Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Life, New Blog

Its been a great 7 years (really, its been 7??) of sporadic updating, but I'm feeling a big change coming on in my life and it deserves a new space. More focused on who I want to be. You see bits and pieces of "me" here, but I think I'm even clearer now, in the month when I hit 35 and I'm about to take a break from my telecom career. Its my last day at work in Fornebu tomorrow!

My new blog is called The Starter Life, do come and visit soon.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I couldn’t stop myself from buying a set of ski pants, gloves and a surprisingly affordable Helly Hansen jacket from the outdoor fair in central Oslo during the World Ski Championships. So despite the leftover knee issues from the last ski trip, I needed to make use of my new gear. This time I decided to try snowboarding at nearer ski resort in Kongsberg, which is an hour by bus from Oslo. It’s pretty convenient to just hop on the bus, pay 450 NOK for the round-trip bus ticket which includes the ski pass (the pass that gives you access to use the ski lifts).

Having surfed and wake boarded before, I figured it would probably be easier to manage a single snowboard then 2 skis and 2 poles. But for less-than-athletic me, winter sports have an especially steep learning curve! My friends I booked a 1.5 lesson which turned out to be quite useless because it was delivered by this kid (he looked around 15) who couldn’t really say much but, “Ok, go try it,” or “Use the Christmas tree method to get down the slope.” I’m like huh?? I don’t even know how to strap on the damn board! I asked him how to slow my descent down a slope, he said: “Use your foot.” Um, in what way?

My friends were better than me, and I learned more from them when they convinced me to go up to the real slopes and try it out. It was my first time to try the chair lift and I barely made it into the seat holding the board in my hands. I wondered how I would have made it with skis or a snowboard strapped to my feet.

As a super-duper-beginner snowboarder who doesn’t even know how to move on the snow, here’s what I learned on my first day:

  1. Its best to try getting in and out of a snowboard before hitting the slopes. I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to figure out how those straps worked.
  2. Another thing to practice is going from sitting down (on your ass) position to standing up in one move. When you stand up, you should have your heels on the ground, toes slightly in the air. This is the move you make right after you put on your snowboard --- which unfortunately I have trouble doing. It would’ve been more helpful if I could have practiced this at home first (like 20 reps every day!). As it is, I mostly stood up in the reverse manner: flipping over to my stomach and standing up with a push up. Very tiring on the arms and palms.
  3. On a slope, do not, I repeat, do not fully unstrap your snowboard. That’s how I lost the first snowboard I rented --- I fell into a ditch, took off the snowboard to climb out of the snowbank, and then saw the board slide all the way into the woods and off a cliff. Thankfully the rental people didn’t bitch at all, they even gave me another board to rent. Which I almost lost again when I took it off after another fall.
  4. Watch how you fall, spread your weight. When falling on your hands, ball them into a fist rather than palms spread. And try to avoid falling on your tailbone. Maybe angle your fall to be flat on your back.
  5. Check out this helpful video!

So I called this post Board/Walk because I invented a new sport --- slope walking! That’s what I had to do when I lost my board the first time…I walked halfway down the slope. And on the 2nd run, I fell so many times on my tailbone and my head that I couldn’t endure anymore. I took off my board and walked the last 3 steep slopes back to the bottom. Must have looked strange to the rest of the ski/snowboard-ers but hey, I’m an old beginner so give me a break!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ski Tripping

Of course being in Norway, I had to try the requisite Norwegian sport: skiing! For most of the winter season, hordes of locals hit slopes near and far from the city, taking weekends trips for alpine skiing in the mountains or flatter lands for 20- 100 km cross country tracks. So I aimed to try this northern equivalent of a surfing weekend in La Union (which means a carpool + equipment + accommodations + Friday after work drive).

