Pleasant Encounters in Unpleasant Circumstances

Tuesday July 17th

Part of the fun of traveling in unfamiliar places is having to go with the flow in unpleasant circumstances, then realizing you gained something positive from it.

Yesterday, we finished a long day of walking around Stockholm, our first day in the city. We wanted to head home. At the subway ticket booth, the lady kept telling me, ‘No, you can’t go to Stureby.’ I did not understand why at first, but it turned out the subway line was closed (accident or breakdown) and she was trying to tell me I had to find an alternate route. To stay brief, we figured out we had to go to another station to board busses as the alternate way home. We made it to the bus stop only to find hundreds of people already there waiting. After an exhausting day walking around, this was a depressing sight. And… only one bus showed up into which the crowd proceeded to anxiously cram. Probably ‘normal’ people packing by Tokyo standards. The bus driver was calm and kept saying something about Bangladesh. The pleasant encounter was a lady, in the moment was Gigi’s siamese twin, who started talking with Gigi and referring to our predicament as “standing sardines packed in a can”. She was our age. Turns out she lived in Palo Alto for 3 years and went to community college there. She also had lived in Thailand and Malaysia for several years and gave Gigi tips on those countries. She also helped us find our train once we got off the bus. We made it home and were actually elated by the unexpected sardine bus ride.

Today, the weather looked beautiful in the morning. I advised the boys to wear shorts, and we only packed the rain jackets as a last-minute out the door thought. We headed to Skansen, a huge outdoor museum for historic Swedish buildings with working artisans and a zoo for Nordic animals. By noon the skies started clouding up and it was cooling down. Then the lightning and thunder started. Then it hailed and poured rain. Positives? First positive: The wolverines, wild boar, bear, bison, lynx (3 kittens included), wolves were all very animated and were entertaining. You know, when it is warm the animals just sleep. Today, they were up and moving around, and yes, finally heading to their shelters. It was kind of funny watching the hail bounce off the brown bears’ heads and them looking up at the sky. Second positive: when running through the rain to get out of the park, we were in the Sami/Lapplander village area and I saw smoke coming from a Sami house. The Sami are far north nomadic reindeer herders. We ducked in and there were 12 other people sitting on reindeer pelt covered benches in a circle (house had 6 sides, some strange law existed saying Sami could not build 4 walled houses because it diluted their culture. Their traditional houses looked like teepees), and an iron stove in the middle with a fire. Cozy! Forced intimacy with fellow visitors seeking shelter from the rain. We sat next to a docent who told us much about Sami culture, including the colored strips around their ankles that tell which region they come from, and keep the snow out of their shoes. Justin found a pile of reindeer pelts behind our bench and bedded down in them. He was just too cozy and was really mad when we wanted to move on. It was still raining. To be honest, I was with him, but we moved on any way. Third positive: Running again through the rain and being diverted by a flooded path, we found a flat bread bakery, and what do traditional bakeries have? Wood burning stoves. More warmth. We saw how flat bread is made from barley dough the traditional way, and were allowed to eat as much hard bread with butter that we wanted, as we were almost the exclusive visitors to the bakery at the time.

Now, at 8 PM it is again blue skies and sunshine out. Tomorrow, we are going to an alternative artist colony area to celebrate Eva Lotta’s birthday at a Caribbean restaurant.

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