Sweden <--> Ohio: Student

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Today was a better day.

It wasn't perfect, and it wasn't painless, but it was far, far better than yesterday.

For example, once my phone charged and I was actually able to make phone calls, I called about my bike - and the tires didn't need to be replaced!

After a quick bus trip downtown ('centrum'), I picked up my bike from the shop. In anticipation of some pain, I got on - the anticipation was warranted... the pain was severe.

Persevering, I started home. I came to a fork in the bike path. Not sure of the right choice, I went right (knowing that eventually I would make it around the lake and back to the University but hoping I'd picked the shorter path). I should have gone left.

The two good points of this choice are the pictures you see here and an ongoing sense of thankfulness that when I walked home the other night I inadvertently took the left path (otherwise I'd never have attempted to bike it - the right path is far longer than the left!).

In addition, I gained a greater appreciation for the value Swedes place on nature. It was a cold day - clear but dark and bitterly cold with some wind but no snow.

People were out in force around the lake. It's a primarily scenic route - and rarely was I alone on the path (it's a 5-8km loop). People of all ages; some biking, some walking, and a group of three with ski poles walking in deeper snow along the side of path. In addition, I saw two old people - people so old they helped each other walk, slowly, pausing every couple of steps in the middle of the path.

I was in awe. They were _opting_ to subject themselves to the cold, the wind, and the elements on one of the more unpleasant days I've seen yet in my time here! And they're "old and fragile", at least in theory, and certainly in appearance. A fall (they were walking on packed snow and ice!) would result in a trip to the hospital and months of rehabilitation and possibly surgery...?!! What would posses them to voluntarily walk around a lake if they had anything else even remotely attractive with which to occupy their time?!!

I didn't talk to them, so I can't answer that question, but I can guess, based on what I've learned in my classes so far. Swedes like nature. Really. A lot. Almost all of them, almost all of the time, even when the rest of the world (or at least me) thinks they're utterly crazy. I learned that New Years eve is spent outside, knee-deep in snow, in expensive formal wear, watching fireworks. I am aghast.

I may perhaps see the beginning of an understanding of their public health system. Nature is revered, protected, and cherished. In addition to protecting people's health, animal and plant life and health is also protected. Perhaps for a country dedicated to spending three weeks before Christmas and two or three (or five!) weeks around Midsummer in rural country cottages, nature has a more immediate meaning than the theoretical understanding we as Americans have of it, viewed from our car windows, between strip malls, parking lots, and subdivisions?

Perhaps also this love of nature involves spending time with it... walking around lakes, walking into town, even if a car is an option, building extensive walking and bike trails in addition to roadways. Perhaps this, in addition, involves involvement in athletic pursuits, also contributing to greater overall health.

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