Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Day 1 - Sweden Trip
Ok, well, don't have much time to post, so I copied my email that I sent to Kathy and Mom.
The trip didn't start off well, Kathy dropped me off at the airport 3 hours before my flight, but I spent 2.5 hours standing in line for my tickets. Finally rushing to the gate, turns out my flight was delayed by an hour. Once on the plane, we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off, bad weather on the approach to Chicago (thunderstorms and tornados in St. Louis) made us wait another 15 minutes. I landed in Chicago, called my travelling companion to find out that the gate was closing in 4 minutes and we hadn't pulled up to the gate yet. I pushed my way through the plane, got to the head of the line, ran across the airport from gate B1 to C37 and made it on the plane. Old fat guys aren't supposed to run that far, I worked up a good sweat and was coughing...made me really popular! The lady sitting next to me quickly equalized things by telling about how she got bedbugs at the hotel in Florida this week. Then about 2 hours into the flight, some guy had a medical issue and they sat him and the airboard nurse in front of us. Couldn't sleep due to the noise. As we arrived in London, they asked us all to stay in our places, british bobbies (not boobies) came aboard and hauled to ladies from coach class out. Don't know what they did! Didn't sleep well at all on the flight, excitement and inability to relax on a plane.
London-Heathrow airport was mainly a big duty-free shop with a couple of small rooms for loading planes. You're supposed to sit in a waiting area in the middle of the duty-free shops while until they announce your gate, 15 minutes prior to boarding. From there, you go to a smaller room, give your tickets and then wait to get on the plane. I bought some $4 bottled water, definitely better than any water in the U.S.! Flying from London to Stockholm, I started to get sleepy and drifted off for a couple of minutes. Then the large family of Swedes coming back from Calagary sang Christmas carols while the 10-yr old son kicked the back of my chair. They yelled at each other, fought, and generally were loud. The american couple next to me had twin babies who cried the whole time. No sleep there. Arriving in Stockholm, I found that my luggage did not manage to make the trip with me. Customs would have been easy even if I had baggage. No forms to fill out, no baggage inspection, easiest immigration I've ever seen. In Stockholm, we had to walk across from one terminal to terminal 4, I managed to misread the map and go the wrong way (my fellow traveler was not impressed), and eventually found the right spot. I also found my hotel that I'll be using on Friday night (Radisson Sky City) so that'll make it easier on me. Bought a $4 bottle of Pepsi in the gift shop, definitely better than any Pepsi in the U.S.! We then flew from Stockholm to Lulea, about 1 hour, short flight. As we arrived, I saw weird lights above the clouds that in the haze kind of looked like the northern lights. Then as we flew lower, I realized it was just the lights from a factory, dumb southerner! We took a taxi to the hotel in Lulea, not bad, very fancy on the outside but rather spartan on the inside. Had a mini-bar for some food. I washed my underwear in the sink and put it on the towel warmer to dry. Kathy had me load a flannel shirt into my backpack and that's what I wore today. Don't know what I'll wear tomorrow!
Couldn't see much in the evening of the town but noticed the ... don't know what to call them... Swedish Menorahs in the windows. They're EVERYWHERE!!!! Got up, had breakfast at the hotel and then met up with the local project manager. We drove around town and saw some of the sites...technical university, shopping (there are 3 McDonalds there ... oh, the airport in Stockholm had a 7-11 and a Sbarros, everything a Nevada-white trash guy needs!), and potential company office buildings. Daylight came around 9:30 and it got dark around 2:30pm. By 3pm, it was very dark outside. We drove from Lulea to Pajala, lots of trees, snow and small villages. Noticed that 75% of the homes were dark red (to be exact, barn red) with white trim, found out about the King of Sweden had a hematite mine which provided cheap materials to a paint company for red paint,... Second favorite color appeared to be yellow with white trim. We saw reindeer cross the road about 1/2 way through the trip, not particularly fast moving or interested in the car. It's no wonder there was a dead one on the road another 15km down the road.
The company lent me boots and my fellow traveler lent me a jacket, so I wasn't too cold. We went out to the project sites, one on the side of a hill just outside of the town, the other site is under a swamp that they can only drill during the winter when it's frozen over. Drove back to town, stopped at the mining contractor's office to discuss moose hunting tips, a couple of minutes at the office where the project manager named off 15 different prospective sites, each one had a different name but always had "ini" or "vara" in some combination of the name (Saharaavara?).
Now back in the hotel, I'm checking my email. The room is barely a step up from Bruno's place in Gerlach...a bed, a tv, and a mirror. Supposedly this is the only hotel in Pajala and one of the two restaurants. It's warm and a place to sleep, can't hardly complain at this point. Checked on my luggage, no updates available yet.
In Pajala, the population has gone from 12,000 to 6000 inhabitants in the last 20 years, so there are a lot of abandoned homes. That may be good for housing costs but it appears that many are now inhabitable due to poor conditions (roofs caving in, etc). Lulea seems a bit nicer.
Lulea is pronounced Luleo or Lulea, depending on who is saying, though I've heard Luleo more often
Urinals in Stockholm were tiny, like the size of small bowl....waited until someone else used one before I tried, didn't want to pee in the sink on accident!
Average/Median age in Pajala is 65
There appear to be more trees in one square km in Pajala than all of Nevada
With 8 employees, the company is 5th largest employer in the kommun
Drive from Lulea to Pajala is 223 km, just over 2 hours to drive