The turtle and the strawberry were two of the first Swedish words we learned. We made them the title of our blog because they signify how esoteric and incomplete our knowledge of Sweden is. We are going there to live for a year and we have no idea what to expect.
Varför: Why Sweden?
Varför: why, so, wherefore, for what reason
Twice in our lives, we've had the opportunity to go anywhere in the world for a longer period of time. It's actually a daunting proposition: you have around a year, where do you go? What will you do?Why upturn a perfectly good life for something so different?
In 2000, we knew we wanted to go back to graduate school so quit our jobs and started traveling in Jan. 2001. Just two of us: no kids, no pets, no house. We commented at the time that it was easy to pack our lives up. Put our small apartment's worth of stuff in my dad's garage. Rigged up our pick up truck so that it had a plywood framed bed with milk crate storage under it. Drove from Oregon to Loreto, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula to start our trip with an amazing sea kayak trip. I won't rehash our entire trip here in detail, but we poked around Costa Rica, climbed through the desert Southwest, drove across the country for climbing and seeing family and friends in New England, traveled in Italy with Chris' parents, then went in different directions- Chris for climbing in California and me to a friend's wedding in Switzerland. We arrived in Seattle for grad school on Sept. 6, 2001: a good time to stop traveling the world. We were in Seattle from 2001 to 2012, when we moved to Pennsylvania to take jobs at Penn State.
In 2018 or thereabouts, we realized we would likely have the chance to travel again. Where to? Unlike before where we knew we were traveling "for fun," this would be something based on Chris' sabbatical- an opportunity for him to be on leave from Penn State. Unlike before, we now have a house, 2 kids, 2 pets, and 2 more than full time jobs. I am a mediator, lawyer, and now teach at Penn State Law and am an assistant director at the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. My main focus has been on water and has expanded to include energy, agriculture and land use, climate, etc. Chris is a geographer who studies in part where people are and why they are there: demography and geography combined.
As we discussed where in the world we could both pursue and expand our research, we started to talk more and more about Sweden. In 1991, I lived in Finland as an exchange student for the summer and happened to visit Stockholm during the 1st ever World Water Week- I've watched the discussion of global water issues expand in Sweden since then. For Chris, the Swedish government has a treasure trove of demographic information. Unlike in the U.S. where you have to guess and we only take a full census every 10 years, the Swedes actually know who is where.
13 pieces of luggage...
I received a Fulbright Scholar award to work in Sweden with Ashok Swain at the University of Uppsala, where they have the Research School for International Water Cooperation. Chris worked out an arrangement to be a visiting scholar at the University of Stockholm with colleagues beginning a major study on internal migration based on the detailed Swedish data.
After a heck of a lot of work to figure out all the pieces (more on that in another blog post), we are now in Stockholm at the start of this journey.
Varför: why, so, wherefore, for what reason? Because of Chris' sabbatical and my colleagues' patience at helping me figure out how to work in Sweden. Because we've both lived abroad (Finland, Japan, Italy) and deeply value the experience. Because the world is broad and our kids are at a good age to see different parts of the world (9 and 12). Because we can (!?).