A new metabolism

Everything here seems so figured out, every cog in the wheel following an intricate schedule of tugs and turns, each tooth locking the next with near surgical precision, with little room for error or greasing. My bus stops in Storavatnet and I jump out and cross the divide onto another bus, who closes his door behind me, the last passenger. He had been waiting for me. As the brakes release, the hulking vehicle pitches forward and makes the 270 degree wind up onto the bridge to Sotra; and suddenly, it is snowing again, sheets of sticky, white clumps gusting towards the windshield. The cloud is a single strip of menacing gray across the sky directly above us, and I can almost make out its structure as it forms over the mountains in the western horizon. On both sides of me, the sky is a clear vivid blue, and the sun is shining.

We slowly cross the divide, and an island appears through the fog. By the time we stop in front of Glenn’s house in Hjelteryggen, only some ten minutes later, the sun is shining once again, and there is only a shean of water on the ground belieing any existence of snow. His is the type of house I think of when I think of Norway. A multistoried cabin, all wood on the inside, timbers and beams naked like the inner belly of a whale. Spacious and cozy and rustic all at the same time, and warmed by fire, heat, and a fiercely happy husky pup.

Poor Glenn on his liquid/mashed potato diet after having a tonsillectomy, watching as his friends ate all the solid food his mother created. I felt for him, but it didn’t stop me from cramming all the delicious chicken and chocolate cake down my gullet. This meeting was both novel and familiar. Novel in the environment, halfway across the world from where we last met, with the addition of family and friends and scenery, and the perk of unexpectedness. Familiar in the themes: friendly banter, shared lives, ubiquitous Go. He is hosting the first Bergen invitational this summer, which is an exciting development. Of course we played a game (it is after all, what brought us together in the first place), and I am quite thankful, that this act managed to reawaken my inner Go warrior, making me once again think Go thoughts: attacking and defending, survival and slaughter. I told Glenn I would work on my inner viking, and try to be more violent on the board. Perhaps I will improve some more when our next lesson occurs, wherever and whenever that may be.

Traveling south after all that was a bit of a challenge. I seem to have adapted to the chilly climes a bit too well. When there’s no snow to tumble through, I venture it feels almost stifling. In the direct sun in Stavanger, I find myself unwilling to escape the clutches of winter and consistently ducking into shade and wind tunnels to find some semblance of refreshment.

Location: Stavanger, Norway

Changchun

Literally one of the least interesting places I have ever been. It had little to offer and little of interest. I suppose I had some adventures with my cab driver though. He insisted on taking me out for a quick dinner before dropping me off at my hotel. And when I refused, he simply went to the restaurant anyway and ordered us food. He was about one standard deviation cuter than your average Chinese male, but I was still rather hesitant taking a meal with a strange dude I had just met. Absolutely beguiled by such service, I saved his number and promised to have him take me to the airport on my return flight.

Back to why I was in this frozen, wintry, underdeveloped dump of a Chinese city (I’m spoiled by Beijing, I know). We were doing a training camp for about 30 Chinese girls who were interested in going abroad to the States. They were a cute and friendly bunch, and we managed to get a lot of excitement and participation out of them. And I can’t say I did too bad for my first outing; I was subject to torturous hours posing for pictures with each recruit. Their English levels varied dramatically, from bad to worse, from mediocre to ridiculously excellent. I got to hone some of my non-existent acting skills — we did skits demonstrating several problem scenarios — which were very well received.

Would I come here again? Not if I were paying my own way. However, I am quite looking forward to my up-coming business trips. I’ll be in Guangzhou in late April doing a longer training camp for a bunch of foreigners, and in Qingdao in May for our quarterly meeting. Nonstop, nonstop!

Location: Changchun, China

A quiet evening filled with dentists

It was ice, not rain, making a slimy, slippery mess on the roof of the car, on the sidewalks, on the treacherous passes between inside and the protective shelter of Robin’s car. Ice is a wicked stepchild. It is agitating, both in its ominous premonitions of impossible morning traffic, and in the quantity of noise it produces. It’s tacky, sitting behind the dash, hearing the otherwise peaceful suburban silence punctuated over and over by the smash of tiny pellets on glass. It doesn’t offer the quiet calm of snow, or the overwhelming power of wind, or even the exhilaration of a summer storm, complete with thunder and lightning and all that brouhaha. No, all you can do in the middle of the night during an ice storm is creep slowly along the right lane, hoping that your brakes hold out and silently birating yourself for picking this day of all days to clock in five miles at the gym.

It seems silly, but not regrettable, in retrospect. It was already way late, on a work night no less, and we had already completed a semi-vigorous, standard cardio workout session at a new discovery, Xpose Fitness. Robin wanted to put in a few more miles on the tread, and I figured I could pull some ergs (sp?) while we were at it. Minimal casualties on our end: sore crotches, small blisters bubbling beneath fingers and toes, one fragrant pink lady apple. But I certainly felt bad for Robin’s car, and Robin, I suppose, for having to trek through miles to send me home in the middle of that storm (Aren’t you glad you missed that fiasco, Soo? ^^).

Location: Ellicott City, Maryland