However for a foreigner who doesn't have any skiing equipment, experience or a cabin in the mountains, this type of weekend takes quite a bit of planning and expense. First, the cabin reservation months (!) in advance which I did through the very user-friendly Skistar site. On the site you can also book equipment rental, ski lift passes, cabin cleaning (so they don't automatically ) and lessons. My friends said I could do all of that on the spot though, and they would give me skiing tips so I tried to rein in my travel-planning obsessiveness. I also rented cars at Avis (a whole other story), borrowed skiing clothes, collected payments, went grocery shopping for meals, wine shopping for drinks (you have to catch the vinmonopolet before it closes at 6pm)...all of this and we hadn't even started the weekend yet.
The ski resort we went to is in Trysil, and its one of the most popular ones in Norway. Its about 4 hours from Oslo, including the Friday rush traffic and the grocery stop. We were lucky that weekend (or so I was told), with sunny skies, decent snowfall, and the temperature between -5 to -10 degrees celcius most of the day.

The cabin was surprisingly pretty, with a small fireplace, big living room and dining space, and a even a sauna...perfect for a getaway of 9 people.

Generally life in the cabin was about cooking, chatting, drinking, party games, although some guys were brave enough to take an outdoor dip in the snow in their underwear and run back to the sauna. I only got my far as dipping my feet in before I gave up.

And the skiing? Well that was much harder then I thought it would be. I thought it would be like ice skating with longer skates...but it was really heavy skis aimed downhill. One friend was nice enough to babysit me for most of the first day, she spent a lot of time picking me up from a fall...

Its tough to get up from a fall on a slope because you need to push yourself up and not start sliding down. And learning how to apply brakes is a bitch! I kept on trying to will my feet to cross and do that "wedge" thing but generally to avoid hitting people, equipment and structures at the bottom of the slope I would just make myself fall. To think that the thing I was most worried about was freezing - actually I was sweating like mad! But then towards the end of the session I was so proud of myself for not falling in longer stretches and doing some proper stops. Yay me!

I think one of the best things about being in a ski resort is the general atmosphere of cheer and friendliness - such a contrast from the more "grey" mood of the city. Its like a tropical beach resort vibe -- without the tropical beach. Oh and all those hot guys at the after-ski party. Shame we didn't stay that long.

I did not have a ball waking up the next day, with what I felt was a badly twisted knee and needing to hoist myself down from the top bunk bed. I gave up on skiing the 2nd day, brought myself to the Lekvagten (Emergency Room) the day after (no major bones broken!) and limped for the rest of the week. My winter sports spirit hasn't died however --- I think I'm ready to try snowboarding next!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Its an Apps World

I'm on my 3rd unit of the iPhone4 now. The first drowned in a toilet and was unsuspectingly replaced by the Apple service center (hurrah for warrantees!). The 2nd was stolen at 4am in a dodgy club in Bangkok, and now we're at number 3. I've never been lucky with the iPhone, even my jailbroken 3G version eventually lost its wifi capability and had a pathetic battery life, but of course I couldn't complain because it was jailbroken (hence learning the value of warrantees). I was traveling when I lost my 2nd iPhone4 and had to use a Nokia C3 for a month before I could get the next incarnation and then I remembered what it was like to have a life without internet and apps. But now I'm back in Apple world. I still have issues at how it is as a phone, but there are really some apps that make it so convenient to live your life. I'm not an apps junkie so I don't have a ton in my phone, but here are some that I use quite often.

Navigating Norway

Maps because I'm always lost even in this small city, for more or less accurate weather reports, even for other cities (the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning!), Trafikanten for public transport schedules and iTranslate to figure out the Norwegian ingredient names when I'm grocery shopping (also useful for quick email translations!).


Kayak to indulge my travel fantasies ("How much would it cost to travel there this weekend?); Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor ("What would I do when I get there?").

Memory Tools

I can never remember things so I really like the cheesily-named iPeriod to remember that time of month. I found a new app called Springpad which links to a web application and Firefox widget to save notes, bookmarks and recipes (better than opening my laptop to check on bookmarked recipes when I cook!). I also have ShopShop – for the weekly trip to the supermarket of course, Another interesting memory tool is Keeper, to save my multiple usernames and password to all the sites I've signed up for. Now if only I could remember all those sites!


