Dmitri Medvedev, the former president of Russia. I can’t say I know much about him except that Putin still holds almost all the power. I remember when he became president and he was walking down the aisle to his inauguration, it was a really long coronation carpet and he was walking, walking, walking down it. The daily show made fun of how long this thing was showing him walking, walking, walking down it and then out of nowhere they transpose this video of a Kenyan marathon runner overtaking him
“And the Kenyan takes it!” yelled Jon Stewart.
In Oslo we were hanging out with this half Russian, half Belgian when of course this story came out, one of the guys told him he doesn’t really seem Russian,
“Well that’s part of my training.” We laughed. He then told us about this video of Medvedev that was taken by a phone camera during an alumni event he attended for his university; it’s a video of Medvedev jamming to a 70’s version of American boy, doing all these classic soul moves.
“But wait what if you really are a Russian spy? Maybe we shouldn’t laugh so hard.”
“Yeah am taking video of this right now.” We laughed again.
Then he said that if he was a Russian spy he could just keep telling us h was and we wouldn’t believe him, just laugh along to the jokes that we chose to hear at this admission. Then I remembered an article I read about Putin in the Time magazine in 2007 when he was named person of the year, the journalist said the most disconcerting thing about talking to Putin was that he had taught himself not to blink.
“Then we know how to make sure he’s a spy huh?” said this Mozambique guy.
We turned to the guy and saw him blink ten times in ten seconds before he burst into a rendition of American boy complete with moves and goofy smile.
Thursday the 26th and I hate Norwegian weather, the sun doesn’t even peek out to smile, sure there’s light till ten at night but it’s filtered by clouds, stoppered by rain and I hate Norwegian rain, it’s so cold, so very cold. The water is always almost freezing, it finds exposed skin with complete ease and it just pricks apart your resistance. It doesn’t stop ever.
Same weekend in Oslo and am talking to this German guy who’s doing part of his degree course in Norway, Germans are sick when it comes to engineering which is what he’s doing and his university is so strict with requirements they said he would need to do a PhD. Course in the university here if they would recognise his credits.
And I begin to wonder why so many of my conversation stories don’t involve Norwegians. The other day I was in a bus and the driver didn’t stop at the stage. This guy runs in front of the bus, cigarette dangling from his lips, smoke dangling from the cigarette, he waves his arms maniacally and the bus stops, he point to the stage and says something. The driver waits for this show to stop and then drives on. I burst out laughing and everyone in the bus who doesn't silently ignore the whole episode silently turns to me like I am the crazy one. Maybe that’s why they don’t. They don’t really seem to get me. They don’t really seem to want to. I used to think that the most common jumping off point for foreigners was how expensive everything was, but you get used to that and now it’s just dry humour. The thing that doesn’t go away is the bitching about the social acceptance of Norwegians. They are cold. So cold it finds all the unprotected surfaces of your skin and pricks it till you feel like you can bleed with loneliness.
I don’t know why.
When I travelled to Poland I saw so much happiness and warmth in everyone’s face, so it’s not the weather that makes people like this. There were also potholes in Poland, a government that the people don’t really trust, political issues that needed fierce debate and a need to make the society better. I had this idea then that the reason people in countries struggling are so warm to each other is that they need to be. You need family and friends in Kenya since the time will come when the government will screw you over. You need that in Poland and in Belgium, them of the 541 days without a government. Not so much here. You can live life in your hut and if you have a heart attack don’t worry just call and you will be lifted off to a place with all the facilities needed. Maybe when we can’t trust our government we need to trust other social institutions. But I’ve been here 4 months I can’t already have put my finger on the pulse of what’s wrong, I can’t even really call it wrong.
I read this book review a while back of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and the reviewer loved the book, you could see it in every word and if the book is half as good as the review of it then it’s a pretty awesome book, I haven’t read it yet but I will and the story of my search for it is a story. Anyway the reviewer talked about the problem with liberals and culture accepting types, "Liberals, no less than conservatives — and for that matter revolutionaries and reactionaries; in other words, all of us — believe some modes of existence are superior to others. But only the liberal, committed to a vision of harmonious communal pluralism, is unsettled by this truth."
