Saturday, June 30, 2007

Time to go home...

My five weeks are up.

The bags are packed.

Time has really flown by during our stay in Sweden this summer. It's hard to leave Stockholm in early July, but it's going to be great to come back home. To the Husband. To the easy weather (I wont' be looking at the weather reports until October)...

Now I only have to survive a 26-hour trip door to door tomorrow, alone with two kids, three suitcases, one strollerbag, one stroller and two hand luggage...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Finally, a night with George

I've always wanted to see George Michael in concert. I became a Wham-fan when I got cable-TV as one of the first in Sweden in 1985. And now, 27 years later (OMG!!) my wish was granted....

And I had to come all the way to Stockholm and the Globen arena to see him live.

It was a magic night, what a show and what a feeling! The effects was a show in it self. I've been dancing, and singing and having so much fun!

(.... and I'm glad I saw him here since this show will never go on tour in the US for all kinds of reasons...).

Picture from George Michael's official website.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A sauna to keep hot

Every Swedish summer house in the archipelago with self esteem has a sauna house. So do this summer house. I love saunas. I love being warm. And the feeling of cooling down in the cool sea.

I don't miss saunas in California. You just have to go outside in the summer, you don't need a sauna to get really hot. And there is no cold lake around our house to cool down in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A US meeting in Stockholm....

Today I met fellow blogger Annika at Vetekatten at Kungsgatan in downtown Stockholm.

A California-girl and a Virginia-girl meet in Stockholm, their "home" town.

It was so much fun - we had never met irl before, this was a first meeting. We talked about flying with and without kids, Swedish as a second language, blogging, other people's view of living in the US, all important topics for aliens.

And of course we talked about the weather. The rain poured down all day, non stop, never ending. Well, that's part of a Swedish summer too...

Thanks for a great break from my tax free shopping spree, Annika!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Three good things

Djurgården in Stockholm is one of the 14 islands that Stockholm is built upon and it's filled with fun things to do (part from being beautiful!). Today I introduced my daughter to three things on it.

Skansen - an open-air museum and zoological park - located on the top of the island with a splendid view of all of Stockholm. My daughter loved it, but kept asking where the giraffs and the tigers were. She was happy to see a baby elk and the back of a cow in the end.

Rosendals trädgårdar - a fantastic garden and café, where you can eat great food in the most beautiful garden. My daughter thought the slide in the park was great since it was so fast...

... and finally...

Gröna Lund - the fun fair by the water, over 100 years old (but with new attractions...), filled with fun and laughter. My daughter didn't want to leave...

Happy and exhausted we returned to the island almost 12 hours later. It's hard work to introduce your kids to your childhood memories in such a short time.

Five more days...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Fire in my neck of the woods

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place. A fantastic meeting between mountains and water. Perfect skiing in the winter, great recreation in the summer.

Since a couple of days a huge fire is raging through the forest. And when we're talking huge, it's HUGE. So far about 220 homes are lost and they still don't know when the fire will be contained.

Californian wildfires are really scary. Since it hasn't rained in a long time, all the northern Californian forests are like a huge pile of logs waiting to be ignited and it takes close to nothing to start something that will take a lot of work to hose down...

I'm not alone

One of the major Swedish newspapers had a feature on the emigration of Swedes to other countries today. Right now a record number of Swedes are leaving the country.

There are over 400 000 Swedish aliens all over the world, most of them in the US. But no one is sure, there is no record of us.... we can be anywhere... Research also shows that 70% of all Swedish emigrants return home (to Sweden that is) sooner or later.

I plan to return "home" in six days. If and when I will call Sweden "home", the future will tell.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

En perfekt sommarsöndag

Vi vaknade till fågelsång och lövens prasslande i den svala sommarbrisen. Solen hade varit uppe ett par timmar och långsamt värmt upp trädäcket och hammocken. Vi dukade fram frukost - hönökakor, grevéost, leverpastej och hallonkräm.

Långsamt började dagen. Vattnet glittrade i solskenet och vi satt och roade oss med att titta på båtar som passerade förbi västerut från skärgården och in mot stan efter midsommar firandet och flugsnapparen som matade sina ungar i fågelholken i tallen oberörd av vårt frukostätande.

När klockan var 13.05 satte vi på radion och jag fick nästan rysningar när "Sommar sommar"-signaturen fyllde utedäcket. Mark Levengood var sommarvärd och vi lyssnade, skrattade och drack saft.

