mandag, mai 07, 2012

Busing through Sydney

Did I enjoy my stay in Sydney? No. At first I was fascinated, I even decided to stay an extra day. But during my five days there I got more and more confused as to why anyone would want to live there and so I started asking people. Most of them answered something along the line of 'I'm born here', 'my family lives here', 'I'm studying'. And always ended with 'I'm leaving soon!', or 'I want to leave'.

Though I feel bad for the general population, 4.5 million - which is about the same as all of Norway (and a lot of us seem to dislike Norway to the same extent, and also stay), their lack of passion only made me more frustrated with Sydney. With Norway, if you can be bothered (to open your eyes/to be aware), there is so much to love. I'm sure there must be a lot to love about Sydney! I will take the full blame for not figuring out the city. Okay, so I've blamed myself (which is the responsible thing to do), and then I will quickly take the blame and throw it to the next man/woman; whoever worker at the hostel who, when I asked about the city's bus system because I know that when a city is huge you need to know how to get around, told me to not take the bus. Avoid it. Stay off it. It is slow. It will take you nowhere. It's a no-good bus system. Look the other way when a bus drive by you. I imagine this person spitting on the buses of Sydney as they pass.

Here's my advise: Don't avoid them. They're very slow downtown (you might as well walk) but this is essential if you want to get around to the best places. I think. Because I never got there. But I hope so for Sydney's sake. Because their Central Business District is not enough. It is not what a girl wants. To get to what a girl wants you need to take public transportation. This girl also thinks of public transportation as a goal. Not only is it nice to get places, it is also my favourite way to travel. It's an easy way to get up-close with so-called 'locals' - this amazing creature that lives everywhere. On a crowded bus you can sniff strangers without seeming weird (depending on how obvious you are), and feel like you've found the real thing. I didn't feel that way in Sydney. And I think the biggest mistake I made in Sydney was to not get (on) the bus service right away.

Instead, I saw the worst of Sydney. Except of a short list of vegan restaurants (below) I have very little to recommend from my stay there, only a festival, but that's over now. (That is; the specific one is over, but it reappears every now and then: Newtown Festival.) Instead my advice is simply to get on a bus. And take the ferries! And the trains; they will take you a lot of places. But don't be afraid to get on the bus when you get off the train. Don't keep walking when your feet are sore just because you think there's something wrong with the buses. The buses of Sydney are fine. Really. Don't let anyone tell you different.

Here are the short listed vegan cuisines of Sydney, as of November 2011. I'm writing this (!NOVEMBER 2011!) because I did the research and made a long list of places to go for lunch and dinner, but after walking around not finding anywhere to eat (whole buildings where gone) I realized the list might only be a blast from the past. I felt like I spent a lot of time roaming the street of Sydney for vegan food, and roaming could be a good way to discover the city but I have no recollection of what I saw because I don't see when I am hungry. I hunt, and I see nothing else but food that need not be hunted. However, when I found it it was always great. Never in my life have I had so much and so amazing mock meat.

Peace Harmony Vegetarian Thai Restaurant : 44 Erskine Street
Good service, good food. Actually; really good food! And a really good lunch deal! Because it is in the CBD it is closed outside of lunch and dinner hours, as well as weekends.

Mother Chu's Vegetarian : 367 Pitt St
Mother Chu's was close to my hostel, and so I had dinner there more then one evening. Solid, might be the best word for this place. Huge portions and really well made food.

Green Gourmet : 113 King St
I found this place on my last day in Sydney, because I was in Newtown for the festival. And I would have loved to go back, but didn't have the time. Probably the best mock meat I had in Australia. And I got a huge pot of tea to keep me company! Relaxed place with good service.

Iku wholefood : multiple locations
I don't know them all as I only went to two different ones, but the two where both good for take out/stay in lunch. A bit on the expensive side, but the macrobiotic diet will keep you full through the day.

The vegan food at Newtown Festival.

