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Alyvea – Passion and Purity

When I got onto the night train, I looked for my seat, praying to God that it would be a window seat. I walked down the aisle looking at the seat numbers, other people pushing in from behind and others in front, many of us hauling hand luggage.

Yes, it was!

My heart leapt with joy on correlating my ticket with the seat. I had a window seat! My jubilation dimmed when I realised it was one at the end of the row, meaning I couldn’t tilt it backwards to make a bed. I would be facing in the opposite direction the train would be travelling and there was another seat directly facing mine, so I had to look into someone’s face the whole night.

I pushed my hand luggage into the cabin above the seat and tried to make myself as comfortable as I could. The ideal situation would be for the occupant of the seat opposite mine not to show up then I’d switch seats, or send my legs across to the opposite seat and sleep.

More people were entering and I got happier as they all moved on behind after looking at the seat number. An old lady with a puppy entered and made as if to sit in the opposite seat, but looking closely at the number, walked off to the back, to the next cabin.

Phew! That had been close. I wasn’t sure I’d have stood a puppy in that condition.

My joy was short-lived. The lady returned and sat right next to me. She was my seatmate.

The whistle blew, signalling we were setting off, so I bent to unstrap my shoes and make use of the opposite seat. That done, I straightened and my heart skipped a beat, which was a rare occurrence, considering that all the boys I’d met were lacking in a way. Well, under the circumstances, that was an understatement, for I was staring at wavy black hair, high cheekbones, straight nose and leanly muscular body. He looked my age, maybe a year or two older.

“Hei” he greeted as he finished stashing his hand luggage into the cabin above.

“Uhmmm… hei,” I stammered back.

“Hei,” my neighbour also responded.

He checked around perhaps to see if blanket, pillow, eye cover and ear protectors had been provided. When he seemed content, he lowered himself slowly into the envied seat opposite me. My eyes must have been boring holes into him because he looked across and caught me still staring at him. I gave a shy smile that he returned and I quickly looked away to avoid staring at the two perfect rows of glistening teeth, a lush well-formed mouth and a dimple that appeared in his left cheek.

It could be anyone heading anywhere but I willed him with my whole self to be with the group going to the mountains. Perhaps then I would bring myself to be content with the decision I’d made to join the team on a weekend getaway to the mountains.

I’d been living in Trondheim for nearly two months and had been invited by my new friend Hanna, an exchange student from Germany who’d hit it off with me as we both were new in the area.  Hanna had been there then for a year and in trying to help me get to know more people, she’d asked me to the weekend skiing trip in the mountains organized by her institute fellowship, Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) of Trondheim University. That was why I was on this night train. Hanna was now seated further back with Kristin, her other friend.

The gentleman across soon slept soundly but I was so taken by all that was around me. People one by one reached for the lights above their seats and switched them off so they could get some sleep. The night train was now dark, save for the dimly lit green exit signs, and the corridor lights to enable the train hostesses to move back and forth.

Outside was brighter as I saw through the window the moonlight dancing on a vast expanse of snow-covered plains and reflecting the light, beautifully leaving a sight of white everywhere. Fir trees covered with snow sped off at periodic intervals in the opposite direction. I was transfixed by all the beauty and swore I could watch that scenery all night.

A tap on my shoulder brought me back into the train and I turned to find a train hostess standing near my seat.

“Payment slips, please.” She spoke English, probably because of my skin colour.

I found it and showed it to her. She spoke Norwegian to my elderly neighbour who showed hers as well, and then she turned to the cutie (as I had decided to name him) sleeping across from me. He just reached into his pocket and handed over the slip with his eyes still closed, which made me wonder if all the while he’d been sleeping or not.

I turned back to the window to watch the trees speed by in the moonlight and listen to the monotonous clam-clam of the train as it rattled along the rails. The lady near me also seemed to have lost sleep as she switched on her headlight and started reading a magazine stashed beside her seat for train passengers. Soon my legs felt numb and needed stretching and in trying to fit them in the cramped space, I knocked cutie across. He stirred, opened his eyes and looked directly at me. I started to apologise but then, the puppy shot out of the old lady’s lap and scattered. She dropped the magazine she’d been perusing through and looked at both of us as if to see if we’d help and then off she scampered after muttering an “Oi, oi, oi!”

