Saturday, November 24, 2007

Aside from the cold, Norway is a nice and quiet country. Particularly, the train journey from the capital Oslo to a more picturesque Bergen was relaxing. You can also order some food and beverages while enjoying the scenic view of snowy mountains and beautiful lakes sliding on the window by your side. After spending night and day on the train, I finally arrived in Bergen, a small town located in a scenic gulf surrounded by mountains which overlooks the small but friendly town. Most teenagers come here for skiing, but I am too old to get excited over the sports, so I was wandering around the town looking for something to eat and ended up having a piece of waffle in a shopping mall. I like it very much, the best waffle I've ever had! Though not so many, Thai restaurants can still be found in almost every cities I have been in Scadinavia and in Bergen alone there are two. The food was so good, if you don't mind paying almost 1,000 Baht for a bowl of Tom Ka Gai while in Thailand you can get the same thing in the restaurant for less than 100 Baht!

Here I visited the University of Gergen and met people who are behind the construction LOB (Lancaster-Oslo-Bergen) Corpus and COLT (Bergen's Corpus of London Teenage Talk) corpus as the research center of the two corpora is here. After a night here in Bergen, I headed back for OSLO, the capital of Norway, which is a little less attractive to me, so I did not spend the night here. Instead, I booked a train to Copenhagen in Denmark via Goteborg in Sweden.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dear Colleagues,

Two days is enough for me to see the contradiction of atmostphere in Stockholm, which is really a city of fashion and history where you can wander around old and elegant buildings separated in 14 islands. For good memory, I booked a night in a hostel which was renovated from a hundred-year-old red boat. But what springs out to my mind at the moment is the Central Railway Station, where my luggage was stolen with all the food and surviving gears in it, including medicine. Though, that has not changed my good memory for the Danish as I am very sure that the guy who stole my bag was an immigrant, not the local. He sort of hung around my bag when I was trying to make an online-booking for a night in Copenhagen. The next thing I know was that I only saw one bag sitting next to me, instead of two. Feeling a bit panic, I was thinking if I should report to the police or run around at the station looking for the guy. If I report this to the police, I will be interviewed for some time and I may miss the train to Oslo, Norway, which was scheduled to arrive in 20 minutes. If I decide to look for him, I won't recognize him clearly anyway. So, after pondering for a while, I realized that the train has already arrived and was going to leave the platform. I was runninnnnng and made it to be on board just 3 seconds before it sets off. I was so close of missing that last train of the day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I arrived in Stockholm by the night train yesterday very early in the morning, so the shops were all closed and the city has not been fully awake yet. Wandering around in the cold, I found the costs of living here very high. Using the toilet here, for instance, costs me 5 Swedish korna, or approximately 30 baht. Haing a shower is 20 SEK, or 120 Thai BT. A bowl of plain rice is 10 SEK extra, or 60 baht. A light meal at McDonald's would cost around 400 baht, I mean just a cheap burger and coke. This makes the cost of living even in Tokyo become comparatively cheap!, at least compared to when I was there in 2003. Needless to say, the costs of accommodation here is also very high and that applies as well to the youth hostel. For what I have paid here in a hostel or backpacker, I could as well open a room in a five star hotel in Bangkok. So, I decided not to stay longer than two nights as I would be broke before going back home.

I found myself in the heart of Scandinavia as they said Stockholm is Scandinavia's capital. In the city, I was very surprised to see Stockholm very much a fashion city, which is located midst many historical beautiful ancient buildings. The area is actually formed by 14 islands, making it the Vanice of Scandinavia. The size of the shopping area here is quite spacious, making MBK and Siam Sqare in Bangkok look relatively small. Surprisingly, I have not found IKEA in its mother land here yet. In many department stores, they sell mostly the fashion products, and yes... fashion-related things mainly, so I had a had time finding just a pencil to buy! Still, a hot-dog vendors follow you everwhere so long as there are crowd and that is good for a guy like me who is out of fashion, but more into eating!

My next trip is to go about in Norway (Oslo and Bergen in particular) in search for the origin of the LOB (Lancaster-OSLO-Bergen) Corpus. Having had a talk with Prof. Stenstrom the day before, what has also come to my interest is now COLT Corpus, which is originated in University of Bergen. I plan to spend a night at Bergen Montana Hostel before heading back to Oslo. Spending a night on train is not so bad an idea actually as you could feel like the time for transportation is shortened, of course if you don't mind to squeeze yourself in a compartment of six bed bunks where you can hear people snoring. Even if you travel in during the day, an hour does not seem to be very long as you could enjoy the beautiful view where every scence looks like a picture that fits in the train's window frame, or a moving video documentary, perhaps on Scandinavian countryside, sliding on your your side. One more time that I find myself waiting for the night train to Bergen which will arrive tonight at 10 pm. Gotta get some dinner before that. Though it costs me a fortune, Thai food is something I cannot live without! Oh... hungry now just to think of it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I arrived in Goteborg on 14 November. Finding my way to the Slottskolmen Hostel is not at all a problem as I had been given clear directions from people who work there. I was so hungry that night as I had skipped Lunch, so I went straight to a Thai restaurant which is only two blocks away from the Hostel, ordering Tom Ka Gai and Prawn fried rice.

