Leg 1: Newark (US) – Arlanda (Sweden) – Gothenburg (Sweden) – Fjällbacka (Sweden)
So, my big journey has finally begun.
After months of planning and anticipation, I’m on my first leg of my around-the-world trip. First stop: HOME. But where is home exactly when you’re born in one country, lost your heart to a place in another while living in a third?
Once past all the hassle of what has now become known as airport security (even though now, that all cargo getting onto a plane has to be x-rayed and not only passenger luggage, I do feel it makes more sense for me to put my flip flops through the x-ray machine every time I even think of going somewhere), I do love long plane rides, since they allow me to catch up on reading. In particular, I try to pick up a newspaper form the place I’m travelling to and catch a glimpse of what the people living in that country or city have on their minds, if the local language allows me even a remote understanding. Local tabloids tend to be particularly revealing.
In the case of Sweden what’s on people’s mind seems to be death sniffing cats, incidents of passenger rage in airplanes and, yes, the not so insignificant matter of “home is where the heart is … ” ….
Apparently, in Rhode Island there’s a cat named Oscar living in a retirement home who has a knack of knowing who is going to pass soon, and then spends its time cuddling up to that person until they go. Most revealing about the Swedish telling of this story was that they found it important to note that while it is very kind and comforting to these patients, the cat is actually not very sociable, but “Oscar has his job and takes it most seriously” ….
Riding on planes with Swedes seems to be no laughing matter, either: A three page cover story in the Swedish Aftonbladet outlines the increased incidence of passenger rage of airplane passengers on flights going to or originating at Swedish airports. Some of the highlights: Passengers who threaten to smash their food plate into the captain’s face, others getting into fist fights with the cabin personel which somtimes needed help from other passengers to subdue the trouble makers, drunk passangers forcing emergency landings and getting bills from the airline for $15,000 to cover the cost of the extra effort needed to get them off board…
But then, after changing planes at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, I can understand why some people get mad: Our plane from Newark was about 40 minutes delayed, having taken the scenic route to Newarks runway, and then past Greenland, Iceland and over some Norwegian fjords that would have probably looked marvellous from above if the clouds hadn’t covered them up. That delay cut short what seemed to be a very generous layover and turned it into a rather stressfull affair. Informed upon landing that all passengers transferring to domestic flights had to pick up their own bags in Stockholm, clear customs and then carry them themselves to the domestic terminal to check in again, it seemed clear that having a mere 50 minutes on the ground was not a particularly good idea. It took about 30 minutes to deplane and get hold of my bag, when I learned that getting to the domestic terminal would be about a 15 minute walk – if you run!
Well, I did run, wondering whether I’d make the plane, worrying about my wheelchairbound stepdad who was sitting in Gothenborg at the other end of that journey to pick me up, swearing to myself about this rather unneeded imposition of a transfer system, wondering whether I’d make the plane while trying to catch my breath and now carrying my laptop under my arm alongside my bags since I didn’t take the time to put it back into my backpack after the security check and slightly flustered having had to yell at one of the ground hostesses to get accepted to my onward flight with only 10 minutes left to go until scheduled take off until DONK …. my $1,000 camera lense landed crashing on the airport’s hardwood floor, having fallen out of my rushedly closed backpack and me diving right behind it on all fours to prevent it from being crushed by an oncoming luggage cart …. But, I did make it onto the plane, and to my very big surprise, so did my checked bag. Scandinavian Airlines, I’m impressed!
Well, despite the fact that I didn’t get a minute of sleep on my trip across the pond, I was now wide awake, and ready to go to a little place on the Swedish west coast I call paradise. But more on that later.
I leave you with my nominee for strangest paragraph ever read in a newspaper:
From the Herald Tribune: “As always, no rider seemed to have accomplished basically nothing in his career, even if it was only to have shown promise.“
Following up on my earlier post on Hepatitis vaccination, a quick update: There IS a short-term fix to get temporary protection against Hepatitis A, the kind you can get from eating contaminated food or drinking water: It’s a shot called haemoglobolin, available at for example New York’s International Health Care Center. With Hepatitis B, the kind you contract though sexual intercourse or blood transfers, you’re on your own, though. The only protection for this is a six months process, requiring three shots. Also, that procedure is the only way to get PERMANENT protection against Hep A.