As a vegan in Oslo you will always have the best food in your own house. This could have lowered my expectations so much that I would like anything when eating out, but I know what I'm doing in my own kitchen, and I've found that vegan food is so good that I probably have higher expectations to restaurants now then before. Australia was the first place I traveled to as a vegan, and I was pretty amazed. The places I've listed aren't just places to go stuff your face so you can keep on moving, but the food is really good! Just like Sydney, you can think of food as that stuff you need to get over with so you can keep on getting somewhere else, or something you are aware that you are spending your time on. In my view awareness is the foundation of real enjoyment. And though I am sad to say I made Sydney mostly was a chore for me, I hope this can help others enjoy the city! And eat well while you're at it.

onsdag, februar 22, 2012

lørdag, desember 17, 2011

Mooching through Melbourne

When I got the chance to leave Oslo in November and December, I took it. Not because I haven't had a good time there this fall, I have. But it's hard for me to find the balance; to uphold my everyday life, and spend sufficient time in my imaginary world, the fictional universe that is my novel. I booked a ticket to Australia. I traveled this far because of my friend D, who has opened her home to me here on the Gold Coast. D shares her bathroom with me, despite the fact that she thinks flossing is impossible without spreading today's menu all over. She also shares her bed, her bike, her kitchen, not to mention her mangoes - which goes to show how hospitabel she is, because the mangoes here are so good you really don't want to share them with anyone. If she was right about the flossing I would consider devouring the mangoes a second time.

After trying many variations I've found that writing for a month at a time works for me. So when I arrived in Australian springtime, with almost seven weeks to go before I had to head back to the Norwegian winter, I decided to spend my time well; load on with new experiences, new thoughts, and new faces. I was hoping to see lots of "crazy places off the highway", but my writing itinerary, nor my wallet, nor my lacking drivers licence agreed, so I ended up following the tourist trail, and so it was: Melbourne - Sydney - Byron Bay. During my stay on the Gold Coast I´ve also had time to visit Brisbane for a couple of days. More about that later, this is about mooching through Melbourne.

Upon arrival I knew very little about the city. Though I know how much more I get out of a trip when I've done research I hadn't found the time before I left Oslo. Luckily, I was able to sneak in through the backdoor, but had it not been for T, who sent me plentiful tips on where to go, who were correct that my taste is much like his, and directed me to St.Kilda, Abbotsford and Fitzroy, the Immigration Museum and the National Gallery of Ian Potter Centre, and a long list of other places; had it not been for LaMaga, who opened her home for me, a crazy, turquoise house filled with openminded people (and an openminded dog), took me to a CS-picnic in Darling Gardens where I met other friendly Melburnians (and wannabe-Melburnians) who showed us where to eat proper vegan food in Fitzroy and took us to the wonderful Village Festival in Edinburgh Gardens; had it not been for B, who came with me to an exhibition and shared his views on the many Aboriginal paintings, played backgammon with me on the sunny riverbank, and showed me the inside of a casino (a venue I would have never thought up to visit on my own!); had it not been for these people, it would have been a lot harder for me to enjoy all the wonderful bits Melbourne has to offer. Without them I would not have felt so at home that I am tempted to say I lived there for five days. In fact, Melbourne was so homely and I was so well taken care of, I felt like I only started traveling when I got on the night train to Sydney.

I found Melbourne to be an extremely liveable city; cultured and friendly, bikeable, fun, passionate, dedicated, relaxed, and creative. Had it not been located so far away from Oslo I could have seen myself living there for a while. It also has some excellent food options for a vegan like myself. Traveling I´ve never thought it easy to find great places for food just like that, but even finding a place just to have a bite can be hard when you're vegan, and therefore ample research is needed. Which won't help much if nobody writes about the good food they eat, so I thought I'd share. For anyone who desperately is typing vegan food Melbourne good? into their phones tiny search field like I´ve done a number of times, hunger driven and a bit crazed, this is for you. I was happy to find that many restaurants in Melbourne are vegan friendly. However, only a selected few achieved the sought after recommendation of Le Palais de Hanna.

Young Green Food
421 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Though you've had all the ingredients before, you might not have tried these combinations. My salad was creatively mixed, and, though when I flicked through photos from YGF online I see that I might be wrong about that, I remember it being served in a beautiful wooden bowl. I was very hungry by the time we got there... Some might deem my judgement clouded by extreme hunger hallusinasions, but my fellow diners agreed that the food here really is something, and with friendly staff and good atmosphere, this place is many times better than it looks at first glance. (Make sure you don't pass it, as the restaurant storefront doesn't really scream for attention.)

