Gala ends, Christmas starts

A last look back at a night in blue

Now that I’m back safe and sound to Dizzel, the regional capital (because that is what Dizzel is) has gone from 13 degrees to minus 4 degrees. This means thermo tights while cycling! During the work day, I’m busy with the post-processing of the gala: sending people photos, writing texts about the evening for our magazine, thanking everyone involved, mailing out speeches to journalists, wrapping up the budget, well – you get the idea. The next event, albeit much smaller, is already around the corner and needs some attention, too.

But after the gala also means: before Christmas! Upon returning, I immediately geared up for advent, buying moss, oranges and candles, unpacking Christmas decorations from the basement, setting up my Christmas star in the window and listening and singing to Christmas music on repeat. I even got a tree! Yes, you heard right, and I transported it on my bike (totally possible). The proud fir is now gracing my living room – Germans (and Swedes) will think it’s too early but I pretend to honor the American tradition of putting it up in the beginning of advent…

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Del 21 i citatsamlingen

Ibland tror jag att jag har en internet-avstötande effekt i mig.

Hon önskar sig en deckare och parfym. Jag tĂ€nker jag kanske ger henne deckaren “Parfymen”. – Gud. Vad. Du. Är. O-Rolig. Om praktikanten hade varit hĂ€r hade han frustat över den lĂ„ga skĂ€mtnivĂ„n!

Wenn Drei HaselnĂŒsse fĂŒr Aschenbrödel im Fernsehen kommt, weiß man, dass Weihnachten ist! – Wie heißt der Film, Drei Hasen mĂŒssen verarscht werden?!

 

Transformers

“When are you coming to Stockholm?” “You haven’t been in Hamburg for a while”. “Here’s an invitation for something great in younameit”. I’m not going anywhere! However much I love seeing my friends and discovering new places, I also cherish being at home for once. After a lot of travelling these past weeks, last weekend was my first one in Dizzel. Suddenly, not getting to go anywhere and see anything felt like the luxury!

Partly because I got to hang out with great people who came to my humble abode. On Friday night, my assistant co-worker came by and we practised job interviews (for her applications to full-time jobs). That is to say, she practised and I asked difficult questions. After quite some intern interviews and going through interviews myself, I am starting to get good at it. At being difficult alltsÄ. 

On Saturday, Angelina visited me. We know each other from Uppsala where she spent her Erasmus year and luckily, her parents live kind of close (well, 2 hours, so she spent 4 hours on the train to see me). I had bought a new Ikea lamp and had faint hopes that maybe Angelina would be up for helping me with it. I mean, maybe, if she didn’t want to see Dizzel or do something else that’s fun.

I was in luck – because Angelina was at least as motivated than me. We spent the afternoon putting up lamps in the kitchen and living room with regular fika/dinner breaks in between. The kitchen lamp required a change of converter (it’s a totally 90s halogen construction), also called transformer. “Will I be featured on your blog as the Transformer?” Angelina inquired.

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Our adventure (during which one drill bit died) even required a trip to the home improvement store when we noticed the cord for the Ikea lamp was too short. Interestingly enough, 180 cm seems to be only 150 cm in the Ikea world. At the Bauhaus, my newly acquired expertise from the “women’s renovation workshop” came in very handy. As the shop assistant cut up the additional cord for us, I was quick on the uptake, saying, “Excuse me, but don’t we have to strip the insulation?” That saved us another trip because I don’t have an Abisolierer, the instrument you need for that, and the guy at the Bauhaus carefully stripped the insulation for us. I was very proud.

I tried a new Persian Dish as well, Zeresk Polo Ba Morgh, Chicken with Barberry and Saffron Rice. Even though I think I didn’t yet excel at preparing it, it was pretty delicious.

Del 19 i citat-samlingen

Jag kan inte identifiera mig med Bridget Jones. NĂ€r jag Ă€ter Ben and Jerry’s Ă€r jag stolt över det!

 

Hotel Helen is open

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„Helen, I am waiting for new blog content!“, I was texted last night. Give them an inch and they’ll take an ell, eh? I gathered lots of content, actually, but time is a ridiculously scarce ressource right now. Maybe because I spent the weekend in Amsterdam, am travelling to Sweden this next weekend and along the way opened Hotel Helen for the public.

Yes, Hotel Helen, or Domicil Lux if you’d like, was busy these last nights. On Thursday, my friend Svenja and her husband Burak came to visit as they were travelling through Dizzel International Airport.

