The Princess Diaries

I don’t think I make a good television personality. The last time someone texted me “I just saw you on TV, how the hell did you end up in that show?” was a couple of years ago when two friends and I were in the audience for a silly game show where ‘celebrities’ tested their knowledge about Sweden. Yesterday and today, I was on television with a real celebrity, the Swedish Crown Princess, but all you see of me is a super-stressed face hurrying through the picture behind her. Talk about failing at your five seconds of fame!

What happened? There is no denying it: a big day for a royal enthusiast like me happened. The Princess came to my, okay, our gala, and I had the honor to stand at the landing and officially welcome her with my boss (oh, and the honor to hand her three awards on stage). Honestly, even if she did not have any title at all, I would have been thrilled to meet her simply for how she comes across as a person. It is no surprise at all that she is so popular.

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What do you mean, stressed look?

When we had shown her in, I had to attend to some urgent crisis business which explains my stressed face. Like I said, television appearances are not my strong side yet. Eventually, everything went well and everyone was happy, cheery and – so pretty! I was especially happy that we had more juniors than ever attending: ambitious, competent young professionals in glittering dresses and glamorous smokings, such a sight! Right on time for the gala, we had produced pins for the juniors that only they got to wear, making it easy to identify who was part of the club. The only ones possibly outshining our emblem were the court staff who had the king’s monogram as a pin on their sleeves.

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As if the gala didn’t already almost kill me energy-wise, I had arranged a junior day the next day where we held a workshop. It’s those encounters that make me want to go to work on Mondays. The atmosphere in the network, the great people, the mutual understanding, the shared references, it’s what makes all the toil worthwhile. And yes, I will admit, also the Princess.

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The juniors. I love that crowd.

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Late shift

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“I will be so exhausted after the gala”, I thought. Well, turns out I am already half-dead before it. These past nights, I’ve woken up thinking about the seating arrangments. Worked late, ate what was left in the fridge or asked him to get food. Today, I spent countless (!) hours sorting name tags. We’re almost 100 people more than usual this year, there is a lot more protocol, and I feel as exhausted before as I usually am afterwards. But it will be worth it tomorrow when the most glamorous event I attend in a year brings together everyone again!

Wide awake

My body has a tendency to be out of sync with the conventional ideas of sleep and awake times. Sometimes, I can’t get myself to fall asleep before 2 or 3 a.m.. More often than not, my eyes refuse to open before 9. The solution would be, people tell me, coffee. Unfortunately, I just don’t like the taste of coffee and my experiments with black tea have felt more like a placebo than a wake-up call.

So when my co-worker told me about this new cocoa that is supposed to be a coffee alternative, I was hooked. Vegan, sugarfree, fairtrade – I immediately suspected that this hipster product must have come out of the German “Dragon’s Den”, and I was right. Under the tag line “The world needs you awake”, the founders of koawach have mixed guarana into cocoa and now sell it for quite a lot of money. I had to do some research and zickzack a bit through Dizzel but finally found one of the chains that sells the hot chocolate.

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Day 2 of koawach: Alert and awake at work despite lack of sleep

For two mornings now, he made me koawach instead of tea and yes – I am awake. It seems to work. It takes just like hot chocolate (well, bitter without sugar) so it’s an energizing treat. My self-observation has concluded that I need regular refills though if I am to perform well as the effect lessens after three to four hours. I am going to ration this drink very strictly but boy, do I have high hopes for this pick-me-up for my 48-hour-work-shift during my upcoming gala days!

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.

Life in transit

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One thing people never believe me is that I don’t enjoy traveling. But really just because I do it a lot or maybe exactly because I do it a lot, I don’t like it. I don’t like packing, I don’t like being on planes and trains and I do like my own bed. These current ten days, I really live life in transit though. After the Southern Germany trip for five days, I was home one day to hop on a plane to Berlin for two days. I’ll be back tomorrow for 12 hours to continue to Belgium. Let’s say my planning skills have been better.

I am in Berlin for work, adding some time to see Michelle and Ingrid. This morning when I came to my meeting at the embassy, I was delighted to be greeted by my former intern who now works at the embassy. It felt almost like home!

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Just one of many reminders that we are hanging out in the East of Berlin

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The evening I got to spend with Ingrid who now lives in super hipster Prenzlauer Berg. (To get there from the embassy only takes the same amount of time as flying to Berlin from Düsseldorf. Don’t you love traffic in the capital.) Everyone here either has to have a hipster beard or must be pregnant, it seems to be a rule. 

The neighborhood is very nice with lots of pretty restaurants and cafés. Also, the park area of only Prenzlauer Berg amounts to approximately the entire green area of Düsseldorf, or so it seems. And Ingrid didn’t even show me Volkspark Friedrichshain yet.

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Stop and smell the flowers.

A walk in the park with Heling

Lost in transportation

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Symbolic photo of my face expression when I need to put up with Bahn bullshit

One of the things I usually lose when I move from a city is my sense of orientation. I noticed this in Hamburg this weekend – I took bus number 6 and went wrong twice. Looking out of the window on the bus does not help because my brain takes way too long time to figure out if this route makes sense. I am not completely clueless, but my orientation in Hamburg used to be very much better.