We stared at each other and burst out laughing. I cannot tell why we laughed. It was either because we weren’t willing to run after the puppy or because of the old lady’s reaction. Either way, laughing took away the tension, and created room for us to start talking.

“Snakker du norsk?” he asked whether I spoke Norwegian.

“Bare litt, jeg snakker engelsk,” I replied that I spoke only little Norwegian, but English very well.

“You’ve not slept any single bit. Aren’t you tired?” he asked. I noted that his English was very good—his ‘r’s blended very well—and I made a mental note to compliment him on that later, hopefully.

“Not exactly,” I replied. “I’m admiring the moon’s reflection on the snow. It’s simply breath-taking. This is my first time on a night train so I wouldn’t want to miss a thing.”

“Oh, really. That’s something I’ve seen all of my life.”

“How unfair!” I feigned discontentment. “Good for you, though.”

“By the way, I’ve always wondered, since you do not have snow in Africa, what do you call it in your local language?” Obviously to him, everyone with black skin was from a country called Africa.

“Uhm… good question. I’ve never really thought about it, but in my language, we call it an equivalent of hailstones so we call it ‘orubare’ which is misleading as the two are very different.”

My elderly neighbour returned and sat holding onto the puppy tightly and we both gave her friendly smiles. Cutie said something to her in rapid Norwegian to which she responded with very many Norwegian words and returned to her magazine.

Cutie then turned to me and we continued our conversation, talked a lot about names for things and the ones we didn’t have in Uganda – Africa for him, as he kept generalising.

The speaker system blared some kind of public announcement. I understood none of what was said, so I asked Cutie what they announced and he explained that the train café would soon close, so whoever wanted anything should buy within the hour.

“I’ll go get a cup of coffee,” he said, standing up and looking at me. “If you are planning to stare at the snow longer, I would suggest you get one too.”

That sounded like an invitation and besides, he was giving me that heart-stopping smile.

“Actually, I’m not a coffee person but maybe a cup of hot chocolate will do,” I said, returning his smile. He stretched his hand toward me and I raised mine to meet his mid-air and off we went through the long corridor, knocking hands and feet of sleeping bodies that had crossed to the aisle.

At the lounge, the line had grown long so we stood at the back and waited.

“I am Alyvea Murungi,” I volunteered.

“Oh… I am Lars-Olav,” he said. “Lars-Olav Nikholsen. Nice to meet you Alyvea.”

“Nice meeting you too… Lash Ulav”, I tried to repeat his name and he laughed, probably from the way I pronounced it.

“It’s spelt L.a.r.s – O.l.a.v,” he said, smiling “but pronounced the way you just did, well, minus the accent.” He added humorously.

“Interesting, I’ve heard that name before but didn’t know how it’s spelt. Uh… I’m not used to two first names. May I call you by just one?”

“Sure,” he replied.

“Lars!” I said. “I have a friend at church with the same name so I guess I’ll go with that one, thank you.”

He smiled mischievously and squinting his eyes, said “Another Lars?”

“Yes,” I smiled “An old dear friend at the church I’m attending. He translates for me the sermons from Norwegian to English.” Lars kept looking at me so I kept talking. “We first met in an Alpha class and since he is a great translator, I ensure to sit with him till I am good with the language.”

“You go to church?” He asked.

“Yes…. You sound like I shouldn’t. Why?”

“Where?” he seemed not to have heard my question.

“I go to Fri Kirken but also been to Betel”.

“That’s the international church – Betel,” he said.

“Yes, their service is more African so it feels familiar. You?”

 “I attend Salem, it’s in the city centre.”

“I know, the youth church, been there visiting once.”

“And?” he said with a twinkle in his eyes, leaning in, bringing his ear closer.

“Get over yourself,” I chided, moving my head away, “you heard me, I said visiting, and besides, I love Fri Kirken.”

We both laughed. His laughter was like music.

“I hold my case,” he said, raising his arms in the air above his head. That’s when I realised how tall he was, as he was then towering over me. I felt dwarfed yet I am actually a tall girl.

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Written by Pamela Turyatunga (0)

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