Before I met them, I attended a gathering of the Dizzel Business Club where they talked about just this airport that has over 22 million people in 90 minutes’ radius and no less than 700 departures and arrival every day. The only thing that impressed me even more at that meeting was that the gender balance was totally off with about 5 % of the attendees being female. I guess working in Swedish business contexts has spoiled me (despite the fact that even we don’t usually come up to more than 30 %).

Svenja and Burak’s impression of DĂŒsseldorf was very interesting to hear. I’ve gotten used to quite some things by now but they looked at the city with fresh eyes and – closing the circle to the above paragraph – stated, „This place feels very masculine“. They thought that because there is a disproportionaley high number of men’s outfitters, many men on the streets, a lot of cars and I added that I actually think the architecture is somewhat male. How can architecture be male, you’re wondering, and how can this gender studies graduate say something this un-gendery? Oh well, I don’t t know, come to Dizzel and see for yourself!

The next guest was Anna. When we were holidaying in May and talked about school with her not being too fond of history, I said next time she has to write a history exam, I’d help her study for it. No sooner said than done, I got an email with the subject line „History exam“ and on Friday night, we sat going through Hitler’s ideology. That’s one way to spend a Friday night. Personally, I have lots of objections to how and what students are taught in history in German school. Like at her school, they started the A-Level preparations with the late middle ages, to then move to displacement after 1945, continue with the 1870s and then teach about Hitler. You don’t have to be a historian to figure out that that is widely confusing. (Also, since ages we are taught every fricking detail of Hitler’s sick thoughts but the prelude, the Weimar Republic, is often neglected.)

The last topic in their A-Levels will be ”myths”. No more info on that. What’s that even supposed to mean? It’s like saying, „We’ll study war. Won’t tell you which one, which time period and who against whom.“

The next morning, I interrogated her on ideology at the breakfast table when my former co-workers‘ cousin from Denmark arrived to check in at Hotel Helen for the night. I handed her the keys and an extensive manual („the grocery store is here“, „the tram leaves here“) and dashed off with Anna to the central station to take the train to Amsterdam. Amsterdam! Excuse me but how wonderful isn’t Amsterdam? I don’t know if it is the kamikaze cyclicsts, the super crooked houses, the beautiful water everywhere or the fact that one of my favorite cousins lives there – but I really like the city. We also had great luck with the weather which was both good when we strolled through town on Saturday and when we visited the Rijksmuseum on Sunday because bad weather would’ve meant huge crowds, I guess.

I have been wanting to go to that museum for a while. It is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam, founded in 1800. The building itself is absolutely lovely and the collections are impressive. If I find some time, I need to study the Dutch more because it is certainly marvelous how a small nation managed to produce so many outstanding artists during their Golden Age and to attain such global significance. My cousin told me that the Dutch East Indian Company was the most valuable company that ever existed, even by modern standards.

So finally I got to see The Nightwatch. Actually, it impressed me less than The Milkmaid, The Jewish Bride and the Swan which was the very first painting the museum acquired. It is quite peculiar how I recognized lots of paintings and I am still not sure if my arts education was simply very good or if anything from that time looks alike and I just thought I recognized it.

We made a point out of paying attention to small funny details in the paintings. My cousin even photographed every drunk person in the art, I think he’s planning to make a drunkard collection or something.

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Helen meets the Night Watch

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You can even get The Milkmaid as a playmobil

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Love and appreciation in this painting

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“It seems a little extreme that they would have flown off the ship like that”, said my cousin

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A happy bat!

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Cousinquote. “His outfit makes me slightly uncomfortable”

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Even the baby is tipsy, huh?

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The ceiling in the museum’s atrium

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Cousin and I play Maarten and Oopje. Rembrandt painted the marriage portraits of the newly-weds Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit in Amsterdam in 1634, when he was twenty-eight. They are most wanted and least exhibited Rembrandts in the world.

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Cousin and his university

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I thought this was art, too, but apparently they just marked the spot where you should put your bins, with “household garbage”

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This is Anne.

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The Wu-Tang Quarter of town.

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Del 11 i citat-samlingen

“Om ett barn heter Tina, varför mĂ„ste man ge det ett nytt namn och kalla det Zahara bara för att man har adopterat barnet frĂ„n Afrika? Det Ă€r som om jag kallade dig VĂ€ttern.” “Men jag vill hellre heta TingstĂ€detrĂ€sk dĂ„.”

“Köpenhamn Ă€r lite som Stockholm, det Ă€r fint men man vet inte vad man ska göra dĂ€r.” “Va? Det stĂ€mmer ju inte alls, Stockholm har Stadshuset och Skansen och Vasamuseet…” “Du Ă€r en sĂ„n pensionĂ€r.” “Nej, jag Ă€r Stockholmsambassadör!”

