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.

Don’t count your chicken

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Dizzel a few weeks ago

…before they’re hatched. Don’t praise the day before the evening. Or don’t shout hej before you’ve passed the stream. Basically, my excitement of spring in this town was, well, premature. Since weeks we’ve had winter weather, it’s quite depressing. This week, in an act of rebellion, I put on my “Swedish Summer” Spotify list but the rain would not stop falling.

The worst thing is that the weather forecast shows no betterment and I have an event in a week that would be so much nicer if the sun would shine. This event series (four consecutive events because sleep is very overrated) is nevertheless already an unpredecented success with guest numbers soaring constantly. I actually had to start saying no to people. Last year, we were fighting for every attendee, and I want to believe that this year’s run on tickets has to do with the fact that the event is taking placed in what used to briefly be my home, Hamburg. A lot of guests also means a lot of work for me (plus several presentations I have to prepare) and curiously enough, the fuller my to do list, the better my work motivation. I must be high on adrenaline or something.

Easter also happened. I spent it in the South of Germany with my stepsisters and my adorable niece. She told me she was two years old and I was five. We spent a lot of time eating (fish on Good Friday as good Catholics do; and we ate ourselves through the entire Cannstadter Wasn fair in Stuttgart, Maultaschen are seriously delicious), attended a Easter night mass which was an amazing show (now my resolution for next year is to experience that in the Cologne Cathedral, probably the most Catholic place in Germany), and I met my friend Renate from primary school who updated me on all gossip (people have actually started to inter-marry among our class mates…)

The following weekend, wonderful Anna graced Düsseldorf with her presence. It’s impossible not to have a good time with Anna. As she is still doing her A-Levels, we spent some time practicing how to analyse poems, but we also tried my co-workers’ curling iron and went to Restaurant Schwan that Lil’ Pesto could not stop talking about. At that restaurant, they serve Schwanitzel (a pun on Schnitzel that amused us a little more than it should have) that could feed at least two grown-ups.

May is full of holidays. If there was a party campaigning to put one of those in September instead, I would consider voting for them. Actually, elections are coming up in my federal state and as this is the most populated German state, it’s kind of a big deal. Since I am only listening to North German radio, I am perfectly informed about the election in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and can barely name the candidates here. I tested switching to the local radio station but it sounded so wrong! I tried the political compass and it told me my views matched those of “The Purple Party – For spiritual politics” best. In an attempt to educate myself further I noticed a lot of weird parties are on the ballot in this state: “Departure C – Christian values in politics”, “Party for Health Research”, “Nicer Living” or the light green “V-Party³ for change, vegetarians and vegans”. You see, democracy is alive and well in North-Rhine Westphalia!

The many holidays in May and June also gave me an opportunity to go on a TantenTour, a trip visiting three of my four maternal aunts. One of them lives in the perfect country idyll, in fields of gold. My godchild and I had a good time enjoying the country life.

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It’s absurd how time seems to fly. Didn’t I board a plane to the U.S. just a week ago? Didn’t Lil’ Pesto enter my office life yesterday? How can it be May already?! That also means my 30th birthday is drawing closer – yes, it’s still ten months but today I checked out another venue. It’s a former nunnery in my neigborhood. I know now that is is way too expensive for me but you never know when I need a location for a work event. I must admit though that is feels a bit funny to arrange events in a church. The entire place breathed nunnery still and I, who was educated at a nunnery for almost a decade, especially felt that it was a little wrong to roam the corridors. It’s all still there: the gate where a nun would sit, the stoups, the beautiful decorations on the floor.

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Last but far from least, it’s Skam season again! On Sundays, I now consult with Lil’ Pesto’s girlfriend to know whether he has seen the most recent episode so that I don’t put any spoilers out there by accident. It’s the last season and the first that I follow in real-time, meaning I can enjoy the entire concept of them putting chat logs and instagram pictures on their website, making you guess what will happen in the next episode. Watch Skam. Nobody I told to do so has ever regretted it.

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Skam on my fridge: “So should we drop all our plans because a guy texts? The answer is no, ladies.”

Citatsamling del 32

Helen, du har en sån röst, du skulle kunna vara rösten i tunnelbanan. För mig är du redan det.

Man vet aldrig när kärleken checkar in!

