Last year I was in New Zealand when 2007 happened, and I had a funny conversation with Nate on the morning of Jan. 1. It was still 2006 where he was, and he asked me if people in the future wore silver clothing that looked the same. They didn't. That wasn't why the conversation was funny. He continued with a story about his exploits in Tampa (I think it was in Tampa), where he enjoyed some classy "entertainment," the kind of which I had never experienced, and up to that point, he never had either. His recap of his night was humorous.
2008 happened 7 hours before it did for Pennsylvanians. People still aren't wearing silver suits and talking with the brains, which was a bit disappointing.
After Stockholm, Mia, Kate and I embarked on yet another, longer journey via Scandanavia's public transportation system. A quick subway ride at 7am (it's still dark at this time...in fact the sun won't rise until nearly 8:30), and a twenty minute wait outside in the cold for our bus. Then the two-hour bus ride through more rural countryside to the tiny coastal village of Kapellskar, which we slept through mostly. Finally we boarded the ferry that would take us across the Baltic Sea to Aland Island, which belongs to Finland, but where they speak Swedish and hate the Russians.
The weather was bleak (again), and really windy, with whitecaps on the water. This made for a bit of a rolly ride on the ferry (which was better described as a mini-cruiseship, which slot machines and 8 decks). It would have been hellish in a sailboat. We entertained ourselves on the two-hour jaunt by playing cards and drinking coffee, while everyone else on the ferry entertained themselves by drinking beer. It was New Year's Eve, so that was acceptable, even at 10am.
I hadn't seen Johanna in nearly a year. She looks the same, and it felt normal seeing her again, like an old friend. We met her parents, who put us up in their modest house in the countryside (there is a lot of countryside over here). Her dad would not look strange in one of those Russian winter hats with the earflaps. He has gymnast rings in the basement.
The festivities began at Johanna's friend Josephines house. Her parents were away, so her and about 12 friends had concocted an elaborate and exceedingly classy dinner party. Three or four times the Nordic folk at the table sang songs and we drank snapps, which is a nice word for vodka, which is a nice word for jet fuel. This is common to do while eating a festive meal.
At 11pm, a cab picked us up and we drove a while down the road, through more countryside to another friends house for the rest of the evening. I was too drunk to realize how far we'd driven, but it seemed like forever. The house had an outdoor hot tub, which looked like a giant tin can with a chimney, that fit 4 people. Kaitie was welcomed to Aland by the 4 guys in the hot tub standing and saying "Welcome to Finland!" These four men were very large, and very naked.
Around the hot tub was 3 or 4 large logs, planted into the ground, on fire. It may have been because I had had 4 snapps, 2 bottles of wine and 3 beers, but the ambience created was mesmerizing. The Alanders were exceedingly friendly - initially Kate was nervous about being left alone at the party, but she ended up talking to everyone on her own and truly enjoying herself, and I couldn't have been happier to share that amazing cultural experience with her. I think she understands a bit more now why I do some of the things that I do.
Johanna's boyfriend's brother builds fireworks. He has a business building fireworks, and his fireworks won the Finnish fireworks championships last year. His brother built us fireworks for New Year's Eve. The fireworks were awesome.
A year ago, in Napier New Zealand, on Dec. 31, 2006, I kissed Mia for the first time in my life, while watching fireworks on the beach. I cannot describe the feeling I had when I got to kiss her, exactly one year later, almost exactly on the opposite side of the planet. I'd spent only 3 months with this girl out of the past year, on different sides of the earth, yet never had a doubt that this wouldn't work out. Maybe because of the alcohol, maybe because of the ambience, maybe because of Mia, but probably for a combination of those reasons, at midnight on Dec. 31, 2007, I was the happiest person alive, and I was kissing the girl of my dreams. It was a fitting way to begin the future.