En perfekt svensk sommarsöndag.

(just felt like writing in Swedish)

Island hopping

By mere accident all of my family happens to now live in different parts of the archipelago (consisting of 24 000 islands) outside downtown Stockholm .

This is a bit of a logistic problem when transporting the kids and myself around for family visits.

If you look at a map, its close. But when on the road, it might take forever to go around the islands and the connecting bridges. A bit quicker if you had a fast boat. But flying helicopter would be the absolute quickest...

I wonder if Hertz or Avis rents fast boats or helicopters?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Action at sea

The day after Midsummer Eve. A rainy day. But still at busy day at sea. The water between the island and the mainland is one of the thoroughfares and busy this Midsummer weekend. Lots of boats going way too fast (yes there are speed limits in the archipelago) and probably driven by people that should be in bed with a dose of Tylenol...

Today we saw some real action from the summer house. The sea police stopped a boat going way too fast right in front of the house (and learned that the Stockholm sea police has jet skis to keep up).

We don't mind at all. We're the ones crossing the water where these boats speeds through...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seven flowers

It's Midsummer Eve.

10.32 pm.

These are the seven flowers I will put under my pillow this bright Swedish summer evening according to tradition (yes, I'm happily married, but this is a habit that is hard to break).

My Swedish Midsummer has been just as I wanted it. This is the crescendo of my visit here, the center point. I'm thinking of all of you Swedish aliens all over the world today, how you might miss this Friday in June (or is it just me...?), which in other parts of the world is just an ordinary Friday and here, in Sweden, is such a magic day!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A long busy day

Today is the longest day of the year. It means 18 hours of daylight in Stockholm. Tomorrow is Midsummer Eve - one of the major holidays in Sweden. All day people left the towns for the country side. Our island got more and more busy, more and more boats passed by on the water, on their way out to the archipelago and Midsummer celebrations tomorrow. The roads going out of the cities were jammed.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the summer and the sun. I'm so happy that I'm here, in Sweden, this year!

Happy solstice!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summer berries!

My daughter picked three "smultron*" today! Oh, how great it is to get a chance to show her what a Swedish summer can taste like...

*wild, small, strawberries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On my way home

It's 23.02 pm. I'm on my way home from a nice evening downtown. I'm taking the boat to the island. It's quiet and the sky is bright.

A real Swedish summer night.

Rainbow over Stureplan

A pretty cool summer rain suddenly started falling in Stockholm today creating a beautiful rainbow over downtown Stockholm.

What about the Weather?

One of the most important holidays in Sweden is coming up. Midsummer. The celebration of summer.

So now the major topics in the news, on the bus (well, that is if you would talk to other people on the bus, which hardly ever happens here, but IF), at work, at home - everywhere is:

a) where will you celebrate Midsummer and
b) what is the weather going to be like?

I will celebrate Midsummer here, on one of the 24 ooo islands in the archipelago. And unlike most other Swedes I don't really care about the weather. Oh sure, it would be GREAT it it was sun and clear skies and really warm. But the most important thing is that I'm going to be here on Friday, Midsummer Eve, - in Sweden - and not in California like the past couple of years.

I have a rain set and rain boots and I'll take my daughter dancing around the Midsummer Pole and pick flowers to put under our pillows come rain come shine!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Stockholm - the capital of the world

I've been to a lot of places around the world. But the more places I visit, it gets more and more clear that Stockholm is a good match for a lot of cities in the world. It is unique and absolutely beautiful with its water and islands.

The city council is trying to establish Stockholm, as "the capital of Scandinavia"

Ok with me! Now I only need a beam machine to be able to move a bit more easily between my two favorite places in the world - California and Stockholm.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Here comes the summer rain

After three weeks on our Swedish summer holiday with almost perfect weather, today we woke up to pouring summer rain and grey skies. But after all those nice days, it just felt like an adventure to gear up and get dressed in rain gear and head outside for a rainy Sunday.

Swedish summer rain is different from Californian rain - we hardly ever have rain in my parts of Northern California between May and October - and when it rains, in the "winter" months, it usually come in forms of "winter storms" and is big and heavy, but only last for hours and we usually see the sun in between the rain clouds.

