continued from part 1
my foray into the city began with a walk through the city center. a rather uneventful couple of moments, i passed the time by taking photos of sculptures of strange beasts which appeared to be part 4-legged creature and part flying creature. i would be more specific, but to be quite honest, i couldn’t tell you for the life of me what they were supposed to be.
while making my way across a large square, i laughed to myself as i watched two other obvious foreigners playing around. a man was photographing another man who was quite tipsy and jumping to be photographed in mid-air.
one thing that there appears to be no shortage of in any city are trendy bars with uninspiring music. not wishing to be overly cynical, i moseyed past the drunken water holes and sauntered into a small park nestled between two large streets. unfortunately, there wasn’t much to be seen other than a giant fountain and a couple sitting on a bench. my adventure to gävle was starting to seem a bit bland, not exactly what i had in mind.
eventually i made my way to the river that runs by the city. to my surprise i found the quaint image of two people fishing by the side of the river. standing less than 30m apart, they couldn’t have been more oblivious to each other and seemed to be having no luck with their sport.
by this time i was starting to get hungry. because i was late getting out from the apartment before leaving, i wasn’t able to make a proper food run to the grocery store – only picking up a couple sandwiches at pressbyrån (the convenience store) before jumping on the train where i promptly scared both of them down. one of the things that you seem to only be able to find in sweden are vegetarian options at almost every single hot dog stand (korv kiosk), making finding one my next goal for the evening.
in sweden i have gotten used to being basically ignored by people, or at least payed very little attention to, as soon as i start speaking english. but as i ordered my burger i was surprised to be engaged in conversation by the same two very men who i had seen jumping and taking photos in the square earlier.
it turned out that they were brothers from india working as engineers for ericsson on a yearly training trip to gävle. it also turned out that one of the brothers was quite drunk and interested in asking me if i “must have 5 girlfriends back in america” and preaching about the negative energy one acquires if not having sex. ah yes, and let me not forget his less than subtle comment about swedish girls and certain qualities of their physique located on the upper part of their torso. to say the least, it was quite awkward if not entirely amusing to watch the other brother attempt to quite his slurring sibling down. his failures ultimately led to a quick and expedient exit and i was again on my way.
my original sleeping plan was to stay in the train station overnight, however, this was quickly thwarted as the gentleman from securitas (the security company) closed the main station almost immediately after my arrival. fortunately, there was a ‘night waiting’ area just adjacent and i figured i would make myself at home there. what i didn’t know was that by ‘night’ the swedes mean until midnight, at which point i was once again removed from the station and told that it would be closed until the morning.
enter plan b. or actually, plan c. i wanted to find a place that was isolated and out of the way, but also decently safe – i did have quite a fat wad of cash hiding in my pocket. to me, the ultimate sleeping spot would be at the end of the center train platform with a pole that i could lock my bags to and put my sleeping bag down in front of. despite the slight chill, mosquitos, passing trains, and fluorescent lights above i somehow managed to pass in and out of consciousness until just after 2am when i was woken by the unmistakable sounds of a couple having sex in the building across the street from the station. i tried to sleep through it, but to no avail. about 45 minutes later, just before 3am, i finally got some peace and quiet as the sun began to rise.
as i started to doze off, i heard a car door close and briefly saw a couple figures out of the corner of my eye. i ignored them, shut my eyes and started to relax just as i felt my feet shoot straight up in the air to the simultaneous greeting of “hej, tjena!” (or, “hey there!”). startled, i opened my eyes to see a pair of police officers standing above me. the funny thing is that i think they were as surprised to see a young asian guy emerge from the sleeping bag as i was to be disturbed from my sleep.
a short discussion ensued with them enquiring about my nationality, what i was doing in gävle, and why i was sleeping outside at the train station. to say the least, they were incredibly kind and understanding and the resulting ride in the back of a swedish police car was not due to me being in any trouble, in fact, they brought me to the station so i could have a warm, safe, mosquito free place to crash. it was actually probably the best thing that could have happened to me, as i was able to catch 4 or so hours of sleep on the chairs in the waiting room before walking out into the morning sun on my way back to the station just 5 minutes down the road.
