Humbled and honored

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Little, perfect baby feet, branded with the local bank’s emblem

Today, I became the godmother of the most endearing baby boy known in universe. You probably think I am biased but if you had the privilege (or maybe will have) to meet my new godson, you are very likely to agree. When he wakes up, he does not scream, but lies in bed calmly contemplating his baby existence and when you come to pick him up, he beams at you as if to say, „Life is so awesome!“ I love his attitude. And I am very honored to be his godmother, and his only godparent. (I better pull off a very good Christian godmother performance. Luckily, I have 15 years of experience to draw from with my wonderful goddaughter who, I believe, deems me to be an acceptable godparent, and also has agreed to me taking on another godchild.) I’m so excited to see what kind of person he will grow into and to follow his adventures.

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My first mission was to provide my godson’s baptismal candle. I went with a maritime theme, hoping to instill in him an appreciation for the sea

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I only stayed the short weekend with my godson (and family) because I have to go back to work. The office was 36 degrees last week.

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As the weather cooled down, we experienced a storm. I attempted to close my windows in time but nature’s force outran me. My glass door slammed in front of me, and a thousand piece of broken glass rained down on me. I got a few cuts and my furniture was damaged by glass, but otherwise my action-movie-like experience went without further damage.

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Last Sunday, A and I went to Xanten. It’s a former (like very former, 2000 years ago) Roman village.

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You could even eat Roman food there which of course I had to try. Boiled eggs with fish sauce.

What else I did

You might have thought I got lost at the paradise island. But I haven’t, I’ve just been busy bouncing around Stockholm. What did I do after A went back to Germany? Let’s see:

I visited a friend on a remote island

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Just looked at my scared face…

And when I say remote, I mean remote. First, I travelled 2 hours and 7 minutes by public transport, changing three times. I actually was the only person on the last bus which seemed to delight the bus drivers who dropped me off at a stop that seemed like a place humans hadn’t touched. But they have – and one human picked me up, we drove on gravel paths for ten more minutes and then I was handed a life vest. That’s how remote the island was where my friend has her summer house. No electricity, no water. Just paradiasic nature and calm.

I looked for the blood moon and saw a photo exhibit

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The evening I returned from the island was the night of the lunar eclipse. Together with a former fellow student from my Uppsala times, I walked all through Stockholm’s Old Town to see the so called Blood Moon. We just couldn’t find it! I started doubting myself (I mean who doesn’t find the moon in the sky?!), but later read it was too cloudy in Stockholm.

On Friday, Tabea came from the (for non-Swedish-speakers) unpronouncable town of Skövde that is now her home and we went to Fotografiska together to see the impressive exhibiting “Turning the tide”. Using dramatic and awe-inspiring footage, the exhibit captures endangered oceanic habitats and wildlife, and shines a spotlight on the oceans.

I saw a apocalyptic Swedish movie with Evelina (and ate plankstek)

Marita had told me about a new Swedish movie, “Den blomstertid nu kommer”. It is a film that originally was crowdfounded and is made by a group from the town of Norrköping. In the movie Sweden faces a mysterious attack, complete with poisoned rain, birds falling from the sky and the blowing up of the Swedish parliament. The movie has been reviewed critically because its story is not super deep, but I liked it, not expecting profoundness from an action thriller.

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The apocalyptic atmosphere is Sweden is not only reflected in the movie. Swedes have also received a governement leaflet this spring with detailed information on how to prepare for “When the crisis or the war comes”. Even the book stores display books about prepping and “The Survival Hand Book”.

I went to church, the park and the construction site

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I attended Sunday mass in Hedvig Eleonora (and couldn’t believe they did not pray for rain, considering the raging fires). At that church, they put a “christening drop” into a tree for each new church member that was christened.

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Bianca and I got picknick and sat in Hagaparken, close to Crown Princess Victoria’s house.

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After meeting Magda who walked (!) all the way through Stockholm to see me, I spent some time marvelling at the giant construction site that once was Slussen. (I wonder how many decades it will take to complete that…)

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Paradise Island

Ever since early childhood, I have fought a war against insects. I have been the preferred victim of mosquitos as long as I can remember. This has led to me developing an extreme acoustial alertness to the sound of tiny wings. If there is something flying in my bedroom I cannot sleep. I am in terror! (Will it sting? Will it give me another bite that will bother me for weeks?) So when two flies decided to settle in our room, the night was over for me at 4.22 a.m. A woke as I was battling the two insects who kept attacking my nose and ears, and said sleepily, “The advantage of Helen 1 A Tours is that you also get to partake in Helen’s insomnia”.

