Just getting to Geilo was a long trip. Holli drove me to the subway. Subway to DC airport. DC to Newark. Newark to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Olso. Train from airport to downtown. Bus from downtown to Geilo. All in about 30 hours. I hadn't yet even started creating the presentations for the five speeches I'm giving, but I figured I could easily do it in during my long travel time.
I got to the counter at DCA on Tues to check into my flight, and the ticket lady types furiously for about thirty seconds. She stops, looks up and smiles. "Ticket please?" I didn't have a ticket. Only then did I remember that I was issued paper tickets for this trip. Thank goodness that I'm so anal and I got there early, because that gave Holli plenty of time to drive my forgotten ticket to the airport. I had really wanted to get a jump on creating those presentations, but I was too frazzled about the tickets so I just stared out the window blankly until Holli got there.
I got to Newark without any trouble. I had planned to start those presentations, but Continental was passing out free copies of Business 2.0. I used to really like that magazine, so I decided to catch up on it for old times' sake instead.
I sat in steerage on the transatlantic flight. I thought that Continental was supposed to expand the legroom on their long-haul flights, but apparently this plane didn't get the memo. No worries though, because the cabin door closed with an empty seat next to me. As soon as I flipped up the center armrest I got the dreaded question from the flight attendant. "Is anyone sitting here?"
Crap. I told her no, and she redirected someone up from the back to be my seatmate. After dinner (which I surmised was roast noodle), I pulled out my latop. I really needed to get started on those presentations. That was when the girl next to me decided that we should be talking buddies. I learned about how hard grad school was, how much she's not wanting to leave Philly, and how here friend played basketball for Akron U. I also learned that she really really likes creating PowerPoint presentations. I thought about giving her my laptop and going to sleep, but I opted for just going to sleep instead.
I had a five-hour layover Amsterdam. It's a huge airport, so I figured that the first thing I should do was find my gate. Then I planned on finding somewhere to work, ideally with Internet access. The Amsterdam airport is gigantic. I went through customs towards my gate and realized that I made a huge mistake. All the airport fun was on the other side of customs, and customs is a one-way gate. Trapped on the boring side, I figured that I might as well get out my laptop and start putting together my five presentations that I would be giving the next day.
Catching those few ZZZ's there really made me feel better. Both the guy smoking next to me and I agreed that sleeping in an airport was much better than using a laptop in an airport.
When I landed in Oslo, I figured that the first thing I should do is get some money. I usually pull money from the ATM machine (or "cash point") since it's a better exchange rate than the money changers. I popped my card in, entered the code, and was presented with the withdrawal options: 200, 500, 1000, 3000, or 5000 kroner. It then occurred to me that in my frantic packing stage, I neglected to take a peek at the exchange rate. I had absolutely no idea how much money I would need for my trip. I picked 3000--since that was in the middle--which I later learned was about $425.
Next, I headed off to the pay phones to call the guy I'm supposed to meet. The good thing about Norway is that all the pay phones take credit cards. The bad thing is that the instructions are in Norwegian. They had some picture instructions which looked pretty straightforward, but the screen kept saying something like "de versk oo boop kink" when I stuck my card in. I'm pretty sure that translates to either "Remove card quickly" or "Card denied--stay put and wait for the authorities."
There was also a coin slot on the phone, but I didn't have any coins. Asking non-English speakers for change seemed was a bit daunting. (For a county where supposedly 85% of the people speak English, I think the 15% non-speakers were all at Oslo Central Station.) I did notice that the bathroom gave change (since you have to pay 10kr, about $1.25, to pee). I dropped in c-note, grabbed my change, and took care of my business.
I returned to the phone when I was done and popped in what looked like a quarter (a 20kr coin that I would only later find out was worth $2.50). I got a hold of my guy, who told me the bus would be out front in 10 minutes.
The bus arrived 45 minutes later. It was very dark at this point (4:30PM local time). This was a chartered bus specifically for this conference that was to take about 50 geeks from the train station on the 150k trip to the conference hotel.
Norway does not have interstates. The 3.5 hour ride flew by, though, due to the huge amount of alcohol on board. As soon as we got underway, one of the guys in charge (chaperone?) carried what looked like a milk crate down the aisle filled with beer. He passed it out to everyone. When he got to the back of the bus, he came back in the other direction with four bottles of Jagermeister and plastic cups. After about 45min, the driver came on the PA system and said something like "de splookin dooshard mik." I'm pretty sure that means "two minutes for a smoke break." He pulled the bus over (on the very dark road in the heavy snow), and everyone emptied out to smoke and pee. What a site that must have been to a passing motorist. We stopped three more times that night.
By the time we reached the hotel, I had been awake for about 36 hours. I was told that I had to go to dinner, even though it was 23:00 local time. The funniest thing about dinner was that everyone was really nice, and they would come up to me and say "versk dooobie skill eskt ooobert." My standard reply (in English) was "I don't speak Norwegian." The response I got was 100% identical no matter who I was talking to. "Oh.. you must be Brian!"
The next morning, I went down to breakfast. I was thinking that getting around has been OK so far. All of the major things are bilingual. The real challenge is with the little things that are Norwegian-only (like, for example, the juice machine). My breakfast juice choices were vall, plank, oobst, or puvoot. (It's like one big IKEA I tell ya.) I wanted orange juice (just like the picture), but I'm pretty sure I got a combination of fjord water and donkey juice. In fact, breakfast was a big challenge because I didn't know what anything was. I'm game to try it all, but I don't know how they serve things. "Is that a garnish or a main dish?" If it were the US, I would probably look as stupid as someone at a breakfast buffet with a bowl full of picante sauce with a little dab of scrambled egg on the side.
The actual conference started after breakfast. The leader guy gave a ten minute introduction. I'm not sure what he said, I just know that I saw my name on one of the slides at about the same time that people were really laughing. The accents are so thick that I can't even pick out my own name. My first presentation (my first keynote actually) went well I think. My timing was perfect, although people laughed at some things that I didn't think were funny and they didn't laugh when I said things that I thought were funny.
I'm back in my hotel room for two hours now. Citrix is presenting their new technology right now, and they are requiring that everyone who attends sign a non-disclosure agreement. Well, I clearly got the hell out of there as fast as I could.