Monday, December 22, 2008

Jultomten Comes Early to Colorado

I am Santa Claus. Or at least Jultomten. And a damn good one at that I might add.

Jultomten is a glorious man. Kind of skinny (depending on the weight of your respective father I suppose), kind of scary, but always there on Christmas Eve with some presents to hand out. Despite our age and our geographical location, Jultomten still finds his way to Colorado. Strangely enough, the old man hasn’t seen him in all the years we’ve lived in Colorado. We always run out of milk on Christmas Eve. A damn shame really. Poor planning.

My Jultomten tends to make a damn lot of noise. Banging on the side of the house, announcing his arrival to everyone inside. He makes his way to the back door and bangs on the door. Loud. Loud enough that there is always a bit of fear that Jultomten might put his hand through the glass. Which might put a damper on the whole spirit. Anyway, my mom always lets him in. There might be something going on between the two, I’m not entirely sure. Since my dad is never around it is highly suspicious.

Jultomten comes in, scares the hell out of every dog we have ever had, complains about how far he has come, how cold it is, and tends to stumble around a bit as if he didn’t have his glasses on. Finally, he sits himself down and asks “Finns det några snälla barn här?” Are there any nice children here? We always answered yes. Regardless of what may have happened in the past year. A head going through the basement wall for example. I mean, come on, there’s no way Jultomten can be checking up on us all year all the way from Sweden right?

So the answer is yes. Which seems to placate Jultomten a bit and he starts digging in his bag. He pulls out a gift, shakes it around a bit, holds it at arms length from his face and tries to read the name. Like I said, Jultomten seems to have misplaced his glasses, so what ends up happening is my mom takes over and reads it for him. And the first present is handed out. This is repeated for each child in the house. Usually the dog, who tends to either be cowering in a corner, or barking hysterically, also gets a present. Then Jultomten takes his leave. He’s got a long way back to Sweden. And it is cold outside.

And away he goes. And it never fails, just a few minutes later, in walks my dad. Having just missed Jultomten for the 24th year in a row. And usually without the milk we so desperately needed. It must be hell getting old. Wandering around town trying to remember what he went out to get while another man is handing out presents to his kids and sharing knowing glances with his wife all while dressed in a big goofy red suit.

Which is the way it goes at my house. But a couple of years ago, when I started having girlfriends that hung around for a while, my old man let me in on a little secret. He wasn’t necessarily going out for milk every Christmas Eve. He was Jultomten! My childhood was built like a house of cards, and this revelation was the annoying little brother who comes by and huffs and puffs and blows the house down.

After the initial shock, my father (Christmas) went on to, basically, threaten me. He told me that if I ever brought a girl home for Christmas that I had to be Jultomten. Either to test her or scare her away. I’m not really sure. Anyway, no girl has been brought home for Christmas. But that doesn’t change the fact that this year I dressed up as Jultomten. Because this year I got roped into helping out with some sort of Swedish-American society.

So I dressed up in the red suit with the white beard, scared a few little kids when I bellowed out “Finns det några snälla barn här?” and handed out presents. I rambled on in Swedish, basically reciting all the same lines that my old man has been reciting for years. All the while, the little ‘uns stared at me with a mixture of confusion, horror, and excitement. They didn’t speak Swedish. Clearly I was speaking some sort of foreign North Pole language. But they didn’t run in terror. Despite a near beard mishap when a little girl hugged me and the beard nearly came off revealing my secret to the world. But I have sneaky fast hands, kept the beard in place and Christmas was saved.

All in all quite the experience. And good practice I suppose. Because a Swedish Christmas celebration is something that everyone can appreciate.

Welcome to the US, and a Swedish Christmas.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Traveling from Sweden to the US

I headed back home. For just a bit. A quick Christmas celebration until heading back to the darkness that is the Swedish winter.

The morning started with where the previous night ended. The two blurring together. I never went to bed. I kept my ass up by eating popcorn, granola in the hopes of finishing off all my milk before I left, and watching late night Swedish TV.

And it was around the 4 in the morning hour when I had to catch the night bus headed into town. I started having epiphanies. Revelations if you will.

Apparently around the 23 hours of sleep deprivation mark, my body decides to shut down. I fumble with simple tasks like getting my passport out. Or stripping myself of all metal before the security check. Or bringing my phone charger with me. Leaving me with a hunk of electronics and a dead battery.

