Bremen in my heart


Facebook desperately wants to know my hometown. It’s been asking me for years, “Helen, where are you from? Helen, add your hometown!” But I don’t know! I don’t have a hometown, I’ve moved too much and where I’ve lived longest, I don’t feel any emotional connection.

But if I’d have to say where I feel at home, it’d be two, three cities, one of them being Bremen where I studied as an undergraduate. Bremen is such a pretty, vibrant, wonderful city! I recommend everyone to visit Bremen or to even live there. Bremen, like Stockholm, is probably the town I can most easily advertise with all my heart.

Last Tuesday, I was free (because living in Dizzel means getting to more bank holidays than in the North because… German federalism) and I visited my friend Jonna. She’s just moved to Bremen and she has moved into my former house. That was purely coincidential but so amazing – she lives in my old room, just two floors above where I lived. Such a trip down Memory Lane to take the tram to my old stop, walk my old street, pass my old dentist, and then come into my old house where I spent such intense, lovely years. Our doormats were still there and our”welcome” signs are still on the door.


I also used my free day to take my cat to the vet. He was not amused.

Del 18 i citat-samlingen

Jag stöttar dig med ord snarare än med handling.

Min stol är så hög för att min aura måste få utrymme och stöd.




A good blogger blogs once a day, I suppose. I have not even managed to blog once a week recently. The reason is that I am not exactly in good health (if you ever want to curse someone, wish them problems with their disks) and my sick days have not inspired me to write, instead I watched Grey’s Anatomy and boy, has it gone downhill for that (once my favorite) series.

Today I turned 27, a number that is near-impossible to pronounce in Swedish for a non-native. The good thing is that, in Sweden, people usually ask you for the year you were born in (“Are you an 88?”) so I don’t have to worry too much about the coming year and my pronunciation struggles. (I can pronounce 27, but it takes more concentration and tongue twisting than most other words.)

My27th birthday I decided to spend at my parents’ house for the first time in 4 years. My mother had asked me to bring a Bible for a birthday surprise. Yes, a Bible. Because I am a good child, I did not object and brought my school bible. My mom then presented me with a recipe for a cake that goes like this, “Take 1,5 cups of Moses’ fifth book, chapter 32,14a and mix with 6 pieces of Jeremiah chapter 17,11a”. All ingredients were listed like this, except for baking soda because they seem to not have had that back in the day.

I was showered with lots of congratulations, among them my uncle sending a voice message with him playing “Happy Birthday” on the piano, Linus and Alain shooting a Helen’s-birthday-video at the gorgeous beach in Thailand and twenty Swedish high school students that my friend Malin worked with this weekend singing a Swedish birthday tune for me. That is only three of over 60 lovely greetings, from former choir mates, current and former co-workers, pen friends since ten years, from distant and closer family. Thanks a lot for those!

Even Google changed its logo for me!

Even Google changed its logo for me!

My parents and I went to an exhibition for my birthday that was titled “Decision Making”. I thought that was rather fitting, you know, getting older and making choices and all. The exhibition was very well-done with smart displays and interactive elements. At the end, you got the results of the answers you gave to the questions in the interactive elements and you also read lots of decision-making tips which were quite inspiring. If you want to go see it, too, the exhibition (in German) is in the Universum Science Center in Bremen and should be open until May. I even got in for free because I was a birthday child!

One of the questions you were asked in the exhibition: "If you met a Swede and fell in love, would you emigrate or break up?" Duh.

One of the questions you were asked in the exhibition: “If you met a Swede and fell in love, would you emigrate or break up?” Duh.

My actual birthday celebration will be a dinner (at 27, in a temporary health state of a 87-year-old, I guess you don’t party) which I will have in Stockholm next Friday. I have celebrated my birthday so many times there now; it almost feels like a tradition. (Even though February is one of the worst months to travel to Sweden.) Let’s hope my Swedes don’t make me pronounce 27 at the dinner.


Encounters with the past

I spent all weekend volunteering at the Swedish Church’s Christmas Market again. (Obviously, I still have not fully grasped the point of resting and recovering from a work week.) I sold Dala horses and elks and cakes and even asked the German where the elk-obessesion orignates and they told me it is because elks are “such giants”. I am not yet buying that because whales are very big, too, and I don’t know many Germans who want to have whale accessoire in their homes.

The funniest thing happened on Saturday when I had just arrived to my shift. I was chatting away with my co-volunteer when one of the many customers in the sea of people in front of our stand said, “Hold on, it’s you! You were my Swedish teacher in Bremen!”

I wrote the directions to the Midsummer's party on the pavement, in Swedish to teach my students

I wrote the directions to the Midsummer’s party on the pavement, in Swedish to teach my students

One of the best jobs I have ever had was when I supervised the students who in an “independent learning programme” studied Swedish (and Danish). As their tutor, I had the honor to give them my best tips on learning the language, monitored their progress, wove in cultural information and sent them out to Sweden half a year later, following them either on their blogs or even personally (that happened with two of them who went to Stockholm at the same time that I was there for a vacation, and one that came over from Denmark). In short, it was pretty much the perfect job for me. I taught them all from Veronica Maggio to Fettisdagen and we celebrated Midsommar together. 

So to unexpectedly meet one of my lovely students again and to hear they are longing to celebrate Lucia and “do you happen to know where we could find that?” –ah, the delight! As my former fellow student Stephan used to say, “Helen, there is more teacher in you than you want to avow”.