Swedish summer rain is more a.... drizzle.... and it can go on for days (and in worst case weeks). Sometimes you hardly see the rain drops, they barley there, but you'll get wet anyway.

We decided that it was a day for a fire, something that has been completely unnecessary the last couple of weeks. We made scones and had breakfast in the living room watching the flames. And then open all the doors to cool down the summer house that quickly started to feel like a huge sauna.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

10.42 pm

I had an event to attend to last night, returning to the archipelago in a taxi. To get to the bridge where my boat ride to the island was waiting the taxi has to cross a golf course (on a small road - not on the grass...) .

It was 10.42 pm. The sky still bright from the sun.

People was still playing golf.

That's a real summer night in June in Stockholm. Oh, how I'll miss these summer nights when I return to California in two weeks.

This was the sky from the porch of the summer house where I'm staying at 10.42 pm tonight.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Ring ring, why don't you give me a call"

I found this old Swedis phone booth at Mosebacke the other day... Not sure how you make a call from the phone itself (you need a phone card of some sort...) But maybe you can use your cell phone from inside... It's beautiful nevertheless.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Swedish neighbor - this is how we are

How to behave as a neighbor is something you think about as an alien in a new country. There might be unknown borders you should never cross, things that should be done and others that shouldn't. One of the major Swedish newspapers had an interesting article about the average Swedish neighbor today.

I read it with great interest, it's always good to know what you're like, what habits I'm bringing to the new country... According to the researcher the newspaper have interviewed, Cecilia Henning, friends and neighbors are two different concepts, not to be mixed. Swedish neighbors are keen on their autonomy, we don't want to have any social debts.

And a Swedish neighbor...

... is careful and won't easily let the neighbor through the door ("över tröskeln")

... seeks harmony and rather avoids the neighbor than confronts them

... nurture his integrity but wants some, however shallow, contact

... wants to return services, and it's important to invite back

... will call and say thanks after a nice "encounter" ("tackar för senast")

... is dependent on his independence.

(freely translated from the article).

There you know, alla non-Swedish readers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The yearly "summer talk"

Every summer, starting on the day after Midsummer Eve, at 1.05 pm, you can listen to a special summer radio show in Sweden, "Sommar". It's a tradition since 1959. You can listen live on the Swedish Radio's website or for us with a 9 hour time difference as podradio when we wake up (unfortunately without the music...). If you think you might forget to turn on the radio, you can get an sms-reminder...

Lot's of interesting summer hosts ("sommarpratare") this year! I'm going to try to catch Filip Hammar and Fredrik Wikingsson's program July 4, they're claiming they're going to do a complete tribute to the United States... And Lena Olin, a Swedish actress living in the US on July 29, and Peter Rost on July 30, a Swedish doctor currently living in the US. Maybe they'll give us an interesting "alien" perspective...

My summer holiday in Sweden is ending July 1, so I'll be able to catch one of my favorites, Jessica Gedin, June 29, live on the real radio!

(Picture from the Swedish Radio website)

A Swedish phenomena...

Or actually, more a European phenomena. Because you can find small "stores" like this all over Europe. Selling tobbacoo, magazines, newspapers, sweets, ice cream, small stuff and offering gaming of all kinds (horse racing, fotboll betting etc).

In Sweden they're called "tobaksaffärer"... and they're everywhere (even though stores like 7Eleven have started to take over more and more).

This "tobaksaffär" has one of the greatest locations in Stockholm. It's located in the Old Town, at Slussplan, right where Lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea meets. The other day I bought a bunch of magazines here and a TopHat ice cream and sat down reading and watching the boats go by through the locks.

It's summer in Stockholm!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My favorite radio station

When ever I take off for downtown from the island in the archipelago, I plug in the headset to my cell phone and tune into the local radio station "P4 Radio Stockholm" at FM 103.3. I love this radio channel. I love being instantly updated on what's going on in Stockholm, not only news and traffic information.

I grew up with Radio Stockholm. They started broadcasting 30 years ago and but in the mid 80s things started happening, shows like "Sommarpuls" and "Storstadspuls" became new, unique concepts and hosts like Staffan Dopping, Ulo Maasing, and John Chrispinsson became big radio names.

I was in my early teens and thought this music/talk radio was so cool!

Even though things have changed since then, I still like this combination of music, local reporting, news, traffic and weather information. Even though there are tons or radio stations where I live in California, no one beats Radio Stockholm!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Standing safely on the ground....