The next day, I visited the University of Goteborg where I had an appointment with Professor Aijmer. The meeting went very well. As I have thought, she is a kind and helpful lady. She commented on my work and suggested some articles that might be useful to my research. After the meeting, I only had an hour to wander around in Goteborg before catching a train back to Lund. Goteborg is not a very big city anyway if you are only concerned with shopping so I managed to spend an hour walking in the city shopping center and spent some time in the city old area.

In the evening, I finally returned to Lund, a week after the ASLA Conference had ended. I slept in the same hostel and met Professor Stenstrom at the auditorium of the Department of Literature and Translation at Lund University. We had an interesting discussion about my work. She is such a nice and kind lady to talk with. She promised to give me access to the COLT (Corpus of London Teenage Talk) which would be beneficial to my study, so I could compare my quantitative findings of the Thai NNSs with those of English NSs.

Now, I am waiting for the train to leave at 23:23 pm to for Stockholm. I should arrive there in the morning. So, I have 7 hours to spare before I will catch the train tonight.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dear colleagues,

Now I'm in Helsinki, Finland, staying at The Olympic Stadion Youth Hostel.

Copenhagen is the port where I first set foot in Scandinavia on November 6, 2007. Living off hot dogs everyday is not that bad, actually. Probably, the best hot dog I have ever had, with the French dressing cream, and also the most expensive one ever tried as well. Though tough for me, I found myself living for a few days without Thai fish sauce and rice. On the same day, I had to hurry to catch the train to Lund, the small friendly university town in Sweden which is located an hour away from the capital of Denmark, to present my paper at the ASLA conference 2007 at Lund University.

The conference went well with quite a few comments and questions from the floor. I happened to talk with Professor Sylvianne Granger, the conference plenary speaker and the founder of learner corpus ICLE who was sitting next to me. Having spent two nights at the unique hostel which has been renovated from the old train bogies, and one night at the bed and breakfast homestay, I headed off to Kouvola in Finland for another conference 'AFinLA Conference 2007' organized by the Department of Translation Studies, University of Helsinki.

I was welcomed by the cold winter breeze of Finland with the temperature of 2 c. In spite of the coldness, I had to wait in the freezing rain for an hour for a train at Tikkurila railway station. The wind was strong enough to blow away a 10 euro note right from my hand. Lucky me it is not a 100 euro one. The train to Kouvola finally arrived and it took me to the town at midnight. Lucky enough, i was helped by a Finnish lady and two men who offered me a ride to the hotel where I had booked the night. Now... this is my first impression for the generosity of the Finnish. Very impressed, indeed! I would have standed there for ages waiting for taxi at midnight in the rain, had they not offered me the ride.

November 10, 2007 marks the day of my second presentation, and the second day of the conference. I woke up and saw the first winter snow from the hotel room window. That was the first time when I see snow falling. Arriving at Helsinki University one hour late as I was a bit confused with time lapse between Sweden and Finland. Still, I managed to present my paper in time and everything went well. After the conference, a volunteer girl walked with me to the main street as the land is all covered with snow and you can easily get lost in direction in the weather like that. Kouvola is a small homey town and I regret having a chance to stay there longer to meet more nice people.

I headed back to the capital Helsinki again and booked 4 straight nights at the Hostel Stadion where I am now writing this blog. The weather gets worse than before with the whole city looks foggy and misty. Houses and cars are all painted in snow white under the temperature of -4 c. That was not so bad as it may sound as the Finnish have their way of cooking themselves up in the sauna. I did tried staying in the 85 c. sauna, but could not stay there longer then 5 minutes, fearing that I will be like a BBQ chicken in the oven. Then I jumped into the cool water pool where everyone swim in their birthday suits. As well, I did not miss to try the yogurt here in the original land. The yogurt here tastes very good. Of course!

At the hostel here, I met two nice ladies, one working as a chef and the other a cleaner. The chef cooked me a yummy Thai ommelette with rice and she also refilled my bag with rice and fish sauce. Right... two important ingredients that Thai people cannot live without! Getting my bag reloaded with food from the kind lady, I am now ready for the trip back to Sweden. This time I am going to meet two famous linguists. First, I will go to Gothenburg to meet Professor Karin Aijmer before heading south back to Lund where I will meet Professor Anna-brita Stenstrom.