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!


My co-worker is drawing motivational things for me


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.


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

Del 7 i citat-samlingen

“Jag googlemapar mig själv ibland. Det hjälper mot hemlängtan”.

“Min hjärna har tysta timmen nu.” – “Min har roliga timmen!”

“Det är fan ett heltidsjobb att vara hipster! Det kostar jättemycket pengar”.

Kollegan fantiserar om att öppna en tysk bar i Sverige. “Och så ska jag köra heltyskt och bara ta kontanter!” – “Nej, då får du mafian efter dig snart!”

“Sätt mig på cc i mejlet.” – “CC är en klub i Båstad.”





Next stop Gothenburg

059 (2)

I got to the airport 15 minutes before take off and made it. We were only ten passengeres going to Dizzel.

Actually, I was thinking of giving you a third Leipzig post but life has just been happening all the time since I returned…I’ve spent a substantial part of the weeking working on a secret project that I can’t talk about yet (yet!) and I’ve also had a far-travelled guest: Gerrit, who just spent a year in Tanzania and now speaks fluent Swahili. It sounds really cool!

The two last picture show: a very interesting selection at the street market, and one of the impressive locations I looked at, my second favorite

But let’s pay some more tribute to lovely Leipzig. I managed to pop into the two most famous churches. Saint Nicolas is not only gorgeous, it is also where the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 started. Cabaret artist Bernd-Lutz Lange said about the events which started in the St. Nicholas Church: “There was no head of the revolution. The head was the Nikolaikirche and the body the centre of the city. There was only one leadership: Monday, 5 pm, St. Nicholas Church“. If I understood correctly, the Monday prayer is still held today,  5 pm.

The other important church is Saint Thomas where no lesser than the great Johann Sebastian Bach worked for nearly 30 years, and where he is also buried. Of course, it is also home to the world-famous Thomaner Boy Choir. Actually, it seems that every important person in history has been hanging out in Leipzig. Mendelsohn, Goethe, Schiller, and I guess/hope some women, too. Goethe’s studies in Leipzig even inspired him to set parts of his “Doctor Faustus” in the Leipzig tavern “Auerbachs Keller”.

In town, I came by a crowd with headphones and upon looking closer, I saw that it was a silent concert. There was a band playing without making a sound and the bystanders listened through their headphones. That’s a pretty neat way to not disturb anyone.

Mostly I was checking out locations for work though and among others, I was guided through the hotel. They really wooed me. They put Swedish stuff on all the screens in all the hotel and even set out a real Dala horse! Also, they have really nice wallpaper.

A very pleasant surprise upon coming home was finding my tax refund statement. I will finally get a wardorbe! You can tell, my dreams are flying high. Other people want to travel the world, I just want to store my clothes.

Tomorrow, I am flying to Gothenburg and as usual, I haven’t packed yet. But I’m looking forward!

Gerrit and me reunited, my dream, and a book I acutally bought (never buy books #library) for the holiday week



Family and friends


Part of the family reunion was going on a tour of the village and I was introduced to this charming chapel that I’ve driven past 45900 times but never been inside

Last weekend, I got to meet lots of previously to me unknown family – we had the big cousin reunion. I actually started going around and taking notes that I later put together in a family tree. Did you know there is really great freeware for such things? I could hardly stop making genealogies, it’s really fun (maybe only if you’re a historian). Now I know that the names Felix, Philipp and Erik are popular among my kin.

Sunday and Monday I spent at my parents’ place: with my own magazine, my cat and finding out my parents attic staircase is from Skellefteå. Last photo: angels in front of the World War Memorial that also lists my great-grandpa Heinrich.

After a free Monday, I was back at work today where the hours just fly by – is it just me or is time zooming on by?! Today as also the day my dear friend Bianca and her boyfriend Francesco were in town! We did some fragmented hanging out (due to meetings and work on my part) but we did manage to eat lunch together, visit the Japanese temple and see my apartment. And we’ll meet again in only 3 and a half weeks – I have finally booked flights to Stockholm. I hope some day I will learn to book earlier. That will be the day I’ll suddenly have much more money left, too.


How do you measure a year?

“We had the pleasure of spending many lovely and witty hours with him. We will keep a fond memory of him as a humorous, sensitive and empathetic man. The rememberance of his down-to-earth, uncomplicated and kind humane character continues to serve us as a beneficial orientation for the shaping of relationships in our lives.”

