Christmas Eve Day I got going early and rode the three kilometers through the beautiful countryside to the supermarket. It felt like Little House on the Prairie leaving Ashton home alone in a one-room cottage, while I ventured out into the unknown wild. It was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, bright, high clouds, and everything was muddy; it was like an early April Sunday in New England. I wheeled the old bike out of the yard and through the gate with my messenger bag, navigating the oddly paved driveway that combined large flat rocks cemented two inches apart with small pea gravel strewn all over the place, and hopped on the bike. I teetered on the oversized bike, staring at the muddy dirt road and telling myself I had enough skill to stay on. I wasted no time as my pavement-pounding mentality set in- regardless of my winter boots, jeans and cross-over-commuter bike, I zoomed through the countryside of southern Sweden.
As I rode along I fought my disbelief: Where am I? What am I doing? This is incredible. I will never forget this.
The flat fields of tiled mud stretched on endlessly, intersecting with a rolling green field, a house, a clump of bare trees. I followed the bike path signs, amazed that even in this far-out place they set aside a bike lane.
The supermarket, which was directly on the bike path, was enormous for being in such a tiny hamlet. I wound my way through, using my German to connect cognates (written Swedish has many similar looking words, spoken is another thing,) and finding a surprising gold mine in the gluten-free aisle. When I couldn’t find popping corn, I walked an aisle or two to get up the courage to ask a group of employees if they spoke English. Duh. And perfectly at that. Spending 184 Swedish Krona, I felt like over-paid for everything, I stuffed my bag and did the conversion: Around 20-30 Euros or Dollars. Pfew. Never did get used to that Krona currency.
Back at the cottage, there definitely was a spirit, but it wasn’t the same as being home with family. It was only when I thought about what was going on back at home that I got homesick, so we busied ourselves with Christmas movies and stringing popcorn and cranberries for our little tree, joking about Swedish Santa and if he knew where we were.