33 degrees, temperature rising

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There is a well-known German pop song called “36 degrees” in which the electro pop band 2Raumwohnung sings, “36 degrees, temperature rising, don’t ever turn down the beat again, 36 degrees and no fan, life doesn’t seem tough at all”. We are currently at 33 degrees outside. Temperatures rising. No fan, no air conditioning.

I learned last week that I am, contrary to what I thought, not equipped with a overly resilient circulation, when I made some poor choices given the weather situation that led to me collapsing and spending two nights in hospital. Luckily, I had a bunch of dedicated friends looking after me.

So now do I not only virtuously drink,  I also have put my feet into, cold water. Yes, at work. It’s only problematic when the door bell rings but it almost feels like potential guests would not even question my wet bare feet after taking six flights of stairs to get here.

Despite all the difficulty that the rain forest climate of Dizzel brings (not having any dresses that work in that kind of heat; phones getting too hot to function; sticking to chairs; trying to sleep at night; you name it), I will admit it: it is wonderful to feel the warm sun beam on one’s bare arms when cycling through the summer breeze. Everything suddenly feels a bit like being on vacation.

Sizzling hot in here

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The past three days, I was sitting at my desk, holding a fan to my face. The fan is longish so the intern thought it looked like a yuppie phone. When the heat gets too intense, I sometimes talk into the fan. It’s 31 degrees in the office, and it has been that for several days in a row.

It’s really a serious challenge to work in this weather. Even lifting a finger to type makes the sweat run down one’s forehead. I am actually not exaggerating. But that did not stop the intern to perform several interior design tasks: he equipped my desk with a longed-for pin board (I love it! Just need some motivational photos of Princess Estelle on there still.), set up a whole wall of panel curtains and rearranged the entrance area. By the sweat of his brow.

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The new protective barrier

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Last Sunday, I went to the flea market and bought a candleholder and a alfi-coffeepot

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Del 4 i random-citat-från jobbet

“Jag gillar inte Göteborgare. De är så dryga”. Hela kontoret i kör: “Ska du som Stockholmare säga!”

“Känner du inte till Dr Alban?! Var var du på 90talet?!” “På dagis. I Tyskland”.

 

 

 

The good, the bad and the cold

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Our office dog Emma has a jacket to stay warm.

What do you consider cold weather? If you are my bike, then you believe -8 degrees Celsius is inacceptably cold. I know this because my bike froze in the beginning of this week. Düsseldorf has been experiencing much colder temperatures than in December but still, a bike’s brake and gears should not freeze at minus 8 after standing outside for one hour if you ask me. Somehow the cold does, though, feel much colder down here than it ever did in Sweden or Hamburg. Maybe it’s because there, I retreated into the comfort of heated public transportation while in Dizzel, I relentlessly bike even though the upper part of my right pinky hurts so much that I think it might have frozen off.

With the cold, the work came back. After a December that was so calm it started to get boring, mid-January has presented me with a full to do list again. Our next event is coming up in only one week in Berlin which will also give me the chance to meet my friend Annelie’s new baby for the first time. (After the two-day-event, not during. I doubt the baby is particularily interested in discussion about refugees’ integration into work life.) Then there is the new issue of our magazine coming out (I have driven through a layout change and really hope it will look fabulous, and also I am editing all incoming texts now because of my die-hard-love for readers) and I have initiated the first planning of the 15 year jubliee of our youth chapter. Blank pages of all kinds, that’s the projects that really spark my enthusiasm. 

If only I didn’t have so much stuff to do with my apartment. Yesterday I transported two IKEA items on my bike. The point with ordering from IKEA was that I do not have any car. But the delivery man came at 12:16 when people like me (and apparently my neighbours) work, so he left it at the post office. Great. Thanks. You know how annoying it is when you cannot even go on the sidewalk because the stakes on the streets are narrow and your package is 3 metres long? Well, at least I managed to get the stuff home and I even assembled the Billy book shelf all by myself. It took 90 minutes. Building IKEA stuff is not one of my foremost talents.

Meanwhile, I am desperately trying to find curtains (if you have 6 metres of only windows, that is a challenge), am fighting with the moving company and am trying to get fixed what they messed up (like a hole in kitchen countertop).

And then there is this immense urge to bake soft gingerbread, a recipe I got from my friend Michelle’s mom. As a Catholic, you can always say Christmas Time is until Candlemas (February 2nd). And my colleague already said she still has glögg left…

 

Library Love

The impressive Stockholm Central Library (Photo Simon Paulin/imagebank sweden)

The impressive Stockholm Central Library (Photo Simon Paulin/imagebank sweden)

Remember how I suffered from the excruciating heat during my first weeks in Dizzel? Well, it seems that this town only offers two kinds of weather: burning heat or pouring rain. In the last week, I came home rain-drenched twice. And when I say rain-drenched, I mean completely wet to the bone.

Raininess does add to the mysfaktor/Gemütlichkeitsfaktor though – if you’re inside with a lit candle and a hot cup of tea. And – yes, a good book. Yesterday, I registered at the public library.

Libraries and me have history. We go way back. Some of my very first memories is the children’s section at Heidelberg’s public library. There was a dragon of some sort and a kind of reading arena (do I remember this correctly, mom?) and it was wonderful there.

Actually, I’ve gone through various public libaries in my life. In the small village where I went to primary school, I read through all the shelves. (They were rather limited numbers of shelves, to be fair.) In the small town we moved next, I was a frequent visitor in both the school library (with great enthusiasm, I read all of “Malory Towers” (“Dolly” in German) and “St Clare’s” (“Hanni und Nanni”) and we reenacted their Midnight Parties) and the so-called Catholic library (where the biography of a terrorist made the biggest impression on me).