March, 30th: “It used to be a perfectly ordinary day but now it sticks up on the calendar like a rusty nail” (D. Tartt, The Goldfinch)

Please Mister Postman


Today has been one of these rainy days when Hamburg wants to fool you into believing that summer is over. After I had forced Ingrid to take a walk with me, popped into the local mosque (I have never been in a mosque but always wanted to), and had tea time with scones at a café, we went home to my place, lit candles and drank green tea, thus conceding to the fall atmosphere. And then I carried my three boxes of letters into the living room. Some years ago, I sorted my letters by senders and bundled them pretty ties. When my friend Frederieke told me last year that she sorted her letters by years, I, a historian, realized that her method appealed much more to me.


So tonight I took a trip down memory lane with Ingrid. And let me tell you, it was hilarious, touching and enlightening. The earliest letters date from 1993 and they are birthday cards: “All the best on your fifth birthday!” with the stamps that look so old and have the old currency on them. At the end of the Nineties, a vivid exchange with friends begins, tackling questions such as “Do you have internet?” and whether the friend could send the songtext of an A*Teens song. There is a book in which my then best friend Claudia and I wrote letters to each other, a “letter book” or “babbling book”, as we called it. They were very popular around 1998/1999, and they are hilarious, telling about crushes but also important events such as the total solar eclipse in 1999 (“I am writing to you about the solar eclipse. August 11, 1999, 11:30  Slowly it gets darker, cloudy, rainy. 12:33: Street lightening automatically turns on. 12:35: It is dark as at midnight, no stars, darkness without a corona for 2 minutes, rain.”)

There are also self-drawn cards with a nun saying “Repent!” and on the inside “And congratulate Helen on her birthday!” I should mention I attended an all girls’ school run by sisters. In later years now, there are wedding invitations and birth announcements from friends’ babies.

Card from my mom when she was in Myanmar. Apparently is was missent to Thailand because Thailand and Sweden are so easily confused.

Card from my mom when she was in Myanmar. Apparently is was missent to Thailand because Thailand and Sweden are so easily confused.

In my final year of high school, there is a letter from chancellor Angela Merkel who my friend and I apparently wrote to. There are letters from children’s books authors who I had contacted postally to express my admiration. There are long letters from pen friends who inform me about their schedule at school in Sweden or their grades in Croatia. The letters of my friend Maike always stand out through their unparalleled use of words;  elaborated language register does not even begin to cover it. 

Every year, there is a birthday card from our former landlady who ‘adopted’ me as her ‘grandchild’ when we used to live there. All the years, be it 1999, 2005 or 2014, have a birthday wish from her in their bundle.

When my little siblings by choice went abroad for highschool, I received letters from France and the US, describing their stay. My aunts and parents sent me affectionate letters here and there through the years to the different places I lived. Certain friends are especially diligent correspondents, filling page after page with their recognizeable handwriting, and the funniest cards with the shortest lines usually come from Emily.

Some of the envelopes I could only file into the right years by looking at the address. “Sernanders väg 9, oh that was my first year in Uppsala. And this is Sernanders väg 8, that was where I lived my second year”. These letters are historical sources even if I am not an important person in history (history of the common man, you know!) and although it is easier to sort them when the writers dated them or the post stamp is clearly visible (best post stamp visibility in the world: Gothenburg!), it is of course fun for me to decipher the year from the content. Someone is referring to my first move to Sweden? Ah, this is from 2010. Someone congratulates me on me becoming a teen? The year must be 2001. The letter is accompanied by a newspaper article about Princess Estelle’s birth? Sort it into 2012. 

So if you ever wondered if it is worth sending me a postcard or a letter, rest assured that I highly appreciate them, I archive them and I read them even decades later because they are written witness of my life’s journey. 

I love little people

I took last Monday off at work to go to my parents’ and meet my stepsister and her little family. They have a daughter that just turned one and that girl is so freaking adorable I don’t even have accurate words to describe it. She is, along with my friends’ baby girl who’s being christened this weekend (yes, I am attending and yes, it’s in Sweden and yes, I wanted to cut down on Sweden-trips), the happiest baby I’ve ever met.

When I was younger I sadly thought I would never become an aunt because I have no siblings. In my family, “Auntie” is a honorary title and I’ve called my aunts with that prefix until I was a teenager. So the fact that my stepsister speaks of me as “Aunt Helen” to her little daughter is rather delightful. 