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The Fly Incident led to A letting me sleep in (when I finally won against Fly No 1. at 5:57 and Fly No. 2 at 8:12 and fell asleep again) which in its turn led to us taking a later ferry to – the Island. I had told A in advance that we had to go to the archipelago because if I was to sucessfully market Stockholm the islands had to be part of the experience. However, I had also advertised the archipelago as peaceful and deserted, I painted a counterimage of Düsseldorf which bothers me with its density. When we got to Grinda, it seemed everyone else had had the same idea – it was crawling with people which earned me a skeptical look from A. I could only redeem my trustwortiness when I led him to a beach off the beaten track. Okay, more or less of the beaten track, there were 10 other people at first, but we were alone within an hour. While the sun was warming us and the waves were softly washing up to the shore, A said, “Well, you promised me paradise and I was not disappointed.”

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Spot me in the Baltic Sea!

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We stayed in a real hotel (uncommon for the islands)

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The view from the restaurant

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First course of our delicious dinner (such luxury!)

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To perfect the day, a skilled musician performed on the jetty at night

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Upon our return, I insisted showing A the Old Town before he left. We saw it all, including creative window dressings.

The one that got it all

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“I love boats!” A informed me this morning. Or actually, you would probably call it mid-day, when we scurried through the severly disrupted Stockholm public transport system. Apparently this spring, the city decided that everything needs to go under construction. I mean everything. I can hardly find my way anymore in some places. And it is not enough with that: One of the major construction sites for the past years, the new commuter stations, have been running for only one year to be closed off to traffic now just when we are here. The reason? They found, after only a year, that the escalators are faulty.

We still made it to the public transport ferry eventually. A loves boats, so Helen 1 A Tours took him on a boat to a boat. (Catering to the client’s interests is crucial for the success of Helen 1 A Tours!) The Vasa Ship, legendary and unique, awaited us. I had not been to the Vasa Museum in 5 or 6 years and I always find it impressive to see this historical ship.

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The hoardings at the construction sites have peepholes – for adults and of course for kids

I hope I don’t have to explain the significance of fika to my blog readers at this point. Naturally, our next to do was getting a fika at my favorite café, Flickorna Helin, where aggressive birds steal your food and slow waitresses smile and tell you most things are sold out for the day. But the view! The view is stunning.

Also, they had the paper which I studied carefully. The front page had a German fire engine on it. Germany has now joined the team to battle the fires in the woods of Sweden. Several other EU-members have already sent help. Almost a billion Swedish crowns have already burnt down and it does not look like rain is coming any time soon.

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From my time as a tourist officer in Stockholm, I still remember well what the top three sights are and it was only the last one, the first and largest open air museum in the world (and zoo), Skansen, that was missing on A’s list. That’s pretty good for 24 hours! Also, my favorite TV-show took place there tonight, so coincidentally we went there just today.

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The animals also thought it was very warm. Occasionally, they lifted their head, only to surrender again and lay down

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The young reindeer were not dead, just very warm

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Marita and I posed against the beautiful scenery

I have been attending Allsång på Skansen for five or more years in a row now and gradually assumed my role of Allsång ambassador which entails convincing friends to go there with me and educate them about this one-of-a-kind show. This year, it was Marita’s turn. We stood among all the Swedes and enthusiatically sang along to their summer songs (“The sand is wet, the girl is young, take me to the sea”) and I believe we actually ended up on TV! See below my five milliseconds of fame with my dearest Stockholm friend.

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Allsång på Skansen always starts and ends with a Stockholm anthem in which the crowd declares its love to the city, singing, Of all the towns I’ve seen in the world, you are the one who got it all. I am not sure if A entirely agrees but his verdict about today’s Helen 1 A Tour was very positive: “I love being on the ferry, I love looking at sailing vessels, I love meeting nordic animals, I love köttbullar. I love all of this.”

Show him the real North

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“I’ve booked my trip to Stockholm with Helen 1 A Tours. So I don’t worry about anything”, A said contendly as we boarded the plane to Sweden. Because today, he set foot on Swedish soil for the first time ever. I don’t take people to Sweden usually. I don’t give Helen 1 A Tours to anyone (even though several people have requested it). But I am on a mission to #showhimthenorth, as faithful instagram followers know, and it was now time to show him the real North.

