Iím having culture shock. We
are in IKEA land. The orderlyÖ reservedÖ bland Nordic airport of
Oslo waiting for another connecting flight into the Arctic
Circle. Iím 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.
Itís 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. Michaelís 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 donít
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 weíre lucky that itís not eternal night.
Since I use my cell phone to tell time and donít wear a watch, I
have no concept of time here. My disorientation continues as the
Weíre 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 canít tell if this is the
nightly routine, Hong Kong showoff or just plain old
hospitality. But one thing is for sure, weíre in for some
serious drinking tonight.
After a few rounds, everyone is more relaxed and the dialogue is
getting colloquial but itís not local -- itís 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
didnít want to scare them off with our cameras.
Next thing you knowÖ itís 5 am and the light hasnít change much.
We stagger out into the Norwegian night air. Thereíre 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 hotelÖ draw the blinds and
try falling asleep.