Astrology updates from Susan Miller (I always get the monthly updates on time!), Drync Wine to remember all the fabulous vintages I've sampled, Foursquare for location tips even in unfamiliar territories.

I don't have much of Games since I got too obsessed with Sally's Spa, but I will welcome any other app suggestions!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The view from behind my desk.

I suddenly remembered that it was possible to post to my blog by sending an email. So I really have no excuse to be away from this space for so long. As long as the winter has been actually. I cheated a bit by being away from Norway for almost 4 weeks through December & January. But as type this the snow is still falling hard to the ground outside my office window and though its pretty, I'm beginning to feel like its too long!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Best of Dublin

I've been to so many places in the past few months I don't have the time (or the energy!) to give full-blown details. So I've decided to do a summary posts. I'll start with the most recent getaway - Dublin, Ireland! It's my first time to step into this part of Europe and its quite refreshing to understand what people are saying in the streets!

1) Ireland's oldest pub, The Brazen Head. Order the Irish Stew, or the Bacon & Cabbage, and drink up a pint of Smithwick's Ale (don't forget to ask the barman for a "Guiness head").

2) Ireland happiest pub (for me, anyway), The Cobblestone, for their live Irish music and low-key crowd. It was packed on a Thursday night--- despite the recession!

3) The Irish people - cheerful, talkative, storytelling, and oh-so-into the local drinks. It pays to listen to them! Besides the knowledgeable taxi & bus drivers, one of the highlights was getting the scoop on contemporary artists from an old security guard at the National Gallery (where incidentally, admission is free).

4) The 3.5 hours free walking tour courtesy of Sandeman's New Dublin Tours. is a great way to get an overview and history of Dublin. The entertaining tour guides work on tips and its far from the dry, boring, paid tours I've taken before.

Our guide, Helena.

Christ Church Cathedral

The River Liffey

The oldest part of Dublin Palace.

5) The Guinness Storehouse. I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of this super heavy beer but when it comes straight from the source it just tastes so fresh! Plus the view of the city from the top of the museum is hard to beat.

The best tasting Guinness ever.

View from the top.

6) The company. We were 7 in the group from 6 different countries. What a mix!

Philippines, USA, Macedonia, Norway, Malaysia, Mexico, Australia

A Winter Sunday

Despite the snow blowing in the streets sideways (that's how windy it was!) I still ventured out dressed like Kenny from South Park, or as my sister put it, in a puffy burka... order to drop by the Sunday market at Bla. It was an eclectic collection of handmade knits from cute old ladies, trinkets and knicknacks, old photos, art pieces and vintage wear. I help myself back and contented myself with a Norwegian pancake while observing the proceedings, still amazed that nothing stops people from going out to shop.

Bla is located in the "artistic" side of Oslo, by the river, and walking around this old part of town and encountering surprising sights (like that huge outdoor chandelier) is always interesting. On Sunday nights I've heard that there's even a really good jazz quarter that plays there which I hope to catch sometime.

So...despite the cold there are still cool things that go on in Oslo.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Just like that, 4 months have gone by just like that in my "new" life in Oslo. I've done so much and seen so many things --- besides the practicalities of living in Oslo, I also took side trips to Madrid, Granada, Segovia, Palma de Mallorca, Stockholm and Dublin.

Now winter's here and the difference of living in Europe (and in Scandinavia) is even more highlighted! Yesterday I went out to check the Lanvin for H&M collection and instead of blowing my dough on an overpriced "couture for the masses" dress, I spent it on getting more wool, long sleeved shirts and a humidifier. Who knew there were so many things to think of for winter?? There's the winter clothes layering, the lack of humidity at home that's drying out my skin and causing mini-nosebleeds, plus having to walk outside with a stiff breeze in your face and ice on the pavement. As I write this, its -8 degrees celcius outside and they say this isn't the worst of it yet -- although it seems to have been the coldest November anyone can remember in a long time.

I promise to start posting bits and pieces of my trips in the next few days, I owe myself that!