If there is one word to describe this trip so far it is frustrating.
Things that frustrate me (disclaimer: this is potentially a moany venting post):
- The slow pace of negotiating something that should be straight forward.
- The failure of leaders to overcome their differences
- The inability to see how dragging of feet means more suffering for the people
- The total waste of resources that should be used to help not hinder
- The truths, half-truths and outright lies that people tell (and trying to figure out which is which)
- ‘Somali time’ aka if we say we leave at 4am we might leave anytime between 4 and 10. But be ready, just in case
- The constant reminder of the worlds inequities
- The fact that my ‘shower’ (rusty pipe dripping cold water hanging precariously from the wall) doesn’t work
- Having to wear a headscarf all the time but not knowing how to prevent it blowing into my face and having to totally rearrange it following a gust of wind
There was this cafe, down the end of my road, it’s called The Grind. The coffee is good, but not the best I’ve had. I order a skinny chai spiced latte with whatever non dairy milk they have [middle class level 5: complete], but the food, and homemade cakes, are the main draw. With them changing on a daily basis I could never find a reason not to visit. And then they went and got an alcohol license and started selling prosecco [middle class bonus round: achieved!] and I found even less reasons not to go. Every Thursday, and most weekends I would meet my friend there, the preceding confirmatory text would be something along the lines of ‘fancy a grind?’ and then we would indulge, be it in people watching, chit chat, serious talk or giggles, lounging for hours or a rapid half hour dash. I miss these kind of life debriefs.
So I just read This brilliant article, essentially about a woman (in the picture above) being told to smile by a drunk man, something I think nearly all women can attest to happening on a fairly frequent basis. She was obviously having none of it and posted the above on twitter. *cue horrific twitter trolling* Then I saw this video of some moron repeatedly referring to the female presenter as ‘sweetheart’ because he was to ignorant to articulate his views.
It made me realise how little sexism I’ve encountered in Stockholm. In fact, I can not think of a single time I have been confronted with outright blatant or hostile forms of sexism, I’m talking about the cat calling, the substitution of ‘love’ and ‘sweetheart’ for your name, the substitution of ‘slut or whore’ for when a woman does something unfavourable, the rape jokes.. you know what I mean. In Sweden, men will hold the door open as much as any women will (which isn’t actually that often), don’t expect any special treatment here. Don’t expect men to let you off the bus first. Don’t expect a man to pay for your drinks or dinner. Men don’t think it’s ok to sidle up and put their arm around you uninvited when you’re out. They don’t make reference to the way you look or expect that you know less about something just because you’re a girl. In fact, the only time I encountered this in Stockholm was when an Italian remarked that I probably didnt know much about football “because you’re a girl..” That man quickly got put in his place.
This equality extends to a lot of things, the way women dress is a lot less provocative here, you don’t see knicker skimmers and bare legs in this cold weather like you do in England. The adverts feature a variety of characterful faces and men with muffin tops. In fact, Sweden tops the Gender Equality index making it one of the best places to live as a woman (as a Brit I am quite horrified that from the same statistics we see that more women than men in the UK thought it was the womans job to stay home and play wife).
Of course, this is still a patriarchal society and there are ways to travel yet, sexism still exists in a more subversive and hidden form and talking to female friends the kind of hostile sexism that I haven’t encountered can definitely be found here. Yes, the equality has eroded away chivalry, but you know what, I am fine with that. It’s all about continual baby steps, right love?
I think its official, Swedish summer is over. The recurringly beautiful sunsets continue, accented with raindrops and gusts of wind. The days may be bright but the chill is set in the air. Autumn is here and the leaves will turn. The nigh draws its curtains earlier and the morning wakes later with every turn of the earth. Soon it will be Swedish winter, and we will see if I survive.
When I was about 14 years into my life my mother took us to Arizona. On one of the long car journeys we took through the scorched red desert to a soundtrack of indistinct country and western radio we stopped. It was monument valley. And it was so beautiful that I scanned the horizon and told my mind to mentally photograph the scene so I would never forget it. And I haven’t. A few years later I painted the scene for school art class, checking my memory against a picture provided by my mum. My only problem now is that life is so full of memories that I cant keep them all, and the ones I keep are distorted by time, because the paint never dries on the canvas of life…
Last week I was struck down with illness. A vertigo so heady I couldn’t make a step, a nausea that threw my guts to the slaughter and a pressure inside my head hammering, relentlessly, to get out.
I thought I was done for. I can only recall feeling so hopelessly wretched twice before in my life. Both times I was travelling on the remote road and the isolation of being many planes and many trains away from home played a significant part I’m sure
But I am back. I’ve been reborn. Renewed. Revamped. And all the other words prefixed with re- that could lend weight to this transformation. There’s an electric storm of serotonin coursing its way through my veins at the moment and I’m surfing its crimson wave.
The proof in the pudding is that I have woken up at 7am every day this week. And not gone to sleep before 3am. Not because Ive been out partying (not entirely anyway), but because I have felt a thirst for life. A desire to read, and learn, and listen, and cook, and dance, and sometimes in multiples.
I’m sure it cant last long, but I’ll enjoy it while it does..
(These completely unrelated pictures are ones I took in Naivasha, Kenya, and Zanzibar, Tanzania respectively. I hope they also bring you some happiness today)
My car got stolen some time ago. As terrible as this was it has allowed me to rekindle my love for trains. Sitting on a seat clad in itchy geometric shapes, watching the world blur by (I always face backwards) is the perfect setting for deep reflection, introspection and retrospection. Thinking, basically, and I do love a bit of thinking.
(Nb: obviously this photo was not taken on the 19.59 to Sheffield. It’s a picture I took sort of by accident one beautiful July morning in Medellin, Colombia)