"Europe 2004-05" story # 15

Umea, Sweden           August 30, 2004

Hey, everybody!
     My job at the cafe/restaurant in Umea, Sweden came to an end this past Sunday. But, I did work a lot last week. In fact, my Swedish became quite good enough for me to take orders at our counter and at our bar. I was serving cake to elderly Swedes, giving beers to young Swedes with mussed-up hair at a rock concert we hosted, and making cappucinos for other people. "Latta dem ata kaka!" I say. (Let them eat cake!)
     One night, our cafe hosted a "surstrommingsfest" (surstromming party) for fourteen people. Surstromming is a traditional fish meal eaten in the north of Sweden during summertime. Surstromming is flimsy, little, gray-blue fish which are put into a can and then stored like that for a year or two. The strong smell which results from this is a stench of loitering dead fish which other fish have pi'd and puked on. Our cafe is on a boat lying on the Ume River; when we opened the surstr√∂mming cans, even the fish swimming below us plugged their noses.
     Friends from southern Sweden told me I had to taste-test surstromming for them. So, I made a sandwich with Swedish "hard bread," potatoes, black guts from the surstromming fish, and chopped onions. Expecting the worst, I bit in. It tasted slightly better than I thought it would have. Though it's heavily salted, the surstromming tasted like some sort of old, black gook you would scrape off the inside of a garbage can. Yuk! I think it's the sort of tradition everybody dreads.
     With my new-found freedom away from work and disgusting surstromming, I figured it would be a good time to enjoy one of my favorite traditions. The tradition of the Hitchhiking Scavenger Hunt! Some day this week, I'm going to thumb out in hot pursuit of Swedish fun.
     And, in keeping with Hitchhiking Scavenger Hunt tradition, there is no better way to judge how much fun is being had than with a strictly-regimented system of point allocation allowances. Sounds fun, doesn't it? Here's a Scavenger Hunt list, so that I know how much fun I'm having while I'm having it. yeah:

1 point - each person who picks me up
1 extra - ride from females
5 - correctly guess a driver's name
5 - 100 km traveled on a main road, 50 km on a side road
5 - if two consecutive cars stop for me
(-5) - for each full hour I wait for a single ride
5 - speak only Swedish in a car
(-3) - every time someone, including me, says he doesn't "forsta" (understand)
10 - speak only French in a car (I don't speak French)
10 - tell only lies in a car
10 - speak only quotes in a car (this will be tough!)
5 - coax someone to say, "Jag Alskar Roxette" (I love Roxette)
5 - coax to say, "Surstromming ar acklig" (Surstromming is gross)
5 - coax to say, "Ingen fara pa taket" (No danger on the roof) - a funny Swedish saying
5 - coax someone to say, "Hej da" (Good-bye) to me four times in a row
(-5) - if someone wish me good luck, and I thank him (bad luck in Swedish tradition)
(-5) - each time I get asked, "So, what do you think about Bush?"
5 - learn something interesting about Swedish politics
5 - ride with a communist
5 - read a chapter of my book to someone
5 - make someone laugh for five seconds straight
5 - sing a song with someone
(-5) - every time someone offers me snus (I must accept)
5 - hitchhike a Merry Poppins ride (holding my umbrella)
5 - juggle my tennis ball ten straight times with my feet
5 extra - thirteen times
5 - make a baby smile
5 - play with a dog
5 - meet a Lapplander, or "Suomi" person
5 - learn something interesting about Lapplanders
5 - hear the Lapp language
5 extra - hear Lapp singing
5 - go in a Swedish home
5 extra - sleep in a Swedish home
5 - be invited to a meal
5 - cook with someone
5 - eat disgusting surstromming
5 - play a game with someone
5 extra - play soccer
5 - ride a bike
10 - ride a horse
5 - take a sauna
10 - dance to Swedish folk music
5 - write a poem
5 - earn a "kronur" (Swedish money)
(-1) - for every 10 kronur spent
5 - skinny-dip
5 - wash myself in a river or lake or sea
5 - snorkel in the sea
5 - snorkel in freshwater
5 - each snorkel where I see something cool
5 - catch a tricky underwater animal
5 - swim to an island
10 - chase down a rabbit or sheep
7 - see a moose
5 - see a fox, reindeer, or eagle
10 - see a bear, wolf, or lynx
10 - see an "igelkottur!" (hedgehog!)
10 - pick up an igelkottur
(-8) - get bitten, stabbed, or trampled by an animal
2 - collect a purple, yellow, or red flower
2 - eat something in the wild
10 - go on a date
15 - in the event a kiss takes place (you never know)
10 extra - if the "kiss-ee" is blond with colored eyes
5 extra - if she has blond, Swedish braids
(-50) - mention the Hitchhiking Scavenger Hunt to someone

A lot of people would say you can't have a competition by yourself. But, those people are forgetting that they were already proven wrong during a Hitchhiking Scavenger Hunt I had while in Iceland. Not only did I have that competition by myself, but I also somehow managed to lose at it.
     But, this time, I vow revenge!
     Once again, I think I'll create an imaginary competitor. We'll call him P.W.Herman, in homage to one of the greatest hitchhikers of all. I'm going to give P.W.Herman 100 Hitchhiking Scavenger Hunt points a day. If I'm out for three days, that means I must score 301 points to avoid losing to nobody. I hate losing to fricken' nobody.
     Let the games begin! May the best man win ...

- Modern Oddyseus

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