Jag klipper mina naglar ofta, jag tycker det är avslappnande. Men jag röker inte, tar inga droger, då får jag väl ha det som min grej, att klippa naglarna.

Hur mycket får du för det där Brötchen som du köpte åt mig? – Helen, de 15 cent kan jag faktiskt bjuda på. Det är du värd, älskling.

Jag vill till Vapiano och hon vill till det asiastiska stället. – Då blir det Clash of the Titans på lunchen!

Going bananas at work

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Short week – more work! That seems to be a formula that applies to most jobs, at least to mine. Maybe it’s also the fact that it feels like we do fikafredag hela veckan now. It was my migrated-to-the-next-door-company-ex-co-worker’s goodbye fika on Monday and then another, regular, on Thursday. In between we had some health care breaks in which above named coworker and the intern, and eventually I, threw stress balls at each other. In a very friendly and cooperative manner, though.

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I pretend to have provided the fika in this photo

We also had Rutiga Dagen, the checked day, where we all had to wear something checked to work. I don’t own anything like that (so I borrowed from Anthony) and it wasn’t my idea. My original crazy idea, “Let’s all wear something striped to work next Tuesday” has spiraled into becoming an office tradition (as seen on instagram). A different person gets to decide what we wear each (or every other) week. I then take a photo and put it up in the kitchen and our ambition is to fill the entire wall. There’s still Dotted Day ahead, Sensation White, Dress to the Nines…so many options!

We also put the intern’s contract into the shredder this week. Not because I fired him but because he asked me to extend his internship until June and got a new contract. That’s how well I treat my interns, they just want to keep working with me. Or maybe it’s because of all the fika…?!

 

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They wrote this sign at the grocery store, “Hey, I’m still tasty as well!”

Party for Stockholm

Right after the saddening news from Sweden came last week, we had a long-anticipated sittning for our juniors at work. When we arrived to the venue, which is our workplace, people had placed a candle and flowers in front of the house. Talk about bad timing.

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I was the toast madame for the evening. Until a day before, I had not entirely grasped what that job entails. The last time I was toast madame, I only had to announce the speakers briefly. This time, Lil’ Pesto said, “You are the toast madame. You are responsible for the entire entertainment!” Ångesten alltså. When he noticed I was reluctant, he added, “You can make all your jokes at my expense as I am the sånganförärare [song leader]”. That already sounded a little better. Twenty-four hours later, I had jotted down a list of funny things about him, myself and the speaker of the evening. In light of the Stockholm events, I opened the dinner declaring the hashtag #prayforstockholm as replaced with #partyforstockholm.

What is a sittning?

Basically sittning is a dinner party which usually includes a three-course meal. But it’s not just like any normal dinner as it involves specific traditions and rules that need to be followed. One core element of a sittning is singing. During the dinner everyone gets shots. You are only supposed to take a sip of your shot after singing a drinking song.  During the dinner there are certain rules to follow. When toastmasters, the hosts of the evening, step on stage and start talking, the audience has 3 seconds to be silent (5 if there is some serious flirting going on with your table partner). You are only allowed to leave the table during breaks and you are always supposed to sit next to the opposite sex. The dress-code varies from sittning to sittning. Ours was udda kavaj which means dress up but don’t go to very large pains. At the end of every sittning it is customary for everyone to stand on his or her chair and sing “O gamla klang och jubeltid.”  Just stand in place for a bit to gather your faculties, and slowly step up, using the chair and table as leverage. Maintain your balance, and sing. Once the song is over, so is the sittning, and you’re not supposed to take your seat at the table again. Instead, you go dance.

(reference: http://bit.ly/2oyAI02 and How to survive a Swedish sittning)

The event was a smashing success! Considering that we do not have a proper stove or enough forks or real tablecloths at the office but instead were equipped with neon lighting in the conference room and a very tight budget, that’s quite something. Our volunteers who arranged the evening with us did a brilliant job and Lil’ Pesto got everyone to sing like larks. Even my toast madame mission went well, getting better with every sip of Hallands fläder. Vindruvsrankan, Helan går, Det var i vår ungdoms fagraste år – It was almost like being back at Värmlands/Göteborgs/Smålands/younameit nation in my student days – opening little Swedish enclaves in Germany, bascially what the job’s all about.