Pharmaceutical Needs in Laponia…

…and the small distant villages of this area have a small but significant roll in many people’s lives through the years. And although this significance has dwindled through modernization and change of needs, the proposed changes concerning the restructuring and selling of the state owned Apoteket, or pharmaceutical organization, should be taken with concern.

Because of the distances from Jokkmokk and the need for medical supplies in the mountains, there was an organized system that provided the most necessary supplies to people. Of course, central to this service working depended upon the pharmacist in Jokkmokk. It was the pharmacist’s local knowledge of people’s needs together with a high professional responsibility and attitude that allowed this service to function well.

resize-of-padjelanta1972-copy.jpg>Photo:Medical supplies were available in the mountains for Laponia backpackers in 1972

I was fortunate to have had parent-in-laws that operated the pharmacy in Jokkmokk, Gun & Nils Hövenmark, and had the opportunity to be exposed to discussions concerning Apoteket. And, coming from an American “drugstore” culture, I acquired a better respect for medicines and pharmaceuticals than had I not have had this alternative.

Each spring, Gun would go through a list of needed supplies to the mountains and prepare transport boxes that would be shipped to strategic places in Laponia. The supplies were mostly basic first-aid things, but she also prepared simple salves and medicines for blisters, cramps, heat exposure and especially for diarrhea, which came about from people drinking water that may have had a dead reindeer in it upstream. She would take time to visit the distant villages up to and including Kvikkjokk and conduct an inventory of available supplies each year in order to provide an extended service. Small pharmacy outposts.

She personally knew everybody who lived in the Saami villages and understood their medical conditions and needs. Should anyone in the mountains run out of a medicine they needed, Gun could prepare an emergency prescription and have this sent through a series of buses, boats and airplanes to arrive at the right village for this person. A phenomenal feat when you consider the distances, weather, communication processes and complications.
resize-of-padjelanta1972_01-copy.jpgPhoto: 1972-Returning from a calf-marking with a young Lennart Åstot steering the boat.

As a cabin warden in Staloluokta, in the beginning of the 1990’s, we had a large box of medical items that were available for needy hikers. This was prepared by the pharmacy in Jokkmokk and was always appreciated by both wardens, local Saami villagers and tourists through the summer months.

How it is now? I’m not quite sure!

I do know that January 18, of next year, a commission will propose the selling and commercializing of the Swedish Apoteket and, later, give suggestions of selling medicines through private companies like supermarkets, grocery stores and gas stations. An American “drugstore” situation.

It’s very unfortunate that political leaders of Sweden are of so low caliber and competency that, instead of solving problems within an appreciated service like Apoteket and initiating correct changes to increase quality, they just sell-it-off, giving the problem back to taxpayers. Should this procedure turn out like the Swedish postal service, with postal services through the local grocery store etc., Swedish people will again be faced with huge problems and discontent at losing a professional service. Of course, grocery stores will be happy with more potential profits.

I, for one, am not looking forward in going to our local grocery store and dealing with a pimply-faced, overweight girl with pins in her face, at a crowded cash register and ask for information about a prescription for blood pressure knowing that this girl has totally no comprehension of anything other than taking money and giving a receipt.

Medicines are important, even in the mountains. For Gun & Nils, they’re probably rolling in their grave. The misuse or misinformation of medicines and pharmaceuticals can be highly damaging. Please, consider boycotting these services at stores or gas stations and make a difference.

Snow Is Often Considered…

…a very beautiful thing, all white, crisp and somewhat romantic for most people. It brightens up the winter season and provides a variety of recreational opportunity. In Lapland, where winter only allows a few hours of twilight and the rest of the day is night, snow makes things lighter and the midwinter days easier to live with.

resize-of-winterforest02.jpgPhoto: Snow is mostly beautiful

But, for some living in a four season area of the world, snow only represents trouble and irritation and many in the U.S. become snowbirds and eliminate the problems snow causes by just leaving for southern areas and wait for it all to go away before returning home. Those first snowflakes mean drudgeries like shoveling snow, scraping icy windshields, icy walks and roads, wet clothing, cabin fever and, worst of all, just being cold!

I’ve seen these people driving their cars home from work in a wet snow flurry. Their knuckles turn white as the crouch down behind the steering wheel. Faces are tight and grey as they literally creep along at a snail’s pace convinced that the slightest false move will throw themselves into a ditch or smack their car into the mile long car parade in front of them. They get home, rushing into the house, and shake themselves off uttering how horrific life is with snow and vowing to never go outside again. They stare out a window, as the snow piles up outside, and contemplate how life during the winter is worse than hell itself. Why do they suffer?

The answer could very well be that these people have never learned to live with snow. They have acquired snow values and misunderstandings from parents or peer group and have never learned how to be friends with snow and, probably very often, they quickly shed this thought off by wimpingly saying…”I don’t wanna learn to be friends with snow”…which, really, is the basic problem. Not wanting to learn!


The Saami have some 300 words in their language for snow and each represents different conditions of snow or snow conditions in relation to Saami work and life. Dry snow, wet snow, crusty snow, old snow, new snow, new snow on old snow, fresh snow, packed snow, snow on ice, snow with layers of ice, snow that can be walked on, snow that breaks through, drifting snow etc etc.

The best way to learn about snow is to play with it, doing this often. By playing with or in snow, one gains experience with the different types of snow and one can readily and enjoyably adapt to snowy conditions allowing more opportunities in being outdoors.

resize-of-snowsculpturing01-copy.jpgPhoto: Snow sculpturing is one form of playing in snow. Here, snow sculpturing in Kiruna, Sweden

The proper type of clothing, possibly lightweight, wind resistant, water repellent in combination with fleece or wool in different layers, can be chosen and used during outdoor activities. Take layers off when working hard and sweating and put them back on as you cool off. If you get chilly, start moving. Kick holes in the snow to keep feet warm. Move around until you feel comfortable.

Consider snow in all its forms and make games with it. Play! Start today and learn to re-adjust your attitude to this natural phenomenon. You will soon understand that snow has advantages as well as learning how to cope with the stuff and make life a lot easier and more fun.

Consider the Lemming…

…when considering some things that are happening in this world. After a week away in the Västerbotten mountains and without television, I’ve listened to the mayhem of worldly actions on the radio and have felt a bit like a lemming.

I would venture in saying that, like many others in the world, Swedes are a pack of mutual admirers without the ability to say, “The Emperor doesn’t have any clothes on!”. Seemingly, they enjoy being acceptable and having the same beliefs and expectations of this order.
resize-of-dsc_0058.JPGPhoto: A Scandinavian lemming
Unfortunately, they are too ready to place criticism into a rhetorical corner and willingly discuss problems for, literally, years without reaching results nor conclusions nor positive changes.

Therefore, the lemming. A week in the mountains gives a distance to this circus. But I sometimes think that it’s only a matter of time that we all will run until we find that cliff to jump off of, possibly be pushed off of. Or, is it closer than we can imagine?

A small reflection…perhaps we need more courageous little boys and less lemmings?