But I don’t like Norwegian weather. All the promises of spring are disappearing under the cloud of rain and cold and constantly numb fingers.
I went out Friday and I began talking to this girl, long black hair, and the hint of a ring just where her tongue meets the cavern of all the rest that’s within and eyes that draw you in like a vortex.
“Do you like it here?” she asked.
“Well the weather is shit.”
“That’s just this week, next week it goes to 20 degrees”
Ok. That’s warm here, that’s really warm, that’s get in your shorts and sandals and frolic in the beach warm. But it’s not really warm, 20 degrees back home people are afraid to leave their houses. However it’s much better than those prickles of rain and loneliness. The worst part about 20 degree weather here is that the sun is at this acute angle meaning a shade is cast over the street at all times. You walk in between two buildings and you are cast back to 8, 9 degrees. The weather is an illusion broken by man-made obstacles.
I really enjoyed talking to her and I wanted to see her again, and when I asked for contacts I got the most apologetic boyfriend admission ever.
“I’m sorry but I have a boyfriend, it’s a really bad time for me.” Well two things at least for me, it shouldn’t be a bad time. You should be happy and why oh why do Norwegian girls think that all interaction between people of opposite sexes has to have romantic connotations. What happened to friendship and a cup of coffee and a hook up with your friends who don’t have the same bad time? I think for me the worst part about it is everything in Norway is reduced to one night stands, walk too far away and the magic of a moment disappears forever. By the next day everything turns to ash at the butt of a cigarette. Stray too far away and the manmade obstacles block out all the rays of warmth that the sun promised.
Two nights in a row I went to the same club and the same bartender or bouncer was there, she seemed so professional and she was beautiful. I wanted to talk to her, am not sure about what, I wanted to tell her she was pretty and that I thought she was doing a good job and I wanted to tell he that even though we didn’t know each other I thought she was a good person and that the world needed more people like her if it was going to be a better place but that I wasn’t sure the world deserved to be a better place. But she lived in it and she deserved a better place to live in. You can’t say all this to someone you haven’t met, you can’t even mean it but I was writing in my head and the sentences, they just strung each other into a kite of expectations flying so high there’s no way the wind could support it. At that point the thoughts weren't even about her anymore it was just things that I wanted to mean to someone one day. I could have told her the first part at least, maybe I should have but I didn’t I was frozen in inaction and then I felt this inaction was the best action. There was a me who would not have hesitated but he only lives in bursts and flashes of daredevilry, he’s not constant and he wasn’t there then. He’s not with me much in Norway and i miss him. Sometimes he’ll come along with me and then I’ll meet someone interesting but more and more feel like I left him at the airport, and that am waiting to pick him up on my way to wherever’s next.
But as I write this the weather is nice, there’s warmth everywhere and the sound of fountains. Am actually outside. The sun changes all of us into better versions of what we are. Maybe that’s why so many metaphors of good are represented by light. Today I saw a butterfly, life in a yellow winged creature. And on the bench next to me a flock of seagulls has landed. They caw and search for food, unencumbered by anything like fear or culture. There’s a fountain and there’s birds and grass. My favourite moments in Norway have always been the ones away from all the man mad obstacles. When am out in the sun or a park. When a Norwegian has finally drunk enough alcohol that it washes away this cultural upbringing that says to them their winter weather is the perfect example of how to live their life. It’s still sunny today. Its 20 degrees or something out and I can’t be unhappy with this. The worst thing is to blame anyone else for what could be a fault with yourself.
Today the sun came out not in a spark but in a constant uninhibited series of rays and maybe that’s what I should do get the guy from the airport the one who would have told that bartender she was pretty or that she was doing a good job who would have thought that saying something nice to someone is a reward in itself a risk worth the potential rejection. For a compliment costs just a few words and in return you can get a heart melting smile. With 20 degrees being as warm as it gets anything that melts any part of you is probably worth it all.