Immortalizing summer

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Today, I saw a sign in a gallery for tasteless photo art that said, “Immortalizing summer”. I couldn’t really understand how it related to the photos but it occured to me that my attempt to immortalize my lovely Swedish summer was kind of washed-up the moment I landed and started, almost compulsively, working off my to do lists again.

Actually, my trip back already began, let’s say, interestingly. I was planning to check in online and add a bag only to find that I was no longer booked on the 12-am-flight with airberlin but on the 9-am-flight with Eurowings. After 52 minutes in their waiting loop, they told me I should have gotten an email about that. Well, I didn’t.

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On my last night, Stockholm saw a lovely rainbow. The end of the rainbow is in Farsta. I am not surprised because that’s where my dear Marita lives.

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This last weekend I also attended my friends’ wedding in Örebro. So much love!

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They had lots of beautiful decorations around the theme music but this one was my favorite. We all had different parts of the song “Vilar glad i din famn” (I rest happily in your embrace) around our cutlery. Internet tells me it was written for Crown Princess Victoria’s wedding. No wonder I like it so much. “I stand holding hands with you / Darkness falls and you shine so […] Where you wander / my yearning wants to live […] Close to you I want to be / calm with your warm soul […] I look for you / I call out your name everywhere/ until I rest happily in your embrace”.

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Malin, Axel, Kristina and I were the Uppsala-choir-friends attending. Malin took a photo of Axel of me that looks as if I had just inaugurated something at Axel’s extremely successful company/super important state authority/very historic family castle.

And now that’s all behind me, the remote lakes, the best friends, the shopping sprees. Work made its demands on me the second I walked in, and it’s a lot these days, but it’s also the place where I was greeted so enthusiastically this morning that it almost makes up for not being Stockhome anymore.

“Jag har faktiskt semester!”

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“Jag har faktiskt semester”, I am actually on vacation, is my signature line since Michelle and I arrived pĂ„ landet, at the countryside, two days ago. When I am walking slow, when I am sleeping in, when we buy lots of Swedish strawberries, I half-ironically inform that I am on vacation and have every right to do so. Michelle laughs understandingly and picks some more blueberries for me in the forest surrounding us.

We are not that far from town, but far enough to relax. I am not good at vacationing but I found that being in a cabin on the countryside is one good way to unwind. Yesterday night, Malin joined us and now complete for two days, we spent our time eating, lying in the sun, cycling to the Baltic Sea with one on the rear rack and hardly functioning brakes, an audacious adventure on the gravel roads. Sometimes a deer walks by our cabin that lies only some hundreds meters from a secluded lake. Bathing is the main point on our to-do-list, especially Michelle is eager to do morgondopp, lunchdopp and kvĂ€llsdopp, three daily bathing opportunities. “It looks good today”, she says about the bathing schedule, because we spent most of the day at the beach. Reading light literature, a seagull in the sky, the sun beaming down, the glittering blue of the Baltic Sea within eyeshot, I heard the delighted voices of children following the familiar sound of the ice cream truck, and I didn’t take off my bathing suit all day.

Becoming German

 

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Quite a few of my friends and acquaintances have changed nationality these past years. Some time ago, many European countries changed the rules about naturalization and no longer make you choose whether you want to be French or Finnish,  Swedish or Spanish, Danish or Dutch, Belgian or Bulgarian. This is an interesting psychological issue because I have never met anyone so far that would readily have relinquished their original citizenship despite the fact that it wouldn’t actually disadvantage them in their lives that they live in another country than their home state anyway. Dual citizenship is now the thing to have, it’s like the prolongation of Erasmus in a way. Just like I’ve almost never been to a wedding where two people from the same country married each other is an effect of the internationalization efforts of the EU so is the taking on new passports.

Now it was time for my friend Anthony to take that step. Coming from Britian almost ten years ago, he has integrated in Germany ideally. He married a German girl, he learned German up to level C2, he keeps a large map of Germany in his study, he recycles his garbage like a pro and he hands in his taxes on January 1st. I told him that if he, in the process of applying for German citizenship, needed someone to testify that he was a very suitable to become German, I’d gladly be called to the stand.

