Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Got the Post-Holiday Blues

Stockholm was incredibly relaxing. As was our long hike inside the Arctic Circle. I came back feeling refreshed and like I really had a proper holiday. Probably not everyone's idea of a holiday - hiking through thoroughly breathtaking landscape, all I need in a rucksack on my back (my pack weighed between 11 kg and 13 kg most days, my partner's between 13 kg and 17 kg) and eating cous-cous and noodles every night.

I find walking / hiking / tramping , especially in difficult terrain, very meditative. I am inside the moment of walking, of picking up one foot, and placing it down again, of ensuring each foot is placed solidly. Glimpses of flowers distract me, but the most profound of my thoughts is, "Oh, that flower is so pretty (or cute or blue, whichever is most appropriate)".

In one patch, we walked for approximately five kilometres over uneven stony ground. It could have been moraine, except that I think moraine involves bigger rocks. These rocks ranged in size but the average size was a square foot. For most of the walk over these rocks, I watched where I placed my foot, ensuring also that I did not place a foot onto the middle of a rock too often, as that would cause a slow ache to develop in my arches. I know this from previous walks, where I have been neglectful of my arches, plonking them unthinkingly on rock after rock, only to find myself in perplexed discomfit weeks later. It seems like the best thing to do is put a whole foot on a rock. No, the best thing to do is balance toes and heel between two rocks. Or, at least, mix up the toes-heel balance with whole-foot placement. I concentrated on my walk.

As a fleeting thought crossed my mind - "Ha! This is perfect ankle sprain territory" - I looked up to make the observation to partner, and stumbled. Only a little stumble. Not one he even noticed, lost as he was in his own fugue of rock-walking concentration. Thereafter I resolutely tried not to think about spraining my ankle, right in the middle point of the walk - the point where going forward to its conclusion involves as much distance as going back to the start.

We were the few - perhaps the only, ever - Australians on the walk. We met a pair of Swedish walkers who, after my "Hej" and smile, launched into rather a lot of Swedish. All I had learnt (bad, bad me) was "Hej" (Hello) and "Tack" (Thank you). I kept saying "tack" like the German "tag". I have a few accents that I do: Italian (thanks, Latin!) and German (in which I can fluently say, I am hungry: "ich haben hunger". I practised that long and hard because it contains all the guttural Germanic sounds that I find so difficult to make). And whenever I am somewhere that does not speak English as the main language, I have a strange, barely suppressible desire to say, "minasan, suate kudasai" ("everyone, please sit down", in Japanese).

When I smiled and apologised for not speaking Swedish, one of the walkers repeated what he had said, but this time in German. Then he apologised, in English, and repeated what he had said in Swedish and German, in English. What had he said? How are you? Then he apologised that he did not know very much English. Then, in English, he went into great detail about the walk that they had done. Then, we had a conversation in English. His English was great, but he kept apologising for it, leaving me no space in which to apologise for my lack of Swedish; my oversight was more culpable, I thought, than his non-native-but-otherwise-perfect-English.

Foolishly, he asked me which direction we came from. I am not good with compass direction points. My partner was not then present, on a brief exploration of our rest area. So I told we had come from our last landmark, Tjakta Pass. He told me he had come from the west. I don't think either of us really understood each other - he failed to understand me because I mispronounced Tjakta (he later identified it and said something entirely different to what I had said) and I failed to understand him because I did not know which way west was. Still, we were both just talking for the sake of talking to someone other than our respective walking partners. I further confused him by announcing that our next destination was Salkastugorna - when we were already there. I am not the navigator. My partner is. I am absolved of all responsibility.

Me and Our Tent: Taking in the sights at one of our campsites.
I have no idea which one, or why I am not doing something useful.

Since being back, over a month now, work has made a quick meal of that mellow refreshed feeling one gets from a great holiday. Now, I'm all wound up again. Everything is very busy. I am still chasing my tail post holiday. My tail gets longer, but I get no closer. I do know which direction I'm going though: round and round.


tseen said...

I so love reading your posts, O. And I've had very fluent, English-as-a-fourth-language acquaintances apologise profusely for their lack of command of 'my' language, too. I stand there with similar feelings of total inadequacy (but I also have my mouth agape at their linguistic abilities - my four-word command of German, Japanese and Italian, and basic tourist French just doesn't compare). I'd love to learn Spanish, at least till basic tourist level (I aim high these days), but time is against me.

Anonymous said...

You've captured that post vacation feeling perfectly. I'm no hiker/camper, but your words make it sound idyllic. Fantastic photo.

Oanh said...

Tseen - Thanks! I've been thinking about learning Spanish. Actually, I've been thinking about learning Spanish for four years. And have I started? er, no.

Nikkipolani - Thank you! I love hiking and camping. It really is not for everyone though ... you do have to put up with a certain amount of discomfit. But the access to gorgeous places is incomparable.

Eliane said...

Fantastic picture. Something to look at when you feel you've been chasing your tail a bit too much!

Oanh said...

Thanks, Eliane! Yes, although I think I day dream in any event a little too much...

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