Thirty

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I think my doctor jinxed it. Last Monday when I came to see her for some lab result, she said, “You look splendid!” Less than 48 hours later, I was in bed with a terrible cold, not looking splendid at all anymore.

If you wondered how I spent my 30th birthday, you now know: I sneezed, I coughed, I endured a headache, and yes, I felt a bit sorry for myself. Thankfully, there were factors that alleviated the misery. Like the unexpected flower delivery from Sweden, the fact that A had taken the day off and spent it with me, or the enormous rose bouquet my choir gave me.

The next days I spent actively working on improving my health. I know that a cold takes seven to ten days regardless of what you do (I mean, I’ve had like 4 colds in three months now so I am an experienced sufferer). But I still made ginger shots (without alcohol, obviously), drank hot lemon tea and took a hot bath with eukalyptus. “Until Saturday, I will stick to home remedies”, I informed A. “Because for the weekend, I need to be able to have another level of escalation, a chemical weapon”. He looked at me as if my cold was Kim Jong Un.

But I had to be on my feet on Saturday. Because on Saturday, the party that I had been planning for 18 months would finally happen. The celebration that I had hashtagged #statthochzeit, which means instead of a wedding. The festivity that would bring together nearly 100 guests from all over Europe. The birthday bash that should mark my entering my glorious 30s.

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A helped me get these amazing balloons

It was quite a happening, and I could be part of it thanks to Aspirin Complex. My friends Malin, Michelle, Ingrid and Axel who arrived a day before helped me with all the preparations, blowing up 80 balloons, ordering me to rest and save my energy for the night, transporting rum in a shopping cart and (this was a surprise to me) installing a photo booth.

And then it all happened. You would think as a professional event manager I would be able to visualize 100 people but I kept being amazed when more and more and more guests poured into the party location I had rented. So many friends from all walks of life, my parents, my stepsister, a bunch of “my” juniors, my former intern and my entire maternal family. People I had not seen for years, friends I just made a year ago, and companions that have known me since I was small.

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This is my mom and her sisters. They rewrote the lyrics to “Thank you for the music” and performed a song for and about me. Don’t you wish you had a family like mine?

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These two held a wonderful speech

The brain is, I learned, designed to be able to take in groups of 20 people. Maybe that is why I remember what people said to me but not who said it. Perhaps it’s why I kept feeling I was falling short of actually socializing with everyone who had come all the way to Dizzel for me. But that’s okay because the guests told me afterwards that they had great conversations with each other and how great the music was (thanks to always-amazing DJ Ingrid who never let the dance floor get empty even for just a minute). Upon leaving, more than one requested that I’d have another party like this when I turn 35. (Spoiler alert: I will need to recover from this until I am 50.)

The morning after, we had brunch with those who had travelled from outside of Dizzel. Despite two hours of sleep and a cold, I made it through brunch and through cleaning up the party place (thanks to the help of A, Ingrid and my cousin Felix), but at 6 p.m. I fell asleep.

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So. many. presents. And that’s actually not even all of them. Thank you!

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I let go of my age by releasing these balloons into the sky. Deep symbolism, eh?

 

10 227 days

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Yesterday, I had lived 10 227 days. Some bad days, some normal days, some unbearable days, some magnificent days. Luckily, the latter kind of days usually sticks to my memory. When you have lived 10 227 days, you turn 28. I had mixed feelings about that milestone: on one hand, I am always glad to get to the next number, on the other it means I am – in event manager terms – very close to planning my 30th birthday. (Mark your calendars now: Feb 17, 2018 there will be a party!) The best part of yesterday might have been the fact that I finally escape having to pronounce “27” in Swedish. My PBI (postal birthday card index) had dropped again, though, and my closest people were very far from me. No ideal prerequisites for a cradle celebration, as we Germans also call a birthday.