380 Brunzwick Street, Fitzroy
Though you've probably had all the ingredients before, you might not have been able to make them taste this tasty. At VegieBar they're also served by someone who knows how to make food look like a work of art. The place is very stylish and the atmosphere nice, relaxed even during the hectic lunch hours, the staff are friendly, and the prices decent. It's also one of the biggest vegetarian restaurants in Melbourne so there's (I would guess) always free tables.

Anything as Lentils
(multiple locations, I went to St.Kilda & Abbotsford)
You had me at "fundalentalist"! The sticker I saw in the hallway of Anything as Lentils in Abbotsford made me grin. The smile stayed plastered though the line was long. And when a line leads to a buffet as extensive as theirs, and it is by donation only, one should wear a smile - the staff hand them out for free anyway! I'm sure the many smiling guests would agree that the food tastes great. And don't forget to try the chai soy-latte!
(While you're in the vicinity check out Yara Bend Park in Abbotsford. It's a beautiful park, so go for a walk there if you have time.)

Even more than the city gave me a feeling of homeliness, it felt familiar; like I'd already walked those streets, in San Francisco, Berlin, maybe even Bergen (the weather sure is similar). As SF's cuter, younger sister (less drugged down mental patients regarded as a definitive plus), a city I spent a month in just half a year back, it would be a surprise if Melbourne managed to surprise me greatly, especially when I was just staying for five days. Apart from the amazing vegan food, I didn't come across anything that I haven't seen the likes of before - though the people I met in Melbourne were both new, and extraordinary; amazing people who would make any city better. As earlier noted, without them I would not have found many of the specific places and areas I ended up going to.

They also helped shape the way I saw the city, as they walked the streets with me and my curiosity; passing small houses and large parks, the city business district and the river, as I felt the colours and lost myself in thought for a second, looked at the bikes and the people, absorbed the atmosphere, and asked a bunch of questions - which they answered to the best of their knowledge. I was impressed by, and attracted to, how proud its inhabitants seemed to be of Melbourne. Along with everything that is hard to put a finger on right away, all of the above may ensure that Melbourne will puzzle me for a long time; like a book that does not give the answers one might seek and hope to come across easily, but instead helps us look at the patterns and details in the seemingly abstract, and feel our way to sewn or split seams, paints pictures with words, tickle our curiosity, and hence create a foundation for further thinking that allow us to discover the complexity in that which we think we've already seen.

torsdag, september 29, 2011

Feist - Metal

Since I heard the first single of Feist's upcoming album, How come you never go there, I've been eagerly awaiting the rest of the album, titled Metals. It isn't coming out until next week, but in exchange for your email you can already listen to the album online.

onsdag, september 28, 2011


I see storytelling in everything.

The most common place to look for stories is where they are approached in artistic ways, presented in many different forms; books, movies, music, dance, illustrations, spoken word. But we also find stories in lectures and written curriculum, we find them even in the way we present statistics. And then there are the stories we tell ourselves; the narratives we draw up about our own lives.

Recently I've chosen to start eating vegan. Apart from changing my eating habits, it might also affect the way I tell myself. Do I consider it a strictly personal choice? A political statement? A fashion statement? Do I tell myself that I am better than the people who choose differently, or do I think eating habits doesn't make people better or worse? Do I tell myself that I will help change the world because of it? Or do I question whether my actions have any affect at all? Do I get angry with myself for not having made the change earlier on, or do I tell myself I should be proud for making the choice at all? Or a little bit of all of the above?

When your husband forgets to do the dishes, does it mean that he doesn't love you? Enough, or the right way? Does it mean that he doesn't respect you? Or that he's just lazy? And if you're okay with his laziness, or his lack of respect, what does that say about you?

Did I miss the buss because the line at the ticket office was longer than I expected? Or because the universe is involved, creating obstacles that make it hard for me to be on time? (Someone called the second I was gonna leave, my wallet was still at the office when I left, my jacket was not where it's supposed to be.) Or simply because I didn't plan my time the way I should have? And if that is the case, is it because I am a lazy asshole who doesn't care if I am late to meet my friends? Or because that's just the way life is sometimes - things take time, and unforeseen events occur.