But I really got lost in transportation on the way back. Despite getting home at waaaay after midnight the third night in a row I attended service in the Swedish Church on Sunday morning and it was very much worth it. Our own choir and the guest choir from Stockholm performed together, a teenage boy was christened (very touching! His three little sisters helped in the ceremony which was adorable.) and following we had the annual church meeting. Consequently, I took a later train than planned and left Hamburg only after 5 p.m. Two hours later, I woke up on the train that had stopped. It would never start again. The locomotive was somehow damaged and the following three hours we waited in the middle of nowhere, close to where I went to school. During this time I got to witness what must be the new crisis communication concept of the Deutsche Bahn. If I remember correctly, they were critisized for being intransparent when delays happened. Apparently, they are now going for the opposite approach: we got eight statements in three hours that each were a few minutes long. In the beginning, the chief train attendant was still calm. He told us in detail that the fuse was broken and they would try to restart it. After a while, things got more desperate. „I can’t reach the technician anymore“, he said. Then the air condition system failed.

There are horror stories of passengers collapsing in trains because of failed air conditioning. I now understand why. Only half an hour without fresh air in a train with 600 people and things get very uncomfortable, breathing gets kind of difficult. As we were travelling close to the Benelux border, passengers started getting anxious about their connections to Amsterdam and Brussels. „Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to inform you our train is entirely out of order“, the attendant made his return on the intercom, sounding more and more distressed. Outside, the sun started setting slowly. „We have contacted Bremen and Osnabrück for emergency help. We hope they can send us an empty train. Otherwise we will have to ask Hamburg or Dortmund for help but it will take them two and a half hours to get here. As our electricity is powered by the locomotive, we are now operating on the emergency electricity. I hope the intercom will continue to work so I can keep you posted.“ I started thinking about how clear-sighted it was of me to eat a decent dinner and buy the largest German newspaper before boarding the train.

„They are sending an empty train. I only asked for a locomotive that would replace ours so that you don’t have to change trains. But they refuse. That’s what happens when the theoretical planners who only work from their desks make the decisions!” People started calling their relatives who were on their way to stations to pick them up. „How did the election go?“, some inquired on the phone. Needless to say, we didn’t have internet and even phone reception was low in the countryside. „When the train comes, we will have to evacuate you“, the train attendant informed us. „We will provide bridges to step over from one train to the other. Those are narrow, so unfortunately prams and wheelchairs won’t be able to get to the emergency train. We will close off the tracks so that other trains don’t come through but please be extremely careful because there might still be trains running“. Um, I thought, what do you mean, you close off the tracks but there will still be trains running while we climb over narrow bridges to the emergency train?!„I am very sorry to put you through this and if I had anything to say, we would just have gotten a locomotive here but nobody listens to me, ladies and gentlemen, I am just the smallest wheel in this organisation and the studied gentlemen in the emergency unit who never atutally operate a train decide!“ By now our train attendant was very annoyed with his superiors and he did not tire of emphasizing his discontent. Meanwhile, rain showers set in outside the window that we could not open. A little while later, we saw a train, three waggons shorter than ours, arrive next to us. People started preparing for the evacuation when the angry train attendant accoustically reappeared. ”The locomotive kind of works right now. The emergency manager has decided that we will go to Diepholz on this train and let you change there in an orderly fashion as there are real platforms there. We won’t continue with this train afterwards because it might break down at any moment again“. We started moving and suddenly, we saw five trucks of the fire brigade by the tracks, ready to protect us for evacuation. Say what you want but the German public safety system worked here! I think everyone was a little sad we couldn’t let them do their job. Diepholz meanwhile saw the greatest number of passengers in 20 years. I doubt there are ever 600 people at that station at the same time.

Epilogue: The Benelux travellers had to spend the night in Düsseldorf. I really hope they weren’t booked on a late night flight overseas from Amsterdam. I got home way past midnight instead of nine thirty.

A fun time in the town of Hamburg, both at night

and the morning after on the way to church

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Ice in the stomach

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In Swedish, when you keep your cool, the idiom calls this “having ice in the stomach”. I actually recently read that one should have “varmt hjärta, kall hjärna, is i magen” – a warm heart, a cool brain and ice in the stomach. Those qualities are definitely something I need in my job. Like when someone emails you 24 hours before the event that they are a vegan or a kind-of-celebrity asks short notice if there’s still a spot left and you need to rearrange your entire seating plan. But let’s be honest, it’s the rush of adrenaline that makes me cope and love this part of my work. I am probably going to be a wreck on Sunday but it will most likely have been worth it.

This morning, Lil’ Pesto and I took the train to Hamburg and completed last tasks on the four hour ride. Which turned out to be four and a half because Deutsche Bahn. We stopped at Osnabrück and I told Lil’ Pesto how my grandpa would pick me up as a little girl at this station. We rode through the lush pastures of Diepholz and I told Lil’ Pesto about this district that I spend my high school years in. We passed Bremen and I rhapsodized about my university town’s beauty and vibe. When we arrived in Hamburg in what is the absolutely perfect weather, he said already in the impressive central station how much he liked the city.

“Suddenly I realized that my writing yearned for other places”. Assia Djebar, a very accurate quote found in my pretty little hotel room

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We parted ways and I started my race through town. Meeting a former co-worker and my former boss, attending a meeting with one of our own, making a short visit to the doctor’s (really need to get local doctors in Dizzel, I know) and finally met my dear friend Frederike for dinner. She lives in the most adorable house in the most amazing location. It’s like in a fairy tale and my descriptions or photos won’t do it justice. It’s a good thing I am not in Hamburg that often anymore, I just get too jealous.

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Del 33 i citatsamlingen

Jag kan inte tänka mig vara tillsammans med någon som uttalar Kina Kina istället för Schina. – Alltså, vad ska jag säga, jag är tillsammans med någon som säger kaahviar istället för kaviar.

Jag har bestämt mig, jag ska sluta dejta alltihop nu. – Du har väldigt lite trovärdighet när det kommer till sådant.