So now we’re here and we’ve strolled through Kungsträdgården, took the boat sightseeing tour, sat at the Stadshuset terrace and shopped at Åhléns. Tomorrow Skansen and the Vasa Museum awaits. I am taking this tourist thing seriously. At the same time, it feels funny to me because it was so long ago I first did these things, 18 years to be precise. When we were at the Tourist Center and I asked if he wanted to take brochures, A said, “That’s fine. I have a walking brochure with me”.

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The great thing is, I am actually on vacation for three whole weeks. The first week I spent going to the Dutch beach for three days,

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visiting the National Dutch Railway Museum,

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with its impressive waiting hall,

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receiving a visit from my dear friend Jonna and

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going to the biggest fair at the Rhine with her

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and of course, going to the local lake twice.

 

Situatonal national identity

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To schedule an all-or-nothing World Cup match Germany vs. Sweden on Midsummer of all days is adventurous, I thought. To watch it with all my Swedes on the most crowded German party street in town is risky, I thought. I can change my situational national identity to Swedish for that night, I thought.

Let me tell you this: after Germany had scored their goal, I spent 50 agonizing minutes hoping nothing else would happen. How fun is it to watch a football match, that happens to be eventful, hoping for it to just be over before anyone does anything to change the balanced outcome of 1:1? I was terribly torn, sitting there in my Swedish jersey, being insulted by German fans (“All you can do is IKEA” [Eh, well, IKEA is pretty awesome.]) while slowly the feeling started creeping up that I really don’t want Germany to be kicked out of this tournament. But at the same time, Sweden fought so hard and come on, don’t we all love an underdog, and I was rooting for Sweden tonight, wasn’t I. Nerve-wracking! 

When the match was over, at least it was safe to go outside into the crowd. People patted our shoulders sympathically, giving us pitiful looks. “But my other team won!” I wanted to reply. It’s easy to be Swedish any other day but when it comes down to football, I guess I am still The German Girl.

The Day I gave the Swedish Prime Minister a Goat

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There are four days in my work year where I cannot be sick. This year one of those days took place in Berlin and so last week, I travelled to the German capital. Paris, Darmstadt, Berlin, Osnabrück in less than a week, including cancelled flights and other troubles. But I made it and at first, things were going rather smooth – until I, when getting ready for the networking boat trip we had arranged – made one wrong move. In German, we call this “Witch Shot” and a lumbago really feels like some evil power has seized you. But this was one of the four days when I cannot be indisposed so Diclofenac became my friend.

And actually maybe also adrenaline because I do believe the levels of that hormone are high in my body when I rush between people and places, organizing last minutes things like missing whiskey bottles or speakers stuck on airports. (What I couldn’t do anything about was the 32 degree heat that people had to endure as soon as they ventured outside of our air conditioned venue.)

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But all went well. At our dinner, we had a famous key note speaker, the former Swedish Prime Minister. Leading up to the event, I had sat in the office and wondered what to give him as a thank you present. When the evening came, my boss handed me the present and asked me to explain to the Prime Minister. “So we’ve been thinking”, I said to him, “what you’d like. But flowers are such a hassle to take on the plane to Stockholm. And you can’t bring liquids onboard. So we concluded we would give you a goat! Because that is so easy to take with you, right?” He looked at me in friendly confusion. “Well, actually it’s not you that gets to keep the goat”, I enlighted him. “We made a donation for a goat in your name for a family in need”, I said and handed him his gift certificate. He seemed very pleased – and I was delighted, too to have given a goat to a politican for the first time.

I also got to give away an award for the first time! My juniors and I have instituted a badge of honor for those facilitating junior engagement in the business community, and I, together with the chair of the junior network, got to award it.

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Very tired after a very full day in the elevator to the (unneccessarily) huge suite I was upgraded to

I went to bed at 3 a.m. but was up only a few hours later because I had the best brunch date: Ingrid! She met me in the park, me bringing unhealthy croissants and she bringing healthy fruit – and a polaroid camera!

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It might sound odd but I am rather glad to be back in my own home and to not have any travel scheduled for almost a month. Finally, I have time to catch up on things – I didn’t even have a single bottle of milk at home anymore – and live up to my long-neglected fika duty at work. Gotta run and bake that banana bread!