Day 41. Sunday 23 June.
Bags packed and left for collection at midnight; out of the cabin by 8 AM. After breakfast T had a farewell chat with Elizabeth, who is staying on for the return trip, then wandered into the Admin area, there to chat with the Indonesian lady D had interacted with. A long talk ensued: both agreed that Norwegian (perhaps European?) people were very reserved, and it was difficult to easily engage, avoiding eye contact, rarely a ‘Good morning’ or an acknowledging smile, something that she had found hard to adjust to when she moved to Norway ( 9 years ago & held up her ring finger): she’d cried for a year. ‘I’m a hugger’, she said. ‘Me too’ said T. So they did. T later sent D in for a hug and he did too. And as we were checked off the ship, with an electronic ’goodbye’, D & T both got another hug from her, no doubt to the astonishment of the Norwegians/Europeans!
Jostle for position to get off the ship, jostle for position to get on the shuttle bus, jostle for position to self-check in, jostle for position to clear security – sit down and wait: was it really necessary to gain that extra position in line? Jostle for position to board, jostle for position to disembark, then wait for baggage to appear….aaargh! Grumpy old man again – yep – but we expect that it’s more a tourist characteristic, which does sometimes seem to bring out the worst in folk, rather than the local population who are invariably polite and accommodating.
Express train and tram to apartment was efficient and easy (we knew pretty much what to do after previous visit just a couple of weeks ago), check in was smooth: time for a beer.
And that was pretty much our day. But, we did have a chat with a young Aussie chap getting into the lift at the apartment. He’d come to Oslo to study, decided it wasn’t for him (the study?) but hanging out here for the summer was a good plan and now he’s waiting on a working visa so that he can stay for 12 months. He’ll teach science, he said. T was a bit surprised that it was so easy, especially in Scandinavia. Yes, the winter is awful (3 months of dark depression) and the midnight sun is ‘overrated, but he needed ’a break from home’ and he’d had a terrific time walking in the high plateau from Oslo to Bergen, overnighting in huts. Now he’s couch-surfing till the visa comes good…they’ll always need science teachers in Svalbard (dark depression for 6 months, thought T). There’s probably a love interest somewhere in the story. He confirmed T’s comment on generally bland (to our taste) & limited range of Norwegian food (and was even more critical… in the food markets it’s poor quality ‘fresh’ and he was missing the ‘Asian flavours’). Sunday retail closure is odd but transport infrastructure is excellent…’ that’s what socialism delivers’ was his final comment before rushing away with a ‘sorry, have to go…’ departure.
This time next Sunday we’ll be in Canberra.