Last night I spent driving around downtown Stockholm with a friend. It was a great evening, warm and nice. We saw the air balloons (luftballonger) rise above the city, a traditional sight during summer. We talked about taking an air balloon ride above Stockholm (I have never but have always wanted, and my friend has). We noticed the strange paths of the balloons as if the wind up there must have been changing.

Later that evening we ended up in Hammarby Sjöstad. That's when the sky turned black and the rain started pouring down. Within seconds everything around us was soaked and suddenly three air balloons came almost crashing down, soaked heavy by the rain and wanting to get out of the developing thunderstorm.

About 10 balloons had to make emergency landings in Stockholm last night. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt.

But then we sure were happy we were standing safely on the ground, just getting soaked and not up there not knowing where they would up landing...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

8.55 pm

Standing on Mälarpaviljongen, by Riddarfjärden, facing west and the bridge Västerbron. 8.55 pm. It's still +23C. The sun is up. Stockholm when it's as most beautiful!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

No ordinary picture

This picture might look like an ordinary one. Two kids playing in the Swedish summer sun. For me, this picture is sooo important. The kids on the picture are my daughter and my beloved nephew. They're born only 11 weeks apart. But on two different continents.

This is their fourth meeting. But the first that "counts".

For three days now they have played together, getting to know each other. And I have gotten to know my nephew. This is the bad part of "alienhood". Being far away from friends and family.

No new technique in the world can replace two cousins blowing bubbles together.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Colorful signs

The Swedish speed limit signs are so colorful! I have never thought about that. And much easier to spot than the American, rectangular, black and white ones.

"Den blomstertid nu kommer"

Today I got to attend the "end of the school year"-day at my old elementary school... Oh, the memories. Since the weather was absolutely glorious it was traditionally held on the school yard, which was full of happy children, dressed up to the occasion.

Lot's of singing, AND at the end - the best summer song in the world - "Den blomstertid nu kommer" (unfortunately in a faster tempo since the school band was playing along, but still...).

It was a fantastic morning and it sure is a great way to end the school year with this type of ceremony. Afterwards I took a slow walk around my old neighborhood, ending the morning with Swedish strawberry cake at my friend's house (whose kids attend my old school), just a few houses down from my childhood house.

A morning full of memories....

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lot's of phone numbers...

I read today that the number of Swedes using VoIP phones are increasing.

I'm already ahead!

If you want to get hold of me, you can use one of seven phone numbers. I have a US cell phone. A Swedish cell phone. Our regular home phone. Our Swedish VoiP* number. Our American VoiP number. My home office number (another Swedish VoIP number). And our Swedish Skype-In number.

The days when a phone call to the US was half a fortune is long gone. When I want to talk to the Husband who remains in the US this summer, I just place a call to a local 08-phone number (the area code for Stockholm) for almost nothing and the phone is ringing in our house in the US. The quality of the sound the last couple of years have increased a lot - these days we hardly ever have any problems.

The only thing left is to teach our Swedish friends and family about the 9 hour time difference...

(*VoIP = voice over IP, voice phone calls using the Internet protocols)

28 minutes apart

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Celebrating Sweden

June 6 is Sweden's National Day. And since a couple of years it's also a "red" day in the calender, meaning most people were off. But it's kind of hard to know exactly what you're supposed to do. It's not really a tradition to celebrate...

We did our best out here in the archipelago. It's been a fantastic day! Blue skies, warm sun, and just glorious! We raised the flag on our flag pole, but we hardly saw it since there was no wind today. But now and then a little wind came by and I got one quick picture.

And at 9 pm sharp, we took it down. That's the rule. No flags on the flagpoles over night in Sweden. Even flags have to go to sleep.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Sjung om studentens lyckliga dar!"

For days the city has been full of graduating high school students. The tradition in Sweden is that the graduates are picked up at the school yard in some sort of a vehicle and driven around town and then to their reception.

This year's trend must have been "trucks". When I spent some time in Gamla Stan today dozens of these graduate-filled trucked passed by, load music playing, happy students waving. My own graduation (ages ago) felt both distant and near...

In the afternoon I took of for a student reception myself, and even in the suburbs, several trucks with students passed by on otherwise quiet streets.

The weather was absolutely glorious! The perfect day to graduate!