With Brexit upon us, he applied to become German last summer and it almost took a year for them to grant him citizenship. Hello, what happened to German efficiency? Now finally, however, he is one of us. A national, allowed to vote! Last Monday we went out to celebrate this milestone. I made him a card honoring this special occasion that was heavily inspired by the card I received years ago from my dear friend Malin when I acquired my personnummer in Stockholm. I also threw a big party then, something I am still trying to convince Anthony to do, too. In the meantime we celebrated with burgers at my new favorite bar. They charge 18 euros for a burger, which we noticed afterwards. Talk about a worthy celebration!

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This is what a German looks like, I guess!

Stockholm Social Race

“But you did manage to really do a lot this weekend”, my friend Marita said this afternoon during the 23-minute-lunch I could have with her at her home. Staying with her is really such a wonderful thing because I get to come and go as I want and she’s taking care of me with advice, food and most of all an extremely understanding attitude towards my day time absence during most time of my stay.

Other people run marathons. I do the Stockholm Social Race. I’ve been doing that for many years now, several times a year, but I feel my performance is not improving. I am still a time optimist and I still try to fit in too many people into too little hours. Because what am I supposed to do, who am I supposed to say no to if everyone is such inspiring, cosy, beloved company? As I only had 72 hours this time, of which I had to work almost one whole day, I already missed two thirds of the people I would have wanted to hang out with, too.

For being able to see the remaining one third, among them my French friend Laure exemplifying that if you don’t meet regularly you’ll miss serious life changes ( since we last met a few months ago, she managed to get married and is due to become both a mom and a Swedish citizen shortly), I cut down on sleep this time. I’m sure that’ll haunt me until next weekend, failing to catch up on rest, but it was worth it. My first night I got to spend a calm, much needed girls’ night with Marita on her sofa, the next day after work I hung out with Bianca. We headed to Gallerian and ate a foccacia because that’s one of our earliest memories of our friendship from seven years ago. Back then, she convinced me to dye my hair blonde and introduced me to the Italian toast, all in Gallerian. If they were not constanly rebuilding and opening and closing shops in Gallerian it would have felt just like back in the day.

Friday evening saw even more nostalgia when we had a somewhat unexpected Uppsala reunion. What had originally been planned as a dinnner with Tabea and me turned into a lovely meet up of my former room mates William, HĂ©lene and Paul – first time in four years in that constellation!

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For Saturday, I had vowed to not go through all the shops I usually roam. I can nevertheless inform you that le derni cri is flounces at the shoulders and pleated long skirts. Instead of buying those, I looked for a new pencil skirt – an item I actually needed. ÅhlĂ©ns has taken out all my favorite brands so after Malin, who had come up from Karlstad to see me, and I left there empty-handed, she said, “You know, Helen, I’m thinking, as you like old ladies’ stores, shouldn’t we check at Dea Axelssons?” Ouch! Dea Axelssons is really an old ladies’ stores. Even for me. However, Dea Axelssons also had the greatest skirt. So I guess now that I’m getting closer to 30, it’s come that far, I’ve passed that Dea-frontier.

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Since I fell in love with Haymarket last time, we ended up there again this time. They have scones that definitely exceeded my expectations.

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My dear Malin, with what I call a bit of a Noora-facial-expression

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Happy Spring – let’s all continue to dress in black

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Malin attacking a hipster lego man (notice his hat)

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Malin had planned quite a happening for Saturday night: she’d booked us into a karaoke room and invited her former co-workers to come. I was very impressed with the performances to say the least. These (impossible-not-to-like) guys could sing, even without previous alcohol intake. In Germany, you can hardly find a man who will dare to sing in the comfortable anonymity of a choir let alone get on stage and do a whole-hearted “Circle of Life”-show. There is no denying it, Sweden is a singing nation and I love that. I think I personally mostly excelled at the schlager with “Det gör ont” being my most expressive act.

Somehow the night kept continuing even after the karaoke and I fear that all the money I saved on not buying new clothes went to buying alcohol. On the list of things I do not miss about Stockholm goes, apart from the gravel on the streets between October and May that keeps getting into my shoes, the following: alcohol prices (15 euros for a tiny cocktail), ridiculous admittance policies at clubs, artificial shortage of seats (in pubs), space (in clubs) and housing (in general). Going out is so difficult in that city, it made me appreciate the German culture and especially the Rhineland ways of going out. Maybe it was that that prompted a sudden emergence of #dizzelpride because I started selling DĂŒsseldorf to everyone around me. Inexpensive wine, 25 degrees and sunshine, relaxed people hanging out by the water, excellent affordable sushi – Malin remarked surprised that I’d never advertised my city of residence this well before.

