Today was the day when my kid threw up on a 40 minute bus ride…when we were only halfway through the ride.
Here’s the thing I’ve discovered in the past two days of trying to take care of Maddie and Ada on my own in a foreign land. You always feel like you are on, alone, with decisions coming at you from every direction, requiring brainpower, focus, cultural capital you don’t even begin to possess and all you’ve got is a Google translate and the ability to play the part of a dumb American.
But then I tell myself it’s Norway—right? If I let Maddie and Ada run feral in the middle of the Oslo Bussterminal, they’d probably be picked up by a friendly police officer, given some chocolate, free health care, and then be wonderfully cared for at some dream like police station that likely includes an awesome playground for emergencies just like these.
Here’s how the day started. After going to bed at some ungodly late hour last night, Ada woke up and wasn’t all that pleased with her breakfast.
Still, she managed to eat just about the whole thing over the course of half an hour. Meanwhile, I was packing our bag for the one goal we had for the morning—get to our noon appointment at the Olso Police Station for our residency cards. Passports? check. Water bottles? Check? Snacks? Check. What more could we need? Loaded up we headed out for the short walk to the bus stop near our Airbnb and got on the bus that would take us all the way to the Police Station.
When we got on the bus, Maddie suggested we sit in the back, her favorite spot. About 10 minutes in, Ada said, “my tummy hurts.” Then 10 minutes later, she threw up all over herself, and the dress she wore for our flight and first day Oslo in a row that she insisted was clean and she should be able to wear. She also threw up on to the bus seat. “I ate too much bagel” she said. I know what you’re thinking—throwing up on a city bus, isn’t that like a daily occurrence for most cities? Well, Oslo buses are a bit different.
Oslo transit buses are amazing—they are better than the best coach buses you’ve been in. They are spotless clean. Every seat has an overhead light, your own personal USB power port, and a stop button. There are multiple screens in the bus that tell you the next three stops, and when you will arrive each one. Really, I felt like we had defiled the presidential coach at this point.
Now, I was wondering what in the world I would do—A 3 year old just ruined her favorite dress and the seat of an Oslo bus. Maddie quickly decided it was best to abandon us and moved two seats ahead. I started searching the backpack. I found a couple of tissues which weren’t even remotely up to the task, and thankfully, a change of clothes for Ada that Diana had put in there for just such an emergency. But we still had to weather the next 20 minutes of the trip. Ada was a surprisingly good sport once I was able to clean her up a bit and assured her that we would be able to save the dress.
It’s not my proudest moment, but I must confess when the bus pulled into the terminal, we just hopped out the back door and began searching for the bathroom in the bus terminal. Though it costs $1.40 to enter a bathroom in the bus terminal, and Maddie refused to go into the bathroom with “stinky Ada”, it felt like the best $1.40 we’ve spent when Ada came out in clean clothes and a rinsed off dress stuffed back into the backpack.
Amazingly, we made our appointment and completed our residency applications. We also found out we need to come back in the next couple of days with our rental contract (which we didn’t have at the time) so we can national ID numbers, tax number and start the steps for getting a Norwegian bank account (which is sure to be another blog post).
After a nice lunch at a sushi cafe next door to the police station (Ada swore she felt much better and wanted sushi), I decided it was time to head back—it was near Ada’s nap time. But for some reason, my transit card had expired, and the ticket kiosk kept declining my credit card. Here’s one of those moments where I felt decisions coming at my fast and furiously. I called my credit card company to see why they would decline the charge, and the told me that they hadn’t. So I went to find another ticket machine. Should be an easy task in a bus terminal, but the only one I could find was also broken. No worries—next door is the central train station. There’s got be a ticket machine there, right? At this point, Ada is in such a state exhaustion that she must be carried on my shoulders, and Maddie drags 10 feet behind me telling me I should carry her too. A couple of wrong turns in the central train station has me walking down the path leading to all 29 tracks, not a ticket machine in sight. We wander out the some side exit to a parking lot and only after Maddie is at her most dejected, back in the front entrance and to the main ticket counter of the central train station. Hooray! I think to myself, and remember that I can probably buy one of the fancy 7 day tickets here that might save this ordeal from happening again.
At this point, I decide to speak to an agent, who couldn’t have been more helpful and tells me that 7 day tickets are even cheaper if you buy them at the convenience store across the corridor. And this is when I realized another major lesson of the day—at any point in this ordeal I could have saved us simply by asking one of the dozens of helpful employees for directions, or where to find the nearest ticket dispenser, or how to apologize to the poor bus driver whose bus my daughter defaced with vomit.
Purchasing train tickets at a convenience store also meant Maddie and Ada insisted they needed chocolate, and since my willpower reserves were depleted, I gave in and added a $2 Kvik Lunsk to my order (they’re exactly like Kit Kats).
You’d think we were done, but no. Since we had already walked at least a kilometer through the train station, I proposed that we just take the subway back. Ada said yes, but Maddie for some reason is totally fearful of the subway at the moment, so I decided to save that growth moment for some other day, and since the bus drops us off closer to our Airbnb, we’d be less likely to collapse from fatigue in the afternoon sun.
There’s more to this story—but I think you now see that this was a Shakelton-esqe adventure, and you don’t need to hear about all the craziness that ensued when we had to walk through a shopping mall to get back to the bussterminal and Maddie and Ada saw a toy store on the way.
Needless to say, on the way back, Ada was so exhausted that she fell asleep sitting up, and even passing the Royal Palace was of no interest to her.
You would also think that getting back home and eating dinner would be a good end to the day, but alas, I still needed to meet with our landlord, sign our lease and transfer our 6 suitcases and 2 duffle bags to the new apartment. And here’s the final lesson—you are truly never alone—people are always willing to help, even strangers, even when the asks are way larger than you would imagine. I had no ideas what I would do with 2 little girls while I was doing all of this moving, so I just asked our Airbnb host if Maddie and Ada could play with their daughters, and they happily agreed. My landlord is amazing, and thankfully drives a small SUV and not a tiny electric car like many other Norwegians. It only took us two trips to get all of our luggage to the apartment. I was also exactly right in a previous post about the location of our apartment. We are right next to the train station, above the grocery store and adjacent to a toy store. The apartment is fully furnished and I think it’s going to be perfect. After figuring out some details of international wire transfers (yeah Transferwise), I got this pretty cool looking set of keys and we will move in tomorrow afternoon.
Oh, and there was a camera in the back of the bus, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the super efficient Norwegian transit service tracks us down and makes us pay to reupholster a bus seat. Should any of them be reading this, I’m really sorry, and will stock my bag with baby wipes once I can locate them at the grocery store.