GOTHENBURG. PART ONE.
Thanks to the miracle of technology (What's App) and free wifi onboard the train from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I am able to communicate with my host before arriving in my new city. Marco, my host, is also to be arriving into the train station around the same time I am, and he lets me know that he'll wait for me by my platform. His personal travels have waylaid him, thus his late arrival into Gothenburg.
Thanks again to the miracle of technology (Air Bnb), we both have some idea of what the other person looks like. I see my host, finally, standing at the end of my platform, a NY Yankees ballcap and large coat on, and approach him. He looks a bit startled as I wave at him.
"Are you Turkish?" he blurts out.
I am thrown for a moment. "No."
"Are you sure? Your name sounds Turkish."
Crickets. Then, "I'm sure."
"Oh, because I asked my friend who is Turkish how to say hello."
I am touched by this gesture, though quite confused. I explain that Erin is an Irish name. And as for my looks...well, I don't see Turkish, but who knows.
I learn from Marco that hello in Turkish is "Merhaba." I try and say it. Poorly.
My thoughts drift to the recent events at the Istanbul Airport...it is bustling in this new train station, and there is no visible security....but there is little time to dwell on this.
I have to keep up with Marco's long and assured stride. Marco regales me with his situation, namely the one that causes him to be arriving at the station at the same time as me. We are walking through the busy and very American-esque mall to get to the bus station now. We are weaving in and out of people, both of us with our large backpacks on.
"I lost my wallet in Taiwan. Somebody stole it. And I never lose anything!" He bemoans with a laugh.
I think to myself, how can he be so chipper? I would be freaking out if I lost my wallet.
"At least you have your passport," I say. I am trying to be helpful.
"Yeah," Marco's thoughts drift. "Hey, let me show you where you can buy alcohol, in case you want some. You know that grocery stores cannot sell any alcohol over 3%."
I recall this conversation with Sara back in Stockholm and am pleased to report to Marco that I did know that. I spot the System Bolaget. We continue on, sans a purchase.
The bus takes us a couple of miles outside of the city center to a more residential area where Marco's apartment is. His is one of many in a series of apartments, not unlike the place I stayed at in Farsta. The buildings are all numbered 1, 2,3, and then it's simply the name of the resident. No specific apartment numbers here. Just a name. I have so enjoyed these kinds of quirks that are just slightly different.
Except for the gas stoves and washing machines. That's another post, coming soon.
Marco is still telling me about one thing or another. I am almost mouth agape looking around at everything, taking it all in.
Marco teases me. "You look so surprised. It's just apartments! Nothing special."
"I know," I say, "but it's all new to me."
He nods, perhaps a little flummoxed by this. Marco grew up here, all 23 years of his life. Right here in this apartment, in this complex. It's not new to him.
We enter his apartment. A fellow Air Bnber, Thom, arrives half an hour later while I am sipping Taiwanese "Super Fine Tea," and eating chocolates in the small and simple kitchen. Thom is a gregarious extrovert who appears only too delighted to hear about my travels and writing expedition. He thinks it is all great, which is a boon to my tired self, and he wants to hear more. "Tell me about your writing project." We chat, over freshly prepared coffee (thanks, Marco!), for at least 90 minutes. I relax. I am settled now, for the next five nights.
Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Nothing to fret over.
In short order Marco shows me where the grocery store is, and I am quite pleased with my purchases, which will last me my full trip and only cost me $26. I find my "treats" in the purchase of feta cheese, oatly yogurt (all i know is that it's a big brand and it's non-dairy...), and hummus and rice cakes.
I know, I said treats.
I drift to sleep feeling peaceful, feeling grateful for the immediacy of Marco's welcome. I linger over one interaction:
"Don't be so polite!" he "snaps" when I thank him profusely for walking with me to the store. I come to find that for Marco, this is what a host does. A host will go out of his/her/their way to make their guest feel welcomed and cared for.
And I need not be too polite, just polite. I smile, recalling Marco's near-exasperation; I can tell he is also grateful for my acknowledgement.
Marco and I are going to get along well.
*names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals named*