Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cheap Sushi!

‎$15 for 11 pieces of beautiful sushi. hurrah! The quality of the fish here is amazing - - not fishy at all. Smooth and very tasty. I was so starving and very glad I found something affordable, delicious and nutritious.

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foraging for fiscally feasible food

The $15 Whopper

My, my -- it's hard to find food here. Student cantine is closed for summer. I've been going on tiny grocery trips, buying things such as yogurt, bread, cheese, etc -- and each trip has been about $50. I tried to grab an affordable full meal to go: Kebab shop cheeseburger and fries ($13), Foccacia bread with mushrooms, feta and lettuce ($13), and last night's basic small whopper meal: $15. (after a hunt for the cheapest meal before the Spain vs. Portugal game). There are so many levels of guilt -- paying $15 for a whopper meal . . . I don't even know where to begin.

You know how in fancy restaurants you pay for atmosphere? I keep trying to use that excuse-- that I'm paying for the awesome atmosphere of Norway. Nobody even goes out for a beer, 'cause that's way too expensive. In the kitchen, a British bloke said, "I just spent 10 euros for a beer last night . . ."

I spoke with some friends in the group, and we have decided to save up for our 10 euro beer, and choose the most beautiful, wonderful spot in all of Norway, and then drink our beer for hours. :)

Some things the prices do for us: we find cheap / free activities. I'm usually ok at this, but now that's virtually all I do. Walks in parks, through town, people watching, chatting with friends over coffee we made ourselves after class. Stuff like that. This weekend we are going hiking in the fjords, quite far away on the west coast. We are stuffing a car with 5 of us, and splitting the cost of our cabin and car. The whole thing will cost under $100 each. Meanwhile, to see this scenery by train would be well over $300 , . . . and that doesn't include the hike or accomodation.

Prices keep me from shopping, and therefore accumulating more things that I do not need.

Prices keep me from eating too much unnecessary food, but since I'm walking about 2-5 hours a day depending on where I'm going, I got very cranky today-- probably from being a bit malnourished. I passed out for several hours after class. I think I saw quasi-affordable sushi around the corner (cheap availability of good fish . . .) so let me see if that's still open at 7:50.

These are all part of the adjustments and frustrations that come with living and studying in a place, rather than just visiting. Even if it is only 3 weeks, this is very different than popping in for 3 days on a euro tour, where you won't be much affected by these things. I don't think Helsinki and Copenhagen will be as bad (the places I spend my final weeks). Although I do know that I'm hitting up all my fave spots in NYC when I return, so I hope some of you are ready for some drinks and good food (which will seem unbelievably affordable to me). No whoppers, please.

Overall, I still love it.

World Cup

I just had a great night watching Spain win on the big screen in an Oslo park, cheering alongside some new Spanish friends from class. We had a guided bus tour of the city today, which was a great chance to see and learn more about some of the places I strolled by yesterday. We went up to the fortress for commanding views of the harbor and watched some of the guards. It was different than in other countries, where hordes of tourists can almost ruin events like these. The city is compact and manageable, and everything seems friendly and accessible.

We saw an outdoor viewing area by the fortress for the Twilight Movie release (Eclipse) and the youth were already lining up excitedly. Then we heard there was a public viewing area up on a hill by the harbor, where we could watch the Spanish World Cup game that evening. Since three of my classmates were from Madrid, Spain, I wanted to root for Spain. We queed on a line to get in, and then sat on the grass right in front of a giant screen. It's so wonderful that the city provides several viewing areas around the city for people to get together and enjoy the game in a communal environment. I did not have a TV in my dorm, and I definitely wanted to be a part of World Cup action, which is always so feverishly exciting in Europe.

Spain won, and my friends taught me a few cheers. "Vamos Casilla!" whenever the goalie made a great move. It was a long but fun day, and I was clearly forming new and important international friendships.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our first philosophical inquiry

This city has such a vibrant, positive energy. People are happy. Not overly nice, just happy and pleasant. I had a three hour class today, and the time just flew by! My classmates were great, and we really enjoyed thinking with each other as we had our first philosophical inquiry. We picked and probed at philosophical issues, then gave sound reasons for our thoughts. Then we had to agree or disagree.

The discussion was about rules. We had a log sheet where we were given 5 statements about rules. [I will insert those later] Then we had to agree or disagree and give reasons for our answers. Once we did this, we voted on which rules were the hardest to decide. We eventually narrowed it down to "There is one rule that is the most important." This led into a philosophical discussion where we gave reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with it, keeping the dialogue going as we analyzed different perspectives. It was very interesting (and a little bit headache inducing--but in a good way). We broke for lunch, and at the end we had a meta talk, where we reflected on the entire process. Could I do similar things with my students? I hope so. Our teachers were prepared to give us skills, tools, and techniques for guiding these types of discussions in the classroom--working on our critical thinking and analysis skills, so vital for English and all classes.

I'm very glad I chose this course and this program. I never knew there was such a field as "Philosophy with Children" before. All Norwegian students have philosophy as part of their curriculum, and it is not a separate class.

