Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just because the sun sets at 3:43 does not mean it's time for bed...

I have really started to feel my northern latitude this past week - daylight savings time ended one week ago here in Stockholm. The days are growing shorter and shorter by about 5-10 minutes per day. Right now, sun rises around 7:20 and sets by 3:45. It is completely dark by 4. Since my hospital hours are between 730-4 typically, this means that I miss all of the daylight hours. Thankfully, the hospital was built with large windows and has a great view of the city on one side and the sea on the other side. Even the ORs are well-equipped with gorgeous views. I think this is a must for people to keep their sanity during the dark winter months. In addition to having many windows, the city is very well lit as it gets dark outside. I went for an evening walk tonight and as I was taking pictures, I actually had a better picture with the flash off because of all of the lights in the city. One result of the increased hours of darkness is that I always feel like it is really late and should be going to bed soon...even at 4:30 in the afternoon. It also makes it more challenging to get the motivation to leave because it feels like it's a lot later than it is. I just need to get over it and go outside in the dark anyway. Thankfully Stockholm is a very safe city and I don't feel uncomfortable walking around by myself even in the dark.
gym in Huddinge

Today was a rather slow day - I got up and went to the gym in Huddinge (pronounced "Who-ding-ah") to work out then came home and showered, ate lunch, read for a bit then went for an evening walk. I had noticed last week when I was out shopping that they were putting up Christmas decorations in the city and was hoping that they would be lit up at night. Although there looked to be some beautiful decorations up, none of them were lit up. I am assuming they probably don't start lighting them until the Christmas season which here I believe begins with Santa Lucia Day on December 13. I will keep a look out for the lights and will definitely take pictures when they are lit as I am sure it will be quite lovely. 

This past week I had a new experience with what it feels like to be alone in a foreign country where you don't speak the language. I was waiting for the Pendeltåg (commuter train) after working out at the gym in Huddinge and the train was late. I figured that out because there is a digital sign that lists when the next train is coming, where it is headed, and also includes an extra time with some Swedish words that I assume translate into something like estimated time of arrival if a train is going to be late. The train was quite late - about 12 minutes - which I took to not be a very good sign for the health of that particular train. I was correct in this assumption. The train pulled up to the station and actually sounded kind of sickly. It moved slower than the trains usually do and sort of jerked to a stop. I looked around me and everyone else that was waiting borded the train, so I did as well. We started on our way moving at a snail's pace (literally I think I may be able to walk faster than this train was moving) which further supported my suspicions that this train was having some trouble. Two stations later we came to a stop and sat at the station for several minutes. A voice came over the intercom and said something in Swedish that I didn't understand at all. A few people got off the train, but most stayed on. Unsure of what to do, I decided to stay on the train. After about 15 more minutes of sitting at the station, another announcement was made just as another train was pulling up to the station. Again, I had no idea what any of the Swedish words meant in terms of me as a passenger and what I should be doing to deal with this train problem. I looked around me and when I noticed that most people were getting up and walking out of the train, I followed. They bordered a train on the opposite track and I again followed since I really didn't know what else to do. Thankfully that train was re-routed to the route we had been on and I made it back to Stockholms Södra station and back to my dorm. After being here and being illiterate and unable to speak or understand the language, I have a built a strong empathy for those who immigrate to a new country and don't know the language and also for anyone who is illiterate. It is a humbling experience for sure and definitely provides a different perspective and respect for all past, present, and future immigrants.

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