Sunday, November 9, 2008

Now that's a walk in the woods

JoeFriday night I attended a National Dish Dinner with a group of International Masters students from my department. Sometime between the borscht and a famous Chinese dish whose name translates directly as "Sugar Vinegar Cabbage," the subject of orienteering came up. K., the sole Swedish student in the program, was going to be a volunteer at a large orienteering competition here in Uppsala over the weekend, and he was explaining the competition. Apparently anyone can compete: you just show up, they hand you a map, and you head off into the woods. M., the Italian, wanted to know if you were allowed to use a GPS, and K. explained that you weren't allowed to use them, but most people brought one along so that they could check their route against the map afterwards. When M. asked what would prevent you from looking at your GPS during the competition, K. thought for a moment before suggesting, "Morals?", to which M. simply shook his head and said, "That's so Swedish."

For me, though, that wasn't the most Swedish part of the whole thing. K. was going to be working at the "Water Distribution" center, which he put in air quotes. When we all gave him puzzled looks, he explained that the "water" was actually aquavit: "You're trying to find your way in the woods, and you get mad at the trees and mad at the map, and so you just come to 'Water Distribution' and then you feel better."

When someone suggested that getting drunk was not the best solution to getting lost in the woods, K. admitted, "Every year, we lose a few competitors."


  1. That is so fraught with significance and meaning. A good stiff drink is the answer to so many of our problems. Why can't we see that?