Opening Celebration and City Exploration

Today we met at the school for the opening ceremonies for the Oslo University College International Summer School. There are about 50 students in 4 classes, representing 32 countries! Being with people from all over the world will certainly be an important international component of my experience here.

At the opening ceremony, we were first welcomed with coffee, cookies, and warm greetings as we had a change to mingle with the staff and our classmates. Soon I had met many of my classmates from the course entitled "Philosophy in School," meant to help train educators to incorporate philosophy into the curriculum. Although I was still a bit tired and jet lagged from yesterday's journey, I was so happy to be there.

The ceremony was a nice surprise. A professor played a traditional Norwegian folk song for us on his flute. I accidentally left my camera in the dorm room, so that was quite a disappointment. I think I can find somebody who has it, though. Next, a professor (who specializes in storytelling) entertained us with traditional Norwegian folk stories. She presented them in such an entertaining way and had us laughing. A professor from the Globalization course welcomed us and told us what to expect over the next few weeks, including new friendships, intellectual discoveries, and even longing for home. I got very excited because although it was only 3 weeks, Oslo was going to be our home. We were not staying in a hostel or hotel -- but in dorm rooms. We'd be living and studying together for the next three weeks, as well as participating in a very active social program which was actually included in our fee. Cool!

At the conclusion of the ceremony, we met our philosophy teachers Bo and Beate. They said we'd begin class at 1, so we had some free time. I went around to see if I could find affordable lunch (very difficult in Oslo) then returned for class.

For the rest of the week, class would be 4 hours with a 45 minute break for lunch -- a necessary thinking break so we could reflect on the events of the morning and allow our minds to rest a bit before proceeding with the afternoon session. At first, our classmates were a bit upset because we thought we would be out at 12pm each day like the other classes. Instead, the teachers chose to start later and we'd be 1 extra hour longer. This would certainly change the plans I had created in my proposal since I'd have much less free time to travel during the day and explore. Yet starting later could be nice as well.

In the classroom, we put our names on a folded piece of paper to facilitate getting to know each other quickly. Our teachers said not to introduce ourselves to each other -- we must get to know each other through philosophy. He then came around and took a picture of each of us to upload to the school's online system, Fronter. This is like Blackboard in the U.S. Unfortunately, there was a minor error with the school, and we were not yet enrolled in the Fronter system -- but hopefully this would be fixed soon.

Our teachers lectured a bit, presented some information, and then we were out for the day. I knew that I had to get to know this city, especially since I just arrived -- so I went out for a very long walk, exploring my neighborhood. I went down a hill and saw a field filled with many people. (I later found out they were watching one of the World Cup Games). Next I passed through a very diverse and thriving immigrant neighborhood. Following this street led me to the center of Oslo where I finally saw the harbor, the central station, and a beautiful white building with a sloped roof leading into the water. This was the new opera house, and it was absolutely impressive. There was even a stage in the water several feet from the Opera House for outdoor concerts. I wondered if I'd be able to go to one.

As I looked around, I noticed how everyone was enjoying the brief yet wonderful summer weather. Families and friends had picnics on the roof, couples were holding hands as they walked along the water, and ships glided to and from Sweden and Denmark. I was so happy to be here and knew there was so much to explore and learn about, both inside and outside the classroom. Eventually, I walked back home, trying to follow the harbor. I saw much new development, and this area of the city was clearly changing -- become more modern and vibrant instead of just industrial wharfs. I strolled past an impressive fortress and another harbor with even more splendid views of distant mountains and many little islands dotting the Oslo Fjord. Finally, I found may way towards the school and from there, I knew how to get to my apartment, just consulting my map a few times. The city of 550,000 is compact and walkable, yet filled with many different and interesting neighborhoods. There didn't seem to be just one area where things happened -- there were many great neighborhoods, and I looked forward to exploring them and meeting the people within them.

Afterwards, I made it back to my dorm to gaze at the lovely view from my window. I am very lucky to be here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

View from the balcony / fire escape

There's a balcony / fire escape just outside the kitchen, a few steps down the hall. If I go one more floor up, I can sit outside in the sunshine, since it's the top floor. I especially love the fjord views. Enough posting -- it's time for me to go explore more of this city. I haven't been down to the harbor yet and it's so beautiful out.

The view from my room.

I was quite happy when I saw the view from my room in the student housing. Nice breeze coming through, and always something to look at. The dorm is a short walk from campus, and close to the city center as well. If I walk out to the balcony on our floor, I can see the harbor of the Oslo Fjord, which is quite beautif...ul. I really like it here, and have met some great people from all over the world: Greece, Spain, Germany, England, Norway, Palestine, Ukraine, Latvia . . .

Class seems fun, and I really love the city, which is quite walkable. There are mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, islands, and the salt water fjord all nearby. Weather-wise, it is comfortable humidity and temperatures, like late May / mid-September . . . my favorite times of year. Happiness!

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Exploring Oslo. The weather is so beautiful here, like permanently frozen in late May / mid September.