When arriving in London I realized a couple of more things. One being that I entertain myself in strange ways when traveling alone. For example, by mocking the accents of the Brits to myself. “’Ello” became my favorite. Which obviously morphed into “’ello guvnor.” Good times. Does this make me a bad person? Yes. Yes it does.

Always buy salt and vinegar chips in England. They are delicious.

When waiting at my gate for my flight in London, a father and his daughter walked by. The daughter was maybe 8 years old. I was sitting on the floor. Eyelevel with everyone’s butts. And I quickly realized a rule that should govern all fatherhood when it comes to daughters. Little girls should not wear sweat pants with the words “Wild Chick” written across the butt. It’s just not right.

I hate SAS. Seriously.

Letting them rip on a plane is risky business. Especially when listening to an iPod. You just can’t be sure if anyone else can hear. Luckily, as we have already established, I am a bad person.

Never travel with small children.

Canada is a walking stereotype. I stepped off the plane and overheard an Air Canada employee explaining to her friend that her daughter had closed the bedroom window last night. And now it will most likely be frozen shut all winter. I walked into the terminal and was inundated with bad ‘70s design. Not that retro look that the Swedes are sometime able to pull off but bad carpeting and seat covers. While walking through the terminal, the guy in front of me made the following comment: “At least it’s not snowing anymore eh.” Directly to my right was a Tim Horton’s. And a large maple leaf painted onto the wall of the terminal. Welcome to Canada apparently.

But after 26 hours of travel, and enough revelations to put St. Bridget to shame, I made it back to the US. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Welcome to America.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Groundbreaking Study in Sweden

Sweden has a habit of making ground breaking discoveries in different areas of sciences. The pacemaker, dynamite, Skype. They do good work.

With these groundbreaking studies come some, well, less than groundbreaking studies. Like studies about breast size and cancer. Or the sagginess of Swedish boobs. All, I’m sure, very important in the little world of that particular researcher, but in the grand scheme of things, not Nobel Prize worthy. But sometimes a study comes out that takes the world by storm. A study that shakes the world to its very core.

And it is in this vein that a new study flows. And it has to do with the flow of alcohol and the munchies. Clearly, Nobel Prize-worthy work. At least if you ask college students who have shelled out money at 3 in the morning trying to get a little food inside of them after a night of drinking.

Most people, after a few drinks, tend to get a bit hungry. Maybe it’s time for some delicious chilinötter (my spell check suggested chilinötter be chili otter, which is close to chili nuts) at the bar or a kebab on the walk home. It satisfies that empty hollow in your gut. Plus it mixes well with all the booze.

Of course, knowing that many people have this problem, a Swedish researcher has set out to find out why. The eternal question. The answer to this question could have far reaching consequences. Perhaps the infamous freshman fifteen will drop a bit as college freshman learn to control their munchies after drinking. Knowledge is power you know.

Anyway, the study was a simple one. Give a bunch of people alcohol and measure their hunger. Give a bunch of people water and measure their hunger. Record the data. Compare.

Turns out though, that the hypothesis of the scientist was proven wrong by the data. Which, to be perfectly honest, I quite like to hear. Not because I like to see other people failure, but because I think you can find a lot of good in the failure of scientific experiments. Having been inundated with a lot of science over the last couple of years, more than I could have ever expected, I have also come to appreciate the different aspects of scientific studies. Like all the studies that fail. But never get published or discussed because they failed. But there is gain to be found in those failures. Even when they only focus on drinking and hunger.

As a side note, the scientist doing the study is a guy. And this is his doctoral dissertation. Which for some reason just didn’t surprise me at all.

Welcome to Sweden. Home of the Nobel Prize. And amazing scholarly research.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Shopping Tips from Sweden

I really dislike shopping. Which is strange, because I quite like giving presents, but the shopping part drives me nuts. And Christmas shopping is the worst. The throngs of people. The whining kids, pretending to be good for Santa, but really just whining. Plus, I’m cheap. Which makes the final part of the transaction in which I have to hand over my money especially rough.

But this weekend, “worst” took on a whole new meaning. Because I went to IKEA. On a Sunday. Eleven days before Christmas. One day after Santa Lucia. Which only serves to prove that I am, in fact, an idiot.

I ventured to IKEA for a couple of different things. Some food products, some candles, some Christmas decorations, and I was in search of a specific present. I had a plan. I know the layout. I know how to avoid following the IKEA path so I can get to where I need to be. I was prepared. I thought.

