It's 8:30pm here in Istanbul and I am sitting on the uncomfortable border between the balcony and my dingy hostel room, trying to position myself just far enough to enjoy the cool from the desk fan that i've pulled a long, precarious way from it's socket, as well as the warm barely-there breeze from the balcony. I'm still sweating, and I'm assuming that the stark brick wall that is my 'city view' was not made with ventilation in mind. There are fireworks bursting, cars honking loudly, and every now and then- loud pop music from someone's passing stereo. On the ride over, I tried asking a few questions about the protests, I was told that they were over, finished. I didn't figure out much more, due to a language barrier and also a general fatigue from the past few days of airplane hopping, perhaps tomorrow.
As I sit here, by myself, with all night lying empty in front of me, I can't help but run through the past three weeks. When people asked why we were going to Scandinavia, our answer was quite simple- We'd grown up hearing about the wonders of these countries, as the miraculous welfare states that gloated each year from the top of every development index or international ranking, that had joyous looking, terribly attractive and shamefully healthy people, and as the mecca for great design. If Scandinavia had it all so damn figured out, we were going to see why.
Looking back, the cities we visited, though beautiful, often left me feeling like I could be in just about any European city. The same cobble-stoned streets, cute little cafes, bloody unpredictable weather, rich history, old world architecture- I saw a little bit of Venice, a tiny sliver of Paris, maybe even a piece of Prague? So I think that what truly set our jerky journey across Scandinavia apart was the People. The families we stayed with, the conversations we had, the comparisons that we constantly drew between our own culture, our Indian government, and theirs. How they perceived us and how we perceived them. After these three weeks, I think we walked away with a very multi-faceted understanding of what it means to be Scandinavian, one that I am perhaps still processing. From the taxi driver who was going to law school and lived opposite some Colombians that he suspected of drug dealing, to the Indophile painter who was fed up with the modern and pretentious art world, to the university professor who felt that Norway's youth had no passion left and partied too much, to the city planner who was a mountain climbing rockstar in her spare time- we met quite a broad range, and in a way- we loved them all. I know that with each conversation we had, we were all making our own lists. Listing to ourselves the things that we wished India could have and the things that we'd seen that made us appreciate where we came from, the opportunities and informal support system that we were raised on. I feel like i've left with a lot more understanding, an exposure to a new culture (especially BROWN CHEESE), and the knowledge that if I ever get pregnant, I know where I need to go job-hunting. Hah.
A dopo, Norvegia e Svezia.