So I am back in Norway this week to defend my masters thesis. I was looking forward to closing this chapter with school (don’t recommend leaving a country before you are done a degree) and most importantly having a chance to see and visit with some of my really good friends that I made while I lived over here.
I have to say, that although only 6 days have gone by, its been pretty eventful. First it started with my flight. And for those of you that have had the pleasure of travelling with Ciara, you most likely will be smiling at this point.
I flew out on Tuesday night after work. I had a jam packed, Ciara-style day, and I looked at the clock at 3:40pm and felt like I needed to work out before I left. So instead of hopping in my car to get home and have a little bit of extra time, I threw myself on the treadmill and started my abbreviated interval workout. That had me landing into New Haven at about 5pm, where my good buddy from the Irish team Meabh, was waiting to chauffeur me to Newark. It all seemed fine, and the GPS said we would make it in good time, til we got stuck behind a bad traffic accident and I arrived at my gate at 8:03pm, the time that my flight departed for Oslo. Seeing the sign “departed” for a flight you were supposed to be on, is definitely not the best feeling in the world. I ended up having my direct flight turned into one with a layover in Heathrow, and by the time I got to Oslo at 5:04pm (instead of 945am), I was ready to pass out.
After chilling out on the familiar Flytoget (airport train) and brushing up on my Norwegian, I was lost in a Blackberry coma, when we suddenly arrived at Oslo S. I was a little half confused if we were there, and jumped out quickly once I realized we were. I grabbed my bags and headed up to my favourite sandwich and coffee shop in Oslo S, the main train station, with my phone about to die.
When I realized I didn’t have my wallet.
Always a first time for everything. So after sending an emergency message to my friend Patrick who I was crashing with, telling him I was outside Burger King, wallet-less, I headed back down to where the train had been a few minutes before. Luckily there was a couple of people who worked for Flytoget standing there, and they looked sympathetically at me as I explained what happened, looking like an exhausted greaseball. They called their friend who was working on the train and told me that it would be back on its return trip 1.5 hours later.
So I sat in front of Burger King, praying that Patrick would come, and realizing how limited my options were without any money. For those of you that don’t know, you can’t even use the washroom at the main train station in Oslo, without 2 dollars. And then about 10 minutes later after I made friends with an American girl who was sitting next to me, Patrick rolled in, with a big smile, a hug, and a laugh. 1.5 hrs after I had gotten off the train with no wallet, we arrived to Track 13 where the train was back. After standing in front of some random door when the train pulled up, a guy who worked on the train looked at me, and with a smile in English, before I had a chance to say anything, and asked “when’s your birthday”. I spat it out quickly, and then with a creepy smile on his face, he opened his jacket and I’d swear I saw light and shooting stars as I was reunited with my wallet and its entire contents. As we love to say, “Only in Norway” (are people so honest).
With that bullet dodged, I headed back to Patrick’s and passed out. The next funny story happened the next night, the night before my thesis defense. First I had a great dinner, on Karl Johan, the main street in Oslo, with my good friend from my time in Denmark on Fortuna Hjoerring, Ali Forman, and her partner Hege. Ali captained Australia at the 2000 Olympics and currently runs the Dana Cup, one of the biggest youth tournaments in the world, through Fortuna. It was a fantastic conversation again with someone who is very knowledgeable about women’s soccer, the issues it faces, and who has connections worldwide through her work with Dana Cup. We discussed ideas, spoke about experiences, and brainstormed ways for women’s soccer to move forward. A perfect night in my little world 🙂
After dinner with Ali, I called my host and buddy Patrick. He was heading to a Victorian-era themed “Julebord” (Norwegian Christmas party, where by Christmas provides an excuse to drink heavily and celebrate) and I was heading out to visit with one of my best friends, my little Russian (said in russian accent), Yulya. After a great visit filled with Yulya’s legendary crazy stories, I headed back to the apt with the keys that Patrick had given me, looking forward to reading my thesis one last time, and then passing out. It was about midnight at this point, and as I unlocked the apt door, I heard a click, pressed against the door, and then…nothing. The door was still locked.
I spent the next 15 minutes, turning the key slowly, and pushing hard, pulling the door, talking to the door, body slamming the door, and nothing. So I had to put the inevitable phone call into Patrick, asking him if by chance the door was double locked. And sure enough the expletive that rolled immediately out of his mouth, confirmed this fact. Feeling guilty to put a damper in his evening, two nights in a row, I told him to stay at the party, and I would wander around the (sketchy) neighborhood. And I spent the next hour from midnight to 1am walking the streets of Oslo, drinking a mocha and eating a chokolade boller (chocolate buns- amazing! You need to try them if in Oslo!!) thinking how this was not an optimal way to study for my thesis defense the next day.