I was wrong. Nothing could prepare me for the carnage I saw. A kid pouting on one of the beds. Not a parent in sight. Two other kids chasing each other around. The screams of children mixed with the groans of parents as everyone questioned the necessity of procreation. Which was all topped off by an IKEA employee trying to sign me up for the IKEA Family card. All I could think was what good birth control a weekend holiday shopping trip to IKEA is. A family was far from mind.

It was exhausting. I could have turned back. But I fought through. Money to spend. I needed to do my part to get Sweden out of the recession. I made it past the bedrooms. The kitchens. To the knick knacks. This is where the dishes start, the candles, the picture frames. All the small things that IKEA sells can be found on the bottom floor. This is where my plan would be best used.

But it had been a while since I had ventured into IKEA alone. And they had changed the layout. Those bastards. Suddenly, amidst the chaos of running children, frazzled parents, young lovers, and old Swedes, I was overcome by one single thought. Recession my ass. It passed, but seriously, there was a whole lot of money flying through the registers at that place.

I gathered myself, reminded myself that IKEA was cheap and so might make it through a recession with flying colors, and continued on. I still knew a couple of shortcuts. I was going to have to take a chance. So I snuck off to the left and slid through a door to pop out in the picture frame section. I had saved myself a lot of grief. And I was close to where I needed to be.

I sharpened my elbows and did my best impression of Ali in his prime. I was shucking and jiving if you will. I was floating like a butterfly. I was the greatest. Obviously. Finally I emerged unscathed, albeit a bit sweaty, not unlike the champ after the Rumble in the Jungle.

In the end, I didn’t do much in getting Sweden out of its recession. The only thing I ended up walking out of IKEA with was a few Christmas decorations and the food. The candles? The present? Nowhere in sight. So I stumbled out toward the hotdog stand. I had earned my two korvs for 10 SEK. And they were amazing.

I titled this post Shopping Tips from Sweden. Really it should be shopping tip. And the tip is a simple one: never go to IKEA on a weekend so close to Christmas. Ever.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rudity in the Art Museum in Stockholm

Nationalmuseum is the art history museum of Sweden. All kinds of paintings, a few sculptures, some furniture and design stuff; the museum really runs the gamut.

There is currently an exhibition going on called Lura Ögat, Trick the Eye basically. An exhibition which I went to with a couple of friends recently. One a Swede, the other a tweener European/American. And it is well worth it. Lots of cool art that is meant to, yup, trick the eye. It runs until the 11th of January I believe, and I definitely recommend it.

Having walked up the daunting stairs to the top floor where the exhibition was being held, a friend of mine stopped to hold the door open for some people. And by some people I mean nine. And I know there were nine people because I counted them after they had passed through.

Now normally, counting how many people walk through the door isn’t something I do. I don’t walk around with a little clicker in my pocket or keep stats on that sort of thing. But this time I did. And I did it because out of those nine people, not a single one said thank you. In fact, not a single one looked over, nor acknowledged the, what I took to be, friendly and helpful action.

It blew my mind. All of these people were adults. I would have been willing to give a kid a pass. Sometimes they forget their manners. Sometimes they are just excited to get out of a museum. But nine adults passing through a door. One of them should have said thank you.

I’ve noticed this before, mostly because I am a door holder. But usually just one or two people fail to say thank you. Not a huge deal. Kind of rude, but it’s something I can handle. But nine people was just kind of disgusting.

I walked through the door, thanked her, and obviously commented. She had noticed as well. The sad thing was that my friend said that having been in Sweden has made her kind of just accept the rudeness.

So it goes, but instead of wallowing in the rudity (it sounds like a real word at least) of Sweden, the three of us ended up going to get some glögg and pepparkakor. Which is used to celebrate the Christmas season. And also used to make everyone warm and happy.

So Welcome to Sweden. And happy Santa Lucia. And please tell me the rudity was an aberration.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adding Insult to Tardiness - More Adventures on Stockholm’s Public Transportation

Last night I was out on the town. And by out on the town I went to dinner and grabbed a drink with a friend. I was home before 10. I am a rebel without a cause.

But the ride home on good old SL presented me with a new experience. A very aggravated train conductor. Now, the train conductors in Sweden tend to be heard but not seen. And not even seen unless you are late for the train. They hide in their little compartments at the front and back of each train. They pop out at the stops to make sure no one has a leg stuck in the door. Other than that, you don’t see them. You only hear them if they want to make an announcement.

