Little did I know, or did my travel companions know, that Day 1 and Day 2 of our trip would blend together into the longest day. I met my travel companions at the south end of memorial union Saturday morning around 9 am. I purchased some donuts from A Baker’s Wife’s the day before, Friday the 8th, to share with the group. I figured tasty donuts along with coffee would be a great way to start off the trip. I was always told by my grandmother that coffee and pastries were a very Swedish thing. Plus, how could I go wrong offering tastyness to everyone else.
We said our final goodbyes and departed campus around 9:30 am. It was a great ride down to the airport. I got to know Iman, Ryan, Brian, and Sam, who are four of my fellow study abroad mates during our ride to the airport. I met Ryan and Iman before the trip and knew them a tiny bit. But the van ride allowed us to dip a little further into sharing our individual stories; that is, hobbies, school, food, movies, and goals for Sweden. As you can imagine, food was the primary topic. I’m sure the donuts helped that quite a bit. There were plenty of complements in favor of the chocolate and cinnamon donuts.
Our plane was scheduled to leave Des Moines, Iowa around 11 am; at least, I think that was the time. Honestly, I was just following along on this trip. I’ve led plenty operations. It was nice just sitting back and being one of the troops. But I digress. The plane was delayed so that gave us some additional time to hang out and socialize, and socialize we did. Sam introduced us to Euchre (there’s us playing Euchre below). I’m still not sure how to play it but apparently I did fairly well for a first time. Nonetheless, it was fun just interacting with everyone else. The game gave us an opportunity explore each others personalities a little bit. Initial reactions are always important.
We waited for about 2 hours and finally boarded around 1 in the afternoon. Our flight from Des Moines to Chicago, a roughly uninteresting 45 minute flight, provided some nap time for those who wanted it. I read 4 chapters of the book Women of Sand and Myrrh which is an interesting tale about 4 women and their perspectives of living in a modern middle-eastern country.
Since we arrived in Chicago late due to our delay in Des Moines, we were unable to experience Chicago food. Yes! Sad face. Food is always a part of the traveling experience and Chicago food would have been simply amazing. Perhaps next time, on our way back to Iowa. The most interesting part of Chicago was seeing the nordic people line up to board the train. I felt like I was at a Johnson family reunion. I looked like everyone else. At least our physical features were the same. But that is where our similarities ended. I heard Swedish; I heard Finnish; and I heard German. There were also some other languages that I couldn’t make out. I found out through casual conversation with other people waiting to board the plane that Stockholm was being used as a connecting hub for those traveling to Germany, Estonia, Finland, Russia, and other countries. It was truly fascinating seeing that much european diversity in the room.
During my flight, my fellow passengers provided background audio aesthetics in Swedish. The airline attendants also provided opportunities to engage in Swedish conversation. But they soon realized that I was an American born and raised. I only had the features of a Swede (but what a Swede looks like, blond hair and blue eyes, is an American perspective, not a Swedish truth; more on this point later). The airline attendants were always very courteous and hospitable.
I was seated on the starboard side (right-side) of the aircraft. From my starboard side, I could see sun-light enter the cabin on the port side (left-side) of the aircraft. Of course, there was darkness on the starboard side, but considering the circumstances of an 8 and half hour flight, the evening was of no consequence because from my point of view, there was no evening. Day seem to last forever. It was truly odd but a fascinating experience to say the least.
For the eight and half hours, I was seated next to a gentleman from Finland, Mika. Mika and I chatted about many things and he provided me with some much needed knowledge about Sweden. He also helped me with my responses to the airline attendants and he helped me to correctly pronounce the name of my great-great grandfather Sven’s home town. As we got to know each other, I shared more and more about my reasons for traveling to Sweden. Of course a big part of this adventure is school related; that is, analyzing leadership and the differences between the opportunities of Swedish women and American women. Make no mistake, there are differences.
These differences, including my Swedish heritage and what Swedish means to me, are some of the things I hope to explore and learn about during my 4 weeks in Sweden. Honestly, I have no idea how this trip will unfold. I would like my experience to be as authentic and organic as possible from beginning to end. And of course, my fellow travel companions are a great group of people with journeys of their own, which will sometimes intertwine with mine and sometimes will not intertwine with mine. What gives me great confidence is the fact that these people have supported my journey from the beginning and that has been an important part of this process because I know that I’m not alone in my journey of discovery.