Finally, Patrick called me to tell me he was on his way home, and thankfully with the mild winter weather in Oslo right now, I wasn’t frostbitted too badly. We got in the apt, and I started studying for my exam. At that point, I realized, in a thought that often comes through my head when I get ADD and don’t want to study anymore, “there’s really nothing more I can do at this point, I either know the material or I don’t.” So with that, I logged onto people.com, made sure I was up to date with my celebrity gossip, and then passed out on my airmattress.
The next morning, I headed to school for my thesis defense, legimately nervous. Mainly because I had used a lot of the research of one of my examiners as well as the same theory, so I knew that I would not be able to use my best quality in academic situations, my ability to BS. Also, this same examiner, Bente Skovgang, was not only a PhD holding researcher, but she was also a referee at the 1996 Olympics, and was on the committee for UEFA for referees. Her research was amazing, and I kind of felt before I even met her, that she was a bit of a hero.
Leaving no chance of a Ciara type adventure, I got to school at 10am, and so had an hour to kill before my exam. I headed upstairs, and at 10:30 my advisor Kristin Walseth came out and told me that they had discussed my paper, and were ready to start asking me questions. She said that they really liked it, and therefore, to just be prepared because they were going to be firing some hard questions at me. I told her I was nervous because I knew Bente was familiar with the theory I had used, the part of my paper that I felt least confident about. And Kristin smiled and told me that the other examiner Jon, had used the same theory as well in his research. Kristin was amazing to me in the research process, and as she had many times, she gave me a big hug and told me she knew I’d do well.
After getting a lot of questions fired at me they told me I could leave the room while they discussed my grade. I had no idea what I would get. And when I came back in, they told me that I would be getting the highest grade possible and they highly recommended I get a PhD. I definitely was amazed and excited, but I think again it proved to me that if you do something that you are passionate about and are excited about, the quality of work is proven in that. I’d like to do a PhD, so we’ll see if the opportunity to that will come up. In Norway, you get a proper salary for doing a PhD, so if I do a PhD it will be over here, since I’ve lived on the poverty/student/female soccer player line long enough.
As a sidenote, my thesis was on comparing opportunities in Norway and Canada to combine education and elite soccer for women.
The best part of the day was when I headed to the subway after my exam. It was raining and I had my hood up over my head, when a woman asked me if I knew how to work the subway machine. I looked up and it was Bente, my examiner, and the current UEFA referee. We started talking about the issues holding back women’s soccer, her experiences, research in it…it was an incredible, inspiring conversation, and I went 5 stops passed the one I was supposed to get off on, just to listen to what she had to stay. And it reinforced in me, yet again, that there are wonderful, passionate, educated people out there, that believe that women’s soccer can be better, and want to help push it forward in whatever way they can.
The rest of my trip has been a lot more mellow, thank goodness 🙂 I had a chance to visit with my friend Vanja, who I played with in Donn, my last club that went bankrupt. Vanja was one of seven foreigners on the team, that with myself, endured a hellish situation at the end of 2010, as our manager committed what can be described as tax evasion and brought our whole club down. The good part of the situation was that I made some life long friends in the course of a couple of months, and Vanja was one of them. She grew up during the war in Serbia in the mid 90’s, and went on to play for the Serbian National Team for many years, and played professionally for many years in Iceland, and Norway, before hanging up her cleats at the end of last season. She completed her UEFA A and is currently coaching the youth program at Stabaek, one of the best clubs for women in Norway. It was so great getting to spend a night hanging out, reminiscing about the gong show that was last year, drinking tea, catching up, and singing Adele at the top of our lungs.
I took the train down to Kristiansand yesterday to see my good friends Heidi and Tommy, and Miriam and Silje, which did not disappoint at all, and now tomorrow, I am getting ready to head back to the US after this whirlwind trip. I have a bus trip to the airport in Kristiansand, followed by a 1.5 hr layover in Oslo, followed by a bus and train trip back to New Haven, so fingers crossed things go ok 🙂
Being back makes me miss being over here a little. The main feeling that I have is again frustration that I feel like I need to choose being far away from home, and giving up something in my job and personal life to be able to play high level soccer. But having all that, in North America, but not getting that elite level of soccer, is frustrating for me. Its something I really hope to have the opportunity to change for the next generation of girls.
But it was a great trip, and I’m excited to get back to girlsCAN, coaching, and my friends and training buddies in Connecticut…