Usually they stick to the basics. Se upp för dörrarna, dörrarna stängs. The British version being, Mind the Gap. Perhaps they’ll come on to tell you that they are running behind because of leaves on the tracks. Because once again, Mother Nature and her never ending cycle of decay during the autumnal months has caught SL off guard once again. Or maybe it’s December and SL was surprised by the snow. Because living near the Arctic Circle would suggest that snow in December is an anomaly. And sometimes maybe they just want to get something off their chest.

And last night, the train conductor wanted to do just that. An announcement to clear the air. One that seemed to suggest she was at the end of her shift. And her rope for that matter.

Because as we waited a bit longer than usual at a stop, the distant crackling voice of a conductor came over the loudspeakers. Var snäll och släpp dörrarna. Pucko.

The first part isn’t so strange. Kind of polite in that Swedish way. Please let go of the doors. Because the doors can be held open. Which means the train can’t leave. It’s obnoxious when you have somewhere to be. But when you’re in no big hurry, it’s dealable. Which sounds like a word. Kind of.

Anyway, it was that final word that caught my attention. Pucko. Freak. Idiot. It’s also a delicious chocolate milk drink sold here in Sweden. One which another former Coloradoan has adopted down in Lund.

The train conductor said what everyone else was probably thinking. Clearly the person doing this was a delicious chocolate milk drink. Or a freak and idiot. I loved it. It was a beautiful display of passive aggressiveness. Mostly because of the politeness that preceded the insult.

But whoever was holding the door let it go. And we were on our way. And we didn’t get held up at any more stops after that. She did her job. And she did it well.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Swedishness in Public Transportation

I’ve been feeling talkative lately. I complain a lot about the quiet of the Swedes, especially on Stockholm’s public transportation, but I tend to be a somewhat quiet individual. Quiet by American standards I suppose.

But lately if I hear any English, the first question out of my mouth is: Where are you from? It’s glorious. And I’ve had a whole lot of conversations on trains, on buses, in elevators lately because of it.

And it is because of my newfound disregard for the Swedish custom of silence and personal space that in a 24 hour period I was vividly reminded of that very custom.

I was coming home on the train the other day. It wasn’t horribly late, maybe eight in the evening. I was sitting there. Quietly. Minding my own business. Obviously. When I noticed a guy sitting across the aisle from me. He had just finished eating what looked to be a large and delicious sandwich. I was hungry. He was no longer hungry. Jealousy began to rear its ugly head.

And then it got worse, because he pulled out a Ramlösa. Sparkling water. And it was flavored. Raspberry. I love raspberry.

A quick side note, I used to hate this sparkling water. It’s more club soda I suppose. Anyway, I hated it. Until I moved here. Now I make conscious decisions to buy it. I blame Sweden for this change. It’s everywhere. And can be found in just about any flavor imaginable. You’ll learn to love it once you stay here for a few months. Give it a shot. But don’t give up after that first bottle.

Back to the object of my jealousy though. He pulled out his bottle of raspberry flavored water. It was a glass bottle. Without the twisty cap. I could see his face cloud over. He didn’t have a bottle opener. He was resourceful though. Or thought he was. He pulled out his keys and started going at it. Attempting to do what my little brother can do without thinking. Create a fulcrum with his hand between the key and the bottle cap and pop it open. All within a few seconds. He was not nearly as skilled as my little brother. And kept clicking away. Metal key against metal cap. Metal keys jangling against glass bottle. But the cap was stubborn.

And this is when I spoke up. Because I have a bottle opener on my keychain. In case of emergencies just like this one. I mean, the man had just eaten a delicious sandwich. Chances are he was parched.

So despite my jealousy, I turned to him, said excuse me, got his attention and offered him my bottle opener. I had even taken it out of my pocket and was reaching across to hand it to him. He stared me down. And bluntly said: No. I can do it myself. Like an angry four year old trying to tie his shoes. Fine. Ass. Do it yourself. Which he did. A couple of stops down the line.

I couldn’t decide if this was typical Swedishness, a kind of reaction to someone talking to him on the train, or if maybe he was just pulling some sort of manliness thing and wanted to prove to himself he could open it.

But then the very next day, I found myself at the bus stop. A woman standing next to me had pulled out her phone to make a call. As the other end picked up she said, with some enthusiasm: Hej, det är jag! Hey, it’s me! She was standing right next to me. She was excited to talk to the person, but not overly excited. She wasn’t loud. She wasn’t bothering anyone. Or at least not bother me, and I was standing right next to her. I thought it was perfectly acceptable cell phone etiquette.

