July 2, 2001
I’m having culture shock. We are in IKEA land. The orderly… reserved… bland Nordic airport of Oslo waiting for another connecting flight into the Arctic Circle. I’m beginning to feel dwarf amongst these Nordic giants. My lungs are adjusting to the clinically fresh air. I miss my pungent spices, aromatic water pipes, chaotic bazaars, pushy gridlock crowds with cheap perfume and blaring music. As I sit here freezing in my hot weather wear, I wish I had bought leather in Istanbul as Cheuk and Dave did.
It’s nine pm by the time we land in Tromso. I feel goose pimples on my legs as we disembark on the blistery cold tarmac. The cab ride into the sleepy town has an eerie Hitchcock feel. Everything is already closed and the streets are deserted with the midnight sun lurking behind in the deep burgundy Arctic sky.
After settling in, we head back over for a bite at the Lille Buddha. Michael apologizes for their scarcity of fresh produces. This reminds me of Newfoundland. I had a Newfie roommate back in Art School that grew up thinking lettuce was suppose to be brown because that was the colour by the time they arrived in Saint Johns. Michael’s veggies get flown in from as far as Manchester and Chinese veggies are hard to come by to begin with. I hope they are the green kind tonight. Like Newfies, Norwegians don’t care much for fresh seafood. Smattering in thick batter and drowning it in a deep fryer is about as exciting as it gets. But thank Buddha that Michael keeps up the Cantonese standards in this remote Nordic oasis.
The combination of jet lag and midnight sun is very disorienting. I guess we’re lucky that it’s not eternal night. Since I use my cell phone to tell time and don’t wear a watch, I have no concept of time here. My disorientation continues as the evening progresses.
We’re back at Lille Buddha for traditional staff meal – siu yeh – with the restaurant crew. Seems like just an hour ago that I ate. After dinner, the boys haul out the party goods. Michael pulls out a couple of bottles of expensive Portuguese and Spanish reds from his wine cellar while Uncle Chung hauls out his private stock of the hard stuff. I can’t tell if this is the nightly routine, Hong Kong showoff or just plain old hospitality. But one thing is for sure, we’re in for some serious drinking tonight.
After a few rounds, everyone is more relaxed and the dialogue is getting colloquial but it’s not local — it’s right out of a Hong Kong gangster flick, complete with expletives deleted. It was hard resisting my temptation to shoot this Cantonese reality show, but it was our first night. We literally just met them and didn’t want to scare them off with our cameras.
Next thing you know… it’s 5 am and the light hasn’t change much. We stagger out into the Norwegian night air. There’re a few riff raffs wandering around after last call, an African man is delivering his morning paper rounds, the Wongs jet off home for a few hours of shuteye, Uncle Chung waddles upstairs to his bachelor pad and we go back to our hotel… draw the blinds and try falling asleep.