The answers to these questions don't change the facts; I eat the way I do, the dishes have not been done, and as I go back for my wallet I see the bus driving away. But the different answers we give will create stories that affect the way we perceive ourselves; they say something important about us, and might also dictate the way we see the world, and the people around us. But no matter who they tell, or what they tell, or how they are told, they're stories. Some stories are well told, others are not, some open our eyes to a side of things that we haven't thought of, others are deliberately told in a way that convey only half the truth.

We are bombarded by stories every day. Though we live in the information age many who should consider storytelling at least a part of their payed job do not bother learning the craft. But no matter what we're supposed to do while on the clock I think we all should consider ourselves storytellers on the home front.

It is quite rare to come across someone who seems to take the craft of storytelling seriously. So when I do, it makes me extremely happy. And I try to learn from them. The best storytellers both have something to say, and says it in an interesting way. But there are a million ways to tell a story. And in my view, there are a million interesting things to tell. Doubtless, there is a matter of personal taste to what stories we like; if we find the theme interesting, or if we appreciate the way the story is told, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the craft.

Depending on how we think of the word 'best', the best story ever told can be anything from the personal details we only tell ourselves, to the stories that touch countless hearts, and end up traveling the world between book covers, on stage, on screen, on canvas, or through head phones. I believe that when a storyteller is curious about 'something', provided she follows her curiosity all the way; no matter how sad or uncomfortable, or even seemingly mundane that 'something' appears at first (or second) glance, she'll will find something that is worth telling. And told the right way, personal stories can have universal resonance and appeal.

The Moth - true stories told live, are filmed and recorded in front of a live audience, so the occasional laughter and sighs you hear are real. But I download them as podcasts, and what I like about The Moth is the simpleness - a story told without any help but the storyteller's words and voice. There is nothing to hide behind; there is nothing that will enhance your story, except the way you tell it. A craft one can learn, but some seem to be born with a talent. I am not one of them, and so I am fascinated by those who are.

Every now and then you'll hear mind blowing stories at The Moth, but seldom any that alter the fundamental way you perceive the world, or leave you pondering who you are, throwing you into an existential crises. (Luckily.) What you get is a lot of good stories, about (more or less ordinary) everyday life. Listing my favourites I could list most of them, as they're generally really, really good. Only a scarce number are not good at all, and the rest is really good, or at least good. Here's one link though, to get you started; Salman Rushdie talking about what he did to finish a novel, when he had writer's block.

Another place I go to for a steady flow of well told stories is This American Life (TAL). Each week they choose a theme, and during the hour long podcast they bring us stories on that theme. The show makes for excellent company while I'm in the kitchen cooking, or when traveling. TAL's hilarious take on being broken up has made me laugh through my tears more than once, and left me with a newfound love for Phil Collins. The episode about life after death is a curious search into a complex and abstract theme. But the stories make it more tangible, and the episode made me ponder about life before death. I had long been wondering about what money is? when TAL asked the question. The answer? Here you'll find out more about the invention of money.

The Moth and TAL both master the craft of storytelling. But most of the stories they tell are begging to be told. That does not lessen the craft of their work, this is simply a transition; there are also interesting stories that are not as easily told. Facts about the universe, statistics, research about humanity and ideological thinking, abstract subjects or ideas, that would rather beg you to study them thoroughly. Some of them would even be like: I could create the basis for an interesting PhD. And still, some people tell us these stories with such ease I cannot but applaud them.

On you find interesting talks about a wide range of topics. Though maybe not PhD material, this is one of my favourite talks, and in my view a good example of a great storyteller; Benjamin Zander about music and passion. (linked to youtube instead of TED, because the video for some reason is better there.) I don't mind classical music, but I don't listen a lot to it, and I know even less about it. Zander knows his audience might be much like me, and tells his story directed at us. He draws me in with laughter, and fills my head with new thoughts that stay with me for much longer than the 20 minute talk.