“Om du Ă€r sĂ„ upprörd, skriv en insĂ€ndare dĂ„.” “Nej, jag mĂ„ste göra nĂ„t större. Kanske twittra.”

“Visst rĂ€knar man fem glas champagne?” “Per person?!”

“Auf Schwedisch heißt Batman LĂ€derlappen.” “Zu Batman habe ich geforscht! Im Folterkontext.”

“Das Wort fika ist gleichzeitig ein ett-Wort und ein en-Wort. Die wollen einen fertig machen mit ihren Artikeln.” (Kollegin, die angefangen hat, Schwedisch zu lernen:) “Aber ich lass mich nicht fertig machen! Ich lern das einfach auswendig!”

“Det Ă€r sĂ„ mĂ„nga nya stĂ€llen i Stockholm nu. Jag kĂ€nde mig som en lantis!”

“DĂŒsseldorf is not that bad. It has museums. And…grassed areas.” – “Are you in sales by any chance?”

Almost famous

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Last week, I got a BĂŒchersendung, that’s a package sent at book rate. I do order stuff but I was certain not to have ordered a book because I always buy them at my local book store now to support the Dizzel booksellers.

When I opened the package and found the title to be “Lost heart – found dog”, I was even more sure that I’d never order a book like that and it only gradually dawned on me that this was a complimentary copy. I am featured in this book!

In 2014, freshly arrived to Hamburg, I was about to become homeless and when all normal attempts to find housing proved futile, my friend Ingrid and I designed a bulletin that we put all over town. This led to all kinds of things, emails from romantically interested men, some apartment offers and a rather crazy lady who started texting me all the time.

A while ago, a journalist contacted me and told me she was writing a book about funny notices she’s found all over Germany and if I’d be up for telling her my story. Of course I was. So half a year ago, I told her my story and gave her all kinds of material and last week, I got the result. I don’t want to be mean, but I was not impressed. Not only did the book have spelling mistakes (really?!), it also simply copied everything instead of refining it, and worst of all, she wrote that I’d lived in Sweden “because like many Germans, Helen is besotted with Sweden’s BullerbĂŒ, elks, Villa Villekulla, all this nature, so cute and peaceful”.

Okay, what?! I have always thought BullerbĂŒ was way too uneventful, I don’t even like elks (I prefer reindeer), Villa Villekulla is definitely too colorful for true Swedish style, and the last time I spoke to the media about Sweden, it was about burning cars, so much for peacefulness. Talk about being misunderstood! If anyone falls victim to the thought of me being besotted with Sweden, I’d like to refer you to my co-workers and friends who, I believe, can attest my very differentiated, possibly even critical, perspective on Sweden. One that has much more to do with the public health system, national branding and the Swedish intelligentsia than with elks…

 

The Dizzel charm

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When someone tells me – and that happens – “Let’s go to the Old town!” I instantly have these horror scenarios of the infamous Bolkerstraße before my inner eye: bachelorette parties parading in silly costumes, drunk village youth staggering on the cobble stone and one beer and burger place next to the other.

But today, my co-worker took us all to Hausmann’s which is on the other side of the Old Town and which is in such a charming location that it partly reminded me of my childhood days in Heidelberg-Neuenheim. We were there for our intern’s farewell dinner – he is already leaving and it makes us sad. Luckily, he’s still here for two more days, helping us with the jubilee celebrations, but we decided to already do all the goodbye stuff today because we won’t have a moment of peace for the next 53 hours, that’s for sure.

My first work duty tomorrow morning is to buy helium balloons with the intern, something I have been looking forward to for months now.If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for helium balloons. I will buy a large 1 and a large 5 and maybe some more. It will be a wonderful shopping spree!

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Today, we drank to our intern and gave him some goodbye presents, among them a ‘letter of reference’ in which I among other things wrote, “Han visade Ă€ven upp sin utomordentliga researchförmĂ„ga nĂ€r han efter bara nĂ„gra veckor upptĂ€ckte handledarens privata blogg och bidrog till att alla kollegor pĂ„ kontoret nu kan delta i Helens liv i bild och text” and “Kollegorna misstĂ€nker att han egentligen har skickats hit av Region SkĂ„ne dĂ„ han har jobbat vĂ€ldigt aktivt med upplysning om södra Sverige. Kollegorna fick ta del av utförlig information om bĂ„de kultur, historia och det skĂ„nska sprĂ„ket”. We’re going to miss him!