Monday, June 04, 2007

A place for aliens

A new amusement park is to open in New Mexico, US. An alien amusement park, Alien Apex Resort. According to the news, if you go there you will be abducted by aliens. But returned safely.

Maybe someone has finally invented the beam machine for real? I wonder if they could abduct you and then beam you to Sweden back and forth a little faster than an Airbus or a Boeing?

After all it's 2007. 6 years passed 2001 and it sure is time for a little Space Odyssey. At least between Sweden and the US.


Många intryck idag. Tidig svensk sommar morgon. Solen har varit uppe i flera timmar. Jag tar båten över till fastlandet. Fåglarna sjunger så där sommarvackert så det nästan gör ont. Vattnet speglar sig. Trots att jag är van vid mycket varmare sommar temperaturer är det svalt och behagligt. När jag är över på andra sidan drar jag av mig Helly Hansen stället och pular ner det i ryggsäcken och börjar promenera mot bussen. Det luktar sommar och .... grönt. Intensivt grönt. Fuktigt grönt. Underbart grönt.

Några timmar senare. Jag har tillbringat några timmar i Gamla Stan och har anledning att förflytta mig till Kungsholmen. Det är varmt i stan. Gatstenarna är varma. Det är fullt av sommarljud. Stadslukter. Lukten av Stockholm, salt vatten som möter sötvatten, dammiga trottoarer, mat från uteserveringar där lyckliga Stockholmare vänder bleka näsor mot solen. Jag tar fram system kameran för att fotografera. Jag är inte ensam - hela Gamla Stan är full med turister. Jag känner mig nästan som en själv. Fast vi är intresserade av olika saker, jag och de tyska turisterna. De tittar på statyer. Jag står och tittar en lång stund på GB-gubben. Men jag får ingen bild för det sitter en mamma med en barnvagn framför och äter glass och hon vägrar ovetandes och envist att lämna sin plats.

Jag tar 3:ans buss mot Kungsholmen. Samma sträcka jag åkt så många gånger till och från min lilla lya på Kungsholmen. Men nu är jag inte på väg från jobbet. Jag har inte näsan i en bok eller halvslumrar efter en lång dag på jobbet. Jag har blicken ut genom fönstret och stirrar inte trött ut genom fönstret utan har lyft blicken och tittar. Upptäcker nya hus som jag inser alltid har funnits där. Glömmer nästan att kliva av för jag är så upptagen av iaktta.

När solen börjar sjunka ner är jag tillbaka ute i skärgården. Vattnet är återigen spegelblankt och temperaturen har sjunkit trots att solen skiner. Jag drar på mig vindjackan innan jag kliver i båten. Det är ingen varm sommar kväll. Men det är en svensk sommarkväll, full av ljus och dofter. Och det är långt till Calfornien.

(I just felt like writing in Swedish today)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Old news in the sun

The summer house where I'm staying have broadband (and actually wi-fi). Thankfully. Imagine five weeks without internet...

And since old habits are hard to break, and the news paper is delivered to the post box on the mainland and someone needs to take the boat to get it, I've done my quick "news-check" online, long before I read the paper newspaper.

And even though I really enjoy reading a Swedish newspaper, holding the actual paper, reading ads and news stories that never made the online editions, it sort of feels like I'm reading old news... News that has been printed hours before. All the things that could have happened since it ended up in the post box...

But then, who cares. I can sit in the sun and read Swedish news (not having to try to read them on the screen), old or new, for four more weeks.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Swedish summer dinner...

Today we ate Swedish mini-pancakes, plättar, AND fresh "strömming" that my daughter go to fish earlier in the day.

Now is this Swedish summer or what!?

Almost, almost worth seven days of jetlag...

I wonder if you can get a "plätt-lagg" in the US... not really something I would want to carry in a suitcase... but it sure is yummy with plättar!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Observations from Sweden #3

I move around Stockholm using public transportation when I'm here. It's kind of fun, since I don't do it all the time like before when I lived here. Almost like a little adventure. It's pretty amazing how close to your final destination you can actually get using public transportation in Stockholm.

But why is it that people get up, ready to get off long before the bus or subway has stopped. Are people that nervous that they won't get off in time? That the doors won't open and they have to ride to the next station?

All day today people have pushed me around, preparing to get off the bus, long before we're close to a bus stop... I'm always in the way, feeling like... an alien...