I thought wrong. Because standing about 6 feet away from me, that is about two meters for those of you calculating at home, was an old lady. Now I tend to associate old ladies with the word nice. As in: My what a nice old lady. Or: I helped the nice old lady cross the street. This lady was not nice. Because as the woman standing next to me talked on her phone, the old lady barked back: Quiet! You’re too loud, no one wants to hear your conversation! And by barked I mean, yelled in a nasty old lady voice. Haggard after years of barking at people.

That’s when I decided that the two events, the stubborn man and the mean old lady, while different in so many ways, spoke to that underlying desire of Swedes, or at least Stockholmers, to wander around on public transportation in complete silence. Bereft of any and all noise that might intrude in their personal bubble.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Escaped Murderers in Stockholm

I’ve written about Sweden’s justice system a few times. Mostly because I find it to be a bit ridiculous. Not in that they don’t provide justice or that it’s a country full of uncontrolled criminals. The thing that gets me is the prison sentences. More specifically prison sentences for violent crimes.

So the news today caught my eye. To say the least. On Wednesday, a convicted murderer escaped in Stockholm. This man has been convicted of murder and attempted murder. And he escaped.

Now I said this news caught my eye. And an escaped murderer will tend to have that effect on people. But there were a few facts to the case that really caught my eye. And they tend to be stereotypically Swedish.

First, this man, convicted of murder and attempted murder was only sentenced to prison for 14 years in 1999. But it gets better. Because, despite being sentenced for 14 years he was eligible for parole this coming July. 2009. He was eligible for parole after ten years. Murder and attempted murder will get you ten years if you’re on your best behavior.

I know I already said this, but it gets better. When I hear of prison escapes I think of Shawshank Redemption. Or maybe some classic Alcatraz movie. You know, well planned escapes that took years to prepare. Maybe a tunnel had to be dug with a spoon. I don’t know. I’ve never escaped from prison. Stockholm’s escaped murderer didn’t have to dig a tunnel with a spoon though. In fact he didn’t have to do anything exciting at all. He just walked away.

He just melted into the crowd and got away. Because he was out running errands in Hötorget. A little shopping square in central Stockholm. Now with Christmas coming up, these little shopping squares tend to be pretty packed. There are large crowds to fight through. People selling glögg and pepparkakor. You need to have sharp elbows. A killer’s mentality if you will.

Which bring us back to our escaped murderer. Who more than most people, has a killer’s mentality. For the record, he was with two police officers acting as his guards. If that makes it any better. It seems that convicted murderers get field trips.

Our main character in this sordid little tale had already had eight field trips. Without incident. Because he had handled himself so well on the previous eight excursions, the police here in Stockholm seem surprised by his escape. Maybe he had been planning this for a while. Lulling his captors into sleep with his good behavior instead of chipping away at a tunnel with a spoon.

Regardless of his master plan, he got away. But don’t worry. They do not consider him dangerous. Because a man convicted of murder and attempted murder and then chose to escape with only about eight months left before parole is not a threat at all.

Welcome to Sweden. Where convicted murderers get field trips.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hedda Gabler and Stockholms Stadsteater

The other night I went to check out a play at Stockholms Stadsteater. It is right smack dab in the middle of town in Kulturhuset by Sergelstorg. And it considers me a youth still because I am under 25. So a ticket only ran me 100 SEK. Sweden definitely has its benefits.

Anyway, I chose Hedda Gabler for a couple of reasons. Most of them can be blamed on one of my professors from Oregon who introduced me to, your favorite and mine, Henrik Ibsen, the Norwegian playwright. Henrik wrote quite a few plays, but the one that grabbed my attention a couple of years ago was Peer Gynt. A glorious tale really. This interest in Ibsen was unknowingly egged on by a second professor at Oregon. Damn that higher education.

But since then I have had in interest in the gruff looking old man. I have bought a few English translations of his plays. One of which sat on my book shelf for quite a while. But I managed to read a bit of his work even as it sat on my shelf. One reason being that I had a girlfriend back in the good old US of A who had Hedda Gabler on her shelf. And I read in the bathroom. And well, sometimes I needed to go. But for various reasons, I never did finish Hedda Gabler. Which may have been for the better. Because I had developed a strong dislike for the girl. Hedda Gabler. Not the old girlfriend.