But of course there was also fun in this 15th of February: My mom send me a touching e-card that started with an ad for “finding a husband for free” (she claims she could not influence the content of the ad), Ingrid sent me photos of Princess Estelle, my younger brother by choice wrote me a handwritten letter from Africa (!), my friends gave me gifts I immediately put in use (classical (and very good) Swedish short stories in booklet format and pretty earrings), my co-workers sang for me, and I finally put up the patron for the organisation I work for in a gold frame behind my desk. (It’s the Crown Princess, of course.) (I also got lots of texts and Facebook posts, thank you.)

And on Saturday, I’ll have a full house. Because I believe you should always celebrate being alive, I invited people for wine and finger food at my new place. I sent the invitation also to far-away friends out of courtesy. I mean, who would come all the way from Southern Germany or Belgium for a less significant birthday as 28 is? Turns out my friends do – and how awesome is that?

Last Friday Night

Magda, giant present bags, me, Martina

Magda, giant present bags, me, Martina

Happy Friday, everyone! This is a line my former colleague/mentor at my internship would exclaim when she cheerfully entered the office on Friday mornings and I think it is a most wonderful tradition. Each Friday, I put up a postcard on my desk that reads, “Hip Hip Horray, it’s Friday!” I have almost become superstitious, worrying there will not be a weekend if I don’t put up the card.

When Emma saw the name cards, she said, "Ah, a real Uppsala alumna you are!" because student dinner parties in Uppsala always have name cards.

When Emma saw the name cards, she said, “Ah, a real Uppsala alumna you are!” because student dinner parties in Uppsala always have name cards.

Last Friday then – what a delightful Friday that was! I already recounted the day and at night, I gathered all my friends at the Persian restaurant Shahrzad where I had reserved a chambré separé for our party of twentysomething people. It was such an enjoyable task to put out the little name cards I had made and with each card think, “Oh, and this friend is coming, too”, “And that’s her who I worked with during that time”, “So nice to see this person again who I share this memory with”. There were Stockholm and Uppsala friends from all periods of my Swedish life: the first friend from five years ago who accompanied me through it all, the first co-workers I had, the Germans who I met in Germany and who moved at the same time as me, the friends who I met through choir, other foreigners who studied Swedish with my side by side after work, the ones who brought me through my thesis, the new relative I only recently befriended. They were all there, they had taken their time to come and truly, ““I count myself in nothing else so happy as in a soul remembering my good friends“.

The table was set up in a large U-form and I sat on the inside of the U, moving around in order to be able to speak to everyone.

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These friends had not obliged the motto not to bring presents but instead brought me the most thoughtful, lovely gifts. From beautiful books to coveted bags, from classy watches to Swedish flower seeds to plant in a German garden (and the list continues!) they surprised me.

Coming up next: Sweden’s best book.

Twenty-Seven

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A good blogger blogs once a day, I suppose. I have not even managed to blog once a week recently. The reason is that I am not exactly in good health (if you ever want to curse someone, wish them problems with their disks) and my sick days have not inspired me to write, instead I watched Grey’s Anatomy and boy, has it gone downhill for that (once my favorite) series.

Today I turned 27, a number that is near-impossible to pronounce in Swedish for a non-native. The good thing is that, in Sweden, people usually ask you for the year you were born in (“Are you an 88?”) so I don’t have to worry too much about the coming year and my pronunciation struggles. (I can pronounce 27, but it takes more concentration and tongue twisting than most other words.)

My27th birthday I decided to spend at my parents’ house for the first time in 4 years. My mother had asked me to bring a Bible for a birthday surprise. Yes, a Bible. Because I am a good child, I did not object and brought my school bible. My mom then presented me with a recipe for a cake that goes like this, “Take 1,5 cups of Moses’ fifth book, chapter 32,14a and mix with 6 pieces of Jeremiah chapter 17,11a”. All ingredients were listed like this, except for baking soda because they seem to not have had that back in the day.

