Im not quite sure how to summarize the very bizarre weekend I spent in Sweden. In addition with the slowness of Oslo, the guy I was to couchsurf with cancelled the night immediately leading up to my arrival and so I had to stay at a hostel – and a last minute hostel in Oslo is not precisely inexpensive. suffice it to say that my earnings yesterday would have to have nearly tripled for me to cover the cost of a single night. I was rather low when I returned to the hostel for the second night. The things that kept my spirits up both nights were the meeting of a couple very nice people. The first night i cooked alltogether too much (.3kg salmon, half a nappa cabbage, .5kg spaghetti, 2 eggs) for dinner and therefore hung outside to invite the next hungry customer for some free food and company. Thats how I met a gently kind Taiwanese girl studying in Germany and on a brief vacation, who later invited me to stay with her in Heidelberg should I pass through. I just might.
At around one in the morning I crept into my room, trying not to wake up my one neighbor, but it turns out he wasnt really sleeping. He introduced himself as Tom, a very friendly forty-six year old Norwegian man, and we proceeded to have a two hour conversation on a great deal of things. We talked on religion, on his present situation (he was very forthcoming and I didnt feel I had any polite way of excusing myself for some sleep) – he showed me photos of his new house, told me about his plans to go to France, insisted I listen to the Eagles’ The Last Resort, etc. When I finally took an opportunity to beg a few hours of sleep, he left to take a walk. The next day was my normal horrid day in Oslo. I returned late, cooked leisurely and checked my email to find that my failed couchsurfer had messaged me saying he’d wait for me at a certain metro stop at 22h. It was already 23h. I called him frantically on the payphone, but I couldnt understand the message it was giving me (it being in Norwegian). I’d been moved to a different room but I ran up to the old room in search of Tom. He came back right after I’d acquired the phone of his new roommate – and translated the message as the number not being in service. (Note: In Norway they tend to have males doing generic voices (the tram, automatic answers, etc.) more often than females, which is different, nice – but it confused me.) We had a brief talk where I bemoaned the horridness of Oslo, and he suggested that I come with him to Sweden to visit his friends – that would get me out of the hostel (and it’s absurd 220 NOK/a night cost) at least and into the country.
Now, most of you know how spontaneous I can be. And how naive. Obviously I agreed: we’d meet the following day at the train station (by the tiger) just past noon. He assured me he’d call them the next morning and if they weren’t ok with it, I’d be fine with going into the city to busk instead. We even made further plans that I’d go with him in a week to France – a free ride! I thought – all the way to France. Score!
The next day I showed up and he was rather late. I whiled away the time by playing on this wonderful public artwork: someone had noticed that the steps from the upper to lower plazas outside of the train station numbered 8 to a tier and had installed a set of thin, rainbow colored cushy pads linked to a speaker system upon the top tier. I think it was a Cmaj scale (not entirely positive, and I think it sounded a little sharp). Regardless, most people avoided it or were surprised by it when they rushed over it. Kids were delighted and just ran up and down (this was how I discovered the installation: how annoying, I thought, someone’s brought out a keyboard and an amp and is playing scales with no sense of time). As these steps were just above the tiger statue, I set my things down and proceeded to play around. I’d brainstorm a song entirely in one octave, easily recognizable and all in major and try to play it. It was rather a workout on this unusually hot day and the keys were not quite as sensitive as I liked but I perservered.
I think I started with Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Then Three Blind Mice. Then Mary Had A Little Lamb. These were easy – all the intervals were quite close. Then I got a little more ambitious Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I was more warmed up and had the positions of the steps better gauged so I could vault the fifth at the beginning of the song quite comfortably. I can’t remember what came after that, but after a little rest I decided to have a go at some Beethoven: the Ode to Joy part of his 9th Symphony. Took me a couple goes but I got it 🙂 – there was one rather large jump down in it. After Beethoven I felt very pleased with myself and decided I’d finish up with Sound of Music, so I jumped about for Do-Re-Mi. Crap it was difficult. “Do a dear” till “far a long long way to run” was alright but once I got So La Ti and especially the run at the end.. oh that was a nightmare. Jumping down fifths and then navigating thirds and an arpeggio down – but I got it on go three! I think I could have stayed there all day. Passersby were wildly entertained by my antics and when I played Ode to Joy people stopped and clapped. I even drew a crowd – maybe I should play the stairs instead of the guitar…
Tom finally arrived, riding his bike without a shirt and looking rather manic and we whisked through the the station and directly onto the train – he assured me we’d be able to pay on board (I made sure to check with the controller) and chatted her up to get us discounts. We talked most of the way in until I decided to get seats further up and write some letters. He hung back and told me he needed to call his friend. I was appalled – what would happen if his friend refused and I arrived in the middle of nowhere Sweden? He disappeared for quite a while on the phone and when I went to look for him he’d been chatting up a twenty year old girl about tattoos. He said he wanted an orange dolphin. I thought it very strange that we was using English almost exclusively but we got off without further incident by a gorgeous lake in Edane, Sweden – population 709. Happily his friend had acquiesced and I saw them waving at us from the station. They – Bengt and Tone – would be a lifeline I clung to in the following days.
Song of the Day: Do-Re-Mi – Sound of Music Soundtrack