an hour later i was back on the train home, contemplating the completely bizarre set of events that i had just experienced. from having delivered my guitar across sweden, to meeting two random indian guys with opposite personalities, being kicked out of the train station twice, sleeping outside like a bum and subsequently awakened by the police who turned out to be my saviors, it seemed my hunch that embarking on this wacky trip would result in some type of adventure was certainly a massive understatement.
in the end i realized, the more you roll the dice, the higher the chances you’ll end up with something spectacular. it also increases the likely hood that you’ll fail completely, which was certainly an alternative that was on the table more than once in my 24 hour whirl-wind tour across sweden. but when you hang yourself out there and find it in you to wait until the very last second before you panic, freak out, or generally start to curse yourself for not being smarter, things can and usually do happen. call me stupid, but i’d do it again.
one of the joys in life which i throughly embrace is the opportunity to go on an adventure.
stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown brings a kind of thrill to me that few other things can – when nothing is planned and everything is up to the random lottery that life deals, i find excitement in the the ability to rely solely on instinctual reaction to my environment.
as part of my plan for moving to korea, i have been selling a number of my possessions to provide me with a small startup fund for when i land in seoul. perhaps my most cherished item is a rickenbacker 360 guitar that i bought during in my senior year of high school when i still rocked ‘n rolled. you might be surprised to learn that in my previous life before i was a designer, i was a guitar thrasher and lived for the experience of playing live in front of a crowd.
having spent the last half-decade virtually un-touched as i went to college, i saw it fit to say goodbye to my guitar as the primary source of cash for my big move. the only problem was that now is not a particularly good time to be selling valuable items, the market is much more favorable to buyers than sellers.
when i asked a music store in göteborg what they’d give me for it, the answer was quite underwhelming at almost 20% less than i was willing to let it go for. starting to panic, and wonder how i was going to make my way to korea, i was excited when someone contacted me via a web ad i placed expressing interest. the down side? he was located on the other coast of sweden with plans to come to göteborg a couple weeks after i would leave.
things weren’t exactly looking great. but then i had an idea, what if i took the guitar and delivered it in person – white glove service? would he pay for part of my trip? if so, it would be worth it to get the extra bones in my pocket. somewhat surprisingly, he agreed and by the end of the day i had booked a last minute ticket to gävle for the next afternoon.
the catch was that i hadn’t yet bought a return ticket. you can purchase discounted “last minute” tickets from the swedish train company up to 24 hours in advance of its departure, but i would have to wait and hope that i could get a cheap ticket back in a reasonable amount of time. after all, preparing to move around the world doesn’t leave much extra time for dilly-dallying around.
throwing caution to the wind, the next day i hopped on a train at 1500 to ride 6 hours across sweden despite not having any place to stay. just in case, i brought my sleeping bag.
arriving as the sky began to slowly dim, i met erik at the station, made short conversation and exchanged guitar for cash – all in about 15 minutes. by that time, the last trains and buses back to stockholm and göteborg had already left for the day leaving my partially stranded, but far from desperate. fortunately, although the main station was closing as he bought the guitar, the “night waiting” area in the station seemed like it would provide ample comfort for me to get some rest it.
however, i hadn’t come all this way to just plop down for the night. i wanted to see a piece of another swedish city, a final glance into yet another corner of the country i had been living in for nearly a year. it was my last hurrah and as i set out from the relative comfort of the station to explore more of the unknown, i had no idea what odd events were soon to take place.
continued in part 2
yesterday, after just 15 months in san francisco — a period of time in which my life once again completely changed, was settled into, and then shifted again — i flew back to my parent’s house in maryland on my way to graduate school at the university of gothenburg, school of design and crafts in sweden (via nyc).
because i have been slow on updating my blog recently, i am going to write one post a day on previous events leading up to the present in an effort to document my thoughts and activities in my last few months on the west coast.
for now i can say that i already wish i was back in san francisco, not only to see my girlfriend, but also to get away from this horrid humidity. i don’t know how i lived here for 13 years!