Anyway, about a month ago I plucked down Ibsen and stated reading the translated plays I had. There were four in the book. And Hedda Gabler happened to be there. I read the play. And while I continued to despise Hedda Gabler as a character I did quite enjoy the play. Which, in my opinion, says a whole hell of a lot about Ibsen as a writer. Because if I can garner such strong feelings of dislike for the title character of a play and still enjoy reading the play. Well, Ibsen did his job.

Anyway, about a week ago I was paging through the fall schedule of plays at Stockholms Stadsteater and saw the Ms. Gabler would be playing. So I snagged a ticket. For 100 SEK. Remember? The benefits of so much money being plugged into cultural events.

The play was really quite good. I continued to dislike Hedda as a character. I mean a lot. But the live performance of the play was excellent. It was a simple set-up. In fact, there was just a long two-sided couch that they rotated to demonstrate different settings. There were only five people in the entire play. Not a single extra to be seen anywhere. No boy in crowd, or maid in background or anything like that. Very barebones. Kind of Scandinavian in its simplicity really. And it worked. Well.

The play presented the surrounding characters in very different ways than how I had read them. This being the first time I had ever read a play and then just a few weeks later seen it performed live, it was an interesting realization. Everyone can experience a work of literature in very different ways.

Just as long as no one differs in their dislike for Ms. Gabler.

Welcome to Sweden.

Monday, December 01, 2008

ride for HOPE – Why They Ride

I’ve written a few different times about my buddy who is riding with his brother from Canada to Argentina. On their bikes. Like pedal bikes. Not a motorcycle bike. It’s damn impressive. And they are raising money for an organization called HOPE. Which, in my opinion, makes it even more impressive. Because I’m a sucker for a good cause.

As of just a couple of days ago the Cook brothers had sat on a bike seat and pedaled their way 5695 km from their starting point in Canada. That many km will get you to Cabo San Lucas. Probably not a bad place to be as December rolls around.

With that in mind, I have done some shameful quoting. And by quoting I mean huge portions of text with quotation marks around it. Mostly because they are excellent writers and do an amazing job of describing their adventure. And how it came to fruition. And why they are doing it. So from their latest blog post Why We Ride:

“The idea was first born more than 4 years ago, as a dream to complete one day. In September of 2007, we decided that this was something that we really needed to do. We began planning; we were going to ride our bikes to Argentina, leaving the following September. Of course, we love traveling and thought that this would be an amazing way to see so much of the world. But we also felt compelled to do our part to help those in the world less fortunate than us. Being raised in Canada, we have been blessed with a future full of endless possibilities; we realize however that the majority of people in the world don’t have this same privilege. Furthermore, we believe that it’s our responsibility as the wealthy of the world to do whatever we can to change this. We wanted to undertake this bicycle journey in order to inspire and encourage those around us, coming from such privileged areas of the world, to do what we can to make a difference.

We knew that we wanted to find an international development agency to raise money for and so we began a detailed search of the many deserving organizations in existence. We finally found HOPE International, based out of New Westminister, BC, and were instantly impressed with the organization. First off, from a financial perspective the organization is outstanding – with only four percent of their income going to administration and advertising costs, they are the best financially managed international development agency that we found. In addition, all of their projects focus on sustainable development in the true sense of the term. All monies being donated are put into locally organized projects, with local labour being used in order to further economic development. From our first contact with HOPE International we have been impressed with their professionalism and dedication to their cause of helping the “poorest of the poor”. We were presented the opportunity to raise money for a project in the Dominican Republic, rebuilding community greenhouses and irrigation systems and we committed to raise $50,000 for this project. Thus, the ride for HOPE was born.”

That’s good stuff. And notice the Canadian way of spelling labor. With a “u.” Silly Canadians. My American spell check didn’t respond nicely to it. Anyway, now you know how this whole idea came about. Why they are doing it. What they are doing it for. But no good explanation of an adventure like the one they find themselves on is complete with a call to action. But Keenan and Jeff do damn good work. And so, the ride for HOPE call to action:

“With Christmas right around the corner, and the evidence of our affluence being displayed in shop windows and down the street, we wanted to remind you all why we're on this adventure. We would like to thank all of you who have already contributed to our HOPE International project, and we'd like to encourage everybody, in this season of giving and of love to consider our ride for HOPE. Our website is set up with a link to donate online at HOPE International's website. It's all set up with a secure server so that you can make a donation with your credit card, right online. You can just select "other" under the dropdown menu, and type "ride for HOPE" in the comment section. This will ensure that the money you donate goes straight to our project (as well as going towards our $50,000 goal).”

Welcome to Sweden. I mean Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. And the ride for HOPE.

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