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We concluded the night at McDonald’s after the casino strictly refused to let us in. (I had hoped to win 4 million Swedish crowns to be able to afford a two-room-apartment in the outskirts of Stockholm.) Going to the casino meant going back and forth between the South and North Island which gave us the opportunity of analysing all the advertisments in the subway. I will probably never cease to be intruiged by Swedish advertisement and I tell myself I managed to instill at least some enthusiasm among my company.

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There is something greater than Stockholm, this ad by the Swedish Forest Initiative tells the inhabitants of the capital. Other posters read, “There is something greater than fredagsmys, Friday night coziness”.

I came home at 5 am which makes that night quite a milestone in my Stockholm history. Also because it was the night I at first try correctly identified a southern SmĂ„land dialect in one of Malin’s friends and another of her friends misidentified me as being from the north of Sweden, something Malin non-chalantly commented with, “You may give me the credit for that”.

Needless to say, Sunday was a hungover, tired day but any possible I’m-gonna-die-feeling was blown away by the radiance of Andrea who I met at Cafe String. (Which my phone kept autocorrecting to Cafe Strunt.) Because Marita lives in the south, I’ve put most of my activities this time on Södermalm to shorten my commute. The funny thing is though that I barely ever hang out on Södermalm so I literally have to check google maps not to get lost. (So does Andrea. We must have looked like tourists but really we just rarely left Östermalm/GĂ€rdet/City, I guess.) That did not stop a German girl to ask me for directions though, something that made me very happy as I apparently still have an air of I-know-where-I’m-going. I succefully pretended to know where Bellmansgatan is located. Also, I deeply impressed her with my German language skills.

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Last tea before departure with Bianca on top of Stockholm

Despite the flight being overbooked, I made it home. In the security check, they frowned confused at my eclectic collection of imports: cheese, colored feathers, paper easter eggs and snus. Things change: before, I always would’ve brought the Amelia magazine and I’d always have been heart-broken to leave. Today, I buy VĂ€sterbottensost and I’m relatively okay with returning to spring temperatures. Relatively.

Citatsamling del 31, Stockholmseditionen

Hen Àr tysk, men trevlig.

Hennes efternamn Àr som en tagg i mitt öga.

Du Ă€r en riktig hetspelle. – Det kan jag ta. Det Ă€r faktiskt nĂ„t fint!

 

Letting Christmas go

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Personally, I find only few things as solemnly Christmassy as real candles in the tree. I can sit and look at it in awe and admiration for quite a while. The thing is only that my tree is really tired now, the twigs are bending down, the candles are dangerously wiggling on them, but they don’t  lose their inherent dignity. But this week, I fear, the tree and I have to separate. That’s okay since Tjugondag Knut is coming up anyway on the 13th. That day, the 20th days of Christmas marks the end of Christmas time for Swedes. Unlike Germany that ends the yuletide on the 6th, Sweden goes all in and has 20 instead of 12 days of Christmas. Or rather, it depends on who you ask – my grandpa used to say as a Catholic you can totally have your tree up until February 2nd which is Candlemas.

So instead of taking everything down, I actually bought a Christmas star on sale at Clas Ohlson and just put it up. Also because it is my usual inclination to immediately want to continue with spring or rather summer rightaway, but the Dizzel weather god is shaking his head heavily at me. Last week, my fingers almost froze off on my bike. I really have to get new gloves and have learned that that is quite an investment. Yesterday, my friend Nadine visited me and I wanted to show her the DĂŒsseldorf Medienhafen, the harbour, which as we noticed once we were there was extremely slippery. Slowly, my memories came back: when there is halkrisk, you link arms and go like a penguin. Of course! It’s not like it is not slippery for three, four months each year in Stockholm, just that I never thought I’d need to re-access that knowledge in Dizzel.