The little toddler has already learned to walk and dashes through the living room on her still wiggly feet, often falling down, but always immediately rising anew with her very own way of getting up: putting her weight on her tiny little hands, stretching her diapered derriere as high as possible as if performing a yoga exercise and then pushing her legs in place. She is also a very friendly child and after some hours around me she deemed me reliable enough to be carried by me. What impressed me as well was that, even though she obviously cannot talk yet, she seems to understand a lot. Even words like “Kindergartentasche”. (daycare bag) I mean who else learning German only for one year would be able to get that word?

I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ~Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop

Girl Cousin Gathering


My (extended) family is large. Both my parents have seven siblings and my stepdad has four. So it comes as no surprise that I have very many cousins but a funny detail is that I have only three female cousins on my maternal side. We are 14 grandchildren and only four girls. For the occasion of International Women’s Day, I gathered the other three in Hamburg for a girl cousin get together.
I am the oldest of the cousins (now you realize why I always act so incredibly responsible, right?). This weekend, I hosted a 23-year-old, an eleven-year-old and a nine-year-old. The two younger ones entered my apartment with their suitcases (who said you need less than a suitcase for one night?) to then inform me that they had pressing shopping needs. “I need shoe strings”, my cousin and godchild said. “They have to be really long”. Shoes seemed to be a theme because the youngest explained that she needed shoe polish “for my ma and pa”.
These items were so important that my young guests could only partly pay attention to my explanations about the city we were discovering. When we finally had acquired the items, concentration could shift back to the city hall, the old Elbe tunnel and a lot of Smart cars and yellow cars. Whenever they saw one, they patted everyone on the closest body part. It must be some kind of game I did not know because “you don’t even have a TV, how do you know anything?” Despite my older cousin’s and my efforts to draw the younger ones’ attention to alternative means of information (books, newspapers, internet), our cousins shook their heads at our ignorance.
Our main activity on Saturday was a tour in The Dialogue in the Dark which is an exhibition where you get to see nothing. Literally nothing because everything is pitch black dark and if I say that I mean entirely dark. For 90 minutes, you are blind. A sight-impaired guide leads you through the exhibition that shows typical everyday life situations like crossing the street, going to a bar or shopping (fruits and vegetables, not shoestrings though). Dialogue in the Dark is a most wonderful project, it is both fun and educational and it appeals to the senses in a very special way. When you come to Hamburg, this is where you should go.


Dialogue in the Dark

Dialogue in the Dark

The evening was spent with cooking spaghetti Bolognese (we actually let the little ones handle the hot frying pan) and laisser-faire bed times (“I am not tired”). In the morning, my two younger cousins wanted to wake me earlier than we had decided but their wake up strategies are not really cutting edge yet. It was easy to sleep through the first two hours of clapping and whispering, “Heleeeeeen”.
Sunday brought splendid weather in Hamburg so we decided to go to the park. In order to go to the park, you need to take the circle line U3. I live on U3 but Ingrid and I still occasionally fight about which direction to go in the circle. “Helen and U3, a never ending story”, she usually sighs. Because I wanted to equip my younger cousins with public transportation competence, we explained the circle plan to them and let them choose where we would get on and get off. In the course of this complicated endeavor, I started talking to a conductor who had just ended his shift. When we got off the train, my younger cousins gave me a strange look. “Do you always talk to random people?” Well, actually, yes. In the park, we climbed (okay, took the elevator) to the top of the planetarium and looked all over Hamburg. That’s something I can recommend doing, too, and it’s free.
Because there are no school holidays right now, my cousins had to leave on Sunday afternoon. I spent Sunday night watching “Still Alice” and yes, that is yet another thing I highly recommend. There were several things that appealed to me in the movie, not only Julianne Moore’s performance. I also enjoyed the portrayal of an intellectual women who was able to articulate herself so well (that is before her Alzheimer’s) and a couple that appeared so loving. Then, of course, it was not really realistic that Alice is a super accomplished Columbia professor with three children, the oldest in her late twenties, when Alice herself is only 50. Or maybe I am just not ambitious enough but it does not quite sound like the academic reality? That aside, it is a movie worth watching and brings attention to a disease that usually does not really take place in popular media. Go see it.