Düsseldorf Library

Düsseldorf Library

As I moved to Bremen to study, I got to enjoy a large and most beautifully designed library. When my mom came to visit, we would plan spending an afternoon there, leaving with heaps of books. After relocating to Stockholm, I devoured all the Swedish literature I could finally access so easily. The Stockholm Central Library is a piece of architecural art, and the branches in the parts of the city are so many that it was never more than 10 minutes to walk to a library. They even have a library in the subway – so convenient! There, you could take “literature to go” with you in a paper bag that had “crime” or “love” written on it and preselected books in it.

Graduation Day, me in front of the Carolina Rediviva

Graduation Day, me in front of the Carolina Rediviva

In Uppsala, the dignified National and University Library Carolina Rediviva became my second home and I wrote my entire thesis in the cozy Karin Boye Library. Each Monday night, I would go to the local public library close to my student dorm and meet Janne and Britt, two eldery Swedes, who would practice language skills with me. The concept is called Medspråk and the library kindly hosted it. (I also took the opportunity to borrow a children’s book series on Queen Kristina there.)

Only in Hamburg, I never set foot into the library. In retrospective, this worries me because I kind of believe in the (allegedly Chinese) saying, “After three day without reading, one’s speech becomes tasteless.” I hope no one was bothered by my potentially tasteless speech.

So yesterday I took the important step to register at the Düsseldorf Library. It is squeezed between the main railway station, some weird sculptures, and the Consulate of Greece. I had very little time (and actually the last book of Moberg’s distinguished “Emigrants” series left to finish) but I remembered hearing recommendations about Donna Tartt who only publishes one book per decade and blows the critics away every time.

So now it’s me, the rain and “The little friend” for October.

In the storm

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It had been a hot, humid day, further compromising my somewhat unsteady health. I was leaving the doctor’s office and had just been on the street for thirty seconds when the storm came.

I can’t remember the last time I witnessed such an intensive cloudburst. Within half a minute, I had to accept that abandoning my bike on the spot and seeking shelter under the closest roof was the only option to avoid pneumonia. I stepped into a shop that I would otherwise never have entered, a knitting store. Already soaked to the bone, I asked if I was allowed to wait out the thunderstorm. “Sure”, the lady who owned the shop, said. “There’s a bench over there”. She started talking photos of the impressive rain shower.

I sat down between lots of knitting yarn. Blue, red, turquoise, soft as baby skin and also rougher ones. The bench was cushioned, and a green knitted pillow added to the atmosphere of grandparentsque coziness. Two light green children’s chairs kept the bench company.

Toddler knitware and mannequins with pink scarves surrounded me as I listened to the angry thunder. A multicolor knitted pennant banner graced the window through which I, together with a crocheted goose, watched my bike outside. It was lying on the pavement like a fallen horse. 

The shop owner chatted on the phone. “He acts like their crown prince”, she gossiped. When she asked questions, I was never sure if she meant me. (“How do you like it there?”) The lightening struck. I got out my ZEIT paper and started reading. Outside, the street was flooding more and more. 

It felt like fall.

Unreliable seasons

“Där är det sommar, men här inne är det höst”. (Trubbel, Monica Zetterlund)

If summer comes in Germany, I will at least have a balcony in my new apartment.

If summer comes in Germany, I will at least have a balcony in my new apartment.

Two times a year, if you have a social media newsfeed with a certain percentage of Sweden-based people, you are sure to get the same photos. It is like a law of nature (indeed!), it will happen. Every October, your facebook feed will be spammed with pictures of snow, accompanied by the comment, “OMG Is it winter already?! I hate living in Sweden!” From my experience, the first snow always comes in the end of October, then leaves again, and returns in November. If I could deduct this from only a few years in Svealand, you would think the natives would have figured the pattern as well. The same goes for spring – every April, all channels of social media are simultaneously bombed by photos of the cherry tress in Stockholm that have just started blooming. It seems to be mandatory to post a photo of those and you can bet your bottom dollar on that people will do exactly that in April. This year even the German newspaper I work at updated their German cover photo with the Stockholm cherry blossoms! I was amazed – and while there is some kind of monotonous predictability to it, it is also a great source of comforting reliability. Whatever happens, cannot alter one thing: cherry blossom instagrams in April. Some might even see this as a allegory to the whole Swedish culture. 

Germans are known to be terribly reliable which is in most cases true. Seasonal reliability is, however, completely absent in this country. One day in April you will experience 25 degrees and sunshine, the next week it is snowing. Everytime you think, spring is around the corner, you can be disappointed. Summer is an optional thing, sometimes it occurs in May with 35 degrees and then never returns until the next year.

The acclaimed German author Kurt Tucholsky already wrote in his 1920s book “Schloss Gripsholm” that when Germans think of Sweden, they think of “terribly cold, Ivar Kreuger, matches, terribly cold, blonde women, terribly cold.” People here now might think of Bullerby a lot, too, but they hold onto their firm belief that Sweden must be a place without warmth. I tell them about the Swedish summer and the cherry blossoms, I say that I have experienced that you can rely on spring greeting you exactly the week after Valborg. They give me skeptical looks. Of course it never gets quite as warm as in Germany. But at least you can rely on the season turning into a new one at all! Yes, I envy you who put up sunny Easter pictures.

While I write this and the rain pours down the window, I am looking forward to photographing the cherry blossoms in Stockholm next week. Actually, it might be a good thing we do not know yet if summer will ever come in Germany. My mind is very much behind the seasons, for me it is still fall or winter, but definitely not anything like happy spring. As long as there is no summer around me, I can blind out the memories of the last Stockholm summer and fight the incredible longing for the archipelago…