After nearly a month in Sweden I feel that it's time for me to once again talk about the differences. That is, after all, what stands out to me the most over here. And just so you know- not that I'm counting down the days or anything :) I have just a week left until I get to head home! Hooray! I miss you.
So I've now spent the night in 7 homes which means I have a pretty good understanding about the culture here. It also means I've experienced 7 different bedrooms so I can say with certainty these differences aren't just flukes. The biggest is that they don't use flat sheets! Can you believe it? I've crawled into each bed only to find the comforter, and nothing else. There are fitted sheets around the mattress and there are pillow covers, but no flat sheet. I tell you, it's the little things you miss. I badly miss the way my cool, flat sheet feels against my legs as I slide into bed. All I can think of is that period of time boys go through where they don't see the need for flat sheets. It's usually during their late teens and early 20s when, for some reason, they don't get why we use them and simply will not take the time to put them on. I miss mine and can't wait to sleep in my own bed again.
While we're talking about differences at home let me tell you about my shower experiences. The entire family showers together at one time every evening. OK, that's not true, but I got you didn't I? Seriously though, the shower heads are typically removable and in many houses there aren't shower walls. One home only had a shower head and when you turned it on the water went all over the bathroom floor. After the shower I had to squeegee the floor down. Others I've had to to sit in a bathtub and use the shower head to wash my hair. It's very awkward as you might imagine! I never take a bath at home, always a shower and always standing up. I miss my shower and won't miss having to work to clean the floor after each use.
While the sinks are pretty standard,the toilets are not. There are two major differences, which I think is pretty big considering that it's just a toilet. The first is the water level- it's very low. There is only maybe a cup or two of water in the bowl which turns the toilet into a type of amphitheater- use your imagination. Secondly the handle isn't a handle at all. Depending on the type of toilet you either a) pull this gripper on top of the tank and yank up which releases the minuscule amount of water from the bowl or b) push a button on top of the tank that does the same thing. It's so strange to me that something so basic could be so different just across the ocean.
Let's head out of the house now and talk about the weather. If you've been reading my blogs you know that I am freezing over here. Don't feel too bad for me, I freeze most of the time in Alabama too. It's still about 55 degrees here and just today I was in my winter coat and scarf. I was able to go sans-gloves though, which for me is a big step. While it's chilly, the sun seems to always be out. We were leaving dinner tonight at 9 o'clock and it was still bright outside. Now you may be thinking about how wonderful it must be to have so much daylight and yes it is great, but imagine waking up to the beautiful sunlight at....4 in the morning! Yes, it's ready to welcome you into it's warmth at that time and if you don't have shades or an eye cover you may as well kiss catching a few more ZZZZs goodbye. So in just about a month there will be 24 hours of daylight. The flip side is, at times during the winter, there are 24 hours of dark. How terrible is that? I would need some serious light therapy just to survive. The mental health of residents is actually a major concern during the winter. Many residents have to take antidepressants and I've been told by many people here that the suicide rates increase drastically. Not hard for me to believe.
I'll wrap up by telling you a little about my day. We toured a police station for more than 2 hours today. It was interesting to hear about their low crime rate and how differently they perceive weapons. They don't understand why so many Americans carry guns or have them in their home. They weren't judging us, just truly trying to understand. They have many of the same problems we do: drugs, rape, theft, domestic violence. We then headed to a Rotary Club to share our presentation about Alabama. We walked down the street to meet the mayor and then took off to tour a castle. It was neat. My favorite part was seeing where the prisoners were detained. It was dark and musty smelling. Long-term prisoners were shackled to the wall where they couldn't move. There was no heat source to keep them warm and many literally froze to death in the winter. One of the biggest crimes you could commit during the 15th-17th century was to be Catholic. That alone would get you thrown into the prison where you were almost certain to die. I am thankful times for many countries have changed. It makes me proud to live in a country where we are tolerant of all religions.
OK, one more thing. I was hanging out at my host's home yesterday listening to the radio and do you know what came on? Born In the USA. Yup, they listen to that in Sweden. It made me homesick, brought a great feeling of patriotism to my heart and reinforced the fact that I live in the right country for me. I am thankful for this trip and all that it has given me, but especially for the feelings of gratitude I will return with for all the little things that make my life so happy. That includes you.