I was showered with lots of congratulations, among them my uncle sending a voice message with him playing “Happy Birthday” on the piano, Linus and Alain shooting a Helen’s-birthday-video at the gorgeous beach in Thailand and twenty Swedish high school students that my friend Malin worked with this weekend singing a Swedish birthday tune for me. That is only three of over 60 lovely greetings, from former choir mates, current and former co-workers, pen friends since ten years, from distant and closer family. Thanks a lot for those!

Even Google changed its logo for me!

Even Google changed its logo for me!

My parents and I went to an exhibition for my birthday that was titled “Decision Making”. I thought that was rather fitting, you know, getting older and making choices and all. The exhibition was very well-done with smart displays and interactive elements. At the end, you got the results of the answers you gave to the questions in the interactive elements and you also read lots of decision-making tips which were quite inspiring. If you want to go see it, too, the exhibition (in German) is in the Universum Science Center in Bremen and should be open until May. I even got in for free because I was a birthday child!

One of the questions you were asked in the exhibition: "If you met a Swede and fell in love, would you emigrate or break up?" Duh.

One of the questions you were asked in the exhibition: “If you met a Swede and fell in love, would you emigrate or break up?” Duh.

My actual birthday celebration will be a dinner (at 27, in a temporary health state of a 87-year-old, I guess you don’t party) which I will have in Stockholm next Friday. I have celebrated my birthday so many times there now; it almost feels like a tradition. (Even though February is one of the worst months to travel to Sweden.) Let’s hope my Swedes don’t make me pronounce 27 at the dinner.

 

Faith: The Scandinavia Tour

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As you know, the Swedish Church of Hamburg was temporarily closed for renovation. A big scaffold hides the pretty facade and you hear the stones falling through the tunnel kind of thing they built from the fifth story to the ground.

This is why we, the Swedish church community, have sought refuge with our Scandinavians neighbours. All Scandinavians churches are located in the same street which is very convenient. I’ve learned that we are on good terms with the Finnish and we like the Norwegians. We do apparently not like the Danish because of a row some years ago. This is just rumours I heard but judging from the fact that we now are sheltered by the Finnish and Norwegian, it seems somewhat true.

Our first choir practice was in the Finnish church last week. I do wonder what kind of drugs their architect was on when he designed the building. There are no windows at all, no decoration, the walls look like white prison cells and the room keeps getting smaller and the ceiling is suspended in a way that sabotages the acoustic.

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I also feel like I am in a foreign country because I do not understand a single word that is written in the Finnish hymn book. I looked at the page with the usual prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed and such, but I could not even discern which one was which. That is not the Finnish Church’s fault though and I am anxious to point out that I think it is very nice of them to let us be in their church, do not misunderstand me. Also, it is very charming when you are sitting there and suddenly a tango tune plays somewhere in the house. Because the Finnish, they’re tango dancers in case you didn’t know.

This morning I attended service in the Norwegian church. Every week a new church, I feel like I am on a tour through Scandinavia (see poster). The Swedes consider the Norwegians for historical and lingustic reasons their brother people. (Even though they keep teasing each other but when the going gets though, they stand side by side, very closely.) Today for the first time, I could really feel why. When I came in late, the door was held open for me and I came into a church that was not as wonderful as ours but still much nicer than the Finnish one and there was a likeable Norwegian priest talking. Norwegian sounds always-happy and more or less understandable to Swedish-speaking ears and compared to Finnish, you feel like you’ve finally found your way home. There were Swedish and Norwegian songs sung and our Swedish pastor held the sermon saying some very smart words on Je Suis Charlie. The only time that almost tripped me up was when we said the prayers in our respective languages. La viljen din skje på jorden slik som i himmelen is close but phonetically not the same as Låt din vilja ske på jorden så som i himlen.

My absolute favorite part of the Norwegian service must have been that they had dogs in church. To bring children is normal but bringing your dog is…awesome. I must say they were very hansome, obedient dogs.