After the first bottle of sparkling wine literally exploded in my co-worker’s hand, we found another one that we safely opened, thus preparing for the singing rehearsal I forced the other to have. At the jubilee dinner, we will – of course – be singing songs and we don’t all know all songs so we practiced a little. Our assistant who has just started learning Swedish was very sceptical and when we introduced a song as the national anthem, failing to mention that it was just the melody of the anthem, she said, “Am I getting this wrong or is the anthem seriously about ‘cola and rum’?!”

Yesterday was the big Pax day. I had to work from home because the Pax builders were supposed to arrive some time between 7 am and 2 pm. I could not sleep that night because I was so excited and after a while I wondered if I was crazy because I cared so much about a piece of Ikea furniture. My friend Emily reassured me though, “A PIECE OF LIFE CHANGING FURNITURE!”, she texted, in caps. Working in a home office in a living room completely full of clothes and shoes was quite special. And now I own a Pax! Everything is orderly and even has lightning. It makes me as happy as helium balloons!

Del 8 i random-citat-frÄn-jobbet-samlingen

“Jag behöver fĂ„ vatten i mig. Jag kĂ€nner mig som en vissen blomma.”

“Ebba von Sydow Ă€r gravid!!!” – “Jag vet, jag hörde redan frĂ„n kollegan att det var det första du sa nĂ€r du kom in pĂ„ jobbet imorse.”

“Bara i Tyskland har de en karatĂ€r pĂ„ barnteve som Ă€r ett deprimerat bröd”. – “Vi har ju snippan och snoppen…” “Det Ă€r för att vi Ă€r moderna!”

 

 

 

Babies

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My new maternal cousin’s tiny hands

When I was little, my mom completed her degree dissertation and I vividly remember a party where friends asked her about it and she said something along the lines of, “Let me get my baby”, then fetching the book. A five-year-old desperate for a younger sibling, I felt kind of fooled.

This weekend, I got to meet my new baby cousin. He is adorable, has triangular toe nails and might just be the calmest baby ever. He didn’t cry at all even when we had to pull three tight pieces of baby garment over his head. “Are you going to have kids soon?” his older sister asked me. If I didn’t have the feeling of being fooled still in me, I might have said, “Oh, I already have one” – because the jubilee we’re currently preparing is kind of like my baby. A project very close to my heart. It is also like a baby in terms of being much more labor-intensive than originally imagined. Luckily, I have three motivated co-workers who willingly support me in all we have to do, be it taping table cloths to tables, using personal relations to ensnare the local media or handwriting dozens of placement cards. Plus the chairperson of the juniors who despite not being on site yet is a great partner in crime. Yesterday, I decided that she had to be the one getting the fresh rolls in the morning (because to keep costs low for the participants, we do almost everything ourselves).I emailed her, “I have just named you roll responsible, I hope you feel honored”. She replied, “That’s perfect, I’ve studied 20 credit points of ‘dough-based foods acquisition’ at university, so I feel I am up to the task”. It’s a pleasure working with qualified candidates!

As if there was not enough to think of with a list of very detailed and complicated logistics for this event, my Pax is moving in tomorrow. That was the date Ikea could offer and you don’t say no to Ikea. My friend Britta lent me her wardrobe for almost a year now and as she’s about to leave for Canada for a while, she didn’t need it back. The Pax barely fits into my bedroom but two wardrobes definitely can’t be in there – so I had to get one down to the basement. But I’m just a girl, how on earth was I supposed to manage that? I decided to give our online neighborhood community a shot and asked if someone could help me carrying down the wardrobe, carefully adding that I live on the ground floor. Would you believe it, within minutes a guy replied he could come by. A day later, the next one said he’d help. So tonight, two apparently praticed men came by and carried the wardrobe to the basement. I was amazed by their helpfulness and almost had to force them to accept some Merci-chocolate as a thanks. I guess you can say a lot about Dizzel but the Dizzel neighbors are good folks!

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My co-worker is drawing motivational things for me

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We got to design a new banner for our juniors. As you see, that made me happy. To the right the old banner, the left shows our new.

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I started seating plans today. One of the most difficult and most fun tasks!

Del 7 i citat-samlingen

“Jag googlemapar mig sjĂ€lv ibland. Det hjĂ€lper mot hemlĂ€ngtan”.

“Min hjĂ€rna har tysta timmen nu.” – “Min har roliga timmen!”

“Det Ă€r fan ett heltidsjobb att vara hipster! Det kostar jĂ€ttemycket pengar”.

Kollegan fantiserar om att öppna en tysk bar i Sverige. “Och sĂ„ ska jag köra heltyskt och bara ta kontanter!” – “Nej, dĂ„ fĂ„r du mafian efter dig snart!”

“SĂ€tt mig pĂ„ cc i mejlet.” – “CC Ă€r en klub i BĂ„stad.”