I spent a good portion of the flight from Newark to Stockholm dozing, and I spent the majority of the three hour flight from Portland to Newark doing the same – not anywhere deep enough to achieve the necessary REM for dreams or real rest, but enough to give me the energy to function once we touched down in Stockholm.
Usually it’s damn near impossible for me to sleep – even if it’s just dozing – on planes. They’re all so cramped and your neck gets all bent out of shape and there’s all these strangers surrounding you and you’re forced to share breath with them. It’s weird and non-conducive to sleeping. I usually can’t sleep in cars, either: once again cramped, uncomfortable. But I slept almost the entirety of the drive from Eugene to Portland, having woke at something like three a.m. in order to arrive on time to check in for my seven a.m. flight and having only gotten two hours of sleep before said waking. The night prior to that I’d only got four (I made decisions – I regret nothing).
So, needless to say, I was dead on my feet and able to doze most of the flight away. Huzzah!
I woke in time for a breakfast of sorts to be served and to watch on a screen mounted above the seats as the plane touched down in the Stockholm airport. I cried, and I’m not ashamed. Everything I’d been working toward over the past year had finally culminated in this moment, and I was on the ground in Sweden, more truly alone than I ever had been, and instead of being scary it was potentially the most freeing sensation I have ever experienced. Add that to some other, more spiritual factors and I was utterly over whelmed.
From the airport I caught a bus to Uppsala. I was dropped at what I now know is Centrum, or the City Center, and I dragged my two bags of luggage through the utterly strange city, pausing to ask directions in a hotel and receiving a map which would, by the end of the week, be in tatters from so much use (good thing that pretty much every welcome packet I got from every group I had to check in with included a map of the city).
I was able to find my way to Östgöta Nation, where all of the check-in was taking place, and sign my rental agreement, get my keys, a pillow and a blanket for the bed that was awaiting me, and sign up to join Östgöta nation. Side note: Everyone else I know spent at least a week gathering information about the different student nations and touring the buildings before making a decision…I stumbled into the wrong room while looking for where to sign my rental agreement. I refuse to be embarrassed.
Besides, that means I get a freaking gryphon as my sigil.
Quite frankly, I don’t remember much more of the day in any sort of real detail. I know a shuttle drove me to my new abode, a corridor about a half hour walk/fifteen minute bike ride away and only about a twenty - thirty minute bike ride away from a sight of incredible historical importance, the burial mounds and kyrkan in Gamla Uppsala. In my room I found that the person who had lived here before had left a number of things to me, the person usurping her room, including two blankets, a pillow, and a number of extra cushions to go on top of the stiff IKEA mattress (I will always be grateful, whoever you are you lovely woman you). I know I got on a bus and rode it around for a while, confused and having gotten on a bus going the wrong way, and I know that a very kindly older gentleman pointed me in the right direction for a bus heading to Centrum, and I know I got there and did some shopping of some variety.
Mostly I know that on my way back from Centrum I was falling asleep on the bus. I was full-on slouched down, head flopping back and banging against the back of the seat. I allowed myself to be embarrassed about this while I tried to keep my eyes open and failed repeatedly, banged my head one more time and just in time to wake up for my stop and make my way to my room. I forced myself to take a shower: I had been in planes for what must have been thirteen hours with a three-hour layover in Newark, landed in Stockholm at about 8 a.m. and had kept going until what was, by then, 4:30 p.m. I wanted to wash that off of me before I laid down in my new strange bed at 5 p.m. and fell asleep the instant my head hit the pillow.
After all of that – after all of the work that went into making it real, I was finally in Sweden.