Afterwards, we had fika in the community room that was adjacent the church room. Basically, it is all one big room. Having grown up with Catholic churches where the sacral space is demarcated clearly from the mundane, I felt like the first Christians must have felt when they had service in their living rooms. The Norwegians had served lovely fika for us and on the one side of the buffet, they had placed napkins in the Norwegian colors and on the other, napkins in the Swedish colors – the loveliest gesture! 

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Apparently, the Norwegian church has the tradition to put those who had their birthdays the previous week, on a chair in the middle and then everyone sings for them, doing a funny dance. It was easy to tell apart the Swedes because they did not know how to do the dance. The pastor concluded the fika with announcing the things that were happening at the church this week, ending each announcement with, “Swedes are allowed to come, too!”

Party Debrief

Compared to last weekend when Ingrid and I, exhausted from our tedious daily lives, sat on the sofas the whole Saturday evening, this weekend was very eventful. When I finally made it to my parents’ town (I had to ship off all the ebay stuff I had sold – which included my beloved collection of books on the Swedish royal family, I decided I can carry all the photos in the yearbooks 1977-2007 in my heart instead of having them in my book shelf), my mom and I embarked on a mission for which I was especially commission in my function as balloon-expert and color-scheme-connoisseur. Despite some difficulty and initial service-desert-Germany-feelings, we suceeded in buying 50 (in words: fifty) helium-filled ballons. While those were filled, we also shuttled guests to and from the train station with constant phone coordination (“Where are you? We need the car!”) to the planning headquarters, i.e. my parents’ house. We then took a car completely filled with balloons which fully obstructed the rear view. In short: there was a lot of commotion going on!

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When I arrived to the party site, I made my way to the hotel room and it took me double as long as usual not only because that, let me say, estate was a true maze but also because I met all the guests in the hallway who had just come from their rooms. Very nice indeed, here a grandpa, there a friend of the family, hello, hello!

The glittering party started traditionally with a dinner buffet which was very delicious and my grandpa phrased what I also felt, “I wish we were like camels so we could eat now for the next eight days. But I am already full and tomorrow morning, I’ll be hungry and there will be none of this exquisite food left.” My thoughts exactly.

DJ Ingrid kicked off the night’s dance and quickly, the dance floor was filled with ecstatic (mostly) female relatives of mine shaking it. Previously, I have only been able to advertise DJ Ingrid because I am personally so fond of her, but now I can fully vouch for her excellent DJ skills. She managed to make the music flow so smoothly from one song to another, catering to all age groups’ needs (even my grandpa’s who nonchalantly waved to her every now and then), that everyone seemed to have their share of good fun. One sign for that is when my feet hurt like crazy and I am dead tired and still have to get up again and again because it’s that song and than that song and oh, that one!

I also had somewhat of an age epiphany. The family members that are younger than me used to always be children, but now they’ve grown up and some of them had become excellent party material. Such a joy to dance with the boy who suddenly is taller than you and the girl you used to babysit that now knows the same songs as you. One of my cousins had brought his girlfriend who was introduced to me with the words, “That’s Merle, she’s new”. This very young girl won my heart by saying, “Wow, you live in Hamburg, that must be so cool”, “I guess you’re older than me, you must be, like, already twenty or something”, and (to her boyfriend), “You never told me you had such a cool cousin”. Read and repeat: These are the kinds of things you should say if you want to make friends. 

The lavish celebration continued well into the wee hours, there was even a five story midnight birthday cake brought in by my mom, and unfortunately I do not have a single photo of anything. But they say those are the best parties: when you don’t have time to take photos.

This morning, I could definitely feel the effects of the late night yesterday, and we did little but entertain the far-travelled family and give Ingrid a dose of family exposure which she coped with brilliantly. (Maybe because so many other female relatives were also called Ingrid?)

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Ingrid and I also stood at the door of the party location and gave away balloons to passing people this morning, thus accidentically giving the place a better reputation. From children to grandmas, everyone was very delighted.

Ingrid meets my cat. They instantly bond.

Ingrid meets my cat. They instantly bond.