The latest contribution to the bookmarks folder on my computer labeled 'great and inspirational storytelling' is RSAnimate. They tell complex ideas in such a simple way I was inspired to write this post. The first video I saw of theirs was this one:

It blew my mind. Possibly (a little bit) because I'd, only a month earlier, had a similar idea of animating essayistic thoughts, but never seen it done this way. And it worked the way I imagined and hoped for, making it possible to talk about very complex ideas, without loosing peoples attention.

There is a lot more of great animated videos where that came from. Though he is not animated, at least not in that way, I'll let Timothy Wilson end this post. Here he is talking about how we can transform our lives by redirecting the stories we tell ourselves:

tirsdag, august 30, 2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Despite the fact that I have stated many times a book longer than two hundred pages suffer from sufficient editing, I love Dave Egger's A heartbreaking work of Staggering Genius, and its 416 pages. In fact, I wouldn't mind it being longer. Luckily, this time (my first time reading the book in its original language) I was the happy owner of a second edition that has a postscript; Mistakes We Knew We Were Making is a must-read too. (At least for those among us who enjoyed the first fifty pages of the book.)

The more I write, the more I know about how hard it is to piece something together which is well-crafted and interesting. AHWOSG is both, and plenty more. The memoir starts when Dave Eggers is 21; both his parents die of cancer, within months of each other, and Dave gets custody of his younger brother Toph, who's 8. They quickly move from Chicago to San Francisco, where we follow their struggles; finding a place to live, schools, jobs, not to mention structure and meaning.

The book is full of thoughts and questions important to me, and I would guess for many in my (or any) generation, about how difficult it can be when one feels conflicted; about being original and authentic, about feeling like we have experienced something no one else can understand, but still crave the security of being part of a group, one of many, or at least find someone who understands.

The way he writes about death (in all its aspects), his relationship with the opposite sex, his role as a young "parent", the way he sees his role in the world; written with insight, honesty, mixed with both criticism, and self-criticism, it puts me on the spot as well. The way he describes sorrow and fear; how it becomes a part of his life, and then his everyday, help to make my own reactions transparent. Somehow his story, in many ways very different from my own, make me feel like we are not alone in dealing with the things we find hardest. On top of all this it is one of the funniest books I know.

(I have serious trouble choosing favourites, but) AHWOSG is my favourite book. I was pretty sure about this the first time I read it, and it turns out that the second read is even better. Though my interest in the book can be explained by the literary qualities (for someone who writes it is definitively an interesting read), on a more personal note I just feel like the book has a lot of heart. I think it shines through every part of the story, making it unforgettable, and though the title is not chosen without (what I see as) a touch of Eggers' warm sense of humor, the book lives up to its title.

torsdag, august 18, 2011

Both Ways Open Jaws

I instantly loved the video of Too Insistent. Not only do I find Olivia Merilahti one of the most beautiful women alive, I am also drawn to the aesthetics of the video. That the song is good too, of course helps.

When I first heard The Dø's newest album, Both Ways Open Jaws, it was not as instant a hit with me as their first (though back then that was only true for the first half of the album). I was pretty sure it wouldn't turn out to be the great listen A Mouthful was, and still is. But after listening to it only once, before I went hiking a couple of weeks back, it seemed I was already somewhat hooked. When we got to Jotunheimen we were met with this piece of information: it has rained here since July 3rd. Less than an hour into the hike the refrain of Slippery Slope had already become the fitting soundtrack of the trip. The lyric is not very complex, but easy to remember, and in a song to meditate on while walking that is exactly what you need.

Slippery slippery slippery slippery slope

And so on and so forth.

The song, and its video, remind me of seeing them in concert. Unlike the first video, I am not very attracted to this one, it seems too directed, too imitated, but I know how amazing the Dø can be live. In October of 2008 I saw them at Blå in Oslo, after A Mouthful was released; a gigantic drum set dominated the stage, and they danced around it like it was a bonfire. A bonfire of beautiful noice. They made us dance, made us scream for more, and then they sat down, asked us to come closer, and sang gentle harmonies. Both Ways Open Jaws has the same range of noisy fun, clever lyrics, catchy melodies and gentle harmonies.

Come closer to the bonfire and set yourself down.

And get up for some bohemian dances!

And if you ever get the chance to see The Dø live, take it!