It’s 4:30 in the morning in Sweden and I’m suffering from my usual jet-lag induced insomnia. We’ve been here less than 24 hours and already my head is swimming with thoughts and feelings triggered by this new foreign place.
Gilles’ chosen Ironman race this year has taken us to Kalmar – about a 5 hour drive south of Stockholm. Since arriving yesterday I’ve felt a deep sense of nostalgia …. for Holland, of all places.
As a teenager with a bad case of wanderlust, the home of my mother’s family was my first destination in what would later be a never-ending desire to experience the world.
Here I am – many decades later – and this Swedish community is flooding me with the same impressions I had on that first European vacation.
Surely it can’t be the tidy cobblestone streets or the ubiquitous bicycle – used by both the young and old as they scurry about on errands.
It can’t be the lack of Stop signs at intersections with a general understanding that Yield is implied …. or the generous use of round-abouts where heavier traffic can be expected.
All of these are common sights throughout Europe.
It can’t be the puzzled and somewhat helpless feeling I have staring at an incomprehensible menu. Nor can it simply be the flat terrain and the gentle tang of seawater in the air.
It’a all that … and the people.
It’s the soft, lilting cadence of their speech and a certain familiarity in their accent.
It’s their surprised. but curious, deer-in-the-headlights look when we stop to ask questions with our stiff lack of linguistical ability.
It’s their polite patience as our lead-tongued North American mouth proceeds to butcher attempts to pronouce their unfamiliar words.
I’m sitting in a hotel room in a foreign country as the first rays of dawn are breaking, but already I feel like I’m in a familiar place.