Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Europe At My Feet

20 years ago I went on my first InterRail trip, ambitiously planning to cover vast parts of the European map. True, I only ended up covering France and the UK, but it was still a great and eventful journey.

Ten years before this I went on another, just as momentous travel: My family's car ride through the BeNeLux countries and Germany, including the beautiful Mosel valley. This too was definitely a memorable experience.

Now it's 2010, and once again it's summer and time for travelling. After last year's Tibetan extravaganza I had decided to take it more easy thie year. Maybe just a few days in a European city or something. But Europe has so many interesting cities. I was considering Berlin, London, Amsterdam and many others. But then I realized that there's actually a reasonable way to visit two, three and many even more European cities within a few weeks. Namely InterRail!

So, now I'm considering just jumping on the first train available and go wherever the European railway network might lead me. I hope to revisit several nice places from both my InterRail 1990 and my family's car ride 1980. And if any of you should happen to be somewhere on the continent this summer, just give me a call. Maybe I could drop by for tea or something? ;-)

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Bafana Bafana

No one can claim that I have any interest in sports! The only time I've ever had the correct answer in the sports category of Trivial Pursuit was when I was asked about the abbreviation of the International Boxing Assciation. (That's right, brainiacs. The answer is IBA.)

Consequently, I hardly ever watch soccer. But the World Cup is an exception. Then all the matches are more than just a match. All the results count. Besides, I find this a nice pastime during some idle summer weeks. It's a bit like the European Song Contest, really. Most of the songs performed there, I would never have listened to under normal circumstances. Likewise, the World Cup is more entertaining than an ordinary soccer match. Simply because it's the World Cup.

So far the cup has involved a few surprises: Spain was beaten by Switzerland. North Korea "only" lost 1-2 to Brazil. And Germany has got a style of play that does NOT immediately prompt military and machine-related metaphors. Personally, I don't have any favourites, but tend to support the best playing team at any time. (If Norway sucks, I cheer for their opponents. No mercy.) All the same, I do put on Brazil's shirt when the samba lads play. Mostly because it's the only football shirt I've got. And because this gives me a welcome opportunity to air it. I never wear it in public. Yellow doesn't become me.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Bitter-sweet Summer Party

Yesterday was the last day before the summer holidays, and according to tradition my class and I gathered for an end-of-term party with delicious dishes, exotic music and pleasant company. Kat had prepared a lovely plate of sushi. Lovisa performed cheerful folk dances from her native country. And poor Endah spent so much time preparing food that she didn't get to the party at all. Instead she came later that day to present the dishes to her teacher. (Do you understand what kind of people I'm dealing with? They're so lovely they almost make my heart hurt!)

These parties are always nice, but at the same time there's also a bitter sweetness to them. The students are so sweet and grateful I almost get a bad conscience. I want to tell them I'm the one who should be grateful for the privilege of spending some hours with these guys every day. The hours in the classroom are usually the most stimulating ones during the whole day. Of course, this might indicate that I should get better at making life more fun also during the rest of the day. But it also means that I'm one of those lucky guys who really feel they've got a meaningful job. When the party was over, and I was left with nice presents and a full heart, I felt both happy and sad at the same time. After so much loving company you easily get a sense of anticlimax afterwards.

Later in the evening I went out with some of my colleagues. Personally, I often feel that these monthly get-togethers to some extent depends of my mood, the topics discussed and the mix of people. But yesterday was really nice. First we had dinner at a restaurant, then we watched soccer at a pub, and finally we had a couple of drinks at a nice café. A pleasant conclusion of the school year - and a ditto start of the summer holiday. I hope for more experiences like these also during the next couple of months... Stay in touch, dear friends - and HAVE A GREAT SUMMER! :-)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Salsa At Skullerud

I recently read somewhere that most people are happier at work than at home. At their work place they experience recognition and acknowledgement, whereas they often feel stress and exhaustion in their family life. Although I don't fully identify with the latter, I must still say that the most stimulating hours of the day are those I'm at work. But this may also have something to do with the fact that I've got a job where I meet fun and inspiring people every day.

This fact becomes particularly evident when we take a break from our grammar exercises and essay writing, and rather do something more sociable instead. Summer holiday is approaching, and today the student council arranged a summer party with a quiz track, activities, joint lunch and entertainment. There were hot dogs and lemonade for everyone, and the Ethiopian ladies served dishes from the motherland. It was exquisite (although a bit hard to consume for a Norwegian used to forks and knives...).

The students also put on a great show. One of the highlights occured when the Latinas entered the stage with seductive rhythms and suggestive dancing. I had strategically found a seat in the front row, and experienced (I think) some "dangerous" looks from one of the beauties. (I was instantly reminded of a similar arrangement from my Berlitz days, when the lovely Ana Paula insisted on dancing samba with me. The teacher immediately legged it and was never seen again...)

There are lovely ladies all around the world. But from an objective point of view, I think the Latinas are the loveliest of them all. No wonder I'm happy at work! ;-)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Israel's Apartheid

Those of us who have been around for a while, might remember the period when South Africa generated connotations of suppression, racism and apartheid. In this country one part of the population had all the power and privileges, while the rest of the people was suppressed and browbeaten.

Fortunately, South Africa as an apartheid state is history, but in another part of the world there's still a country basing its policy on the supremacy of one people. The state of Israel was established as a result of the bad conscience of the West after the holocaust. What they forgot, however, was the fact that the area was already populated by another people.

Today's Israel acts in many ways like an apartheid state similar of the one people once faught in South Africa. The Jewish population has all the political and military power, and the Palestinians are treated like second-rate citizens. The parallel to the South African racist regime seems obvious: In the same way that South Africa wanted to remain a "white" island on a "black" continent, the Israeli have by political and military means established a Jewish state in the midst of an Arabic area.

The atrocities the Jews had to endure during WWII must never be forgotten. But this still doesn't give them any right to suppress another people. (No other nation lost as many citizens during the war than the Soviet Union. But this of course doesn't justify Stalin's colonization of Eastern Europe in the following years.)

Israel's military arrogance seems to know no limits. Their recent invasions of Lebanon and Gaza - not to mention last week's piracy of civilian ships in international waters - are just a few examples. It almost makes you wonder if the establishment of the state of Israel in the first place was actually a mistake.

I will not go as far as Iran and various radical Arabic states and demand the wiping out of Israel from the map altogether. This seems disturbingly close to Anti-Semittism. But just like South Africa still exists as a nation, I think today's Israel (being a de facto apartheid state) should somehow be replaced by a state with equal rights for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. A state where the Jews don't become the new "master race", with the Arabs as some kind of "subhumans". If there's one people that should know the possible outcome of such a policy, it would be the Jews...