11 June 2009

New Friends and Old

I took nearly 500 pictures in five weeks in Sweden. Not quite 500, but awful close.

There was a team of Swedes here in Oh-hia-ia before my team went to Sweden, and we were fortunate enough to meet them before we left, and to see them several times while we were in Sweden. The Swedish team leader teased our team that we'd never be able to take as many pictures as they did. Five team members, five weeks, and they took a combined total of over 6,000 pictures. I did some quick math, and that adds up to somewhere between 35 and 40 pictures, per person, per day for the entire trip. That's some serious shutter-bugging.

For a basis of comparison, my 460 pictures works out to 13 pictures a day.

I don't know how many we as a whole team took - because my team hasn't compared notes yet - but one of our team members took all of maybe 5 pictures over 5 weeks, so there's no way we'd even come close to a combined total of 6000.

I don't consider myself a good photographer, and my digital camera is old. I have a really good 'real' film camera, but I didn't take it to Sweden because it is too heavy, too big, too much to carry around, and getting the pictures developed (it uses Kodak Advantix film, not just regular 35mm film) is bloody expensive. Even though I knew it would take better shots, I left it at home.

I was able to share my pictures online with the other team members as we travelled, updating nearly weekly with pictures I'd taken and using FTP to share them. There are several pictures I took that I love. But another team member has studied photography, and she brought a digital SLR camera. I've been nagging her to share her pictures, and she finally did get them shared with everyone yesterday.

As I looked through the pictures, there's a great one of my team leader with a Swedish friend of hers, someone she's known since 1987, and looking at it, I had an "awwww" moment. He's one of the new friends that I made and wish lived closer so I could see him often, although he's an old friend for my team leader.

Among the pictures I shared with my team were several of my Swedish Mama and Papa, people the team didn't get to meet. (That whole they-live-350-miles-away-from-Skåne thing was really a barrier!) I was bummed when I went to visit Mama & Papa that I didn't get to see any of my "old" Swedish friends; it was a holiday weekend when I was there, and almost everyone had skedaddled out of town for the holiday. My best Swedish friend: in Stockhom, roughly 90 miles away. My Swedish 'sisters': one went to Skåne when I went to Västmanland, the other was moving that weekend. Many of my host parents' friends from back then: retired, and either living somewhere else in Sweden, or snowbirds, and not 'home' in Sweden from various southern European places.

I didn't really have close friends in my class at school in Sweden, although I liked many of them. Since the inception of the EU, many of my former classmates now live and work in Germany, Austria, France, and England, so not much chance of seeing many of them. I ran around with mostly older kids, who had already graduated, and these days have families with young children. Perhaps it was silly, but I didn't want to intrude on what is a big family holiday and instead asked Mama to pass on my greetings to them. I also, selfishly, treasured being able to spend time with just Mama & Papa, something I've never been able to do before when I've been back in Sverige.

Some of this ties back into the hemlängtan I was talking about the other day. I've always said that visiting Sweden is more about the people than the place, even though I like the place a whole hellava lot. I miss both, but given the choice to go to Sweden, or to see the people, one or the other, I'd take the people over the place any day.

I hope that some of my new friends come to visit here in Ohio. I made the offer to everyone I met (well, everyone I met that I liked, of course!) The focus of both Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) and Group Study Exchange (GSE), is to further understanding, build networks, and to focus on how we're more alike than we are different. People who have been with either RYE or GSE learn new perspectives, and hopefully, work to make the world a more peaceful place. Yeah, yeah, lofty and naive ideals, I know. But I'm hopeful that that the new friends I made will remain part of my life. Even if all I can do for a while is look at the pictures.

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