And I am already thinking about summer. This year, I want to learn how to properly go on vacation. By that I mean going holidaying and feeling recovered afterwards, something that is actually a challenge for me. So I told my closest friends that we should rent a cabin and put on a real clichĂ© Swedish summer. Currently, we are sending cabin research results to each other (of course, we work effiecently and have assigned regions to each, I am responsible for Blekinge and SmĂ„land) and only looking at these houses already makes me jump with pleasant anticipation. July, I’m already ready for you.

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The DĂŒsseldorf Harbour is definitely imitating Hamburg. Who doesn’t think of Speicherstadt when you see this?

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Baking frenzy happened again. I made cinnamon buns with honey which works rather well. But they’re not exactly sweet.

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This Sunday, my dear friend Marita from Stockholm honored my home with a visit. We both wish we lived in the same city, really.

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I went for dinner with a real DĂŒsseldorfer that I know and she gave me this lovely card, “Become one of us DĂŒsseldorfers”

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Reading this rather hilarious book called “I don’t know how she does it” in which the protagonist has to go on business trips to Sweden.

Citatsamlingen del 24

Den andra februari Ă€r det kyndelsmĂ€ssodagen och det Ă€r sista dagen katoliker kan ha sitt julpynt uppe. – AlltsĂ„ Helen jag tror du har spelat lite för mycket Fictionary. Det lĂ„ter iaf ganska mycket som nĂ„t som du har hittat pĂ„.

Han Àr vÀldigt Äsiktsorienterad. Han har vÀldigt mÄnga Äsikter.

IgĂ„r lĂ€ste jag att Sigmar Gabriel hade operation och förminskade sin mage. – Jag trodde du skulle sĂ€ga snopp.

Om man tÀnker hÀrifrÄn sÄ bor han ju i fcking jÀvla Haparanda. AlltsÄ i Witten. 

 

 

Friend Advent

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We also strolled across the Christmas Market

I am not particularily fond of Berlin. I find it big and dirty, it’s seem far-away and isolated to me, and it takes for ever to go from one place to another in the German capital. But – the city changes when I am with the right people. Berlin with Michelle becomes a cozy place, a city that I can (almost) imagine going to voluntarily.

We noticed today that this is the fourth year in a row that we have spent the first advent weekend together. That’s quite something if you consider that we have known each other for, yes, exactly, four Christmasses (but almost five years). The first one we spent together in Malmö watching the first episode of Julkalendern , the second we made paper hearts for my Christmas tree in Hamburg and last year, we decorated Michelle’s advent lights in Barcelona. This year, we had planned to attend service at the Swedish Church. We got up in time, hurried with breakfast and arrived at 10.59 a.m. Service is always at 11 a.m., in Hamburg, in Berlin, in Stockholm. (Not always in SkĂ„ne though.) We were all looking forward and had started singing our favorite Swedish advent songs at home. But when we got there, the pastors were walking out of the church, the last tones of the organ played. One single Sunday a year, the Berlin church has its service at 10. Only once a year, on the first advent Sunday. There we were, disappointedly looking at the people going out. Who saved the day? The church music director. He greeted us and we told him that we apparently had completely missed the 10-am-info online. „How about we go back and I play one song for you so you get into the advent mood?“ he offered. No sooner said than done – he sat down at the organ and played ”Bereden vĂ€g” (“Prepare the Royal Highway”), one of our absolute favorites, at our request. Blessed be he who came in the name of the Lord.

 

 

Back from the eye of the storm

 

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I visited the Swedish Export Council, such fun! Also, I helped/witnessed the decorating of their office Christmas tree.

I am writing this from my friend Michelle’s couch where I’ve spent most of my time the past day. I am simply too exhausted to do anything else, even this report is somewhat meager. While I was certainly more relaxed this time then for my first gala event, the incompetent catering company kept my stress levels high. Despite all the work, it was a good evening – and it was extra fun that Michelle could attend (now she knows all the people I am constantly referring to).

Like I already said last year, when everything I’ve worked for for month finally happens at this gala event, it’s probably my favorite day at work during the whole year. But I am also very glad it’s only once a year.

Pleased with my bling-hair, successful and tasty breakfast meeting with “my” juniors the next morning and of course rebellious Berlin postboxes.

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Visited the AllBright Foundation that works for more gender equality on German boards (the photo is an original ad by a bank); trying to graciously wave at the camera with my dear colleague from the embassy; spontaneously meeting Nils who happened to be in Berlin, reminicising about our good old Bremen times.