music room (“The Summer School”). Until the 5th of August, I am a student attending a Norwegian class at the International Summer School of the University of Oslo. This of course means I’m not earning anything, so I have to work out an economical way of getting through the day in one of the most expensive cities on Earth.

My flatmate gave me a bicycle card, which gives me access to the free bikes in the city. The bikes can only be taken from and returned to special bike stands, however, and there is no such stand on the university campus. So I can ride my free bike only as far as Valkyriesgata and then I’ve to walk the last 10-15 minutes.
The Norwegian lessons remind me of school because there are about 22 students in the class. It can be as dull as school too – how do you fancy 3 hours of grammar a day – but we do get a chance to speak to one another. I get to hear people’s everyday adventures, told to me in intermediate-level Norwegian, like for example someone was telling me a story of how her house in Oslo has a spøkelse (ghost). Come to think of it, I never got to hear the end of that story so I don’t know what it was all about.
Eating out is expensive, even on campus, so I bring a packed lunch and eat it in the sun, so now I look kind of weathered. Then if the music room (pictured) is free, the receptionist locks me into it and I get to rehearse on the grand piano. I may perform in the upcoming “students’ performance series”. At least, I’ve thrown my name into the ring.
The organizers of the International Summer School have provided us with all kinds of introductory events to make us feel welcome. There was the official opening at the University Aula on Karl Johans gate, under Edvard Munch’s The Sun; followed by an official reception from the city at the impressive RÃ¥dhus; and on Friday night there was a party at the bar/club where we get a student discount on alcohol. 28kr (3.56 euro, 2.40 GBP or 4.25 USD) is definitely the cheapest beer in town (you can pay up to 52kr in some places, which is 6.61 euro, 4.47 GBP, or 7.90 USD). That party, however celebratory, was merely one stop of an epic, citywide drinking session for me and my friend Torstein. And the welcome-to-Norway feeling came to a bizarre end that night when Torstein, his flatmate Kikka and I were in a queue for cheeseburgers (don’t ask) and a guy, whom I am almost certain was an American, started talking to me. He took great exception to me being Irish and living in Norway. He demanded “four words of Norwegian” from me. I obliged, with some randomly chosen words. But the fourth word, spøkelse, seemed to send him into a state of furious apoplexy. Perhaps he was a ghost himself? I don’t know what it was all about.
Next week: time at last for some Norwegian cultural stuff (unless something particularly dramatic happens: I don’t want to tempt fate here, the ghosts are restless).

Barry Kavanagh writes fiction, and has made music, formerly with Dacianos.

Contact him here.