this at 1AM local time. Jetlag didn't play nice and I awoke at 11PM thinking I had slept the entire night. I was most certainly wrong, and hopefully sleep will be obtained soon, but until then I'll probably go on thinking about this concept about the difference in being in a social situation knowing I should understand to being in a place that I allow myself to be in knowing full well that, unless the person breaks out the English, I'm going to keep on walking oblivious to the thoughts and words of those around me.

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