Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Saturday, March 4: Welcome to nowhere

Sweden welcomed me prematurely when I sat next to Lena and Tina on the flight from London to Stockholm. They were heading to Bålsta, the town I was supposed to catch a bus to, and Tina assured me that her ex would be happy to drive me to the train station there. During the 80km trip Tina put a compilation CD on and picked out the Swedish tracks for me. They all reminded me of Eurovision. Apparently the last song featured her ex, the driver. I noticed Crazy Frog on the tracklist, too... imagine trying to explain to your grandkids why that was a claim to fame for about 2 seconds in 2005.

As we reached the outskirts of Stockholm, Tina announced "Now we're entering nowhere". For the last few months, whenever anyone had asked me where in Sweden I was going to, I responded vaguely with "A wildlife research station, I think it's in the middle of nowhere, I can't remember/pronounce the name of the nearest town..." I thought I was just a townie with a crap sense of geography. Maybe Tina was another townie.

At Bålsta train station I became Hopeless Foreigner Who Can't Speak the Language. All signs and conversation were in Swedish. I bought a ticket by helplessly pointing at the name of my destination, Örebro, on a piece of paper. I couldn't operate the public phone to call my hosts at the other end. A nervous hour and a half later in Örebro, it must have taken a dozen more attempts to successfully make a call. But by 4pm I was safely in Lindesberg, the home town of my supervisor for the time being, Henrik.

Hosting duties for my trip have fallen to Henrik's PhD student, Johan. I reckon he probably owes me more than Henrik, anyway: my airflights, accommodation and wage are being paid so that I can write a bit of code for a paper that Johan will get first-author credit on. Not that he owes me much, for the reasons I've just mentioned: my airflights, accommodation and wage are being paid just so that I can write a bit of code!

Johan's first task as host was to keep me awake until at least 8pm, to minimise the effect of jetlag. This was accomplished by having his partner, Johanna, prepare a fantastic meal for me, Henrik, and Henrik's family. Dinner included a stew with mushrooms hand-picked from the forest (Best. Mushrooms. Ever.) , and moose meat, most likely shot by Johan himself. Dessert was a cake with fresh blueberries and home-made custard. Furthermore, I stayed awake beyond 9:30. Sweden is looking pretty sweet.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you eat the moose?

11:50 pm  
Blogger Cindy said...

No, I didn't eat the moose. At this stage I've decided to maintain my vegetarian ways. Earlier in the day I was also offered caviar in a tube (labelled 'Kaviar', with a smiling boy's face on it). Commonly found at the supermarket here. Looks like pale orange toothpaste, smells like fish. Ughh.

9:51 am  

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