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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

norway arrival

And finally we had left Amsterdam airport. My cousin told me that the best sight you can see as you fly is the city from way up there at night. It was seven am which to me meant the day had  started and the night ended but I was soon to learn that Europe was not dictated by what things meant to me. The plane started taxiing down the runway. A series of false starts its character of take-off. First we went at what felt to be a snail pace then we went slower until it seemed like we had stopped this was because we had. Then the pilot grew some balls and bulleted away. The speed was enormous, nothing on the ground moves that fast, it breathes speed and wind glides over its wings hanging on the edge for just a whisper of a rumour of a second before it dives off the edge. Then the plane took off.

I kept yawning since a quick change in altitude will fuck up your ears and yawning is the best way to clear them up but nothing. And then i Iooked out the window and my breath was taken away. At seven am the sun is still servicing its mistresses in Japan and Africa, it hasn't gotten its pants on to go to work in Europe. Its yawning still and you can feel its yawn but that breath is not hot enough to light up a city so the humans down there take it upon themselves to do so. Rows upon rows of lights lit up my eyes. You could follow it for a thousand years the light of Amsterdam There were circles and triangles straight lines that curved near the end. The lighting of a city can tell you a lot about its character about where the parks are and where people park their cars, the size of the roads, the clutter of cars, the number of houses or it can just tell you that lights are beautiful. I was sure it looked this good back at home but I wasn't really since I hadn't ever taken off at night while near a window and I regretted it.

Then we broke the cloud. Actually first we arrived at the cloud and at a signal there was mist all around us. Pillows and pillows of billows and billows, soft white and curved. And the eye could only see as far as the first cloud after that nothing and noone. The sky can be a lonely place maybe that's why birds fly in formation. Up there there is nothing, its worse than the desert and worse than the night. Its white noise except it isn't it's just blank light and just like that we broke through that too. Now we could see the sun begin its slow ascent. The sky was burned all sorts of colours, azure for some reason seems the best way to describe it. The opposite of an Egyptian sunrise this one took its time, playing with us and our feelings, it let us know it could beautiful but not just yet. It let us know it could be warm but that it would be frigid. It touched the sky carefully knowing exactly what it was doing and doing it so well. And opposite it the moon also shined. Yellow and big. It looked like a painting not a real moon. It was set in the sky and just a hint of its glow touched the cloud beneath it turning that yellow too. And  so the two globes gave battle for the attention of those on the third.

The flight passed pleasantly except for some anxiety left over from the airport and we were soon near Oslo airport. By now it was recognisably daytime and what a daytime it was. The snow had been falling down as it promises to in Norway and now it carpeted everything. The roofs of the houses were white, the roofs of the cars were white. The roads were white, the buildings, the trees, the plants. It is not a lie that snow is beautiful but from afar. The hug of the ice is not one you wish to experience too much of. And that's what Oslo is known for cold. I admired the snow but I dilly-dallied in the airport to allow me time to feel better about it. Our reception had been organised and we were picked up as planned. We got on to a train station that's right underneath the airport and for some time we avoided feeling really cold.

We have cold days in Kenya There are those days when its so cold the air forces the steam to condense into these rough biting pinpricks that you just want to keep out of your faces. Those days when it threatens to rain and you wish it just could. The sun is hid behind volumes of cloud and the atmosphere is white. Those days when its 15 degrees Celsius. Well on the plane the captain had said that the weather would be negative 5 degrees, we heard it would be five and a conversation that almost seems comical considering how cold Kenya is ensued.
“if he said 5 that's not so bad we can deal with that.”

 Oslo in January has no idea what 5 is. It laughs at you for even thinking that and  asks you back ten degrees just so you're not too uncomfortable. The air hits you like a mallet. It attacks your face with no hesitation. It bypasses your skin and makes you feel cold in the nerves underneath it. Then the brain plays with you and warmth is a memory whose ashes have been put out as the snows of Oslo. I had on a huge jacket so that I my chest would be saved the embarrassment of broken nipples. But my legs had no such protection. They start to freeze, its strange but I notice that I never chatter here. In Kenya when it gets really cold my teeth set to chattering and talking is a stammer after another. Maybe here its because my chest is so well protected. But my legs froze. A pillar of ice wrapped itself around the bone and wouldn't let go. Talking became difficult because your mind is on the cold and on the cold alone. They have a beautiful saying here. There is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothes. And that was my problem. But my body wouldn't listen it just felt cold.

The air conditioning is amazing though and when you get in all of a sudden you feel warm again. You ran to take of your gloves, your hat, your scarf, you rush  to remove your jacket, your shoes your warmth because as soon as you are on the other side those who took the best care of you start to freeze you up. The clothes remember the cold much better than your body does and when you enter a building the best way to get warm quickly is to take off the reminders. And I have a fascination with the snow. I will be inside for a while and it gets so warm I have no idea where I am and I need to remind myself. I long for the cold the way some love a shower. I want a shot of it to keep me alive because without I have been falling asleep{it was a really long trip before I could get off Amsterdam} and I need that cold so I peek out and I remember in no time at all. The process begins afresh my face begins to peel off, my legs start to be supported by an unwanted pillar. I kick the snow because I love how it feels to kick snow but it kicks back and as soon as I am home I grab off my shoes and take off my socks.

But the beauty cannot be denied. It snowed on my second day here and white balls of perfection slowly glided toward me. They fell in my clothes and turned the cotton to ice, they fell on my specks  and turned the glasses to  mist, they fell on the streets and tuned the scene to myth. And it really is. Oslo is a beautiful city, it has space to breathe and this it does the roads go down long alleys before they turn into each other. You can stand somewhere and see off for a very long distance in that direction. The sun left her a long time ago and the “I don't need you ” street lights shine too bright. They illuminate everything and in the sphere of their immediate glow snow globes can be seen. They are caught in the spotlight drifting lazily down, tiny ones today barely bigger than raindrops glided to the ground. Cars were covered in snow and it was everywhere.

But snow can turn to mush. This is something the movies gloss over. Its usually very beautiful, a carpet that gods could walk on but not always. In no time at all it turns brown and muddy, its churned up by the footfalls of men, by the passing of cars, the whishing of trains. The mortality of the world and it turns into sludge. This gathers up by roadside where it has been swept aside to let the cars pass. This sticks to the bottom of your shoe and clings to the top holding on until your feet are on fire and ice. It spoils the picture but its a part of it. The part right before it all melts away and becomes nothing but water, the part where reality sinks in and white as snow was a foolish expression since cold as snow is the only absolute  truth about winter.  


  1. I like the way you describe it. Makes me want to experience it for myself, which is unusual because with most things I read, I feel like I've already 'lived' it and no longer need to. But this piece leaves me with a longing for snow. Maybe it's because snow is on my bucket list =)

  2. yer snow is amasing and there are buckets and buckets of it here . alternatively you could climb a mountain, two birds one stone.