Somehow I missed the fact that the Sida advanced training on humanitarian action was not taking place in Stockholm, but a further 430km north (In my defense, the address given was Stockholm) in a quaint town called Härnösand. The taxi driver that collected us from the station in Stockholm soon realized that the address he had been given was not a taxi ride away and recommended we stay overnight before taking the train in the morning. Sound, appreciated, advice!
The snow is white. The mist is white. The birch trees are white. The sky is white. The painting around the windows are white. The wind turbine blades are white. The iced lakes, are white. A zillion shades of white.
Härnösand – the furthest point North we have ever been, almost at the same latitude as Iceland, – overlooks an inlet from the sea, with the waterways slowly thawing, and ducks cavorting in the icy waters. It’s a pretty town, on an iceland with modern additions and buildings sitting comfortable alongside historical, connected by a blanket of snow. We found our way to the points highlighted on the orientation map, seeking protection from the chilly wind, before finding a supermarket to get a few bits for dinner. No wine available, although we did spot a likely shop that was open during the week.
Our dinners are held in one of the historical buildings in town. It’s grand ball room silent, our chatter less so, as the diverse bunch on the course exchange stories. With the sun out, the snow sparkles.
Blue skies and white snow, glaring in the early evening light. Smoked salmon and red wine dinner, watching the trees – still without foliage – bend in the wind. In protected patches against buildings, where the snow has melted, spring bulbs are starting to blossom, their primary colors spectacular.
I have months of work ahead of me after the weeks learning, to integrate humanitarian and human rights standards and approaches into our projects, proposals and terminology. Hopefully, I will not be confronted with negotiating the problematic area of non state armed groups, as there is enough to deal with, within the crazy South Sudan context.