Stockholm – Day 1 – A Dirty Sensor and a Depressed Woman

[…Dirty Sensor…]

The weather is terrible here in Stockholm – overcast skies and very, very windy. I don’t mind the overcast skies as much as the wind. Wind means no mirror-like reflections and the probability of getting blurry images especially with the unstable travel tripod I have with me. It is a little bit cold too at 7°C with the wind factor.

I did something really stupid this afternoon when I arrived at the hotel. I’ve had some spots on my sensor for some time now. Even after I’ve just gotten it serviced in Cologne a few weeks ago, the spots remained. I am a clean freak, to put it lightly, and a dirty sensor really bothers me. So I ordered one of those Visible Dust sensor swabs for wet cleaning and have just received it yesterday. I did not have time to try it out so I took the kit with me.

I was eager to give it a try after having read great reviews about it – about how easy and foolproof it is. So I took my camera and the kit to the bathroom, where there would be less dust, feeling undaunted by the task. Long story short, I messed it up and left streaks over the sensor. Stricken with panic, I went downstairs to the lobby and got on the Internet in search for the nearest Nikon Service shop if there was any.

I could not find any so I sought help from the front desk and this very nice receptionist went out of her way to help me. She found one online – Kamera Doktor – but could not access it by phone. So after showing me on the map where it was, I zipped right out of the hotel. She told me it’s about 20-minute walk, but in my frenzy to find it, I think I was there in a mere 10 minutes. That big yellow Nikon sign never looked so good in my life!

So I am back here at the hotel with a camera so clean I couldn’t be any happier.

[…Sweet Old Woman…]

One aspect of travel that I enjoy most is meeting casual people. Accidental tourists, if you may.

I had the pleasure of meeting a sweet woman today on my journey here. There I was on the bus at Skavsta airport on the way to the city, when this woman asked if she could sit beside me. She already looked familiar because she had mumbled something to me earlier at Hahn airport before the flight. We were at the screening area at the gate picking up our coats, scarves and other knick knacks from the plastic bins, when she uttered something – first in German, then she translated in English when she realized that I did not understand.

“First you put it on, then you take it off, then you put it back on again. It’s depressing.” She said, obviously annoyed.

I simply agreed and smiled back. I did not see her again until now at the bus.

As she sat beside me, she quickly asked me where I was from – that seems to be always the first line, isn’t it?

I paused for a few seconds. There are three possible answers to that question, and it’s one question I find so hard to answer depending on what the person expects you to answer. I could answer “Philippines” because that’s where I was born, or “the U.S” because of my citizenship, or “Germany” because that’s where I live for the time being. My intuition said it would be confusing if I aswered “Germany” because I did not feel like explaining what I’m doing there, and I wanted to let her have the impression that I’m merely a tourist, so I just said I’m from the States.

“How about you, where are you from?” I asked back.

She also paused a few seconds. “Australia.”

This sweet old woman just spoke German to me back at Hahn and had German features, so I expected her to answer me with some city in Germany, maybe Frankfurt or something. So I was naturally caught off guard.

“Aren’t you German though?” I followed. “You know, by blood? Because you spoke to me in German, and you look a little bit German. Right?”

She chuckled. “Yes, I’m German, by blood. But I haven’t lived in Germany for about 50 years.” Then she asked, “How about you, you sure don’t look American?”

So now, I can sense some mutual racial profiling going on between us. Of course, I had to explain my “origin” like she did to me until we were both satisfied. I’m starting to like this woman. We had something in common.

Then I quickly found out that she was a seasoned traveler as well who often traveled by herself. I could hardly keep up with her stories which included mentions of about a dozen different places in one sentence. It went something like this: “I just got stranded in Dubai on my way to London because of that volcanic ash from Iceland, and I am on my way to Stockholm to visit my son who is sick, but I’m going back to Germany to take my daugher who’s coming in from Florida, we’re going to the Netherlands with my partner from Mexico, but I can’t wait to go back home because I miss the weather in Australia… the weather here is so depressing.”

Okay, so I’m exaggerating… just a little bit. It’s pretty close though.

It didn’t take me long enough to realize this woman had two favorite words : depressing and disgusting. All through the hour-and-a-half bus ride to the city, those two words kept popping up in her stories. She made comments like these: “The weather here is so depressing.” “Look at that parking lot, isn’t that disgusting?” “I was invited to a dinner in Essen and they served spaghetti without salad, that’s disgusting! Who serves dinner without salad, that’s depressing.” “I attended a wedding recently. It was at a castle on the Rhine — well, that was nice, but still it was depressing.”

She asked me what I was doing in Stockholm by myself, and I said I was just there to take pictures. “In this depressing weather?” she asked, looking so surprised. ” How can you take pictures in this kind of weather !? It’s disgusting.”

I took out my wallet and handed her one of my business cards. It’s one of those Moo cards where you can have 10 or more different designs or your own photos. I picked a really cheerful one for her – a photograph I took of the sunflowers in Provence – perhaps a feeble attempt on my part to change her disposition. How can’t one be happy just by looking at sunflowers? Come on.

She just said “Awwww” and then quickly stashed my card in her purse.

“I’ll come up with something,” I said, referring to her remark about taking pictures in this weather. Then I pointed out the window. “I see some blue behind those clouds. The sun will come out, you’ll see.” I looked at her and smiled.

“Boy, aren’t you the positive one!” She remarked in an upbeat tone, although I think I sensed a bit of sarcasm there.

So, we shared more stories about our travels, she offered me a Wrigley’s gum and we chewed together like we were BFF’s, and talked about Vera Bradley wallets on that long bus ride. I didn’t even bother asking for her name, and she wasn’t interested in mine either. It’s like meeting myself in the future, how strange.

All the way to Stockholm, this woman entertained me with her run-of-the-mill yet amusing comments. I was laughing the whole way through, but just under my breath, because I didn’t think she was trying to be funny at all.

If anything, this woman was right about one thing : the sun never did come out today. How’s that for depressing?

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