Archive for the ‘Getting Around’ Category

 Today I had the accidental experience of attending Göteborgsvarvet, which is apparently “the world’s largest half marathon.” As a (former) half-marathoner, I am surprised I didn’t know this was the home of the world’s largest half! I should have had an inkling something was up when I saw a Swedish acquaintance’s Facebook post saying she was off to “toe the line.” It also suddenly makes the choice of our last book club selection make sense.

It was called “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.” I thought someone in the group must be a runner, or maybe all of them since I hadn’t actually met them in person yet. Otherwise, it seemed an odd choice for anyone who isn’t really into running. Even as a runner, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it but it was meant to be my first meeting with the group so I downloaded the Nook version. Turns out, I didn’t make it to book club, and I still haven’t finished the book. A bit anticlimactic after hearing of the main character’s actual death in the hills of New Mexico on a training run as I was just 10 days into reading it. Always a buzz kill when you know the end of the story.

My second clue came when the tram driver made an announcement. The stops are announced by automated voice so when the driver speaks, you know something’s up whether you can understand them or not. Turns out he was announcing that the tram would turn around at Centralstationen instead of continuing as normal. No biggie though, it was only one stop before my intended one so just a bit of a walk. After walking a couple minutes I saw the blocked roads, crowd and… runners! My heart did a skip. As much as I hated running, I also loved it. And I miss it.

But I digress…

So, the above was actually the second happy accident of the day. The first was at the local  Saturday outdoor market. It’s the typical sort of place where you find clothes, electronics, produce, etc. I was struggling a bit at the butcher though because the young assistant didn’t speak English at all, I didn’t speak his native language (Farsi, I presume), and obviously I’m still working on my Swedish. I’m not even sure how much of that he knew.

Anyway, after a few minutes, a lovely woman with Caribbean-accented English began to help me understand the cuts of meat they had, helped me pick one out for my stew, and even made sure I had a proper recipe in mind. She asked where I was from, then told me she was from Jamaica. She was sweet, and fairly representative of people you meet. Particularly those who are from somewhere else themselves. I guess they remember when they were new too. I didn’t want to let her go. I wanted to ask where she lived and what was her phone number, but at the risk of sounding like a crazy American, I let her slip away quietly into the crowd.

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Having just read an article by Sheryl Eisenberg in This Green Life, a publication of the NRDC, I felt compelled to reply to her story. Sheryl’s introduction states that “Legs, not cars, are the human form of transportation, but we’ve lost the habit and art of walking, and with them, a piece of ourselves.” I found it so timely for me, because not only have I enjoyed rediscovering the art of walking these past few weeks, but I have also been walking with purpose and connectedness. In the event you won’t read her article, here’s the response it evoked from me.

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What a perfectly-timed piece! I just moved to Sweden three weeks ago, and one of the things I was looking forward to most was NOT having–or needing–a car. For nearly a year I’d been looking forward to getting away from the metropolis traffic I had to endure twice a day, every day to simply get to and fro work. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Even though I am fairly fit, but granted hadn’t worked out in a while, I was still surprised how just after a few days or so of walking and tramming everywhere, my body began to ache. But it was the glorious ache of natural, physical activity.

Because I don’t yet know the language, every walk is a walk of “radical intention.” I am fully in-tune with my surroundings and where I intend to go. And, perhaps mostly with where I’ve been so I know how to get back!

I’m no longer glued to a smartphone with music, email, and GPS. I am spending time with my environment, and myself. And I rather like it. But I know the day will come when I find this environment commonplace and I begin to tune out again. I don’t really look forward to that day. But for now, that day is far off and I will continue to enjoy my walks, albeit only some take place in woods, but right now, this new city is my forest.